Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Can I Ever Change?

“No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you've come from, you can always change,  become a better version of yourself.” ― Madonna

Have you ever asked yourself, “Can I ever change?” Have you ever felt that you have committed too many sins and have reached to the ‘point of no return’ that any change is impossible or that it is pointless to repent? Well…..I can safely say that EVERYONE has had that feeling at some point of time in their life. Believe it or not, that is actually the evil whispering of Lucifer a.k.a. satan, with the intention to discourage you from changing or repenting and putting doubts in your head.
                        Please know this. It is NEVER too late to change or repent for as long as you are still alive and kicking. Repentance is only too late when a person is at a brink of death.

“Hadhrat Umar bin Al Khattaab Radiyallahu ‘anhu has narrated that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam said: Verily Allah the Almighty will accept the repentance of his servants right until the last moments of his death

            One of the keys to affect change is to believe there is some good in you, not matter how small. It can be an atomic size of goodness but that tiny goodness can be nurtured into something big and great if you truly put your heart and soul in it.
            No sin is too big or too grave for God Al-Mighty to forgive. The only thing that we need to do is to sincerely repent and vow not to repeat the sin or wrongdoing again.

“Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri Radiyallahu ‘anhu has narrated that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam said: In the times before you there was a man who commited ninety nine murders, he asked for the most learned on the earth and was directed to a monk. He told the monk that he had killed ninety nine people and was looking for a path to repentance and if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and the man killed him making it one hundred murders. He again asked for the most learned on the earth and was directed to a scholar. He told the scholar that he has commited one hundred murders and was looking for a path to repentance and whether there was any chance of his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such a land and there you will find people devoted to prayer and the worship of Allah. Join them in worship and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place. He left straight away and upon reaching halfway death overtook him; there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded that this man has come with a repenting heart to Allah. The angels of torment replied, he never did a virtuous deed in his life and he has commited one hundred murders. Allah sent an angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbitrator between them. He said,
measure the distance between him and the two lands and he will be considered belonging to the land to which he will be closer towards. Allah commanded the land which he left to move away and distance itself from him and the land to which he was going to come closer to him and narrow up on him. They measured and found that the land to which he was intending to go was closer by a cubits
length. In one narration it is mentioned that Allah ordered his body to move slightly from the chest. It was thus concluded that the angels of mercy may collect his soul.”
(Bukhari, Muslim)

“Hadhrat Abu Musa Ash’ari Radiyallahu ‘anhu has narrated that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam said: verily Allah the Almighty spreads open His arms of forgiveness every morning so the one who disobeyed Him during the day can repent to Him, and spreads open His arms of forgiveness throughout the night so the one who disobeyed Him in the day can seek His forgiveness and repent to Him and this will continue until the day the sun rises from the west.”

            God Al-Mighty is ever so merciful and compassionate hence, when His slave seeks for His Forgiveness, He will surely forgive but on the condition that His slave is sincere. Our sins could be higher than Mount Everest but if we sincerely repent, then In Shaa Allah, all will be forgiven.
It is He Who accepts repentence from His servants and pardons evil acts and knows what they do.”
(Surat Ash-Shura, 25)

            “On the authority of Anas (ra) who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say, “Allah the Almighty has said: ‘O Son of Adam, as long as you invoke Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and you then asked forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the Earth, and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it [too]. ” 


Ultimately, to me, if a person truly wants to change, then ignore all the whisperings and push aside the doubts. Just do it! You will definitely encounter some obstacles in your way but remain steadfast. If your intention is true, then have faith that God will guide you. If a person does not want to change, then he or she will make all kind of excuses as to why they can’t. Like the Malay proverb, ‘mahu seribu daya, tak mahu seribu dalih’ which basically means, if there’s will, there’s a way’……….
            Bottom line is, change is possible only if a person wants it………………….


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Lost and Waiting to be Found.....

“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Today, I read a true story about a born Muslim sister who was brought up in accordance to western values and customs. She was searching for answers about the religion she was born into but knew very little about. She didn’t understand Islam or rather, her understanding of Islam was somewhat inaccurate. In her ignorance, she committed tons of mistakes but rather than trying to correct and guide her, her fellow Muslim brothers and sisters judged her harshly and taunted her cruelly when she questioned about Islam. Instead of giving her soft and gentle words of encouragement that she needs, she was verbally abused.
            Her story struck a chord in my heart. Despite the mistakes that she made, I couldn’t judge her at all because she made those mistakes in ignorance. Her story is just one of the few million born Muslims, whose knowledge on Islam was 'delayed'.
            The thing is, I can relate to this sister's predicament. Believe it or not, I; the person whom some had termed as ‘fanatic’, due to my strictness when it comes to religion, can utterly and completely understand how this sister feels. She feels lost and confused.
            If you noticed, that it was only after the incident on September, 11, that Islam suddenly became widespread. It was only after the tragic incident that we see the emergence of many Islamic speakers who can explain about Islam in a manner that can be easily understood and accepted by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
            During the time when I grew up, things were different then. We didn’t have internet so finding about things was not at the touch of a button but instead our source of knowledge was purely reliance on religious teachers. Some religious teachers, unfortunately, did not like to be asked questions about the religion. Maybe they felt that they were being challenged or maybe they themselves did not know the answers to the questions that were being asked but ashamed to admit it. They would insist that we accept whatever they said without questioning because according to them, questioning would put us in danger of renouncing our religion. I, for one, had trouble accepting that without questioning.
            When I was lost and searching, I too was judged harshly for asking questions that I thought was valid. I was taunted because I was a born Muslim who didn’t know anything about her religion. I asked because I wanted to know. If my intention then was to renounce my faith, I wouldn't even bother asking! I would have just lived the life I wanted to live.
            This sister did not state that her beliefs or understanding of Islam was correct but she was merely explaining what she knew. She was actually searching for the truth. It takes a lot to muster up the courage to ask questions knowing very well that you might be judged by it. It takes a strong person to admit his or her weakness.
            If you are one of the fortunate few who have more knowledge than others, about Islam, don’t be too proud of yourself or even feel that you are better than others. Do not feel that by virtue of that extra knowledge you are safe from hell fire. That feeling is called ‘arrogance’ or ‘riya’ and that is one of the tickets to hell!

“Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No one who has the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” Someone said, “Indeed, a man loves to have beautiful clothes and shoes.” So the Prophet said, “Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.
 Sahih Muslim

Next time, if you meet someone who is lost, do not judge them or treat them harshly. To me, there is a reason why this person is lost. I believe it is because God Al Mighty wants him or her to find answers and to find Him. Who are we to judge them? Sometimes, because of their questions, they become closer to God than we can ever dream to be.
            It has never been their intention to be ‘lost’ so do not frown upon their mistakes. No human is born perfect. Treat them with care and love and guide them as much as you can. The act of sharing with them will not diminish your own knowledge but instead you will be greatly rewarded for your kindness. 

“Sahl bin Sa`d (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said to `Ali (May Allah be pleased with him), "By Allah, if a single person is guided by Allah through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous decendant who prays for him (for the deceased).''

            Just because a person was born a Muslim, it does not mean he or she knows everything about Islam. It could be that their parents never taught them or that their environment or surrounding was not conducive to knowing about Islam. It could also be that they were taught a different version of Islam. Whatever it is, it is our duty to help not chase them away. Be careful, by not sharing whatever knowledge on Islam that God has bestowed upon us, may land us in trouble later…

“Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who is asked about knowledge (of religion) and conceals it, will be bridled with a bridle of fire on the Day of Resurrection.''
[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

            Another thing, who said we can’t ask questions about Islam? If we want to understand more about the religion then we need to ask questions. Asking question is part of learning and learning doesn’t stop until we have drawn our last breath…….

“Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the Cause of Allah until he returns.''

“Abud-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.''
[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

I sincerely believe that it is better to ask questions and get answers rather than being in state of intentional ignorance or; worse still, believe that we know it all! May God keeps us humble at all times, Ameen......

Friday, 15 November 2013

A Diva and her shrubs.......

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” ― Beverly Sills

Today is a blessed Friday so I thought that I should do one charitable act today. Today, of all days, I decided to set aside my comfort and get dirty, I  really mean literally dirty. What am I rambling about? Planting vegetable and trees. Yes, today I decided to enter the garden domain and plant some shrubs. What prompted me to do such a thing? Well….. one, is seeing an empty patch of land at the corner of my office, which has become quite an eye sore to me and I feel that something beneficial should be growing out of the land. Plus, seeing it empty day in day out, was driving me crazy!
Two, it is this Hadith…

Anas also reported that the Prophet said, "If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him."

According to this Hadith, if the tree that we planted grows and provide food for any human or animal or even a bird, then we will get reward from it. It’s like an investment fund for the Hereafter. The best thing is our capital investment for this, is just the cost of the plant or seed and not RM5000 or RM10,000 but, the returns are far more lucrative than our ‘dunya’ investment fund. The only set-back is you can’t cash in your investment before Hereafter. Once the investment is made, then it will last the lifetime of the tree or plant and it might even outlive you! If you choose to cut down the tree or uproot the plant in the future, then your ‘investment’ will be terminated immediately.

So back to my story, after pleading for ‘outside’ help came to no avail, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Armed with tiny spade, earth, pots and seeds, I set out to the back to start my little ‘project’. My staff gave me a skeptical look but said nothing.

O.M.G.!!!! Gardening is back breaking! I only had to dig and shovel 5 rows of plots and already I can hear my bones crackling! O.M.G.! O.M.G. I now have renewed respect for farmers. How do they do this day in day out? It is a truly back breaking job. All this while we take for granted the vegetables that we eat are always available at the supermarket, nicely packed, not knowing how difficult it is to sow and plant it!

“The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "No one has eaten better food than that obtained through the hard labor of his hands."
Riyadh-us-Saleheen, Hadith 543

I mean, this is literally what we call ‘hard earned money’! (I’m not referring to me but the farmers). I can’t even begin to imagine what their lives are like. It must be very exhausting to do this every day and they do not have a choice not to. After all, this is their ‘rizqi’. I now have renewed respect for the work that they do, to provide us with raw materials to eat. Without farmers, we would not have any food. No vege, no cow, no beef, no milks, no chicken, no eggs, no wheat , no flour..Well…….you get the idea..

I admit that I am used to some degree of comfort in my line of work and I have never worked in a farm before so I can’t really say that I’ve work to my bones. I have plucked some fruits from my dad’s orchard but I only lasted for 1 hour before running into the house to shower to get rid of the dirt. Sigh! I’m just not cut for the outdoor…..but credit must be given to me for trying …right??

Anyway, I survived the whole ‘project’ ordeal and managed to plant all the vegetables and fruit plant without any mishap. I shall be keeping a close eye on my ‘little babies’ and pray that they grow and bloom into wonderful plants. I don’t intend to dig anymore holes or plant anything else for now as I feel that I need some time to recover from this little adventure. One thing for sure, I will never look at a cucumber or long beans, the same again…

“That man can have nothing but what he strives for; That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight: Then will he be rewarded with a reward complete.”

(An-Najm 53:39-41)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Key to Paradise....

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”  Abraham Lincoln

You know, there are days where my sanity hangs by a thread. I get things thrown in my path from different directions. There are days when I become master juggler, trying to get as much done in a day. It’s not easy being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and counselor all at the same time.

For the mothers out there, I’m sure you completely understand when I say there are days when your kids overwhelm you. The constant bickering among them and the endless complaints makes you wanna run away from home sometimes. My kids would wait until I step into the bathroom if they want to ask me for something. I kid you not! The moment the bathroom door closes, I can instantly hear my bedroom door open (it is as if they have six sense about me entering the toilet!) and then they will be shouting from outside bathroom, “Mummy, can you make a drink, Mummy, can you change the channel for me? Mummy, I want to use your bathroom! Mummy, Fluffy ran away, Mummy, Mummy Mummy..”

All I can say, it is absolutely normal for mothers to feel suffocated sometimes. Don’t feel bad. We are not evil or a bad mother just because we have our ‘off’ days. We are human and we too need our own space at times. There were instances that I wished the ‘mute’ button was invented so I could have a few moments of peace; or that the ‘Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak’ does exist and I could borrow it for a spell. I would still be in the house to watch over them, just they can’t see me.

            As exhausting as it sounds, I wouldn’t actually change it for anything plus, I do get to escape from it all when I go to work. Did you know that in Islam, a mother has a higher status than a father?

“A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet (PBUH) said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim)

For the children, always remember that a mother risks her life every time she delivers a baby into this world. For the husbands, remember that your wives sacrificed their bodies to carry YOUR child, YOUR descendents for 9 months and then sacrificed her time and energy to bring up the child. So cut her some slack about how she looks after popping out 3 or 4 kids out of her tiny body. If you think it is easy to regain one’s original shape after birth, you try it !

            We must never forget that our Jannah is at our mother’s feet.

“A man once consulted the Prophet Muhammad about taking part in a military campaign. The Prophet asked the man if his mother was still living. When told that she was alive, the Prophet said: “(Then) stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

For the men, even after marriage, their Jannah is still at the mother’s feet. Nothing can ever change that. So, be nice to your mothers even after marriage. Your mother has priority over your wife but that does not mean that the mother has the right to be mean or nasty to the daughter in law. Everything is about balance.

            For the wives, your Jannah is shifted to your husbands the moment you get married.

            Hadith - Transmitted by Tirmidhi, Narrated Umm Salamah ra
The Prophet SAW said: If a woman dies while her husband was pleased with her, she will enter Paradise.

Hadith - Al-Tirmidhi #3254, Narrated Anas ibn Malik
Allah's Messenger said, "When a woman observes the five times of prayer, fasts during Ramadan, preserves her chastity and obeys her husband, she may enter by any of the gates of Paradise she wishes."

Having said that it does not mean that you should stop respecting and caring for your mother. However busy you are with your own family, find time for your mother.

            We do not know how much time we still have with our mothers before they are called by our Maker. Appreciate them now. No point regretting after they are gone……..

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Merciful Death and a Blessed Re-Birth.......

“He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving;-
Surah Al-Mulk 30:2

Yesterday, was truly a sad and also a blessed day. It started out with me receiving news that one of the sisters had lost her 4th baby. Going through miscarriage is tough for any mother but to go through it four times, is something else. Still, this sister accepted her fate and believes that God has better plans for her. She is comforted by the fact that her unborn baby will be waiting for her in Jannah and will intercede for her on Judgment day.

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said, "Indeed the miscarried fetus will confront his Lord if He enters his parents into the Fire. So it will be said to him, "O fetus which confronts his Lord! Enter your parents into Paradise." So he will drag them by his [umbilical] cord until he enters them into Paradise."
 [Ibn Majah]

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said, "By the One in Whose hands is my soul, the miscarried fetus will drag his mother to paradise by his [umbilical] cord if she was patient [with the miscarriage], hoping to be rewarded."

The physical labor pain that this sister endured when she miscarriaged in fact will expiate her sins, In shaa Allah. Surprisingly, there were no tears from her, just a smile that indicated she was at peace  and have put her entire trust in God Al Mighty.

“ Narrated 'Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) Allah's Apostle said, "No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn."  
Sahih Bukhari

After receiving news about death, I later witnessed a ‘re-birth’.

 Later that evening, I was blessed to be able to witness a brother reciting his shahada. It was truly a surreal experience! This brother, brother R, have been studying about Islam and last night, God had opened his heart to accept Islam unconditionally. Brother R suddenly announced last night that he wanted to become a Muslim (the way God had planned things, MasyaAllah!) and Alhamdulillah, the Wise Owl was also present so brother R recited his shahada in front of the Wise Owl. 

            While brother R was reciting his shahada, I felt goose bumps on my skin, and not only that, chicken bumps, duck bumps, turkey bumps, all the bumps that can exist, I felt it! It was a wonderfully humbling experience. Tears of joy flowed freely amongst us. The atmosphere was electricfying.

            I asked brother R how he felt after. He told me, “the feeling is indescribable but I feel tremendous joy. I also feel light as feather and so relieved. It’s wonderful!”. SubhanAllah! The mercy and blessings from God is indeed mighty and great. 

            Brother R is like a new born baby, free from any sins. He has been given a new blank book of deeds. Ooooooo how I envy him! In fact, I told him that! 

“Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).
Surah Al-Anfal 8:38

Hakim ibn Hizam said to the Prophet SAW, "You know that in the days before Islam I used to maintain family ties, free slaves, and give charity.  Will I be rewarded for any of those deeds?"  The Prophet SAW replied, "You accepted Islam with all the good you did in the past."
Hadith - Sahih Bukhari (#70) and Muslim

Narrated Abu Sa‘îd Al-Khudri Allah’s Messenger said, “If a person embraces Islam sincerely, then Allah shall forgive all his past sins, and after that starts the settlement of accounts: the reward of his good deeds will be ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed, and an evil deed will be recorded as it is unless Allah forgives it.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol.1, Hadith No. 40A).

See! Now you understand why I truly envy brother R? Who wouldn’t want to have their slates wiped clean? 

            According to Islam, children are born with natural faith in God Al Mighty, which is called ‘fitrah’. A person who grew up in a different religion and embraces Islam later in life, is known as ‘reverts’ because they have returned back to the original faith i.e. Islam.

When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?"- They said: "Yea! We do testify!" (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never mindful":
Surah Al-A’raf 7:172

            In fact, to me, ‘reverts’ are not just people who embraced Islam in their later years but also those who were born a Muslim but never practised. If a person was born a Muslim but have never lived as one or know anything about Islam, then, they are no different than a non-Muslim. That is why when a born Muslim, finds his or her way back into Islam after being strayed, I believe that they too are ‘reverts’. They have returned to original faith.

            Sometime we get too caught up with trying to share about Islam to the non-Muslims that we tend to forget our own Muslims brothers and sisters who are in need of help. You see, it would be easy for a non-Muslim to ask questions about Islam, however silly the questions are, because people would assume that being non –Muslims, they are ignorant so it is forgivable but for our Muslims brothers and sisters, they are ashamed to ask questions for fear of being ridiculed. More often than not, they get statements like, “how come you don’t know this, you are supposed to be Muslims?” Sometimes they get taunted for their lack of knowledge. Now this can lead them away from Islam instead of bringing them closer. 

            We must understand that each of us is given different level of knowledge and understanding by God. If a brother or sister, whose knowledge is less than ours, comes to see us, then it is our duty to share with them our knowledge. We are in no position to judge them as their life path is different from ours. They have been sent to us by God for a purpose and if we turn them away without helping, we will be answerable for our action on Judgment Day. Remember, EVERYTHING happens for a reason. 

            So while we celebrate welcoming a new brother or sister into Islam, do not neglect those who are already Muslims but lost their way. Sometimes, their stories of their journey back to Islam is more miraculous………