Monday, 30 December 2013

Understanding Knowledge.....

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein

                I was talking to the Wise Old Man the other day. I have not seen him for quite some time so it was definitely a long chat. As we were catching up on things, the topic of ‘guidance’ came up. Then, I voiced out my grouses about certain Islamic scholars who do not conform in their personal life, what they preached or represents in their public life, . It is as if, they are acting out a role in a play in their public life.

The Wise Old Man told me that no matter how highly qualified a person is in the knowledge of Islam, it does not mean that the person has full grasp or the understanding of such knowledge.  The Wise Old Man said that anyone can acquire knowledge but many people forget that the understanding and guidance comes from God Al Mighty.

And if We had willed, surely! We would have given every person his guidance, but the Word from Me took effect (about evil-doers), that I will fill Hell with jinn and mankind together.
Surah As-Sajdah 32:13

Acquiring knowledge basically involves the act of studying and memorizing but to really understand what has been learnt, is not something that everyone can accomplish.

“Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “In the last days of this world there will appear some young foolish people who will use the best speech of all people (i.e. the Quran), but they will abandon Islam as an arrow going through the game. Their belief will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have practically no belief), so wherever you meet them, kill them, for he who kills them shall get a reward on the Day of Resurrection.” [Sahih Bukhari]

            Despite that, the Wise Old Man said that I should not judge them for their lack of understanding of the knowledge that they possess as only God alone has the power to judge His creations. It is His Will that they are ignorant. Errrr…..Ouch! 

            So I sat there, thoroughly chastised for my folly but I was not satisfied. I mean, this can’t be it! It would then be so easy for any human to put the blame on God for one’s weaknesses or wrongdoings. I mean anyone can easily say that their sins are also Will of God hence they should not be blamed for it. Seriously! That can’t be right. So, I spoke out my dissatisfaction about his explanation to the Wise Old Man again.  

            The Wise Old Man squinted his eyes at me and peered down his glasses. I thought then, oh boy! Here comes the lecture! As I braced myself for the verbal onslaught, I was surprised that none came! Instead, the Wise Old Man said, “You know, you are right. Humans do use God as an excuse for their wrongdoing by saying that it is their fate". Excuse me! What? Am I am hearing it right? Did he just agree with me? Hhmmmmm… there must be a catch somewhere. I looked at him suspiciously and said, “Please elaborate”. 

            Then the Wise Old Man explained. He said that the understanding and guidance comes from God Al Mighty and He will grant it to whomever He wishes.

Not upon you (Muhammad SAW) is their guidance, but Allah guides whom He wills. And whatever you spend in good, it is for yourselves, when you spend not except seeking Allah's Countenance. And whatever you spend in good, it will be repaid to you in full, and you shall not be wronged.
Surah Al Baqara 2:272

“And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them. Then Allah misleads whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.
Surah Ibrahim 14:4

However, that does not mean that we do not strive or seek for guidance and understanding from Him. Acquiring knowledge, according to the Wise Old Man, is like any other act of worship in Islam i.e. it has to start with the right intention. If the intention to acquire the knowledge is solely for the sake of God then InSha Allah, God Al Mighty will bless the knowledge that we seek and will grant us the understanding with it. Once we have the have the knowledge coupled with the understanding then our intention to share must also be right i.e. with the honest hope that others can benefit too and not just to show off our intellect.

However, if the intention is just to add another title to our CV or just to increase our status benchmark amongst our peers, then what we will get is a skeletal devoid of any spirit. Knowledge without understanding is like a machine without a manual. You can still operate it but you will never reap the benefit of its full usage.  

So, moral of the story, before embarking on the path of knowledge, ensure that our intention is true. Oh…..and also….never judge the conduct or action of others…..*feeling sheepish*….

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Que Sera Sera......

“I never think of the future - it comes soon enough.” Albert Einstein

Future is something that we can never predict. Even a gypsy with a crystal ball is not able to tell you the exact future despite insisting that she can. 

One thing for sure is that the future is only known to God Al-Mighty. It is because of tomorrow is not known to us, led us to develop this fear of the future. 

We are afraid that we will face poverty in the future that it prompted us to become workaholics in order to save a lot of money as a safety net for the future. This is also the fear of running out of money in the future that we are reluctant to part with the money that we have in hand, for charity. In our anxiousness to accumulate material things, we tend to lose sight of things that really matters such as spending time with loved ones and most important of all, spending time with Him and for Him. How many time have we told ourselves the ‘excuse’ that we don’t have time for charity or attend Islamic lectures or to perform sunnah acts? God created ‘time’ and yet we use ‘time’ against Him.

The question is, why do we fear the future? One thing for sure is that we can never be certain of our outcome no matter how much we prepare for it. Let me give you a living example. When I was pregnant with my first child, I made sure that I did everything in the book to prepare for the perfect birth. I dragged my poor husband to ‘lamaze’ classes and made him learn breathing techniques so that he could remind me how to breathe when I was in labour. I ate every food that has been said to be good for the baby’s development and also food that could facilitate easy delivery. I walked as much as I could so that my delivery will be fast and smooth. I packed my ‘hospital’ bag and made my poor husband memorised the ‘emergency exit’ plan. I thought my plan was full-proof! Boy! Was I ever so wrong….

One fine night, when I was already at 37 weeks, I discovered that my water bag was leaking. I alerted my husband and was ready to follow the emergency exit plan. Instead, my husband, who watching football final on tele, had other plans.  After making sure that I was not in any pain, he asked if he could watch the game till the end, which according to him was soon. So I sat down, waiting, until the game ended which was an hour later. So much for my emergency plan exit! Then, when the game ended, my husband calmly drove me to the emergency ward and the nurse admitted me in. 24 hours after that, I was still walking around with my huge belly. My daughter was showing no sign of wanting to come into this world. I wasn’t not feeling any pain despite the graph detector which was attached to my belly was going crazy up and down, recording the contraction level. That is when I discovered that I have a very high pain threshold. So my doctor put me on the drip to expedite the labour process. After a few hours, things were pretty much the same. My doctor then decided to break my water bag. Then, hell broke loose…

O.M.G!!! I told my husband earlier that I didn’t want to take any painkiller as I wanted the birth to be as natural as possible but after my water bag burst, the pain was unnaturally unbearable. I was ranting on like a lunatic until my doctor begged me to take the painkiller.  

To make the story short after 1 hour of pushing hard, my daughter decided that she was not going to come out the normal way so I had to be wheeled into the operating theatre for a emergency C-section. 

Nothing that I had painstakingly prepared for all those months, was put into practise that night. The breathing technique? Ooh, when my husband wanted to coach me through I told him to ‘shush’ because I was in too much pain to even concerntrate.

The bottom line is, no matter how much we worry about the future and try to prepare for it, only God will decide how it will turn out. If the future does not turn out the way we anticipated it, then we must learn to accept it and move on. Now, that is what we call ‘believe in pre-destination or divine destiny’ and it is the 6th pillar of eaman.

Iman (faith) is to believe in Allah, His angels, His revealed books, His messengers, the last day, and the predestination of all things both (those which appear) good and (those which appear) bad.

Say: "Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector": and on Allah let the Believers put their trust.”
Surah At-Tawbah 9:51

            One thing that I learn is that losing sleep or getting all stress up about the future is actually pointless. Having said that, it does mean that we basically don’t do anything at all just because everything is written. What it means is that we try to the best of our abilities and let nature takes its own course. However things turn out to be, just accept it as being the best for us even though it might not be as what we had planned. If we get upset with the turn of events, trust me, we will not find peace in our hearts. By questioning ‘why’ will not change the past but we are actually questioning God’s Will and decision.

            Every time when we pray we recite, “RABBANA ATINA FID DUNYA HASANA WA FIL AKHIRATI HASANA WA QINA AZAB AN NNAR, "Our Lord! grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire.", that means we have to put our full faith in God Al Mighty. What He gives us is ‘good’ for us in this world though it may not be what we wanted.

            For me and my husband, we learnt our lessons and decided then after to take things as they come when it came to deliveries of our children. No more Lamaze class or emergency exit plan or breathing exercises, much to my husband’s delight! All of my birth deliveries were topsy- turvey so it was a good thing that we didn’t have anything planned. Furthermore, none of my other 3 children were born on their due date. In fact, all 3 decided to make their grand entrance much earlier than their elder sister. 

Looking back, I realise that indeed God has given me the ‘good’ in this world despite the chaos……Alhamdulillah

.But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you.But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”
Surah Al Baqara 2:216


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Silver Lining Behind Dark Clouds.

That particular day, I was driving with a heavy and restless heart. It was one of those days when I ran out of happy pills and desperate for God to save me from the dark abyss I was slowly falling into. Then, I looked up from my window and saw this miracle. SubhanAllah! Immediately, the unhappiness slowly crept away and replaced by contentment...Alhamdulillah...

"Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny?"
Surah Ar-Rahman 55:13

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Karma oh Karma...

“Like gravity, karma is so basic we often don't even notice it.” ― Sakyong Mipham

Have you heard of the saying, ‘what goes around comes around’? Well….that saying refers to ‘karma’ which in simple English means ‘action and reaction’. It is a principle of retributive justice.
            What I understand karma to be is, if we commit a bad deed, then that bad deed will be inflicted upon us later. Similarly, if we do a good deed then we will be repaid in kind. The question is, do we believe in karma? Does it truly exist?
            A friend of mine and I were talking about karma one day. We were reminiscing about the good ol’ times when we were young and carefree. Things were a lot simpler back then when we had less responsibility. I do believe that, it was also due of the lack of responsibilities that I managed to get myself into so many mischief.
            When we were small, my sisters and I were very, very, naughty. Ok! I was the naughtiest of the three but still, being sisters, we stuck together. Once upon a time ago, every time when we visited our grandparents’ house, the moment we entered into the house, one of us would make a bee line towards the fridge and open the fridge door to see what kind food was available for us to gobble up. Throughout the entire visit, we would take turns in opening the fridge every 5 minutes until it was time to go home. Every time we did that, my grandfather would be yelling from the kitchen, asking us girls to leave his fridge alone. He kept saying that one day the fridge door will come off its hinges. We drove him mad with the fridge opening act!  Of course we didn’t believe him at that time. It was impossible! The fridge was made of steel hence it was sturdy. The door would not come off. Simple as that. 
            But, lo and behold! One fine day, in one of our usual weekly visit, I happened to be the first one to open the fridge. Guess what? The door came off its hinges! I stood rooted to the ground, reeling in shock, still holding on to the fridge door. Since there was a loud thumping sound when the door hit the floor, everyone came running to see what had happened and there I was, caught in the act, still holding the evidence!
            My grandfather threw a fit and called us all ‘spawns of satan’! hahahahaha…actually that was not the first time he had called us that!
            Sometimes when I think about karma, I shudder at the thought that my kids would be as naughty as I was! I am hoping that God will not take into account that period of my life since I was under the maturity age hence not hold me responsible for my actions.
            Now, I am older and hopefully much wiser, I am aware that my actions towards others will affect me in the future. The word ‘karma’ is commonly used in hindu terminology but in Islam, karma is referred to as ‘kifara’, which means ‘you reap what you sow’.

Evil (sins and disobedience of Allah, etc.) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon).
Surah Ar-Rum 30:41

It is very clear from the above verse that if a person is given retribution by God Al Mighty, then it as sign for that person to repent and return back to His Ways.
            Our actions will not only leave an impact on others but also it can leave a mark on our hearts. Actions include verbal and physical conduct. What we say or do is actually reflective of the state of our hearts.

            Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), say:
"Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for."
Reported by Bukhari & Muslim

            “Abu Huraira also related that the Messenger of Allah (s) said:
The servant speaks words, the consequences of which he does not realize, and for which he is sent down into the depths of the Fire further than the distance between the east and the west”
Sahih Al Bukhari

“The servant says something that he thinks is harmless, and for which he will be plunged into the depths of the Fire as far as seventy autumns.”
Reported by Tirmidhi.

To me, the bottom line is, whether it’s ‘karma’ or ‘kifara’, the underlying message is the same ie do unto others as you would have them do to you. If you want your future to be good whether it’s pertaining to family, work or friends or even own self, it is better to start investing in goodness so that you can harvest excellence.   

            A bad seed will only produce unhealthy or even stunted tree but a good seed will ensure that the tree grows big and healthy, with many wonderful branches…..

On the authority of ibn Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with both of them): On the authority of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him) from among the sayings that he related from His Lord (glorified and exalted be He) is that He said, “Verily, Allah recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds. Then He clarified how [that recording should occur:] whoever decided to do a good deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as a complete good deed. And if he decided to do it and actually did it, Allah records it with Him as ten good deeds up to seven hundred up to many times over. If he decided to do an evil deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as one complete good deed. If he decided to do it and he actually did it, Allah records it as one evil deed.” (Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

“Whoever brings a good deed shall have ten times the like thereof (Surah al-Anaam:160)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Thou art my Brother...

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Once upon a time ago, someone had asked me, “Sister, are you Sunnah?”. “Huh? What?” I gave this person a blank look. I mean, I have heard of Sunni Muslims and Syiah Muslims and I have been asked in the past as to which group I belong to. Even back then, I politely replied, “Only God knows” which basically means, ‘none of your business!’.

            However, to ask me whether I am Sunnah or not is something completely new to me. Sunnah means teachings of our beloved Prophet SAW. Is that another sect of Islam that I don’t know about? So, I asked this person to explain her question. She replied that she basically wanted to know if I am a Sunnah follower and if I am then I’m a ‘Sunnah’. Hhmm……I could feel my irritation slowly rising then. I was appalled and insulted by the question actually.

            Since I have made a promise to myself not to be a puppet of satan and also I made a promise to the Wise Owl to be in better control of my temper, I didn’t roar or breathe fire on this poor sister. I gave her my sweetest smile and simply replied, “only God knows!” which means ‘none of your business’ if she knows how to read between the lines. Why should I declare if I religiously follow Sunnah or not to another human being? I don’t even need to declare it to God Al Mighty!  The only declaration that I need to make on a daily basis is ‘there is not God but He’ and even that is done in private! What is the purpose of asking me such question? Is it to judge me? No human is qualified to judge another.

                        What has happened to the Muslim society now? Since when do we go around labeling ourselves or each other? I mean, if I were to reply to her that I don’t follow Sunnah, then will I be called “Anti-Sunnah” instead? Geezz…..!!! I mean, seriously!

            That is the problem of the Muslims today. We are too busy judging and labeling each other that we have lost the true spirit of Islam i.e. brotherhood.

 The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.
Al Hujurat 49:10
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not guide you to something which if you carry out you will love one another? Spread salaam amongst yourselves." [Muslim]

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "Do not have malice against a Muslim; do not be envious of other Muslims; do not go against a Muslim and forsake him. O the slave of Allah! Be like brothers with each other. It is not allowed for a Muslim to desert his brother for over three days." [Muslim & Tirmidhi]

            All Muslims are brothers and sisters. We are one huge family.  We are suppose to be united instead of compart-mentaling ourselves into sects. It is rude to ask a person if he or she follows Sunnah. It is also rude to ask a person if he or she reads Quran every day. Why should that person declares what he does in his own private time? The relationship between a slave and his Creator is a private one. The details of the ‘relationship’ is not be broadcast-ed to the general public.

            A person who openly declares that he or she is ‘Sunnah’, to me, is actually showing off. Showing off means pride and arrogance. Be very CAREFUL…..

“The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever has pride in his heart equal to the weight of a mustard seed shall not enter Paradise.” Someone asked, “A person likes to wear beautiful clothes and fine shoes.” He replied, “Allah is beautiful and likes beauty. Pride means rejecting the truth and looking down on other people.” [Sahih Muslim]

Abu Hurairah (radhiallaahu ‘anhu) heard the Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam say:
“the first of the people to be judged on the Day of Judgement is a man who was martyred. He will be brought in front of Allaah and Allaah will remind him of the blessings He gave him. The man will recognize it and Allaah will say to him: “What have you done concerning it?” He will say, “I fought for your sake until I was martyred.” Allaah will say to him, “you have lied, you fought that it be said you are brave (and it was said).” Then he will be ordered to come and will be dragged on his face until he is put in the fire.
(Another) man who learnt knowledge and taught it and recited the Qur’an. He will be brought in front of Allaah and Allaah will remind him of the blessings He gave him and the man will recognize it. Allaah will say to him, “What have you done concerning it?” He will say, “I learnt knowledge for your sake until I taught it and learnt the Qur’an for your sake.” Allaah will say to him, “you have lied, but you learnt that it be said you are a learned man. You (also) recited the Qur’an that it be said you are a reciter (and it was said).” Then he will be ordered to come and will be dragged on his face until he is put in the fire.
(Another) man whom Allaah had blessed with wealth and gave him from all the different types of wealth. Allaah will remind him of the blessings He gave him and the man will recognize it. Allaah will say to him, “What have you done concerning it?” He will say, “I have not left a path of goodness that You love except that I was charitable towards it for your sake.” Allaah will say to him, “you have lied, but you did that so it be said – such and such is generous (and it was said).” Then he will be ordered to come and will be dragged on his face until he is put in the fire.”
[Saheeh Muslim]

            Why do we need to declare if we follow Sunnah i.e. teachings of Prophet SAW or not? It is enough to know that we must follow ‘Sunnah’ if we want to declare ourselves as his ummah on Judgment day but there no need to declare it out loud or put someone on the spot by asking such question. We just need to ask ourselves that question not others.

            If the intention is to encourage others to follow the teachings of Prophet SAW and also Quran, then perhaps another method should adopted. We should instead share with others the beauty, without asking or judging a person’s state of eaman, about following the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW and its rewards. We can also share the rewards and ‘perks’ of reciting Quran every day without the need to ask if the person knows how to recite the Quran or not. By asking such personal questions, you are actually indirectly shaming that person. That is NOT Islam.

            No one should be force or made to confess about one’s weakness or inability to another human being. It could be that the person has trouble learning or was ignorant or faced obstacles in trying to follow. It could also be that the person follows to the tee; each and everything teachings by our beloved Prophet SAW but he or she chose not to tell a soul. So, my advice is, don’t be nosy or rude. Don’t ask personal questions about other’s people state of eaman. Just concentrate on yours….

            Islam is about beauty and not interrogation. Islam is about gentleness and not brute force. Islam is about humility and not pride. Islam is about what’s really inside your heart and not what you declare out loud…………….


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Is the Glass half empty or full?......

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”Abraham Lincoln

Recently, I had a discussion with a sister about women and modesty. This sister had asked me about the true boundaries of modesty for women in Islam. As I started explaining to her about our awra, she started getting agitated. Then she started giving excuses and reasons as to why she would not be able to comply or follow the commandments that have been given to us, women.
Many years ago, I would be irritated with this sister but that day, as I kept quiet and listened to her rattling on and giving justifications as to why she is not able to follow the  guidelines and rulings pertaining to Muslim women, it struck me how I was exactly like this sister many years ago.
When the Wise Owl first 'shared' with me about the rulings pertaining Muslim women, I was very reluctant to follow. After being a follower or rather a ‘victim’ of fashion, I felt that the rulings were ‘cramping’ my style! SubhanAllah! May God forgive me for my ignorance then.
Anyway, I started telling the Wise Owl why I couldn’t follow the rulings. I told the Wise Owl that it was not possible, especially in my line of work. I was actually justifying my disobedience. Later, after many discussions with the Wise Owl, I realised that I was not actually saying ‘no’ to him, who was just relaying the message, but rather, I was saying ‘no’ to God AlMighty!
Gosh! How could I've been so arrogant? How could I have the nerve to say ‘no’ to the One who created me? What possessed me to do such a thing? Thankfully, God gave me the wake-up slap that I needed and I started changing my answers to ‘yes’.
I also have to thank God Al Mighty for sending me a person who was not at all judgmental towards me and was patient when dealing with me. I think I would have probably gave up on ‘me’ if I was in the Wise Owl’s shoes that time.

“Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness. And do not assist each other in acts of sinfulness and transgression. And be aware of Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment” (al-Maaidah:2)

            I realised then that it is always easy to see the bad side of a person. Having been trained to spot the weaknesses in an opponent, made me somewhat judgmental towards other people at that time. I could easily pick up the negative characteristics of person in a blink.
            That, all changed when I was the subject of scrutiny. The Wise Owl did not harp on my negative attributes but instead focused on the goodness in me. I can assure you that there was not much goodness in me to start with but the Wise Owl persevered. He did not give up.
            What the Wise Owl did made me realise that as human, we tend to see the bad side of things or people. Our mind is somehow trained to zoom in to the weaknesses of people or the negative side of things. It was then, that I understood why I was such a moaner and a complainer! I had a complaint about everything and anything, on the face of earth. Nothing could make me happy or contented. It was because I was seeing things in a negative light. Little did I know then that there is nothing negative about test and tribulations. They are all mercy and blessings in disguise.

Buhari and Muslim: The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said :

"Whoever Allah wants good for him, he puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt and then that which is bad from it is removed so that you have that which is the pure diamond or the pure gold or whatever. Put them to tests, trials and difficulties."
            The moral of the story here is, next time, when we are faced with difficult situations or people, rather than letting the automatic negative sensor be switched on, try to train our mind to see the positive side of things or people. Focus on the good and you will find the bad becomes irrelevant. Also, we will be more grateful and appreciative for the things that we have and the people who surrounds us. If we train our brain hard enough, we might even develop the ability to spot a gem amongst the rough edged people.
            The people, who are argumentative or defensive, are actually vulnerable inside. Their rough exterior sometimes acts like a defence mechanism. If we are truly serious about spreading our deen, then look for the positive attributes of this people and try to work on it. If God’s Willing, then this person will blossom into a beautiful person but he or she doesn’t, don’t despair. You have given it your best shot and the rest; you need to leave to Him.

“To Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: and all affairs are referred back to Allah.”
Surah  Al-Hadid 57:5

            Back to my story…..I didn’t end up straggling the sister but instead, after she finished listing out all her justifications, I  simply smiled at her and said, “You know sister, you really remind me of me many years ago. Shall we have some coffee and talk some more?”…………