Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Never too old to learn

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

When I was small, my parents had arranged Quranic classes for my sisters and I. Me, being the most mischievous one of all, would always find ways to skip the classes or you'll find me snoring away.

Back then, I didn't understand the need to learn reciting the Quran in a correct manner. Now, after many years, I realized my folly.

As a result of not paying attention in class and not reciting the Quran at all during my younger days, I can't recite the Quran properly as I don't know the rules of tajweed. I can read the Quran in arabic but not recite it in the correct intonation and manner.

"Or add to it, and recite the Qur'an with measured recitation."
Quran 73:4

Someone once said to me that it's a sin to not recite Quran with the correct tajweed. Hmmmm..... then logically it's better for me not to recite the Quran at all, in order to avoid incurring any sins, right? It would have been the perfect excuse but, if I were to wait until I master the tajweed before reciting the Quran, then that might take forever.  Surely that can't be right. So I turned to the Wise Owl. He in turn, shared with me this hadith.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "The one who is proficient in the recitation of the Qur'an will be with the honourable and obedient scribes (angels) and he who recites the Qur'an and finds it difficult to recite, doing his best to recite it in the best way possible, will have a double reward."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

The Wise Owl advised me to keep on reciting the Quran on my own but at the same time, to try to learn the tajweed. Mmmmm.... a bit tricky. Learning is one thing but finding the right class is a different challenge altogether.

I didn't want to join a public class as I was ashamed of my inabilities. I didn't want others to hear how horrible I sounded. I didn't want sniggering from fellow students or the look of pity or worse, being judged for my lack of knowledge. Yes...I had my pride, wrong as it may be.

So for years I searched and prayed for a class that would be suitable for me.

"And your Lord says, "Call upon Me; I will respond to you." Quran 40:60

Then, Allah SWT literally sent a teacher to my doorsteps.  My sister and friend also joined the class. Since we were all on the same level, I could put aside my shame and pride and start learning.

The class is truly a blessing. Now in my 40s, I finally learnt tajweed and how to recite the Quran properly. I now appreciate the beauty of it.

I'm still far from perfect and I still have to work on my pronunciations but at least I'm making progress.

What I would like to say is don't be shy to learn things even if we are old. If there's a will there's a way. Don't despair or worry, just ask Allah SWT and He will answer. Kun faya kun.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The thing about mistakes

“We learn from failure, not from success!” ― Bram Stoker

Mistake has many meanings. It can mean blunder, error, oversight and slip-up. It can also be misconduct, error of judgment and screw-up.

Whatever the meaning is, one thing for certain is that, it was done unintentionally and maybe also, innocently.

Everyone makes mistakes. Some minor and some, grave ones. No one is perfect. I know I made tons of mistakes when I was younger and I still do make mistakes even now. Every time I think about the mistakes that I made, I would cringe but now I know that I was meant to make those mistakes. I learnt a whole  lot of things from my mistakes. In fact, my mistakes made me the person that I am now.

"and mankind was created weak."
Quran 4:28

Mistakes are part of learning process provided we pay attention to the lessons behind it. Mistakes are also success in the making.

"The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The one who repents from sin is like one who did not sin.”
Hadith Ibn Majah

The only problem is that sometimes people remember you by your mistakes and hold you to it. They could friends or even families. No matter how much you have repented or changed,  it would seem that you can never redeem yourself in their eyes. Even if you've become a role-model in the society and are in a better position to advice them, chances are, they would not listen because they hold your past wrongdoings against you.

I know it can be quite frustrating, not to mention disheartening when that happens. Don't despair. Make peace with yourself and move on. Perhaps, they are not ready to accept you and perhaps they may never be.  Their acceptance is not relevant but Allah's acceptance is. Just make dua for them and leave everything in His Hands.

" Say, "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful."
Quran 39:53

Also, sometimes, even though we have committed a particular mistake in the past, we may not able to stop or prevent others, especially our loved ones from committing the same mistake, as much as we want to. Perhaps like us, they are meant to make those mistakes so that they can learnt from it. It may be a bitter pill to swallow for them at first but they will remember well then after.

One more thing. Treat others as how we would like to be treated. As much as we dislike our past wrongdoings be thrown back in our faces, don't remind others of their past mistakes when they are trying very hard to change.

"O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent -  then it is those who are the wrongdoers."
Quran 49:11

Monday, 13 March 2017

Living up to Expectations

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” 
― Bruce Lee

A couple weeks ago, I felt somewhat stressed and to some extent, suffocated. I felt that I had a huge boulder on my shoulder, pushing me down. I felt like a failure because I felt that I wasn't doing as much as I ought to. I was really feeling out of sort. 

Then, I spoke to a dear friend. 

 I really do find it amazing how whenever I feel lost or out of sort, God always sends me someone to help me work out my kinks, to enable me see things clearly then after. We must always have faith that God will answer our dua every time we recite 'Guide me to the straight path' - Al-Fatihah 1:6. 

 Anyway, I was telling my friend about being frustrated in not be being able to do certain things and she said to me, "sister, we must live according to our expectations and not other people's". Her statement was like a bolt of lightning that went straight into my fuzzy brain and zapped my senses back to earth.

OMG!. It was then that I realised that I was working myself to the bone in order to live up to what people expects me to be. In other words, I lost myself and became miserable in the process. I also became very tired both physically and emotionally.

Each and every one of us have our own purpose in life. We each have our own strength and weaknesses. We have our own goals and aims. We even succeed and fail differently. That is how unique God had created each of us. When I got swept away by world, I forgot that I'm suppose to celebrate being different, being ME. I can never be like anyone else and chances are, I can never live up to other people's expectations of how or what I should be. I should only be myself.

After talking to my friend, I feel somewhat liberated from the invisible shackles that were dragging me down. I crawled back into my coconut shell (haven't done that in a while) to think and started remembering my own purpose and goals. I recounted the original reasons as to why I do the things that I do. I started doing what I do for God and me and I want it to continue that way till my last breathe.

I also looked at my own family. As a wife and mother, I have responsibilities towards my husband and children. They are my amanah and they are my Jannah. 

So, here's my advice. Work and strive on your own expectations. Forget about what others expects of you as you may never be able to fulfill them. Doing your best should be enough for you. Know your own limitations and work around your own schedule and not others. It's okay to fail sometimes as failure is success in the making. Make yourself and the people who matters to you, happy. If others are unhappy with you, then it's their problem and not yours. Take your time and savor your moment. Don't let anyone rush you. Dictate your time. Accept the obstacles encountered along the way as stepping stones to excellence. Making a positive progress is better than completing the task miserably.

Life is short. Hold on to your dreams and don't let anyone tell you that achieving it is not possible. Always be thankful to Allah SWT for all the blessings that He has bestowed upon you. What others think of you is irrelevant but what Allah SWT thinks of you, is utmost important.

"But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not."
Quran 2:216 

Last but not least, NEVER stop making dua to Allah SWT

"Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him"
 Quran 27:62 

"Al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer (RA) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say on the minbar: “Dua is worship.” Then he recited the verse (interpretation of the meaning): “And your Lord said: Invoke Me [i.e. believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism) and ask Me for anything] I will respond to your (invocation)…”
Hadith Tirmidhi

Monday, 6 March 2017

A Balanced life

“When the actions of others no longer matter, then you will have succeeded within your own mind.”
Jo De Raman

The other day, I listened to  a dear friend of mine talked about having a balanced life. For me, the topic is so close to my heart as I used to constantly struggle to strike a balance between being a servant of God, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a working person and a friend.

There were times when I felt that I was stretched so thin that I was near breaking point. I felt I was pulled into so many directions that I was losing focus and getting overwhelmed. People's expectations of what and how I should be, proved too much for me to shoulder. It's not easy to strike a balance in ones life, unless you know how and what to prioritize.

One thing that I learnt over the years, is that 'balance' does not mean equal. 

The very first things that you need to ask yourself is 'who do you want to be?'. For me, at that time, more than anything, I wanted to be a good Muslim (still do). I felt that needed to make up for loss times during my ignorant days and that was one of the root of my problem. The thing is (now I know), it matters not how many acts of worships that one performs but it's the quality and sincerity of it that counts.

"Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”
Hadith Ibn Majah 

In trying to do too much, I felt disgruntled and resentment whenever my family or anyone else for that matter,  demanded my time. I felt spending time with them was time away from God. I also felt that they were in the way of me achieving Jannah. I was so wrong! It's actually quite the opposite.

At times, I forgot that Islam is not about rituals but it's a way of life. That means, everything that we do or say is related to God. 'Obedience' is not confined to performing ritual acts of worship or scrambling to do good deeds. 'Obedience' also extent to keeping relations, safeguarding 'amanah' or trust and fulfilling one's responsibilities.

"And they say, "We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination."
Quran 2:285

Each one of us have different ways of life. Each one of us have different needs. I learnt that a balanced life is where you have achieved peace and tranquillity in your life. You learn to accept your limitations and flaws and focus on your capabilities and strength. You may not be able to divide your time equally between all but you have managed to earn His Blessings in everything that you. 

A balanced life is what works for you to achieve that equilibrium between body, mind and soul and not what others think how your life should be. A balanced life is about managing your own expectations and not the expectations of others. What works for you and what makes you happy may not work on others. 

I remember the Wise Owl once said that our entire life can be an 'ibadah' and a huge blessing where we get rewards and baraqa for every single thing that we do. The secret is to do everything sincerely and only for sake of Allah SWT. Once we have managed to condition ourselves to that then somehow, we would achieve the balanced life that we seek. To quote what my dear friend said,  it's progress that we should seek for and not perfection.

It is narrated on the authority of Amir al-Mu'minin (Leader of the Believers), Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the 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."

Hadith Bukhari & Muslim