There is Prosperity in Sincere Scarcity

It’s cliché, and that’s because it’s repeated often. And it’s repeated often, in my view, because it is very true. You don’t know submission to the will of Allah until you don’t know where your next meal will come from, wonder how you will afford to wash your clothes, or feel blessed just to have any after being thrown out of your own home for converting to Islam. You just don’t. And not specifically that situation. It’s when you don’t know if you’ll ever pay off your debt, and somehow, someday, like a miracle (and it is a miracle) you are saved by a generous person or forgiveness, an unexpected job offer or even your budget somehow leaving more than enough money. It’s barakah. It’s love of Allah. It’s for you, and that specific is just for you in that moment of relief.

As more privileged people – and we are privileged if you are wealthy enough to have an internet connection – we think our money, name, and contacts are things we created out of our own sheer will, that we willed our money and name into existence by ‘earning’ it and gained contacts because of our ‘choice’ to ‘be’ confident. But how many people do the same thing, make even more effort, and don’t win in those areas? Do you say to them that they have no willpower? As someone who has existed in many levels of financial and social status, living in different countries, it’s easy for me to explain that it doesn’t matter how rich or poor, or supported and popular you are, divorces happen, people lose their jobs, people lose and regain stability. The world can be a sad place from the crooked lens. But here’s the hope.

There are experiences that teach you more than a book ever will. One of the most profound is loss. When you have basically everything life has to offer, and lose that, it is devastating but if you are taught well, you might find it humbling. You don’t know everything about the world, so have the humility of at least knowing that and respect wisdom from experience. Respect your own wisdom and don’t belittle the value of your life lessons.

Loss means that suddenly it’s not about who might have your credit card information when you lose your phone without a pass-code on it. It becomes about when your mother’s last breath will be, a worry that turns to gripping terror if you are not careful with how you share this feeling with Allah.

You’re always sharing these feelings with Him, even if you’re not thinking about it. Because no one else shares the deepest recesses of your thoughts. It’s just Him. And you. No one else. Treasure this. It’s beautiful and it truly means more than everything in the Earth all the way up to Heaven. It is the most intimate and private relationship you have and if you don’t hold it in high regard, you might miss out on the best life anyone can have. You might miss out on the right path to Jannah, Paradise, Allah Naa Karein. May Allah protect us.

Loss is a wonderful thing, truly. It can bring you home. To the home within, and it shows you a side of yourself you had never known before. You become resourceful, observant and you become resilient. You pick up new skills faster, and more of them, out of desperation and it makes you a better human being. I don’t know of anyone who went through a calamity and did their best, that was happier than someone who had was financially prosperous and had never had to learn that lesson. You only see miracles when you realize how desperately you are in need of Allah’s Mercy, and how He is constantly giving it to you without you having to feel a thought come about.

My Lord, for whatever you good you send down to me, I am in dire need of every atom. Alhamdulillah.

Don’t Save Them

When you are afraid. Don’t do it.

When it is hard. Don’t push yourself.

When someone says you’re good enough and it feels like a lie, choose not to believe them.

You’ve got it wrong, O person of positivity. You think you do your friends a favour by not making a scene, or by laughing at yourself when you are really insecure. But you’re not doing yourself any favours, and certainly not to your book of deeds.

At least, not if you’re doing these things for a reason outside of the realm of doing it because it is inherently good. Okay, maybe you don’t yet have the advancement to be able really feel it when you say it’s for Allah’s pleasure and hope for His reward. You must persist with the good that you do, but make gentle efforts to remember what the reasons why should be. Plus, you’re not obligated to attend every invitation to be a peacemaker, to go the extra mile or to come up with a new invention. Do what’s mandatory, then bring to yourself that thought of being extraordinary. Those who fail to excel at the ordinary will surely fail to excel in their sincerity at the extraordinary focus they choose; unless they live in extremes, in which case they will rarely sustain it for very long or be emotionally well. In fact, such polarized people may never reach adequate satisfaction with their lives.

You are a human being, with feelings, experiences, relationships along with opportunities and resources that comprise your world. You have your own inner world that extends into your interaction with every person, place and piece your life touches. Your life means you. You choose. I invite you to choose yourself now. It will make it easier in the long run to be able to know yourself and what it is you want; which will in turn help you to be of use to others. That is the most desirable question — what do I want? And yet we constantly chase:

“What do others expect me to look like?”

“To feel, to know, to react to?”

“How would they want me to react?”

Perhaps you smile at a present given with love and pride only out of duty to not hurt their feelings, while in reality you despise it and are fuming inside, or simply dislike what you are given. Would it not be easier instead, to automatically smile just because you’re overjoyed – oh but, genuinely – that in this busy, frantic, fast life, he took out 10 minutes to wrap it, 5 dollars to buy the wrapping paper, ribbon and gift bag and before that, spent hours scouring expensive websites for a quality, sturdy watch he could afford to gift? Just picturing that compliment and show of love is large enough alone for you to accept it graciously and allow this beautiful person who made themselves vulnerable to you with this display of affection into your life. You see, there is no shortage of good reasons to return good with compassion, more good and kindness. It’s a matter of being introspective, of being insightful, of being decent. It’s entirely possible for a willing heart.

This heart, is a heart willing to love and to change, willing to attend a world for happiness, to not spend time with the glum folk who will only tear them down either by regular, critical association or by contempt. They have been touched by hardship. In fact, we all have. But in between the blaring silence and, frightening noises, the grime and the dirt, the ice and the burning sun, they constantly search for moments of quiet, of purity, of warmth and coolness and because they try, they are successful. Those moments then seep into the ones in which they are tried with fear, difficulty and insecurity later on and provides resilience. That is a great strength that will help you to activate sincerity. If you choose a way to be a person of positivity, try being a tree and being rooted in ground fertile with kindness, loyalty, courage and chivalry, too.

The Last Day

This follows a similar theme of a constant happening right now. In each life, be it the dunya (this life), yawm al akhir (the day of judgement), or the akhira itself (heaven or hell), there are laws that stay the same. This particular law says that the final destination of existence is not about what your ancestors or parents did. We are only responsible for our own actions. So when Allah says “yours is what you have earned,” it could be interpreted as Allah saying, “look, you could die at any time, and there is a beautiful return for you ahead if you are good. But if you die now, and you haven’t earned your keep, you don’t get to give a down payment or a loan for your house in Jannah. You either paid for it, or not. It’s not yours if you don’t decide to live by your need for it to be yours in a way that is acceptable to your Lord.” That should motivate you, because it means you now know that it’s actually in your hands. It reminds you of your agency that comes with the responsibility of living a wakeful life. You are of sound mind, and you hold a heart in your chest and a soul within that is capable of bettering itself.

 

Recalling Allah’s words in verse 14 of Al-Imran, Allah’s mercy is starkly clear, bright and soothing like sunlight on a breezy, cloudy summer’s day. Allah is reminding us of the obvious: we want things from life. We want enjoyment, peace and even excitement. We want to experience beauty, and feel strong and look good. We want to possess the best items and the most wonderful, blooming relationships. Men want wives and fancy modes of transport, women want husbands and all the world has to offer. Allah is reminding us that He created us, so yes, He knows. It is because of His decisions that we are that way! This is comforting and so freeing because it means He understands our need to be happy and how happy we can be even more than we do. He has shown us the way, and we’ll never run out of goodness because his grace and generosity is infinite and perfect in the time, and the nature of His blessings.

al imran 14

3:14. Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.

—Quran, Surah Al-Imran

When you maintain hope that Allah will generously reward you, it gets easier to abstain or moderate when required. When you know that you have a responsibility towards your own joyful afterlife and that there’s only one way to achieve it, your heart will grow fixated on your goal and it will get easier and you will start to enjoy the hard times. Not because they are easy, but because of the knowledge that there is something better beyond with your patience being rewarded and a close relationship with the most compassionate, beautiful and healing Being that is with you.

Change

I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it was when the sun shined, its gaze falling on me, curious as a cat in the night as I quickly re-wrapped my headscarf after the wind had whipped it around my head. My mother had warned me about those flimsy pins. Nothing ever seemed to hold my veil down. The air deliciously enveloped me, caressing quieted speech to make way for more elegant words. It was for the rush of running down the street to catch the bus, for the will to catch light in between flowers in a photograph. It was the flimsy nature of every moment, how it seemed to slip like children’s slime through my feeble fingers before I could capture how it felt in my heart. And how the rain washed everything away like it never happened.

Yet when the puddles were jumped in and soon dried up to stop glimmering in intermittent sunlight, and the wet grass became lush fields abloom for farther than you could stretch your sight, it was hard to believe anything about reality except that it was by then, for the best.

Going Too Far

When a person wants to improve their religion, one of the best ways to advance is through gaining new knowledge and applying it. But the factor of sincerity plays a vital role in whether the benefit will stay and actually be fruitful to them on the Day of Judgment. If the heart is not receptive to such information, that information does not go through the process of becoming knowledge and then wisdom.

Information is data stripped to its most basic form. Knowledge is being aware of facts that are understood and learnt second-hand. Wisdom is where knowledge joins real-life experience and enlightened perspective. That’s the kind of religiosity we aim for as Muslims, and that’s how knowledge should impact us, because wisdom is knowledge that makes one a better human being.

The job of knowledge is not to make you capable of rattling off rulings, and be able to understand the difference between deviant sects, or why this shaykh is wrong or that student of knowledge is more guided than the other. While these are issues this blog is not here to address, the point to be made is that there is more to life than right and wrong and in between. There is the reason why. Understanding our purpose in this life is what so many of us are missing, and it’s not even just about your dead-end job at Walmart or the traditional (though hopefully dying) nine-to-five.

It’s about believing in the fact that in the next millisecond, you could freeze in the middle of reading this as you see the angel of death, and know that you did not live up to what you knew you were capable of. Now you have the experience that would have given you the wisdom to see past empty friendships, to try to understand what you could have done, how you could have lived with so much more peace and expectation of reward. But what good is it then?

Truthfully, how many of us are clear on who we want to be? ‘Coming into your own’ is such an elusive term, thrown in with ‘who I am,’ what is the meaning of life,’ and ‘can’t we just say what we really mean by all that?’ Just kidding about the last one. In all seriousness, it’s firstly about coming closer to being honest about what is getting in the way. You can’t figure out which way to go in the street if both your rear-view mirror and windshield are cracked and smudged and downright dirty.

It takes time. It takes sitting down with yourself – quite literally – and reflecting on what it is about your life that is stressing you out. Limit or eliminate. Reflect on what you’re grateful for. Increase and discover  more. Reflect on what’s bogging you down. Let go and lift off. This last one is hard, because it involves investigating painful experiences and the habitual self-infliction of pain, and vetting them from our world view. It could be anything from actual physical self-harm, to sabotaging relationships, to spending time doing sins or being around people who belittle or negatively influence you.

There’s more to this, but the final idea to share is that no one knows everything. Not everything can be fixed, not because it is impossible, but because not every problem can get attention. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. Sometimes no matter how much time we spend thinking, we do no connecting. So the missing ingredient is Allah Himself. He is the One judging on Judgment Day, He is the One Whom inspired this post, and will inspire you, too, if you speak up as you reach out and let him. Sometimes we don’t know what to ask, so we can suffice our need by saying, “Ya Allah, help!”

And really? That’s all it takes.

Words and Actions Don’t Disappear (Even After They’re Done)

Life is not made up of conditions; it is made from consequence.

Many of us want to believe we had no part to play in the difficulties we face. Which girl would want to admit she lost her best friend because she talked behind her back, which man would ever admit to poaching a client from his business partner whn he wasn’t qualified for the job, causing the company lose its big break? Maybe it’s about holding on to our pride, avoiding the deflation of our ego, or maybe it’s just easier to hide from the truth: whatever you do, it will always turn around to rear its ugly head.

Or it might just smile with wonder and sunshine in the face of a new beginning you never expected after you transformed another person’s life with your purest sincerity, compassion and humility, giving them the tools to be their best selves.

I hope that if the people who have changed my life for the better read this, they will feel that warmth someday, because they have earned it.

Dream in the Face of Fear

“Allah tests those whom He loves.”

We all have those moments, when tough times seem impossible to escape, work through or recover from. I wonder if that’s just because we lost our sense of what patience truly is, from the natural inclination we had as children. Learning to walk, practicing swinging on monkey bars, falling off a bike, over and over again until we learned and even still we will fall again, sometimes just as hard or harder.  A man who learned to bike marathons could get swept away in a gust of wind, hitting the pavement or worse, and through no error of his own. And it may have been his error, perhaps when some evil he engaged in came back his way.

More likely however, he needs that time in the hospital, as a test from Allah to prove himself as a faithful servant who would never abandon hope for Allah’s Mercy. The way Allah designed reality is that no reward can be had without opportunity to earn it. You can’t expect reward for claiming to choose patience. Truthfully, you only know you are patient when you need to be — and you are, and you only get to seek reward for a calamity if you are given the calamity — and you live in patience and perseverance. The Prophet pbuh went through some of the greatest trials, in fear for his life, in starvation, and in loss. But his gain was in trusting Allah, in being aware of the good that came from these experiences, as subtle as they were.

And actually, it’s the subtle things that make the biggest difference. The sensations and gifts we don’t notice right away are seeds for stronger foundations. That which comes and fades has little equilibrium and cannot be trusted to last as a support. When we learn a lesson about patience through a post like this, it is a good reminder, but it is nowhere near the level of going through test after test and staying well and patient to the best of one’s ability.

There’s really nothing like it.

Patience that is Dreaming in the Face of Fear

There is another, more nuanced idea about patience that is vital to grasp, and while we may not recognize it, we all grapple with it every day.

The man who fell off his bike was overworking himself at the office. With life-threatening injuries after getting hit by a car, he was awakened and began to ponder his current mission in life. Coping wasn’t about being patient in the conventionally understood way, he realized. It was purely about the perspective that his patience gave him, patience that Allah gave him to inherently possess, if he would only take heed and listen.

Allah wanted him to believe, but to believe is the bottom line, and deep down none of us enjoy settling for that.

Patience manifests itself even in how we pursue joy in our vocation of choice. It takes effort and courage to acknowledge that the choices we made to set up our lives when seeking Allah’s provision (think of the famous “tie your camel, and trust in Allah, both” hadith), aren’t satisfying. To look at your wife and say that you need to move away near a place where you can restart, when there is no need except an overwhelming drive to find and pursue what Allah created you to do, is unfathomable for most. Some people are blessed with spouses, parents and other family that support them in whatever they do, and this is a generous bounty from Allah ‘azza wa jal.

No one knows what is coming next. Tomorrow, you could return to God. You might be diagnosed with a debilitating disease, or with a brain tumor, wa-Allahu Musta’aan. It could be the loss of a loved one who was providing financial support in a time of need.

How can you, O forgetful human being, come to think that all you had to do was hope things would get better, go the extra mile briefly just to get by and think you would be happy? The worst I fear most for myself and my readers, is that we come to believe that Allah is not on our side.

Allah wants for you what you think you don’t want for yourself.

What does this have to do with patience? Allah may give what we think is bad for us due to the pain we experience. And yet, there are dreams we don’t pursue because we assume we wouldn’t find the heartache of failure before success to be worth it. Only because that is what we have done all our lives. As the saying goes, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to try.

I know you’re scared. I know you have a lot on your plate. But give yourself that importance. Do you truly believe that you matter and that your existence was not purposeless? Join the few who have meant what they said when they looked in the mirror and silently said it. Join those who found Paradise here in the dunya, who found inner bliss and calm. And not only that, but adventure and the gift of having something to contribute.

To say that it is not possible to even consider dreaming big because of your circumstances, and that you are okay with that is simply lethargic and not true. And most definitely, it is not patience; rather, it is the height of dishonesty with oneself and shows that fear is taking over. We all have things we aspire to, goals we want to reach. But we put ourselves down, and the greatest critic that drags our Fitrah with it pulling at the ground, trying to hold on with its face in the dust, is ourselves, and we put it there.

It is a tragedy to lose one’s value for their own fulfillment. What good can come of stagnancy, when all our souls want to do is soar past what we have allowed to bound us, chained to our inhibitions–what greater cause for grief? Patience is chasing your dreams, but being okay with knowing it doesn’t happen overnight.

Patience is believing that if tomorrow comes, it brings light to guide a second, hundredth, or even thousandth chance at success. It is also believing that there is no way you will live to complete their mission, so you must never give up, and never tire of dreaming big, but planning small.

Whatever comes our way, there is in it what can be used to facilitate our way to Jannah.

It is our choice. A tortured existence without ever knowing why we feel so rotten, only because we gave up too easily — and only because failed to dream that we could succeed, or experience inner paradise.

Stuck

I stay in the path of my fears

I ventured forth

A barrier to my every chance’s door

I came to a pond in the field

Dreamed that inside I would go

Wet my feet and purify

Feeling the water; delight

And yet I

 

Stayed back

Worried my mother would find the mud stains

But I always sat frozen in that hail and rain

 

Knowing where I wanted to be

Caring for all but me

Abandoning my right to be free

To feel the grass under my feet

The birds are friends I used to meet

Oh! A child I used to be

Now look what maturity has done to me

 

I am aimless, wandering, how uncanny

They told me I’d be a doctor and that would make me happy

Nature continues to beckon me

But I chain myself to this chair.