“We all have hardships.”

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

I just returned from a short trip abroad and whilst there, my sister and I were casually conversing with a Bulgarian hotel waitress. She asked about our visit and we somehow went on to the topic of my mother’s poor health. At that point, she put her hand on my sister’s shoulder and began giving such comforting words to us. Then she took out something from her uniform pocket. It was a picture of a young girl with pigtails. She said, “This is my daughter, she is only 2 years old, and she’s been taken away from me.” She then gave us a comforting smile and a look of understanding and simply said, “We all have hardships.”  

Reality. Subhan’Allah, there are some things that can easily bring together Humanity simply because they are a true reality faced by all.

Blessings are literally poured over you during testing times. But your heart and mind are so fixated on the whirlwind that you don’t see the goodness around you. And even if your eyes see it, your preoccupied mind might not acknowledge it. So take a deep breath, watch the sun rise over a new day, listen to the birds chirp, watch your beloved ones walk and talk around you, go to work or school and struggle through the day – because even in your struggle, there is peculiar and wondrous beauty.

It was never about the actual test that you went through, because tests approach every living thing; though they come wearing different masks. But it was about the turbulence during your plight and it was about the aftermath that you had to deal with; your reaction or composure, your words or your silence. See, it’s rarely ever about the test alone, but almost always just all about you.

Sometimes, a door might close upon you and you really feel its impact because it was a door that you were looking at. But as Ibn al-Qayyim said, no door closes except that Allah opens up at least 2 other doors out of Mercy. We just have to hearken to the Signs of Allah around us, and look for which doors have been opened and are now ajar. You may be in for a pleasant surprise.

Life will teach you if you allow it to teach you, and it will bring you its benefits if you allow it to bring you benefit, and it will coach you if you allow it to coach you. The key is to become its student, and remain as its student through the thick and thin.

Keep striving.
Gates usually open upon the last fatigued knock.

“Perhaps the delay in you attaining your wish lies in a benefit which Allah wants for you. So be patient. Do not hasten. And be optimistic. For indeed, what awaits you of blessing is far greater than what you wished for, and there is no-one more generous than Allah.” – Unknown

“When a person we love falls ill, we say it is a test, but when a person we dislike falls ill, we say it is a punishment. When a person we love is afflicted with hardship, we say it is because he is a good person, but when a person we dislike is afflicted with hardship, we say it is because he has wronged others. Be very careful of handing out the wisdom of Allah behind His Decree based on your desire.” - Unknown

“If you are tested, then be patient. It will soon go.
And if you are broken, don’t worry. Allah mends all hearts.
Whoever puts Allah in his heart, then none will ever harm him.”

- Unknown poet

If there is any good in your heart…

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

There is an ayah in Surah al-Anfal that is in the context of War, but the beauty of the Qur’an is such that you can read a verse and it brings a whole new meaning to you than the standard tafsir. Consider this ayah:

“…If Allah knows any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [al-Anfal: 70]

The Prophet (s) was commanded by Allah to say this to the captives taken in war. But it’s also something that we can say to ourselves whenever a worldly benefit is removed from our hands, because let’s face it: we may not be captives of war, but we are captives of the Dunya and this is why a loss devastates most of us. Our hearts become attached to certain things from this world, and this pollutes the pure nature that the heart was created upon. So to purify the heart, Allah will sometimes remove some things from our possession and we suffer a loss. But He `azza wa jall is telling us: if there is goodness in your hearts after this, then there will be no real loss because what Allah gives you in replacement is much much better and on top of that He will forgive and show us mercy for what we endure of the loss.

So be patient and submit to the Work of Allah `azza wa jall, as He Knows all :)

May Allah keep replacing our losses with better things, ameen!

Living with the Qur’an – Part 2

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

Part 2 of the notes from the ‘Living with the Qur’an’ webinar:

4. Take the Qur’an as a cure and a healing

Unfortunately, with the advancement of Medicine, we have somewhat come to abandon the great practise of healing and curing with the Qur’an. It’s important to realise that while drugs and medicines can treat ailments and Islam is very much in encouragement of seeking treatment, there are however some illnesses that only the Qur’an can treat, e.g. diseases of the heart such as arrogance, disbelief, jealousy/envy, hatred etc. The Qur’an also treats physical illnesses. The soul is connected to the body and by curing and healing the soul, the body can also be cured because the two are connected. Modern medicine just focuses on treating the physical body, but the Qur’an cures via a more powerful mechanism and pathway: it cures through the soul, mind, and heart – it has a holistic approach.

“And We send down from the Qur’an that which is a cure and a mercy for those who believe…” [al-Isra: 82]

So, part of our living with the Qur’an is our turning to it as a source of healing, whether from a physical ailment or a spiritual disease or a mental distress – even healing from something that might not be recognised as an illness but you find it harming you e.g. a heavy or broken heart, disappointment/disheartenment, low emotion etc. Let it heal you and restore you to full strength and well-being. Make the Qur’an your family doctor or GP!

Point to note: I believe every Muslim should know how to perform ruqyah – curing with the Qur’an. Nowadays it has become a profession, but really, everyone who knows Qur’an has the ability to do it. It’s not difficult. So whenever you are suffering from pain or illness, address the soul with the Qur’an.

[Brief summary of how to perform ruqyah e.g. recitation of al-Fatihah x3 or x7, Ayat al-Kursi, last 2 verses of al-Baqarah, the 3 Quls, Ayah in al-Isra. If suffering from effects of evil eye, magic, jinn/mass, then specific portions of al-A’raf, Yunus, TaHa, al-Baqarah etc – you can search online].

Let us get into the habit of using the Qur’an as a cure and medicine for any and every illness insha’Allah.

“Indeed, this Qur’an is the banquet of Allah, so learn as much as you can from the banquet of Allah. Indeed, this Qur’an is the strong Rope of Allah and it is the clear guidance and it is a beautiful cure, a protection for those who cling to it, and a salvation for those who follow it. Nothing is bent or corrupted except that the Qur’an rectifies it, nor is anything deviated but that it reprimands it. Its marvels do not fade nor is the sweetness of it decreased by the frequency of those who recite it…” [al-Hakim]

It is especially important that as women, we learn how to perform ruqyah so that we remove the need of going to a male raqi, and instead we can do it for ourselves, our female relative, family members and our children; the best ruqyah is the one that a person does for him/herself.

5. Use the Qur’an to become people of insight

The last point I want to talk about is a very deep point about living with the Qur’an – it’s about using the Qur’an to develop our perspectives and develop insight.

Al-Hasan al-Basri: “Adhere to the Book of Allah `azza wa jall, follow what is in it of examples and become a people of insight by it.”

Nothing is mentioned in the Qur’an except that there is a deep lesson or wisdom behind it and it has certain insights to offer. This is why ‘verse’ in Arabic is called ‘Ayah’ – a Sign. Because every verse is a sign from Allah which leads a slave back to Allah. So if you want to seek out the Signs of Allah, then seek out His Verses.

“Indeed, basa’ir (insights, enlightenment etc) have come to you from your Lord, so whoever sees does for the benefit of his soul, and whoever is blind does harm against it…” [al-An’am: 104]

The Signs of Allah will come to a person throughout their life, so it’s important to be awake and attentive to them. We should know that truly living with the Qur’an means living upon Iman and living with insight. Let the Ayat of the Qur’an come alive in your life. For example, many times Allah talks about the creation around us and He says that they are signs for those who reflect and have insight. What does it mean when He talks about the trees for example? Maybe we’re supposed to consider the magnificence of the tree, tall branches reaching to sky, but the roots are embedded and hidden from sight – to teach us that roots are more important than branches i.e. inner is more important than outer. Or perhaps we’re supposed to look at how the leaves fall in winter; like sins falling from a person during the ‘winter’ of their life; their times of hardships…and so on.

There are always signs in our surroundings and we must be attentive to them if we truly want to live with the Ayat of Allah and with the Book of Allah.

This is a vast and extensive topic that I cannot possibly cover in just 1 hour, but I pray that these small pointers serve as a reminder for myself firstly and others and they push forward in taking the Qur’an and really living with it and not just living by it, because there’s a world of difference between living by something and living with something.

May Allah `azza wa jall make His Book the Light of our lives and may He grant us basirah (insight), ameen.

Living with the Qur’an – Part 1

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

For those who couldn’t attend, these are my notes from a webinar I did last night (‘Living with the Qur’an’) for sisters on behalf of Solace. Part 2 to come tomorrow insha’Allah.

Living with the Qur’an

The topic of living with the Qur’an is an incredibly important one because it is essentially the whole reason why the Qur’an was revealed: to teach us HOW to live in a true sense. It was revealed to take us out from this self-imposed darkness that we seem to find ourselves in and lead us to light. It was revealed to teach us how to live with a heart that is awake and attentive; that is, awake and attentive to the Signs of Allah, and responsive to His Call. It was revealed to teach us all about this world; its reality, its illusions and delusions so that we can understand how to truly live in the world, and it was revealed to teach us all about the Hereafter so that we can understand that it is going to be our true and eternal home.

So in a nutshell, the whole reason that the Qur’an was revealed was so that it could change us. We are supposed to interact with the Qur’an on a regular basis, in a consistent manner, and not merely place it on our top bookshelf and only take it down on special occasions such as births and funerals etc. It wasn’t revealed so that we can decorate it with jewels and marvel at it; rather it was revealed so that we can LIVE with it.

When the first verses and chapters descended upon our Messenger (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), something extraordinary happened in Makkah. The Qur’an began to create a revolution, and this was a revolution that began primarily in the hearts of the people. With its descent, the Qur’an began changing the hearts of its listeners and it began creating an internal revolution within them. This is what it’s supposed to do. It’s meant to move our hearts and shake them, because after the shaking, peace and tranquillity will descend. When something moves or shakes, it is a sign of life, so if your heart is moved by the Qur’an, then rejoice because it is a sign that your heart is not dead.

One of the worst regrets that a person can feel is coming to the end-stages of their life and then realising that they haven’t truly lived. A deep regret overtakes them because they realise that they could’ve done more with their life. Perhaps they could’ve done something different or changed in some way. But here they are on their deathbed in regret because they find that they were never really happy or content in their lives, they didn’t live upon Iman (faith), they didn’t pay attention to their relationship with Allah `azza wa jall and they missed the opportunity of living with His Words. This deep regret that overtakes souls at the point of death or after death, is mentioned a number of times in the Qur’an, and it’s called حسرة (hasra). It is a type of regret that is coupled with pain, grief, and sorrow. A piercing regret that severs and cuts up a person from the inside. There is a very interesting passage in the Qur’an which mentions the hasra of souls. But before Allah mentions it, He gives a double warning:

وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ
“And turn in repentance to your Lord and submit to Him before the torment comes to you, then you will not be helped.”

وَاتَّبِعُوا أَحْسَنَ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُم مِّن رَّبِّكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ بَغْتَةً وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ
“And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord before the torment comes upon you suddenly while you do not perceive.”
[al-Zumar: 54-55]

So why this double warning? Well the answer lies in the very next verse:

أَن تَقُولَ نَفْسٌ يَا حَسْرَتَا عَلَىٰ مَا فَرَّطتُ فِي جَنبِ اللَّهِ وَإِن كُنتُ لَمِنَ السَّاخِرِينَ
“Lest a soul should say, ‘Alas for my regret/grief (hasra) over what I’ve neglected in regard to Allah and that indeed I was among the mockers.’”

Allah `azza wa jall is warning us not once, but twice in succession lest we become souls that lament in pain and regret!

And the Qur’anic passage continues with this scene of the soul in sorrow:

أَوْ تَقُولَ لَوْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ هَدَانِي لَكُنتُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ
“Or lest it should say, ‘If only Allah had guided me, I would’ve been among the righteous.’”

أَوْ تَقُولَ حِينَ تَرَى الْعَذَابَ لَوْ أَنَّ لِي كَرَّةً فَأَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“Or lest it should say when it sees the punishment, ‘If only I had another chance so I could be among those who do good.’” [al-Zumar: 56-58]

Subhan’Allah, so much regret! If only this, or if only that. Regret coupled with pain, grief, and sorrow, with the hard-hitting reality that today, there is no going back. No second chances, no opportunities left. The soul becomes so desperate that at one point it even tries to blame Allah by saying, ‘If only Allah had guided me, I would’ve been from the righteous!’ But the truth is as Allah `azza wa jall says immediately afterwards:

بَلَىٰ قَدْ جَاءَتْكَ آيَاتِي فَكَذَّبْتَ بِهَا وَاسْتَكْبَرْتَ وَكُنتَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ
“Rather there certainly came to you My Verses, but you denied them, and you were arrogant, and you were among those who disbelieved.” [al-Zumar: 59]

The verses came, but you turned away. The Book came, but you chose not to live with it. This is the ‘hasra’ that will overtake souls that Day and will literally break the heart of every person who chose not to live with the Qur’an. May Allah save us from this great regret and grant us peace on the Day when the hearts will be shaken.

How can we live with the Qur’an

When I was studying abroad, one of the blessings I experienced was living with different sisters from around the world, other students like myself. And even though we all hailed from completely different continents, had different cultures and spoke different languages, we all became companions and friends to one another, even like a family at one point. And all this resulted because we lived with each other and we were thrown into each other’s company.

The reason I mention this is because when you live with someone/something, it becomes your companion and vice versa. So if you want to live with the Qur’an, you must take it as a companion. And the wonderful thing about the Qur’an is that will give you back much more than you can ever give it. Just spend a few minutes with the Qur’an on a regular basis and what it gives back to you in your lifetime will be extraordinary insha’Allah.

In a hadith, the Prophet (s): “Read the Qur’an for indeed, it will come on the Day of Judgment as an intercessor for its companion.” [Muslim]

I will mention 5 points and practical steps on how we can truly live with the Qur’an insha’Allah:

1. Always try to be in the company of the Qur’an

The Arabs use this term (sahib) to indicate a close association between two things, for example a rich person who lavishes and spends money wherever they go is referred to as ‘Sahib Maal’ which literally means ‘companion of money’. For the same reason, a person in close association with the Qur’an is called ‘Sahib al-Qur’an’ because he/she studies the Qur’an, teaches it, reads it continuously and lives with it. We should accompany the Qur’an and also allow the Qur’an to accompany us wherever we go; in our travels and holiday, in our daily commute etc.

Point to note: The Qur’an will only go where is pure and clean, so if you accompany it, it will lead you to the good and pure insha’Allah. Live with it and it will take your life down a righteous and virtuous path because that’s the direction the Qur’an travels in.

2. Reading and pondering over the Qur’an

The second step we can take towards living with the Qur’an is to actually read it and UNDERSTAND it. What is Allah `azza wa jall telling us in His Verses? Although there is reward in recitation (even if one does not fully understand), the greater objective of the Qur’an is achieved when we read with understanding. That is when the power of the verses will enter our hearts and create a change.

So allocate a special time when you can read a portion of the Book and allocate a special place in your home too, and have what is called ‘Hudhur al-Qalb’ – bring your heart to the surface and make it attentive, ready to absorb the ayat. Let your heart come in a humbled state, seeking out a reminder from its Lord so as to draw close to Him.

Don’t read to merely finish a chapter, but read to bring your heart back to life. Read so that with every chapter and page you go turn, your heart also turns with it. If it’s a verse about seeking forgiveness, then interact with the Qur’an at that point and seek forgiveness. This is a Sunnah of the Prophet (s) whereby he would respond to the verses that he read. Also, allow your body to respond; allow your eyes to shed tears and let that come from the deep chambers of your heart. Enjoy these moments because they are moments of transformation for you – your heart is turning and moving; it is responding to the verses of Allah. Allow yourself to contemplate and repeat a verse over and over again until you can feel its sweetness increasing. The Salaf used to say ‘The Qur’an is like a date; the more you chew of it, the more its sweetness comes out.’

As they say, ‘If you want to talk to Allah, then pray. But if you want Allah to talk to you, then open up the Book.’

Malik ibn Dinar: ‘Whoever finds pleasure in talking to people and doesn’t find pleasure in talking to Allah, then his knowledge has taken a plunge, his heart has become blind, and his life has surely been wasted.’

Speaking about the person who recites and studies the Qur’an, Imam al-Ajuri says in his book, ‘Akhlaq Ahl al-Qur’an, “If he studies the Qur’aan then he does so with complete understanding and intellect. What concerns him is fully comprehending that which Allah has made mandatory on him to follow and adhere to, and desisting from what He `azza wa jall has forbid him from. His concern is not ‘when will I finish the Qur’aan?’ But rather his deep concern is ‘when will I be fully content with Allah and independent of other than Him?’ ‘When will I be from the Muttaqeen (pious)? When will I be from the Muhsineen (perfection in worship)? When will I be from the Mutawakkileen (relying only on Allah)? When will I be from the Khashi’een (humbled to Allah)? When will I be from the Sabireen (patient)? When will I be from the Sadiqeen (truthful)? When will I be from the Kha’ifeen (fearful)? When will I be from the Raajeen (hopeful)? When will I become ascetic in this world? When will I yearn for the Hereafter? When will I repent from sins? When will I recognise the successive blessings of Allah? When will I thank Him for it? When will I deeply understand the public address from Allah (i.e. this Qur’aan)? When will I sincerely comprehend what I’m reciting? When will I overcome my soul’s desires? When will I strive for Allah with a true striving? When will I guard my tongue? When will I lower my gaze? When will I protect my chastity and when will I have hayaa’ (modesty/shyness) of Allah with a true and honest hayaa’?”

So make time to read and reflect over the Qur’an. After the day is over (or maybe before it’s begun), go and make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, go somewhere warm and cosy in your home, and just sit with the Qur’an for a few minutes, reading and contemplating over it. Make it a part of your life.

3. Consult the Qur’an throughout your life

In life, whenever you have a need or if you’re in some troubled waters, it’s really important to go back to the Qur’an and consult it. Read with the intention of seeking help and guidance. From the first descriptions given to the Qur’an is that is it ‘a guide for those who are God-conscious.’

If you have a quarrel/fight with family or friends, or if a business transaction goes sour, or if whatever reason you need judgement, go back to the Book for a judgement. Make it a source of your consultations and place it between you and the people. Insha’Allah, you will find it having the best answers.

“And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed then they are indeed the wrongdoers.” [al-Ma’idah: 45]

If you ignore the Qur’an during times of judgement and feuds, then you will most likely wrong and oppress others as well as yourself! Don’t oppress, go back to the Words of al-‘Adil (the Most Just).

Also, consult the Qur’an in times of hardship; go to it as a shoulder to lean on and pour your heart to it. The Qur’an is a great therapy for people going through difficulties and hardships. There are many passages and stories which highlight the hardships and sorrows of people before us – and it tells us their story to show us that we are not alone and to show us how they turned to Allah. These trials of the people before us are like trails in the Qur’an; passages and pathways that we can take a walk through to understand and sympathise. To find similarities and a consolation for ourselves.

Read Surah al-Anbiya for example – the Chapter of the Prophets. Even the title is extraordinary because we know that the Prophets were the most tested, and in this chapter the hardships and difficulties of the Prophets are mentioned. Allah `azza wa jall introduces these Prophets by saying, ‘And Nuh called out to Us’, ‘And Ayyub called out to Us’, ‘And Zakariya called out to Us…’ and after each of the stories, Allah says, ‘Fastajabna lahu’ – ‘And We Responded to him’. The Qur’an will take you down their trails so that you can see and be enlightened by their lives, and realise that in moments of adversity, you need to do what the Prophets did: call out to Allah, because He will respond.

Amazingly, towards the end of the chapter, after listing the stories and difficulties of all these Prophets, Allah `azza wa jall ends by saying, “Indeed, your Ummah is one Ummah, and I am your Lord so worship Me.” [al-Anbiya: 92]

The message? You’re not alone. We are an Ummah led by Prophets and Messengers. Our trials are the same because our trail is the same. We are in submission to Allah so whatever comes our way, we will take it like our leaders (Prophets) took it: with patience, perseverance, humility, strength, hope and deep faith in our Lord.

So whatever your hardship, open up the Qur’an and let it take you away. Guaranteed insha’Allah, you will return with a lighter burden, a fresher and positive mind, greater strength and determination insha’Allah.

To be continued…

Life-cycle of a Believer

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

Surah al-’Asr is a fascinating chapter in the Qur’an because despite it being the second shortest chapter, it sort of sets the details/blueprint and encompasses the cycle of a believer’s life. Think about it:

“By Time.
Indeed, Mankind is in loss.
Except those who believe and do good deeds, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience.” [al-'Asr]

A person’s lifeTime seems to follow a certain pattern: We are all in loss and in danger of losing our Hereafter – except for the believer. But when belief enters your heart, you naturally start doing deeds of righteousness. But then belief can’t stay suppressed in your heart and so you advise others and enjoin goodness – more importantly, you stand up for the Truth. And the moment you stand up for the Truth in this world, is the moment you will need to gather all the patience you can to overcome the obstacles that will no doubt come your way. This is because men and women of truth are tested and they are often fought by those who are still in lingering in loss from amongst Mankind… Subhan’Allah.

It is no wonder that the likes of Imam al-Shafi’i used to say, “If nothing else but this (Surah Al-’Asr) were to be revealed, then it would have been enough for Mankind as guidance and righteousness.”