Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Forgotten One

6:00 AM:

*Alarm rings*

Its going to be a long day.

 My head is pounding from lack of sleep. Last night I didn't resist the urge to stay up a little bit longer than usual. I don't always get the time to be in the company of others, I let myself slip and now I've got to push ahead. The warmth of the bed calls for me, but there is no resisting the fact that soon I will be out there again in the harsh cold world. I place the blanket beside me and sit up while a rush of cool air brushes my body and I shiver. My vision takes a moment to clear itself while my head aches and so does my strength.

But I can't lose sight of my motivation. I need to keep it together.

 I slowly drag my feet across the carpet to the bathroom. My reflection stares back at me. This time in a much different way. This time my reflection stares into my soul. It appears to beg answers for things. I can hardly remember the time when I first began sprouting this white hair. My beard is thinning out and so is the top of my head. My nose is slightly bigger and my features less defined. When did these wrinkles form? Who is this person I barely recognize? Did I forget who I am for a second?

   There's a sharp pain in my back I'm trying hard to ignore. It must be from that new desk at the office.  No it's not. It's old age. Subhanallah, I can't believe how fast time flew.

  I find way to the closet. Thankfully, my style is still fresh. This crisp vibrant button down shirt looks good to wear today. My hands. The contrast of the shirt on my body hasn't been as noticeable as it is now.

6:30 AM:

   This commute is a killer. Two hours of sitting still takes a toll on my back. I spend so much of my day alone- my thoughts eating away at me. More so today for some reason. At least I have my paycheck to look forward to today. Where did my life go? Oh right, I have a family now. Alhamdoulillah. How could I forget? They've been my only motivation all these years.

12:00 PM:

  Everything is so slow. That clock is screaming in deafening silence. Not so sure what it's screaming though- maybe something about finding a way out of here. I think it's calling for me to remember my children. I remember it like it was yesterday - when I held their bare fragile bodies in my arms the moment they were born into this world. The way their innocent sheltered eyes first looked back into mine. Tears of joy fell on my cheeks. Their eyes desperately called for protection. And that was the moment that I first made the promise to keep them safe as long as I live. I knew that there are no lengths far enough that I wouldn't go for their sake. Oh, I got lost in my thoughts there. The boss is strolling down my aisle, I better snap out of it. This is my jihad. This is my jihad. This is my jihad.

5:00 PM:

Finally. Gotta catch that bus. Hopefully, this time I'll sneak a nap. My energy is fully drained now.

7:00 PM:

Ya allah, I almost missed my stop. How long was I asleep for? Anyway I'm almost home now. 

7:15 PM:

Why won't anyone answer this door? Where's my keys? Oh, here we go. My heart is beating loud now. Suddenly I'm energized again. I've been looking forward to this moment all day long.

"Asalamu alaikum"


The living room is dead. Hmm.. That's strange. Perhaps they're upstairs in their rooms. Why are their doors closed? 

"Salam Adam"

"Hi dad"

"Did we forget the salam of the prophet alahyi essalam?"

"Baba! You just got here and you're already telling me what to do?!"

"No, I..."

"Come on! It's already enough you grounded me yesterday!"

"Okay, but you were grounded for being out with your friends till midnight. You know how I feel about that."

What does he even do with his friends? I worry about him.

"It's none of your business how long I'm out. I'm eighteen now. I can do whatever I want. I am not out doing drugs or anything so you can relax."

"Then what are you doing?"

"Are you accusing me?! I can't have this conversation anymore. You don't even understand me."

 I just gotta walk away. Nothing I will say at this point will make this better. I only have you Allah. Little does he know that I was once of his kind. Sometimes I see myself in him.

"Asalamu alaikum Baba"

Oh, that's my sweet daughter Fatima. Adam should learn form her about proper salaams.

"Wa alaikum essalam. How was school Fatima?"

"Fine. Baba, can I get my allowance early so I can buy those shoes I was telling you about?"

"Yeah sure Fatima. Is this enough?"

"Baba! No one buys shoes with twenty dollars these days! These are brand name!"

"Okay. How about this?"

"Oh thank you Baba. You're the best dad ever!"

Where did she go? I didn't even ask her how school was. I wonder about this girl's grades sometimes. I haven't seen a report card in ages.

Ah my beautiful wife Hana. I love her so much. I just wish she'd try a little harder. I can see the stains on her shirt from last night's dinner.

"Salam Omar. It's good to see you. How was work?"

"Good alhamdoulillah."

Should I really burdeon her with the truth? No point in complaining.

"You're not going to believe what Sarah did! I'm so upset! How could she have the nerve to invite everyone I know but me?! Are we not friends or something?! She must be conspiring against ..."

I can't hear anything else she's saying for some reason. The lack of sleep isn't helping either.

"Anyway I'm off to a party today. I hope you're okay with that."

If I'm okay with that?! Of course not! I need you to be with me. I have nothing to look forward to more than you.

"Akeed Habibty. Go have fun."

"You're the best husband a woman can ask for! May Allah always keep you happy!"


I smell food. 

"Oh and another thing please if you don't mind. I need some money to buy a dress."

"No problem inshallah"

There goes my paycheck. Allah will make it up inshallah.

8:30 PM:

Time to eat. Where are the rest of my children on this table?

"Hana, where's Adam?"

"He went off with some friends"

"What about dinner?"

"He'll buy McDonald's or something. Don't worry about him."

How can I not worry?! His living is the same quality as his eating. Why is Hana eating so fast?

"I hope you don't mind, I gotta get ready for the party."


"Mashallah. You're glowing!"

Why doesn't she dress like that for me?

"Thanks Omar. You're too sweet. Yallah salam"

"Salam. Take care."

9:00 PM:

Time to pray.

"Kids, come on down to pray jamaa."

hmm.. that's strange. I wonder what they're up to. I'll make wudu and wait for them.

5 minutes later

I should probably start this salat. They will hear me and follow. They're always late anyway.

"Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatu allah. Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatu allah. Don't forget to take out the garbage while I'm at work..."

Where did they go? 

Who am I kidding? They rarely pray with me.

Time for bed.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

7 Issues Muslims Face Working With Each Other

     **Trigger warning**: Sweeping generalizations, confrontational language and moments of passionate rage.

  It’s time to address the elephant in the room.

     Let’s face it; working with other Muslims can sometimes be a drag. It has come to a point where some of us have felt justified boycotting other Muslims and their relative institutions as a whole; choosing to associate with them only in times of necessity through prayer and other means. I am not in any way advocating for this type of hostility towards the people of our faith yet I find it has become such a widespread phenomenon that its origins and causes must be explored. Our silence is not helping the situation but rather fostering further extreme attitudes towards our stance with one another. There are legitimate issues which must be addressed and this is not in any way a question of faith. Those who choose to halt their associations with Muslims in the working or volunteer sector should not in any way be subject to the judgement of their iman.

    Another point must be addressed; this is not a conspiracy. I have no intention of smearing or slandering my fellow Muslims by bringing this issue up for discussion. On the contrary, I choose to address these issues only in attempt to bring awareness to a harsh reality which we have chosen to ignore. By neglecting this reality, we have put in place and solidified some of the wrong practices and behaviors that are happening around us on a daily basis. I mentioned earlier in “Racist Things Your Fellow Muslims Say To Each Other” the concept of shedding light on the places where our Ummah needs some work:

 lack of confrontation of a problem does not mean it doesn't exist. Our strength as an ummah should not lie with our ability to overlook certain aspects of our lifestyles and to "focus on the positive" but it should lie with our willingness to detect problems and choose to label them as such. Once we label an issue, we must take concrete steps to find ways to raise awareness and diminish the problem.

Here are 7 big issues we face working with each other:

1.       “Connections”:

    We've all heard of this term before. It applies to the notion of being in the privileged state whereby one is able to use his social affiliations to get closer to his desired goal. Unfortunately, whether we choose to recognize this or not, this privilege can sometimes impede on the rights of others to an equal opportunity. Furthermore, it can add to ideas of exclusivity and feed arrogance. The concept of harboring a tight knit group who are connected initially by more than the work in question creates the thinking of "us" versus "them". This thinking can lead to rigidity, groupthink and extremism in some cases. Islam teaches us to reach out to all and to never see ourselves in a better light than our fellow brothers and sisters. We must remember this at all times when we decide to form groups. Not all of us have established groups we can use as references and links, we should keep this in mind the next time we hire or assign anyone. Of course, in some cases it would make sense to work with those who we know but at the end of the day, if there is no harm in doing so, we must open up our opportunities in the mosque to everyone who is willing to accept. Because there should never be a pre-requisite for joining the people of the mosque and seeking greater closeness to Allah (swt).

2.       Free loading:

     I'll make this very clear; stop monopolizing the good faith and intention of your fellow Muslims for your own personal gain. When you hire a Muslim, never expect this to come with a lower paycheck. What they choose to give in time, effort and money should be their choice and is ultimately on them. Once we realize that they are out to do so for Allah's sake and His sake only, then the picture becomes very clear; and that is that they are not doing you the favor, but rather it is only for themselves because their good deeds are collected for their sake. Freeloading is also seen in our communities when we pretend like our Muslim counterparts don't have a life outside of where you see them, so we make them work over-hours and at home if possible. And of course they can't complain on your watch, since that would be a disservice to Allah, right? Stop guilt-tripping us, please. Your brothers and sisters in Islam should receive your utmost generosity when they are hired. In fact, you should be paying them more to encourage them to continue seeking closeness to their brothers and sisters in Islam. And because it's sadaqa for you too, did you forget?

3.       Judging each other’s faith:

    Tell me, when did faith become a legitimate qualification for the mosque? Why do we have to pass your test or get approval from others to work with the Muslims in our circles? Our faith is none of your business. And I honestly don’t care if it's part of the job. If our communities are only accepting Muslims which they see as "pious" or "practicing" and "religious", where do the rest get their connection to the mosque and the Islamic environment? Are we opening up our communities to Muslims and others from all walks of life? Or can only the bearded and the ones who don the higab among them be appropriate for our image? Perhaps we should learn something from the treatment of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who tolerated among the most ignorant of those to Islam, to the extent where he faced an outsider who was not aware of the religion that he found it appropriate to urinate in the mosque. That man converted to Islam because of the prophet's (Pbuh) soft and welcoming treatment.

4.       Lack of positive reinforcement:

   Look, I get it. A Muslim shouldn't need or expect praise from others for his deeds. But that doesn't mean we have to be so cheap with it on others. It takes a lot of patience and persistence for someone to go on living his days continuously giving and never receiving.  Some of us who are stronger than others can do so. But we all grow tired at some point. If we do not feel that we have contributed to the work and that we are needed, then we will be lead to believe that we are replaceable and that we don't matter. What's holding us back from a sincere praise or compliment? Is it our egos or our idea that Muslims don't need praise? Give it to get it. This way we can harbor an environment full of positive energy that propels us forward rather than an environment filled with hostility and coldness. 

5.       Lack of punctuality:

    This has become such a widespread issue that some of us have coined lateness to Muslims as a solid characteristic. Others are going to the extent to scheduling events an hour or so before the intended time to ensure everyone is present. And then there are those who invite you to events or meetings and are late themselves. I find this to be quite a sad reality. Since it is not only a reflection of lack of time management skills but also an image of how our time as Muslims is valued. Our laziness and wastefulness is shown in our lack of punctuality and unfortunately our arrogance as well. Your fellow Muslims are not living on your watch and shouldn't be obligated to confine to the standards (or lack thereof)  you hold for yourself. Their time is valuable and we must acknowledge this to become more productive and thoughtful members of our society. 

6.       Lack of proper communication skills:

    Improper and inappropriate communication is the basis of many of the issues Muslims face with one another. There must be a solid platform for communication which both parties can agree on. Whether it's e-mail, skype or phone messages, there should be a set method of communication that is comfortable for everyone. So if we're used to getting e-mails and suddenly we are expected to pick up our phones at 10 pm, we're not always going to be happy about that. You're my Muslim brother or sister, I get it. But our working lives can sometimes be separate from our personal, so don't expect us to be free for you on a 24 hours basis and to buddy with you. Communication while working with Muslims can fall into many blurred lines. So remember to set the standard and boundaries early on for yourself if they are being breached. As for our skills in communication, I think most of our problems stem from our personalization of matters when they shouldn't be personalized. When a Muslim asks for a promotion for his company for example, that is standard business practice and not necessarily a show of immodesty. We must learn to differentiate the personal from the regular. 

7.       Gender relations issues:

    Nearly all of us (I speak mostly for women) encountered some form of awkwardness working with Muslims of the opposite gender. There's so much taboo in communication with the other that some of us choose to steer away from men in the workplace or the volunteer sector entirely. While most men don't necessarily feel held back by women, women do not feel the same. There are plenty of women out there who have had such horrible experiences with Muslim men abusing the work environment that they feel objectified, oftentimes humiliated and thus oppressed. I am not insinuating the belief that all women are oppressed by Muslim men, cause that is not the case. But what Muslim men need to realize is that there is  covert manner in which some of them are deterring women from joining their spheres. I'll give some examples to clear this up. When Muslim women genuinely ask for a man's help, that should never be interpreted as an open invitation to pursue her outside of work. And in that same regard, it is not an invitation to shift a formal conversation to a personal one; where you express to her your deepest feelings about life and whatnot. And when women call you for help, they're almost never using it as an excuse to get closer to you. The bottom line is, not everything is about you. Some of us truly assume good intentions and we expect our brothers to be alongside us when we need them as a true ummah should be. The inability of some men to see past their own views that reflect their desires, rather than the reality, has caused many of us women to refrain from contact and to lose hope in men in our communities. That being said, the women must also acknowledge the same and hold themselves to a high standard. We mustn't monopolize the good intentions of members of the opposite gender for our own agendas.

  What problems do you face working with other Muslims in your community?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Dunya Chase

A dear sister shares a heartfelt reminder:

Assalamu alaykum girls,

I just thought I'd give some advice on how to go about getting something you really want from this dunya. I hope that it's somewhat useful.

Allah has beautified many things in the dunya for us. We all aspire to have a career one day, a family and we want people to accept us and love us. These are very human aspirations. I pray that Allah gives everyone who reads this everything they want from this dunya that is good for them, ameen. 

Although these aspirations are good, the problem arises when we indulge in these wants and desires from the dunya. We suddenly forget our deen, our morals, and I'll go as far as to say our humanity. Friends will go head to head, and even kin will turn away from each other. 

What especially concerns me is when people (especially Muslims) use deceit and manipulation to get what they want. They will lie so that people will accept them, cheat on exams to get that amazing grade, and even ambush and use other people - all in the name of: 'I want XYZ.' What's worse is when jealousy and competition are the driving forces. 

It's one thing to corrupt yourself, but when you corrupt and hurt those around you in the process, then you're carrying more ill deeds on your scale. May Allah save us, ameen. 

Let's keep it real. We're surrounded by this. 

But do we not realize that Allah (The Almighty) is observing all of this? Although you're creating this facade, this pretty picture, in front of the people, how will you answer to Him? Is dunya really that valuable to you? Are you that heedless of your Islam? This is what it boils down to. 
May Allah forgive us, ameen. 

To give us some perspective on the worth of this dunya, I'd first like to quote the words of Allah, then a hadith of our beloved prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and then a quote by Ali bin Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him). 

1. In the surah we read every Friday, Allah (The Most Glorious) tells us: "Set forth to them the similitude of the life of this world: it is like the rain which We send down from the skies: the earth's vegetation absorbs it, But soon it becomes dry stubble, which the winds scatter: it is (only) Allah Who prevails over all things." - Surat Al Kahf, ayah 45

2. Our beloved (peace and blessings be upon him) was walking in the market one day. As he (pbuh) was walking, he saw a dead baby goat. It smelled nasty. It was rotting. Its ears were chopped off. He (pbuh) went down, picked it up and said to his sahabah, "who amongst you would buy this for 1 dirham [not even a dollar]?" The sahabah answered "O Rasool Allah, who would want to buy such a thing?" Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) then reduced the offer. He asked them which one of them would want it for free! They told him that even if it were alive, they wouldn't want it. After all, it was in such bad shape (ears chopped off and whatnot). Then, he (pbuh), told them, "Fa Wallahi lal dunya ahwanu ala Allah min hatha alaykum." 
[English: So by Allah, the value of this dunya in the sight of Allah is lower than that dead, disgusting goat to you]. 

3. Ali Bin Abi Talib wrote to Salman Al Farisi (may Allah be pleased with them both): "The likeness of this dunya is that of a snake: soft to the touch; it will kill you with its poison. So turn away from what impresses you of it, since what stays with you is so little. And do not be concerned about it, since you are certain about its parting. And be most happy in it when you are most heedful of it; for every time its companion takes solace in one of its delights, it gives way to one of its woes."

I hope the point is clear. This dunya is worthless and whatever matters now won't matter when your time here is up. It will actually work against us in most cases. 

However, you don't need to isolate yourself from society. You can strive for worldly gains. 


1. Keep your intentions clean. It's hard, and even the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to supplicate and say "O Turner of hearts, keep my heart firm on your religion." But you can't be hurting people or trying to make them jealous, for example. 

2. When you want to strive for a dunya goal, incorporate your deen into that goal. For example, you want a certain career. Make part of the reason you want that career to be for the purpose of enjoining good (for the sake of Allah). In other words, use and exploit the dunya for an investment in your akhirah. 

3. Don't get jealous. Don't compete. For some reason, girls are more prone to this than guys. Trust me, you will get exposed. You're only allowed to compete in matters of worship. That's what the sahabah used to do. End of story. Instead, be happy for your sisters' accomplishments and gifts and ask Allah to put barakah in them for her. The angels will make the same du'a for you when you make a du'a for your sister.

4. Ask of Allah and complain to Allah. After all, He is The Bestower, The Hearer of All and the Seer of All. 

5. Praise Allah, remember Him and seek istighfar.

6. Do istikharah.

7. Don't lie or cheat. You're only deceiving yourself and worse yet, Allah will expose you. 

8. Remember: "They plan and Allah plans, and Allah is The Best of Planners." - Surat Aly Imran 

9. Don't exploit other people. Seriously. If you meet someone who never says no to you, or is nice despite your rude and questionable remarks, trust me, they're not acting like that for your sake. 

10. Help other people so that Allah will help you. 

I'm not making any of this up. This advise is in the Qur'an, ahadith and teachings of our respected scholars. I've only addressed this issue because it's become so SO widespread. I'm sure I've missed a lot of points, but this is what comes to mind right now. Feel free to add anything that I've missed.

May Allah erase our sins, soften our hearts, and allow us to lead productive lives for His sake, ameen.

And peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad, and upon his family and companions.

Monday, 22 July 2013

20 Life Lessons That Took Me by Surprise (Part 2)

  11. There is no shame in not taking sides:

Nowadays, there is a growing trend of individualism along with ignorance and extremism. You find yourself being pushed constantly to take a position and choose a side. If you decide not to do so, you face being labelled as careless, ignorant or simply not tough enough to stand your ground and face opposition. I'm here to tell you that none of that is true. You are not ignorant or careless if you choose to not associate yourself with anyone or anything. We are only so when we decide willingly to let matters pass which we believe are not of concern to us and when we to choose to stay ignorant rather than continue seeking fact from fiction. We must be the middle path of all sides so that our eyes remain open to the shortcomings of all parties. Relinquishing our biased perspective enables us to become a witness to any injustice. Choosing this path will also allow our lack of defensiveness, since this is not a personal matter attached to our worth, to speak only with which we know rather than with which we wish to know. There is no shame in admitting lack of knowledge.


Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you. [Al-Baqara: 143]

12. The young and elderly are fountains of wisdom and inspiration:

    When life gets dull and repetitive and you're looking for a new course and a new perspective, there is no better way to do so than to connect with a young or elderly individual. There are people in our lives whom we neglect on a daily basis that have a lot more to offer us than what we may be lead to believe. Yet, we choose to focus on ourselves and the next phase of our lives we lose touch of the blessings we've got in the present. Later we wonder why we've lost our purpose and our luster and we look for distraction and desperately seek inspiration. Take the time to reconnect with an elder or a child who can brighten up your life and give you a holistic perspective on where you were and where you should go and your bigger connection to the people around you and the larger community. A child can teach you something about the new world you were not aware of and a wise elder can show you the consequences of your lifestyle today and will thus lead you to the inevitable truth; you are a projection of one of many who have lived before you and who will live after you. So take what they have to offer and be grateful for this opportunity at some wise insight on life.

13. Giving love is like getting love :

    We're lead to believe that those who love us are obligated to show their love to prove it. The reality is, not everyone expresses love in the same manner and some of us may never receive the love we expect from the world. That's okay. The romance we all desperately crave to be present in our everyday life can be planted and nurtured by no other than ourselves. I'm not talking about a limited image of romance in the candle light and whatnot, although that is a type. I mean romance that requires a new painting of the world. An appreciative view which accepts everything in our surroundings. Romance is expression of love. That expression can be seen in the simplest of gestures. From an sincere compliment to a heartfelt smile. But no one asked for you to wait on anything. Be the love you crave. Embody the person you think radiates love. And give it out like a bouquet of flowers on a special day in no expectation of return. You'll find giving love just as invigorating, perhaps even more, than receiving expressions of love.

14. It hurts the heart to stray from Allah's path:

    So much of our struggle with our deen is built upon one simple picture. That straight path. The solid line that we conjure up all our efforts to follow. A simple misdirection can lead us into an abyss. And there's only one way back to the path, which is through Allah subhanahu wa ta'laa. The more we sway from the path, the harder and tougher it is to return. What would halt us from paving our own path then? Why does our gut feeling guide us back no matter how far we've lost sight of the right way? It is our heart and our instinct which takes us home. That is why when we choose to practice a hypocritical way of living, we get tired of skipping lines and the heart feels empty and depraved of taqwa and iman. There's is no better feeling in this world than the sweetness of iman and knowing that we are consistent and honest in his outer and inner being.

15. You can only expect things from yourself: 

     Sometimes we get pessimistic and lose hope. Humanity seems to lose its way and our efforts are getting lost and seem to be leading us nowhere close to where we'd like the world to be. That's because we forget that we are the world. Each one of us is the world. So the best we can do to our world is to better ourselves and to set expectations high for our own benefit. No amount of waiting and complaining on our communities to live up to our expectations will provoke any true change. We mustn't forget the power of leading by example. The more we better ourselves and keep humbly to our own faults, the more others feel inclined to follow. And maybe sometimes people won't follow and that's okay. So set your face directly towards your Lord and He will guide whom He wishes. You are not responsible for the faults of others.

16. To be yourself is the ultimate freedom: 

     Sounds like common sense. Ever thought, what is it exactly that makes me me? It's getting increasingly difficult to tell apart what our own choices are from what the world's choices are for us. Who really takes control? Actually you do. Or at least you can if you believe it enough. Are you talking, dressing and acting a certain way to please others and to fall within the appropriate societal expectation of who you should be? Or are you adventurous, wild and unafraid to project your creative energy into the world? I say this; you don't have to lose the kid in you to be "mature". You don't have to conform to the norm and nod your head when everyone else is nodding. You don't have to sit idly and let authority dictate your life. Be yourself. At the end of the day, we are all born to look different and to be different. If you desire to be the same then you've got nothing new to offer the world and you've indirectly expressed your complicity with the status quo.  If you're already so different in the eyes of the people of the world anyway, then go all the way.

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” -Albert Camus

18.  Consolidate your suppressed feelings:

   What suppressed feelings?! See what I did there? I am unsure if this is something only a few of us experience. But I believe we tend to play down unfortunate events in our life in the excuse that "someone's got it worse". And perhaps this is true but that doesn't decrease from your hardships. The only way to get back to yourself is to address the elephant in the room which you are continuously putting on the side. Take a break. Listen to your heart and your gut and mute all the sounds coming from your cognition  And if you feel the need to cry then do it. If you feel the need to scream then do it. Let your real emotions surface and do not fear judgement. It's hard enough that the world judges us, why would you make it even more difficult on yourself by letting their judgements and your own, cloud you in your moments with yourself? Take it easy and remind yourself of the good you've done since there's no shame in that. And there is no weakness in letting your feelings take form. It will be your strength later you'll see.

17.  What you store in your thinking space defines you:

     What do you catch yourself thinking about on a regular day? Whatever neurons are firing in our cognitive space are a reflection of what we've stored and what we find significant enough for recall. Even if it is a novel thought, the recollection of it repeatedly in our areas of awareness causes increased reinforcement of that image.  So when we choose to complain and judge ourselves harshly, we reinforce our ideas of incompetence and thus reflect it in our daily lives. On the contrary, when we choose to pump ourselves with praise to nurture our confidence, we feel more ready to take on the world positively. Even our deepest fantasies are a reflection of our realities. Are we fantasizing about probable events which we could shape ourselves? Or are we choosing to repaint our lives in our fantasies to an alternate universe where we are better looking, more clever and attractive for example? I believe that when we choose to shape our fantasies further away from reality or expected reality, we actually impede our shot at growth and thus it becomes counterproductive to do so. Think, I can be the person I fantasize about, and live to that fantasy. What we choose to bring up to our awareness if a true reflection of who we are because it is a private act which we only share with Allah.

19. Vulnerability is the secret to getting more out of life:

      Whenever we seek growth and happiness, we must first provoke change in our current state. That change may not always be so easy to initiate since it may make us nervous and it may put our egos at risk. But no one ever received anything from life being stationary. We must provoke change and we must expect a multitude of outcomes from this change. If you don't try then you've failed. And if you don't ask for something, then no one will hand it down on a silver platter to you. There is no shame in being vulnerable. There is only shame in choosing to miss out on some amazing opportunities for growth and happiness.

20. Planning does not always get you where you want to be:

     We can plan and plan and plan, but Allah is the best of planners. You may have heard that saying before. That's because sometimes we think we've got life figured out. That if we can just put the pieces together in a so and so manner that things will fall where they should. But life will teach you that sometimes they don't. It's about how we choose to bring ourselves back up again and on the track to reality that counts. And the reality is that you're not the one in charge, He is.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

10 Reasons Why Kids Don't Like You

I love kids. 
You love kids.
He, she, they love kids. 
We all love kids.
Yeah right.

      The only thing we love about kids is telling other people what we love about kids. Don't get me wrong, we're not all alike. But very few of us have mastered and understood what connecting with a child should be and how it feels to establish a relationship based on mutual trust. So, I've compiled a list of reasons which may be hindering you from creating a special bond with the younger generations.

Here's a list of 10 reasons why kids probably don't like you:

1. You don't look them in the eye while they speak:

   If you're not getting down on your knees and looking them in the eye when they speak, then you've set a barrier between you and the child based on power relations. So don't be surprised if they are not comfortable befriending you. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to give all children his full attention. Whenever they had something to say to them he used to listen intently and not turn his face away from them.

2. You're not honest with them: 

    You're not communicating clearly with them and let me tell you something, children have a miraculous ability to read your soul. They can see the hidden intentions and don't appreciate you talking down to them. When you speak to them as if they can't understand your English and in oohs and ahs that don't carry any sincerity, they can see right through it. So sometimes we try really hard and wonder why it's not working. That's because, you said it, you're trying. You're not being honest and you're not being yourself. I get that sometimes we feel the need to conceal the truth in order to not hurt their feelings. But everything has a manner and a discipline. If you communicate in a positive tone and offer up something to make up for the bad news, then they won't be as upset as you think. In fact, children can easily be entertained by something new and they don't always sit like us and think deeply about things. Being honest with a child also means expressing appropriate body language. Would you ask a stranger on the street for a hug and a kiss? No. So please spare the child that uncomfortable moment where you force them into close contact in front of their parents. They get awkward too. It's always best to let the relationship develop on its own and to wait for the child to feel comfortable expressing closeness to you before you can initiate contact. And not all children need hugs and kisses to feel intimate with an adult. Sometimes simple quality play pretty much does it.

3. You think they have nothing to offer you: 

     You're far ahead of them in years. Must mean you're wiser right? Children can surprise you and inspire you time and time again. They view the world in which we live in from a perspective you may never relive again. They can give you insight on complex concepts and show you the bigger picture on life. Your relationship with a child should be two-way and in these types of relationships  both parties give and receive. A child can offer you friendship. What's better than that?

Anas bin Malik [ra] narrated: The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to mingle with us to the extent that he would say to the younger brother of mine, “O father of Umair! What did An Nughair [your sparrow] do?” [Muslim]

4. You're trying to impress others:

     Are you monopolizing the child's trust for your own egocentric desires to impress others around you? How do we treat children who don't live with us in comparison to those who do? When are we the most attentive and patient with children? Don't deceive yourself into thinking you care enough about something that is so easily displayed in public but so rarely seen in private. God can see and hear everything. He only knows who has the right intention over who doesn't. And again, you think kids don't sense this? Children know when they're being treated inconsistently and why. Be careful or one day you'll find yourself exposed by the same children you preach to care so much about. Because unlike you, they're honest.

5. You're not willing to sacrifice for them:

     When a child is conveniently located in proximity to us, is bathed and wearing the cutest clothes, it's easy to give him/her your time. But when a child needs from you merely a listening ear or a trip to the park or maybe just companionship, you've got better things to do. So you excuse yourself on account that you're super busy. Similarly when a child needs someone to feed or bath them, you're nowhere to be found. The best type of sacrifice you can give for Allah's sake is the sacrifice of the ego in my opinion. It's when you can join a child in play and come out with clothes full of dirt, glue and other things children love to play with. Unfortunately, for some of us, speaking to a child and saying salam to them is not necessary.  They are not perceived to be of the same level as adults and don't require smiles or affection. I'm not talking about that cute attractive child, I'm talking about all children. 

The prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) used to kiss children and loved them very much. Once he was kissing children when a Bedouin came and said, "You love children very much. I have ten children and I have never kissed one of them." Muhammad replied, "What can I do if God takes away love from you?"

Whenever the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم ) passed by children, he tried to be the first to greet them and say “Assalaamu Alaikum.” When riding he would let children sit on his camel or donkey. 

6. You're associating them with things they have no control over:

    I would like to think this is a subconscious things we do. We tend to gravitate towards children of the same race and who speak the same language and prefer more "beautiful" ones over the rest. Or perhaps we know the child's parents and our ego can't simply allow us to get close to the child. Since that would imply we are mingling with our relationships with the parent. All children are angels. They may not all behave like so in their outwardly manner. But they are not accountable for these things and don't have the same adult perspective on relationships that some of us have formed from our experience. Keep in mind, some of the most "misbehaved" children might have experienced abuse in the family or might have a mental disorder. All children are angels and should be treated as so. Don't limit the extent of your relationship with them because of your self-constructed boundaries with other adults.

7. You only like the obedient kind: 

    It's so easy to like an obedient child. But how are we with not so conforming children? You can blame the parents, environment culture, whatever you want. However, we must realize that just like adults, children have a mind and energy of their own. The trick is to work on harnessing that energy in a positive and creative way and to never look to suppressing or exerting control over them. You wouldn't like that on you so why on them? 

8. You don't reward or praise them:

   Why are we so cheap with our thanks and compliments? You can never give a child too much deserving praise. If a child is not receiving a positive experience after your encounter with them, you might not see them again.

The Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon himloved to play with children. He made them stand in a straight line, then he himself stood at a distance, spread his hands and told the children, “Come running to me. Whoever touches me first will get a prize,” they would all come, running and breathless. When they reached the Prophet ( peace be upon him), they would fall all over him. He enjoyed this sport, gave prizes of dates and sweets to the winners and hugged and kissed the participants.

9. You yell at them: 

   It is never okay to yell at a child. Yeah sometimes we slip. But always look to the background of the relationship. Are we yelling the majority of the time? Let me explain why. Children do not understand your yelling the same way you do. When you yell, they only think of your yelling. They may cry over it or feel guilty for making you yell, but it won't always hammer with them why you yelled. When you yell at older children (teens for example) you put in them a sense of fear which can impede in your communication with them because they will feel that your initial reaction will always be to overreact and show aggression rather than compassion and understanding. And they will definitely not come to you for advice when they mess up. Also, beware of displacement of your anger. Just because your boss fired you from work, doesn't mean that gives you a free pass to vent your anger at your helpless children. Your problems are yours. Don't make them feel guilty over them. 

Prophet (peace be upon him) used to teach children that failure doesn't exist. Narrated Anas (RA): 
I served The Prophet for ten years, and he never said to me, "Uf" (a minor harsh word denoting impatience) and never blamed me by saying, "Why did you do so or why didn't you do so?" [Bukhari Kitab Al-Adab]


     So by mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].[3:159]

10. You don't expect much from them: 

    You don't challenge them and have low expectations of their abilities. Which actually tends to backfire and suppress any real opportunities for growth or display of true skills. Because you don't think they can, then they do not have the encouragement to try and thus they do not. Confidence is the best thing we can give any child.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

20 Life Lessons That Took Me by Surprise

Young one,  hear me out.

  We will only receive honest and heartfelt advice a few times in our life. Unfortunately, the remaining times we will receive this advice in the form of harsh criticism. Know that there are some who are left to experience the world on their own and learn lessons the hard way. They are not privileged enough to receive advice from people in their life with more experience. The sadder reality is when we abuse our privilege by choosing not to listen and by deciding we've got life figured out. Why is it that when someone seeks to give us sincere advice, we accuse them of ulterior motives? We point the finger at them for being too critical or too sensitive and not up to our standards. When we're young, we believe no one can understand us and what life is about. We forget that these same folk desperately trying to get through to us have experienced multiple years ahead of our time and were one day young like us. Their advice comes out of pure concern. 

    There are some things in life we will only learn from our own experience. Perhaps we are not lucky to watch someone else first or to get some advice from role models or important figures in our life or maybe we just can't see it until it's in front of our eyes. I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I learned the hard way from the years of life I had experienced on this earth so far, alhamdoulillah. It may be limited and it may be skewed and biased. But I'm aware of this. And from that awareness I have the potential to grow and mold my views on life as long as I'm alive.

Here are some life lessons I learned the hard way:

1. Not everyone will listen to your advice:

     We will do anything for the people we love and the thought of seeing them hurt makes us quiver. So when we can find a way to avoid making our loved ones suffer, we try and we offer up our advice. However, even our best intention and manner can fail to get through to someone. The truth is, there is no sure way to penetrate the heart of anyone on this earth. Sometimes we have to learn when to walk away and let the other carry on with what he wishes. The hardest part is when we have to watch our loved ones make regretful decisions we saw coming. But better to let them learn for themselves than to lose a dear friend. Not everyone will read into your advice the way you intend and that's okay. At one point we have to realize that we've got nothing more than dua to offer.

   Ps. This is point number one for a reason


Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah . And Allah is not unaware of what you do. [7:74]


Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided. [28:56]

2. Life isn't fair and Karma won't always have your back:

    Racism exists. So does sexism and all sorts of other isms. You will not bring peace to everyone on this planet no matter how hard you try. You will be destined for some things over others and perhaps what you were destined to endure is not fair. Oftentimes, even the closest people to us fail to live up to our expectations. You will be surprised to know of institutions and initiatives built for social justice and respect that do exactly the opposite of what they preach. That's because the reality is that not everything that glitters is gold and we must be careful. Life will also teach you that Karma will not always be there to serve justice where justice should be served. But remember that Allah is all knowing and postpones and never forgets. As long as you believe this, there is no need to wait on anything. The day of judgement is your karma.

(النَّبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال:(إن الله ليملي للظالم حتى إذا أخذه لم يفلته

The prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said : “Verily, Allah gives respite to the oppressor, but when He seizes him He never releases him"

It is narrated that Abraham (peace be upon him) saw a man committing a sin, so he prayed Allah to cause him to perish, and so it happened. He saw a second and a third, and he repeated his plea, and they, too, perished. Then he saw a fourth and invoked Allah likewise to annihilate him. It was then that Allah inspired him, "O Abraham! Stop! If We were to annihilate each one of Our servants who commits a sin, then only a small number will survive; but if one sins, We give him a respite; if he repents, We accept his repentance, and if he persists, We postpone his penalty knowing that he cannot escape from Our domain." (source)

3. Judging people is only as accurate as you think it is:

     You will meet thousands of people in your lifetime. You may one day find yourself confident enough to start grouping them together. But beware of hasty judgement. People are much more complicated than you think. We have dimensions of ourselves that take on different forms and that extend in diverse ways. To try and simplify all of these dimensions down to prototypes is firstly, misleading to yourself and secondly, depriving ourselves of a wonderful opportunity to connect on a human level with others. Our shortsightedness and inability to see beyond the boundaries that we've set for others makes life dull and uninteresting and is fuel for the ego. You will never figure people out. People will surprise you. And they will continue to surprise you. So let us embrace the complexity of human life.


“O mankind, We have created you all from a single (pair of a) male and female and made you nations and tribes so that you get to know one another; verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most mindful of Him. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [49:13]

4. Your manner and approach is everything: 

    A man who reads a polished and perfected script in monotone cannot be compared to a man with honest and sincere emotion, despite what he says. Similarly, a person's body language sends across a louder message than his speech. So when you do not feel the need for words then don't use them, just be sincere in your manner and approach. If you disagree with someone, you've got a choice to respect your diverse opinions and keep a particular etiquette to the argument or you can be condescending and aggressive and therefore lose your credibility. I've witnessed debates where people side with speakers with the most ludicrous ideas because they know how to debate in discipline. It takes wisdom patience and heart to hold up a calm and non-degrading manner when we disagree with others. On another note, psychology tells us that there is an ideal way to ask for something:

1) Give a clear and direct description. Avoid trying to merely give hints.
2) Tell the other how you would feel if this was achieved and why. Always speaking from first person perspective.
3) Thank them.


So by mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].[3:159]

5. Never give up on love:

    We've all been deceived into believing that there is only one soul mate out there for us and that if we lose this love then we lose our every chance at reviving those same feelings again. There are 7 billion people on this earth. The ones who happen to cross your life are only a tiny fraction of those folk. And from that tiny fraction, you were attracted to the ones who were in proximity to you and which you happen to connect with. The reality is, you will love again and again and again until you find who you're destined to share your lives with (see what I did there?). But until then, know that each time you love, you love a different kind of love. One that is grown with a very specific set of events, places and people. So inevitably,  there will be a new unique set of a combination of factors when you meet someone new. Why relive your past when you can live a better one? Be hopeful and never underestimate God's ability to bring two people together and to revive and increase your deepest motions. 

Ps. This point speaks on a very specific type of love, or arguably attraction, that we have for the opposite gender. But we should have love for everyone and for Allah's sake


Enter Paradise, you and your wives, in happiness.[43:70]

6. We all speak from points of view:

     Our unique set of experiences and encounters in this life mold us into a solid personality with a set of values and standards. Your socioeconomic status, country of origin, your gender among other factors have all been combined to form your perception on life. Know that when you think, you are thinking out of your subjective experience. Also know that when you speak with another, he/she also speaks out of their subjective experience. So do not be surprised when you cannot see eye-to-eye with someone. We should embrace our differences and invite each other into our points of view. To do so, we must acknowledge our biased perspective and be open to seeing things in a new way and do so in a respectful manner.

"we all observe the world through our own windows. A window is a viewpoint over a horizon, a framework, a piece of glass that is always tinted to some extent, and it has its orientation and its limitations. we must admit we have no more than points of view".

-Tariq Ramadan

7. Your mom and dad are not always right:

     It's difficult to think that such important figures in your life can let you down. Even when they don't intend on letting you down they might. Because like I said in the previous point, they speak from a point of view. To be a competent adult is to acknowledge this fact and begin exploring and critically thinking for ourselves about matters of concern to us. Consult a third and fourth person and do your own research. The most difficult reality is when we have to hold our ground against the beliefs of our loved ones. However, always take time to listen and hear them out. They certainly have more experience than you do. However, acknowledge your ignorance and limitations alongside theirs as well. And do nothing which stands in the way of Allah's word.


 But if they [parents] endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]. Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.[31:15]

8. Marriage is about starting a family:

   It's easy to think marriage is the "happily ever after" we're all waiting for. We're fed fairy tales from a young age to lead us to believe that the moment you find your "other half" is the moment your whole life has lead up to. When in reality, your moment of marriage is your rebirth. At least that's how I see it. Except instead of being naive like an infant, you use all the knowledge you have acquired from your years leading up to marriage  to establish a lively home. If you've lived life positively and full of optimism, then you will project that same energy into your household. Similarly, the habits you've picked up with regards to your ibadah will also be projected onto your children. It's quite simple to get caught up in the romantic vision of marriage and to forget that it comes with an immense responsibility. The moment you decide that you're  ready for marriage should be the moment you are ready to conceive a child and raise them to the standard you've set for yourself. So if you're not ready to make the move, then take this as your time to develop and refine your character.

9. Not everything happens for a reason we can comprehend:

    We are constantly bombarded with the statement "everything happens for a reason". So naturally, we expect to find a logical explanation for events in our life. However when we don't, we're left wondering if the event inflicted upon us was a punishment or if it was meaningless and had no basis whatsoever while completely forgetting that in doing so, we transferred our ideas of control to ourselves and our cognition. We limited Allah's ability in the process and practiced a minor shirk (take the word shirk with a grain of salt here). Since we've assumed that our knowledge preceded Allah's ability and that if we did not happen to conceive this knowledge, then it must not exist. However, Allah subhanahu wa ta'laa is capable of anything. The sequence of events leading to the outcome that you were destined to see is probably just the tip of the iceberg. We must have more trust in Allah's wisdom and abilities and we must remember that Allah has promised to bring justice and to compensate and reward your hardships on the day of judgement. 

10. Learn to listen:

    Right, this is common sense. Why did it take me by surprise? It's what we've been told to do from our early years. I was looking for another word besides "listen". I was looking for one that describes listening with our hearts before our minds; a type of listening that requires cleansing of all biased thought and judgement. We tend to listen to others while thinking of what to say next or what to say to look right or what to give in advice. I believe we have a listening crisis in our society. Problems in our social lives come about as a result of lack of genuine communication and listening. So we resort to quarrel and conflict or to the repressing of our thoughts and emotions in assumption that no one cares enough. Learning to listen also means listening when you don't want to and when you are not obligated to. For example, listening to a child speak about his toy and to those who are sharing a piece of information we are familiar with or to our parents when they repeat themselves. Consider it your jihad. This way we open our minds to learning from others and you will find yourself picking up on new pieces of information you didn't see before.

A contemporary describes the beloved prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him):

"When he spoke, he was always brief and reflective. He spoke when he saw benefit and spent long periods in silent contemplation. His speech was comprehensive, being neither wordy nor laconic. He had a mild temperament and was never harsh nor cruel, coarse nor rude. He expressed gratitude for everything given to him, no matter how insignificant. When he spoke, his companions lowered their heads as if birds were perched upon them. When he was silent, they felt free to speak. He never criticized food nor praised it excessively. He never uttered obscenities nor did he find fault in people. He did not flatter people but praised them when appropriate."(source)

There is a part 2 to this post. Stay tuned. Jazakum Allah khair.