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.