Saturday, November 27, 2010

Very important lessons- Part 2- On Knowledge

So as I promised, I will now tell you about the other important lesson I learnt from our meeting with the Moulana I mentioned in my previous post.

This lesson is about knowledge. The Moulana related a story to us. He said that Imam Shafi (rahmatullah) went to Imam Malik (rahmatullah) for some advice. Imam Malik told Imam Shafi that knowledge (ilm) should be like salt and Practise (‘Amal) should be like the dough. What this means is that there’s no point of having tons of knowledge if you’re not going to put any of it into practice.

I really agreed with what the Moulana was saying. He went on to say that these days it seems that people have bags and bags of salt but no dough. He explained this to us further to make a point (you know Moulana’s like using analogies) so he said, imagine you’re having a wedding, and the first thing you go out and do is buy ten packets of salt. Before you even get the rice to cook the food, you go and buy the salt. What if you don’t find rice when you want to cook the food? What will you do with the salt then? Would there be any point in having the salt? He then asked us to consider how much salt is needed when making dough. When looking at the proportion between 'dough' and 'salt', it was clear how much more we should be focused on putting things into practise.

Shoo, these questions were so simple, yet so thought provoking, so profound, and so, so relevant. I thought about all the books I have and whether I’ve managed to actually put into practise the things that I’ve read from these books. I couldn’t help but wonder if my quest to gain knowledge would lead to me practising what I have learnt or if it would be of little use. It also made me think about something else...

It’s true that people in today’s times have a lot of knowledge, about many different things. It’s never being so easy to acquire knowledge, and yet I had to agree with the Moulana that not much of this knowledge is being put into practise. When I thought about this more deeply I realised that this is because knowledge in today’s times is very closely connected to ego. Many people feel good about themselves when they have knowledge. It’s become a status symbol to have knowledge. If you have the Masters degree or PhD then suddenly you’re respected and your word means something because after all you are “knowledgeable” and the Degree behind your name testifies to this. So yes, most definitely there is an abundance of knowledge, but how much of this knowledge is beneficial is another story.

I have always being someone who values knowledge. I just like learning new things, and I’ve always enjoyed reading and researching different things. My only wish is that this does not become a form of pride and egotism. I know now that if I have ten packets of salt, but no dough, then the salt I have becomes totally useless. I pray that I can be someone who can put what I have learnt into practise. Insha’Allah!

I’m sure that this has made you think about knowledge in a different light, I know that I, for one, have begun to think about it differently, and since I’ve heard Moulana speak about this, I just can’t help noticing how many bags of salt there is and how little dough.

Would't be great if we all (myself included here) began to use the salt we have to make some more dough!

May Allah (SWT) give us all beneficial knowledge, which will be a means for us to gain His Pleasure, and may Allah Almighty give us all the ability to share and practise the knowledge that we have.

Let us remember that the best way to share is through our example!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Very Important Lessons- Part 1- Repentance

I’m part of a community Muslim women’s group. I think I mentioned this before in a previous post. We conduct various workshops with ladies, hoping to somehow assist them to live more positive lives and to have more positive relationships (Insha’Allah Allah will accept our efforts). For our own self growth we decided to meet on a regular basis with one of the Moulana’s (spiritual teachers) at the Masjid where we run our workshops. The aim is to gain whatever wisdom and guidance we can to improve our own lives, because if we are not concerned about improving ourselves, then how can we assist others to improve themselves.

For me these meetings are always profound, even though the messages are so simple. Perhaps it’s because of our intention for going there, or maybe the way in which the Moulana gives us the time to think and reflect, I’m not sure. In any case, what I’ve learnt from our last meeting left such an impact on me that I thought I’d share it with you all.

The first thing I learnt was that the answer to any difficulty is to make taubah (repent for one’s sins). Although we always hear this, there was just something in the way the Moulana spoke that really made the point. He explained to us how one day the doors of repentance will be closed and then the entire mankind will be deprived of Allah’s mercy. He reminded us that this day may be soon. He urged us to make taubah because this is the key to help with any difficulty. This made me reflect and think. How often do I truly make taubah? You know really beg for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart, sit on my prayer mat and cry because of guilt for my sins, that type of taubah. Okay so maybe I recite istighfaar on my tasbeeh (prayer beads), but is this really taubah? I felt guilty, I still feel guilty while I’m typing this. My self-reflection made me aware that I definitely don’t make taubah often enough. This is something that I have to remedy.

Another thing the Moulana brought to our attention is that when we commit sins, our Imaan drops to a lower level. He recited a verse from the Holy Quraan and explained it to us. He told us that Allah (SWT) tells us that in order to bring our Imaan back to its former level, we need to make taubah. He also emphasised that the best time to make taubah is Tahajjud time, because this is when Allah (SWT) sends His mercy down to us.

Since that day I’ve been trying to make taubah more often, sometimes it’s difficult and I feel rushed for time, but I know that this is something that I have to commit myself to, because I most definitely do not want to be deprived of Allah’s mercy and start repenting when it’s far too late.

The strange thing is that the more I make taubah, the more I’m reminded of Allah Almighty’s Mercy. I remember hearing in another lecture that Allah (SWT) loves it when we repent and if we did not commit sin then Allah would have created another nation who would be able to repent for their sins, because Allah Almighty, The Most Merciful wants to shower His Mercy and Blessings on us. SubhanAllah, Allah truly is Amazing!

May Allah (SWT) accept all of our repentance and help us to receive His mercy and forgiveness, Insha’Allah Ameen!

There are other important lessons that I learnt from our meeting, but I will put that in my next posts Insha’Allah.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Different types of addictions

It’s about 4 months now that I de-activated my Facebook account and voluntarily became an outcast to the social network world. This was just something that I had to do, for a number of reasons. You see, from the outset I knew that facebook was strangely addictive, I even warned other people about it, but the thing with this, just like other “addictions” is that the good is focused on more than the bad.

What was being presented to me was this wonderful world where I could keep in touch with old friends, re-connect with former school mates who I haven’t seen for years and know what my friends and colleagues were doing on an everyday basis (or more like on an hourly basis in this case). It made me feel connected to other people, like I was part of something special and meaningful. It started out with casual visits to facebook, and then it became worse. Everyday I’d have to check my facebook page, and even though not much changed each day, (except of course for people’s constantly updated status messages, which seemed to focus on every minute detail of their lives), I’d still feel the compulsive need to go online and see what was going on.

I have to admit that it was difficult for me to deactivate. It seemed as if though I would be missing something important in my life, it definitely took a lot of contemplation. But after speaking to Allah (SWT) my resolve was strong and I knew that I had to do it. When I finally decided to ‘take the plunge’ it was strange. As I was about to click on the final deactivate profile button , these pictures of some of my friends showed and it said; “Are you sure you want to leave and so will really miss you”... or something to that effect.( I obviously can’t remember the exact words). I immediately felt all warm and fuzzy inside and seriously considered going back and not deactivating, but something inside made me wonder why there was so much emphasis on me staying activated. I guess like any other “addiction”, the system requires there to be a number of addicts otherwise the system will not be able to function.

See the thing with facebook and in fact the internet in general is that it provides this vast space where people can take on any identity that they want to. They can project themselves in a variety of different ways. Cyberspace allows you to be anything and anyone that you want to be, it provides a sense of escapism from the mundane nature of everyday life. Everyone seems so interesting and everything seems so exciting and intriguing. This sounds very similar to other forms of addiction, doesn’t it?

In the last few days I was reminded of my facebook “addiction” and how my life is better off without it. Since I deactivated my profile, I was able to see who my true friends were, and which people were there simply as part of the illusion. My true friends still somehow found another way to keep in contact, even if it is more difficult, and those who were just part of the virtual world of illusion, well they remained there, they were the ones who were not meant to be in my real life, the ones who could only really connect with me on a superficial level, the level of social cyberspace.

Addiction is a strange thing. People can become addicted to many different things, and just because it may not fit in with the usual ideas of addiction, doesn’t mean that it’s not an addiction. Addiction also exists on different levels. The way to find out if something is an addiction is to see how easy or difficult it is to leave that thing. If it’s difficult, then more often than not, whatever it is has become an addiction, and addictions are dangerous, for very obvious reasons.

At this point I’d just like to add that I’m not saying that facebook or the internet or anything else is bad . What I am saying though is that life should be about balance. Indeed Islam in itself teaches us about having a balanced lifestyle. Furthermore, it should be about consistency. The way someone is on facebook should be the way they are when you meet them in person. The relationships that people foster in cyberspace should be relationships that can be continued in the same manner in person. If this is not possible, then I think one needs to question the validity of those relationships and interactions.

What I’ve learnt is that it’s really hard to let go of things that make us feel good, but sometimes we just have to take the step and let go and once we do this, we will know for sure what is real and what is part of the illusion.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Blessed Elders

Last week I spent some time with three old ladies. My grandmother (aged 80); her older sister and a cousin of theirs. Now of course, these old ladies must not know that I’m referring to them as “old ladies” because this is something that will disturb them, and with their hectic social calendar and constant outings, they make me sound like the “old lady”. As my grand aunt put it; “please call us ‘senior citizens’ that sounds so much better”!

Well anyway, times with them are always; well... let’s just say it’s interesting! You see, these old ladies always have a funny story to relate, and the way they communicate with each other is a story on its own. In one conversation they would have spoken about fifty years of things that have happened. You know, this one who married that one’s daughter and then their child married so and so and this one was related to that one, and it goes on and on until me, as an outsider feels so confused that my head begins to hurt. So many people, so many families, so many experiences, sometimes it seems that they know the whole of Johannesburg... I’m sure you can all relate to the stories of old people.

The thing is though, that every single time I’m with these old ladies, I am reminded of their value and just how much I can learn from them. Now, they may not know how to use an ATM (even if you keep showing them), and cellphones and computers may seem alien to them, and don’t even think about trying to explain to them what the internet is because it will leave them befuddled, to say the least. But these women have so much more knowledge than any of this. This is knowledge that cannot be ‘googled’ , it cannot be found in any book or any television programme (even if it is something educational). This is knowledge that comes with experience (80 whole years of experience!).

The amazing thing is that from their various experiences these ladies can teach you practical knowledge, things that can help make your life easier, and they do this in the most simple of ways. These are women who have not being spoilt by throwaway nappies (diapers), or washing machines. They had to suffer through many hardships in life and they had to do their own work, and because they were not spoon fed in life, they’ve learnt little ways to make life easier and they’ve learnt how to save things instead of being wasteful.

Another thing I was reminded of last week is that Allah truly and surely accepts the prayers of the elderly. It is Allah who takes special care of all their affairs and gives them exactly what they need. It is Allah who sustains them and helps them, and although Allah Almighty is the Sustainer of every single person, it just seems to me that Allah has special mercy towards the Old, or I should say; “the Senior Citizens”.

So, the lesson I’ve learnt is that I should be spending more time with the elderly, because although they can leave you feeling confused and lost, they also have a lot to teach (far more than people give them credit for), also if they make a prayer for you, Insha’Allah Allah Almighty will readily accept it, and the cherry on the top is that Allah (SWT) will give you so many blessings for this!

Now I think all of you may want to go out there and spend some time with the old people in your own families, and if you have no old people in your family, then go out there and find some old people in your community, because although we all think that old people need us, the real truth is that we are actually in need of them!!!

May Allah Almighty be with all of our old people, keep them safe, make easy their difficulties, sort out their affairs and most of all, May Allah (SWT) continue to bless them in abundance!!!

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