Sunday, May 27, 2012

If we’re not tested then how will we know?

Lately I’ve been thinking that without tests and obstacles in our lives, we would never really know what our true capabilities are. It’s only when we have to face difficulty and go through hassles that we begin to understand that what we thought we could never do, actually becomes possible. It seems that human beings have so much potential, but they limit themselves and create false boundaries because of fear, but through tests from Allah, those boundaries are broken and we can emerge from there wiser and stronger than before.

What I’ve also noticed is that most of the time, the tests we are given only last for a while. It certainly doesn’t go on forever, after hardship there is without doubt ease, as Allah Almighty has told us in the Glorious Quraan. But the personal growth that comes as a result of this test does last forever, and it helps to make us better and stronger people. Think about it, if we handle a crisis well then we emerge from that crisis knowing that we have the ability to deal with things and this makes us more confident and better equipped to deal with further crises. And if we go through a crisis and handle it poorly then this serves as a lesson for us, and even though we may not have handled things well this time, chances are that the next time we are faced with a similar situation, then we will be more equipped to deal with it and we will handle it better. So actually, it’s sort of like a win-win situation. Either way, we learn something important about ourselves or others and this inevitably helps us in developing our growth.

At the time we may wonder why things are happening to us, and it may seem unfair that we should be tested. Sometimes we may think that we are the only one being tested while others seem to get off easy. We think this way because our knowledge is limited to what we are able to see right now and based on the little experience we have of life. The Knowledge of the Almighty is infinite and includes past, present and future, so definitely Allah knows best about all the tests that He puts different people through.

We are taught that Allah tests the people He loves most, more than others, and if we look at tests in terms of growth and self-empowerment, then this makes a lot of sense. If each test makes us better, stronger, more knowledgeable and more experienced, and if each test allows us to deal with life a little better, then isn’t it logical that those who are tested more would be more self-empowerment, knowledgeable, experienced and better able to deal with things?

SO I guess that we have to go through tests to understand our true potential. Remaining constantly within our comfort zones actually hinders our growth and this may prove to be more negative than positive in the long run. Yes, it definitely doesn’t seem very positive while we are going through tests and really no one sits there and thinks; ‘ well hey these difficulties are great because it’s making me a better person”. All the wisdom of the test only comes with hindsight, only after it passes do we understand the reasons and we realize that actually it was for our own good. So in the end, all we have to do is remember that Allah always knows what’s best for us and if we remain patient then Inshaa-Allah at some point we will understand the wisdom behind the tests we’ve been given and we will be able to see how it has benefited our lives.

And Allah Almighty Knows best about all things!

Image from here 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What will it be like on THAT DAY?

If you’ve been to the offices of the Revenue Services you’ll know that this is an ominous place. On Tuesday I had to go there, and while South African Revenue Services (SARS) offices are indeed gloomy, I’m sure that this is pretty much the same in all countries. You know how they always link death and taxes together, well, let’s just say that they may not be far off the mark with that one.

The place wasn’t so bad when I went there; it was full, but not crazy full so I guess that was a positive thing. Yet, as soon as I entered the place I knew that wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be. In truth it’s not very unlike any other government offices, whether it’s the home affairs office or the licensing department, it’s all somewhat the same. A confusing process, forms to fill out, long queues to wait in, and people working there, mechanically doing their work and all the while looking like they absolutely hate it. I guess it’s too much to expect to see a smiling face in a place like that, but I still can’t help thinking that it would be nice.

Nonetheless, as I nervously sat there and waited for my number to be called I wondered if this is what it would feel like on the day that is inevitable. On Judgement Day, will we all be sitting and waiting nervously for our names to be called so that we can undergo reckoning? Will we be anxious because we are not sure if we did everything correct or if we have all that we need? Will we dread the long wait ahead as we look at all the full chairs occupied with people who are, like us, awaiting their turn? If the SARS offices are that gloomy, can you even imagine what the Day of Reckoning will be like?

It’s been described in awful descriptions. People will be naked and drowning in their own sweat. Each person will only be concerned with themselves; even mothers won’t bother with their children.  We will all be so scared and worried while we anxiously wait for our turn to be called. But this decision will not be some silly little thing, like whether your taxes are in order or not. No, this decision will determine whether your deeds on this Earth are in order and here your eternal fate will be decided.  Truly, the doom and gloom, the fear, worry and anxiousness on that day cannot be imagined.

And yet, we are given hope, we are told what it will be like for those who believe in the Oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Allah’s beloved, Muhammad (PBUH). If Allah is pleased with us, and if Allah accepts our deeds then we will not be boiling in the extreme heat, but sheltered by Allah’s shade, through His immense mercy. For those who Allah is pleased with, their reckoning will be easy and quick and they will not experience the fear and worry.  More importantly, for those who Allah is pleased with and Allah accepts as part of the community of Muhammad (PBUH) those people will not be alone, those people will have someone to turn to for help. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has been given the gift of intercession for His community and so Inshaa-Allah on that day, he (PBUH) will be there, on Allah’s side, pleading with Allah to forgive his community and admit them to Paradise. SubhanAllah, May Allah shower peace and blessings on our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Can you imagine this, although the comparison is bleak, it still helps to understand it like this. Say you’re sitting and waiting for your turn to be called while you’re waiting at the Revenue offices, and you are a little worried because you’re not sure if all your paperwork is order and if you’ve brought everything that was required. You look around and see the long waiting rows and see that your number is far off, so you know it’s going to be a long wait. Then, someone comes along and takes you by the hand and walks you to the teller and tells the people at the revenue office that they should please be merciful to you and help you. Then and there, your anxiety disappears because you know that you have someone to help you. There’s someone in that large, confusing place who will be able to help you. When everyone else is bothered with their own affairs only, that one person will be able to help others.

Again, let me reiterate that the Day of Judgement can never be compared to things on this earth, nor can Allah, or anything of the hereafter. We cannot imagine the unseen world so we cannot compare it, but this example is given here because our understanding at this point is limited to things on this Earth.

So let me get back to my point. On that Day when things seem terrible, our only hope will be the mercy of Allah and the intercession of Allah’s Beloved Muhammad (PBUHJ). If we know what’s best for us then we will turn only to those who can help us and not to others who are only concerned with their own interests. If we turn to Allah we will never be disappointed, if we follow the lifestyle and examples of Allah’s messenger, Muhammad (PBUH) then we will be counted as those who are in his community, and Inshaa-Allah then he will intercede for us and Inshaa-Allah then Allah Almighty will have mercy upon us.

The negative things in this world are a reminder for us, so we should take heed. If we dislike going to places like ominous government departments, how much will we dislike the Day of Judgement? Let us pray to Allah now to save us on that Day so that we do not experience the horrors of the day and Inshaa-Allah instead experience the pleasures.

May Allah guide us all, accept us all, forgive us all and have mercy on us all, and May Allah allow us the honour of being counted as those who make up the true community of Muhammad (PBUH).

Image 1 from here
Image 2 from here

Friday, May 4, 2012

For the pleasure of Allah

I’ve been asked to explain what people mean when they say they’re doing things “for the pleasure of Allah”.  I’m not the best person to explain this, I better admit this outright, I am not an aalima (female scholar of Islam) or anything like that, but I will try my best to explain this based on the limited knowledge that I have, and Allah knows best.

So Marie brought up an important point when she commented on my previous post, saying that she always hears people say this, but she’s not really sure what they mean. The thing is that we tend to take things for granted, and sometimes we all need a reminder of what we’re actually talking about, we need to check if our intentions are sincere, so I am very glad that Marie brought this up.

For me, doing things for the pleasure of Allah is all about intention. See we do things for many different reasons. We go to work so that we can earn money, we do something nice for someone so that they can be happy, we buy things for ourselves because we like it, if we have children, we may look after them and provide for them because we love them, we may do things for our loved ones because we want to please them or because it makes us happy, but when we do things for the pleasure of Allah, then it does not involve a human being or human feeling at all, it is simply because we want Allah to be pleased with us.

When we do things for the pleasure of Allah only, then we do not seek reward from anyone else, this includes any form of reward. In this case, it won’t matter to us if people appreciate what we do, or if people are happy with us, all that matters in this case is that Allah Almighty is pleased with us. So when we make our intention, we do not consider how our actions will look to others, we only consider Allah. I’ll give you an example; If I say that I am doing a workshop with fellow Muslim sisters only for the pleasure of Allah, then I should not expect any reward from people for this. So I shouldn’t want to be appreciated by the group that I belong to, or I shouldn’t want the women we do workshops with to appreciate what I’m doing, or I shouldn’t expect to be paid for my work. If people do appreciate it and if it makes people happy, then Alhamdullillah (All Praise is for Allah), this is good, but this should not be expected by me. If people criticise me, then I should accept that without becoming disturbed, because I am not doing it for people, I am doing it for Allah Almighty only.

A friend of mine likes to use another example when she talks about this; one that we can all relate to more easily. Her example, is that for instance if you bake a beautiful chocolate cake and you take it to your neighbour and you say you’re doing it for the pleasure of Allah, then you can’t wait for your neighbour’s pleasure, you can’t expect your neighbour to praise you and tell everyone how good you are, or you can’t expect her to go on about how wonderful you bake or how great your cake is. If you do expect these things then you did not really do it for the pleasure of Allah. When you do things for the pleasure of Allah then you will not expect any praise or anything from people, you will want your reward from Allah only, because if you want your reward from people and if you get it from people, then this is not for the pleasure of Allah.

On the other hand, if you do bake a cake and take it to your neighbour for the pleasure of Allah because you know that Islam encourages building good relationships with your neighbours and if your neighbour then tells everyone that your cake was horrible, then this won’t bother you at all, because you’ll know that your reward lies with Allah. Since you did it for the pleasure of Allah, you won’t care whether your neighbour’s reactions are positive or negative.

It’s not a small thing to say that you’re doing something for the pleasure of Allah, because if you say so and your intention is not right then on the day of reckoning Allah will tell you to seek your reward from those that you aimed to please instead of Allah.

The best example of people who do things only for the pleasure of Allah is those who do things that they do not entirely want to do but they know that it will please Allah, so they do it anyway. SubhanAllah, these people can really be admired. For instance, if someone has a family member who is always nasty to them and they really could do without that person in their life, but they know that if they continue to be good to that person then Allah will be pleased with them because family ties in Islam is very important. So despite the continuous nastiness, that person still continues to humble herself or himself and continues to be nice to the family member, not because she or he cares about the family member, but because they know that Allah will be more pleased with them. This is an example of someone who does something only for Allah’s pleasure.

Another example of doing things for the pleasure of Allah is if someone doesn’t have a lot of money and a poor person asks them for it, even though they need it themselves, they give it to the poor person because they know that Allah will be pleased with them if they do this.

No one will ever know what our true intentions are, only Allah has the ability to know what’s going on in our hearts and minds all of the time and this is why Allah knows when we do things for Allah’s pleasure and when we do it for the pleasure of others.

So in a nutshell, doing things for the pleasure of Allah requires a pure intention, and it is required that you want nothing from anyone else (whether this is reward like praise or even a thank you) or other material reward (like money or a gift). Whether people react to your actions in a positive way or in a negative way, it won’t make a difference to you if you did it for the pleasure of Allah. When you do things for the pleasure of Allah then you will accept all that goes with it (whether good or bad) because your intentions and your actions are directed at Allah and that is all that matters.

I hope Inshaa-Allah (with Allah’s will) that I have managed to explain this in a way that will help others to understand. If I have then Alhamdullillah, All Praise is due to Allah, and if I haven’t then I apologise for my deficiency, all weakness is with me and Allah is All Powerful.

May Allah help us all to direct our actions to Him, so that we can all do everything only for the Pleasure of Allah. Inshaa-Allah Ameen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My favourite day of the week

Wednesday is my favourite day of the week. I am usually utterly exhausted every Wednesday afternoon/evening, but Alhamdullillah this is still my favourite day of the week. The reason for this is because Wednesday is the day we have our ladies workshops at the Mosque. It’s part of my schedule already, the rest of the week I can do whatever other work I need to. My work includes counselling, psychological assessments and research and once again Alhamdullillah (All praise is due to Allah) that I am able to schedule things the way I want to so that I have time for everything. Okay, sure, I don’t get as much money as other people in the psychology profession with the same qualifications as I do, but I am very happy with the way things are for me. See if I get a full time job then that means I won’t be able to do things like our ladies workshops and that will not be good at all.

You may be wondering why it’s such a big deal or what’s so special about these workshops, well I’ll tell you. Once a week myself, and a group of ladies get together and run workshops for ladies in our community. The group we belong to is called; “Islamic Awareness Group”, we have a social worker, two learned Islamic teachers, a lady with a background in education, and me. With the will of Allah we have managed to do some good programmes to enhance the lives of Muslim women. We do things like parenting skills, marriage and dealing with issues in marriage, self reformation and so on. The beautiful thing about this is that we get to interact with our fellow Muslim sisters and at the same time we get to witness their growth and improvement as they implement the skills and teachings that they learn each week. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah); It’s wonderful when someone tells us that ; “I’ve tried this and it works”, or “my husband can really see the difference in me, he encourages me to come for this.” This is really rewarding, but the most rewarding thing is that we are doing this only for the pleasure of Allah Almighty and this makes the world of difference.

It’s actually funny when I think about how I got involved in this group. This group started out before I joined them, there were three ladies at the time and I happened to know one of them from some work we did together in the past. At the time a friend of mine (a fellow psychologist) and I were doing independent work and when I heard about these workshops I contacted this lady I knew with the intention of networking. That was all I intended, I thought that if we could share contacts and so on then it would make things easier. Allah had a different plan, and undoubtedly Allah’s plan was the better one.

So Islamic Awareness Group asked me to help them out, do a few sessions for their new workshop, which was on marriage in Islam, and I agreed to do two sessions. That went on for a while, and then we decided that we needed a new workshop, so we began a self reformation workshop. After a while the lady I initially knew from the group had to leave and they asked me to join in full time. So here I am today. Every Wednesday is workshop day and do I enjoy it (Alhamdullillah).

One of our Islamic teacher’s explained that we should purify our intentions and make sure that we do things only for the pleasure of Allah because then whatever we do becomes a form of worship. She said to us that every time we leave our homes on Wednesdays we should make the intention that we are going out for the pleasure of Allah, meeting our sisters for the pleasure of Allah, learning for the pleasure of Allah, and listening to the words and teachings of Quraan and Hadith purely for the pleasure of Allah. She told us that this would make a huge difference and she was right!

I look forward to going out on a Wednesday and I always feel extra happy on this day. Sometimes with my other work I feel fed up and tired of doing the work, other times I don’t feel like leaving home to go and work, especially when I have to go very early in the morning. But it’s never like that on a Wednesday, on Wednesday’s I can feel the barakah (blessings) of Allah and I know that everything will work out well. All my chores for the day, everything always works out well on a Wednesday. Once again SubhanAllah!

I guess this is a clear example of how even the work you do can become a form of worship, and truly when you do something only for the pleasure of Allah then you can see and feel the difference. You may not always get paid for what you do, but the reward you get (in this earth already) far surpasses any monetary reward or any other worldly reward. SubhanAllah.

I am so fortunate that Allah has chosen me to be a part of these workshops and a part of the Islamic Awareness Group. My fellow sisters in the group are the nicest group of women I’ve met. They are down to earth, humble and easy going and I love them all for that. It makes life easier when working with people who are so easy to get along with and so understandable. But I think that when you do things for the pleasure of Allah then you forget about yourself and that’s when you are able to accept many things without being offended.

Alhamdullillah for Wednesdays, Alhamdullillah that I have been given a chance to share the little knowledge that I have, Alhamdullillah for showing me that life can be wonderful when your intentions are correct. The truth is that I have learnt far more than the ladies who come for the workshops. I have learnt from my fellow facilitators and from every single woman who attends our workshops.

More than once I’ve been offered a full timejob, but this would mean that I would have to give up Wednesday workshops. I couldn’t bear to do this (through Allah’s guidance), I feel like that would be giving up a wonderful gift, only for material and selfish reasons. Simply put, I can’t really imagine my life without these workshops, and it’s all because Allah has put barakah in them. So yes, Wednesday is my favourite day of the week. How long this will last Allah alone knows, but for now I appreciate whatever I get and I am happy.

All Praise is due to Allah who definitely knows what is best for all His servants. Glory be to Allah, the Greatest, the Most Kind!

Image from here