Saturday, March 27, 2010

Aha... Don't take it personally!

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

I have long found that when people do things that they know I will not like or "approve" of, they expect some sort of reaction from me. In the past I have usually given that reaction, or at least something approaching it. After all, if I don't approve of it, then there is usually an element in it that is wrong, extremely disliked, or "doubtful" in Islam. I stink at hiding my feelings when something goes against Islam.

However, I just read something that Allah obviously meant for my eyes on this day, for a very specific reason. Amazingly enough, just two hours prior to reading it, I had an experience that was exactly what I've described. The difference this time is that I didn't react in any strong or notable way. I acknowledged and I walked away, showing no further interest and making no further comment. Of course, it was already a given in the other person's mind that I wouldn't really like the situation. I think, however, it surprised them that I remained so unemotional. (Sorry, I can imagine that you are wondering what the whole episode is about, but I don't want to disclose any details as this is something that can apply to just about anything.)

So, what happened to help me keep my cool and also to change my mindset? Well, two things. The first was simply that I couldn't see any point in getting upset over something that I'd already been upset about before. That seems like a waste of time. Rather than stress myself, I am relaxing and relying on Allah. After all, this happened for a reason, and perhaps it is simply to move me to a better place in my reactions and thought processes.

The second thing was reading something from a book called The Four Agreements. It is just from the 11 page .pdf file ,which is Module 1 and basically is an overview, but the part about not taking things personally really hit home. Just as I have a whole set of "rules" and "beliefs" I hold fast to in my "world" so does everyone else. They aren't trying to upset me when they do things, they are following their own private agenda. Once I considered this as something separate from me, I could detach myself. I, literally, am not taking it personally. I have long understood that we all have different developmental timeline and curves, so why on earth would I expect others to be on mine, when I'm not on theirs?

Now, I am not a person to spend time reading self-help books, etc. so I really do consider this a direct hit from Allah that I followed my nose to this book. I believe that everything we have to face in life is covered by Islam and that reading ahadith and Quran will put us in the mindset to take it all in stride. However, it wasn't that the book was saying something new, it was that it brought to my mind a onslaught of different ayaat from Quran and ahadith that support it. As I read the part about not taking things personally I thought, "Qadr Allah, mashaa fa'al" (It was Ordained by Allah and He Willed it to be) and "Save yourself from the fire whose fuel is men and stones." (Surah at Tahreem - 6) and that we will not be asked about the sins of others, we will be asked about our own. So, rather than rack up a report on my left side account by reacting in a negative way, I'm accepting it as part of a much bigger picture and saving myself.

Bi ithn Illah I will have a better approach to many things with his outlook and reap much better results. Ahhh.....if only I can apply this with my children....ya Rabb!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Bitter Truth

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Life is filled with bitter truths; stages of wrongness and misguidance that we would love to erase from the paper, rip out of the book.They are all of our own making, all products of our own failings.

I've been through the newbie stage of learning a little something and then thinking I knew it all, astaghfirullah! I've been through the complete loss of confidence stage where I knew that my knowledge was insufficient and insignificant. I knew virtually nothing about Islam, but felt that the vastness of what there was to learn was all too much to ever get anywhere with. Audhu b'Illah! Then, by Allah's Mercy, I reestablished my connection with my Creator. Somewhere inside me, in the conscience Allah has given us all, I knew truth and right wa al hamdul'Illah. I knew what was a compromise, what was less than 100%, what was never going to be right no matter how hard I tried to make it so. I grew in Islam and gained depth of faith and knowledge through avid seeking and observation of my surroundings.

However, throughout, Allah put around me a variety of people who didn't have the correct, clear, or complete understanding of Islam. People who had an amazing way with words and who seemed to continually override my beliefs of right and wrong with a collection of really "good sounding" excuses. They belittled me, implied my concepts of Islam were flawed due to my newness, lack of Arabic language, and unsophisticated thinking. They gave me "interesting" interpretations of Quran and ahadith. They gave me "logical" explanations that led me to a huge conflict with the simple, clear perfection of Islam. They told me of the beauty and perfection of Islam, while only practicing certain aspects of it. Their misguidance was a bitter truth.
What happened in the end? I left those people behind. The conflict eventually turned my heart from them. I said my farewells, made heartfelt dua' for them, and moved far away to strive for what was pleasing to Allah. Of course, that held a whole new set of tests and struggles. A whole new learning curve. A whole new set of mistakes through ignorance, weakness, and my own stupid self. What a bitter reminder those mistakes are, but what a blessing it all is! Those things, looking back at them as misguidance, moved me to ever better realization and clearer focus.

When I hear people give their edicts, their religious interpretation of things, and especially when they select the meaning they desire from ayaat of Quran or ahadith, it hurts me. It is an insult and a disobedience to Allah and His messenger. But, haven't we all done it at some time? Isn't it the essence of human nature to err? Isn't it part of our growth and development to make mistakes and then learn from them? Yes, yes, and yes...that is the bitter truth. But it is when we don't learn, when we sit on our pedestal and close the door on knowledge and betterment, that we are lost.

Oh, I'm sure I misinterpret things at times, but I make the effort to seek the truth, and then adhere to it...whether I like it or not. More than that, I seek refuge with Allah from being deaf, dumb, and blind and picking and choosing what suits me in Islam.  I seek refuge from losing sight of true submission.

No question, we all have our journeys to proceed along and mistakes to make. It is part of our development. However, misguidance is painful to witness and painful to remember. Why wouldn't it be, when we are clearly told that all innovation in this religion is misguidance and all misguidance is in the hellfire?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Istikhara Prayer - Yes, No, Maybe So?

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

As Muslims, we are told to supplicate with the dua' of istikhara, whenever we have a decision to make in our lives. Big or small, istikhara is our direct line to Allah, our Creator and Sustainer, with our problems. Big or small, Allah guides us and responds to this prayer, giving us clarity in one form or another on which route to take.

I have had several different responses to my istikhara prayers which stand out in my mind. Most often, Allah sends an event or series of events that are clearly signs to deter me from continuing or to facilitate my progress. There have been other times when Allah has sent, within seconds, one clear sentence to my mind. Something that just summed it up in a nutshell and gave me my answer. Other times, I simply prayed on the subject and slept and woke up either feeling like sunshine or like a lead weight was in my mind and body. Sometimes a quote, hadith, ayat of Quran, or statement from someone will carry the answer. The one thing that is sure though is that I always get an answer.

I've talked to people who have told me they didn't have any answer from their istikhara or couldn't tell. I believe they were blinded by shaytaan to the response or perhaps never prayed with a heart genuinely seeking to follow Allah's Decree. An strong inner desire for a certain outcome seems to negate the very concept of istikhara, as the person isn't open to Allah's guidance and is really only seeking a reassurance or confirmation for what they want, not what is best.

However, the biggest issue I have noted, without a doubt, is those who avoid or delay praying istikhara because they are fearful of the outcome. These are people who say they believe that Allah's Plan is the best one, but are unwilling to find out what His Plan is. They have taken their future into their own hands, relying on their research, their contemplations, and their feelings rather than giving the matter up to Allah. Now I'm not saying that research, contemplation, and feelings should be ignored. What I am saying is that without tawakkal (total reliance) on Allah and submission to His Will and Guidance, they are straying far from the path that is best for them. Truly they are listening to the whispers of shaytaan, who doesn't want them to know in their hearts, without a doubt, that if they seek Allah's guidance on a matter and act accordingly, whatever the outcome, it will be a blessed thing.

Oh, please don't put off or ignore istikhara for fear of getting the response you don't want or that will make life (apparently) hard for you. We may have ideas about what is easy and best, but we are truly foolish to imagine that our ideas can substitute for Allah's Plan and Guidance. Not seeking Guidance and complying with it, may well be a large factor in why problems, confusion, or hardships persist.

May Allah guide us to support each other, encourage to the good, and put ALL our reliance, faith, and trust in Him Alone - ameen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Could That Be Me?

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Once I posted a list of 7 Women Not to Marry on Muslim Space. It gave the names in Arabic for the type of personality and the description. Subhaan Allah, what a response that got! Indignance about how such a thing could be posted, rejection of the concept that women have such unpleasant qualities, snide remarks saying that with that attitude I would never get married. Of course, that came from someone who thought I was a man posting the list. It was a stark contrast to the reactions on the sister's group, where I also posted the same thing.

On the group, sisters commented that they prayed they would not be in any of those categories and sought refuge with Allah from such qualities. The sisters did a mental checklist to see if, or what, they were guilty of. Every time I read the post, so did I. In fact, whenever I read something warning against certain qualities, behaviors, and mindsets that are hated by Allah, I always do a self-examination and ask myself, "Could that be me?"

Over the years, I have met several sisters who do exactly the same thing. They consider everything with that all-important question, "Could that be me?" and seek to correct any mistakes if they identify them in themselves. They show, through their actions, that they have humble hearts and sincerely strive to please Allah. Even the most improbable scenario of wrongdoing, they will seriously consider to see if any trace of it can be detected in their own selves. There are many more out there...and sight unseen I love them all.

We human beings are incredibly imperfect, and that is Allah's Design. However, what is important is to realise that and seek out our failings. How can we make taubah, sincere repentance for our sins and errors, if we don't even acknowledge that we are prone to them and make them every day? How can we be humble if we think we have great knowledge of Islam and don't continually seek understanding and truth? What we know is a speck of dust in the universal atmosphere. How can we love for others what we love for ourselves, if we don't ask ourselves the question, "Could that be me?"

All praise and thanks to Allah, Who gives us such beautiful insights to earning His pleasure!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Attention/Drama Addiction

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Ever meet someone who had a problem that never went away? Someone who would call with their latest dramas surrounding the problem and ask for advice? Someone who never took the advice, but simply wanted the attention and "wow" factor that their situation could evoke?

I've met a few of those people during my adult life, mashaa'Allah. I have little tolerance for drama and wallowing in a situation. For me, I take seriously the hadith, "If you see a wrong, change it with your hand. If you cannot, speak out against it, and if that fails, hate it with your heart." Well, I've done all three at different times.

One friend, who was very caught up in a drama, I told directly. It was a simple statement that she was not getting anywhere and simply had become addicted to the attention and sympathy that her situation was getting. I said that if she truly was so upset about it all, she needed to act in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah.

Another, I felt deeply was not sincere and so left her to dole out the dramatic stories to someone else. After all, Mai is extremely intolerant of people who keep ignoring Allah's Signs and do what THEY want. I was guided to simply hate it with my heart and stay away from that bad companion.

For another, I exercised the patience and diplomacy that is only expended on those souls I truly love for the sake of Allah. I spoke out against it. This time, it didn't work. Qadr Allah, masha' fa'al. (It was Destined by Allah, and He Does as He Wills).

So, what did I learn from all this? shaytaan is truly a clever and underhanded enemy to us. he gets us from so many angles. It starts with feeling the comfort of people to communicate and advise on our problems. Then those people become a part of our life and we thrive on the attention and company. We get used to them dropping everything and focusing solely on us. We become drama addicts. Then, somewhere in our subconscious, we realise that if our problem is resolved, they won't be there anymore. The attention, the "fan club," the support team will go back to their lives because we are fine. And so, shaytaan whispers to keep the drama alive. He whispers not to take the advice and gives an endless stream of reasons. However the real reason is to keep the fitnah, the problem, alive and not act for Allah's pleasure. Even if the problem resolves itself in spite of you, shaytaan will present all manner of other things to turn into dramas to illicit the craved for attention.

Audhu b'Illahi min asshaytaan irrajeem!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Mother's Tears

A mother's tears are never for transitory things; they are not worth misery or heartache.
A mother's tears are for the souls she bears the responsibility of raising for Allah's Pleasure.
A mother's tears have names written on them.
That is what makes her a mother.
That is why Jennah lies at her feet.