Eid 2018: What I Know About Acceptance

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. – Michael J. Fox

29 days later, how can we get closer to attaining acceptance?

Inner Self

  • Always link up with a higher power, for me, that is God. Linking up means that I am always thinking about how I would answer questions related to why I did or did not, why I said or did not say and accepting people as they are focusing on changing oneself to the better.

Outer Self

  • High awareness and letting go of the ego through guidance that has been passed down through generations and whatever your faith or culture, there is truth to all of it and one should not disregard it as ignorance, instead, it is in taking it into account that one realises how limited we are in knowledge.

Faith

  • Have faith that whatever happens to us or we go through is simply a test and is neither a sign of approval or disapproval nor a state of love or hate, and whatever we put our mind to, if good, will be attained sooner or later.

I ask god on this joyous day to bless us all with acceptance that is key to an abundant life full of calmness and love with assertiveness in our dealings and speech.

Happy Eid and until next year, god bless you all!

 

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29 Ramadan 2018: Salvation through Speech

The prophet (pbuh) said: It is obligatory for you to tell the truth, for truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise, and the man who continues to speak the truth and endeavours to tell the truth is eventually recorded as truthful with Allah (God), and beware of telling of a lie for telling of a lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell-Fire, and the person who keeps telling lies and endeavours to tell a lie is recorded as a liar with Allah (God). (in Muslim)

When I looked at the sayings of the prophet, speech can be classified into;

(a) good speech;

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “He who believes in Allah (God) and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent” (in Muslim)

(b) good lies;

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The person who (lies) in order to conciliate between people is not a liar, when he conveys good or says (something) good” (in Bukhari and Muslim)

(c) jokes;

Abu Hurayra reported that the people said, “Messenger of Allah (God), you joke with us!” He replied, “But I only speak the truth” (in Albani)

(d) advice;

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The deen (religion) is naseehah (advice, sincerity)”
(f) Suspicion; and
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion amounts to the worst form of lying.” Agreed upon.

(g) Falsehood.

May we be of those who say the truth, what is good, bringing people together and giving sincere advice.

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28 Ramadan 2018: Being grateful

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (PBUH) said: A grateful eater is equal to a patient fasting person.(in Ibn Majah)

Year after year, I always reflect on whether it is harder to be patient through hardship or be grateful through blessings.

According to this saying, we don’t have to suffer and be hungry in order to attain salvation, the path to salvation could very well be gratefulness. As usual however, the key question becomes, do we recognise the blessings to begin with? That is not a trivial challenge.

Some swear by daily journaling of three things they are grateful for. Some swear by recognising the blessings in contrast to specific challenges they face. Some meditate to get in touch with their areas of thankfulness. Some simply recognise the blessings.

Whichever way, as we near the end of this blessed month when all our schedules from eating to prayer and working to sleep have been completely changes, I ask god to help us recognise and be ever thankful for our blessings not only during this month but until the next Ramadan and beyond.

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27 Ramadan 2018: Fight Innate Stinginess

The prophet (pbuh) preached and said: Abstain from avarice, for those who had been before you were annihilated due to avarice. It (avarice) commanded them to show niggardliness; it commanded them to cut off their relationship with their nearest relatives, so they cut off. It commanded them to show profligacy, so they showed it.(in Albani)

Stinginess is innate and to various degrees. It is often related to the extent to which one shares tangible materials such as money and other possessions and also in relation to the extent to which one shares knowledge, information and other abstract things like time, space and words of comfort and kindness. This saying by the prophet (pbuh) introduces two other scales to miserliness; cutting off relationships with relatives and profligacy.

Relationships with relatives has evolved over the years. These relationships are meant to serve as a provision of support that is ordained by god amongst relatives who god has bestowed complementary wealth, health, knowledge and other bounties amongst them to now represent more of group think, strength or power, which is closer to tribalism. Cutting of these relationship indirectly leads to limited sharing of bounties with others who may be in need of them and who can provide different bounties in return.

Profligacy was a hard one to understand. Looking at other prophetic sayings covering the same, synonyms that come up include; vice, transgression, wickedness, corruption, and obscenity. While I could not quickly make the connection between these behaviours and miserliness, I realised that the link was that these traits often lead people to make decisions against sharing with others as one engages in behaviour to block goodness from others to satisfy the ego and related diseases of the heart from pride and envy to vanity and arrogance.

May god protect us from our own miserliness and may we always strive to fight it by recognising it and working towards taming it.

 

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26 Ramadan 2018: Salvation through God’s Mercy

Observe moderation in deeds and understand that none amongst you can attain salvation because of his deeds alone. They said: Allah’s (God’s) Messenger, not even you? Thereupon he said: Not even I, but that Allah (God) should wrap me in His Mercy and Grace. (in Muslim)
People are often sad to see the blessed month coming to an end, not only because of the increase in good deeds that come with simple acts of worship, kindness and love, but also because many blessings are seen in our everyday lives. People are also often calmer as it is believed that physiological changes happen on earth during this month and people naturally, and subconsciously, respond to them.
One of the realisations that people sometimes make by the end of the month is that human beings are so limited when compared to the sophisticated movements and evolution of the earth and the universe around us. This limitation includes the link between our good deeds and salvation.
As acknowledged in this quote from the prophet, no matter how much we pray, or do good, there is always more to be done and this can discourage us in doing good as we would always feel like we fall short. It is out of god’s mercy that we are only accounted for doing our best, and more importantly, with a pure heart and intention and not for showing off. A balanced approach where we can be consistent in small acts of worship, kindness and love goes much further than larger acts of kindness and goodness that are often hard to maintain in the long-run.
After all, we all attain salvation through god’s mercy.
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25 Ramadan 2018: No Anger

A man said to the Prophet (PBUH), “Counsel me,” so he (PBUH) said, “Do not become angry.” The man repeated [his request for counsel] several times, and [each time] he (PBUH) said, “Do not become angry. (in al-bukhari)

I have always been mesmerised by this piece of advice as I always wondered, how does one not become angry?

Anger is defined as (Merram-Webster) a strong feeling of displeasure, so how can we not become “strongly displeased” when there are many many situations in our lives that trigger this intense feeling?

I guess it is about breaking down this advice into the outer action of anger and the inner feeling of anger and the more we can control our inner feelings, the more we can control our outer actions when it comes to anger.

When I think back about when I have been the most angry, I can recall being angry when feeling resentful from not asserting my boundaries or feeling unheard when I try to express my needs and they are ignored or not acknowledged.

So going back to the prophet’s (pbuh) advice, the more we learn to assert our boundaries with excellence seeking a win-win and the more we practice patience by accepting that we cannot control others but we can seek salvation from god, then we can control and avoid anger.

May god help us work on ourselves not just in these blessed days, but all days until the next Ramadan and beyond.

 

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24 Ramadan 2018: Be Humble

Iyad bin Himar narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said: Allah (God), the Most High has revealed to me that you (people) should be humble, so that no one transgresses another, or boasts to the other. (In Muslim)

In other words, if we want to know if we are humble, we should look within and assess our actions and truly ask ourselves;

  • Do we cross other’s boundaries? Be it in rights or space or even law?
  • Do we talk and think highly of ourselves in front of others especially when others are down?

I continue to be amazed with how real the prophet’s sayings are and how they are simple yet powerful when it comes to finding a way of life that is filled with goodness for ourselves and for others.

I ask god in this post, during this blessed night in this blessed month – that is about to come to an end, to make us humble and to account ourselves when we transgress or boast and seek forgiveness soon thereafter.

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23 Ramadan 2018: Faith First

We were with the Prophet, and we were strong youths, so we learned faith before we learned Qur’an. Then we learned Qur’an (holy book) and our faith increased thereby. (in Ibn Majah)

Before prayer, before fast, before charity, before what is allowable and what is prohibited, even before knowledge … faith comes first.

The prophet described faith as having seventy-odd branches, the most important of which is believing in the one and only god, with those remaining including:

  • Believing in a Day of Judgement (in Muslim)
  • Believing in all divine books (in Muslim)
  • Believing in Angels (in Muslim)
  • Believing in destiny both good and bad (in Muslim)
  • Believing and loving the prophet and all prophets (in Bukhari / Muslim)
  • Modesty, bashfulness and self-respect (in Muslim)
  • Wearing old clothes (not always new ones) (in Abi Dawud)
  • Removing harmful things from the path (roads / sidewalks etc) of others (in Muslim)
  • Good manners (in Tirmidhi)
  • Kindness to one’s family (in Tirmidhi)
  • Loving for others what one loves for themselves (in Bukhari)
  • Cleanliness and washing (in Muslim)
  • Simplicity (in Ibn Majah)
  • Less talk (in Tirmidhi)

What this means to me is that whether it is in self-improvement, parenting, advising friends and in doing good, faith – even if little – is the foundation of worship and not the other way around. It includes love and respect for self and all humanity, being considerate and being genuine in all our dealings and it is the root of all action.

May god bless us with good manners and the ability to recognise and strengthen our faith when it goes weak.

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22 Ramadan 2018: Watch What We Say

“O Messenger of Allah (god)! What is the means to salvation?’ He said: ‘That you control your tongue, suffice yourself your house, and cry over your sins.” (in Tirmidhi)

In other words,

  • Watching what we say and controlling the words we choose taking into account what positively affects people, what encourages them, sharing goodness and kindness without hypocrisy or lying and worse yet, intending to hurt others with our words;
  • Becoming satisfied with our own homes and not rely on outside influences to bring us joy from infusing designs, spreading aromas, and building home environments that suit us and make us happy; and
  • Remembering our sins and seeking forgiveness for them, taking steps to improve ourselves and not just ignore them.

We all have a different set of weaknesses, I find that speech is one of the hardest to control and watch especially these days where speech, both written and said, is abundant by those who know and those who don’t know that sometimes we can’t tell the difference.

I ask god in these blessed days to help us remain aware of our speech in all situations and to seek forgiveness when we make mistakes with good intentions. May we practice conscious speech as often as possible.

Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.

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21 Ramadan 2018*: Love for others what we love for ourselves

“O Abu Hurairah (a companion of the prophet), be cautious, and you will be the most devoted of people to Allah (god). Be content, and you will be the most grateful of people to Allah (god). Love for people what you love for yourself, and you will be a (true) believer. Be a good neighbor to your neighbors, and you will be a (true) Muslim. And laugh little, for laughing a lot deadens the heart.” (in Ibn Majah)

This saying covers advice on building one’s character by being cautious, thankful and taking life lightly but not too lightly that we are laughing all the time and having faith by loving for others what we love for ourselves and by being good to our neighbors.

While improving our character is important, it is loving for others what we love for ourselves that is always the most challenging.

I ask god to help us get over our own stinginess by helping us share whatever knowledge, benefits and opportunities with others without fear of competition or judgement … not a trivial task.

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*The previous post introduced the framework for salvation in life and the after-life. The next 9 or 10 posts (depending on when Ramadan 2018 ends) will be dedicated to sharing sayings or actions from the Prophet’s life worth reflecting upon in these last few days of the blessed month.