30 Ramadan 2012: ‘Believe and Do Good’

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought. – Lord of the Rings (Pt. 1)

For today, we were left with one last thing that completed the whole picture for us, the need for a guide … a guide that gave us that sense of inner peace, a guide that makes sense, and a guide that is perfectly interconnected with clear wisdom. For us, our 30 days discovery took us on a journey to keep an open mind, understand and not to judge, to listen and not to speak, and to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit.

What we found was that the Quran (equivalent to the Bible and Torah) told us the past, explained the present and forwarned the future in perfect unison, taking the whole 603 pages to bring forth the complete wisdom it contained, primarily coming down to two matters:

‘ Believe and Do Good ‘

It just kept coming up … believe and do good … believe and do good … believe and do good … so, we now hope that we may remain steadfast in our faith that god exists, be given the ability to do good, anywhere and everywhere we go, bringing ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and our societies inner peace and joy with the time that is given to us.

Happy Eid / Eid Kareem / Eid Mubarak to everyone celebrating and not.

May this Eid bring joy to all and may it be a small reason to bring joy to others, children and those young and old, of all faiths and all colors.

We wanted to also thank all our awesome followers, new and returning, who have made this worthwhile.

With that, we end by saying that only god knows best.

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29 Ramadan 2012: The Power of …

He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own. – Confucius (for the second time in a row)

Charity may fall in one of two different categories with the common element being that charity, ultimately leads to societal economic development and revival be it charity that is involuntary (Zakat) or voluntary (sadaqa).

In the first case,

Charity to an individual or family in need, leads to …

    • The purchase of products and/or services required by the individual or family, leading to  …
      • A source of income to the store or business providing these products and Services, leading to …
        • Societal Economic Development and Revival

In the second case,

Charity to registered institutions that manage charities on your behalf, leads to …

    • Salaries to people working at the institutions, and
    • Response to an individual or family in need, leading to …
      • Increased spending by those working at the institutions, and
      • Increased launch of societal and developmental projects, leading to …
        • Increased hiring of consultants, contractors, research, etc…, leading to …
          • Societal Economic Development and Revival

In other words, goodness spreads far and everyone eventually benefits from it even though charity (looks on the surface) as a loss in our own accounts and eventually benefiting the one who gave the charity to begin with.

Some my not like how we looked at charity from an economic perspective, however, the point we wanted to drive home is that in addition to making people happy by meeting their needs, charity makes the ‘economy’ happy too.

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28 Ramadan 2012: … is Bliss?

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. – Confucius

Ramadan is known to be the month of spiritual discovery, be it through prayer, reflection, teachers or society in general. One of the things that constantly faces us before, during, and will face us after this month is … talk.

The tongue is quite an interesting organ. It has absolutely no problem blabbing away without having the necessary knowledge to back the words that it utters. Mostly controlled by emotion, the tongue is the human being’s worst enemy and biggest strength both at the same time. It can bring joy to others and can also defend those who were wronged, however, and as the focus for today’s post, it can unjustly blame someone or some society for something they have not done or simply, waste a lot of time discussing something that one has no knowledge of and hence, mislead others.

We realised after a discussion with someone dear to us today that it is often better, more just and actually easier and lighter to our hearts to just say ‘I don’t know’ when discussing a topic that we are not knowledgeable in (through facts and experience). It is better to be seen as someone who doesn’t know rather than mislead or hurt others.

May god protect us today and every other day from the ‘baselessness’ of our tongue so that through facts and experience, we elevate discussions and our minds to a place that eventually elevates society and humanity in general.

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27 Ramadan 2012: Flows Without Asking

… ‘sakha’ is a type of generosity in which a man is easygoing with people who ask him for help and he facilitates the needs of those seeking help … ‘Jud’, on the other hand, is generosity that flows without the recipient of the generosity needing to ask for it. For that reason, God is considered Jawad but not Sakhi, for His generosity flows without our asking. – Hamza Yusuf *

God’s generosity is all around us, 24 / 7, and more profoundly felt in Ramadan when we focus more on the spirit than any other month of the year, we call it, a month of high consciousness.

Whether it is by looking at how life around us keeps going with all the risks that seem not to materialise, to the abilities for the skies to rain and help naturally grow the earth, or the way money, food and all provisions seem to come, or the way life challenges seem to take on different meanings and directions yet we continue to have hope … his generosity is abundant and never-ending in perfect wisdom.

In today’s post we want to highlight that although he is always generous without our asking, imagine what would happen if we did. Doing our part in seeking his help, his provisions and his blessings actually seems to heal hearts and seems to be an indirect validation tool when we ask for something that may look good but is actually bad for us and vice versa. On this note, and contrary to what most feel, even the smallest need or want, worldly or not, we understand from scholars that god likes to hear our calling, and likes to hear us ask as we indirectly recognize that all power is to him and that no matter how big a problem or a challenge is in our lives, he can sort it out for us in perfect wisdom.

As god says in the Quran,

“Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (Chapter 40 (Ghafir/Forgiver), Verse 6)

In these last few days of the blessed month, we ask god to bless us and you with a good year ahead filled with knowledge, clarity, inner and outer (reflecting inner) peace.

* Yusuf, Hamza, 2005, Generous Tolerance in Islam and its Effects on the Life of a Muslim. Seasons, Spring – Summer 2005 Issue, pp. 26 – 42 [Online]
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26 Ramadan 2012: Times of the Brand

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you noticed the vast number of advertising or company slogans, accomplishments and press releases, new products, companies, highly popular people who are popping up everywhere? We try to give all the benefit of doubt focusing on the positives or at least, being neutral. Over time however, we found that this is worth a thought and we like to refer to it as the times of the brand.

Brands, be it symbols, slogans or persons, obviously bring across the right feelings, reactions and become representative of the concepts at hand signifying the beneficiaries themselves, i.e. the concept that a brand embodies the person. People recognise and affiliate with them. However, they also hold a high responsibility towards people who hold them in high regard including and not limited to companies, products, authorities, bodies, institutions, or persons. The issue is that as brands take a higher precedence, quality has taken an opposite turn, and instead of focusing on beneficiaries, the focus is on profit and loss, popularity, perception and competition.

Our fear is that unless one really sees, one will be dragged into the chaos and superficiality of it all when completing a service, buying a product, setting up a business, meeting people, etc… which not only misleads one in terms of worth and value, but also may bring along unfairness and a perception of ease or difficulty to people with dreams and goals leading to either unnecessary losses or hesitation to do something good.

May god give us the ability to see beyond brands and use whatever talents and capabilities we have to build and innovate businesses, products and processes … with a focus on people … for the benefit of people … by the best yet most humble people.

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25 Ramadan 2012: Worth a Thought

Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance. – Brian Tracy

This post was a tricky one for us, we like to call it … efficiency and effectiveness… Our thoughts in summary.

In life, there are things that:

  • we must do, we call these survival basics                                     (1)
  • we should do, we call these morality and spiritual basics               (2)
  • we like to do, we call these dreams, interests and hobbies             (3)
  • we think we must or should or like to do, we call these luxuries   (4)

So survival basics are clear: food, water, safety, and housing directly proportional to income and benefits. Morality and spiritual basics are related to manners, compassion, the permissible and non-permissible. Dreams, interests and hobbies are related to what we do with the extra time we have hoping that it adds inspiration to ourselves and others, betters our quality of life, and increases our knowledge. So now, the luxuries.

Let us first give you some definitions:

  • Life Efficiency: doing as many good things as possible with the short time given to us on earth
  • Life Effectiveness: when the benefits of actions and thoughts outweigh the costs
  • Benefits: Positive life impact, in terms of time, money and emotional well-being / inner peace
  • Costs: Effort, in terms of time, money and emotional well-being / inner peace

We called them luxuries because, in terms of both life efficiency and effectiveness, they are not aligned with the overall natural movement in life. We are talking about acute approaches in life whether it is in food, morality, spirituality, dreams, interests and hobbies. Don’t get us wrong, we are not judging them as right or wrong, we are just wondering if their benefits outweigh their costs and if they should then be avoided.

As an example, we take vegetarianism (by choice) … we have tried it before and it is NOT easy. The changes one has to make and the major accommodations that one has to succumb to just don’t add up and we found ourselves moving away from life efficiency and effectiveness. Another example would be environmental awareness and earth friendliness. Again, we recycle and we try to buy earth friendly products, but only when and if available and easily accessible. We found that otherwise, the benefits just don’t outweigh the costs (after personal analysis) especially (excuse us for saying this) opting for natural diapers for babies or walking in extreme cold or heat to work ?!?!

Unfortunately, we are not in a place to outright judge, nor do we want to, but we really must reflect on this because it seems that some, including us, focus on the luxuries and feel like we are making a difference in our lives and others’ while in reality, the world’s people (who have a right on us) are hungry, thirsty, cold and living in distress.

So the question is, are luxuries worth the effort taken away from survival, morality and interests or even helping others? And if yes, how do we know? And which of the three pillars would they fall under or would they be a separate ‘life’ pillar altogether?

We put this question out there and hope that we get an answer in these blessed days.

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24 Ramadan 2012: Just do

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give. – Eleanor Roosevelt

At the end of the day, it is the only thing that we can do: do our best and let it go.

We used to confuse reliance on god as a way to do what was clear to us and say ‘oh god, please help … we are waiting…’. However, over time we realized that we must do our best in whatever situation that comes our way because otherwise we will always wonder, what if we did this or that? or we would have this nagging gut feel that says, ‘you didn’t do your best’! So doing our best gives us half the peace as we seek ways, knowledge and information to deal with what comes our direction, i.e. life.

The other half of inner peace is related to the reliance on god. The prophet PBUH said:

If you all depend on Allah (god) with due reliance, He would certainly give you provision as He gives it to the birds who go forth hungry in the morning and return with full bellies at dusk. *

We don’t believe we need to add anymore to this perfect saying and instead say, inner peace cannot come with one or the other, we need both – doing our best and relying on god.

May god remind us of this whenever we face life situations that seem too difficult to deal with.

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*  At-Tirmidhi

23 Ramadan 2012: Thirds

A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one. – Rita Mae Brown

We face major and critical decisions quite often in our lives that pull us in two different directions. We have talked about this in a few of our previous posts directly or indirectly, however, its’ resurfacing in our practical life alerts us that we must deal with it again before the month is over.

There is the first standard case where hesitancy is due to missing information we have at hand to decide on the road that brings us closer to god which also results in the greatest goodness for ourselves (life and hereafter) and more generally, humanity.

The second case that we came to realize is one where hesitancy is present because of an incomplete decision ‘package’ at hand. In other words, instead of pondering over two roads for a decision, we need to be able to recognize that there is always a third option that combines the two and hence, becomes the decision itself.

We ask god to grant us the ability to ‘see’, assess, and accept the roads that are provided to us in our lives and remain open-minded to those ‘thirds’.

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22 Ramadan 2012: In us … Around us

Negativity sucks away energy. If part of the negativity stems from your attitude or perspective, commit yourself at the beginning of each day and each activity to find something positive in yourself and in others around you. If the people around you are negative and you can’t change that, either remove yourself from the situation or view it simply as one obstacle you face in pursuing your own potential. Stay focused on your own goals and make the best of the situation. – Terry Orlick

The quote above says it all, with a ‘footnote’.

We have faced negativity within us in the past as a reason to halt good ideas or actions we had. However, sometimes we found ourselves confusing lack of preparation, genuineness and/or intention with negativity (fear of the unknown and lack of dependence on god). The risk is that we sometimes tell ourselves that it is simply negativity when in fact, we needed additional work or soul-searching before making a mistake or taking a wrong turn.

Same thing goes for negativity around us. We found ourselves at times confusing confident, genuine advice AND foresight with negativity (low self-esteem or limited experiences and foresight) from others. Yes, language has a lot to do with it but we found that what is important is to actively listen and distinguish between the two as we might miss a learning that would greatly benefit us.

Ultimately, we wonder if initially assuming preparation and genuine advice is a better risk management tool as opposed to leaning on negativity in the first instance? It then comes down to knowing ourselves and others in a way that is non-judgmental and with goodness with a focus on ensuring that ideas and actions are clearly intentioned and lead to goodness for both ourselves and others.

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21 Ramadan 2012: Clarity

That’s the way things come clear – all of a sudden. Then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along. – Madeline L’Engle

Our search so far has been focused on the ‘how’ of inner peace and today, we decided to look at it from a different perspective, the perspective of ‘when’, i.e. when do we know we are there.

Our thought process went as follows:

When do we know we have inner peace?

… When things and matters around us become clear.

When do we know we have sustainable inner peace?

… When irrespective of how difficult or complex things or matters get, we establish clarity.

When do we know that we have established clarity?

… When we deal with decisions and situations in a systematic, courageous, patient and calm manner.

When do we know we are dealing with decisions and situations in the systematic manner above?

… When the frame of reference is known, priority in life is clear, and optimum knowledge is in our hands.

When do we know all these things?

… When we know who we are, why we are here and reflect (both heart and mind) on all things around us.

What seems to have happened is that there is somehow a draft definition of what sustainable inner peace is … it is when we know who we are, why we are here and reflect on all things around us irrespective of how difficult or complex things or matters get. 

We are curious to see how this aligns with what we end up with at the end of the blessed month.

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