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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Through salvation our past is forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured – Rick Warren
For some reason this year, I needed to step back a bit and truly reflect on what it means to be in the last third of this blessed month, the third of salvation. What is salvation and why is it important?
In the Oxford Dictionary, salvation is the act of being saved from harm and all its related synonyms – infliction, loss, ruin, wrong, hurt, ill, etc. This implies that salvation is important because we are saved or protected from some harm. The question is though, what is this harm?
We can look at it from two perspectives driven by where the harm is; our lives or after-life.
We seek salvation from harm in this life by seeking that which benefits us be it knowledge and opportunities and build a shield of strength by working on our character and building our resilience. We seek salvation from harm in the after-life by seeking that which benefits us be it good deeds and belief, and build a shield of strength by thinking good of god and seeking his love.
I ask god to give us the energy, the blessings and positivity in these last 10 days to ask for:
- knowledge and goodness in our lives throughout the next year and all our lives;
- acceptance of the means and situations that strengthen our character and resilience in life;
- energy and drive to do good especially in our own areas of talent and strengths; and
- unwavering faith in god, his love and mercy.
It is with sadness that we realise that this month is now closer to the finish than the start, but we also thank god that we have reached this far and that there are still 9 or 10 days for making this the greatest Ramadan ever connecting with our deeper selves and the greatest of lords.
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Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it … This will miraculously transform your whole life – Eckhart Tolle
Acceptance may not necessarily point to an end state, but it could also be the starting state when dealing with hardship.
We actually have a similar concept in our faith where when one faces a calamity or receives bad news or is shocked with an unexpected hardship, he or she must first say that “we all belong to god and to him we shall return” and then deal with the pain that comes with it. The faster someone says this, the greater the chances are that he or she will be able to deal with the hardship, in other words, they accept the hardship first and then move accordingly to resolve related issues.
Imagine the opposite case when one first gets shocked, gets sad, gets confused and tries hard to deal with the hardship and to eventually accept it. Much energy is wasted on something that is what it is, so one might as well accept it first and then calmly think about what needs to be done to ease it and hopefully resolve it.
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The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. – C.G. Jung
We can’t talk about acceptance and not look inward.
I believe in continuous and never-ending self-improvement, however, what I have come to discover in the past year is that the negative aspects in our lives are but manifestations of not accepting oneself and making continuous and never-ending self-improvement focused on making our surroundings more conducive for who we are.
Let me explain.
The lazy teenager is not lazy, they are not aware of, and not embracing, the unique strengths they have and setting out to bring those out as opposed to their weaknesses.
The rude neighbour next door is not rude, she just does not know how to assert her needs for a comfortable and clean building as others leave their garbage in the hallway or play loud music late at night.
The quiet and shy colleague is not arrogant, he just values introspection and has a difficult time pursuing and participating in small talk.
So in these three examples, more often than not, the teenager, neighbour and colleague all know what others think of them, and often adopt one of two approaches; they either enter into a never-ending struggle to be someone they are not, or embrace who they are and aggressively challenge the whole world around them. In both cases, these are manifestations of not accepting oneself.
In this post, I ask god to give us the strength and means to recognise and understand who we are, accept it, and then focus on a never-ending and continuous journey of improving our surroundings to give the best of ourselves to the world around us.
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Life’s up and down from the time you get here to the time you leave – Luke Bryan
There are three basic realities that make acceptance easier:
- We are all here for a limited time and we don’t know if that time is short or long, all we know is that it eventually ends. So the question becomes … would I rather spend it accepting things I cannot change or focus on the good things that I can?
- We have some good days and we have some bad days. We have some tough teammates and some awesome ones. We have good, and bad, hair days. Some days we feel we can do anything and on others, we wonder where the *&^% are we heading? Some days we feel nothing can stop us, and on others, we are sensitive to every word, every look, and every gesture.
- We absolutely can never predict the future. We can think of likelihood and possibilities. We can think of cause and effect. We can think of risks and coincidences, but no matter how hard we think, analyse or squeeze our brains, we won’t be able to predict the future.
With these three realities one does start to see life as a ferris wheel, it goes up and down, round and round. Sometimes we wait in one spot longer than others as others are embarking or leaving cars. We often ride a ferris wheel assuming no malfunction would occur trusting others to have tested or maintained the ride, we just let go of control.
So then … again, why don’t we just go with the “ride“?
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The only thing that we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt
I don’t believe there was a single ramadan, in Ramadan Living’s history, where I did not dedicate a post to fear. I don’t do it because I plan it that way, I do it because it always comes up, directly or indirectly, and I am not surprised.
Fear can be legitimate. Without fear, we don’t know how to make wise choices in protecting ourselves, our rights, our safety, our families and loved ones. However, fear can also be at the root of why we don’t embrace acceptance often based on an illegitimate fear of the future.
It is illegitimate because it is often negative and perceived to be done onto us in the future and not within our control. As a scholar once said, the fear of disease, is a worse disease. The fear of poverty, is poverty in itself. The fear of what people could do to you is far greater than what they can possibly do. The fear of death, is death itself.
This illegitimate fear robs us of happiness and acceptance of where we are today. This illegitimate fear robs us of the opportunity to consciously take steps and make practical decisions protecting ourselves from the negatives that might materialise if these things do happen in the future, i.e. a legitimate fear. More importantly, these illegitimate fears prevent us from embracing opportunities that come our way while we are focused on things that may or may not happen.
A saying I always liked, “we shall cross that bridge when we get there” … may god give us the ability to recognise illegitimate fears and be strong when we approach “that bridge”.
For now … just breathe.
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A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough – Bruce Lee
It only took a couple of hours after yesterday’s post for me to be tested in a situation where someone was completely and absolutely … most likely unknowingly … rude. It was a strange experience, in the tight confines of an elevator, and it caught me by so much surprise, I could not but utter a few words under my breath, which I rarely ever do!
I was tested in a situation where I had no option but to travel, even if temporarily, with this complete stranger who had no idea that they had just triggered my natural fight or flight response. Soon enough however, I realised that those few words under my breath had not made any difference to the situation and I probably looked strange, if not equally rude, doing it. It was an unnecessary negative reaction in the holy month that neither led to a change in a situation nor, more importantly, did it bring me closer to god; on the contrary, and despite the simple situation, it went against the spirit of the holy month.
Quickly, and practically, god had provided me with an opportunity to realise that acceptance manifests itself even in our reactions to simple annoyances and in managing our tempers.
May god give us the wisdom and strength to manage our tempers in the rare big moments and the more regular small moments.
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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself ― Leo Tolstoy
In the past year, I have learned that part of acceptance is realising that the only thing that one can truly change is oneself.
While I can genuinely try to change my surrounding reality when maneuvering through the interesting challenges of life, I figured that it was more worth while to think about the options I had within my surrounding reality and work with them instead of holding expectations of change in others and what I now label as “trying too hard”.
So instead of asking how I can change a person or group of people in a particular task, place or situation, I now try to shift my view to what my role is, and related options are, in the change I seek in the task, place or situation that is bothering me.
Having said that, and in a lot of cases, change in others is key to the change in task, place or situation, and this is where acceptance and patience would be more befitting especially when the task, place or situation have a more significant purpose and benefit.
I ask god to give us the ability to shift our view from others to ourselves.
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In my deepest, darkest moments, what really got me through was a prayer. Sometimes my prayer was ‘Help me.’ Sometimes a prayer was ‘Thank you.’ What I’ve discovered is that intimate connection and communication with my creator will always get me through because I know my support, my help, is just a prayer away. – Iyanla Vanzant
In these last 48 to possibly 72 hours of this blessed month, I urge myself and others to focus on asking god to help us find a way out of our challenges, bring us more of what blessings we seek and help us get closer to his mercy, wisdom and love.
Prayer is so powerful when done right; with honesty, goodness, purity of heart and intentions, along with a sense of certainty that our prayers will be answered.
Prayer through remembrance brings us closer to our creator, transcending all moments of despair as we reflect on god’s attributes and names.
Find a quiet space and focus on reaching as far up as possible with your soul and heart … ask him for peace, acceptance and tranquility within your heart that you can take with you everywhere you go and in every situation you encounter.
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Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. ― Harvey Fierstein
As a follow-on to my previous post about sources of despair that are form within, the second one is not being who you are.
By not being who you are, you are denying yourself tasks that you feel closely align with your strengths. By not being who you are, you are denying yourself a long term dream and goal that is befitting to how you are meant to make an impact in the limited time you have on earth. By not being who you are, you are not receiving words of encouragement and support from those who truly care about your well-being and success.
This causes one to despair because one often finds themselves uncomfortable and restless for reasons that may not be clear leading to underachievement, productivity and personal satisfaction.
So, be who you are. Speak up. Hang out with people who are giving. Dream big and dream far.
In whatever job or situation you are in, actively work on moving into something that more closely aligns with your god-given strengths and don’t let external factors or circumstances make you give up on that. These circumstances may delay your plans, but don’t give up on them!
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