RUSH TO SUCCESS

by Faraz Baig

You have a huge project due at the end of the year. I mean, a huuuuge project. Everything is riding on it. Every student either A) will have all their dreams come true or B) will experience extreme pain and disappointment.

There is no choice C.

After you turn your project in, the day arrives when the teacher passes out your grades. And boy, is it nerve-racking! You can literally feel the tension and anxiety in the classroom. Everyone’s fretting about all the different ways they may have messed up. There are so many different ways you could have made errors!

“Did I have enough content?”

“Did I have all the sections the teacher wanted?”

“Were all my facts correct?”

“What about spelling and grammar?”

“What about formatting?”

And on and on and on.

The point here with this hypothetical story is that when we’re facing an important audit/evaluation, we become terrified of even the smallest details because we start to realize the consequences of messing them up.

This hypothetical story is a very small glimpse of what people will feel like on the Day of Judgment. Obviously, nothing in this life compares to the Day of Judgment (or even comes remotely close for that matter). But the story above at least starts to illustrate our mindset in the face of a serious audit.

Of course, on the Day of Judgment, the stakes are as high as they could possibly be. We’ll be audited on our entire lives. Literally everything we did will be recorded and presented to us. The smallest of deeds will be recorded for us. Can you imagine how nervous every one of us will feel, with our eternal home at stake?

This raises an important question: if we know this Day is coming, what are some good ways to prepare? With allllllll the different material out there to learn, where exactly should I start?

Obviously, there are many actions we can take to prepare. But for a good starting point, what if I told you there’s an action that literally anybody is capable of doing, and yet, despite its mind-blowing simplicity, it’s powerful enough to single-handedly swing things in our favor on the Day of Judgment?

Sound too good to be true? Good news: it is true…there is such an act.

What is this act? It is none other than prayer.

The Prophet (SAW) said that “The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” (al-Tabarani. Classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albani).

And the more you think about it, the more it makes sense! Prayer is, after all, the second pillar of Islam, right after the shahada. It’s a good reflection of our shahada. If one believes Allah is the only being worthy of worship, then one will understand the importance of connecting with Allah. Prayer gives us the chance to connect and have a one-on-one dialogue with Allah.

Additionally, the quality of our prayers is directly related to our other actions. When the quality of our prayers increases, the other actions follow suit. Allah tells us in Surah 29, Verse 45 that “Indeed, prayer prohibits shamelessness and wrongdoing.”

This isn’t to say that you’ll become completely perfect since we are humans after all. But at least if one is able to stand before Allah and sincerely praise Him, glorify Him, ask Him for His help, then it stands to reason that this person probably won’t go around openly committing sins. And if the person falls into sins by mistake, he/she will have the proper attitude toward the sin and will repent.

The Prophet (SAW) also said that “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any filth left on him?” The people said, “No filth would remain on him whatsoever.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: Allah wipes away the sins by them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

There is a lot in the Quran and the Hadith literature about the merits of prayer. It’s pretty amazing how powerful this simple action can be. But note that the Shaytan realizes how powerful this action is, and that’s why he does everything he can to either A) keep us away from prayer altogether or B) cause our minds to wander during prayer.

Just remember: Allah doesn’t ask us to do anything we are incapable of. So even if it’s a struggle, Allah will certainly help us out if we put forth a sincere and honest effort. As long as the actions are done solely for Allah’s pleasure, there is a tremendous reward. With prayers, the Prophet (SAW) said that “Allah has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their ablutions, prays them in their proper times, completes their bows, prostrations and khushu’, has a promise from Allah that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allah. He may either forgive him or punish him.” (Malik, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and al-Nasa’I. Classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albani.)

And Allah knows best.

Hope everyone has a great week inshaAllah.

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Anger: What is it and what can I do about it?!

by Sarah Ahmed

We often hear that anger is bad, we shouldn’t get angry, and sometimes even that it’s haram. But is it really? According to Imam Ghazali the purpose of anger is to protect us from harm. We get angry because we care. Think about it. What kinds of things do you get angry about? If some kid at school hits our little brother, we get angry. If someone says something hurtful to us, we get angry. And on a more global scale, when a government or organization harms a group of people, we get angry. Anger enables us to protect ourselves, to care for our loved ones, to uphold justice. Without anger, the word would be completely corrupt and nobody would stand up against oppression. Something that’s pretty cool is that psychologists today actually agree with Islamic scholars, that anger isn’t only negative. They say that we need it to achieve our goals, get things done, motivate ourselves, and address conflicts and injustices.

But if anger is important, then why does everyone say it’s bad? Well, there are different kinds and levels of anger.

Imam Ghazali’s 3 Degrees of Anger:

  • Too little:
    We don’t care anymore and we aren’t moved anymore. For example, our classmate at school keeps insulting and bullying our best friend. If we didn’t feel the emotion of anger, what would we do? Probably just stand there, watch, and let it happen. Anger would be good in this situation if it got us to stand up for our friend…for justice.
  • Too much:
    When anger is too much, it dominates and controls our actions. We no longer follow logic, intellect, and lose our freedom of choice. We get in this zone where we most likely will do something that we’ll regret. Something like punching a hole in the wall that we’ll have to fix later, breaking something valuable, or saying hurtful things to our loved ones that we’ll definitely regret.
  • Just right:
    This is the one that is balanced and in moderation. When anger is balanced and in moderation, we take enough action to make positive changes without letting it control our actions. This is the one that will help us stay on the straight path and will keep us physically happy. Kind of like Goldilocks in The Story of the Three Bears, this is what we are looking for.

That second one is the one that most of us struggle with: too much anger. What’s great is that it is something we can control. “Scholars have likened anger to a hunting dog: without training, it will never retrieve what its owner needs nor will it point a person in the right direction.”

Anger, the Brain, and Adolescence 

But where does that untrained hunting dog come from? Here’s a short video that shows you what’s happening in your brain when you’re feeling emotions (anger is an emotion!).

Something interesting is that what happens in the brain kind of works differently in adolescence than it does at other stages our lives. During your adolescent years (from 12 to 24) is that your brain changes, it builds itself. Because of all the wiring and rewiring and growing and changing that occurs during adolescence, the amygdala (emotion part of your brain) is a lot more active than it is during childhood and adulthood. In his book about the teenage brain, Dan Siegel talks about how there are two different routes that information is sent to the amygdala. One is fast and one is slow. Studies have shown that when people are calm, teenagers mostly use the faster route to the amygdala and adults use the slower one. The amygdala is activated faster in teens than in adults. What does that mean? It means that when you’re feeling any kind of emotion, such as anger, you’re likely to feel it a lot faster and more rapidly than an adult would.

Here are some (definitely not all) things we can do when that amygdala starts acting like an untrained dog: 

Say a’udhu billahi min ash shaytanir rajim. I seek Allah’s protection/refuge/shelter from Shaytan, the accursed one. Say this with the intention to control your anger, to bring Allah into the picture, and kick Shaytan out!

If you’re standing, sit down. If you’re sitting, lay down. By doing this, you’ll remove yourself from the position in which you are capable of attacking the person you’re mad at.

Make wudu. Washing yourself with water, especially cool water, will cool you down and give you an opportunity to remove yourself from the situation. The act of wudu itself also brings blessings from Allah and protects you from Shaytan.

Make ghusl. Take a shower. This is the same concept as wudu. The water cools you down and removes you from the situation that angered you. Again, it’ll work even better if you shower with cold water.

Take a break from whatever you’re doing. Leave that situation. If you can’t actually leave, you could imagine yourself in your “happy place.” Again, like making wudu and showering, you’re leaving the situation and giving yourself space from the conflict.

Keep silent. Keeping silent will prevent you from saying things you’ll regret once the anger is gone. This not only will help you cool down, but it will also give the other person space to do so as well.

Smile! It’s sunnah and it brings good fortune. Smiling while you’re angry sounds crazy and slightly impossible, but that’s why it works! Sometimes when I’m angry around my mom, she’ll pull out her phone and take a picture of me, and then show me. My face always looks so ridiculous in that angry picture, that I start laughing. And as crazy as it sounds, that laughter and humor actually takes the anger away.

Physical activity. Exercise helps release those all the endorphins in your body and gives your body a physical way to get that anger out of your system. Go on a run, go lift, punch a heavy bag, do some yoga, or whatever it is that you like best. This is the one that works best for me. When I’m angry, I leave the situation and go on a run. It gives me thinking time, while letting out the anger physically. It’s funny, because if I ever go on a run in the middle of a heated argument with my little brother, I’ll come back refreshed and happy while he’s sitting there still steaming in anger.

This list definitely does not cover everything that can possibly be done to cool down your anger. What are some things that have worked for you? Share in the comments below!

If Today Was Your Last Day

by Safiya Arif

[2;156]

“Surely we belong to Allah, and surely to Him we will return.” [2:156]

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon.

It’s what we say after we find out someone has passed away. A relative, a neighbor, a friend. We’ve all been there, we’ve all known someone or heard of someone who has passed away.

While we mourn and pay our respects, it’s important for us to realize the meaning of our words. “Surely we belong to Allah, and surely to Him we will return.” We… that means you and I.

Today could be your last day. Tomorrow I may not be here.

Sometimes when we hear about death we forget that one day we’re going to face it too. We think of it as something in the distant future, something we don’t have to worry about until we’re old or sick. We fall asleep every night with so much confidence that we’ll wake up the next day. We leave our homes without considering the possibility that we won’t return. We assume that we have years and years to live. The reality is, however, that the time we’re given is not our own. It is up to Allah swt to decide how long we live and when we die. And we forget that every day we are alive, we are only getting closer to death.

In the Qur’an, Allah swt says:

Every Soul

“Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.” [21:35]

How many times have we said or heard something along the lines of “I’ll start praying fajr when I get to college,” or “I’ll spend more time with my parents when I’m older.” We are so caught up in this dunya that we forget to prepare for our akhirah. But take a couple minutes to think about it… What if today was your last day? Are you happy with the path that you’re on? Will people remember you as a good person? Are you content with the deeds you’ve done? Have you repented for your all of your sins? Are you ready to face Your Creator?

Abdullah ibn Umar (R) used to say, “In the evening do not expect [to live until] the morning, and in the morning do not expect [to live until] the evening. Take [advantage of] your health before times of sickness, and [take advantage of] your life before your death.”

We’ve all heard the cliche… “Live each day like it’s your last.” It’s time we start realizing that there’s great truth to it, it’s time we start following it. We don’t know how much longer we have to live, but while we’re here we should be preparing for our deaths. We should be striving to get to Jannah. If you don’t like the person you’re becoming, now is the time to change. Now is the time to do as many good deeds as you possibly can and repent for any sins you have committed. And when I say now, I mean start now and continue for the rest of your life, however long or short Allah swt wills it to be.

“Perfection is not demanded of us. But sincerity, integrity, honesty, and our best effort is what Allah swt and His messenger (S) have asked of us.” – Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda

May Allah swt put barakah into our lives so that we may please Him as we strive toward Him. May He keep us on the right path until our deaths, and allow us to leave this world with His name as our final words. May He protect us from the punishment of the grave and grant us homes in the highest of Jannahs. Ameen.

I want to leave you with this video of Boonaa Mohammed reciting his famous piece, “Too Late” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YZC10liKMg). As always, please feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below!

Love Your Parents

by Sara Fadlalla

Who are some of the only people who have known you for your entire life, who love you more than anyone else, and whose happiness will get you into Jannah? Your parents! The importance of parents is stressed throughout Islam, and respecting our parents is one of the most important things we can do in order to get into Jannah.

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said, “The pleasure of the Lord lies in the pleasure of the parent. The anger of the Lord lies in the anger of the parent.”

Although the pleasure of the parent is critical for our entrance into Jannah, so many times we forget and feel like “our parents don’t get it” or what they say is “so unfair,” but remembering the previous hadith and the ones I will add in this post should always be held as crucial tenants to our inner Iman, or faith.

Ibn ‘Abbas said, “If any Muslim obeys Allah regarding his parents, Allah will open two gates of the Garden for him. If there is only one parent, then one gate will be opened. If one of them is angry, then Allah will not be pleased with him until that parent is pleased with him.” He was asked, “Even if they wrong him?” “Even if they wrong him” he replied.

This hadith is very important in driving home just how ingrained respect for our parents is in our entrance into Jannah. Remembering that even when we think “that was so unfair” that Allah (Swt) still holds our parents’ pleasure higher than our feeling wronged or “unfairly” treated by our parents. Building a relationship with our parents is one way to avoid feeling unfairly treated. I learned over the years that when something at face value felt unfair, understanding the reasoning my parents had behind their decision made that feeling of unfairness completely disappear, and in turn results in a stronger relationship with your parents and a stronger relationship with Allah (Swt).

This next hadith is one of my favorites:

Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Three supplications are answered without a doubt: the supplication of someone who is oppressed, the supplication of someone on a journey, and the supplication of parents for their children.”

Even if the pleasure of Allah (Swt) and the pleasure of our parents is not enough to get us to respect and honor our parents, this hadith about whose du’a is answered should be even more reason to respect and honor our parents. The du’a of a mother and father for their children is undoubtedly answered, so not only can we trust our parents having the best intentions for us, we can then believe that Allah (Swt) will grant what is best for us.

Remembering these few ahadith about parents and loving and respecting them definitely should help us keep in mind that all that they want for us is the best and Allah (Swt) likewise places importance on our parents, so we most certainly should too. Love your parents, and always pray for them and inshaAllah Allah (Swt) protects them and us in this and the next life! Ameen!

Tawbah

by Amina Ashraf

Ahmed is a very practicing Muslim. He prays on time every day, goes to the masjid regularly, and volunteers at the Sunday School. But he has a problem with backbiting about his friends. He knows it’s not allowed, but he just can’t seem to stop. Whenever he feels guilty about it, a voice whispers, “You’re such a hypocrite! You feel guilty about backbiting and you still pray! Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself? Allah will never forgive a hypocrite like you.” That voice makes him feel like he’s not good enough to even pray, so sometimes he wonders if he should.

‘Abdullah is an average Muslim. He goes to the masjid during Ramadan and prays once in a while. He enjoys hanging out with friends on the weekends at the club and having a few drinks. Whenever his parents try to get him to quit these activities, he responds with: “There are Muslims who are killing people, committing zina and never pray. At least I pray, okay? Allah is the Most-Forgiving, so stop making it into a big deal!”

The conflicts Ahmed and ‘Abdullah are facing are very common among many Muslims. The solution lies in their thinking processes. As Muslims, we have to remember to stay balanced. In Ahmed’s case, he needs to stop focusing on how great the sin is and remember that Allah’s Mercy is greater. Allah tells us in the Quran:

Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” Qur’an (39:53)

You see, it’s never too late to ask forgiveness (unless you’re dead).

Anas Bin Malik [رضى الله عنه] narrated: “I heard the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] say, “Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.” [Al-Tirmidhi, no. 3608]

Shaytan wants you to feel hopeless so that you’ll never ask for forgiveness and delve even deeper into sin without realizing it.

On the other hand, we have ‘Abdullah. He needs to remember not to view his sins as small and insignificant, but rather think of the Greatness of the One he is sinning against! It reminds me of the following hadith:

Abdullah bin Masood [رضى الله عنه] said, “The believer regards his sin as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears may fall on him; whereas the sinner regards his sin as if a fly lands on his nose and he wipes it away.” [Mishkat and Sahih Bukhari]

It’s important to reflect on the difference between Iblees versus Adam (AS) and Hawa. Iblees was a devout servant to Allah, but when he was ordered to bow down to Adam (AS), his pride wouldn’t allow it. Instead of repenting, he showed more arrogance thinking he was greater than Adam (AS). Adam (AS) and Hawa also sinned, but unlike Iblees, they repented to Allah. One gets kicked out of Jannah and is cursed for eternity, the other two are able to work their way back to Jannah and are honored throughout history!

Now that we’ve seen the two extremes and how important it is to be balanced, let’s learn of the requirements of making repentance. You mean saying “astaghfur Allah” is not enough? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. There are actually four steps for repentance (and an additional fifth step, if it applies):

  1. Stop the sin.
  2. Regret deeply and truly for the sin you committed.
  3. Return to Allah and ask for forgiveness.
  4. Make a strong, sincere intention never to return to that same sin again.
  5. Return the dues to the one who was wronged or offer expiation for that sin.

Another action you can take after sinning is doing a good deed. Alhumdulilah Allah is so Merciful that He counts good deeds at least ten times and a sin only once. An authentic Hadith reported by Imam Abu Dawod that the prophet (S.A.W.) said: “If a servant does a bad deed, then he makes a good wudu, and pray two Rak’ahs and seek Allah’s forgiveness, then Allah will forgive him.” Ibn Abbas, radiyallahu ‘anhu, reported that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, related from his Lord (glorified and exalted be He):

“Verily Allah has recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds.” Then he clarified that: “Whosoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it with Himself as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred times, or more than that. But if he intends to do an evil deed and does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it down as one single evil deed.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

So next time you find yourself veering towards one of the extremes like Ahmed and ‘Abdullah, remember that this is a ploy from Shaytan. You can respond to him by yelling, “I know what you’re up to, you devil!” but be sure no one else is around, or they’ll think you’re crazy. Try following the steps and follow it up with a good deed and in sha Allah you’ll be forgiven!