Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Anger Management- Take it Easy!

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Imagine this scenario of a family with teens: Everyone is having a normal discussion. Disagreements occur. Voices are raised. Shouting, yelling. Someone (i.e. teenager) gets up and storms out of the room. The grand finale: the rest cringe as they hear the loud slamming of a door. 

How many times have there been that we regretted saying something to our loved ones out of mere anger. No, it wasn't such a big issue or concern. Yes, the matter could have been explained in a gentle manner with dignity. No, it wasn't due to some legitimate reason. 

"But I was just angry at the time. I was having a bad day. Just lost control for a bit".

Losing your temper is not a petty issue. It is stated in a hadith that, "Anger ruins faith just as the aloe plant ruins honey". While faith is sweet, anger is bitter. When a person is angry the inner peace in their mind is lost, and ibadah cannot be done with devotion. People need to realize that this is a trait which needs to be controlled so that they can be a source of mercy to others in this world, and so that Allah's Mercy can encompass them in the Afterlife, inshaAllah. In another hadith it is mentioned, "Strength is not throwing someone to the ground, but it is controlling the nafs when angry". 

We need to realize the gravity of the situation when we speak. We need to remember that we are accountable for everything that we say and do. A man may throw a fit some day and utter three words to his wife out of rage, thereby divorcing her. They could be otherwise a very loving couple but the husband could have been "having a rough day" and couldn't control himself. 

Why is it that in Islam we can get married just by saying some words, and getting divorced is just as simple? It is so that we understand that the words uttered from our mouth carry a great weight. We don't get time off from being accountable when we're angry. Not only will our anger affect our deeds but also our relationship with those around us. Relationships fall apart and respect for a person is lost. 

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There are some remedies that we have been taught in Islam about how to control our anger:

Active remedies: 
(i) Keeping quiet. Instead of venting out your feelings while you're angry and thereby possibly saying something that hurts others, try to diffuse the situation and fix it when your anger has subsided. 
(ii) Change your position/location. If you are standing, then sit down, and if you are sitting, then lie down. When a person becomes closer to the earth it increases humility. Another option is to excuse yourself and go to another room so that you can think things through. 
(iii) Make wudhu. Anger is fiery as it is from shaitaan, and water extinguishes fire. It will allow one to cool down. 
(iv) Pray and make dua. This also portrays humility. 
(v) Channel your negative energy into something positive. A lot of energy in a person's body can give him or her the ability to use it positively for doing things such as cleaning the room or other such chores. Imagine how pretty the world would be if everyone cleaned up when angry! :) Other options include exercising, going out for some fresh air, or simply listening to the Quran to cool your mind. 

Verbal remedies: 
(i) Say "ta'awudh" to seek refuge from shaitaan. "Aa'udhu billahi mina alshaitaani rajeem" - [I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed shaitaan]
(ii) Say "La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah" -[ There is no power and strength except with Allah (SWT)]
(iii) Recite the durood shareef. This will allow Allah (SWT)'s mercy to be bestowed upon a person. 

Mental remedies: 
(i) Ponder on the mercy and anger of Allah (SWT). If you show mercy to others in this world, Allah will bestow His mercy upon you on the Day of Judgment. Before getting so upset at someone, think of what it would be like if Allah got upset at you. 
(ii) Think, is it really worth it? Life is so short and we waste time on so many petty issues. Focus on your main goal in life, which is the pleasure of Allah (SWT). Thinking of death often also humbles a person. With these things in mind, almost any issue over which a fuss is being created will seem pointless. 

Having said this, anger is not always a negative trait. A person can be angry at the right time and place with the right reason and intention. For training purposes, anger can be shown to children if they lie, for example. Anger can also be used constructively if it is controlled and used for human rights purposes, or to fight for one's dignity. 

If anger isn't used constructively, it will end up being used destructively. May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to control this trait carefully, Ameen. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reliance in Allah

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Malaysian weather is highly unpredictable. One minute it's bright and sunny and the next minute there's pouring rain, enough to drench you. It was just one of those days when we had gone to a picnic with a few families at the park. I sat in the car with my in-laws, waiting for the rain to stop as I watched droplets trickle down the window. We tried to pass time, as is the norm in tropical countries where it suddenly stops raining just like it started.

It was during this time that my father-in-law paraphrased a Quranic verse which made a life-changing impact on me. He was referring to the ayah in Surah Al Imraan, "They plan and Allah also plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” Although in the Quran this specific verse is spoken of in a different context, the overall concept is the same - Allah has control over all situations and we are not in control of everything. Things will not always go our way. This incident occurred over 4 years ago, and as life went on I came to realize that everything really does happen for a reason. It is just that we do not have the wisdom to realize this at the time of occurrence. More often than not we end up wondering, "Why did  this have to happen?" We also have a tendency to feel that the grass is greener on the other side. Whatever we have is not enough, and what others have is what we would like to have. We don't realize that we don't really know what issues are going on in other people's homes. Rather than desiring other people's blessings, we should strive to focus on our own and be content. 

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If life didn't have its ups and downs then it wouldn't be life. It is only when we come to understand that we don't have complete control over our lives will we have inner peace, and we do this through believing that Allah (SWT) is "faa'il haqeeqi", as He has absolute control over all things. We need to rely on Him in all aspects of life. Fate has already decided our health, wealth etc, but that doesn't mean that we don't need to make efforts for the betterment of our lives. For example, it is not practical to be a "couch potato" and sit around at home doing nothing and expecting there to be wealth coming to your house without a real job. A lot of hard work goes into searching for jobs and hard work needs to be done in order to get anywhere in life. Similarly, if someone's health is deteriorating they should make an effort to improve it by looking for cures and taking medicine. Allah helps those who make efforts to help themselves. However, we need to be content in our lives if we make the effort and it still doesn't work out. Because Allah is the best of planners.

An example of this is one that happened back in my high school days. Quite an embarrassing one, I must admit, but it will help get the point across, iA. We had moved countries right when I had to start 12th grade, and the school system was completely different from my old one. To top it off, I was forced to study for 11th and 12th grade Chemistry in less than a year. Let's just say Science is not my type of subject. Yet I would study day and night about electrochemistry, reaction kinetics, stoichiometry and other stuff I do not remember anymore at all :) Those were some tough days and I couldn't wait to go to university so that I could choose subjects that interest me; English Literature, Journalism, and other Humanities courses. So I studied and studied and made loads of dua that I pass Chemistry with great results and move on with life. But things didn't turn out the way I wanted at the end of the year. I got my results at the end of summer, and I passed Chemistry, but I had only just passed. The results weren't good. I was devastated, thinking about all of the hard work I put into one year of my life and yet I didn't get what I wanted. I didn't think about it too much though since I had scored well in English and Literature and wanted to focus on those things for my university which I would soon start. 
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As I went to university to declare my major, I told them I want to go into Humanities, while showing them my English results of the past 3 years. That's when something strange happened. They told me to get out my Science results, as they were more concerned with those. I showed it to them while they told me that if I had good Science results then I might have to join that major as this was a new policy for the semester. I'm not sure why it was like that, but I just remember being so thankful to Allah that day about getting mediocre grades so I could major in what I was passionate about! Allah truly knows everything, we just need to realize this and believe in His Will. I'm sure you all have stories like this as well about things not going as you had planned and then working out for the better!

If something doesn't go our way, it is natural to feel sad. The problem arises when this feeling of sadness lingers on for an extended period of time. Instead of pondering on the incident for too long, we should have immediate faith in Allah and ask Him to help us through with the situation. We could even make dua for thawaab stored for us on the Day of Judgement for being patient. The bottom line is that we need to always be grateful for whatever we have. If we are ungrateful, it is a sign that we think that Allah is unjust in His division of things to people. Thinking about the gravity of the situation will inshaAllah help us to avoid being ungrateful and envious of others. 

One step to increase our tawakkul or reliance in Allah includes giving charity. When we give charity we are giving up something for the sake of Allah. There are no immediate results of doing it, and this in turn leads to reliance in Allah. We also need to learn to increase our dua-making. In Islam we are taught to make dua even if something small happens, such as our shoelace breaks. Yet in this day and age people only turn to Allah when all other options fail and they don't have anywhere else to turn to. Turn to Allah even when you succeed. Make Allah your first option, not your last. 

May Allah (SWT) help us in increasing our tawakkul in Him and living a life of contentment, Ameen. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Mother's Dua

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There once was a little boy who lived in Saudi Arabia. He was around 2 years of age, and quite a naughty toddler, as they usually are! :) One day, his mother had made a big feast for guests that had come over. As is the custom in Arab countries, she set the food on the ground in a majlis type area, with different meals in each plate. When she left, the little boy was alone with the food and took the opportunity to put dirt in every single plate available. All of the food was wasted! The mother was infuriated. Most mothers would lose their tempers and yell meaningless words at the child, maybe even throw in a few swear words here or there. But not this mother. She did get mad, but her piety caused her to say, "May you be the imaam of this Ummah!!"

That little boy grew up to become Shaykh Sudais, the imaam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. :) SubhanAllah! The power of Dua!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moderation in Islam - Daily Lifestyle

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Despite popular belief portrayed by the media and what the society has been brainwashed to believe, there is no extremism in Islam. Perhaps the only extremism is that it is extremely moderate! What a minority group of Muslim does is a different story, and in no way portrays the teachings of Islam.

First, there are some major balances that need to be taken into consideration, such as the balance between this world and the aakhira. We can't take either of them to any extreme. This is similar to balance in Huquq Allah and Huquq al-Ibaad, which is balance between the rights of Allah and the rights of people. 

However, there are acts we carry out in our daily lives that we hardly ever think twice about. This article's focus will be on eating, sleeping, and talking in moderation. 


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There is a hadith in Tirmidhi which says, "The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls, to keep him going. If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air". 

The Prophet (SAW) never ate so much food as to make him overweight. He only ate enough to keep him going. It's obviously important to stay fit, but overeating is not a part of the Islamic lifestyle. One of my favorite quotes is, "you should eat to live, not live to eat!" While eating, we should make intention that we are consuming food so that we have energy to do good deeds, inshaAllah. Therefore we should not eat so little so that we do not have enough energy during the day.

Another important aspect is having a balanced diet. We shouldn't excessively be eating one type of food  because our body is in need of all nutrients. This is also a part of moderation.   


Decreasing food intake naturally elevates the soul, and eventually leads to less sleep. Haven't we felt that if we eat too much sometimes we end up feeling really sleepy? Frankly speaking, we don't have time to spend half of our lives sleeping. You see some of the youth today almost boasting about how they slept 12-15 hours straight. We need to realize that there is so much to do to achieve our Ultimate Goal, the Raza of Allah (SWT). This life is the only chance we've got. It isn't a PlayStation game where if we die once we automatically come back to life with a new chance. We have to take advantage of this one, precious life we have got, and not waste time. And in order to do this, we have to be awake and maximize our times.                                       

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Unless we learn how to sleep less, we won't be able to wake up for tahajjud prayers. Imagine how many opportunities in our lives we've missed to have this personal time with our Lord. And there is also, of course, the Fajr prayer, which is obligatory. Missing out on this is no joke. It is one of the 5 daily prayers that define us as Muslims, and the first question on the Day of Judgement will be about our prayers.

Sleeping too little, on the other hand, is also unhealthy. Allah (SWT) has said in the Quran, 
"And (We) have made the night as a covering. And (We) have made the day for livelihood" [78:10-11]. To maintain good health, we should sleep enough so that we can remain fit, but not excessively.                                                                                              

As a side note, there's also an issue of most people "sleeping it out" while fasting in Ramadan. This is such a blessed month that only comes around once a year. We are given, by the Mercy of Allah (SWT), multiple amounts of reward doing the same thing we do daily on other days. It is a kind of promotion. If ladies see a promotion going on in a mall they would rush to get the best deals. Why do we then back out when it comes to this promotion? We sleep in, waiting for iftaar time to arrive so that we can "dig in". May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to make extra prayers, do dhikr, read Quran, make duas and gain more knowledge in the blessed month of Ramadan from here on, inshaAllah. 


What we need to realize first and foremost is that everything we do is being recorded by the kiraman katibeen. These are the honorable recorders. We will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement for how we used each of our organs; eyes, ears, heart, tongues etc. We have to try and rectify each of these organs individually. 

The tongue is something we tend to overlook. Yet, it is especially dangerous. Imam Nawawi stated about the tongue that it is a "jirm sagheer, jurm kabeer" - small body part which can cause a lot of damage. 

The problem with the tongue is that it never gets tired. A person can't feel it if they are talking excessively. Another thing is that people usually don't think about what they're saying. There is a hadith that "whoever can guarantee me two organs - guarding what is between the jaws and what is between the legs, I will give him or her the guarantee of Jannah". Another hadith is narrated as follows: 

A person came to the Prophet (SAW) and said, "Inform me of one deed that will help me enter Jannah". The Rasul Allah (SAW) listed the 5 pillars of Islam, then asked, "Should I not guide you to the door of good?" He then began to state how "Fasting is a shield, zakat extinguishes mistakes (like water extinguishes fire)" and he went on until he said, "And the essence of everything I said: watch for this", he said as he (SAW) held his tongue. "There will be people who are thrown into Jahannum on their faces only because of the harvest of their tongue". 

The effects of our tongue are therefore extremely powerful, and can place us either in Jannah or Jahannum. By saying just the kalima, a person is considered a Muslim, one who submits to Allah. 

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We should also think about all of the things we have talked about to all sorts of people in our lives. We should ponder on our words, tone, attitude and content.  

Imam Nawawi gave some words of advice on this issue: 

i) Think before you speak. Ask yourself, "should I say it? What will the effect be? Will it hurt someone?"

ii) Think about, "If what I am saying is good, then is it correct? Will I be able to stand up for it in front of Allah?" An example of this is misquoting ayahs and hadith. This is a very dangerous thing to do, because it may be teaching others something apart from what the Quran and Sunnah state. We should make sure what we are saying are entirely valid.

iii) We should refrain from exaggerating and be accurate in what we say. Saying things like , "Can you hold on a sec?" when you obviously know it will take longer than a second should be avoided. "It's freezing in here!" is another example. Unless you see icicles dripping from the ceiling, this should be avoided as well. I would love to hear more examples of what we should avoid saying because of the fact that it isn't completely true. We should always reflect on our words.

Quoting another hadith, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good or remain silent" We are so caught up in speaking about other people. What justification do we have to pick out their faults when we ourselves have flaws? If we pick out the faults of others in this world, then Allah (SWT) will pick out our faults on the Day of Judgement, and if we forgive people and conceal their faults in this world, inshaAllah Allah (SWT) will also forgive us and conceal our faults. 

However, not speaking at all and being socially uninvolved is also not a part of Islam. Muslims are told to be friendly with those around them, take care of neighbors, sick ones etc, and overall have a considerate and welcoming attitude towards others.

We should strive to use our tongue by busying ourselves with dhikr, reciting Quran, enjoining good and forbidding evil, complimenting others, doing da'wah, teaching others etc. 

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to do good and live in moderation in our daily lives, Ameen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Smooth Sailing of Life via Organization & Time-Management ~ For Students

There's a trend in much of the Eastern part of the world of arriving fashionably late to gatherings such as dinners and weddings. If an invitation card claims that the event will take place at 8:00 PM, the event will most likely start at 9:30 PM, and much later if it is a wedding. If some naive soul turns up at the door at 8:00 PM, he would most likely have to wait quite a while for his food - maybe even alone. "Desi Standard Time", as people of the subcontinent fondly call it. This is where you add half an hour to 3 hours to the original time, as stated by an online dictionary.

This is one thing we should learn to appreciate from the West- their general organizational skills and punctuality. If somebody turns up an hour or two late for a dinner, sadly all of the food will be gone. Things are systematic here, and there isn't always a battle to get a job done. Of course, we cannot change entire nations in one go, but we can start off with ourselves.

What we need to first of all consider is the importance of sticking to a schedule. Let's turn to the 5 daily prayers - at dawn, early afternoon, late afternoon, sunset, and twilight. The fact that we pray at 5 different times rather than all in one go elucidates the importance of doing things consistently and in an organized manner, rather than lumping everything together when we want to. This is what we call procrastination, a disease widespread amongst the youth, causing bright and capable students to get lower grades than they could potentially achieve, and also increasing their stress levels.

"You live life once", people say, so you should enjoy it. Others say "you live life once", and they mean that you should accomplish something in the little time you have. Although I lean more towards the latter, I would say there should be a balance. This is hard for most of the youth because it's a time where they want to be carefree and enjoy every second of life by doing exciting and risky things. I remember when I was in university, sometimes my friends would want to ditch classes and go out somewhere. I would be the only loner saying "Uh, I don't think this is such a good idea". A couple of times I gave in when I knew nothing important would happen in class that day. But obviously, I had to call my mom first, "Assalamu Alaikum, Ammi. Can I have permission to ditch class and go to the mall today with my friends because it's not such an important lesson?" My friends would always laugh at my silliness and I would laugh along, but I knew that my mother would always trust me if she knew I would responsibly tell her what I'm up to, and not once have I had to hide from her to do something because of that trust. It's true that the youth should enjoy their life and create memories for when they are older and can look back to their childhood or teen years and smile, but they should also remember that according to many ahadith, this is the most beloved time to Allah for people to turn to Him and act responsibly- not in old age as people usually do.

So, how should we keep organized in our life? Here are some pointers from a student who took 22 credit hours every semester for 2 years:

1. Determination

If you want to achieve something, there has to be will-power. You have to firmly believe that you can do it, and Allah is always there you help you. Allah (SWT) is capable of doing anything- He created the sun, the moon, the oceans, mountains, the entire universe and everything in it, including us. Never underestimate the power of dua. Allah is only waiting for us to ask Him. Have faith in Him and yourself.

2. Goal-orientation

Figure out what you're going to try to achieve in the next couple of years. Starting off with brainstorming helps. Include both academic and non-academic activities, and some sort of spiritual development as well. This will help you organize your plans. For example, my academic goal was to complete university in early 2009, which was going to be earlier than I was supposed to. For this, I had to write down which courses I will be taking each semester 2 years in advance, keeping all of the prerequisites for each subject in mind and planning accordingly. This made my goal more focused.

3. Planner

This is a necessity for students to keep them from forgetting important dates. With numerous quizzes, presentations, projects and finals, with different dates for each subject, keeping a planner is a must. One can also write down what they will be studying for that day. It's ideal to prepare for a class beforehand and revise afterwards, but with a lot of courses it can be difficult. We should aim to do this as much as we can, nevertheless. Also, make a general schedule for the day. Making an hour by hour schedule will most probably not work. I usually made my schedule revolve around the prayer timings. I would usually be in university until after Zuhur. Sometimes I would hit the books from Asr to Maghrib (yes, nerdy, I know), then Maghrib to Isha was always family time, and then the studies continued after Isha. The schedule obviously varies from student to student, depending on the number of courses they're taking, and how much work their professors give them. And no, the professors who give you the most work are not "cruel"; you will miss them the most after you graduate inshaAllah :)

I would also advise students to do things ahead of time; if there's homework due on Monday, don't start it Sunday night. The night before something is due you should be revising and looking over it, not starting it! If you leave for school at 7:00 AM, try to pack your bags and get everything ready the day before. Simple things like these make life less hectic and more calm.

Do things on time according to your planner, we don't need more people running according to DST!

4. Neatness

Some would call me extreme, but neat and tidy notes were always essential in my life, and they still are in my current classes. I was more picky about it in university though. It came to the point that I could not even bear to look at my notes if I had scribbled something on it during class. I would actually rewrite all of it, using color coordination with highlighters or colored pens (black, blue, red), and of course, post-its. I feel like this really helped me in my exams. Firstly, since it was neat and colorful, I would actually want to look at my notes and study, rather than a messy scribbling written in pencil. Secondly, I remember during my exams it helped me because I would be sitting in the exam hall, remembering any diagrams I had drawn or colors used for something particular. That's when the answer would click. I also used a lot of acronyms throughout my student life, which made it much easier to remember things. Making a funny story to link things also does wonders :)

Aside from neat notes, I felt that keeping my room clean while studying also helped in clearing my thoughts. A cluttered room leads to a cluttered mind, in my opinion. Cleaning up helps in not getting distracted and organizing the mind as well. This may not apply to all people, but growing up, I was taught that a messy room should make your eyes "sting", so it was always something important to me.

5. Breaks and outings

Last but not least, it's crucial to enjoy yourself! Studying too much can lead to too much stress and burning out. Taking breaks to rejuvenate oneself and refreshen ones mind is important in student life. In between studies, get up to grab a snack or drink (halal!), talk to family or friends, or just go for a short walk outside for fresh air. Every few days it would also be a good idea to go for an outing to anywhere you enjoy, and then come back home with a clear, refreshed mind. Let's face it, we all need breaks!

With these tips in mind, I hope we all strive to excel in whatever we are learning. Remember, learning is a lifelong process! رَبِّ زِدْنِي عِـلْمً