Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 10

Dua

Ramadan is more than half done. Many of us don’t want this beautiful and blessed month to finish so quickly. With such few days left of this month, I hope that each of us can make the most of it’s final days. I hope that each of us can say with confidence, that there is at least one thing about our character that we have changed or improved. And with regards to refining our character, and purifying our soul, it’s important to establish the quality of forgiving others and seeking Allah s.w.t.’s forgiveness.

With Ramadan coming to an end, we are also approaching the end of the second ten days of this month, the days that bring Allah s.w.t.’s mercy and forgiveness.  Each of us try to seek Allah s.w.t’s forgiveness in Ramadan, but we must ask ourselves whether we are seeking His mercy from our hearts? When we ask for forgiveness for our sins, are we sure that we won’t commit those sins again? Are we letting go of our past mistakes and refining our character so that we stay away from bad deeds and instead, perform righteous deeds?

In order for us to have our sins forgiven by Allah s.w.t., we must recognize and be aware of what is right and what is wrong. We must recognize that which we did wrong. We all make mistakes, and we don’t acknowledge that some are much greater sins than we think they are. Say, backbiting for example, some people do it without acknowledging that they are doing it. We have to make a promise to Allah s.w.t. and ourselves that we will not commit the same sin again. And most importantly, we must pray to and ask Allah s.w.t. to forgive us.

The Qur’an repeatedly says, Allah s.w.t. is “Ever-Forgiving.” Thus, we should never doubt that He won’t forgive us. In Surat At-Tawbah, Allah s.w.t. says, “So if you repent, that is best for you” (9:3). Repenting to Allah s.w.t. will do us good, and when we refrain from bad deeds, Allah s.w.t. will bless us in this life, and in the Hereafter in’sha’Allah.

But with that in mind, we must recognize that being merciful is a trait of Allah s.w.t., so is this not a trait we want to have in our own character?

When people upset us or make us angry, whether it is our family members, coworkers, or friends, it is important to have the courage to forgive those who have wronged us. When we forgive them, we will achieve peace, rather than being in a constant state of anger or distress. When we forgive them sincerely, we will bring them one step closer to being forgiven by Allah s.w.t.

Yes, people will lie. People will backbite. People will hurt us. But if Allah s.w.t., who is the Most Gracious and Most Merciful, can forgive us and tell us to seek His forgiveness when we commit an act that does not please Him, then we should be able to have the mercy and courage to forgive those who have displeased us. Simple as that.

So I suggest that this Ramadan, we forgive those who may have upset us, and we seek forgiveness from those who we have wronged. Asking for forgiveness is easier said that done, but if we establish the courage to do so, I know we will certainly achieve peace and Allah s.w.t.’s mercy.

W.Salam,

Amira

 

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Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 9

Patience.

What does it mean to have patience (Sabr)? As children, we were always taught to be patient when we wanted to something. When we were children, it was a toy. When we were in high school, it was getting accepted into university. And as we grow older, the list of things that require patience grows bigger and bigger. Sadly, as we age, our ability to remain patient tends to weaken as we feel the urgency to get what we want immediately.

We lack patience in many aspects of our lives, whether it’s waiting for something we want or remaining patient in a situation that upsets us. As human beings, we have a tendency to become caught up in little things that bother us or upset us, and we spend hours and hours thinking about them, worrying about them, or being frustrated about them. But the reality is, these things are not worth putting our time into, when they are only a little incident in our enormous lives. All we have to do is, let it go, which is easier said than done. Instead of becoming anxious or worrisome, we should remain patient, and focus on the things that will allow us to improve and perfect our character and do good in this world.

Patience has no boundaries and no limits. It is what refines the human soul. If we think about it, our souls are confined into very limited bodies that can only handle so much. What we must remind ourselves and one another is that having patience is something Allah s.w.t. appreciates. When we realize the importance of patience in Islam, we will ultimately be able to come closer to Him.

Allah s.w.t. says in Surat Al-Baqarah: O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (2:153) During hardships, we tend to forget that Allah s.w.t. has a plan for each of us, and if things don’t work out the way we want them to, surely, Allah s.w.t. will have a better plan or outcome. We should always seek guidance and help through patience and prayer, because if we continue to seek and remember Allah s.w.t., He will surely open up many doors for us. We should put our trust in Him and have faith that whatever happens or doesn’t happen is for the better.

Just like fasting, where a person prevents himself from going to the fridge no matter how hungry or thirsty they are, the patient person is able to hold back his anger, desperation, fear, anticipation, and eagerness.

Developing our patience means to develop our character. We want to gain a sense of inner peace, calmness, and self-control. Patience allows us to appreciate what we have. It allows us to not worry about things that are beyond our control and know that we can achieve peace in our hearts if we put our trust into Allah s.w.t.

Ramadan is not over yet. Let’s work on being more patient for the things we want. Let’s not get frustrated. Let’s accept that Allah s.w.t. is the best of Planners, and that whatever happens, is surely for the better, even if it doesn’t seem that way initially. When something upsets us, let’s not burst into anger, but rather stay calm, and know that this difficult time will pass. Let’s make dua that Allah s.w.t. continues to give us patience in every situation we face. Let’s remember that Allah s.w.t. is with those who remain patient.

Good things come to those who wait.

W.Salam,

Amira

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 8

The real world is full of enlightening encounters.

The people we meet and the people we interact with on a daily basis; they are all so unique. So exclusive. Each with their own distinct characteristics. Each with their own story.

Each of us have a story. For some of us, our stories might be very obvious and known by those whom we work with. But some of us, we just don’t express ourselves as much. This may simply be a matter of our personalities, and how much we like to talk and tell others about ourselves. After all, every one does have their on comfort level.

But as Muslims, there’s one story we should all share with others. And that is, the story of being a Muslim. And how beautiful it is to be a Muslim, and how blessed we are to be Muslims.

As people who live in a multicultural society, where we encounter different faces from different backgrounds on a daily basis, it is important to use this opportunity to do Da’wah. It is important to clear the misconceptions our society has of Muslims and Islam. But this does not mean arguing with others and telling them that we are right and they are wrong, or calling them ignorant, but rather means sharing the beauty and peace of Islam through kind and positive words. Simply, telling our story.

I recently started working as a children’s program co-ordinator at the Oakville Public Library. I work with many lovely, and generous people. Among these people, I happen to be the one and only young Muslim girl, who has a Pakistani background, and wears a hijab – surprisingly, a type of person some of my coworkers have never worked or personally interacted with before.

When I first started, a nice lady would compliment the hijab I wore every day. Red, pink, brown; every time I wore a different colour, she would compliment me. I would gladly thank her each time. But the more she said kind things about my Hijab, the more it became clear to me that these compliments, were a symbol for her curiosity. She wanted to know why I wear it, she wanted to know whether it was my choice, maybe she just wanted to know where I bought my Hijabs.

One day, after telling me she loved my brown hijab with sparkles, she said to me, “I thought they were all black, but these are lovely!” At this point, I had gained some insight. It wasn’t that she was ignorant, she just didn’t know. It was as if there was a flashing red siren telling me to stop everything and explain to her what it meant to wear a Hijab. I immediately took the opportunity to sit down and tell her about my Hijab, its purpose, and its relevance to modesty, and of course that no, they aren’t all black.

And when I did, subhanaAllah, she was amazed. She was smiling and she was happy to have gained some wisdom about this aspect of being a Muslim. She seemed wiser. Once I had opened up to her, once I told her my story, her curiosity kept pouring out of her. She was happy to see that I was so happy to speak about my faith.

So what can we learn from this simple experience?

Often, in our workplace or school environment, we come in contact with individuals who are simply unaware of our faith. The reason it’s important to express and share what it means to be a Muslim with others is so that they can be educated about it and they can learn the truth. People learn best from hearing one’s first-hand experiences, rather than trying to understand the misconceptions that the media often portrays. There are simple ways to express and educate others about our faith.

So what I suggest is that this Ramadan, let’s engage in conversations that will allow us to educate others about our faith. Not only should we tell others about our faith, but we should also be open to learning about, respecting, and appreciating the faith of others.

Let’s share the beauty of Islam. Let’s tell others how we are privileged to be Muslims, to be able to fast and pray. Let’s be bold and assure that our work environments give us a quick break to pray or break our fast, and let’s tell them why it’s important.

Let’s share our story.

W.Salam,

Amira

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 7

cloud

Verily, with every hardship, there is ease. (94:5) 

By virtue of being human beings, each of us will be tested, over and over again. When you’re going through something difficult, remember that it is a test, a trial in your life, and you’ve been through so many of those. But you still got through it, didn’t you? And just as you’ve passed previous tests in your lives, you’ll pass the ones to come too.

Our days may often feel cloudy or rainy, but remember that the rain doesn’t last forever.

During times of hardship – when we don’t get the job we want, when we are dealing with a health issue, when we are unable to solve a problem with someone, or simply when things aren’t going the way we want them to – we may have a tendency to forget that Allah s.w.t. has guaranteed us, that with every hardship, comes ease.

Tests will come at us from every direction; events will test the very core of our character and the strength of our beliefs. But these are the tests we cannot afford to fail. Allah s.w.t. guarantees, that when we face hardship, if we remain patient and respond to situations as best as we can, things will become easier for us.

If we had to choose between the easy path to success and happiness over the difficult path, most of us would probably choose the easy path, would we not? But if Allah s.w.t. has said that we will have to walk on difficult paths and face trials and obstacles in our lives through which we will be tested, then why choose the easy path, when we know that the real ease and reward comes from being patient during the most difficult times.

A friend of mine has continuously reminded me that “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that which it can bear” (2:286), and this simple reminder should help each of remain strong in our faith and know that Allah s.w.t. will only test us to the extent that we are capable of handling.

I know we all experience difficulties in our lives. For some, the difficulties are much greater than others. Every person handles them differently, but this Ramadan, let’s try to improve our attitude towards the hardships we face.

Let’s be patient, let’s smile, let’s look for the good in every situation, and make du’aa and know that difficult times are not here to stay, similar to how the rain is not here to stay. After every storm, there is a bright sun that peeks through the clouds. Just as this sun brings happiness and joy into people’s lives, when we get through a trial with patience and perseverance, things will get easier, and you will also feel happiness and joy. You will be a revised, renewed, and better person. A wiser, stronger, more patient and blessed individual who will feel a sense of triumph, as you bring your character and strength to where it needs to be. Don’t hang your head low but keep it up and be hopeful because there are amazing days and moments ahead of you.

It begins with us walking towards a better life with patience, commitment and knowing that the hardships we face are only a test, and we will get through it, and surely, after hardship comes ease.

Remember Allah s.w.t. when things get difficult, but always remember Him and thank Him when things get easier too. 

W. Salam,

Amira

 

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 6

parent child

Parents. 

In Surat Al-Isra, Allah s.w.t. says: And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour (17:23).

I know I’m not alone for this one. Last week, I was getting tired and weary because of work, and when I’d come home at 5 p.m., I did not want to do anything. The laziness was real. My mom and dad both wanted me to do something for them: my mom wanted me to help with my sister’s wedding preparations, and my dad wanted me to edit one of his presentations, but I was just “too tired.” When I was having a rough day, I spoke to my sister, who told me something so simple, yet so powerful. She said to me: Our parents know us better than ourselves, so you just have to be patient. And she couldn’t be more right. You can never be “too tired” to do what your parents ask.

Something that we all struggle with is being respectful and dutiful, as respectful as we should be, to our parents. We’ve all entered a world where we think it’s okay to say whatever we want to our parents; a place where disagreeing on various topics is acceptable, or when they tell us to do something, we do the complete opposite; we speak to them in harsh and angry tones. We complain to our parents, we release our anger on them, and we ignore them when we are upset. But the misconception that lies in our hearts and our minds is that we think all this is okay, just because they are our parents. But the reality is, it’s not okay. When do we think about the love and care they have for us? Or how they are the most supportive during difficult times? Or how much of our wisdom comes from them? Or how excited they get when we accomplish something great?

Similar to how lying to someone can be considered disobeying Allah s.w.t., disrespecting our parents, may also be considered disobeying Allah s.w.t.

The verse from the Qur’an stated above, shows how important it is to obey our parents. Immediately after Allah s.w.t. says to obey Him, He tells us to be dutiful to our parents. SubhanaAllah, our parents hold such a high place in Allah s.w.t.’s Grace and Mercy. So it’s necessary to improve on how we speak with, act with and think of our parents. We must pray that Allah s.w.t. blesses them and sends His mercy upon them. We must thank Allah s.w.t. for blessing us with parents who care for us, who have raised us, nurtured us, educated us, and have helped us learn right from wrong. We must show gratitude to our parents for all that they do.

This Ramadan, I suggest that we start off by seeking forgiveness from our parents for disrespecting or hurting them in anyway. I hope that we can learn to appreciate and show gratitude for all that they do for us. I hope that we can start to speak to them softly and kindly, with love and compassion. I hope we can engage in positive and happy conversations with them. If you’re someone who needs to spend more time with your parents, do so by helping your father at work or helping your mother prepare iftar. If you’re someone who often speaks in a disrespectful manner to your parents, take the extra second to think of a better, more positive and kinder response before you speak up. Tell your parents how your day really went, rather than simply saying, “It was good.” If you’re someone who simply doesn’t give your parents enough hugs, then give them more; I know they will appreciate it.

So yes, my sister was right, when we feel upset or when we feel like our parents do not understand us or when we’re just too lazy to do what they ask, we simply have to be patient, accept what they say, and please Allah s.w.t. by being dutiful to our parents.

Love your parents, trust me, they’ve done a lot.

W. Salam,

Amira

 

 

 

 

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 5

Time.

Have any of you ever spent a day of fasting, or any day really, and been to the mall or watched an episode of your favourite television show and said to someone: “Oh I was just killing time?” We’ve all said it, without thinking about it what it means.

Time is a blessing all on its own and it makes me cringe when people say that because we are already at a loss of time, why ‘kill’ it further?

In Surat Al-Asr, Allah s.w.t. describes how mankind is at a loss.

The Surah translates as follows:

By time, (103:1)

Indeed, mankind is in loss. (103:2)

Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. (103:3)

It is difficult for some of us to grasp the concept of time. We wake up in the morning, we have a routine. We brush our teeth, we have breakfast, we leave the house for school, work, or whatever commitment we may have. We chill with our friends. We come home, spend some time with our family, have dinner, and back to bed we go. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, our day is over. And the cycle repeats itself.

It’s true, not many of us think about how precious our time in this world is. In the Qur’an, Allah s.w.t. speaks of two lives, one in this world and one in the Hereafter. But if we think about it, we only have one life to make choices, to be tested, and to struggle, and that is the one we are living right now. So we need to make the most of it before it vanishes before our own eyes.

Surah Al-Asr carries a strong message that is filled with wisdom and guidance. The word al-Asr, meaning “time,” suggests a sense of urgency, that time is running out. It is important for us to reflect on how our time should be allocated. Should we put our time into spending hours and hours watching re-runs of TV shows, or discussing a matter about another person or event, that will in no way affect our lives or make us better people? Or should we spend our time being productive, helping others in times of need, remembering Allah s.w.t. to show our gratitude and seek forgiveness, reading the Qur’an and applying what we learn to our daily lives, increasing our education for the sake of Allah s.w.t., and performing righteous deeds?

Humans are not always concerned with time, and rather than using it to remember Allah s.w.t., we become pre-occuppied with other, worldly things. We become distracted from our purpose in life: to work towards gaining Allah s.w.t.’s love and mercy. If we fail to realize the significance of the time given to us by Allah s.w.t. before we depart from this Dunya, we will suffer from a great loss.

So, how can we utilize the blessing of time properly and wisely?

In such simple words, Allah s.w.t. has given us an answer. He has given humanity the map they must follow in order to move forward and come closer to Him.

Firstly, we need to become conscious and aware of the fact that we are losing time. Then, we must ask ourselves how we should allocate our time? How will our actions and deeds please Allah s.w.t. and benefit us in the Hereafter? Once we understand this, we must put our thoughts into action.

Allah s.w.t. has outlined for us in this Surah exactly what we must do:

1) We must believe and work towards establishing stronger faith and a stronger connection with Allah s.w.t.

2) We must use our time wisely by engaging in righteous deeds that will please Allah s.w.t.

3) We should enjoin in truth. Allah s.w.t. tells us to remind one another to be faithful to the truth, which is expressed in the Qur’an.

4) We must remain patient and steadfast while we follow Allah s.w.t.’s commandments.

If we can simply learn how to use our time wisely, our lives will be worth so much more. Our lives will mean so much more, and in’sha’Allah, Allah s.w.t. will reward us for that.

The rule is that all human beings are at a loss. The exception, is those human beings who believe, do righteous deeds, and enjoin in truth and patience.

W.Salam

Amira

 

 

 

Enlightened Encounters #30 Days: Day 4

 

flower

Giving.

Yesterday, at about 4:57 p.m., when I was just getting ready to leave the library after a busy day of work, I had a little girl, about 7 or 8 years old, approach me with a bright yellow sunflower. She did not say anything, simply handed me the flower with a smile on her face.

Immediately, my face lit up with joy and I was smiling. In excitement, I turned to one of my volunteers and said, “How sweet! This totally made my day!”

What I hadn’t noticed, was that there was a little note attached to the flower that said, “Happy Ramadan. The Month of Giving.” When I opened it up, it said, “Hope this flower makes your day.”

SubhanaAllah. Before I even read the note, the flower had already made my day. What a perfect way to end a long week huh?

As the library was about to close, I looked around for the little girl’s mother to thank her. When I approached her, I noticed that she was carrying several flowers in her hand. This made me even happier, because I knew that this beautiful family was going around brightening up the days of many people.

What can we learn from this?

The simplest things can make a person happy. One might say, it was just a flower. But its significance was so much more; the flower emphasized the importance of giving in Islam. Giving does not always have to be in the form of money. Giving can mean helping an elderly person carry something heavy to their car or taking a minute to ask someone how their day is going or in this case, giving someone a flower to wish them a Happy Ramadan.

It is important to remember, that when we do give, we must give with generosity for the sake of Allah s.w.t. We must purify our intentions and give in His cause, rather than to show pride or act as though we are above others. If we act generously for Allah s.w.t.’s sake, He will surely reward us for it.

This is evident because as soon as I got the bright yellow sunflower, I felt the need to thank the little girl’s mother. Perhaps, this was Allah s.w.t.’s reward for her.

In Surat Baqarah, Allah s.w.t. says, “They ask you, [O Muhammad], what they should spend. Say, ‘Whatever you spend of good is [to be] for parents and relatives and orphans and the needy and the traveler. And whatever you do of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.'” (2:215) Allah s.w.t. has decreed upon us to give to others in goodness. He is aware of all the good that we do, and if we continue to do it for His sake, He will give us more, for He is the best of providers. Think of those who are in need, from our family members to those living in poverty, and imagine how we can lift their spirits by simply acting generously towards them.

So, what should we do?

As we see the importance of giving in Islam, perhaps this Ramadan, we should engage in more acts of kindness, generosity, and goodness. We should give more for the sake of Allah s.w.t. Donate to a cause you are passionate about. If you do not have the money, volunteer for an organization that will help you contribute to the cause. Take the time to help your mother prepare Iftar everyday. Smile to someone who may need one to make their day better. Take two minutes to speak to a stranger and say, “Hi, how are you?” and wish them a wonderful day. Acts of giving are simple and endless. As we engage in more generous, compassionate, and caring acts, In’sha’Allah, Allah s.w.t. will reward us for them in the best of ways.

Giving is an act of being a human being.

W.Salam,

Amira

The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), said “Save yourself from the (Hell) Fire even with half a date (to be given in charity); and if you do not find a half date, then with a good pleasant word.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)