Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Ultimate Destination


Bismillah Ar Rahmaan Ar Raheem

Today has been a long, heavy day for me. I'm a utterly exhausted and my eyes hurt, no doubt due to the tears shed throughout the various moments of the day. I tried going to sleep but I am feeling too restless to relax and I need to get these thoughts and words out of me or else I'll be laying awake for hours.

Last night (on the blessed day of Friday) at about 5pm a dear sister in Islam, a lovely mother of 3 young children and my very own Quran Tajweed classmate with whom I had studied alongside for over 6 years, passed away. May Allah SWT shower His Mercy upon her. She had been battling cancer for almost a year now and the initial prognosis had been that she would have 6 months to live.  By the Grace of Allah, she was given more time than that and it was precious time that allowed her to improve her life, her relationships and her connection with her Creator.

"Every soul shall have taste of death; In the end to us shall you be brought back. (Surah Al-'Ankabut The Spider 29:57)
Now I didn't know this sister all that well and to be honest I don't even know her surname. We simply greeted each other each week for those 6+ years and sat studying besides each other. We shared some nice conversations, laughs and reflections on life throughout those years. Despite not getting to personally know each other that well or interacting socially we were able to develop a connection to each other through our journey of studying the Quran and coming together each week for the sake of our Islamic development. It is an amazing thing to experience when you develop relationships with people purely based on a gathering for the rememberance and sake of Allah SWT. I now feel a deep sense of loss and that I will miss her, even though we hardly saw each other since completing our studies. I feel sad that I didn't get to know her more over the many years, and while there was a bit of a language barrier I still feel more effort could have been made on my part to connect with her. It served as a reminder to me today to not overlook to the people you meet in life's path. I had intended to visit this sister with some other sisters this week but Allah SWT decreed otherwise. I will not get to visit this dear sister. I will not get to see her again in the life. She is gone. I wish I had gone to see her sooner.

Say, "Indeed, the death from which you flee - indeed, it will meet you. Then you will be
returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you about what you used to do." (Al-Jumu’ah 62:8)
When I was informed that she has passed away, my thoughts immediately went to those who would most feel the loss - her husband and children. These beautiful kids had lost their mother. Her beloved husband had lost his precious wife. No more goodnight kisses for them all. No more warm embraces. No more of mum's yummy food. No more waking up to mum's voice. Never again in this life will they hear her laughter, her words of advice, her whispers of love and encouragement. The loss of this woman in their lives can never, ever be replaced. She will not see her children grow and marry. She will not be there to protect and advise her daughter during the most important times as she grows up. She will no longer be that source of comfort and support to her husband. They have lost so much. May Allah SWT strengthen, guide and protect them all. 
However her death was but the decree of Allah SWT. It was her time to return to her Creator. And life must go on.

"Be sure we will test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, but give glad tidings to those who are steadfast, who say when afflicted with calamity: 'To Allah we belong and to him is our return.' They are those on who (descend) blessings from Allah and mercy and they are the once that receive guidance." (Al-Baqarah: 155)

So we went as a family to the Mirrabooka mosque for her janazah (funeral prayer). Going there reminded me of the last funeral prayer I had attended there, which was that of my precious niece who had passed away at 9 months of age around 7 years ago. I knew I was going to meet with the renewed awareness of the reality of death and how short this life really is. I knew I was going to be shaken by witnessing the pain of loss and sadness, especially that of those who were close relatives and friends of the deceased sister.

We completed the funeral prayer and had some words of reminder from a few sisters in the community as well as a group dua  (supplication) for ourselves and the deceased sister. It was a reminder for us all who were there, to prepare for this inevitable journey and departure from the life of this world. For death is but our birth into the Akhirah (Hereafter). How we want that journey to be depends entirely upon the choices and actions that we make right now while we are alive. As the sisters shared their feelings and love for our dear sister who had passed, we all shed tears and sobbed in sorrow.

As I think about the source of these tears I know that no doubt it was due to the loss of this dear sister in our lives, and sadness for the loss of her loved ones and family. However, as Muslims, our witnessing of this whole situation was a CLEAR and HEAVY reminder that this day would come for each and every one of us. Whilst we all felt great sadness at that moment, there was also a deep fear and realisation that death and the Hereafter was ever-approaching. Death is lying in wait for us and could overtake us at any given time. The questions which struck fear in my heart and no doubt in the hearts of many others present were:
Am I ready to die?
Am I ready to meet my Creator?
Have I done enough good in my life to earn me paradise?
Am I ready for the realities of the grave and the Day of Judgement?
If a died right now, have I left behind a legacy of khair (goodness) in this world?
Am I more attached to the worldy life or to my Creator?

I could not help but feel a sense of inadequacy as I thought of all my wrongs and faults and how much more I should be doing for my Most Gracious Almighty Creator and Sustainer. Does not our Lord deserve SO much more obedience and servitude? I LOVE my Creator so very much, yet I know that I often let the dunya (worldly life) distract me from His remembrance. I wanted to store the moment of this painful reality check within myself with the hope of being able to tap into it when I am feeling weak or distracted in my connection with my Lord.

"Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children.  (It is) like a rain (Ghayth), thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw.  But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment, and (there is) forgiveness from Allah and (His) pleasure.  And the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment." [57:20]

As I looked around me at the sisters who were present, I saw that many of them were none other than the handful of sisters who had been in the Quran Tajweed Class with this sister all those years ago. I was the youngest member of this class and had joined when I was 18 years old and was a young mum looking for an environment to help motivate me to memorise some Quran. Little did I know that the years I would spend studying alongside these sisters would change the direction of my life. It serves as a reminder of how much the people you mix with and the environment you put yourself in can influence you. I felt such a  strong connection to these sisters and it is a connection that words cannot express. The way that the study and love of the Quran can bring people's hearts together is something that cannot be explained. I feel so much gratitude that Allah SWT allowed me to be in the company of such inspiring sisters who, without even realising it, gave me the direction and motivation to become a better Muslimah and do more with my life. May Allah reward  them all.

The Prophet SAW said: “The parable of a good friend and a bad friend is that of a carrier of musk and a blacksmith. The carrier of musk will give you some, or you will buy some, or you will notice a good smell; but as for the blacksmith, he will burn your clothes or you will notice a bad smell.” (Sahih Muslim)

Later that day we headed down to Padbury Mosque for Maghrib followed by a lecture by Shaykh Neelain Muhammad  who was a guest lecturer from the United States. His lecture was titled 'Are you Connected to Allah' and he spoke of the importance of this connection and how, like a mobile phone that is out of reception, if we are not connected to Allah, then it is as though (like the mobile phone) we are dead (spiritually). He reminded us of the importance of our 'Ebadat (acts of worship) in connecting with Allah and how we should strive to continually improve and increase these deeds as much as we can. He spoke of realities of this life, the death that is fast approaching and the accountability that lies ahead. As he touched on death my thoughts drifted to the dear sister who had been buried that day. And I imagined the reality she would have been facing once the burial party had taken 40 steps away her grave. She was facing the ultimate reality RIGHT NOW as we all sat in relative comfort and were blessed with more time, and more chances to please Allah.

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “I have never seen any scene but the grave is more frightening than it.” (Tirmidhi)

Shaykh Neelain reminded us of the blessings of Islam and in being Muslim. He shared an interesting reflection about how his great, great, great grandfather's heritage from once being African Muslims, to then being part of the North American slave trade and being robbed of thier religion, culture and identity, to then six generations later coming BACK to Islam by the Grace and Will of the Almighty Allah. He now spends time active in Da'wah (Islamic Propogation) and as he puts it 'the children and great, great, great grandchildren of his 'slave-masters' are now acceptig Islam through him - the once slave!' Allahu Akbar, Indeed Allah is Great!

Allah the Almighty stated: "Verily, you (O Muhammad) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided."(28:56)

So that was my big day that left me with much to ponder upon and internalise. All that was left for me was to spend some time alone with my Creator to communicate to Him my deepest worries, fears and sorrows. Only with Him can I share my weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the hope of recieving His Mercy. And only from Him can I seek the strength, guidance and inspiration to continue on in life's journey. How humbling it is to submit oneself to the Decree of Allah and how humbling it is to realise how insignificant we are in comparison to Power and Ability our Designer and Maker.

Oh Allah I submit to you with my body and soul.

Help me to be steadfast on submission until I meet with you and allow me to meet with your pleasure.


Oh Allah, the Controller of hearts, make my heart steadfast in Islam.

Oh Allah have mercy upon my dear friend and grant her and her family the highest of reward in Al Jannah (Paradise).

Allahumma Ameen.

It was narrated that Haani’ the freed slave of ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan said: when ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan stood by a grave he would weep until his beard became wet. It was said to him, You remember Paradise and Hell and you do not weep, but you weep because of this?” He said, “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘The grave is the first of the stages of the Hereafter; whoever is saved from it, whatever comes afterwards will be easier  for him, but if he is not saved from it, what comes afterwards will be worse for him.’" (Tirmidhi)

Imam Al-Ghazali (may Allah SWT be pleased to him) said :
“The closest thing to a man is death”.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Oh Behave!

Bismillah

I've had soooo many post ideas lately as different things happen throughout the days but unfortunately I've just not had the time to sit down in the evenings to write about them! Well I thought it's time to just get started on some of these topics so I've decided on this one! Enjoy.

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Akhlaaq = good manners, behavious, morals, character.....

I want to touch on the importance of moral development for both children and adults alike. In times where good manners are hard to find, I feel that it something that is so often overlooked and that it's importance is highly underestimated. It's almost like good manners and speech are something from the past and how people were 'in the olden days'. These days people speak so harshly and roughly with each other that it's hard to tell whether the 2 individuals are fighting or having a conversation. Swear words are used to refer to each other in jest. Words like 'shut up' , 'stupid idiot', 'get lost' & 'loser' are part of most families daily vocabulary when communicating with each other. Children snatch, tease, hit, mock and display all sorts of cheeky behaviours at younger and younger ages. Whilst most would feel that this is 'normal' I ask does it HAVE to be this way? SHOULD it be this way? Surely Islam teaches the very opposite!

A few weeks ago in a class we read the hadith:

The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the Scale of the believer than good manners. Allah hates one who utters foul or coarse language.”
[Sunan At-Tirmidhi]

Often we read a hadith but don't really take it in but as our class read and discussed this one I started to really feel and realise the enormity of the message in it. There is NOTHING HEAVIER on the scales on the Day of Judgement than GOOD MANNERS. That means it's heavier than our other good deeds right? Yet how much emphasis do we put on doing acts of worship and other good deeds whilst neglecingt the importance of our manners and behaviours? This was a heavy reminder Subhanallah. To hear the Allah SWT HATES the one who utter foul language really makes you worry doesn't it? If we use foul or course language Allah, our Beloved Creator HATES us! Authu billah!

Deep Breath!

The weekend following this class, I attended a lecture that was about 'Character' and the speaker shared some profound messages that I felt were definitely meant for me. The hadith we had learnt earlier that week and the timing of this lecture meant it was time for me to do some serious work on my akhlaaq (character). I reminded myself, what use is learning and knowledge if we are not implementing it, benefitting from it and sharing it with others? Too often we learn about the importance of good character and manners and then simply shrug it off as if we 'have more important things to worry about improving'. I myself have been guilty of this too.

One of the many amazing lessons I took from the lecture was about how we should try to emulate some of the attributes of Almighty Allah in our character and through that we will better understand Allah SWT. For examply if we want to know Allah's Mercy, then we should try to be merciful, to understand His Generosity, we should try to be generous etc. It made so much sense.

So I am now on a mission to improve my character, and to become a better person (with the help of Allah). Part of developing oneself involves reflecting on ones behaviour and mannerisms and this is something I try to do quite often. There are traits within myself that I do not like (I am sure Allah SWT does not like them either) and only I can take the responsibility of changing them. Part of the beginning of my journey towards self betterment came from seeing the effect of parent's characters on their children. Some of you may or may not have children yet but I'm telling you now, if you want to know what behaviour adults are displaying behind closed doors, then look to their children. Unfortunately more often than not children display the characteristics and mannerism of their primary care-takers and what they see modelled in their homes. For me, seeing MY negative traits or habits in MY own children was and is a constant reminder on the importance of improving my character and behaviour. Children are mirrors of their parents and sometimes what you will see in you 'mirror-child' can be quite ugly!

Some of us might be hard-headed or stubborn to change for our own sake, but children can be a great motivator in making that effort to work on something that needs improvement. If not for ourselves, then why not for them (and of course ultimately for Allah SWT)? Let's do it for our precious, (and somewhat) innocent little children!

Maybe you need to be more polite, gentle or loving, or perhaps you raise your voice a lot or maybe you swear or use put-downs with others. Whatever the weakness or fault, you obviously don't like and don't WANT to be that way. It's just a habit you've fallen into or perhaps grown up with yourself (again fingers pointed at parents!). No matter how bad it is or how many bad habits or manners you have, your life and relationships can only get better through making the effort to change. You will only become a BETTER person Inshallah.

It's an ugly world out there, and one of the most beautiful things we can put out there are our good manners, and an upcoming generation with even better manners than us.

May Allah allow that and more. Ameen


The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.
Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners.