Information Overload

Everyone knows there is way too much information. Both online and offline. There are way too many books and magazines to choose from. There is a dizzying array of electronic media to entertain anyone hours on end on a daily basis. There’s a lot of made up garbage that people ought not to consume but since its out there people do read it, listen to it or watch it. People mindlessly forward a ton of *crap* via Whatsapp (what the statistic I read the other day about Whatsapp handling 60 billion messages per day or something like that really must include).

Interpersonal relationships have suffered. People are not connected. Except virtually. Everyone’s connected via smart devices, social networks and ubiquitous global networks of wifi or cellular data connections. This includes children as young as two years old who can barely hold a smart device as well as seventy or eighty year old grandparents who have someone embraced technology in the form of smart devices so much so they too reach for their device at their bed side as the first thing upon waking up. And this is not just some people. This is the norm these days. A global norm.

Therefore there is a real need more than ever before for quality content that stands out (from the content creators’ perspective). And some kind of filtering mechanism that filters out the nonsense noise and only focuses on the good stuff (and I’m not talking AI (artificial intelligence) although that could very well lend a helpful hand. On a personal level, smart folks need to develop their own way of mind numbingly useless content from consuming their valuable time (I started deleting the majority of forwarded audio, video and image files. Also lengthy PDF attachments and forward paragraphs of text: who has time to go through any of those these days and yet people refuse to stop and think before forwarding).

Pardon my ranting. It’s a serious issue. We need solutions not whining ๐Ÿ™‚

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Seeking Forgiveness

Everyone sins. The best of those who sin are those who seek forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is a great virtue. Allah loves those who seek forgiveness. And Allah does not love those who are too arrogant to seek forgiveness or are too heedless to know that they need to seek forgiveness for all their sins. Knowing this, we should hasten to seek forgiveness whenever we fall into sin. Forgiveness demands that we are thinking about Allah on a regular basis, in fact constantly. Otherwise, we will forget and go about our lives as if it doesn’t mean anything. Seeking forgiveness sincerely is the equivalent of wiping the sins off our record of deeds to clean them as though they never ever existed. But the condition is that the person is sincerely seeking forgiveness and not just showing off or something. And obviously, forgiveness only has meaning when sought while the person is still alive. Once the person has passed on, the chance to seek forgiveness is not there anymore.

The essence of forgiveness is remorse for doing or saying something that we are not allowed to do or say and begs Allah sincerely for forgiveness. Additionally, seeking forgiveness requires that the person who has fallen into sin make a determination to not to fall into that sin and takes certain actions to prevent falling into that sin (perhaps moving from that location or changing jobs etc.).

Sins can fall into two categories: sinning against Allah and sinning against fellow human beings (or other creatures). Sinning against Allah includes not obeying His commands (or whatever the Prophet (๏ทบ) has commanded us) to do something (for instance, the command to pray five times daily or to fast from sun up to sun down during the month of Ramadan every year etc.). Sinning against Allah also includes doing something that Allah (or His Messenger (๏ทบ)) has commanded us not to do (for instance to eat pork or drink alcoholic beverages or to not cover our bodies properly etc.). Sinning against fellow human beings includes everything from lying to people, stealing from people, tricking or cheating people while doing business, hurting people in any way shape or form be it through our words or bodily harm etc.

To seek forgiveness from the first kind of sins, one simply has to feel remorse, ask that Allah forgive him or her and stop falling into it immediately and make amends to ensure not falling into it again. To seek forgiveness from the second kind of sins, one has to additionally seek forgiveness from the people whom they sinned against (returning the stolen property for example). Without this additional action, the forgiveness is incomplete. If for instance, it is not possible to ask the person wronged for forgiveness (because they moved or died) or impossible to return the stolen property because the property is destroyed or no longer in possession of it, then they have to make duaa for the one they have wronged.

Seeking forgiveness is serious business in Islam. If one doesn’t seek forgiveness from Allah or from the people wronged, it is possible that they will need to be recompensed for it in the hereafter. They may end up being punished in the hereafter or Allah may forgive them due to the other good deeds that they performed. Wronging someone is particularly serious because as a result of wronging them, we may end up having to give them our good deeds on the Day of Judgment. So don’t delay, seek forgiveness immediately while we are still breathing. We don’t know how much time we have on Earth so we cannot afford to delay it even for a single day. May Allah give us all the ability to recognize the importance of seeking forgiveness and the ability to seek forgiveness before we die.

And Allah knows best.

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Why we remember Allah more when sick

Naturally, human beings tend to remember Allah more when we are sick or distressed somehow. Depending on what’s going on, we may have varying degrees of feelings of sadness, helplessness, loss, despair and the like. These feelings make cause us pain that is in addition to any physical due to sickness. And when these feelings overwhelm us somewhat, we usually can’t help but call unto Allah more. It is a natural response. We know instinctively that we are not in control of anything, but Allah is in control of everything including our lives including our health and sickness.

When we are sick, our prayers are more deep, more sincere and more hopeful. This is the reason why we should regard times of sickness as times of cleansing and getting closer to Allah. We should never ask for times of sickness and always pray to Allah for blessing of good health until the day we die. But when we do get sick, we should not despair. We should instead get busy with prayers and seeking forgiveness for our sins. We should also remember Allah and be busy engaged in doing good deeds when we are healthy. Whatever we are used to doing on a daily basis when we are healthy, we would get reward for even when we are not able to do them when we are sick and unable.

What we should never do if we are sick or feel sad or distressed for whatever reason is to start to despair. We should remind ourselves that life is a test. Allah is in control. As part of our faith, we know that we should put our hope in Allah, do everything that He has commanded and avoid everything that He has forbidden. Do our best and leave the rest to Allah. We should treat the time of sickness as a time to get all of our sins forgiven, accumulate good deeds and pray for ourselves, our families, our relatives and friends and the rest of humanity.

And Allah knows best.

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Motivation to learn and serve Islam

To learn Islam and to serve Islam is to love Islam. The most precious thing we have as Muslims is the religion of Islam. It is every Muslim’s duty to learn Islam as much as they possibly can. And after learning it, to serve the religion in any capacity they can. To really thank Allah for the ultimate blessing of guidance to the faith of Islam, we as Muslims must serve Islam any which way we can. The religion of Islam has been misrepresented by so-called Muslims of late and the press has had a lot of opportunity to intentionally or unintentionally portray Islam in a negative light. Therefore, there is an even greater need for Muslims to step up and serve the religion by being good Muslims and examples of the character of the Prophet (๏ทบ) for others to see and learn from.

To serve Islam could be to teach other Muslims about various aspects of Islam, to teach the Quran and Hadith to others, to implement Islam into our daily lives and behave like true Muslims for everyone to see, to write about Islam for everyone to read, to answer questions people have about Islam, to dispel misconceptions about Islam in any way possible, to learn and teach Arabic to non-Arabs solely for the purpose of understanding the Quran and, last but not least, to invite non-Muslims into Islam.

I often wonder what I ever did to deserve such a huge blessing? I also wonder if I hadn’t been born Muslim, would I have found Islam coming from another religion, say Hinduism. Hinduism was most likely my ancestors’ religion before Islam was introduced to Southern India where my ancestors are originally from. Therefore I am totally grateful to Allah for guiding my ancestors to Islam from whom I have come to inherit it. And I would love to meet and hug that one ancestor who first accepted Islam way back when. I’d tell him or her how I love them so for leaving Hinduism and embracing Islam for it must have been a challenge to switch religions.

And Allah knows best.

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Being Content with what we have

Human beings have an infinite number of blessings to thank Allah for. Allah has bestowed countless blessings on each and everyone of us. If we were to try and enumerate the blessings we have been granted, we would never be able to do so. The blessings we enjoy daily are not something we did anything to acquire ourselves. They are all gifts from Allah.

The intellect that we have been granted with which to think and have a sense of self with, which we think of as essentially our core, our self is actually not our own. We didn’t create it. We got it. From Allah. As a gift. And as a test to use while we are on this planet for a finite period of time.

The bodies that we identify ourselves with and think that we own are actually on loan from Allah. We didn’t create ourselves. Our parents, the vessels that bore us, did not create us. We received our bodies as gifts from Allah to use while we are alive in this life for a limited time.

Similarly, all the rest of our blessings: our health, our wealth, all of our worldly possessions, our families, the air we breathe, the water and the food we need to stay alive with and anything and everything for that matter, are all from Allah. All for us to use for a while then we die, leaving behind our possessions and belongings for others to inherit. In fact, we never really ever owned any of the things, we only got them on loan.

We are supposed to thank Allah for our blessings and never use them to disobey Allah with. We are never to abuse our blessings, any of them, in anyway shape or form. We are to use them according to how Allah has instructed us to use our blessings, sharing our wealth with others, living with others around us in harmony, being beneficial to humankind and animals. We are to try to leave the world a better place than we found it. We are to obey Allah and be kind and just and helpful.

And Allah knows best.

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Being good to your parents

Being good to our parents is one of the most important obligations in Islam. Our parents do so much for us throughout our lives, from the time we are born, throughout our childhood and often until well into our adulthood. We can never repay our parents for what they do for us. We are instructed by Allah and His Messenger (๏ทบ) to be kind to our parents in every respect. We are ordered to be dutiful to them, to care for them, to help them, to make them happy with whatever we can, to ensure that they have the best experience we can give them throughout their life.

We should be super careful when it comes to our parents. They took care of us when we were babies and helpless. We should do our utmost to care for them when they are old. We should talk to them when they are sad. And we should talk to them when they are happy. They will say things that seem outdated to us, but we should listen and obey and be respectful of their wishes. The only exception to this if they ask us to disobey Allah: we should still treat them well, just don’t obey them in disobeying Allah. We are to love and care for our parents even if they are disbelievers.

The dua of the parents is one of the most effective prayers for the children. So the children should strive to get as much dua from them by being good to them. Similarly the due against the children by the unhappy parents is just as effective. This is hard to imagine, because what parent would want to make dua against their own children. However, it is not the dua uttered but the hurt that is felt that is sufficient. If the parents are treated badly and just cry out thinking how badly their children are treating them, that is enough to be a dua against their children.

We all know this yet we see so many who aren’t good to their parents.

It is one of the greatest sins to be unkind to parents. Being disrespectful to parents or making them cry or hurting them in any way is such a huge sin that according to an authentic Hadith the punishment for it is seen in this world as well as the torment that is reserved for it in the hereafter. May Allah protect us all from our own evil actions.

And Allah knows best.

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Left behind!

The chief of a nomadic desert tribe asked his wife to ready the luggage for the next journey. He instructed his wife to leave behind his Alzheimer prone mother who lately mocked him in front of his followers and caused him great embarrassment.

“Leave her behind..” the chief said “she is now sick and has caused us a great deal of hurt and pain and we are not able to take care of her anymore”.. “let’s leave her here in the open perhaps other nomads will take her along when they pass by”… “or simply the desert heat will cause her hastened death!!”

The wife, prepared the luggage, and hoisted all the necessities atop the camels for the journey ahead. She put as much food and rations by the chief’s mother as she could before they left the elderly mother behind.

But the chief’s wife left her one year old son with the chief’s Mother. The child was the chief’s only son and the love of his adult life. Every time the chief rested under his tent he asked his wife to for bring his son for playful quality time with him.

As the caravan moved all morning, they rested midday and setup camp. The chief asked his wife to bring his son over as usual. The chief’s wife told him that she left his son with his mother… “we don’t need him” she said!

The chief shouted “why?” .. “why, are you crazy?”, he madly yelled.. The chief’s wife replied “am afraid your son will leave you in the open desert in your old age, as you did with your mother”.

His wife’s words landed on the chief like ton of bricks. He realized what he has done and remorse filled his heart. The chief then grappled his rifle and rode his horse as fast as he could towards his mother and child before desert beasts devoured them as prey.

The chief arrived at his mother’s site and found her surrounded by desert wild dogs. She held the child tightly to her chest in a protective grab while throwing rocks at the beasts as they run circles around her to snatch the child from her grip. The elderly mother held the child in one hand and and threw rocks with other and crying loudly “stay away … Shooo shooo!”

The chief fired multiple rounds from his rifle killing a few desert wild dogs and sending the rest fleeing into the desert’s mirage. The chief then ran towards his protective mother kissing her head and hands and penitently crying tears of remorse seeking his mother’s forgiveness.

The chief returned with his mother and child safely to his tribe.

It was said that the chief never left his mother’s site or sight and was forever dutiful to her. Whenever the tribe migrated anywhere, the chief always made sure his mother was on the best camel and rode behind her on his horse, guarding her from all harm.

When the umbilical cord is cut by the deliverer’s hands, a part of our mothers’ remains with us. Touch your bellybutton, your navel… see?.. she remains with you. Now make a prayer for your mom!

“ูˆูŽู‚ูŽุถูŽู‰ูฐ ุฑูŽุจู‘ููƒูŽ ุฃูŽู„ู‘ูŽุง ุชูŽุนู’ุจูุฏููˆุง ุฅูู„ู‘ูŽุง ุฅููŠู‘ูŽุงู‡ู ูˆูŽุจูุงู„ู’ูˆูŽุงู„ูุฏูŽูŠู’ู†ู ุฅูุญู’ุณูŽุงู†ู‹ุง ุฅูู…ู‘ูŽุง ูŠูŽุจู’ู„ูุบูŽู†ู‘ูŽ ุนูู†ุฏูŽูƒูŽ ุงู„ู’ูƒูุจูŽุฑูŽ ุฃูŽุญูŽุฏูู‡ูู…ูŽุง ุฃูŽูˆู’ ูƒูู„ูŽุงู‡ูู…ูŽุง ููŽู„ูŽุง ุชูŽู‚ูู„ ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูู…ูŽุง ุฃููู‘ู ูˆูŽู„ูŽุง ุชูŽู†ู’ู‡ูŽุฑู’ู‡ูู…ูŽุง ูˆูŽู‚ูู„ ู„ู‘ูŽู‡ูู…ูŽุง ู‚ูŽูˆู’ู„ู‹ุง ูƒูŽุฑููŠู…ู‹ุง” ุงู„ุฅุณุฑุงุก :ูขูฃ

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. Quraanย 17:23

 

Text of an email sent by a friend.

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How to write effectively about Islamic Topics

As students of knowledge, we are necessarily callers to the deen of Allah. And one of the key techniques for dawah is to write about Islamic topics clearly and concisely. Our writings need to be backed by proper research and authentication. Writing effectively about Islamic topics is one of the more valuable skills for effective Dawah. And it is one of the ways to ensure continuous reward for ourselves until the Day of Judgement for as long as our writings continue to be read and people benefit from them.

Research thoroughly: This goes without saying. You have to make sure what you’re writing about is accurate. When in doubt, consult a scholar. Read and re-read the primary sources directly whenever possible to get the most accurate information.

Provide references: This is often neglected even when there is research to back up the work. It is unacceptable to leave out the references. Do not leave it out. And do not accept work others have written when/if they omit references.

Ask the right questions: This is partly wisdom and partly experience. Asking the wrong questions can lead you down the wrong path and waste time. Asking the right questions can simplify the task greatly.

Avoid writing opinions alone: This cannot be stressed enough. Writing opinion alone is very tempting indeed but since we are writing about the religion of Allah, we must be vigilant and not write whatever we feel like writing rather it must have its sources in either the Quran or the Sunnah.

Do not be apologetic: Writing about Islam in an age when the religion of Allah under the wrong kind of spotlight, writers may feel the need to be somewhat apologetic. This is unacceptable and does not serve any good purpose.

Do not feel the need to explain: When writing about Islam, writers may feel the need to explain away miracles or try to justify an event or belief so it aligns better with people’s thinking nowadays. This is wrong on so many levels.

Do not criticize others: It never benefits anyone to criticize the beliefs of others. We may not agree with them, but we don’t need to talk badly about anyone.

Do put forth the Islamic way: The best Dawah is to present Islam as-is. Do not compare and contrast with other beliefs.

Make Istighfar: This goes without saying. We all make mistakes. And we will make mistakes when writing about Islam as well. Seek forgiveness daily for our shortcomings.

Check and Re-check intentions: Our intentions for writing about Islam need to be purely for Allah alone. We should not be doing this for any worldly benefit such as recognition or wealth or the like.

Stay humble if you succeed: If our writings are successful and become popular and influence many others, stay humble, it is from Allah alone. Do not feel proud or be boastful.

Don’t despair if you don’t succeed: If our writings are not successful and no matter how hard we worked, nobody seems to be benefiting from them, do not despair. After all, we are doing this to please Allah. Do our best and leave the rest to Allah.

Make Duaa for acceptance: Making Dawah in any form is a great way to worship. If we call people toward Allah with our writings and people turn toward Allah, it will benefit our akhirah. Therefore, make dua for Allah to cleanse our intentions and to accept this work in our scale of good deeds.

And Allah knows best.

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More on Learning Arabic

If you’re not a native Arabic speaker, how do you go about learning the Arabic language for the purpose of understanding the Quran and Hadith and other Islamic literature in its original Arabic? This is a tough question to answer because everyone has a different background and everyone is different in the way that they learn languages. It was rather easy for me for a couple of reasons: I am a native Urdu speaker and Urdu is a language that borrows a lot from the Arabic language from its alphabet to actual words from the language. Also, a lot of the Islamic cultural backdrop of the languages is similar so it’s not shockingly different for an Urdu speaker to discover Arabic as it may be for Westerners for example.

By far the two most important ingredients for anyone’s success in learning Arabic (or any other language for that matter) is their motivation and the amount of effort they put into it. Obviously these two go hand in hand. The more motivated you are, the more effort you’re willing to put into it. And the more effort you put into it, you will naturally become better faster and be even more motivated to do so. Whatever the case maybe, anyone can learn Arabic if they put their mind to it. Do it for the sake of Allah and each step of your journey will carry reward for you for the hereafter.

For every Muslim, it is extremely important to try their best to learn the Arabic language. It is akin to learning English for anyone trying go to University in USA/Canada or finding work there. Without learning the language, you are simply missing out on a world of opportunities and you might not even realize it. Don’t miss out on learning Islam properly. Learn Arabic and get a more in depth experience. Read Quran & understand in its original Arabic inshaaAllah!

Having said that, it is never too late to learn Arabic. No matter how old you are or what your background might be, the best way to do it is to learn from the bottom up. You want a strong foundation, so learn the alphabet really well. Learn how to read, pronounce and recognize letters. Once you’ve mastered that, learn how to join letters to make words, read, write and pronouncing well. The natural next step after that is to learn basic grammar rules to get a feeling of the language. This can be a bit daunting, because Arabic grammar is truly fascinating and therefore could be complicated for some. So don’t get bogged down by the intricacies of Arabic grammar but simultaneously build your Arabic vocabulary and practice with everyday phrases. The key to learning any language is to use it as much as possible on a daily basis. There are tons of resources available for learning Arabic these days. Use as many resources as you can get your hands on from audio/video, books, TV, YouTube and web sites to get benefit from various resources. Try to get a few Arab acquaintances to help you out. Arabic classes with native Arabic speakers, online or offline, may be even more helpful.

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Maximizing Our Rewards

Life is short and precious. Our time on this earth is not unlimited. Our actions in this life, determine how we will be in the next life. In other words, the outcome in the eternal hereafter is based on what we do in this limited life. If you think about it, there is no comparison between a finite life in this world and an infinitely long eternity in the hereafter. Since our eternity depends on our short 60 or 70 or 80 or so years in this life, it makes no sense to waste it on anything. It makes zero sense to indulge in meaningless entertainment and things that are of no benefit to us in the next life. And what’s worse is to engage in activities that will damage our next life. Because we will be in the next life forever and ever. We should want to make absolutely sure that we end up in Jannah[Paradise] and avoid Jahannam[Hellfire] at any cost. We should happily sacrifice our temporary comforts of this life in exchange for an everlasting comfort in the next life.

How do we achieve such an incredible reward as Jannah? How do we achieve the ultimate and everlasting success from our actions in a short life on earth? The answer lies in maximizing our rewards. Allah has told us that He multiplies our rewards many times: each good deed is recorded as ten or more. Not every deed is the same. A small amount of charity spent by a poor person maybe regarded as much much more by Allah because the poor person only had a tiny bit, still he or she shared it with others. Therefore, based on the intention, the sincerity, the difficulty and other such factors, it may be recorded many many times. So purify our intentions and find out and do what would be most to be pleasing to Allah. Similarly, we should avoid everything that displeases Allah. And similarly, every sin or evil deed is not the same. Some are small sins and when the person seeks forgiveness, the sin is erased or replaced with a good deed, depending on the sincerity of the person. Some other sins, may make a huge dent in our account of good deeds. However, there are still some other sins that are so bad, they threaten to wipe out the good deeds of the person entirely, nullifying their good actions.

In order to achieve a lot, we have to be smart about how we spend our time. In order to achieve success, we have to focus on the biggest value actions. Learning about the good actions and the evil actions so we do more of the good and avoid the bad is the key for success. Find out what the biggest value actions are and focus on them.

And Allah knows best.

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