Akhlaaq and Muamalat

The religion of Islam is complete way of life for every individual, society or nation. It is the most a comprehensive way of life. It provides the most documented life instructions. The Quran and Sunnah provide the solutions for the problems of human individuals and societies. If we only bother looking into it. There are various aspects of Islam: Ibadah (worship – which has to do with our relationship with Allah), Akhlaaq & Muamalat (character and dealings – which have to do with our relationships with human beings). Worship is an important aspect of the religion of Islam but it is not the only aspect. There is the aspect of our conduct with other human beings. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the religion. People, particularly Muslims, tend to associate only the worship aspect with the religion and leave out the rest as not part of the religion.

Our character and dealings shape who we are as a person (Muslim individuals) and as a people (Muslim societies globally). It is a part of who we are. And our religion has complete and detailed instructions on how to interact amongst fellow human beings, how to conduct business, how the economy should work and how the government should work. Generally, Muslims have ignored or forgotten this aspect of Islam. They limit their understanding of the religion to the worship of Allah.

This is surprising for many reasons. The Quran specifically talks about these aspects of Islam. The Hadith are filled with examples from every possible aspect of life from interpersonal relationships to business, economy, government and more. If you can think of the situation, it is either directly or indirectly covered by Islam. Every aspect of life from human societies is covered. For instance, how the market should function, how the governments should govern, how the justice system should work and more. Furthermore, every aspect from interpersonal relationships that one can think of is covered such as marriage, divorce, children, women’s rights (way more than what the modern society awards women), neighbors, travelers, poor people and rich folk. Even seemingly trivial things such as how to enter the bathroom or put on clothing are included.

And Allah knows best.

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What will be the legacy you leave behind?

Our time on earth is limited. Nobody lives forever. However, there is a way to extend our short lifespans and that is to leave a shining legacy behind. A legacy that will have people benefit from our life’s work and pray for us long after we are dead and gone. A life lived for making this world a better place for everyone is a life worth living. A selfless life is a fulfilled, happy life. So, in light of these wisdoms, what should be our legacy? What should shape our lives that we live it making the world a better place for everyone? The answer lies first and foremost in the God given abilities for each individual. Secondly, the environment or the time period and the opportunities that are availed by the individual play a huge part in shaping who they really are.

It goes without saying, one of the most fundamental successes are to find our calling, something that we were truly meant to be. Anyone who puts in the required effort can become a doctor, for example, but some people really shine as doctors since they have the necessary skills and the demeanor to be just that good that they exude the aura of success and confidence and people just can’t help but exclaim, that he is really such a good doctor. Or such an exceptional teacher. Or such a creative engineer. Or such a valued mentor. Or such a visionary leader or philanthropist or… You get the idea.

Secondly, the environment and the time period that they find themselves in, is a huge player in shaping their ultimate future. Take Steve Jobs (late, of Apple) or Bill Gates (of Microsoft) or Larry Ellison (of Oracle) or Jeff Bezos (of Amazon) or Elon Musk (of Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity & The Boring Company) as examples. They became great entrepreneurs, each in their own right. You could say that their success depended on their God given abilities plus the environment, time period and opportunities that they availed.

In order to find our true calling, we need to take a hard look at ourselves and pick an area that we can be truly great. Maybe get a good mentor who can pinpoint the right character trait to focus on. They check out the opportunities that are likely all around us that we could utilize to build our own legacy for ourselves.

And Allah knows best.

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Cleanliness ain’t Optional

Life is meant to be lived in a clean environment. Cleanliness is healthy. Filth is a breeding ground for diseases. No one likes to live in or around filthy areas. All of us want our families to be in clean environments that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Everyone hates garbage piling up and swarming with flies and mosquitoes and all manners of creatures from cockroaches and rats. These are common sense statements. However, like they say, common sense ain’t so common anymore.

From an Islamic perspective, cleanliness is one of the fundamental conditions for good Muslim societies and individuals. Cleanliness is half of the religion (of Islam). Every book of fiqh (jurisprudence) starts off with the book of Tahara (or purification). Prayers are not accepted if there is filth on the body or clothes or the place of prayer. So Islam not only encourages cleanliness, it requires it from us. We have to invest time, money and effort to ensure a clean environment. It is not optional.

Generally, cleanliness is a communal effort. The people need to ensure that the local government should have a sustainable garbage management system in place with enough money budgeted to make it work from start to finish. The people also need to ensure that there are measures in place against littering and to ensure that people do not dirty their environment and clean up after themselves. There needs to be fines associated with it and enforced properly. There also needs to be an awareness and an ownership of the issue in the people: people should feel proud of achieving a clean environment and ashamed of a dirty environment. There need to be advertising campaigns to ensure the right attitude towards cleanliness is promoted with the society everywhere.

Everyone needs to do their part to make the surroundings cleaner for everyone. Everyone needs to stop throwing garbage everywhere. Everyone needs to call out anyone that litters and ask them to not do that. Don’t wait for others to take the initiative, start yourself today. Promote a clean lifestyle with everything you do or say. Make dawah about cleanliness within your circle of influence.

And Allah knows best!

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Question Tradition

Tradition can be a good thing but it is often a trap for us too. Human beings follow tradition as something that is expected, normal and natural. One of the hardest things in life is to question tradition. To question tradition is to question what we have been conditioned to believe. What we are used to saying or doing, what we see everyone else around us saying or doing. This is because it is reinforced over many generations of people preceding us. Our parents and their parents and their parents did what they did. And we have our tradition by way of our ancestors. Often the origin of tradition may be unknown to people practicing it. It maybe lost in history, in generations of practice and in translation.

A lot of the problems we see in our societies today are due to people’s inability or unwillingness to question tradition. Numerous innovations (bid’ah) in religion that have become commonplace these days have to do with rigidly following tradition. People don’t think. They blindly do what they see their elders doing, their religious leaders preaching and what they see all around them. As a result, a lot of nonsensical practices have come to be known as Islamic in Muslim societies. This is a pretty serious state of affairs: people make such an effort in these so-called religious rituals expecting reward from Allah, yet these are not from the Quran or Sunnah and hence it all amounts to nothing.

There are numerous other problems that have to do with traditions becoming the way of life for people. For instance, one of the big issues in societies have to do with marriages. Getting married for young people has become a huge problem due to so many traditions that must be fulfilled that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

There is an epidemic of these types of problems in our societies these days, may Allah protect us all from all evil.

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How to live a life without worrying

Everyone wants a worry free life but not many people know how to do that. Everyone worries about various aspects of life. Some worry more than others. But virtually everyone does worry about one thing or another. Some people worry so much that they might even forget to eat due to the stress. Or eat too much. Or they might go into a state of depression or despair. But this is not the only way to live. Living without worrying about life’s challenges is possible. It requires some effort. It requires learning to develop our faith in Allah. It requires that we put our trust in Allah. It requires we call upon Allah alone. And we rely on Him alone to provide for us, guide us to a fulfilled life, guarantee us salvation in the hereafter and protect us from all evil in this life and in the everlasting hereafter.

Allah is sufficient for all of us. Allah listens to our prayers. He is our provider and our protector. To live a life without worry, let Allah handle all our affairs. This doesn’t mean we do not do the required work to get things done or earn a halal livelihood for our families. Letting Allah handle our affairs means we call upon Him to make our life’s challenges easy for us and to help us out every step of the way. Then we get to work to do our part (such as working to earn our livelihood etc.). This also means that we learn what is lawful in the sight of Allah and what is unlawful. So we stay within the allowed (halal/lawful) facing any of our life’s struggles and challenges.

Another aspect of living a fulfilled life, free of worry, is to help others. It is the sunnah of Allah that helps those who help others. If we resolve someone’s issues, Allah will resolve our issues. If we forgive someone who may have wronged us, Allah will forgive us on the Day of Judgment and make our lives easier for us.  The best example for a fulfilled life for us is the life of our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) and how he helped humanity and preached the same to his companions. He created a generation of people who loved to help others. For the sake of Allah alone.

And Allah knows best.

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Gamifying Good Habits

Everyone wants to be more productive. Or maybe its just me. We have short life spans and limited time to do stuff and make an impact and leave a legacy. An example to follow for our kids, if we are so lucky to leave them a way of life that follows the Quran and Sunnah. A life fulfilled is a life lived in making this world a better place for generations after us.

The more you can focus on the most productive activities and the more you can invest your time in the activities that have the longest lasting impact, the better. That is why Dawah: inviting people to Allah is such a huge deed. If someone is guided to the right path and lives a good life because of us, all their good deeds and the good deeds of the people whom they influence will be in our account of good deeds until the Day of Judgment. That is the power of Dawah. But that’s a separate article in and of itself inshaaAllah.

I’m always looking for better productivity and the biggest bang for my buck so to speak. I watch the productivity space and try to become an early adopter of the new research and the ideas and products that become available in this category. This topic has been trending lately: habit formation using apps to form good habits and to get rid of bad habits. These apps, specially game like apps that encourage good behavior, reinforce good habits through competition and repetition. Even the simplest achievement of a continuous streak of activity for the past X number of days, weeks or months gives a sense of satisfaction and maybe enough motivation to keep going. Once the habit is formed, it is part of us. In Islam, we have the five daily prayers that also help to form the habit of punctuality as one of its aspects.

There are tons of apps nowadays that work on building habits this way. Perhaps it is not applicable to every learner and every type of learning, but it does seem to be in line with human psychology in general. I have seen it work with learning languages. I have also formed some habits this way that I struggled to form for a number years before. It does work for me and may well work for a lot of people.

We are a sum of our beliefs and actions. If they are correct and good, we are set for life on this blue planet and the eternity in the hereafter.

And Allah knows best.

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How to Get Our Hearts at Peaceful Rest

We all cherish peace of mind. Indeed we all need it. And when we are not at peace with whatever, we crave that peace of mind with all of our body and soul. We have such a big need for it as human beings. So it is only natural that our Creator, Sustainer God has given us precise instructions of how to get this peace and tranquility that our hearts desire so much. We find these instructions in the Quran and the Sunnah.

The Quran tells us that the real peace that our hearts desire is found in the remembrance of Allah. Not meaningless utterances of remembrance but conscious, meaningful remembrance of Allah. Our hearts do indeed find peaceful rest in Allah’s remembrance. Allah explains this in the Quran in this famous verse:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

Saheeh International Translation: Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.

Obviously, a pre-requisite to all this is to have full faith in Allah alone. In order to have proper faith in Allah, learn about Allah and remember Allah with the proper etiquette. The remembrance of Allah is in the five daily prayers, the recitation of the Quran with meaning, the many duaa and zikr that have been related to us by the Prophet (ﷺ) during his life and recorded by his companions. These remembrances are readily available in authentic books of Azkaar and Duaa. Read them after learning their meanings. Read them daily during the mornings and during the evenings. Pray the five daily prayers on time. Recite the Quran daily even if just a little bit, with understanding. Once we establish a connection with our Lord, we will definitely have discovered the peace that our hearts so desire.

Without this peace of mind, peace of heart, peace in general, we feel that queasy feeling of being disturbed to our core. This feeling has nothing to do with material possessions, health or even family. This is much deeper than that. We could have all the wealth in the world, be healthy and have a loving family around us, we would still not be at peace in our core if we don’t have the guidance to have faith in Allah. This might be hard to imagine for some but it is the God honest truth.

And Allah knows best.

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Reading the Quran Daily With Understanding

I advise myself and you all to make reading Quran daily with understanding a part of life. Even if it’s just a little bit daily, do read it. Regularly. And read it with understanding. Just as we feed our bodies daily with food, Alhamdulillah, we need to feed our souls. Therefore, don’t delay and start today. Reading the Quran daily with understanding will help us be connected with our Creator & our Sustainer Allah. The goal is to establish a lifelong relationship with the Quran so we are familiar with the Quran enough to go to it first for answers, guidance, comfort and to make sense of this life.

In order to do this successfully, we definitely need to know enough Arabic to understand the Quran properly. Start today on the journey to learn Arabic. Everything we do in order to get closer to the book of Allah, the Quran, we are rewarded for it. I shall provide a list of ready to use resources for learning Arabic in an upcoming blog post.

Quran is not read like other books (not like a story book or a science book). The Quran is read with an intention to listen and obey. To seek to understand. To find answers to our questions. To seek comfort knowing that the Quran is the actual speech of Allah, our Creator, Sustainer God.

Seeking knowledge is a great form of worship. What is a life that is lived without learning the purpose of our own existence but groping in the darkness of ignorance? All the answers to what ails individuals and society are present in the Quran. We should refer to the Quran for answers to our deepest questions such as “Who created me?” Or “Why was I created?” are answered in the Quran. If we refer to other sources for answers to these questions, then we will definitely go astray. May Allah protect us all from misguidance.

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Being Good to People

Being good to people is part and parcel of being a good Muslim. If we understand Islam, we would realize that behaving well with fellow human beings is one of the most fundamental requirements of Islam. As a matter of fact, being good to all creatures is required by Islam. It is really unfortunate that Muslims, just like people of other religions, go about treating each other unfairly in all kinds of ways. If only they realized that good character is not optional in Islam. This includes the words we use when speaking to others as well as all of our actions. We cannot use hurtful words or hurt anyone physically or emotionally as a Muslim.

People are generally good.

It seems like common sense. People already know this innately. Being good is liked by people in every society. Being bad is disliked. Nobody likes to be lied to or cheated. Yet people do lie and cheat. Without regard to the consequences of their sins.

Bad character is commonplace.

What needs to be done to change this? Specially when it comes to Muslims since we know that sins carry a punishment in the hereafter that is much greater than any harm that we could imagine in this world. Still, we see Muslims in Muslim societies ill treating other Muslims, just like people of any other religion. This seems to be due to a lack of awareness and a lack of the effort needed to create good habits. People know that lying is evil, but they have developed lying as a habit over many years without consciously thinking about it.

So many people lie as a rule.

We need to remind each other to fight this habit and break out of it completely. Fight the urge to habitually lie or cheat or be bad to others. Make it a point to be good to others on purpose. Even when it seems odd. Learn the Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) to find out how important good character is and teach it to our families. Without this effort, the societies will go from bad to worse.

Be good to everyone.

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