Thoughtless Bad Design

Among the things that really and truly twist my tail is thoughtless bad design for everyday stuff. The lazy production of mediocre garbage that fills the markets from a toilet plunger that won’t plunge crap (quite literally) to the can opener which won’t quite open cans if the engineer’s life depended on it.

I’m not a designer and I don’t make much of anything tangible (unless you print what I make) but I am an avid user of everyday stuff and I can say that bad design is everywhere. Cars are designed badly. Yes they are. Home appliances are designed badly. Everyday use products that are needed around the home are designed with hardly a design concept that can be called as such. What is the point of making products that don’t last, that ruin the environment, that don’t do what the consumer really wants it to do? Would you buy a blender that would break if you used it a few times, knowing full well when you bought it that there was a pretty good chance it would because it looks like a design disaster? Yes we would. Because we don’t know any better.

I get that there is a price to pay for quality and design of products but there needs to be a threshold of how useful, user-friendly and usable a product is before it can make it to the supermarket shelves around the world. I mean come on. There is a slew of products in the market these days that any self-respecting person would never want to have their name on it. If there was an ounce of self-respect left the manufacturer would have not let the product past their quality control.

It seems that the only motive for the manufacturer was to get the product made as cheaply as possible to make the consumer pay a price and buy it. It needs only to be marginally functional and the knuckleheads we are as customers, we would buy it. There is no real incentive for the manufacturer to build something they can be proud of. Forget about manufacturing products that last or products that can be considered as sustainable environmentally friendly products.

More on this later.

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Birds in the Sky

Why worry about our sustenance when Allah provided for us when we were babies and entirely dependent on our parents, May Allah bless them for taking care of us. Why worry about our sustenance when Allah feeds every creature, big and small? Why worry about our sustenance when Allah has promised that sustenance is His to provide? We worry because of the weakness in our faith or complete lack thereof.

It is strange that as intelligent as we human beings are, we completely ignore our intellect when it comes to sustenance. We completely ignore what we observe. We completely rely on our own assumptions which we have made up. We assume we are responsible for our sustenance. What we ignore is the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea and animals in the wild. Even the insects. Even the microbes. Even the kings and queens of the world. They all depend on Allah alone for their sustenance. If Allah stopped the sun from shining and giving us life supporting warmth or the atmosphere from providing us the air we breathe or the water from quenching our thirst or from plants and animals from being the source of food and energy for our survival.

All we need to remember is that we didn’t come into this world by our own choice. Our Creator created us into existence and put it on this planet and He promised us sustenance. We do need to work for it but we needn’t worry about it. If we increase and strengthen our faith in Allah, we will find that the worry will diminish and disappear. We are here for a purpose. Recognize what that purpose it and we will find our hearts will be at peace as we work on that greater purpose. And Allah will take care of our sustenance just as he takes care of the sustenance of innumerable birds in the sky.

And Allah knows best.

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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 🙂

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Increasing the Odds of a Good End

I just watched a short video clip gone viral on social media recently of a man dying while reciting the Quran in a mosque somewhere. SubhaanAllah indeed! And hopefully it is not a fake video (that would be the topic of a future blog post)! We all want and pray that we meet our Creator while we are doing something good and pleasing to Allah. And we all pray to be protected from an evil end.

I remember a lunch room conversation with a co-worker a long time ago: he remarked, almost out of the blue, that he would love to die while doing something good! I was happily amazed to hear that from him and I congratulated him and told him that it was the first step: wanting a good end. We would have to ask Allah for it and we would have to increase the likelihood of that happening by engaging in good more and avoiding evil as the plague. Since we don’t know when we would die, it would not make any sense to sometimes be engaged in doing things that displease Allah. What if we died doing them and didn’t get a chance to repent?

It is a great achievement to meet Allah when He is pleased with us. We should always make it a priority to pray for this. And remind each other and ourselves to pray for a good end. And to engage in good deeds on a daily basis and to avoid evil deeds at all costs. Conversely it is a huge loss to die after having gone against Allah’s commands and not being able to repent. Like dying while one is drinking or dancing or having extramarital relations with someone or cheating someone or hurting someone in some way and not been given a chance to repent to Allah and make amends after having made an error.

May Allah protect us all from an evil end and may Allah be pleased with us when we die.

And Allah knows best.

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Remaining Steadfast on the Faith

Finally, we have to strive to remain steadfast on the guidance until the day we die. This is a real challenge. It is a blessing to be born into a Muslim family but it doesn’t guarantee success. A Muslim becomes a true believer after affirming the faith in his or her heart consciously. This can only happen when we really want to seek guidance and break away from ignorance about our purpose in life.

Every human being ponders this deep rooted question: why am I here? Once that person is on a sincere quest for an answer to this profound question, he or she cannot be satisfied until they find Islam. Upon finding Islam (even if they were born into a Muslim family), they must learn it and study it and seek the truth within it and once it is affirmed in their heart after the initial struggle, they have truly found faith. Faith in Allah alone as our Creator, Sustainer and the One and Only True God.

Complete faith includes, complete and unconditional belief in the Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgement (and the resurrection (raising up into our eternal life) after death (in the hereafter)), the divine Destiny that everything (good or evil) happens with the Will of Allah alone. In Arabic, this is represented by the following:

آمَنْتُ بِاللهِ ، وملائكته ، وَكُتُبِه ، وَرَسُوْلِه ، وَالْيَوْمِ الْاخِرِ ، وَالْقَدْرِ خَيْرِه وَشَرِّه مِنَ اللهِ تَعَالى ، وَالْبَعْثِ بَعْدَالْمَوْتِ

To remain on the faith that Allah is our God and to ask only Him for salvation and that the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is His last and final Messenger in our firm belief, our words and our actions is the true challenge. Because belief in our hearts alone or the utterance of the words alone or the actions alone are not sufficient. All three of these must be present in us until the day we die to attain success.

Dying upon the faith is the ultimate achievement because it means that we will have achieved Jannah (Paradise) in the hereafter. Therefore, we have to ask Allah’s help in attaining this great achievement and put all of our efforts into attaining this as much as we possibly can. For no matter where we started, if the end is not upon Islam and Imaan (faith) then the person is lost. Just as the door of repentance from sin is open until our last breath, we are also susceptible to Shaitaan misleading us into misguidance until that last breath.

And Allah knows best.

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Hoping for the best

Once the believer has done what he or she can to ensure the success, one has to have complete faith and hope for the reward from Allah. One should not for a moment doubt receiving the reward. We will not lose the reward for our deeds as long as we have done what Allah and His Prophet (ﷺ) have commanded us to do and avoid doing what Allah and His Prophet (ﷺ) have commanded us to avoid. Therefore, it is extremely important to learn what we need to do and what we need to avoid first, then do the best we can and leave the rest to Allah. Allah has promised in the Quran that He will give the reward in full in the hereafter for all of our effort in this world. In fact, He will multiply the reward many folds depending on our intention.

As believers, we are supposed to have the complete faith that Allah will reward us in the hereafter if we obey Him and is capable of rewarding those who deserve the reward. Similarly, we are supposed to have the complete faith that Allah will punish those who disobey Him and is capable of punishing whoever is deserving of the punishment.

As mentioned above, God consciousness or the state of Taqwa is a state between fear (of Allah’s wrath) and hope (for Allah’s mercy). As believers, we need to check ourselves often. Are we relying too much on hope alone so we are relaxed in our efforts? Are we getting too caught up in the fear and getting into a state of depression? Neither extreme is good. First do good and avoid evil then hope for Allah’s mercy. Whenever there is a chance that we could fall into sinning, have fear of Allah’s wrath stop us in our tracks.

Additionally, we need to recognize that Shaitaan (Ibless or the Devil) wants to lead us all to the hellfire. This is a promise that Shaitaan made long ago as he was declared an open enemy of human beings. When Allah created Adam (the first human being) he ordered Iblees to prostrate to Adam. Out of pride and arrogance, Iblees refused to obey Allah and did not prostrate to Adam. This was Shaitaan’s disobedience. He then proceeded to insist that he was right to disobey and did not repent to Allah for his mistake. This was because he considered himself better than Adam (and the rest of human beings) who were created from clay whereas Iblees, being amongst the Jinn, was created from fire. Ever since then, Shaitaan has been accursed and cast out of Paradise. Shaitaan has been a sworn enemy of human beings as described in the Quran and as warned by the Prophet (ﷺ) to be on guard against Shaitaan.

To be on guard against Shaitaan, one has to seek refuge in Allah alone. That is the only way to protect ourselves from Shaitaan. We are supposed to invoke the dua we have been taught:

أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
Approximate translation: I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Shaitaan.

We cannot see Shaitaan, yet he sees us and although he is not able to harm us physically, he can and does whisper our subconscious to prevent human beings from doing good and into doing evil. Shaitaan cannot harm us if we guard ourselves with a firm faith, seek refuge in Allah, and do not act upon anything that he whispers to us. We must learn the tricks and traps of Shaitaan and how he operates to deceive human beings in order to be fully aware of his attacks. May Allah protect us all from being deceived by the clear and open enemy Shaitaan.

And Allah knows best.

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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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ)) 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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Focusing on the biggest good deeds

We have limited time in this life. And we are preparing for a eternal existence in the hereafter. In other words, our time here is of great importance. We must not waste time on actions that do not add value to our hereafter. Worse still are the actions that take value away from our hereafter (sins). We must focus on actions that add positive value to our hereafter. Better still, we should try our best to focus on actions that may have the biggest impact on improving our experience in the hereafter. We need to seek out those big ticket items and put them on our list of things to focus on daily, weekly, monthly, annually and as often as we possibly can. Every good deed counts, and we should never belittle any small deed for we never know which is most valuable to us in the end. But if we have the options to do one or the other, always pick the most rewardable deed, with the most impact.

The currency of the Day of Judgment is made up of our good deeds. The more of them we have, the better. Allah multiplies the rewards of each good deed ten times. A good deeds is written in our accounts for even for intending to do good. A good deed is written when someone stops himself or herself from doing a bad deed that they had intended to do. Furthermore, deeds are multiplied manifold, up to and beyond seven hundred times the reward, depending on the sincerity of the intention of the person, the conditions under which the good deed was performed, the difficulty of the task and so on.

Only sincere good deeds, done exclusively for the sake of Allah (Ikhlaas), in accordance with the teachings of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) (Sunnah) are accepted. So we must take care and learn how to ensure sincerity of actions and what the Prophet’s (ﷺ) sunnah is pertaining to our actions.

And Allah knows best.

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Conditions for the acceptance of our good deeds

Associating partners with Allah in our worship is called Shirk. Shirk nullifies all our actions, no matter how good they might be. We must make Allah alone (and no one else) the focus of all of our worship or we will not attain success. In fact, must always maintain Tawheed (the belief in the oneness of Allah in our utterances and in our actions) for us to be considered Muslims.

Additionally, performing our acts of worship following anyone other than the teachings of Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad (ﷺ) is called Bid’ah. Bid’ah not accepted no matter how much or how eagerly we perform it. The way of the Prophet (ﷺ) is called the Sunnah. All our acts of worship must be for Allah and as taught by the Prophet (ﷺ) in his Sunnah.

The first thing to do when investing for the future is to ensure we don’t have holes anywhere where all our investments may be leaking away. It doesn’t make any sense to invest our time, money and effort into something but let it all be lost because we didn’t care to protect our investments from things that might threaten them. Similarly, it doesn’t make much sense to make so much effort into worship (Ibadah) but let it all go to waste by ill treating or cheating people or lie to them or hurt them in one way or another (akhlaaq). Or have really good character but neglect the obligatory acts of worship (for instance salah (prayers), siyam (fasting), zakah (obligatory charity), hajj (going on pilgrimage to Makkah). Before we proceed with trying to achieve Jannah, we must plug any holes that might jeopardize our efforts.

Obviously, sins represent holes that we must plug in or lose our good deeds to sins. Similarly, the quality of our good deeds is also very important. We must not let the lack of sincerity of our intentions take deprive us of the value of our deeds. A tiny good deed done sincerely for the sake of Allah may be way more valuable than a huge good deed done to show off to people or to get recognition or to get some other worldly benefit. A poor man donating a dollar out of a small purse only to feed a hungry soul is valued way more than a billionaire who donates millions to look good to his friends and family is valued nothing at all in the sight of Allah.

And Allah knows best.

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Maximizing Our Chances for Success

We all want to attain the ultimate success and avoid the ultimate loss. To reiterate, the ultimate success for us as Muslims is Jannah (the Paradise) in the life after death, in the hereafter. The ultimate loss is Jahannam (the Hellfire). In order to attain Jannah, we have to be very smart about it and use our intellect to find out all we can about how to attain it. The same is true for avoiding Jahannam. The first step is to learn what to do and the next step is to implement what we learn to make it happen.

Islam is a complete package, we cannot afford to neglect any of the various aspects of Islam. Islam consists of several major aspects such as Aqeedah (the correct beliefs), Ibaadah (the correct way of worship), Akhlaaq (the good character with fellow human beings and other creatures), Muamalat (business dealings), Muasharah (the society) etc. We are all judged in each of these areas and to focus on one or two and neglect others is not the way to attain success. We must be conscious of our obligations to Allah, the fellow human beings in interpersonal and business dealings and enjoin good conduct and forbid bad conduct in the society.

There’s nothing worse than blindly putting all our efforts into something only to find out we are only going farther in the wrong direction. Therefore, it is very important to ensure we are on the right path before we start. In order to be sure we are on the right track, we need to do some research and find out what’s what. The easiest way to do this is to get in touch with several well known scholars. Several of them. This is because it is easy to lean one way or the other, be it wrong or right, when getting only one person’s understanding. When we ask several people, we are getting a wholesome picture rather than a biased view. We should also read on our own and ask questions to arrive at the right answers, much like if we are trying to find the best doctor in town to treat us. Validate our answers by asking the scholars so we are not assuming we know when we may have misunderstood. Only when we are sure, should we embark on the journey. Along the journey, keep checking occasionally to ensure we stay on the right track. If we are truly, sincerely seeking guidance, putting all the effort we possibly can, and asking Allah in the depths of nights’ darkness to be with us and lead us to Him, He will surely not let us go astray.

 

And Allah knows best.

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