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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Making Duaa to Allah for everything we need

We are mortal human beings and have needs associated with our existence. When we were small, Allah put our mothers in charge of feeding us, without our asking Him. Allah made our parents love us from the very day we were born and take care of all of our needs as we grew up. Allah in His infinite Mercy also provided us with the ability to make Duaa. We know for a fact, we need help. We need all the blessings we have been granted to survive. And we thank Him for all the blessings, Alhamdulillah.

Making Duaa (or praying to Allah) is a very special connection that everyone can establish with our Creator. On a very personal level. Allah created us and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He sent down Prophets & Messengers (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them) and they brought guidance for human beings throughout the many centuries than human beings have been on earth. The guidance we currently have, the Quran, is for the rest of the time that human beings will exist on this planet until the Day of Judgement.

The final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) showed us how to make Duaa so we establish the connection with Allah and seek guidance only from Him for everything. He showed us the daily prayer, both the obligatory five prayers and the voluntary prayers that we can pray, and ask Allah to help with everything. Allah listens to every one of our Duaa and answers our prayers. He loves that we ask Him for our needs big and small. And He does not like it when we do not ask Him for our needs. So let’s learn how to pray, make Duaa, and ask Allah for every one of our needs. Start today.

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Seek forgiveness when we make mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. We do things that we’re not supposed to do sometimes. And at other times, we neglect things that we are supposed to do. When we make a mistake, the best possible thing to do is to correct it if at all possible and to seek forgiveness from the one we have wronged. All this in order to rectify ourselves and to remedy the situation. It behooves us to be the best we can be and make the most of the life we have been granted to leave the world a better place.

Forgiveness is an amazing blessing in and of itself. Without the concept of forgiveness, a person would be left in despair after having committed a sin. When the sinner realizes that he or she made a mistake, seeking forgiveness sincerely expecting that the sin will be erased completely is a huge cause for relief. Just imagine if there was no such thing as forgiveness. An individual having slipped into sin would be doomed forever in the absence of forgiveness. Of course, forgiveness has to be sought sincerely or it is meaningless. If there is no remorse, then that is not seeking forgiveness. The person has to be truly sorry and acknowledge that they made a mistake and would like to redeem themselves.

Forgiveness is a special blessing from Allah. Allah loves those who seek forgiveness and repent from their sins. And Allah does not like those who feel too proud to seek forgiveness or don’t acknowledge that they made mistakes and don’t bother seeking forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is straightforward: we ask Allah sincerely to forgive us, feel remorse in our hearts for having committed the sin and make an honest pact to put every effort into preventing ourselves from falling into that sin again. And if it is something we can remedy (such as if we took something from someone unjustly, we have to return it to them if at all possible). May Allah forgive us all of our sins.

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Ponder upon the many signs of Allah

Signs of Allah are ubiquitous, they’re everywhere you look. All around us, we see marvelous miraculous things that should tell us not only about the existence of an Almighty Creator but His omnipotence: that He is able to do everything. If we only look and see. And ponder upon them deeply. We would definitely marvel at the universe we find ourselves in and everything that’s in it. We see all the amazing creations of Allah everyday so much so that we end up taking everything for granted. Just look at a baby when she sees a river flowing for the first time. Or when he sees a butterfly for the first time. We need a different perspective, a fresh way to look at the things around us to be able to appreciate how compelling and amazingly wonderful the signs of Allah really are. Climb a tree or take a boat out into the ocean or go up a mountain or just turn on the TV and watch the nature channel if you can’t get out and brave the elements these winter days.

We didn’t create any of it and yet it is there for us to enjoy and marvel at. From the air that we breathe to the water that we drink and the food we eat and the stars and other celestial objects we gaze at. And the animals, ourselves, our parents, our existence, our kids, the flowers, the bees, the butterflies, the intellect we have, the life that we live and so on and so forth.

The Quran implores us to ponder upon the many signs of Allah. We should take the time out and gaze at the stars. You may have to get out of the city to be able to do so. A good idea is to go camping somewhere and enjoy looking at the stars at night. You’ll feel small but also special that Allah created all of these for us!

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Things to be thankful for

Want to realize how fortunate you really are? Make a list of things to be thankful for. If you’re being honest about this list, you will not be able to list everything that you should be thankful for, ever. This will always be an incomplete list. The blessings we have been granted are too numerous to list. And we didn’t create any of the blessings on our own. For all of the blessings we have, we have to thank our Creator Allah. We thank Him for the eyes to see, the nose to smell, the ears to hear, the skin we touch with, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and so many other blessings that we can’t even begin to thank Him for.

It is important to recognize that there are numerous blessings that we have been granted even without asking for them. And these blessings are so important, our own existence depends on it. Without them we would not be who we are today, a living, breathing, seeing, thinking, blog reading human being. And it is absolutely certain that we’ve got it better than millions, no billions, of human beings around the globe. Some of those human beings, just like us, don’t have all the same blessings we have. It’s not to say that they have nothing to be thankful for: even they wouldn’t be able to list all of the blessings that they have been granted. But we know for sure, we are much better off than them in a lot of ways. Maybe we never have to worry about clean water to drink. Millions of people have to carry water from a well to their homes, clean and boil it before drinking it. Maybe we never have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. Not everyone is sure. Or maybe we’ve always have a warm home to live in. Not everyone has that.

Let’s all be thankful. Allah tells us in the Quran that He increases the blessings if we are thankful to Him.

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What Can we do to Ensure Jannah

What to do to ensure that we make it to Jannah (to the best of our ability)? This is an important question that would take a an entire volume to answer if not more. I want to attempt to look at it briefly for now and perhaps look at expanding on it further in later posts inshaaAllah.

We all want to make it to Jannah and avoid Jahannum. While nobody can foretell the ultimate fate in the hereafter there (because we don’t know how we will live the rest of our lives and how we will die), there are steps we must take in order to ensure to the best of our abilities that we achieve this ultimate success and avoid the ultimate loss.

The Quran and Sunnah/Hadith of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) spell out the lifestyle we must engage in to succeed. This lifestyle is comprehensive and includes correct intention, correct words/utterances and correct actions and avoiding wrong ones.

To make the task easier, Allah has put in everyone a Fitrah where they would innately recognize good and evil. Furthermore, there is nothing that has been left unexplained: Allah in the Quran addresses everything needed for our salvation and the Prophet (ﷺ) gave details and explained and showed by his own practice how to achieve it. We need only to rely on the Quran and Hadith to get the full picture of what is require.

If we do what is required of us (obligatory actions) and avoid what we have been forbidden to do and stay away from what is doubtful, we would certainly succeed. All of the possible categories of actions that are required are spelled out and examples given (so there is no ambiguities) and all of the actions that are forbidden are spelled out and explained so there is no excuse if we still do them. Finally, out of Allah’s infinite Mercy, we also have the blessing of forgiveness that we can seek for when fall short, commit mistakes knowingly or unknowingly. All of this requires that we consciously recognize the need to pursue Jannah (and avoid Jahannum) for an ultimate success that is our salvation. May Allah guide us all and keep us firmly rooted in the guidance and protect us from misguidance until the day we die.

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What is Imaan (Faith)?

Imaan translates to belief. Belief in Islam is referred to as Imaan and those who believe are known as al-Mo’minoon (the believers). Iman in Islam is not blind faith as people commonly mistake it to be. It is actually faith after your heart is content with the signs, the logic, the understanding that Islam presents us with. The Quran and Hadith are filled with explanations of why we believe in what we believe in with examples and parables that show us the logic behind belief and the absence of sound logic behind disbelief. The Quran implores the readers to ponder on the signs in the creations around us. The Quran doesn’t impose belief on us without any thought process or reasoning. The Quran presents us with proof and logic and signs that explain the existence of a Creator, Allah.

The fact that we exist, the fact that there is day and night, the fact that there is procreation, the fact that there is vegetation, rain, water flowing, sunlight, time to work during the day and time to sleep during the night are all signs of Allah. The fact that He created everything in pairs, the fact that he fed us in our mothers’ wombs, the fact that he provides for us throughout our lives, the fact that we have intellect, the fact that there are people who love us all are signs of Allah.

We didn’t create any of these, nor did they create themselves. Nothing comes into existence out of sheer chance, not even a simple object like a chair or even a nail used to hammer pieces of wood together to make a chair. How can complex living things come into existence on their own? The circle of life, with herbivores eating plants and carnivores eating herbivores, the fact that there is water, the fact that the earth is at just the right distance from the sun to sustain life is not a mere chance. Human beings cannot even create a simple life form such as a bacteria or a unicellular organism no matter how hard we try. All of these signs point to only one conclusion: there must be a Creator. This is how Islam establishes Imaan (faith) in Allah.

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Learning Arabic for the Quran

The Quran is the word of Allah, the Creator of everything. The Quran contains guidance for everyone. And for all times. And it is in the Arabic language. This means that in order for anyone to get guidance the first and foremost thing that they must do is learn the Arabic language. It would seem very unfair if the language of the Quran, the book of guidance for all of humanity, was a difficult language to learn. Arabic itself is a very complex language, but the language used in the Quran is made simple by Allah for everyone to learn. This is very important to know because a lot of Muslims dismiss the idea of learning the Arabic language and simply rely on translations to understand the Quran.

The Quran is a miraculous text. It is unlike any other book. It does not read like any other book. It is not a book that you read from cover to cover to understand a narrative. It does not contain every detail of every narrative that it contains, often omitting dates and names just to get to the real purpose of the message. It talks about the purpose of life, the reason Allah created us, the way that life should be lived in order to attain success in this life and success in the next life which is everlasting. Allah has explained a lot of things for us to understand the reality of life. It is for us to read and find out on our own. There is an element of belief in the religion of Islam also: we have not seen Allah yet we believe in Him because of the signs that Allah has given us including our own intellect.

The Quran uses the Arabic language to convey the Message of Islam to all of humanity for all time. It uses vocabulary that is easy to understand once someone puts the required effort to learn it. The vocabulary of the Quran can be easily understood by anyone within a few months of learning. There are tons of resources available for learning Arabic. Make the investment in time and effort in order to understand the Quran.

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Learning to Read the Quran

Learning to read the Quran is one of the most important endeavors a Muslim can take. The earlier this task is started the better it is. Traditionally, in the Muslim world, children learn to read the Quran early in a local masjid or madrasah. Usually, Quran is taught in parallel to kids attending another school to learn Math, Science and other such subjects. Kids generally finish a reading of the Quran in a couple of years or more. This is generally known as Nazra or reading the Quran while looking at the text as opposed to Hifz which is memorizing the Quran.

It has proven to be a good practice to teach the Quran when the kids are young because any learning from the early years is made easy and solidified over the years. This is specially true of memorization: kids’ memories are very sharp when they’re young. It is common to find kids as young as 6, 7, 8 or 9 year olds have completely memorized the Quran. This is a miraculous feat in itself since the Quran is a sizable text (around 600 pages) and there are repeated texts with slight variations so its hard to memorize.

What is missing, though, is the understanding aspect. Most Muslims are non-Arabs. As a result they don’t understand the meanings of the Quran unless they learn Arabic or learn the meanings without learning Arabic using just translations in their mother tongue. This is a tragedy in the Muslim world. To try to mitigate this problem, it is a very important to learn enough Arabic to understand the Quran in its original Arabic. This is not too hard to do if done with the help of a capable teacher and a good text. The Arabic of the Quran is made easier to understand by Allah specially if some effort is put into trying to learn it. Let’s make an effort and learn enough Arabic to understand the Quran and teach it to our kids.

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Learning a Second or Third Language

Learning languages is a great way to learn about another culture and give yourself access to a whole new world through the wealth of literature. I believe some people have an innate ability to learn new languages faster than others but anyone can learn a new language if they really want to and they put in the required effort to acquire the new language.

In this day and age, learning some languages has become very easy. Some of the more popular languages have tons of material available to help new learners acquire the language. Language learning has become more easy and affordable due to the Internet and mobile applications. One can download a free app and learn any language without leaving their home. Duolingo and Memrise are two such apps that offer a ton of languages and all for free or almost free.

In order to learn a language, motivation of some kind is needed. It could be anything from a desire to speak the language with natives while traveling or to get a job or study abroad. It could be as simple as wanting to enjoy the literature or other media in the local language. Whatever your motivation is, it is important because motivation makes the task less daunting. Depending on the motivation, you’ll have a different approach to learning. If you’re really interested in the literature, you can study the language from that aspect and not have to worry about the conversational part of it which could be quite different. Furthermore, the speaking & listening skills are very different from reading & writing abilities when it comes to languages.

I have been learning Arabic as a second language for a few years now. My motivation has been to learn Arabic to be able to understand the Quran and Hadith in its original text, without having to rely on translations. My focus has been literature rather than speaking.

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