The Character of a Muslim

A wise old man was sitting at the river bank when he saw a cat that had fallen into the water, flailing around, trying to save itself from drowning. The man decided to save the cat. He stretched his hand out but was scratched by the cat. He pulled his hand back in pain. However, a minute later he stretched his hand out again to save the cat, but it scratched him again, and again he pulled his hand back in pain. Another minute later he was yet again trying for the third time!
A man, who was nearby watching what was happening, yelled out: “O wise man, you have not learned your lesson the first time, nor the second time, and now you are trying to save the cat a third time?”

The wise man paid no heed to that man’s scolding, and kept on trying until he managed to save the cat. He then walked over to the man, and patted his shoulder saying: “My son.. it is in the cat’s nature to scratch, and it is in my nature to love and have sympathy. Why do you want me to let the cat’s nature overcome mine!?!!

My son: Treat people according to your nature, not according to theirs, no matter what they are like and no matter how numerous are their actions that harm you and cause you hurt sometimes.

And do not pay heed to all the voices that loudly call out to you to leave behind your good qualities merely because the other party is not deserving of your noble actions.

When you live to give happiness to others, Allah will send you those who will live to give happiness to you.

“Is the reward for good anything but good?” -Qur’an 55:60

Be beautiful in character and hearts will like you. So never regret the moments you gave happiness to someone, even if that person did not deserve it. And suffice in the fact that you have a Lord Who will reward you for good with good.

“The entire Deen is (about) good character, so whoever exceeds you in good character, has exceeded you in the Deen.” – Ibn al Qayyum

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 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.” [Tirmidhi]

اللهم أنت حسنت خلقي فحسن ﺧﻠﻘﻲ 

O Allah you’ve beautified my outward appearance, so beautify my character.

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Things to Avoid During Ramadan

1. Don’t sleep during the day and pray all night. By doing this you are converting the day into night and the night into day, which is not the purpose of fasting.

2. Avoid being lazy and inactive during the day.

3. Don’t waste time playing games during the day. Rather, please Allah by increasing in your worship of him.

4. Avoid having Iftar parties. Ramadan wasn’t meant to be a food extravaganza.

5. Don’t ask your wife to spend Ramadan in the Kitchen. Eat something light and quick – she isn’t Biryani woman.

6. Spend the last 10 days worshipping Allah rather than trying to prepare for Eid! A day that is better than a thousand months is in these last 10 days. You can’t afford to miss this.

7. Dont stay awake the full night. Your body has a right over you, and when it wants rest, then rest.

8. Avoid excessive socialising after Taraweeh

9. Avoid shopping a lot in Ramadhaan.

10. Don’t eat the full night.

11. Don’t loiter around at night rather than worshipping Allah.

12. Eid doesn’t require loads of preparation. Don’t fall into this trap! Keep it simple, and it will be blessed.

 

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Ideas for the last ten days of Ramadan

Shaykh Maher (imam of Harem Makkah) gives some very practical advice here:

He says:

1. Give 1 dinar* in charity every night, so if it falls on laylatul qadr it’s as if u gave charity everyday for 84 years.

2. Pray two ra’kaat every night, so if it falls on laylatul qadr it’s as if u prayed everyday for 84 years.

3. Read Surah ikhlaas three times a night, so if it falls on laylatul qadr it’s as if u read the whole Quran everyday for 84 years.

He then says spread this as you may find it on your account [of good deeds].


*  Or whatever you can afford in your own currency

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Top 10 Preparation Ideas for Ramadan 1437 AH

Want to make this Ramadan different? Want to be productive? Feel the need to lift up your spirituality? Make your plan for it and set these awesome goals this Ramadan! Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

🌜Pre Ramadan practical planning🌛

1) Get Your Eid Clothes and Eid Gifts Ready now so you don’t have to be in shopping malls during the precious Ramadan days and nights.

2) Analyze Yourself and Your Routine. Optimize your high energy levels.

3) Organize Your Dua List and supplicate the same important duas daily.

4) Increase Your Stamina: Start eating less from now. Train yourself to stay hungry for a little more time each day. Exercise. Get physically and mentally pumped up for the hard work in accumulating reward by focusing on good deeds throughout the month.

5) Make a Goal List: Make realistic goals of how much Qur’an you want to read in a day, how much charity can you give daily etc.

6) Declutter: Simplify your room, your work area, hour house. Remove any unnecessary items that may distract you. A cleaner environment can add to the peace and calm.

7) Limit Social Media: A good tip is to remove Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and other such apps from your phone. Mute your Whatsapp groups and chats so you don’t get the urge to respond throughout the day. If it’s important, they’ll call you, otherwise it can wait.

8) Start listening to the Fiqh of Fasting, Virtues of Ramadan and other such lectures daily to get in the ibaadah mode.

9) Manage your sleeping Habits: the Nights of Ramadan are the best times of making Duaa and getting closer to our Creator. Don’t waste time watching TV and sleeping late.

10) Reach out to your family, friends and loved ones. You should really be doing this throughout the year but it becomes ever more important to engage with the family and friends now to get them into the Ramadan spirit as well.

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We Are the Carpenters

The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Allah prepares a house in Paradise for every believer who offers twelve Raka’at of voluntary prayer everyday beyond that which is obligatory for him.” [Muslim]
 
Although this Hadith specifies voluntary prayer but our every act of obedience of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)is an act of workmanship towards the properties we are preparing for ourselves in Jannah.
 
A highly skilled carpenter who had grown old was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire.
 
The employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter agreed to this proposal but made sure that this would be his last project. Being in a mood to retire, the carpenter was not paying much attention to building this house. His heart was not in his work. He resorted to poor workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career. 
 
When the job was done, the carpenter called his employer and showed him the house. The employer handed over some papers and the front door key to the carpenter and said “This is your house, my gift to you.”
 
The carpenter was in shock! What a shame! If he had only known that he was building his own house, he would have made it better than any other house that he had ever built!
 
Our situation can be compared to this carpenter. Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has sent us to this world to build our homes in Paradise by obeying His commands. Now, we have to decide how well we wish to build the homes in which we will live forever.  
 
Every work can be our last; every Salah can be our last; let’s pray and work with this realization.
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A King of the Buwaih Dynasty

The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Three (things) accompany a dead body: members of his family, his belongings and his deeds. Two of them leave him, and only one remains with him. Indeed, his family members and his belongings leave him but his deeds remain with him.” [Bukhari]

Commentary: In Shadharat adh-Dhahab it is related that one of the kings of the Buwaih Dynasty, Fakhr ad-Daulah, said: “I collected enough wealth for my children and their army to suffice them for fifteen years.”

But when he died, the keys to his treasures were with his sons who ignored his funeral. Consequently, the people searched for an appropriate cover for him. They eventually bought one from the caretaker of the mosque. All the while his sons and soldiers bickered among themselves until his corpse rotted.

When the disputing was over, the people had to lasso his corpse and pull it from a distance because of its horrid smell. As they pulled his corpse, it fell apart on the stairway of his castle.

Here was a king who owned a great portion of worldly life, a legacy of two million dinars, eight hundred and fifty six thousand dirhams, and a sensational amount of 14,000 pieces of jewels, gems, pearls, diamonds, and gold. This is not to mention incredible amounts of silverware, furniture, weapons and carpets.

But when he died no one attended to him, with nothing to cover him except what they could scavenge from the caretaker of the mosque. This is the reality of this life. We come to this world empty handed and we leave this world empty handed. Only our deeds enter our graves alongside us. Indeed, the wisest person is he who prepares himself for the afterlife by obeying Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) in the best of ways.

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The Legend of the White Bull: At Thawr il Abyadh

Once upon a time three bulls lived in the forest. One white, one brown and one black. They were brothers and lived together in harmony. In that forest also lived a tiger who had his eye on the bulls. But every time he attacked one of them the others came to his aid and together they drove the tiger away.

The tiger decided that he needed to change his strategy. So one day when the Black Bull was away, he went to the other two and said, “You know, the Black Bull is black and dirty and evil. Why do you keep him with you? His is a disgrace to you. You are beautiful and noble. If the Black Bull is no longer there, you will have all the grazing to yourself. He takes away your food and adds no value to you.” The two bulls listened to the tiger’s spiel and said, “Well, you know, he is our brother. What can we do?”

“You need not do anything at all,” said the tiger. “I am your friend. I will do what needs to be done. Just don’t come to the aid of the Black Bull when he calls you.” The others agreed.

The next day, they heard the voice of the Black Bull calling for help in anguish and fear. They listened to him and went back to their grazing. Gradually the calls stopped. The two brothers could not look each other in the eye but then, nice green grass wipes away memories and after a little while it was as if the Black Bull never existed.

Then one day the tiger came to the White Bull when he was alone and said, “So are you happy with the advise I gave you? Didn’t I advise you well? Now here is another advise. You are the real king of the forest. You are White and clean and pure and holy and beautiful. You are wise and good. You deserve to live in solitary splendor like a king. Not with some dirty brown trash who you have to share your food with. Why do you need him? He is a liability and an embarrassment to you.”

“Well, what should I do?”

“You know the score. Nothing at all. I am there to take care of everything for you. Just relax.”

Next day, the White Bull heard the dying screams of the Brown Bull and closed his ears and went back to his grazing.

The White Bull lived for a few days all by himself, grazing where he wanted and drinking from the clean streams of the forest. Then one morning the tiger came again. From the look in his eyes, the White Bull knew that this visit was different. All his life flashed before his eyes. He recalled the time when the three brothers stood together, shoulder to shoulder. Then he recalled all the incidents since then. As the tiger sat before him, not in any hurry, knowing that the result was pre-determined, the White Bull said to him, “I have one last wish. Will you grant it to me?”

“Anything at all my friend”, said the tiger.

The White Bull then climbed a hill and when he got to the top of it, he called out to the people of the forest, “O! People, I do not die today. I died the day the Black Bull died.”

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Words and Phrases to Avoid

Communication is very important in every aspect of our life. Bad communication can result in all sorts of undesirable consequences. It is therefore important that we pay attention to what we convey with the words and phrases we choose in our everyday personal and professional speech and writing. Perhaps the most important aspect of our communication is our personal and family interactions, but let’s discuss that another day, in another blog entry. Today I want to focus on what not to say in the context of our professional work life.

Remove these phrases from conversations at work:

1. “That’s not my job.” It could also cost your job. While a task may not fit directly within your original job description, it’s for the greater good of the company that you lend a hand wherever and whenever possible.

2. “I’ll try.” Not only will you eliminate the trust of coworkers, you’ll also place doubt in the minds of your customers and clients. Replace “try” with “will” for better results.

3. “I dislike…” Avoid constant negativity and filter in more positivity. For instance, instead of saying you dislike meetings because they run too long, figure out a way to energize them or keep them short.

4. “I’m too busy.” Everyone’s really busy. Replace this phrase with something like, “Once I tackle this task, I’ll be happy to take a look at that.”

 

Avoid these phrases during an interview:

1. “I think…” This statement only shows self-doubt — something you can’t risk in an interview. Drop this phrase and replace it with something more confident like “In my experience…”

2. “To be honest…” Stating this before you answer a question may lead the interviewer to believe you weren’t being honest during the rest of your interview. This phrase does not add any value and it should be dropped from all conversations.

3. “We did something…we achieved something” When being asked to describe your contribution to a project or describe your experience, say what you did, what you were responsible for. Say “We” in this context leaves the interviewer thinking what did the candidate actually contribute and often they will ask you to specify.

4. “My previous employer was awful…” Badmouthing is never a good idea — it shows you’re untrustworthy or disloyal. If you’re badmouthing one person, you’ll badmouth others. Even if the previous employer was the worst anyone can imagine, leave the criticism aside.
Remove these phrases from your resume:

1. “Highly qualified.” Show, don’t tell. This simply sounds like a boastful statement and it is most often used by candidates who are not that highly qualified.

2. “Familiar with…” Once again, it’s essential to show an employer exactly how you’ve used technical programs or specific skills. Being familiar with something could mean you’ve heard of it or vaguely remember reading about it. You either know it or you don’t.

3. “Team player.” Rather than say this, share your team work achievement and accomplishments so the hiring managers can see that you are in fact a team player.

4. “Problem solver.” Rather share a problem-solving achievement that benefited your previous employer or client.

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Lessons from Surah Yusuf

The Quran is filled with wisdom and guidance for human beings. One of the ways that Allah explains His message is to illustrate it with stories that are easy to understand. The purpose of the stories is not so much to become detailed historical accounts of the various events. Allah in His infinite mercy wants to inform us through these stories the underlying lessons that are beneficial to us today and until the Day of Judgment. There are stories of some of the Prophets that Allah the Almighty sent to convey the message that He alone is to be worshipped and there is a Hereafter.

While each story is compelling and profoundly beneficial in its own right, one of the best of the stories is the story of the Prophet Yusuf (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) as related in the chapter called Surah Yusuf, the 12th chapter of the Quran. It is my most favorite chapter of the Quran without a doubt. Surah Yusuf took me a few days to memorize the summer of 2009. It was revealed to the Prophet (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) in the ‘Year of Sorrow’ when he lost both his beloved wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) and his Uncle and close ally Abu Taalib (who died without embracing Islam) among other calamities.

The Surah is an amazingly detailed account of the Prophet Yusuf’s life and the trials he faced in his very eventful life. It is a beloved story that my kids love very much as well. It is a great comfort giving Surah to read when you’re going through a particularly tough trial in life. It makes you cry (when the Prophet Yusuf’s father Prophet Yaqoob (peace be upon them both) goes blind, literally crying his eyes out in remembrance of his lost son) and marvel in amazement (at the account of the women cutting their hands seeing how handsome and ‘angel like’ Prophet Yusuf was) and smile and even laugh (for example: when the Yusuf’s brothers refer to him as someone who stole and then talk to him as ‘azeez’ or the privileged one in the next breath). The surah contains everything that makes for a great story: mystery, intrigue, suspense, love, revenge, trickery, mercy, mischief and dream interpretations to name a few. Everyone who listens to this story intently is sure to be mesmerized by the beauty, particularly if they understand the Arabic language.

Although the narrative value of the surah cannot be disputed, the main aim of the story of Prophet Yusuf, as with the rest of the Quran, is to deliver profound lessons to humanity. I have gathered a list of top ten major lessons, gleaning them from scholars’ lectures and commentary that I have read. There was a time in 2009, the same time I memorized Surah Yusuf, when I sought out every possible translation, explanation, lecture and interpretation of this amazing surah.

As it’s often the case with anything from the Quran, the lessons are endless. However, here are ten major ones:

1-Be steadfast in your faith in Allah even in the face of calamities (this is an over all theme throughout the Surah)

2-Always ask Allah for help as Prophets of Allah have shown us through the Quran

3-Never think that others are at fault – since everyone is a test placed by Allah for others – rather ask Allah for forgiveness for those that have wronged you (this one is a hard one, but our Prophet (pbuh) did this all the time as an example for us to follow, inshallah)

4-Dawah (or inviting to the religion of Allah) is an obligation on all of us at all times (see verse 108 of this chapter).

5-Taqwa (Fear of Allah’s wrath and Hope for Allah’s Mercy) and Patience is rewarded by Allah (verse 90).

6-Despair is for the disbelievers (verse 87)

7-Repentance is a virtue at any stage (verses 91-92).

8-The soul orders oneself to commit sins except those souls that have the Mercy of Allah (verse 53).

9-When a leadership opportunity presents itself where you know you have what it takes to do a good job, you should seek it (instead of shying away from it) for the benefit others will get from your skills (verse 55)

10-Prefer prison over disobeying Allah – this is another difficult one which one can only do with Allah’s help (verse 33)

It is apparent from these ten examples that the story of the Prophet Yusuf contains numerous beneficial lessons for humanity. There are many more lessons contained within the story that the reader is encouraged to explore on their own. This is in fact the case with every story in the Quran. It behooves us to take the time to read, understand and reflect upon these stories and apply the lessons learned in our daily lives.

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Life has a purpose and death is not the end

In a recent visit to Pakistan, I happened to attend the funeral of one of my uncles. I had gone to see him just the day before he passed away. His eyes lit up and as I entered the room he was in. He gestured for me to drink the coffee which was brought for me. He’d suffered a stroke a couple of months ago and was unable to speak or move or eat (he could move his left arm and blink and was being fed liquid food through a tube. He could hear and understand and would squeeze my hand with his left hand and blink to acknowledge it. It brought tears to my eyes.
What a life he had led: nine children all married and have had children of their own. As old as he was, he was mobile until the stroke. He was ready to meet Allah Subhanahu WaTaala. I informed him of the Hadith that when a believer is sick, he continues to get the reward of the good deeds he used to do when he was well even when he can’t do them while he’s sick. I asked him to pray constantly for the garden of paradise for himself, his family/friends and relatives. I asked him to seek forgiveness from Allah for himself, his family/friends and relatives to be protected from the hellfire. He squeezed my hand with surprising strength at everyone of these du’aas. It was as though he smiled when I told him that the old age and paralysis is only a test from Allah briefly and that in Jannah we’d all be young and be able to fly around as we wished. It was as though he cried when I told him that Allah is shy when a white bearded Muslim asks Allah for something – so ask Him for entry into Jannah and protection from Jahannam with persistence like a kid asks for candy. The next day he was gone. The janazah was serene with a masjid full of people in the neighborhood that knew him as Abdullah Sahib and in the masjid which he frequented daily for all his prayers. May Allah forgive his sins and admit him into his paradise and may we meet him there ameen!
Just two years ago, Abdullah Mamu’s younger brother Khalid Mamu had passed away (while he was being rushed to the hospital from the masjid). He was speaking to his daughter on the cell phone as he died. She’d reminded him to say the kalimah and he passed away saying “Laa ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasullullah”. What a way to die! Subhan Allah!
Life is a journey and death is not the end. No human being ever created will ever cease to exist: we were created for eternity. This life is brief, the next life is forever. Everything in life is a test. All our deeds, good or bad, will remain with us for eternity. The material possessions will remain in this world and be inherited by others who may fight over it after you’re gone. So let’s all prioritize our lives and chase after the akhirah and not the dunia. Although we live in this world and have to raise families and earn our livings, we shouldn’t get attached to this world and whatever it contains. Who in their right mind will build a house at a train station or an airport? It’s a journey, not a destination. The next life is eternal so we need to be ever more concerned about how we would be there: whether we’ll have a nice house in Jannah or not? Let us prepare ourselves for the ‘real life’ that is to come, without wasting a single day.
Share with your friends and family and let us be prepared for our deaths before it catches up with us when we are unaware.
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