Joy and Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the self/same well from which your laughter rises
was oftentimes filled with your tears…

And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy…

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight…

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed…

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

[By Kahlil Gibran in ‘The Prophet’]

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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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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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