Look Closer

I was waiting for the bus for a while, but as soon as I made dua it came. Alhamdulillah. My feet were sore so I made another quick dua to Allah to find me a seat inside, so I wont have to stand. When I got in, by force of habit my eyes scanned the single seats and found them occupied, so I resorted to standing with everyone else. But as the bus started moving, I turned and saw one empty seat at the back, staring back at me. Had I looked closer beyond my usual preferred seats, I would have found that Allah did infact answer my dua, I was the one who carelessly jumped into the conclusion that He didnt. I didnt look hard enough.

I started to wonder as I sat down, how many times do we do this with our duas? How many times we are quick enough to jump into the conclusion that our duas didnt get answered just by scanning the surface, carelessly overlooking the details? How much effort do we actually put into looking for our “answered duas”? Do we look enough? Should we search harder? Are we heedlessly dismissing our “already answered duas” just because we havent expanded our intellectual horizons to the possibility of the different ways they can be delivered?Are we really looking meticulously for the delivery of our wishes, wants and needs which we pray for?

Are we truely, sincerely, genuinely looking hard enough?

Something I ask myself first and foremost as I think of this verse from the Quran (3:191).

Advertisements

Sleepless In Seattle 

In Surah Kahf, Allah describes the sleepers of the cave, and how He put them to sleep. In depth explanation of the Surah reveals that Allah actually put those men to sleep like a mother who loving pats the head of her baby when trying to put it to sleep (Ref Story Night by Nouman Ali Khan).

When I was undergoing a tremendously catastrophic time of my life, I suffered from insomnia. So ever since then till now, everytime I struggle to sleep, I ask Allah to pat my head like He did for those sleepers of the cave, and put me to sleep. Everytime I have said this, within minutes I fell asleep. From then till now, everytime I make this dua it works. 

Recently, I upgraded my dua and I put a time limit. I ask Allah to put me to sleep in 5minutes, and withing couples minutes I pass out. Even when there will be so much noise around me (I am a very light sleeper), I ask Allah to filter the noise for me so I can sleep, because thats what He must have done for those men as well. Else it wouldnt have been possible for them to sleep when so many poeple would scream and run away from them after getting scared at finding them there.  

He did this for them years ago, and He is still doing the same for me. There is no reason He wont do the same for you. 

We take lessons from Surah Kahf every Friday, very hard, difficult lessons about life. Why is it that we always have to learn the hard stuffs? The matured topics, the kinda things you discuss only in an adult table? Why cant we take simple lessons like this and live with Quran in everyday life? Quran doesnt always have to teach us “life” lessons. Its purpose is all encompassing, even something as mundane as going to sleep everynight.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: make things easy, do not make hard. 

A Late Summer Night’s Dream

I remember that Midsummer Night’s Dream. That devastating night, how I struggled to look for a meaning and purpose for it. How it took me so long to even begin to heal. The only good thing in that night was the moon. Other than that, I hated summer, I hated those trees, I hated the greenery. They trees shed their leaves and regained their greeery all within less than a year, while I stood there watching my life only shed everything, not gain. Hated them. The trees gained back leaves faster than mine. They had definite seasons planned, after 6 months they will get their leaves back. They had a calender to look forward to, I didnt. I didnt know when I would also get foliages in my life, and I detested the trees for knowing theirs. The greenery seemed to mock me, my stagnant, poignant story. It was Ramadan, sometime around the last ten nights, the best nights of the year.

I also remember the evening, right after sunset, of one of the best days of the year, towards the end of summer. There was the same moon and those same lush green leaves, about to turn yellow. There was even the same me. But that was it. Nothing else was the same. What I lost that midsummer night turned its way to come back on this late summer night. The tables were turning,  and as they did, I sat under those trees and made dua. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the trees started swaying in a breeze so beautiful, so serene, so peaceful, that I couldnt help but fall in love. The air was thick with freshness, dense with purity, an oxygen I never breathed before. A summer I knew before. I never knew the greenery could be good. I never knew Allah brought those greeneries back, nurtured and watered them all summer so when my time comes towards the end, they would join me to thank Allah before they hinernate for the season. So yes, I fell in love.

Fall in love with the subtlety yet the gravity Allah’s grandeur. I was sitting in front of the school playgroung which for some reason I stared at everytime I would cry. I never knew why but for years I had been drawn to the sight of that playground from my window. Now I knew why. Because Allah wanted that location to be the spot when it happens, so He made sure I had a connection with the place from before. My hatred for the summer and trees melted when those very trees joined me to glorify Allah that night. As they started to sway and dance the moment I started making dua, I just knew it wasnt random. It was much more. It was the trees joining me to glorify Allah, just how the birds joined Prophet David, just how Allah says in the Quran that everything in the skies and the earth does tasbih of Allah. Everything has their own way of worship, but it was a different experience when those very trees that bore the brunt of my replusion for years joined me to praise and thank Allah that night.

Allah keeps an account of everything, and incorporates even the minutest insignificant details into our story, because nothing is excess or random, should we pay attention.  SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, MashaAllah!

Did I mention that just as I was about to publish this post, I looked outside and saw the moon gazing right back at me? 

Alhamdulillah!

Struggle For Gratitude Continues

Gratitude is hard! Sometimes I wonder if there was a pill I could swallow so I could feel grateful all the time, like how those life coaches and positive psychologists say preach about. But I cant, it just doesnt come all the time. More often than not, I find it incredibly hard to “feel grateful”. Thats how I have realised and learnt that I can’t control how I feel. I am not always in charge of feeling certain emotions. Sometimes they just ARE. 

So I do whatever is in my control, which is to grab the pen and the notebook, and list the things that “under normal circumstances” I should have been grateful for. Things that are highlights of the day. Anything that stands out for that day- from being able to make that pasta perfectly to the moondlight peeking through my window during my night prayers and falling right on the prayer mat, I write them down. They dont cheer me up, they dont do anything to my mood or emotions, they are nothing more than a bunch of words on a piece of paper tossed away at a corner every morning.

But, to Allah, they are something. 


Even my “fake it till you make it” gratitude counts to Allah, for I do see things increase by His permission, alhamdulillah. Because Allah knows I struggle to feel grateful, I try so hard to push myself to feel so, but I fail. And in the light of all these struggles, just my physical effort of being grateful is all I can do. And thats all Allah takes, then He increases it to things which actually genuinely make me happy and grateful. 


Allah knows how hard it is to be grateful sometimes, so He just asks for that infenitisimal, insignificant amount of gratitude, you can squeeze out. He even swears to increase, even though His promise is true, just to convince and assure us, because looking at the quality and quantity of gratitude, sometimes its hard to believe Allah will even accept it. But He swears to convince you and me that He will increase, not once, but perpetually. Increase in whatever you need, want, desire.

Thats what helps me sleep. That as long as I am writing down my list of things I am supposed to feel grateful for, regardless of what I truly feel, Allah sees it. He sees that I am trying to be grateful. And thats what matters, thats what is important. He overlooks my emotional limitations and sees the physical effort, and keeps His promise. Not because I am anything, but because He is Something. 

In fact, He is Everything!

Alhamdulillah!

Complains Do Not Negate Gratitude: Counsel From The Quran

Complains and gratitude are not mutually exclusive. You can grieve and complain to Allah, and yet remain grateful. When Prophet Yaqoob lost his 10year old son Yusuf, he was devastated and he cried so much he lost his eye sight. Yet when Allah narrates us the story,  NO WHERE does He mention anything about gratitude. Allah never tells him to be grateful that his other sons are alive. None. In fact, Allah captures his struggle by actually telling us that his grief did in fact affect his health, people around him were uncomfortable with his sorrow so they told him to move on- all things that every single one of us unfortunately have heard or told others. 

In this very famous verse Allah actually glorifies the fact that this prophet did complain. He kept telling Allah about his sorrow UNAPOLOGETICALLY. Unlike us humans, Allah did not guilt trip him into being grateful to supress his emotions. In His immense wisdom Allah never tells us to suppress our emotions because He knows it is not healthy.

What is also remarkable is that Allah revealed this story when His messenger (peace be upon him) needed counsel, when he was goung through the most difficult phase of his life. So basically even to his messenger (peace be upon him) Allah did not condemn his grief or ask him to stop complaining and be grateful. Allah gave both these prophets the time and space to grieve, to mourn. Allah acknowledged their sorrow and if any He actually tells us that through their legacies that we can turn to Him too to complain. Complain with unwavering certainty that Allah will change our condition for the better.


Even in this very famous verse of gratitude if you look at the background, Allah revealed it to the Children of Israel after Pharaoh killed their baby boys. Allah through His messenger Moses consoled them and encouraged them to be grateful. But Allah did NOT negate their grief or ask them to stop complaining. That is not a practice of Allah. He gives us the leeway to be grateful and still lament.

Basically what I am trying to convey is that we shouldn’t be ungrateful. We shouldn’t try to negate the value of what we have. But that does not mean that we settle with our miseries. It does not mean we pretend life is a bed of roses when in reality it might be not. There is a reason Allah says in the Quran “and do not forget your share of the world” (28:77)

So relieve yourself of that burden today. That burden where you are “supposed” to be only grateful and not complain. You can do both. You can complain to Allah, complain like nobody’s business, pour out to Him every bitterness that is there. As long as you are not being ungrateful, as long as you are not dismissing the favors He has done to you, you are good. “Remember Me, I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.”(2:152). 

If you are still unsure, try it today. I do this experiment with myself. I was at a very bad situation and I complained to Allah a lot, but the whole time I kept an eye on my attitude. I figured that I did not feel “ingratitude”, I did feel grateful for what I have, but the pain of what I dont have, that sense of inadequacy created from that void was unbearable. 

Pain is given to us for a reason, to feel it. Feeling the sense of incompleteness for the things we do not have in life, for our unfulfilled dreams, wishes and desires, its part of our human creation. It is how Allah created us. We cant cloak them up with veils of gratitude and run away from acknowledging those emotions. Gratitude has its own place and so does our want and need for a better life.

That Faith Muscle

So my friend and I were discussing the topic of certainty and belief in the prayers that we make. Discovering that we both suffer from that hollow in the pit of the stomach or the sinking of the heart that is felt when we are to take a leap of faith, was an eye opening experience, much to our chagrin. We both felt it is something we need to help each other with, and I just wanted to share some of the realisations we had in the process.

So let’s start with an example. You are ravenously famished and you still are en route to home from work, so you call home to your mother and ask her to have the food ready. Would it ever occur to you in the fragment of your imagination that your mother might NOT keep the food ready for you? Would you ever have that feeling of “What if I go home and she doesnt make food for me so I have to spend the night hungry?” The thoughts wouldnt even cross your mind. Because you are certain and you have that trust in her that she will.

But unfortunately this equation gets horribly messed up when we are put in a position to place that same unwavering certainty in Allah. No matter how much we know and learn, the human psychology defies them. May be some very highly spiritual scholars have that level of certainty, but I believe I am speaking for the everyday Jane/John Does like you and me. 

So my friend and I have decided to take the following actions and monitor our progress on a weekly basis:

1) We ask Allah to give us our wishes despite our lack of sufficient, unfaltering faith. He is Al Wasie (The all Encompassing)- so His love and generosity encompasses our shortcomings. 

2) Even Prophet Ibrahim asked Allah to fulfil his dua and use that as a means to firm his faith. So realise that weakness of the heart is a human phenomenon which Allah actually acknowledges in the Quran. Allah teaches us from the example of this great Prophet that we can ask Allah to increase our faith by actualising our prayers and desires.

3) Positive affirmations dont work. If any, the closest it can get to is by talking to Allah. Now what to do I mean by that? For eg, you want to be married. So you call upon Al Wali (The Guardian) in a manner where you explain to Him the significance of His name. Its not that Allah doesnt know the significance of that particular name; but it is through explaining to Allah that you basically strengthen your own faith muscle. For eg you tell Allah that ” You are my guardian, so You are responsible for finding a spouse for me. You have assigned Yourself as my guardian so You have to find someone who You trust me with, who will be my guardian in this world. You have to find this person for me because no one else will do a better job than You.”

As you will keep talking like this to Allah you will feel a sense of power inside you- that is the power from having trust on Allah. The power that you are aided, helped, assisted. This will grow your faith muscle. But just like any workout, you got to be diligent and focussed. Its no less than a workout trust me.

4) Make little duas everyday and as they manifest write them down- details of the experience and what you learnt.

I just wanted to say that everything I have written above is from first hand experience. I don’t if these doubts and self talks ever completely go away, but for what its worth, it most definitely gets better and lesser. Take it from someone who was a paranoid in asking something from Allah because of the ill thoughts and expectations, courtesy to the voice of the devil pretending to be God and telling you that you wont get your prayers.

Efforts Are Basically Placebos


When we pray for something, we are required to take actions as well towards achieving it. There is no free lunch in reality.

But what is important is that we realise that our actions really do NOT generate/ guarantee results. Results come from The All Able, from God. He uses our efforts to manifest results. Remember that time when you had a really horrible exam but your passed with flying colors, and you absolutely have no idea how it happened? Well there is your proof. He excused your poor performace and gave you a better result from Him, as a a token of His love.

So why then, do we need to work? Why can’t God just give us everything like that? Well it is because of our own accountability and ownership. It is for the same reason your parents let you work to earn your tuition for college, albeit they are very much able to afford it. It is to teach us accountability and take ownership of our achievements.

When Maryam (peace be upon her) was in the pain of delivery, she was asked to shake the tree above her so it would shed fruits for her to eat. Imagine how vigoriously could actually shake it? My guess she probably was barely able to touch the huge tree trunk, let alone shake it. But she did whatever she could, and the tree bowed down to reach her. 

So your efforts are subjective at times. Just because you can’t exert as much effort like others does NOT mean your doors to achievements are closed. Sincerity is all that counts. God does not need your efforts to give you. Your efforts are the best you can do in your particular situation, so when you achieve your success, you feel the confidence in seeing the fruits if your labor. It is all for you. 


So stop fretting about not being as good as others. Maryam wasn’t. So the tree came to her. It can come to you too, Because just like her, you too are no prophet.

Everyday believers like you and me are not excluded from the Divine Miracles.