Great Expectations: Istighfar

(A/N:Istighfar=Asking for forgiveness from Allah)

When I started my daily Istighfar challenge in November with 2 other friends, Alhamdulillah I did see things happen in life. As usual they start with little miracles and progressively increase, of course by will of Allah. HOWEVER, as months passed, I felt that my Istighfars were not really working as well, in terms of manifestations, or at least as I would expect. I have heard stories of so many people having mountains moved in days or weeks just by doing Istighfar, so my expectations were similar to that level. So at the end of 3 months I actually sat down and reflected over the Istighfars that I was doing.

I realised that when I started doing Istighfar, I took it up as one of the many things I was already doing as a challenge, for eg Gratitude Journal ( G Journal), Tahajjud (Night Vigil Prayer) etc. If I can be honest with myself, my hidden mentality was ” I am already doing so many things,  might as well add Istighfar to it. Doesn’t harm to try it out.”  I was doing my Istighfars half-heartedly, and as a result I felt my life was also moving half-heartedly.

Now, ‘half- heartedly’ doesnt mean I wasn’t focussed. I was paying complete attention to my Istighfars as much as I could, I would think of the mistakes I would make throughout the day and ask forgiveness for those. “Asking for forgiveness” isn’t what I was making the mistake in. My mistake was in my “half-hearted intention”. I wasn’t putting the absolute intention, having absolute conviction, absolute expectations of things changing from my Istighfars. I was not putting as much care in my intentions as I was putting in the physical efforts of counting the beads to do Istighfars. It was more like a chore. I was doing it as one of the “many things” that help with answering of dua. In fact, I wasn’t really putting as much expectations from my Istighfars as I was perhaps putting from Baqarah or G Journal. (That’s what happens when we take too many things in our plate and then crash with them altogether, net final result being zilch. That’s why the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him said Allah loves deeds which are regular, albeit small.)

So my take away from all of this is that, for getting solid results from Istighfar, we need to be mindful of the intention behind doing them, and the results that we are expecting, along with being genuine in our repentance. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, because Allah Himself has “bribed” us with so many incentives to do Istighfars (you can read up here for details prescribed in the Quran as Istighfar benefits). If He didn’t want us to have them, why would He promise?

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I personally felt that we need to realise that sometimes years of  delay wash away our motivation and strength to “get up one more time and try this one more time, when all else has failed”, and that’s why we often miss the results. Its incredibly easier said than done, I know! But that’s also why I usually try to give myself shorter deadlines. For eg, set a certain number of days to focus on Istighfar, and then write down all the changes that happen. (Writing is always more powerful that keeping tabs in mind, the latter is what most of us do unfortunately, including myself.) That helps establish the faith in extending that challenge to more number of days ( I have done that with G Journal, Baqarah and currently on Istighfar).

Read the verse above. Allah will not change out condition until WE change whats inside of us. So not only is the pre-requisite for external change is a shift in our inner mindset, but also that inner change has to be brought about by us. YOU need to change your insides for Allah to change whats on your outside. Its simple but not always easy, and thats why we take baby steps. Allah appreciates those baby steps and rewards us, giving us the strength and courage to take the bigger, “adult” steps. You become happy, give Him thanks, and He gives you more.

And the cycle continues.

A/N: Nothing mentioned here are a scholarly opinion and are intended to be taken only as reflections to strengthen faith. As always, take any good you get and leave the rest to collect dust❤️

And please do remember me in your duas, that Allah opens my doors that I am asking Him to open. Thank you for reading ❤️❤️

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It Never Happened: Ordinary Miracles

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I felt horrible about it as soon as I got off the phone, because I realised what had I done. I should have been careful, I should have double checked my work before submitting. I cant possibly afford to make another hefty mistake after coming this far. Why is it so hard ? Why do I always have to check my work? Why am I not allowed any mercy for any humanly mistake I make? It was one of those overwhelming moments, one where you are suddenly infused with uncontrollable grief, pain and sadness. Emotions bottled up, frustrations pent up- all came out at once as I stifled my sobs behind closed doors, bracing myself for yet another sleepless night.

I tried to pray, but nothing came out. Tried to have a little compassionate pep talk with myself, sending the frightened child inside me some love and companionship, convincing it yet again that Allah and us are a team, and that we are going to be okay. I just have to bite my teeth and let this pain pass through this moment, and because this pain is excruciating, the guilt is overwhelming, I am allowed to do whatever I want to make this as easy as it could get. I tossed away my notebooks and everything that I was working on. It all seemed futile now. I asked a friend to pray for me though!

After a few minutes, I mastered the strength to pick up my Quran to finish my daily Baqarah. (Read here for my daily Baqarah challenge).  I really could do nothing right now. Nothing and noone could help me. I remembered a conversation I had earlier in the day about healing from the Quran, and started reading the Baqarah as if my last lifeline depended on it. After 4-5 minutes of reading, I started to feel the emotions subside. I cant explain or pinpoint the feeling, I guess its one akin to the Ecstasy drug they take to feel so. But neverthless atleast the pain wasn’t as much, which is still something. I even walked out of my room and faked a smile as I passed through the lounge, noone could tell anything. So the calmness was working.

Something in me spoke up. I realised that I made mistake yes, but I coulnd’t let myself wallow in self pity because there is nothing I could do. I had to do whatever I could, and if that means just plain Istighfar (i.e ask for forgiveness from Allah), then so be it. Since when did Allah need my efforts to fix up messes that I create? After all  He created me a human, so by nature I am supposed to make mistakes. He is the One who is perfect, so He is supposed to fix what I goof up. (This is something I learnt previously, here ),

So I freshened up from my disheavelled state, and sat down on my bed with my tally counter, to ask for forgiveness to Allah and for Him to rectify the issue. I was no longer feeling the tightness in the chest. I felt numb, which was much better than the pain of reprimanding myself for messing up such an important project I have been working on so diligently.

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Just as I sat down ( I just made the intention, hadn’t started istighfar yet), my phone vibrated with an incoming phone call. The client called and said the meeting is still in place tomorrow. By the end of the conversation I realised that the client HAD NO IDEA of the mistake I had made, because NO MISTAKE was made at all. SubhanALLAH! Allah manoeuvred and orchestrated everything within an hour such that He literally hit the UNDO button, no mistake was actually made at all. I have no idea how it happened, because my sent messages clearly show that I did. It is unexplainable and doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if it is because of the loving pep talk I had with myself about self compassion (afterall Allah says to be kind with His creations), the Baqarah reciting with tears streaming down my eyes,  the intent to do istighfar as the last resort (based on the saying of the Messenger, may peace and blessings be upon him, that actions are but by their intentions), the dua made by others (which is guaranteed to be answered), or perhaps none (perhaps it was Allah’s love and mercy which is not conditioned on us doing anything to be eligible for). I do not know. But at a time when everyday is an uphill battle, putting one foot in front of the other, these little things (at that overwhelming moment it was not little at all. That was all I could think of that moment) get us going. They make us realise that Allah is always speaking to us, sending messages and signs, causing coincidences and serendipities, reminding us to stop, to look around, to believe in something else, something more. Little miracles like this want us to believe that somewhere out there, there is still magic! If you cant find it, it will come find you.

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Please remember me in your prayers that Allah opens the doors I am asking Him to open. Thanks

Miracle On The 34th Street

The street was pretty deserted at that time of the day when she was walking back home. Its the usual road she takes everyday- the same aroma of cinamon from the bakery nearby, the thickness of cold in the air, the last bit of greenery left in the trees, the buildings, everything just the same. As she was trying to shift her focus from the annoying events transpired earlier in the day while crossing a building, she suddenly heard it, as clear as day. Her heart thudden violently against her chest as she turned pale with fear, knowing exactly what would happen next. She braced herself anticipating the worst, thinking of her little babies at home as she closed her eyes. The window above her from the fourth floor smashed violently into a thousand glittering pieces and fell all around her. No prior signs or warnings, just like that the window smashed and within seconds she was standing in a pool of shimmering glass fragments. Shocked, frightened, trembling with fear, she stood there looking aroung trying to fathom what just happened, and rather how it happened. Even I was shocked when I heard it, because its not everyday that people get greeted by glasses shattering all around them when they are casually strolling on the street.

But thats not it though. What was unbelievable was that merciless way the fragile pieces of glasses came down, without a tiny bit of remorse whatsoever, but left her absolutely untouched and unscathed. The must have fallen under some Divine order, strictly instructed to not “tresspass” the area she was standing on. None of the glass pieces were allowed to fall on her.This is a miracle in and of itself because she was standing directly under the window and there was absolutely no logical, scientific reason for the glasses to fall a inch away from all around her, but not on her. Absolutely no reason why her two small babies would have their mommy return home to them with nothing happening to her, yet so much happened in front of her. Its window from 4th floor for God’s sake!

Except that there was. Not a logical or scientific reason, but one coming from deep faith rooted in Allah. As she recalled the event, she admitted to me that a second before, she decided to stop engaging her mind in the vain, annoying thoughts and focussed on doing istighfar (seek forgiveness of Allah). No sooner than she started her chant that this incident happened. Literally a second after, no more than that. As if istighfar was all these windows were waiting for. Also three days prior to that, she did some charitable donation and we all know charity is a great way to ward off calamities.

As I write this I try to picture the scenerio over and over again, and I wonder how special people of istighfar are to Allah. How Allah turns laws of nature, science and logic, and puts the entire universe at the service of these special people, simply because they sought to do their istighfar. These are not saints or sages, not the particular scholarly or righteous people, these are the most ordinary, everyday believers like you and me. They go out, eat out, have fun. Like you and me they also make mistakes, fall short, dont do everything by the book. But what they do though, is acknowledge that this is who they are, and ask Allah to accept them as well, by overlooking their shortcomings. Thats all. They ask Allah to take the aorta of good they do for Him, and leave the rest to collect dust. And Allah does excactly that. He takes the good, and does whatever is needed to keep them happy, safe and secure. Because Allah is as you expect Him to be. It is not anymore complicated than that.

Sometimes, even for some extremely ordinary people, extraordinary blessings come down. Not because they are special, but because the One who sends them down is.