Living by It. One lesson a day…

… from Quran. Changing slowly, but surely.

Lesson 36 – Incessant Thanklessness April 17, 2010

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“Have you not observed people who reciprocated Allah’s rewards by being (thankless) disbelievers, and have landed their community in a home in the abyss; Hell; to burn therein, and a terrible place to live in.”

Surah Ibrahim (Surah 14), verse 28, 29

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Oh God! That’s me.

And I am in a kind of hell these days.

Allah’s rewards on me are too many. I stop seeing them when I decide that I don’t want to. Best way to deal with this is to see the worldly conditions of those below me and the spiritual heights of the ones above me. It can be very calming and productive if I make that choice for myself.

I’ve noticed that arrogance, thanklessness and laziness are the ways to my heart when shaitaan wants to get extra friendly. He wins way too many times but I’m not going to be knocked down anymore. I’ll get up with a new resolve every time insha’Allah. I can never be thankful enough for His Favors upon me, one of them being His Mercy in that I can seek forgiveness and I can try to become better every time I slip, every time I show ingratitude. Subhanallah!

This thanklessness is mentioned so many times in Quran! It’s kind of relaxing in the sense that it is a major weakness in humans, in Muslims and it needs to be addressed, that it’s something global and not just YOUR weakness.  In the three consecutive Surahs 41, 42 and 43, this ingratitude is elaborated on further (41: 49-51) (42: 48) (43: 15-17). The incessant hopping from thankfulness upon receiving good and faithlessness following the slightest affliction is embarrassing to say the least. My dad always stresses on being content in whatever circumstances you find yourself in – it’s a true indicator of one’s character. What’s great about beaming from ear to ear upon landing something great and cribbing over your fate if something doesn’t work out? It’s what any mortal would do, I know… which is why it would be commendable to rise above that weak behavior and find contentment and peace in ALL that comes your way… which He’s Enabling anyway!

Every time I’m feeling a bit thankless now I either praise Him or I start counting His Blessings upon me right from my five intact senses to roof over my head to the ability to think – I really get down to the basics because I just don’t want to take anything for granted, because it’s the easiest way to get past my trivial issues, because nothing is truly in my control anyway.

 

Lesson 35 – I Will Pray For You April 15, 2010

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“(Father said): I will (pray to) my Rabb for forgiveness for you. Indeed He it is Who is Oft Forgiving, the Merciful.”

Surah Yousuf (Surah 12), verse 98

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I’ve had the understanding that praying for disbelievers, for the sinners is fruitless because it is Allah Who Guides them if He Wills, Who Lets them stray if He Wills.

I’ve also had the understanding that praying for good things, be it forgiveness for loved ones or anything else for that matter, is a way to tell Allah that you Fear Him and will ask only from Him because you admit that He is the Provider, the Merciful Provider, the Entity Who Knows your weaknesses and of those whom you want to salvage in a way that’s possible for you.

That He is to be Feared, to be expected to be Merciful is not a contradiction. I lack the wisdom to elaborate on this and I’ll find that one article I once read that explained this superbly and put it up soon InshaAllah.

Coming back to the verse, I think it’s safe to say that we should ask for forgiveness all the time (not just for ourselves! For everybody!). In these times (actually not really! It has always existed) when immorality is so rampant, I sometimes feel like just living is a sin. I feel like if I stayed in my room all day, I won’t sin… which kind of explains my hermit behavior every once in a while, but that’s going away from the topic at hand. I’ll just stop talking now.

 

Lesson 34 – Night & Day, Day & Night April 13, 2010

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“He it is Who has Created night for you to be peaceful in, and daylight for you to see in. Indeed in all this are the signs for the group of those people who listen.”

Surah Younus (Surah 10), verse 67

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Mom and my mom’s sister have ALWAYS said that. And I totally see their point. But there are so many things I have to do in one day that I can’t help but stay up late most of the time. The fact that shaitaan makes me irresistibly drowsy in the afternoons is what I need to address. I know that if I stay up those 3 hours I sleep in the afternoons, I could easily work my way towards a sensible sleeping time. A time that is in concordance with nature.

You would agree that when night falls, everything LOOKS as if it’s meant to be asleep. Like there is a purpose to the darkness, to the quiet that accompanies each night. I do have a problem with corporate for extending working hours to insensible schedules, with load shedding for wasting hours of the day, hours I could use to do my laundry and iron my clothes but they’re are all excuses my mind desperately formulates to escape the issue at hand.

Medically, mornings are great for the body. Cortisol (natural steroid) is released in a diurnal manner. Peak time is around 8 am in the morning and the lowest levels are around 12-4 am. Cortisol has many, many effects on the body. It’s basically a hormone released in stressful states. It helps release glucose (brain’s fuel), helps retain water and sodium in the body (integral for mental function), helps build short-term memory (too much of it, though, can impair learning), it weakens the immune system (if there’s a continued or increased circulation of it), it raises blood pressure (a controversial quality), it increases acid secretion in the stomach (that can give you the pangs in the morning) among its myriad of actions.

That all can be as good as being bad for you depending on different situations. It’s like if you have a deadline to meet, you find ways to do things, bring people in, have brilliant ideas and come up with a product minutes before it’s due. If you’re being given too many deadlines, you’re going to run short of ideas, short of the motivational drive and the desire to produce meaningful things. That’s pretty much how cortisol works. Going by plain logic then, waking up early  after a good night’s sleep, will mean that the cortisol is high at the same time as you’re awake, thereby keeping the motivational drive intact. Even on Sundays when, otherwise, we like sleeping in. Because we spent Saturday night partying. Going by that same logic, sleeping before 12 means we’ll be down right about the time that the stress hormones are minimal. But, of course, cortisol is not the only thing that needs to be considered; Allah’s Creations are always much more complex and fascinating.

Allah’s Words are too simple to be true. We make it so hard upon ourselves. We get lost in the flurry of things around us. In the things OTHER people are doing.

RE-PRIORITIZE is what I need to do, something I realize but don’t implement. DE-PRIORITIZE parties and TV and people’s inappropriately timed plans. If I truly have the will, I will find a way to stay awake and be productive in the afternoons and wake up in time to welcome a healthy dose of cortisol. I’ve trivialized this verse for far too long and I hope I can find ways to change that.

 

Lesson 33 – You Can Be Batman Too April 11, 2010

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“O you people who believe! Stand firmly for Allah to give witness that justice was done. And do not launch an attack by incriminating any group of people; it must not be that you lean towards one (group) in doing justice. Be just, this is nearer to taqwa (abiding with Allah’s laws). And fear Allah.”

Surah Al-Maida (Surah 5), verse 8

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People love to talk. Love to argue. Love to pass judgments. Some like to generalize… so it’s quite often that one hears, “Oh, he’s a Sindhi,”; “Oh they’re all like that,”; “Oh doctors ARE so greedy,” and the list can be pretty much endless. Why should a group of people suffer the blame when one selfish person decides to manifest his uber-disgusting ways? But we do that. We do it all the time! There’s news about one malpractice and the whole community of doctors is bombarded with suspicion. Zardari becomes president and the whole of Balochi and Sindhi communities are sweeped under this one umbrella of people nobody wants to interact with. We’re all fools that way. We think we’ve learned to treat people as individuals, then we meet the same situation, same type of person and we fall back into that easy trap of generalizing… till we decide that the generalizations are, in fact, legitimate. Aaah shaitaan works so cleverly, gotta give that to him.

As for handing out justice when it’s due… that’s a tough one. A lot of factors come into play (but the idea is to be honest with what one’s doing, even if later, one realizes it was the wrong decision).

This one time I was taking history from a patient, an emaciated, nervous little thing who patiently answered questions that dated back to a time I felt awfully awful about. It was a long history and there was a Hepatitis C marker above her head… Her sister was sitting besides her, helping me quite a bit, in the details of her history, which was making the patient weep in worry/ concern. The attendant insisted that my patient had no liver problems, that it was a transient infection that had resolved, that the doctors told her she just has her incisional hernia to worry about. I, being näive (read: a bit stupid), was going to retort until her monologue grew longer than 60 seconds and it hit me, the patient was being lied to, for lack of a better word about her state.

I am the kind of person who loves handing out truth, because I have (delusional) thoughts about helping people improve themselves upon hearing their flaws. In an honest way. But a nice one at that.

So, I thought, “Okay so my patient is being clearly lied to and it’s not something that’d be correct in my utopia,” but then there was the obvious fact of patients doing better with placebos. This patient’s placebo was the information being held, being told that she was doing well, she was on her way to recovery if she could hang on, for a bit more.

While all this happened, my patient got the hint and she looked into my eyes and asked me if she still had the infection… and I said what her sister said, in a roundabout manner. We spent the next 10 minutes bonding and consoling the patient, all three of us having group therapies of different sorts.

There are so many other times when things like these happen… when somebody confides in you for a vent out session that unfortunately involves backbiting and  blame games, maybe a pepper of derogatory terms too, it gets really odd because in your attempt to make your friend feel better you usually end up saying something that solidifies his/ her hatred/ dislike for whoever it was a session about OR you end up sharing a story about somebody you disliked who did something similar… But you see, that is right when shaitaan has jumped into the conversation and made wrong look / feel right.

The trick is to say things in a manner that doesn’t reveal the bad in the people being confided about, while at the same time helping your friend work his/ her way around the topic such that s/he isn’t being unnecessarily unjust and/ or  imperceptible. If and when, I’m able to reach that point, I’ll pat myself in the back and smile about following the command in this verse.

In the meanwhile, I’ll just pray that I not be a witness to things that’ll need my comment. Hehe.

 

Lesson 32 – The How’s of Entering Into a Contract April 9, 2010

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Rabi Al-Sani 26, 1431

“O you people who believe! When you enter into a contract of a mutual loan (or liability by agreement), it is for a fixed term then have it written. And have it written jointly; one writing it must write it down impartially. And the one asked to write must not refuse to write, must write as he has been taught by Allah how to write. And the one who incurs the liability should dictate it to the writer, and have fear of Allah his Rabb. And there should be no (word or item) left out or reduced. If the one who is liable is not intelligent, or is weak (underage), or is unable to dictate (due to lack of knowledge to trade or language), then his friend must dictate impartially. And it must be witnessed by two men (available) from amongst you; if two men are not there (at hand) then one man and two from among women whom you accept as witnesses, in case one of the two goes astray other can remind her. And witnesses must not refuse to testify when they are called. And must not be averse to writing it (the agreement), it is large (amount) or small, fix (and enter) term agreed. This is more just for you, in the eyes of Allah, and the best (way) to establish evidence , and nearer to (equity) so that there is no uncertainty. However, if it is on the spot trade and the exchange is hand to hand, between you, then there is no objection if you do not write it down. And have witnesses (or a receipt) when the transaction is done. And do not harass or harm the writer nor the witness, and if you do then certainly it will lead to your moral depravity. And fear Allah and Allah teaches you. And Allah knows everything.”

Surah Al-Baqarah (Surah 2), verse 282

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Word.

 

Lesson 31 – A Prayer For When We’re Vulnerable April 5, 2010

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Rabi Al-Sani 22. 1431

“Allah does not put a burden on any living creature more than its capacity to bear.

To each belong (the good) it had earned, and to it belong (the ills) it had earned.

“O our Rabb! Do not condemn us if we are forgetful or if we make a mistake.

O our Rabb! Do not load us with a burden as was loaded on generations before us.

O our Rabb! And do not lay a load on us greater than the one we have strength to bear.

And Forgive us, and Pardon us, and have Mercy on us, You are our Friend, (our Protector); then help us against the group of kafirine (those believe who refuse to believe in You).”

Surah Al Baqarah (Surah 2), verse 286

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Sometimes I wonder about the stuff my mom had to deal with, because of us. We weren’t exactly the kids a mother would wish for… and then I remember reading about how nobody is given a burden he’s unable to take… and so it was her patience, strength and utmost faith in Allah that worked because, fortunately for us, she HAD that kind of patience, strength and faith. My parents make a lovely combination and they both stood through time, tough times, to finally reach this point where they can relax a bit and expect us to pay our due, so to say… in terms of the love and care we were given. A lot of people have come up to me and told me how strong my mom is… and I wasn’t too impressed because to me it seemed like she was just strict… until a few years ago when I realized that she’s capable of what she is, and she’s applying all her wisdom and all the precautionary measures for us, at the risk of retarding us in our “social circles”.

Then I see other people around me and wonder how they had it easier and all I can conclude is that they didn’t have the strength to bear as much, maybe, as my parents did… We all have our roles and Allah decided to give my parents the roles that those people could probably not take.

The stuff I’ve had to go through, I guess I had the strength to come out smiling. We all go through stuff we think we shouldn’t have, because you know, Allah is All-Powerful… but we forget that he’s Wise too… so why stuff happened the way it did, the knowledge is with Him alone and it’s best to leave things at just that… and move on.

At the other end of the spectrum, when I see people screaming and disbelieving when a loved one passes away unexpectedly, my heart goes out to them and I seriously wonder how people continue with their lives for the immediate time that follows. How they take that burden, when such dependency is involved.

A slight analysis of this verse would reveal that it’s our forgetfulness, our deeds, our mistakes and our lack of understanding that He is a Friend – the Almighty Who’ll take us along and Guide us when we feel we’ve fallen so hard we can’t find the strength to get up again – all overlapping together to produce the circumstances and thus, the significance/ relevance of this prayer. Yet again, shaitaan sits back and pounces on the opportunity, if he finds one, when the world’s falling apart for us… so seeking refuge from him should be first and foremost; he’ll recruit the kafirine, he’ll find a way to make us question Allah’s Decisions, Wisdom and Power… so we mustn’t let the ugliness of his soul affect us and remember to recite this prayer (InshaAllah).

A reverberating mention of previous generations exists in the verse at the same time, which is why you should scroll down.

 

Lesson 30 – Petra And Rome Aren’t That Great If You Really Think About It! April 3, 2010

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Rabi Al-Sani 20, 1431

“Tell these people who are refusing to believe, that if they desist, they will be forgiven whatever happened earlier. And if they persist then their fate will be the same as has been the tradition in the past.”

Surah Al-Anfal (Surah 8), verse 38

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It’s interesting that the word “believer” is used in places that are followed by clear commands. The words “refusing to believe” mean that all of us are included and not just people of other faiths. That way we, the Muslims “refusing to believe”, are being addressed the same way as an atheist, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu is. It seems as if we’re being stripped of the honor we have of being Muslims and just heed to Allah’s words here.

Now, can you ever expect to rise in a multinational company if you mess up a huge international deal? No. Can you ever regain a partner’s trust if you’ve committed zina after promising fidelity? Hardly so. Can you survive a criminal prosecution if you’ve been caught executing a robbery? No, unless there’s some hanky panky involved that is so prevalent today. Can you stop the examiner from getting your paper annulled if you’ve been strongly suspected of cheating? Rarely.

But with God, the rules change. All you gotta do is STOP, REPENT, OBEY and PASS ON the message of His Favors… and you have a clean record; you’ve found the stairway to heaven, you’ve found the gardens with free flowing drinks. Easy innit?

If, however, we continue to IGNORE and SIDELINE the holy words for whatever short-term goals we have, then God has been Kind enough to show us what He will Do: the epitome of evidence based learning. This is what He means. And this, this, this, this, this and this among so many others. I believe that all the mystical areas of the world, all the tourist sites really, are remnants of nations gone astray, nations that were astoundingly intelligent and established but stubbornly non-conformists.

So book yourself a ticket, visit Petra, visit the Coliseum of Rome, go to Mexico, fly to Moenjodaro and be flabbergasted! And then be thankful that you still have a chance to make the right choices and not have the “same fate as has been of the traditions in the past”.