Quran Reflection: On Being Pleased

*Note: I am not a scholar. This is but a self-reflective piece.

God tells us at the end of verse 58:22 of the Quran:

رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ۚ

This part of the ayah in surat al-Mujadela catches at my throat every time.

Why?

I have yet to understand, perhaps I never fully will, why somehow my heart’s walls fracture at these words, and why my defences of all my baseless excuses crumble.

We like to think we can read other people’s thoughts, but we can barely understand our own. But here, I will try to analyse myself. I do not know why this part of the Quranic verse – translated Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him – makes me want to collapse in tears. There are likely many reasons. I decided I needed to reflect on this much deeper and try to understand myself through it. I think I have found one reason why this powerfully resonates with me:

To have God pleased with you, and you pleased with Him.

Oh, to have His pleasure. Always striving to make that the end goal and the waves that transport me as I sail with the means. Yet so many times I am not grateful. I may have the appearance of patience, but wars constantly rage within: an army of thoughts remind me to be content with the state of things in my world and to trust that the future is in good hands; and an opposing army of thoughts assures my ego it is justified in wallowing in its own self-misery. Could one have His pleasure if he is not continuously pleased with His flawless plan?

Although Alhamdulileh: all praise is due to God is always on my tongue, I wonder how truthfully and effectively this reality is translated in my heart of hearts. It is a reality for sure, to this I have no doubt – but am I spiritually living this reality in an authentic way? When I grudge things beyond my control – but yet that are – is this not a form of ingratitude on my part? Is this not an indirect expression of discontentment with God’s plan? And if I am not pleased with His plan… how should I ever imagine Him to be pleased with me?

رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ

A Shephard

If He is pleased with you, what else matters? Everything pales in comparison to the pleasure of your Lord. And if He is not pleased with you… honestly… of what from all the skies and galaxies of creation will really matter?

So I pray to the One, turner of hearts, to make my heart sincere and firm. Oh Allah, the All-Merciful, allow us to be of those whom You are pleased with, and who are pleased with You.

For you, and only You alone, know, and have ever known, Best.

-A.S.

Protecting Your Heart

“I want to darken in the skies… Open the floodgates up… I want to change my mind… I want to be enough…

I want to let the rain come down, make a brand new ground

Let the rain come down. Let the rain come down, make a brand new ground

Let the rain come down.” (Sara Bareilles)

Around the Corner

Do you know what I think is astonishing?

Never does a “bad” life event – defined as that which gives you unpleasant feelings in the pit of your stomach or emotional injury – occur, than it is rapidly or simultaneously followed by a flurry of goodness moments. The trick to letting the happy sprinkles of delight wash away the hurt needs a bit of practice to master – but once you learn it, it stays. That “trick” is to remain focused and aware on the certainty that right now is its own special gift; it is irrelevant to a month, day or even a minute ago; you are not alive to live it simply so you can relive the past, but to use it as an opportunity to seize whatever wild awesomeness is about to hit you.

Shams Tabrizi’s Rules of Love, Rule 28:

“The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.”

Time and time again, I let “negative” experiences of disappointment, failure or heartbreak shadow the following days so darkly that I couldn’t appreciate sweet luxuries like the warmth of the sun, the soft gentle breeze, or even the blessed rain, on my face… as if I had no choice in the matter. But now, (I think) I know better.

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Over the Highway

There is a pattern, you see – a pattern I have began noticing, a pattern of merciful opposites. No sooner does a heavy burden weigh me downwards than a positive force, in the form of a success, pleasant surprise, or interaction with a kindred spirit, suddenly materializes to lift me back up. Rarely is a deep, painful ache in my heart felt than it is quickly joined by a flock of colourful butterflies, overwhelming gratitude and a resulting serenity with their peaceful coexistence. It’s all about balance.

But none of that will make a difference, really, if you are determined to believe the world is out to get you. Those conflicting emotions in you will not strike an equilibrium if you won’t let them settle; instead, they will form a tornado or chaotic hurricane within. And even if the reality is such that the world really is out to get you, you can’t succumb to the dreaded fear that He is, too. The moment you think that God can’t love you, then simply, it doesn’t matter who else does. Do not believe in what destroys you.

a lie is simply a lie.

it draws its strength from belief.

stop believing in what hurts you.

-power (Nayyirah Waheed)

On the contrary; I believe God wants us to soar above our mediocre aspirations. He makes us grow through conflicting states, so that we may learn balance with our two wings.“We are far too easily pleased. God wants better things for us. He finds our desires not too strong, but too weak” (C. S. Lewis).

Increasingly, when a disappointment befalls me, I try to be more hopeful than ever. The harder the fall, the higher the rise will be, will it not? It’s a blessing to know that my heart is in none other than God’s hands.

He is the only One Who really understands how to best protect it, and so He is the Only One Who has the right to truly hold it. In better hands, my heart can never be.

Trust that God is protecting your heart.

Even when it feels like it’s shattering in pieces.

Gush

~
And Allah knows Best.

-A.S.

Oh, Those Emotional Roller Coasters

Dedicated to anyone who likes roller coasters and metaphors.

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The function of a roller coaster is to make you forget the world for a few minutes as your body is taken on an exhilarating adventure meters higher in the air than you are accustomed to. Not only do you approach cloud #9 physically, but you do so mentally as well. The thrilling sensation created by the exciting anticipation of being suddenly rotated around a circular track with the physics of centripetal force has your emotions at maximum intensity.


Now I just described one of my favorite amusement rides: the physical roller coaster.

But what do people mean when they say they are on an emotional roller coaster? Well, I cannot speak on their behalf, but I can certainly speak on mine.

In a physical roller coaster, things are simple.

  • There is a starting location, and an end location.
  • There is a set timing for how long each ride will last.
  • Because there is a designated person controlling the ride, you can be assured that you’ll get by in one piece,
  • Get all the way through,

And all you must do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Emotional roller coasters are a little more complicated.

Whereas a flux of various emotions are experienced on the physical ride – suspense, excitement, fear, joy, and so forth – they are all validated, expected, and hence most warmly welcomed as the norm.

But life often puts you in circumstances that you cannot see what the end result looks like, situations that you do not know how long your nerves must be put to the test, and something seems to go seriously wrong along this metaphorical ride…


You see, in an emotional roller coaster, you are not taken on a complete 360 degree turn; at least not in one swift shot. No no, you are rotated at most 180 degrees from the bottom so that you are now upside down. There is no human controlling this so the “ride” is halted midway for an indefinite period of time. Here you are, just hanging upside down as the blood rushes to your head, and you simply cannot ignore what you can’t stop thinking about.

You realize you’re experiencing a range of complicated emotions, and the more you try to rationalize them, the more sophisticatedly complex they become.


In these awkward circumstances, it can be hard to know how to feel and remain in an internally balanced state. The only way to do this is to remind yourself, for your own sake, that although there isn’t a human controlling this whirlwind of a ride, this is all part of a plan from the Best of all Planners.

Once this fact is internalized, it is easier to accept the fact that you’re going to be left hanging upside down, midway on this circular metaphysical track, until you learn to trust in your Creator and His wisdom.

Brace yourself to be content for whatever is to come next.

Oh, those emotional roller coasters. Might as well learn to enjoy the ride while I’m on it.

Gears

And Allah knows best.

-A.S.

Leash For My Heart

Staircase Break

I found myself musing this week over the state of my heart when it wanders off.

Sometimes I’m on something I can only liken to a spiritual high. Not the highest, surely… but it is close to what I imagine bliss to feel like. There’s simply nothing that is able to shake me away from this tranquility, happiness and love.

But sometimes it’s not that magical. You wake up and all you can think about is the one topic, the one subject, that you know you shouldn’t even be stressing about… because it’s not in your control. You’ve done all you can do, and what’s left on your part is tawakkul. (Oh, that powerful one word: tawakkul… you’d think it would be as easy to carry out as it is to write.)

The heart is a wondrous thing, it can be pulled in such extremely opposite directions that I often wish I had some sort of mystical leash that I can wrap around it.

(Here, little hearty… come back here! You’ll hurt yourself.)

But sadly, these useful leashes do not exist.

Or do they?

Rope of God

I love metaphors because it gives me an opportunity to reflect deeply on them as my imagination runs wild. Since what popped out instantly to me in this verse is the idea of rope of God, I allowed my thoughts to leap across mountains & fly through the clouds, until something settled and made a little sense in my consciousness.

(Please be aware I am representing no opinions here but my own. And I am not a scholar of any sort.)

What if we were all people stuck at the bottom of a pitt, needing to be rescued? The presence of the rope alone will not benefit you – you must take action, grab the rope and climb it.

Good grip? Still not enough; you have to hold firmly with conviction. You must hold on to it with certainty, without ignorance or blind faith. You may not see what is at the other end of the rope, but you are confident it’s a way out. To do it half-heartedly and without passion is very dangerous; slipping off the rope is always there as a risk, if you don’t believe with all your might that holding on is worth it.

The rope of God”.  

Could the rope be the combination of the Qur’an & the Sunnah? Islam is inward and outward. If you don’t act while knowing something is the truth, you simply won’t benefit and will continue to wallow in your own self-pity. You’ll be stuck at the bottom of the pitt with the rope dangling down to you, but if you don’t have faith that what you have leads you to the Light, to tranquility & bliss, why would you bother holding onto the rope and climbing it to possible disappointment, gaining nothing more than blisters along the way?

Islam is not something you can have blind faith in. Sure, there are certain metaphysical matters you may need to take a leap of faith – with the understanding that humans are souls that are trapped in physical bodies, and thus, we do not and cannot perceive all. Yet we are given enough to see, to observe, and to contemplate whether Islam’s final Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) is truly a sign from God, and is truly a mercy to mankind. It turns out, for me at least, he is. Grabbing onto that rope is suddenly a means to an end, and not the end goal itself.

Now suppose you are at the bottom of a pitt of hopelessness, but your dilemma is not faith-related. Rather, it is something worldly… your career is going downhill. You are overwhelmed with a million things you have committed to with very little time on your hands. Relationship problems. Health declining. Self-esteem. And much more…

The heart may wander off far away from you seeking reassurance to these things, and the biggest problem is, without control over your heart, you know it’s getting even more lost and in despair. All you can think is how useful it would be to have a rope around it… and drag it back where it should be… Where heart agrees with mind…

That rope. The rope of tawakkul. Are you finding it? Look for it, but remember that it may not only be dangling before your eyes, but it might even be inside of you.

Inward and outward. Hope also comes from within yourself.

Bouquet

And Allah knows Best.

A.S.

Fasting: A Mercy

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Abandoned Orange

Too often people acknowledge that man is weak & forget to point out that there are many reasons for that. One of these reasons, I believe, is so simple & obvious that I’m hesitant to even put it out there. But I shall do so:

(Wo)Man is created weak, so that he can seek the Creator, the source of all strength, and become stronger.

Note I used the term stronger & not strong, and that is deliberate… because man cannot ever be ‘strong’ in the sense that he is completely self-sufficient, completely empty of needs, and in sum, completely independent. No, man cannot be that strong on his own. Yet man may, and should, be getting stronger physically, emotionally, intellectually & spiritually all the time. It is a journey, a progress – not a final worldly destination.

Speaking of strength & weakness, C.S. Lewis has an eloquent saying in relation:

“We are far too easily pleased. God wants better things for us.

He finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”

The truth of this quote especially strikes me at the beginning, and indeed throughout, Ramadan. As I eagerly looked forward to fasting in the blessed month of the Qur’an, the month in which the devil is chained & the gates of forgiveness are wide open – still many around me were expecting me to be in opposite spirits: dreading the 17 hours-a-day fasts. Yet I wasn’t. Why should I be?

Ramadan aside, let’s consider fasting on its own. Fasting in and of itself is not, and never was, solely limited to starving oneself. If all one gets out of a day’s fast is an empty stomach and an irritable attitude, then they haven’t really figured out what it’s all about. It would be absurd to believe that fasting is obligated on a believer simply to make him or her “suffer” for their belief.

Fasting, believe me,  is a whole other glorious level than that.

This Ramadan, I confirmed what most people would agree to be true enough –  that fasting as an activity itself, is not easy. But fasting has been a source of ease for me. And I cannot have been the only one…

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In the Qur’an, fasting and intends for you ease appear in the same verse. Allah (God) does not want to make things difficult for us, merely for us to be grateful…

I pondered on how has fasting been a source of ease for me, and surprisingly the list is very long. Here are only a few examples:

  • Easier for me to confront my flaws, with the assurance that He wants & believes that I can overcome them.
  • Easier for me to properly prioritize my responsibilities & duties to my loved ones and communities.
  • Easier for me to let go of empty attachments that has been previously eating away at my attention, which could have been much better served elsewhere.
  • Easier for me to focus on the task at hand, and give it my 100% presence.
  • Easier for me to remember that every moment not spent remembering Him is a wasted opportunity. (Oh, those prayer beads traveled every bus & metro ride with me!)
  • Easier for me to remember that I am a teacher, and whatever knowledge I have, I should definitely pass it down to the younger members of my precious family.
  • Easier for me to spend out of my pocket for others than myself.
  • Easier for me to smile, be unnaturally upbeat & optimistic. How can I not be, when my mind is containing an unusual surge of energy in my sleep-deprived & caffeine-lacking body? This can only mean He wants me awake seeking His pleasure. (How pleasant!)
  • Easier for me to implement goals and ideas I’d been putting off for way too long. Because honestly, if not now in this golden opportunity of a month, then when?

Truly, fasting is not easy…. but it is a source of ease and a means to challenge ourselves to flex our creativity & faith muscles in areas we didn’t have the guts or “time” to do all year long.

Fasting is a mercy.

To those who celebrated Ramadan: may you & I be several steps closer to God as a result. May we live to witness the next Ramadan in 2016. But until then…

Eid Mubarak!

n21

And God knows best.
-A.S.

البركة في القلة – Blessings Are In The Few

~

البركة في القلة

Blessings are in the few…

Few (purposeful) words,

Few (strong) minds,

Few (pious) souls,

Few (sincere) hearts,

Few (gratefully used) minutes,

Few (worldly) attachments…

Less can be more.

More clarity expressed in a succinct message,

More worthy actions sprung from cultivated minds,

More moments of soft enchantment seen from the lens of true piety,

More meaningful deeds blossomed from a sincere core,

More productivity accomplished in a shorter spam of blessed time,

More attachment to the eternal One when detached from all temporary else…

InstagramCapture_02865901-26ba-492f-b213-47d6735d192b

Indeed, blessings are in the few;

Less can be more;

البركة في القلة.

Life’s Plot Twists

f15 f16

I read an amusing quote this morning that made the writer in me smile:

“When something goes wrong in your life, just yell, “Plot twist!” and move on.”

I really liked it. As I had just completed reading Pride and Prejudice this morning, it all rang more in my mind. Upon editing some photographs I took over the weekend, it occurred to me that the combination above of the two photos can visually summarize the ‘life is full of plot twists’ notion…

Sometimes you think you’re at the top of the world – internal Superman – with your facts, smugness, and attitude; only for some concealed points to be revealed. Suddenly your situation is flipped upside down on its head so abruptly in a dramatic “plot twist”. Somehow you’re still standing, but you’re confused where you now stand and it all seems a bit absurd. Your prejudices are made apparent to you, and maybe even your pride.

Your life story is a plot, and whenever your expectations or assumptions are shunned, a plot twist of some sort occurs. Good or bad, they are worth living. And besides – they were always meant to live. Ali Ibn Abi Talib said,

“Oh God, when I lose my hopes and plans, help me remember that Your love is greater than my disappointments, and Your plans for my life are better than my dreams.”

I await to see what the next chapter of my life holds.

And God knows Best.

🙂

-A.S.

Rainy Days & Sunshine

Photography by Aya Salah.

Photograph by Aya Salah.

 

I live in Montreal, and like most days, I woke up to rain today.

I woke up healthy but grumpy today.

And because of my grumpiness:

I missed my bus stop today.

I arrived to work late today.

I had a bad day at school today.

My silky hijab got soaked today.

My new expensive awesome sneakers got soaked today.

Today… was… dreadful. Of course I’d never been hopeful

Because when it rains, I know my luck

When it rains, I know my day is gonna suck,

And MAN… such a tough life I live

To live in pure eternal sunshine, what I’d give…

 

First world problems.

How we love to hate on things just simply to complain

Yet when it comes to bringing the sunshine in someone’s actual rainy life

Way too many of us abstain.

 

Won’t give a buck or two to someone on the street

Cuz it’s probably not gonna be the thing that gets them on their feet

So use up this money and buy a cheap coffee instead

Take a sip… yeugh… declare all quality is dead.

 

MAN… such a tough life!

Pretty soon I’ll think I’m from the thug life.

 

But all jokes and exaggeration aside,

Speaking first to my greedy self inside:

 

We think we have it bad,

Until we see who has it worse

It’s then we realize just how much

We have our priorities in reverse.

 

You should make a difference

Because that’s exactly what you’re here for

Yet most of us are great slacktivists –

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, we do nothing more.

 

Now, social media is important

Raising awareness just the same

But if hashtags is the most us privileged folks can do,

Then we are drowning ourselves in shame.

 

Whether it’s here in our local communities,

Or whether it’s far away somewhere there

Words need to be followed by concrete actions

And our emotions can’t be reserved only for certain people to spare.

 

Many of us can’t spare the change

And we can’t spare the time

Because we don’t think our small deed

Will impact the world in a manner sublime.

 

But if one’s motive is solely to sway the world,

Then it’s no longer about the cause, why –

It’s about you.

 

The problem with those who stubbornly stall

Waiting to act ONLY in guaranteeing big change

Is that often, sadly, they end up making none at all.

 

Makes you wonder

Where they got the notion

That they’re destined to be leaders of change

Without first going through the petty motions.

 

Don’t let it be about your ego

In an attempt to tell the world you could be a hero

Don’t let it be about you acting out of pity

But let it be about integrity, love and mercy.

 

If it’s for God, know that every deed you do

Be it the seed of an atom, is being accounted for you

And don’t think it too little, unless you can do more

And don’t think it too much, until you can give it no more.

 

Know that with every dime you spare,

With every smile that shows you care

With every hour spent protesting in the streets for others

With every good thoughts for your sisters and brothers

With every secret prayer that you make

And with every intention done for God’ sake…

 

You are making a difference.

 

And yes it’s hard to bear, and it nearly never feel enough

Few people have it easy, the majority have it rough

Yet did you really think for a moment that you and you alone

Could overthrow oppression and put justice on the throne?

 

Yes, it needs your commitment

And yes, it needs your wealth

But never forget God in the equation

For all our physical and mental health.

 

Is not the same God Who watches you here

The same God Who watches them there?

Is it not the same God Who has given you security,

The same God Who shall provide it over there, with certainty?

 

Let’s go back for a moment to the old you who complained of rain

And pretend your wish was granted such that the sun shone all day

Some of the land has become a desert, other areas not

It is so humid and hot, but despair not –

Verily with hardship comes ease

Maybe you’ll be chosen by God to provide some of the cool breeze.

 

The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, once said,

That the best actions are continuous ones even if small

We’re here together today, with good intentions, I daresay

Yet may we continue for the rest of the year to give it our all.

 

Verily God does not change the condition of a people

Until they change what is in themselves.

 

And Allah knows best.

-A.S.

A Beautiful Quote on Fasting

lantern

From a female Islamic scholar named Fariha Fatima:

“There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us.

Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up.

Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty.

Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower.

Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone.

Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies.

Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us.

Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions.

Let us fast from desiring what we do not have.

Let us fast from obsession.

Let us fast from despair.

Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart.

Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior.

Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important.

Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view.

Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah.

Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self.

Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.”

!أمين

 

الحفيظ: The Preserver

elegant allahu akbar

Allah (God) has many names, only 99 of which are revealed to us. Although none of us will truly ever know Him as much as we wish to (or think we do), it is through His mercy, love and grace that we are able to appreciate, in whatever small capacity, His attributes.

But appreciation cannot come about without some deliberate contemplation. For example, you will not be grateful to someone who has done you kindness if you don’t pause for a moment and acknowledge that this person went out of his way to be kind to you– that it was not your ‘right’ to receive such acts in the first place. This is one of many reasons that endless problems happen in relationships of all sorts– there are way too many expectations of what is ‘rightfully’ due, but very little reciprocity or even minimum appreciation for the other.

Back to appreciating God’s attributes: they need to be reflected upon for one to even come close to ‘appreciating’ them, or we will simply take everything for granted until it is gone. (I put that word in quotes because I am pretty sure our impressions of so-called appreciation for His Greatness are seriously lacking in a whole lot of respects– time moves on and you always realize there is more and more to appreciate. One day inshaAllah… but until then, may He forgive us all for our short-sightedness.)

The whole purpose of my existence should be:

I want to know You, God; I want to know You to deepen my love for You and to take sweeter pleasure in worshiping You for no other reason than the fact you are You. But the big question is… who are You? Knowledge of You is an infinite ocean and I have absorbed but a fallen raindrop of it. I know You are my Lord, the All-Merciful, the All-Powerful, the Most-Generous… etc etc etc… But what does this all mean? Why have You revealed some of Your names, what benefit is there for us out of it?

I strongly believe that through contemplating and studying His attributes, one can better recognize deficiencies in one’s self and strive to be a better individual by implementing virtues he/she may not have realized the significance of. For example… one of His names is الحليم (The Forbearing). How would one implement this beautiful characteristic in his/her own life? The answer is not immediately apparent, it needs some thinking.

Al-Haleem is a whole other topic on its own, but right now, I will share some things I learned (so so little of it, but shareable none the less!) about the name Al-Hafeeth – The Preserver. The sources for what follows next is a mix of some Quranic verses that contain words from the root word حفظ, and an audio lecture by Sheikh Rateb el-Nabulsy from a website with his recordings on Allah’s other names (definitely worth checking out). The notes may be a bit chopped off and all, and it’ll randomly fluctuate from English to Arabic to English again because I was getting too sleepy to translate everything– just bear with me, please. 🙂

frosted trees

 

Al-Hafeeth

 

What does this name basically mean? The Arabic language is a rich treasure I have yet to really dig deep into, but scratching a bit on the surface from a mo3jam, I thought this was a good start to understanding:



Al-Hafeeth (The Preserver) here is often linked with Al-Raqeeb (The Watchful One).

According to dictionary.com, ‘preserve’ means to



Doesn’t the above descriptions alone already give you a sense of relief inside? Knowing you have the One Being that is keeping you alive and lasting, making sure you are safe, to protect you and spare you the wretchedness of evils… He must indeed be a Watchful One, who never sleeps or forgets to keep your heart beating relentlessly, even when you forget your own existence in your sleep…

إذا حفظك الله، سخر لك كل شيء. فالله خيرٌ حافظاً

The glorious ayat-al kursi (Qur’an 2:225) makes this attribute even more explicit:


Such a powerful verse, I don’t think the full impact of it has really hit me yet… ~

sad but beautiful

So what else does God preserve besides the heavens and the earth (as if anything more needs to be said or questioned!) You know… {brief rant coming up} It continues to boggle my mind that there are those who refuse in the existence of a Greater Being. Yet they will not deny that the heavens and the earth exist, but they will (basically, it comes down to) deny that there is some One who is preserving them to exist in the first place. {rant over} Glory be to God … سبحان الله

 

… الله هو الذي يحفظلك مالك، و أولادك

…الله يحفظ خلقه

… هو الذي يحفظ كرامتك، عقلك ، سمعتك، دينك

 … هو الذي حافظ القرأن في لوحٍ محفوظ

This list is not exhaustive at all. It is amazing that this characteristic, this one word, has been popping up time and time again both in writing and speech, yet I never really pondered on it. Now that I am, it seems to be everywhere! The times I use the word حفظ has usually been in relation to memorizing something… like a hafeeth of the Quran, for example.

Speaking of memorization– a strong memory is one of the most greatest of blessings (الذاكرة القوية هي من أعظم النعمة). There is a difference between a strong memory and a clever mind (ذكاء والذاكرة شيءٌ مختلفاً). But it intrigues me how very often it’s treated as the same thing… if one has both a clever mind and a strong memory, he will indeed have the best of both worlds. Imam al-Ghazali, for example, a wise and clever man, reportedly wrote his entire book الأحياء out of pure memory. (MashaAllah)

Additionally, we know that the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) would memorize each ayah as soon as it was revealed to him.

In general, people tend to memorize that which is personally meaningful to them. You may find someone whose last concern is seeking knowledge, remembering family birthdays, cannot focus on academics no matter what– yet he is completely up to date with hot gossip, celebrity scandals and knows the lyrics to every popular (however horribly sung) song.

Long story short: الشي الذي تهتم فيه، تحفظه

I must admit, this correlation, if it is indeed a fact (and I have reason to believe it is)… makes me feel terrible. There is a lot of stuff I should be memorizing, or at least keep memorized, if I consider it so important… Allah, I seek Your help in using whatever cleverness I may possess to selectively memorize, and retain that memory, of that which pleases You… إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين

A nice cute tip Sh. Rateb el Nabulsy gave, that I will be taking to heart no matter what gathering I am sitting in: always have a small notebook and pen with you. Always. اكتب أجمل ما قرأت، واحفظ أجمل ما كتبت

Now you might know God is The Preserver and you might believe it in your mind– but until it has settled deeply into your heart, the knowledge will not benefit you when you most need it. Prophet Yaqoub, for example, definitely understood the significance of Allah being الحفيظ. When his sons asked to bring his other son to the market on (unknown then) Prophet Yusuf’s order, he replied with “Should I entrust you with him except [under coercion] as I entrusted you with his brother before? But Allah is the best Guardian, and He is the most Merciful of the merciful.” (Qur’an 12:64)

الله خيرٌ حافظاً وهو أرحم الراحمين

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With such high trust in Allah’s power, does this mean that one can become lazy and await the pleasures of this world and the next to easily come to his feet? Most definitely NOT; this would be doing the exact opposite of the inspiration for this blog post– reflecting on His attributes. In neglecting to reflect, one ceases to appreciate, and hence becomes arrogant with the haughty assumption that good things are rightfully owed to him, as opposed to him taking the means in good cheer and with God’s pleasure as his purpose.

جميل أن تأخذ بالأسباب، ولكن أجمل من ذلك أن تأخذ بالأسباب و تعتمد على الله الواحد القهار

I have a slight tendency to go off topic when I get excited, and I hope that’s not the case here. In case it is, though, maybe I should wrap up (this blog post is longer than I anticipated, woops) and pose one final question:

How can one implement the characteristic of  حفظ in one’s daily life?

Going back to your own heartbeat while you are alive; let us unnecessarily point out that at this moment, as you read this, your heart is beating. It is taking absolutely no effort on your part. God is preserving that.

Additionally, He is consistent in preserving your sanity, your health, your mind– all these things you have no control over.

God is consistent in protecting you, with no pauses or breaks or forgetfulness. We should do the same in good deeds: better a page of Quran everyday than 200 pages the night of (the assumed) laylat al-Qadr. Better smile in the face of your parents several times a day and tell them how much they mean to you, every day, than show them your pearly whites and express your love on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

As the hadith goes, God loves the deed which is done regularly, even if small:

أحب الأعمال إلى الله أدومها وإن قل

The day after I listened to the Al-Hafeeth lecture, I went on the bus, pulled out my Qur’an, and flipped to a random page. I ended up on surat al-Mu’minoon (chapter 23), and the first 10 verses gave me chills as God was describing the attributes of the successful believers. All these attributes had a certain connection to preserving something, and I will briefly list them in order here:

  1. They who are in their prayers humbly submissive (preserve khushoo’)

  2. They who turn away from ill speech (preserve their speech and listening for good only)

  3. They who are observant of zakah (preserve their money for good use and purification)

  4. They who guard their chastity (preserve themselves except for spouses)

  5. They who fulfill promises and trusts (preserve their words)

  6. They who carefully maintain prayers (preserve them)

All of the above points can each be elaborated on extensively. However, what caught my eye immediately was the way this section describing the successful believer begins and ends with… prayer.

Perhaps for many of us, we can let out a relieved sigh and say, Well, I got 2/6 from that list! But do you really? (Question directed to myself first and foremost)

I mean, you might be praying five prayers everyday, but are you just rushing through them or are you carefully (#6) in the moment of every letter you utter? Do you pray in a half-state of mind or are you fully submissive and humble to your Lord (#1)? These questions’ importance can never be emphasized enough. Without prayer, and praying it right– I believe the characteristic of hifth will be lacking in our lives.

Mankind can be in either of two states in any day: either he will be in a state of abandonment from His Lord if he chooses to abandon Him, or he will be enjoying the protection of His Lord (and it is so sweet when one is actually aware of it).

أما تكون في حالة تولي، أو في حالة تخلي

 

May Allah make it easy for us to appreciate His attributes and instill in us the desire, will and capacity to recognize them in our lives and let that change us for the better… the better of ourselves, for the better of humanity, and for our very own salvation…

… اللهم دائماً نكون في حالة التولي

Ameen.

wa huwa ma3akum

–A.S.