Struggling towards sincerity

Struggling Towards Sincerity – Humza Asad

The prophet (saw) said,

” إنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إلَيْهِ”

“Actions are judged by their intentions, so each man shall have what he intended.”

And the hadith continues on saying “and whosoever’s hijra was to Allah and His Messenger, his hijra is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”

When I first met my committee in around March time, we had the usual discussion which any new team would have. Why are we here; what can we expect; what is expected from us. And amidst that discussion a crucial point was put forward. A point which was to set a precedent for the perspective which we would have when we approached our work. A point which was to set a precedent for our mindset moving forward. And that was; isoc – much like anything else in life – is a transaction. The more you are willing to give, the more you should expect to receive in return. So, if you want to be stingy with your investment in this transaction, then don’t be surprised when you are returned with a sum that matches you in your stinginess. And if you want to be naïve with your investment in this transaction, then don’t be surprised when you are returned with a sum that fittingly reflects your naivety.

“So, to each man is what he intended.” And thus, an evaluation of the type of transaction we have engaged ourselves in is absolutely necessary. An evaluation of exactly what we have intended is crucial because to each man is what he intended. And so, the intentions we put forward will be indicative of the results we are expecting.

However, when looking at our Muslim community the opposite is true. The sad reality is that we’ve (whether consciously or subconsciously) shifted our focus in alignment with the shift of societal focus. Anyone who’s analysed the evolution of western civilisation will understand that as the church separated from the state – as theology was disengaged from the practical application of governmental affairs – a much greater and more significant separation would be initiated as a consequence. One which would manifest itself at the level of the individual. The separation of the internal affair from the external affair.

Examples of this disparity are numerous. A critique of ethical philosophies which arose show a society much more concerned with a consequentialist view on morality; putting emphasis on the importance of outcome of our actions over the intention or reasoning behind them. We find a society which has engrossed itself with the objectification of both men and woman, inundating people with images of outer appearance and offering cosmetic solutions. We find a society that has overwhelmed itself with social media and the concern to busy oneself in projecting superficial appearances and relationships over very intrinsic, real life family interactions. We find the rise of the scientism spearheaded by empiricism (the senses and outer body experience) as the ultimate method towards truth and understanding. And this ever-strengthening campaign of removing (or shifting focus) from the external affair from the internal has filtered down and affected our Muslim community at large.

Let me ask a simple question. And I want everyone to engage with a mental hand up. We ma shaa Allah have had many successful charity campaigns across the country. With the primary intention to focus on enjoying good and alleviating specific poverty or suffering. But how many people reading this woke up in the last 1/3 of the night, when Allah descends and made sincere dua for the cause? How many people when it rained or whilst travelling for their mountain trek – at times we know that dua is accepted by Allah – how many people raised their hands and made dua to Allah sincerely for their cause? Although the question is directed towards ISOCs engaging in charity week campaigning. It is transferable to any community work we do in any environment.

It was narrated by ibn Abbas that one day he was sitting behind the prophet (saw), i.e. on the same mount. And as they were riding the prophet (saw) turned around and said, “O young man, I shall teach you of some advice. Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah alone. And if you seek help, then seek help in Allah alone. And know that if the nations were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you accept with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

Your rizk has already been written. The pens have lifted, and the pages have dried. So, whether we announce that we have raised 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 40,000 know and internalise that if we had raised these sums of money or if we had just raised a few pennies. That by Allah if He had willed those pennies would go a lot further than any of that money. And by Allah, if He wills those pennies may have a greater weighting for you on the day of Judgement. And if he wills those thousands of pounds may have equal weight against you on that day.

So its time to look down at the hand we’ve outstretched in this transaction. How sincere have we been in what we’ve put in front of Allah? And to answer this question we need to practically reflect upon our lives. Here are 5 points to practically implement in order to retain sincerity in what we do:

  • Do we truly know why we are doing what we are doing? To please Allah doesn’t cut it. There are plenty other ways which are more efficient and effective in pleasing Allah; isoc isn’t the only way to do so. Remember that a tree with shallow roots is likely to be swayed with the slightest of breezes. Similarly, if you haven’t yet found a strong enough reason as to why youre doing what you are doing, then expect your intentions to sway in whichever direction the context blows in
  • Have we prioritised our Islam à Do we prioritise what Islam asks us to prioritise? A simple question: Was the way you prayed, the time you prayed and the khushoo you felt in salah better before you got involved in this work or now. Because if your answer is the latter then there needs to be some fundamental changes. How can we expect to be sincere in what we do when we prioritise other than what Allah prioritised for us – the question then needs to be asked, who are we even doing this for?
  • Understand the focus of your transaction is in the hand that is outstretched to give – and not in the hand which is outstretched to receive. Those of us who believe in Allah need to understand that we are required to wait until resurrection for the completion of this transaction. We cannot completely focus our thoughts on the outcomes of our actions as Allah has been asking of our efforts and not results. You’ve heard it many times. Nuh (as) preached for 950 years and in comparison to how long he worked, he only received a handful of followers. Yet he’s one of the greatest men to walk on this Earth. There needs to be a serious shift in perspective
  • Understand the faults in short-sightedness – sincerity can no longer be an action but rather it needs to be internalised as a trait. That is, it needs to become the descriptive word of your character and no longer just the descriptive word of the action which you undertake. You yourself as a person are required to be sincere and not just your actions. A person cannot be truly sincere if they are sincere on only some occasions – sincerity must be consistent. The way you tackle this is to do continuous good deeds that you do so regularly they become part of you – part of your character and part of your nature; becoming a trait. Which is why the prophet (saw) said: “the best deeds are those which are done continuously; even if they amount to a little.” That is not to say that you don’t continuously question the sincerity of your actions.
  • And finally, this leads me to the last practical point. And that is a lot of what we do in ISOC and committee focuses on the external – how many guys came to that event, whats the headcount at that talk, how much are we raising throughout charity week and are generally deeds which are one-off and large in scale. So if we want to make sincerity a part of us then we are required to slow down in our individual lives. Re-synchronise ourselves and the best way to do this is for everyone to have a secret action between themselves and Allah. An action which nobody knows about and will ever know about apart from Allah. And an action we commit to so regularly that it becomes part of our nature and character trait. And due to the privacy of this action, if we indulge in it enough, we will find true sincerity.

We ask Allah to put sincerity in all that we do

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Standing on the shoulders of giants

 

Abdullateef Bioshogun

“if you want your name to be remembered after your death, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about”   Abraham Lincoln

I start this in the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful. I have just attended the 55th Fosis Annual Conference – my second ever Fosis conference – and it was a great experience indeed; Alhamdulillah. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the first 15 minutes. I had never had so many people approach me all at once trying to get to know me and I forgot more names within 30 seconds of hearing them than I care to admit. Nevertheless, I did make several friends and we concluded the night with some delicious cuisine from Afghanistan (Kobeda kebabs are a wonderful creation of Allah).

I had many deep discussions with my new friends and old friends alike. I remember one particular conversation with some brothers from Birmingham about whether there was a need to change one’s personality upon attaining a new position of leadership – and if so to what extent? It really got me thinking about the concepts of sincerity and personal development – two themes explored rather widely in the Quran. I request that my dear readers think about this after concluding this article.

While the event was brilliant and enjoyable because of the ample banter and nice food (Kobeda kebabs!), it was fantastic because of the well-chosen topic of the conference; explored thoroughly through the talks and workshops. The topic was legacy; its meaning, examples from history and ideas about how we can go about leaving our legacies.

Isaac Newton is known to have expressed a metaphor created by Bernard of Chartres that goes: “we are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter.” And while these legends were only saying this as an expression of their humility it is indeed how every legend is born – all giants were once dwarves. And, as we were shown in the many talks at the conference, we have more than enough giants preceding us. We simply have one job… climb onto one of their shoulders.

It’s easier said than done though, since the media and the way in which the world is generally run is fined tuned so that from birth we are conditioned to think small of ourselves and to settle for the ‘normal’ repetitive lives we are used to. Anything above that is left to be depicted in the movies and fairy tales. Shaytaan gave himself a job to do and his work ethic is remarkable! We should at least try to match it.

“Fame is a result of what you get in life, greatness is a result of what you give in life.” I got this from one of the talks. Our legacies are what we give to the world, a concept regarding which Islam provides much encouragement (does sadaqah jaariyah ring any bells?). The thing is, a lot of us are studying to become engineers, healthcare professionals, lawyers etc where we will get the opportunity to help people everyday and leave our legacies. But, with all due respect to these professionals and without diminishing the significance of their sacrifices, these are ‘normal’ legacies which many people achieve. If one is extending a helping hand, let them maximise the reach of their extension. This is the mentality the Prophet (peace be upon him) had and as such it is the mentality we should copy.

We should not be content with the amount we give to the world. We need to break away from the attractive spell cast onto us by the dunya. I ask Allah to make it easy to adopt this mentality and to make possible for us a legacy worth being proud of.

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There’s no love like His love

by HM

Bismillah: I begin in the name of Allah and express that this is a reminder to myself first and foremost…

Due to the subjectivity of love’s definition, I will refrain from attempting to define it. I will, however, say this, that Allah’s love is infinite. While we were raised or too often told of hell and haram, terms which are associated with Allah’s Wrath, we are not reminded enough of Allah’s Kindness and Mercy. Now, before I elucidate my point, it is important to note that yes Allah is severe in punishment and I do not refute this attribution in the slightest nor do I deny His Power and Might. But, it is the lack of reminders of Allah’s Rahma (Mercy) when in times of weak imaan (faith) or sin that plays a great role in steering one away from the deen (religion/Islam).

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A Reflection

by Ayesha Iqbal

Some of my best moments of introspection have been on trains. The kind that make me sigh and fall back in my seat, watching my reflection over fields. I was on a virgin train I take regularly and the guy on the PA system gave the usual introductory welcome in 3 languages: English, Spanish and Urdu. Don.

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Shallow Waters

by Humza Asad

“They muddy the water to make it seem deep

We have established that language, once misused, can become a dangerous tool. Wielding a semantical labyrinth which, at times, can become extremely difficult to navigate. Thus, a closer introspection of the use of language in specific spheres is necessary.

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Implicit Irony

by Humza Asad

Language is a wonderful tool. Its continual evolving and developmental nature creates a rich diversity of discussion amongst its users, but just like any tool it can easily be misused. It is said that a wise man can learn more from a foolish man’s question then a foolish man can learn from a wise man’s answer, and in some cases, this could not be closer to the truth.

The problem stems from the way we interact with language around us. It is commonly thought that every question has an answer. And thus, using this to spearhead our logic, many of us fervently search until we can find the ‘correct’ answer which wholly satisfies the question posed to us. Yet what we have misunderstood is, not all questions necessitate answers. In other words, we should be questioning the question, rather than continually questioning the validity of our own answers.

What am I trying to get at here? For many of us, we don’t have the Islamic knowledge to answer seemingly tough questions directed towards us. And, in a desperate attempt to regain that strong iman and taqwa we once had, we haphazardly search online to find a ‘satisfying enough’ answer. But the problem is, many a times we don’t find exactly what we are looking for. Subsequently a drop in iman follows and that firm ‘yaqeen’ we once had now seems to just disappear.

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The Highly Effective Muslim

by Anonymous

One of the most common, funny and at times quite frustrating assumption people not from the Indian-subcontinent make is that our curries have nothing but oil in it. That all the meat you see in the bowl is floating in litres of oil. And it’s really unhealthy to have this curry, for how can one live after having so much oil in one meal!

This logic is flawed on so many levels. For starters, they don’t realise that if what they think of our curries is true, then our diet consists up of drinking spicy oil with boiled meat at least twice a day for our whole lives, which is quite silly. But I digress. This isn’t supposed to be an article supporting particular food or food habits. On the contrary, there is a lot we can learn from this way of thinking and attitude that people have.

You see, in actual Indian curries the oil you see on top is just there, on the top. It doesn’t have any depth, so to say. The rest consists up of gravy, spices, vegetables, stalk…the usual. Generally speaking, the total amount of oil used in cooking a curry is not even 5% of its total contents. And still it is judged unhealthy by many without even trying it. Reason: it LOOKS unhealthy.

This is what I want to highlight. You might see just the oil at first glance, but in reality it is a layer only a few millimetres deep floating on top.

And is this not how we perceive things in life, in general? The moment we observe some quality, an incident, a habit, a reaction, lack or excess of something, some lifestyle, a good deed or a sin we judge it on its face value sub-consciously, spontaneously. It can’t be helped as it is an inherent human tendency. Of course it goes without saying that passing judgements in such a manner is not an acceptable trait, especially for a Muslim.

So what about when someone’s actions are actually wrong? Should we not judge people on what they do?

Let’s delve into another facet of this discussion to understand different perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely have feelings or opinions against something specific. Let’s take the same example: Judging the curry to be unhealthy by seeing so much oil in it and not eating it is quite different than having an aversion to curries simply because they’re really hot and spicy, and it’s not your thing; the first part is being judgmental without knowing anything about the curry and latter a disapproval because you don’t particularly like that food, which is perfectly acceptable! Personally, I find a lot of habits and qualities around here quite unacceptable and have strong feelings against them (I mean, at least add some garlic to your rice!!!). But that does not mean I judge them!

The point I want to make: we can’t judge something on its apparent qualities or effects, although we are completely allowed to disapprove or approve the same thing as a standalone occurrence based on our preferences, inclinations and especially context; irrespective of its significance in the bigger picture.

So next time you happen to have a curry on your table, try to look past the layer of oil you see. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up liking what you taste!

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