Thursday, 10 December 2015
Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed's one day seminar
Seeking Solace: Hardships, Challenges and Difficulties in Everyday Life
Alhamdulillah we have spent our Sunday 22nd of November 2015 (10:30 to 6:30 pm) with Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed learning about how to deal with difficulties in life.
So often we experience hardships and challenges in life, and yet never see the connections between them. When we are given hardship, or feel pain, we often fail to consider that the experience may be the direct cause or result of another action or experience. Ustadha have dealt with quite a lot of issues and I have tried my best to take some notes alhamdulillah. I hope to divide the notes into three parts. InshAllah I hope the notes are beneficial.
I will highly recommend her book “Reclaim your heart: Personal insights on breaking free fromlife’s shackles” which got a new edition with new chapters on Tawakkul (trusting Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala). Also, the Arabic verses are printed with harakat in the new edition.
So without further due, let us start with the notes which are based on my understanding of her talk. Anything good from this post is from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and for anything wrong, please do forgive me. Jazakallah khairan.
Before starting the course, Ustadha Yasmin reminded us to have sincere intentions and firm resolution to fulfill the intentions. Have a goal and remain focused.
We are looking for peace, happiness and success. Life is hard and full of challenges. But we cannot control the weather. It is something external. But every single time when it rains, do we get wet? Externally there will be circumstances which I cannot control but I can live in a way that protects me from the rainy weather.
As a Ummah , we are facing lot of challenges. We have become like the froth on oceans. We don’t have any say on which direction to move to. We move like the froth moves according to the waves. This analogy is based on a hadith (sayings) of our beloved Rasulullah sallallahu alaihe wa sallam. The companions of Rasulullah asked him why we would be so weak like the froth on the ocean despite our sheer numbers as Muslims on this earth. He told us due to wahn we will be weak. Wahn refers to the love of dunya and the fear of death.
We are too attached to this earth (dunya). Our weakness as the Muslim community is due to our strong attachments to our wealth, status, career, fame, peoples’ opinion of us and so on and so forth.
Whenever something bad happens, we tend to get the blame as Muslims. But as Muslims we know that we don’t believe in terrorism. We don’t support any act of terror. Still we see some of us start apologizing as soon as some crazy people in the name of our beautiful faith commit some horrible crime. Sometimes it seems like we are apologizing for being Muslims!
Ask yourself. Do we need any one’s approval? We should be content with our identity as Muslims. The problem is we don’t even know who we are. This problem is very deep. Imagine a tree. We are like a rotten tree. We are too obsessed with the leaves but forgetting the fact that the root of the tree is in greater need of our attention. Our hearts are too attached to dunya that’s why we have become slave to social, political, physical surroundings around us. There must be a change from within us. We keep blaming others for our problems. We refuse to see our own faults. But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us that He won’t change our situation until we change inwardly.
We have forgotten our roots. We forgot our purpose in life. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given us honour (izzah) as Muslims. But we have lost that sense of honour.
We are honoured to be His slaves
The most precious thing we have is the belief that there is no god but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We don’t obey anyone else but Allah. The concept of Laa illaha illallah is very important for Muslims.
We need to stop being defensive and start being proactive. Stop apologizing. Focus on what you are. You need to be better every day. You are a source of life. As a Ummah, we need to be source of life on this earth. Let us build things. Let us be proud as the slaves of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala on this earth.
So how do we navigate the weather?
Have a solid foundation. Seek knowledge. Know your religion. Imagine a well-rooted tree. A tree with small, weak roots will be knocked down quite easily by a not so strong wind. Seek knowledge and it will empower you inwardly as well as outwardly inshAllah.
Be very conscious of what you focus on. What I focus on grows. If I focus on a problem day and night, the problem will grow. Eventually the problem can consume me. It suffocates me. I feed the problem, when I focus on it. I become paralyzed and cannot do anything to solve it. So be careful of what you focus on.
Perspective is also very important. When I am standing on a top of a mountain, my views will be different than the people at the bottom of the mountain. My views of the mountain will be very clear if I am looking at it from an airplane. So we must step back to have a clearer view of any issues we are facing.
When we are focusing, we must be careful about what we are focusing on. If we always focus on everything which is wrong, we start becoming very negative. We become consumed by it. We become hopeless.
Whenever something bad happens, we become obsessed with it. And media is quite good in making us feel overwhelmed. One hadith says that Pharaoh had magicians. These magicians helped Pharaoh to control the people. The media does the same. It controls our mind. It brainwashes us. When we tune into media, we are in fact exposing ourselves to dangerous and brainwashing "information". You may think you are watching the news. But in reality, you are getting gradually sucked into their narratives.
We must be positive. The practice of gratitude is very important for us Muslims. Even secular psychology talks about the power of gratitude. We must understand the power of gratitude. Let us focus on what we do have and what are going right in our life. When we thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, He increases the blessings. So gratitude is the attitude we should nurture inshAllah.
Be like a traveler. When we are travelling, we appreciate the hotel room but we don’t get attached to the furniture and things in the hotel room. We certainly don’t invest in furniture in the hotel room because we know we are there for a while only. Just the same way, we are here on this earth for a limited time. We are on a journey and we focus on the destination which is to return back to our Creator, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. One of our beloved Rasulullah’s saying reminds us the reality of this life. “I am like a traveler who stops to have a bit of shade of a tree and keeps moving.” So this earth is just a shade of a tree for a while.
The statement “Inna lillahe wa inna ilaiher rajeuun” is very important concept for us. Verily, we are from Him and we will return to Him. We must live by this powerful concept.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Qur’an:
“We shall certainly test you with fear, hunger and loss of property, lives and crops. But (Prophet), give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, ‘We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.’ These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord and it is they who are rightly guided." Surah Al-Baqara: 155-157
This ayah telling us that we will face harsh weathers. He is also telling us how to keep safe. There will be fear, hunger and loss. When it says fear, it means a glimpse of fear not the real fear people will be facing on the day of Judgement and afterwards in hell fire. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from that sort of fear, ameen!
When the loss of crops/fruits is mentioned it can mean loss of efforts for us, the postmodern Muslim, as not that many of us are farmers anymore! Sometimes we put lot of efforts but may not get the result we were expecting at the start.
When we are patient during hardship and we truly understand that we belong to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and we will be eventually returning to Him, Allah becomes pleased with us. He will shower us with His endless Blessings and His Mercy. He also calls them as the rightly guided. What else do we need!
Let us talk about these special people. These people live their lives with the concept of Inna lillahe wa inna ilaiher rajeuun. This is not just a lip service for them. They have the understanding of the reality of this life. They know that nothing belongs to them. They are aware of the limitations of this life. And they are pleased with whatever life throws at them. They are patient during hardship as well as during happiness.
May Allah subhanau wa ta’ala make us like these special people, ameen! We must remember that nothing belongs to us. It is returned to its real owner. If we are patient, it will be saved for us in Jannah inshAllah. For example, when someone loses their beloved child, if they are patient, that child waits for them at the door of Jannah and requests Allah to let his/her parents join him/her in Jannah. So the lost child can be a key to Jannah.
Build shelter for the time when the storm hits. We can build a strong, internal shelter by worshiping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Every time we pray, make dua (supplicate), recite the Qur’an, remember Allah (swt), we are building that very-needed shelter. Allah (swt) is our only shelter.
In life, we will feel sad .Even our prophets felt sadness in their lives. Prophet Yakoob (Jacob) alaihes salam felt so sad , cried so much that he became blind. Sadness is natural outcome of any hardship and it is okay to feel sad. But we cannot give up. We are not allowed to despair. Our faith (Imaan) will protect us from despair. Whenever I lose something, I must remind myself that I have lost it but this phase will pass. Nothing is permanent on this earth.
Yunus (Jonah) AS was tested with so many difficulties. He was surrounded by layers of darkness. Imagine being stuck in a belly of a whale, in an ocean, during a dark night! Yunus AS supplicates to Allah by acknowledging first that there is no one but Allah, no ilah but Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We must understand this concept of ilah. Who is it that I worship? Who is it that I focus on in my life? What matters the most to me? Whatever I take as an ilah, I become slave of it. When I make peoples’ opinion as my ilah, I become a slave of them. My happiness depends on their opinion. We tend to hand the power to make us feel happy and content to wealth, career, people etc. But Yunus AS teaching us that the only One who is worthy of being our ilah is Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Only through acknowledging Him as our ilah we can be truly free from all the false ilah out there.
In the second part of his dua, he is acknowledging his mistake and asking Allah to help him. He is literally saying that he needs Him. This is a very powerful dua. Our beloved Rasulullah (SAW) teaches us to do this dua during hardship. There are three aspects to this dua.
1. Acknowledging Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala as our only Lord
2. Humbling myself
3. I am in real hardship but I don’t despair as I know I can rely on Him (SWT)
Having a good opinion of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala
Whatever Allah (swt) does for us is for our best. Always having a good opinion of Him is very crucial for us. Allah is always looking after us. Even when it feels like He is taking something from us, it is actually to make us prepared for receiving something better inshAllah. When we are sick, we go to the doctors and trust them wholeheartedly when they prescribe the medications. Sometimes we also need to have operations. But we don’t really question the doctors as we know they are more capable than us to treat our illness. Now imagine, questioning Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala about the difficulties in our life (i.e why me? It is not fare!) Allah loves us more than our mothers. How can we think that He is harming us. We cannot afford to have such an arrogant attitude.
To be continued InshaAllah…