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Tag Archives: tazkiyah

Surah Yusuf – The Best of Stories – Reflections

Surah Yusuf, Chapter 12 of the Quran, is the most engaging, timeless, and complete story ever. It was relevant back then and it is relevant today.

Prophet Yusuf (as), known for his miraculously good looks, was beautiful both inside out. Often people advise pregnant women to recite it to have a beautiful baby. This tradition is not proven by any verse of the Quran or hadith. This is also is certainly not what the Surah is meant to be used for.

The real impact of this Surah is how it helps beautify relationships, and teaches invaluable lessons in times of difficulty and ease.

The Quran itself calls the true story of Prophet (Yusuf) “the best of stories”. It is the story of the life of Yusuf (as). Here are a few reflections on this Surah:

·         There are disadvantages of announcing your plans and showing off blessings – the evil eye (Nazr-e-Bad) and jealousy. Do not share plans till they materialize. For example initial pregnancy, intent to marry someone, the initial job interview that went well. Don’t also announce good dreams. (12:5)

·         Three elements of Sabrun Jameel (beautiful patience): Don’t announce your suffering all the time. Don’t complain to everyone. And don’t imply that you are perfect and free of faults. (12:18)

·         Maturity does not come without having gone through difficult times. Tough times have a way of making us stronger and hopefully wiser. (12:21)

·         The credit goes to Allah if we do something good and are able to ward off a temptation. The biggest temptation is narcissism and vanity. (12:24)

·         People don’t listen to our tableegh if we have not developed a relationship with them. See the example of Yusuf (as). He had developed a bond with the other inmates in jail. That is why they listened to him. Point: Work on relationships with sincerity.

·         Effects of your a’amaal (deeds) reflect on your face – both good and bad. In a world where you have to keep marketing yourself, humility becomes difficult. But it is important for tazkiyah (purification) of the nafs (self) to not announce your achievements all the time. However, undue humility can hamper you getting the deserved position. Therefore, maintain a balance. Tell when necessary & offer your services where needed. Undue modesty will stop you from doing the duty Allah assigned you. Be like Yousuf (as) – humble yet confident, but giving Allah credit for everything good. (Reflection of qualities of Yousuf {as})

·         To be a ‘mohsin’ – one with a beautiful attitude and nature – Sabr (patience) is inevitable. A reactive, inflammable personality cannot be a mohsin. (12:56)

·         In the era of Facebook and Instagram where we share every joy and share every plan with hundreds, we need to remind ourselves that Nazar-e-Bad [evil eye] is a reality. Safeguard yourself against it with prayers, especially the last 2 chapters of the Quran. Also do not announce your plans and every achievement and joy. (12:67)

·         “Do not grieve yourself over what they did” – Beautiful advice Yousuf (as) gave to his brother Bin Yameen. Reminder to self: Stop focusing on the few people who are a test for us and bother/hurt us. Instead, focus on those who are the coolness of your eyes, and are good to you. Ramadan is the best time to let go of this baggage of “I am hurt by him/her”. (12:69)

·         There is someone more knowledgeable than you, always. There is always someone who is better than you even in the things that you are good at. And the most Knowing and Perfect is Allah. So stay humble. You are not the ultimate. Never. (12:76)

·         Allah Knows the reality of people’s intentions and situations. Therefore stop judging people. You do not know their journey. You have not traveled their path. (12:77)

·         A sure shot test of whether you are a “mohsin” or not – check your behaviour with those who are under you or you have power over them. As a parent, as a senior at work, as a ruler, as someone who has house help. How are you with those who don’t have power over you? (12:78)

·         There is patience. And then there is what the Quran calls “Beautiful Patience” – Sabrun Jameel. Another sign of beautiful patience is that you stop assuming things about others and control your habit of judging others and commenting on them. (12:83)

·         Complain of your pain, heartache, and hurt others cause only to Allah. Allah can help. Those whom you gossip to cannot help. (12:86)

·         Give people the benefit of doubt. And at times even if you know they intended to harm you, do not announce in front of them that you know. Sometimes it is wiser to hold your peace. (12:89)

·         If someone hurt you a long time ago – it could even be a parent, a sibling, a friend – don’t think to yourself ‘I can never forget/forgive what he/she did’. Let go! Forgiving is healing for yourself more than anyone else. (12:92)

·         Sometimes grief leads to happiness, and failure leads to success, in the long run. Sometimes the very person that caused you great distress will become the cause of happiness. The situation will get better. Hang in there. (12:96)

·         Your company leads you to become the person you are. Therefore choose your company carefully. Good company in this world will lead us to be in the company of the righteous in the Hereafter. Choose wisely. (12:101)

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Just because you give your Zakat, is it ok to over-eat and over-spend?

Pakistanis open their wallets in Ramazan, but do they open their hearts?

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/28440/pakistanis-open-their-wallets-in-ramazan-but-do-they-open-their-hearts/

Pakistani Muslim women shop for bangles at a market in Karachi ahead of Eid ul Fitr. PHOTO: AFP

Ramazan – the month of giving. As one of the world’s most charitable nations, and with the desire to earn an even higher reward than other months, Pakistanis open their hearts and wallets in Ramazan.

The same holds true for Muslims all over the world. This is heart-warming and wonderful, but with just one exception. Somehow, somewhere, we have made this “giving” a justification for extravagance, excessive spending, and consequent showing off. The common understanding is that if I am giving my prescribed percentage of Zakat, and also a bit of additional charity, it justifies any amount of money that I squander.

This, then, is a deeply flawed and worrisome understanding of the concept of charity. Charity, primarily, is meant to keep the flow of money going in society instead of allowing it to stagnate in a few hands and a few bank accounts. Instead, the economic divide is getting wider. Despite the affluent giving so much charity, the poor are literally dying of poverty. Clearly, we are missing a key part of this whole equation.

It is then no wonder that in Pakistan, the 18 million richest people’s total consumption is 1.5 times more than the poorest 72 million people. Studies show that among the four key signs of perpetuating poverty, the first is that the poor remain poor and the rich remain rich. There is no level playing field for everyone, despite our charities, and our overspending has something to do with it.

Imagine this. I get my domestic helper a decent dress for Eid worth Rs1,500 or more. And that, in my head, makes it okay for me to spend on up to three dresses for Eid, shoes and accessories amounting to Rs20,000 – more than 10 times of what I gave. In summers, even the middle class Pakistani woman will end up spending thousands on an average of sixsummer wear ensembles. Upper scale lawn dresses are known to cost even up to Rs7,000 or more each. But what she will give away as her summer charity is not the same quantity or quality.

While from among the upper-middle class, or those whom we can crudely call the rich, people with tender hearts give generously to the less privileged. Yet many of them will feel no guilt in spending even a thousand dollars on a handbag as a feel-good factor. Our weddings cost millions, resembling lavish fairy tales. Maintaining ourselves and our homes costs us exorbitantly. From our prayer beads to our cell phones, everything is opulent or “classy”. There is a resulting disconnect between people from different economic strata in Pakistan.

In Ramazan, instead of being reminded by the hunger pangs that a hungry child in Tharparkar goes through, we numb the few spiritual lessons we get with “all you can eat” deals. Sales lure us into buying separate designer clothes for taraweeh prayers, others for Eid prayers, and yet others for the family Eid dinner. The month, instead of being an intended exercise in self-control, becomes a festival of overabundance. What is left of the piety that we may have gained through worship is blown away within the three days of Eid. And throughout it all, we are telling ourselves that it is okay because we give so much charity.

To keep consumption of anything under check and balance is part of the ethics in any religion. In Christianity, the seven deadly sins are on the same page, gluttony being one of them, which is the over-consumption or obsession with food, and we see a lot of that in Ramazan, including related sins of greed, sloth, pride and envy.

Islam has not stopped us from eating or dressing well. It has not given us any prescribed limit beyond which we cannot spend. It has, however, given us a framework and examples from the lives of the Prophet (PBUH), his family and his companions as role models. Among them, there were men and women who were very poor. Others were extremely rich, and were known for the profuse amounts of charity they gave. What made them different from us, however, was that they exercised a degree of self-restrain when it came to spending. While they may have led comfortable lives, they were careful not to make evident the economic gulf between themselves and the less privileged. And to build those bridges, they did two things – they spent lesser on themselves than they could afford to, and they gave charity more than they needed to. In so doing, step by step, the gap lessened.

One may counter this idea by debating why we should be made to feel guilty if Allah (SWT) has given us more. That part is justified, and true, and if you look after your community and people around you, you may have done a part of your share. But looking at the bigger picture, let us exercise a little sensitivity when flaunting wealth. Ostentation and overspending willaffect others – both those who are on the lower tiers of the social pyramid, and also contemporaries who are silently competing. The rat race has and will continue to prove that prophetic tradition correct in which the Prophet (PBUH) expressed his fear that the biggest trial for his followers would be wealth. Even those strictly adhering to tenets of religion fall into this trap – they see use of intoxicants and promiscuous lifestyles as serious sins, but see over-spending, over-eating and flaunting of wealth as permissible.

In Pakistan, this causes deeper problems. Poverty, insecurity, economic frustration and jealousy are resulting in an angry and violent collective temperament. When they cannot get it by just means, they steal it, loot it and even resort to crime and violence. While this is not acceptable, this is a bitter reality. And somewhere, we are part of this equation and are indirectly responsible for it.

Considering that Ramazan is a good time for introspection, it might be good to try and aim for moderation in spending so that we may control the glaring economic disparity in our society.