People of Substance
On April 1st 2012, I was one of the many people who attended an inspiring Live-Deen event titled: People of Substance. It was an online lecture delivered by Ustaad Nouman Ali Khan from the US. In spite of the fact that there was a serious strike observed the day before, all the seats managed to get full and on time.
I wanted to share some key messages from this fruitful session and my very own take on the ideas shared. Here it goes:
1. Match the picture with the frame
The personality that Islam promotes is not all about the appearance - its what is on the inside AND what is on the outside. Some how we separated the person from the appearance and now have a multitude of people who either look Muslim and don't act it or who have good habits (act it!) but don't wear a beard or hijab (look it!). It's an interesting thought that when someone lies, it makes us angry or upset. But when someone lies to our face AND is a man with a long beard and a cap on his head - it makes us even angrier. And we say "Look at his long beard and his long tale of lies!". The reason it upsets us more is because there is an inherent expectation that such a person will be nice, courteous and will consider lying to be the lowest of all acts. So, the lesson is to match the personality with the person; the picture with the frame.
2. Take criticism with a pinch of salt
We must accept criticism and our faults if we truly want to become better people. A lot of times there are blatant mistakes that people make and we find it hard to correct them because we fear that they may not like the criticism. So here is a news flash - No one enjoys criticism! Its going to be unpleasant no matter what you do, however, you can soften the blow by choosing the right tone, words and moment. Tears may flow, sharp words may be exchanged and defenses may reign high but we have to remind each other that it's for their own good.
3. Pray for things big and small
We must pray to Allah for all our problems - big or small. I used to think that it's kind of strange to pray to Allah for things like - fixing a fight with my sister or getting my cousin to stop doing something wrong etc. The funny thing is that when you pray to Allah for every possible problem - help arrives from places one could never imagine. And your heart surrenders to His All-Encompassing being.
4. My relationship with me
One of the most ignored relationships is the one we have with ourselves. We must find a little quiet time with ourselves where we ponder over how we are doing as a person. We must question ourselves over how time is being spent, on whether weaknesses are improving and what activities keep us busy. All in all, how is one feeling - optimistic about our future or depressed about past mistakes and regrets. Our attitude with ourselves dictates how we see the world.
5. Work hard on all your relationships
Most of us take our family relations for granted. We assume that our spouse will always love us and our parents will never forsake us. However, if we do nothing to nurture these relationships, they will whither away sooner or later. Spending quality time with your wife doesn't mean asking where the car keys are and why your shirt isn't ironed. On the contrary, its about sharing feelings, emotions and ideas about a better future together. Have a respectful relationship with your parents, spouse and with your children. A place for everything and everything in it's place.
6. Build credibility
The prophet SAWS did Dawah much before he became a Prophet of Allah. In an ignorant society polluted with pagan customs he built a credibility that got him the title - Sadiq ul Ameen. It was because of this great reputation that many people became Muslim without a second's delay - Khadija RAA and Abu Bakr RAA to name a few. So we need to focus on becoming the best in every relationship as we get closer to our religion. This way automatically people will associate the good change in us with our Islam. Be the best daughter, best wife, best husband, best sister and best worker and once people see your sincerity, they will listen to what you have to say about Islam.
7.Start with honesty
Even if one person among us Muslims is dishonest in his dealings, it is as if we all are. This is the reason why stereotypes exist. Because our Maulvi Sahab said so-and-so, hence all religious people say so-and-so. We have to quit this exaggeration and make honesty, in our family life and work, a mark of our identity.
8. Bridge the gap
The reason why there is such a huge divide between regular people and the Ulema is because the common folk have left all the soul searching and researching to the Ulema. "They should find all the answers for me and just tell me what to do!" - where this may be the requirement in some detailed matter of inheritance or divorce, it is certainly not a healthy attitude for living a normal life. Why don't we have the interest in finding out answers ourselves from the primary sources - Quran and Sunnah? Most of us will never reach the level of our learned Ulema but we owe it to ourselves that we go through the Quran, cover to cover, with complete Tafseer. Otherwise, its like living your life without knowing what to do - just wandering aimlessly form here to there living on your whims.
9. Goodness begets goodness!
Good things are good in all religions - lying is not a good act in any religion, just as backbiting is not and nor is indecency. However we see that people still lie, backbite and spread profanity and indecency via media. So start with a common ground and invite people to goodness. No body wants their daughter to dress like a tramp or their sons to do drugs after school or for kids to become professional liars. So no matter what background anyone is from, you can be sure that people can differentiate good from bad. Speak against the wrong and help create a conducive environment for enabling good actions.
10. Islam - Intellectual and emotional
Islam is a religion that must have us use our intellect as well as well-placed emotions. The combination of the two can be a potent force to fight against evil. Islam is mostly presented as emotional so we think that if we can make a fiery speech like our politicians that we can influence people. On the contrary, the youth of Pakistan has seen the hypocrisy behind the bold speeches and the loud hollow words. We need people of substance to come forward and present an intellectual view of Islam. This is why people who are conducting tafseer lectures and Quran courses in English and online are a big step towards getting religion into the houses of the secular elite. These are the things we need to think about!
The bottom-line is that unless educated people take interest in understanding the message of Islam and spreading it actively, they should not sit around on their couches complaining about how awful things are in Pakistan. Things are they way they are because some people are working hard to make them go from bad to worse and the rest of us are sipping latte's getting our nails done. If we want to improve things, we have to get up and move forward. For every negative news about Pakistan, spread a positive one in your own social circles - we are so used to complaining that we are accustomed to thinking about problems and NOT solutions. Some solutions from the lecture in my next post!