Embracing life as is

imageLife is a complicated thing. For some of us it is like a bed of roses and at the same time for others it might seem like a thorny pathway to hell. It sounds unfair but that’s life – but one thing is for sure that life is not meant to stay the same way for ever. God has promised us that difficult times are not meant to last for ever.

“So, Verily, with hardship there is relief” (Quran 94:6)

Quran also reminds us in various instances that it’s not just us ordinary human beings; all the Prophets had to go through trials and tribulations.

"Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty, ailments and were shaken." (Quran 2:214)

There is an apt French proverb that “Good fortune and bad are equally necessary to man, to fit him to meet the contingencies of this life.”

There is no education like adversity. In these difficult times is learning we mostly fail to see when we are actually are going trough it. Those who and able to positively channel these Divinely ordained pathways of development and growth with patience, their character is bound to evolves some unique qualities in them, unleashing their hidden potential.

We shall surely try you with something of fear, and hunger, and loss of wealth, and lives, and fruits; and give glad tidings to the patient ones” (Quran 2:155)

Trees that shed all their leaves in the harsh winter bear flowers and fruits in spring. The newly acquired armoury of qualities, from patiently persevering trough times of adversity, adorns the character of a person just like these fruits and flowers.

Remittance of Debt by Charity

وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَى مَيْسَرَةٍ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

“If the debtor is in a difficulty, grant him time Till it is easy for him to repay. But if ye remit it by way of charity, that is best for you if ye only knew.” (2:280)

Charity is best for you – Quran again and again emphasises the fact that sacrificing what’s dear to you, i.e. spending money towards charity, makes you a stronger and better human being. Charity is a core part of our belief and can be carried out in many forms. Even a good word is considered a charitable deed.

I really like the idea of debt relief in the verse above. In one way loans to the poor provide some motivation to work and repay as oppose to free charitable money. But in most cases the poor is exploited. High levels of interest sometimes make it impossible to repay the loan. Even the idea of microfinance has it’s flaws. Although it ensures loans for the poor to start up their businesses but at the cost of huge interest rates ranging from 20-50% in some cases. This is mainly because of the high management cost incurred to provide the service in the remote and poor neighbourhoods. This is also why the idea of Islamic microfinance, i.e. interest free microfinance is fairly remote.

The verse points to a mid way. Why aren’t these microfinance organisations use charitable funds to subsidise microfinance lending to the poor. At least the administration cost can be sponsored by charitable means to keep the margin to a minimum or even null.

One other key think I notice in the verse is that although it seems that the debtor is benefiting (in fact it is the case), the assurance instead is given to the one who remits it by way of charity. That sounds incredible and this benefit can again be in any form and is often long lasting.

As Ramadan ends, many of us would feel spiritually recharged for the whole year. We should take this momentum into the next month and let it not die down until the next Ramadan. Keep you charitable self motivated and keep counting the ‘benefits’.

Sleep & Death

وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَتَوَفَّاكُم بِاللَّيْلِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا جَرَحْتُم بِالنَّهَارِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُكُمْ فِيهِ لِيُقْضَى أَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّى ثُمَّ إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

“It is He who doth take your souls by night, and hath knowledge of all that ye have done by day: by day doth He raise you up again; that a term appointed be fulfilled; In the end unto Him will be your return; then will He show you the truth of all that ye did.”

I found this verse quite interesting. How close is sleep to death? Does our soul leave our body when we sleep? What’s the difference between light sleepers and those who have deep sleep? It raises a lot of questions.

Gossip & Backbiting

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيراً مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who believe, you shall avoid much suspicion, for some suspicion is sinful. And do not spy on one another, nor shall you backbite one another. Would one of you enjoy eating the flesh of his dead brother You certainly would hate this. You shall observe God. God is Redeemer, Merciful. (49:12)

Quran uses harsh words for those who act on suspicion, spying and backbiting. The comparison given makes you feel sick and that is how disgusting backbiting really is.

Gossip is a common icebreaker in social get togethers these days and in most cases the conversation easily gets dragged into the realm of backbiting without people realising. It leads to breakdown in trust and even destroys relationships. This is one of the things I personally hate the most.

This verse is a strong reminder.

Big Bang Theory!

The big bang theory as we know it today was introduced in the early 20th century. It’s interesting how Quran from over 1400 years ago already hinted at the creation of the universe in the following verse.

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاء كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ أَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

“Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (21:30)

The Night of Blessings and Power

Tonight, the night of the 27th Ramadan, is considered by Muslims as the night when the Quran was revealed. Quran refers to it as ‘A Blessed Night’ (44:3) and ‘the Night of Power’ (97:1).

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ

We sent it down during a Blessed Night: for We wish to warn.  (44:3)

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ

لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ

تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ

سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّى مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ

We have indeed revealed this in the Night of Power:
And what will explain to thee what the night of power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God’s permission, on every errand:
Peace!…This until the rise of morn! (97:1-5)

According to the traditions, it is one the odd nights in the last 10 nights of Ramadan. It get’s confusing when we have multiple starts of Ramadan?

These verses give us a lot to ponder on. God signifies ‘the night of power’ being important than a thousand months. What are the reasons behind this significance and what does it mean in practical terms?

One thing is for sure that it urges us to explore the Quran more.

Which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

هَلْ جَزَاء الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ

فَبِأَيِّ آلَاء رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ

Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness? Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny? (55:60-61)

Sometimes it feels as if nothing is going right. No matter how hard we try negativity showers from all around us. Terrorism, corruption, natural calamities is all what we hear and see. Why? Have we played a role in this? We certainly have not attained the reward of goodness.

In such times we should bring positivity in our life, in our actions. The verse emphasises that goodness attracts goodness.

We have been given the responsibility, the potential, the knowledge and yet…

Which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?

Beautiful Loan

مَّن ذَا الَّذِي يُقْرِضُ اللّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا فَيُضَاعِفَهُ لَهُ أَضْعَافًا كَثِيرَةً وَاللّهُ يَقْبِضُ وَيَبْسُطُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

“Who is he that will loan to God a beautiful loan, which God will double unto his credit and multiply many times? It is God that giveth (you) Want or plenty, and to Him shall be your return.” (2:245)

God promises, that whatever we genuinely spend in charitable causes is returned to us multiplied one way of the other.

Why are we here?

God made us his ‘Khalifa’ i.e. vicegerent on earth. In chapter 2 God relates a very interesting conversation with Angels regarding our role in this world.

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.” (2:30)

The term ‘vicegerent’ is defined in the dictionary as “someone appointed to exercise all or some of the authority of another, esp.. the administrative powers of a ruler.” Our appointment as “vicegerent on earth” is a very powerful one, and sounds daunting if you look at it in this way.

Most of us fail to recognise this responsibility and most importantly the potential we have to fulfil this responsibility.

The verse also highlights our weaknesses that, Angels warned God, would hinder us in fulfilling this responsibility. We know well, how to do mischief and bloodshed on earth.

The verse made me think how well informed the Angels were, about this new creation and it’s characteristics. The second part of their statement that “whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” hints to the fact that they were also very disappointed by this appointment and were probably expecting themselves to be given a chance.

But there was something they missed out on. The role probably required a lot more than just praises and glorification. The verse ends with God’s response: “I know what ye know not.” – mention of the term “Knowledge” and that is exactly what got us in this role.

Among us there are many who represent our weaknesses and we see this in wars and destruction all around us but at the same time we have this amazing potential to do God’s work on earth. That mean a lot.

Everything that happens on Earth is within our remits, even the natural disasters I would think. If we are God’s vicegerent on earth, are we doing justice to this role? why are we subservient to the wrath of the earth? Something to think about!

One religion

I read Surah Al-Anbiya (The Prophets) today and what I found really interesting was that after mentioning a series of incidents and stories from the lives of the Prophets, including Moses, Aaron, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon….and others who weren’t named but alluded to such as Mary and Jesus, the Quran then says:

“Indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me.

And [yet] they divided their affair among themselves, [but] all to Us will return.

So whoever does righteous deeds while he is a believer – no denial will there be for his effort, and indeed We, of it, are recorders.” (21: 92-94)

After reading all the stories in succession and then coming to the conclusion that this religion is ‘one religion’ left me with the feeling that perhaps the divisions in religions are made too pronounced by people and we get too caught up in the differences rather than the commonalities. Looking at it holistically as “one religion” that was started with Adam & Eve and went on till Muhammad with hundreds of thousands of Prophets in between pronouncing the same message also makes one think that perhaps sometimes we give way too much importance to rituals and the minutiae of ‘practiced religion’ rather than the spirituality and the universal themes that most of the world’s religions refer to.