Monthly Archives: July 2011

master your salah!

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“Guard strictly the Salah, especially the middle Salah. And stand before Allah with obedience.” (2:238)

Reading the Quran, or if you cannot understand Arabic like myself, reading the translation of the Quran, will lead you to see the high important Allah SWT assigns to salah or prayer.  It is something that can very much determine your fate on judgement day, when you stand completely alone, with no support of family or friends, in front of your Maker.  This is evident in the following verse of the Holy Quran: “Truly, those who believe and do righteous deeds, and perform Salah, and give Zakah, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:277)

But establishing regular and especially focused salah is something I myself continue to struggle with to this day.  It is something many Muslims struggle with on a daily basis.  However, by now I have set some ground rules for myself in order to ensure better success in this realm of faith, and I feel that God willing you may find this helpful too.  The first rule I have set for myself, is seeing the fulfilment of salah as a journey instead of a destination.  What I mean by a journey, is that before, I got frustrated with myself because I often had days or weeks when I was establishing regular salah on time, and then for some reason I got distracted or lazy and would miss a couple of salahs, which would then put me in a downward spiral of feeling like I failed myself and thinking thoughts like, “What’s the point of praying meghrib when I already missed asr. I already ruined my whole day’s salah pattern by missing one salah.”  But thoughts like these hurt my salah even more because I subconsciously believed that there is no way I can ever establish all my salahs on time and with full focus.  What I did not realize was that it is not that I failed myself by missing one prayer or by losing focus in between, but instead I was failing myself by dwelling on the missed prayers and thereby missing more prayers.

So keeping in mind that the fulfilment of salah is a journey, you must forgive yourself if you miss a salah, sincerely ask Allah SWT to forgive you for it, and move on by making sure you say the next salah on time.  The trick is to stop thinking about all the salah you missed and not think about all the salah you must establish in life, but instead to simply focus on the salah you must make in the time that you are presently conscious of.  In this way, you will find that you are much more successful in praying more regularly and on time.  Build a routine for you salah in order to make it a part of your life.

If you are someone who has a habit of not praying, then you must first have a desire to change your praying habits.  Then you must turn towards Allah SWT and sincerely repent for your past errors and ask Him to guide you in fulfilling your salah on time and to make it easy for you.  You must be patient with yourself in this matter because success will not come overnight.  But if you are willing to succeed then go at it at a pace you are comfortable with.  Maybe start by praying the salah that are easiest or most convenient for you to pray.  Then after a couple of days increase your salah and God willing you will see the fruits of your efforts.  Everything takes some time and effort to achieve, even regular salah.

If you are concerned about your ability to wake up for fajr, just know that if you really want to pray fajr on time, then you will do whatever it takes to make sure you wake up on time.  Yes, it is more challenging because you must disrupt your deep sleep, but it is by no means impossible.  You must first deeply desire to pray fajr on time, and then seek Allah’s help in strengthening your willpower and making it easy for you.  You should use the spiritual power of Ramadan to train yourself in the matter of salah.

The same rule applies for staying focused during salah.  Losing focus during salah is something most Muslims face, and again, you must look at this aspect as a journey as well.  You cannot say that you have arrived at the destination until your death, because until you say your last salah, you cannot fully judge this matter.  Hence, do not think about all the salah you have previously said being distracted, but instead sincerely repent to Allah SWT for your past errors in this regard, and ask him to help you in staying focused during salah.  Then put your full effort into staying focused during the salah and watch how Allah SWT helps you.

One key point you must understand is that if you are not fluent in Arabic, then you MUST seek out translations of the surahs, verses, and duas you recite during the salah.  This is because in order to really focus on your salah and hence get the full benefit from your salah, you must speak from your heart.  You are after all, conversing with your Lord, so what kind of a conversation would it be that you do not even know what you are saying to Him.  Therefore, salah is not a light matter, and you must memorize and understand the meanings of your words.  So when you recite during prayer, your mind must be focused on what you say, as the words must come out of your heart.  Otherwise, it is like you are running a tape player with no connection to Allah SWT. But at the same time be patient with yourself and plan out the times you must devote to learning the meanings one at a time.  Do not feel rushed or overwhelmed because Allah SWT is the Most Merciful and so He is gentle and patient with us.

Salah is the foundation of our faith in Allah SWT.  Our souls cannot survive unless we turn to our Lord Almighty and glorify Him for everything that He made us and everything that He gave us.  So do what you have to do in order to master your salah, because there will be no one to put your blame on that awesome day, if you just dream and sit and do nothing about it today.

Check out this pdf file for some basic translations of the words in salah:

http://www.muslims.studentorgs.umich.edu/downloads/prayer%20times/Meaning%20of%20the%20Prayers.pdf

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Recommit to wealth

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My dream is to see Muslims worldwide live happy and prosperous lives by following the greatest gift given to mankind through our beloved Prophet Mohammed SAW: the Holy Quran.  That is why I believe it is extremely important for all Muslims to strive for better financial success because that allows to build more prosperity and harmony amongst everyone.

Just look at neighborhoods around your country where people do not have enough money to support their families. What happens as a result?  Many people start resorting to illegal activities such as theft, drug trafficking, violence, and other immoral acts.  Then compare those neighborhoods to places where most people have enough to make ends meet plus extra for holidays or other leisure activities.  I’m talking about even just plain middle class families, because they generally have some budget for extra or fun stuff in life.  You can see what a huge difference money makes in people’s lives and communities.

Many people get confused by money and feel that it is evil and leads to greed and overly lavish lifestyles. But the truth is that money does not do any of that.  That is because greed and lavish lifestyles are there because people choose to want more without giving back and people choose to use their money for nonsense.  Therefore, it is not money but rather the intentions and desires of people that lead to immoral behavior.  If someone wishes to have parties at their house all the time and buy a fleet of luxury cars, and one day they manage to get the amount of money needed to do so, they will fulfill those desires because they wanted to do those things all along and not because somehow having money made them do that.

Look at the example of Prophet Sulayman AS.  He was not only extremely wealthy, but also extremely powerful and influential in his times.  But he had goodness in his heart and feared Allah SWT and so He followed Allah’s rules and used his money in a balanced and beneficial manner.  It is said that the Israelites enjoyed great prosperity under his reign.  Why? Because he did not just use it to buy only what he liked, but also focused a large chunk of it on making life better for his people.   This way, Allah SWT kept money flowing freely to him and he never got poor from using it for the betterment of everyone in his kingdom.   So money is not good or bad in itself, but rather it is the owner of that money is good or bad.

So  if as a Muslim, you use and follow the rules of Allah SWT around money-making, you will by His grace make progress and build prosperity for everyone around you.  If you feel any resentment towards a wealthy person such as Bill Gates, I would strongly urge you to stop feeling like that and instead look towards that person with respect and awe.  The reason is, that Bill Gates and any other person like him is not the only one making money.  That’s part of the picture.  Look at the whole picture and you will see that Bill Gates’ company provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of people directly and indirectly.  His company Microsoft is one of the biggest in the world, employing hundreds of thousands of people.  The company not only pays the employees great salaries, but also great benefits and bonuses. Indirectly Microsoft helps other people make money because they pass on their products to online and offline vendors such as Best Buy or even small business, all of whom use and sell the products to then make more money.  This way, you can see that although Bill Gates makes a ton of money, he more than deserves that money because he makes other people rich too.

This is the part where many Muslim entrepreneurs go wrong, because they often set up a business to make themselves rich and in this process often wonder why their business is struggling instead of thriving. Now you know the answer. If you’re in it for yourself know that you are working against Allah’s laws for prosperity and you will always remain paranoid about your finances and will hoard money instead of spend and save.  So Allah SWT’s law for being rich is first and foremost thinking about how you can provide others with more value than they are paying for, and part of that law is intending to make other people rich with your business.  Please do not listen to satan’s advice because there is more than enough money for everyone out there. And if he does whisper anything simply choose to ignore it and follow Allah’s laws of purity and integrity.

Many Muslims make the mistake of asking the wrong questions when it comes to making money.  If you want to make money, you do not ask “how do I make money?” or “how do I make people give me money?”  you ask “how do I give others something that provides them with value?”  Remember that when you give others value for their money,  it means that you give them something that is worth more than they are paying for.  Even if you are a stock boy for a grocery store, you will have the time of your life if you provide you employer with more value for the money he/she pays you, because when it comes to firing people, you can bet you won’t be one of the fired employees.  Instead, if you decide to resign, it is very likely you will be offered a raise or some other form of benefit such as more flexibility, because you provide more than what is expected of you.    So if you desire to start your own business, don’t think what the business can do for you, but instead think about what your business can do for others and soon enough you will find yourself face to face with abundance in your life.  The key is to always work with the fundamental rules and laws set by Allah SWT and not against them.  Reach for excellence in your craft and watch Allah’s laws work for you as He blesses your business with willing and loyal customers.

I will end this piece by summarizing the key points you must take with you:

  • As Muslims, it is our duty to reach for higher financial success in order to build prosperity for everyone around us
  • Ask yourself how you can provide others with value and money will flow easily to you
  • Money is not good or bad, but rather is used for good or bad purposes by the person who has it
  • Look to financially successful people with respect for ideas and inspiration
  • Clarify verbally to Allah SWT exactly why you wish to get higher success, and your verbal statements must match what is in your heart
  • You can never achieve financial freedom if you believe in holding back or hoarding money for the sake of seeing it pile up, as it will only make you more needy and petty

Change your financial life!

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So you want more money.  Well in order to change your current financial situation you MUST first understand, accept, and apply the all important laws set by Allah SWT when it comes to changing anything about your life. One of the most important laws is stated in the Quran as follows “…Allah does not change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts…”(13:11)  This law created by Allah SWT basically tells us that if we do not like something in our life and want Allah’s help in changing it, we must first change what is “in our hearts”, which is basically our core thoughts, thought patterns, and beliefs around the issue.  Therefore, in order to change the physical and tangible reality of money in your life you must first change how you think and feel about money.  At first it may seem absurd that thoughts could have anything to do with actual money but if you have patience and open heart God willing you will see the truth soon enough.

Understand that everything in the physical tangible and seeable world is a direct result or “printout” of what is going on in the minds and thoughts of everyone in that world. Realize that thoughts lead to emotions which then compel us to act, and actions lead to physical results.  Look at anything you want.  For example, you watch a documentary on a doctor who does amazing work saving people’s lives by performing heart surgeries.  That gets you thinking about what it would be like if you could save people’s lives by performing heart surgeries, which then lead to positive and elating emotions, which then compel you to find out what it takes to get to that position, and then because you are determined to be that heart surgeon you keep working to get through the necessary education and training and until finally by Allah’s grace and blessings, you are a heart surgeon.  Becoming the heart surgeon was the effect and your thoughts and emotions were the cause.

This brings us to the next important law created by Allah SWT, which is the law of duality.  Allah SWT has built everything as opposites such as male and female, light and dark, good and evil, up and down, cause and effect, pain and pleasure, and so on.  Allah SWT says in the Quran “And He it is Who spread the earth and made in it firm mountains and rivers, and of all fruits He has made in it two kinds; He makes the night cover the day; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” (13:3)  So keeping in mind the law of duality, know that just as there are outer laws to making money, there are inner laws to making money.

You must know that in order to stay firmly connected to Islam and Allah SWT, you MUST, I repeat MUST clarify your intentions behind why you desire more money.  There must be no doubt in your heart and mind as to why you are in pursuit of more money.  As you already know, Islam teaches us that there is no act without intention.  So if someone gives a needy person a lot of money to show off to other people that act is rendered fruitless for that person because Allah knows his/her intentions were not to please HIM but to simply elevate that person’s status amongst his fellow men.  So remember that before you ask for more money you should really think about and go as far as write down your reasons behind wanting more money.

Having said that, also remember that Allah SWT wants us to live a balanced life, so it does not mean you must intend to give away all your money to those less fortunate, but nor does it mean that you use it build several mansions for yourself and be a hoarder.  You want to stay in the middle by sincerely desiring to give back a portion of the money whether it is through charity donations, investments that will benefit other people as well as you, or any other way to give back to those around you.  As it is says in the Quran “Thus, have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations….”(2:143)  I don’t need to but I will still remind you that you must sincerely from the core of your being intend something because you really cannot fool Allah SWT by just saying that you wish to give away 10% or 50% of your savings for charitable purposes. Also, it is worthwhile to write down exact numbers or percentages you intend to give back to the community because it is very likely that you will confuse or mix up the number you originally intend if you do not safely record it somewhere.

So what I want you to take from this piece is that you make your own life by acting on your thoughts and emotions, and that it is very important to consciously clarify your intentions behind why you desire more money.

To be continued…

money 101

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I seek refuge in Allah from satan the accursed.

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate Most Merciful.

Allah is God Almighty, the One beyond our perception and undefinable.  He has no son, no partners, and no equals.  He is the Creator and everyone and everything else is created by Him.

Money makes the world go round, right? Many of you who clicked on this article did it out of curiosity or wondering that maybe you will find something that will make you millions in a couple of days or weeks.  I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to make a ton of money fairly quickly, but I will say there are certain overarching rules or laws created by Allah SWT around money that if followed will allow anyone to make more than they are used to making.

The first rule you should drill in your head is that whether it is more money or anything else you desire in life, they CANNOT be achieved instantly!  Things that can be achieved instantly do not usually incite such deep desires in us.  For example, if you are middle class and you feel hungry, you simply go to the fridge and eat food, or you drive to a restaurant and fulfill your need pretty quickly.  So deep desires usually arise for things that we cannot achieve readily or easily.  Many people, including myself, feel frustrated after a day, a week, a month, or even a year of trying to achieve something important to us.  It is natural to feel that way but you must understand why we feel this way. The reason is subconscious.   Although we do not consciously think like this but I believe many of us are living under the illusion that we all made it to heaven and therefore everything we wish for should be granted to us right away without any questions asked.  Yes my friend, indeed we have not made it to the “promised land” as yet because this is life on earth with its rules and laws, and if we accept them and learn to work with them instead of against them, our lives will be much smoother and much less crazy.  This is the whole test: who can accept the rules of life and work with them to succeed.  All the prophets peace be upon them knew and understood this and that is why they were able to succeed in getting through all their lives with greatness and grace. So learn to work with the laws created by Allah SWT when it comes to acquiring more money.

Let me clarify that money is nothing more than a collective belief that certain rectangular pieces of paper and circular metal pieces are distributed amongst people to be exchanged for goods and services.  Most of us live in countries that have central banks that are the only ones allowed to print and circulate money, and therefore the citizens only agree on “legitimate” money as that printed through the central bank.  This means that although some people under satan’s temptation, scan or print copies of “real” money, once discovered, it is considered counterfeit and therefore discarded, leaving the holder of that paper money in loss.

Now that you’re clear about the nature of money, you should know that there is more than enough money out there for everyone.  Yes, I said everyone.  If you are skeptical of my claim please bear with me and God willing I will explain to you why that is.  Unfortunately in the Muslim community I have noticed many people have a “scarcity”   perspective when it comes to money.  These people believe that there is only so much money out there and that if they don’t get to it first then they will lose their chance at a “slice of the pie.”  Sorry to burst your bubble but there is NO pie.   Let me repeat that: there is NO pie! That’s correct my friends.  Allah SWT creates wealth and prosperity for anyone He likes.  The way He designed the world is so that different people can succeed at different rates and therefore the amount of wealth around the world fluctuates all the time.

If you have something really great to offer people then they will readily pay you for it.  Think about any successful business today.  Let’s take the classic example of McDonald’s restaurants.  It started out as a single store owned by one man and grew over the decades into a worldwide phenomenon making millions of dollars in profits each year.  So if there is a “pie” then McDonald’s shouldn’t have been able to achieve such great success because there would have been a limited amount of money already in the hands of those who had it for generations.  I hope I’m getting through to you.

To further understand the flow of money, pay attention to the ideas perpetuated by those around you ,especially authority figures in your life.  Believing that money is scarce leads to hoarding, which is a result of these ideas being constantly repeated by whom we consider authority figures, such as parents, media, elders, etc.  So it feels real and takes on a life of its own since it is believed by so many people at the same time.

I want you to really understand and accept that Allah SWT has made this life for us with endless possibilities for prosperity and happiness.  I want to share with you a personal experience from a couple years ago that illustrates the power of collective belief in a simple idea.

I am a certified teacher and worked at a small Islamic school for a little over a year.  The year that I started teaching there, the administration took all the staff to a whole day of workshops related to improving teaching practices.  One of the experiences I had at a workshop that day still baffles me to this day.  We were greeted by an older white male teacher from a public school running his workshop.  He asked for about six volunteers for a demonstration.  I volunteered to go up with some others. He then went to a wall of the room and picked up a rod about four feet in length sitting on the floor amongst other rods, tied up loosely with strings.  He undid the strings and told us to stand in a row and across from each other, so three by three.  He then told us to hold out our index fingers and slightly curl them around the rod to  balance it. He then added that we should be careful with the rod as they are helium sticks and that we would have to constantly communicate efficiently to bring the rods down to our knee level.  So I knew then that if one set of people lowered it we all had to lower it at the same time if we wanted this to work.  Well it turned out that we had difficulty bringing the rod down as a group because the helium stick would hover from one end or the other.  Before we knew it, the instructor told us all to let the stick go, and upon that, it fell to the ground.  Before we could express our confusion about this situation, the instructor jumped right in with the words, “This was no helium stick.  It was difficult bringing it down because you all believed it would float in the air.  It was the energy created by your strong belief!”

The point is, that we often just believe what we are being told and because we trust the source of our knowledge so much, we feel its authenticity without ever questioning it.  That’s the problem many people have when it comes to money: whenever some “expert” or an authority figure makes a bold statement about money, people start circulating it until it becomes a part of their normal life regardless of its real value.  So it is very possible that in order to make more money than you already are, you need to change what you believe about it.

To be continued…

how to conquer envy

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I seek refuge in Allah from satan the accursed.

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate Most Merciful.

Allah is God Almighty, the One beyond our perception and undefinable.  He has no son, no partners, and no equals.  He is the Creator and everyone and everything else is created by Him.

Do you know what she said to me?  I can’t believe people like her roam freely amongst us!  Someone should take away all God has given her and then maybe she will stop saying such mean and hurtful things to others.  You really want to know what she said to me after I told her I am going traveling around Europe for two weeks?  Well she had this sour look on her face, and her smile turned into a frown.  Then her eyes narrowed and she uttered, “Why in the world would God let YOU travel all over the world you old man?  I am young and I deserve this trip much more than you.  So you should just transfer your tickets to me and sit at home and watch TV like you are meant to at this age.  Sheesh! This is freakin’ ridiculous!   What’s with all you people traveling all over the world while I rot here in this bank teller job counting out Euros for you?!”

The sad part about this story is that it actually did happen with me, but not the way you have come to understand it thus far.  Firstly, the words by the bank teller were not actually said out loud, but were instead thought.  Therefore, the hurt felt by the customer is only my interpretation of what would have happened if the words were indeed said out loud.  So what might surprise you is that I was the bank teller and the customer was someone I had once served while working a summer job as a university student. Yes it is true.  I had a great desire to travel and when that particular customer came asking for Euros, he got me curiously asking where he was going.  After he told me about an exciting trip to various European countries with his wife, I felt a great wave of anger and envy wash over me.  I completely felt psychologically paralyzed by my dark side and wanted to storm out of my workplace because I kept thinking, “Howcome I am not the one travelling to Europe with My husband?!”

What I failed to realize, and perhaps most of us fail to realize is that just because someone we know or cross paths with happens to have something we want as well, does not mean that is the end of that dream for us.  God Almighty has unlimited power and therefore He can create the same type of opportunity for us in the near future.  What most of us consistently end up doing, is falling for satan’s trickery.

To elaborate on my point I would like to share with you some more details of my life surrounding this incident.  I got that bank teller job after several interviews and a lot of prayers because I really wanted to save a good amount of money to help my husband pay off my university tuition fees for the following year.  Plus, I had always wanted to experience working at a bank for some reason. Now imagine after having been blessed with passing the interviews and getting to work in a field I had always dreamed of experiencing, I chose to completely disregard what I had and focused my entire energy on what I didn’t have.  Not just that, I questioned why that customer got to have the amazing trip.  It was bad enough that I threw my blessings in the spiritual garbage can, I went one step further and stomped on someone else’s happiness.  Some of you might be thinking that it’s only natural to feel jealousy or envy for other people’s happiness but let me burst your bubble by telling you straight out that it is NOT natural, but instead is a result of flawed reasoning proposed by satan and accepted by us.

Satan proposes a scarcity viewpoint, which is basically the flawed idea that there is only so much to go around so if I don’t get to it then I lose out.  However, the reality is far from it.  God Almighty is the owner and creator of everything and therefore extends His mercy to all His creatures, so if you really want something and see someone else who has it, feel happy for him/her because now you know that it’s possible to get it, and then ask God to bless you with it too.  How do you feel happy for that person?  By being inspired by their journey to achieve whatever it is that you desire as well.  Remember that whatever it is that you desire takes time and effort and if someone else has it, that means they had their own journey to get to where they are now.  There is unlimited supply of all the good stuff so just trust God and ask Him to guide you to it.

Do not accept all thoughts that come to your head because satan will most likely throw in his two cents.  Let’s clarify one thing about satan: he only tempts or confuses us by what appear to us as our own thoughts, and by accepting those thoughts as true we act on them thereby sinning.  Therefore, each and every one of us is responsible for our actions and cannot blame satan on the day of judgement.  The following two verses of the Quran state that satan can only tempt and that in the end we are all responsible for our actions because satan never forces us to do anything.  We are indeed born free to choose our path.

“Satan makes them promises, and creates in them false desires; but satan’s promises are nothing but deception.” (4:120)

“And Satan shall say after the affair is decided: Surely Allah promised you the promise of truth, and I gave you promises, then failed to keep them to you, and I had no authority over you, except that I called you and you obeyed me, therefore do not blame me but blame yourselves: I cannot be your aider (now) nor can you be my aiders; surely I disbelieved in your associating me with Allah before; surely it is the unjust that shall have the painful punishment.”(14:22)

However, it is sometimes difficult for us to determine whether satan is trying to fool us when the ideas brought forth are by are own mind.  What I mean to say is that if the ideas are said by another person it is often much easier to discredit them as false or sinful, whereas our own ideas are often more tricky and difficult to analyze.  In this case,  what often works for me, is asking myself what if someone else said this to me?  Will I still accept it as is? Why do i really want to go through with this?  Hence keep in mind that it is the content of thoughts and ideas that needs to be monitored with vigilance and not really the source.  It does not matter if you think of a certain idea or some other person suggests it to you, but rather you should focus on what is being said.  Just remember that as soon as you realize that a certain idea or thought is proposed by satan, turn to God Almighty with sincerity for His protection, just as the following Quranic verse states:

If a suggestion from Satan assail thy (mind), seek refuge with Allah; for He heareth and knoweth (all things). Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring Allah to remembrance, when lo! they see (aright)! (7:200-201)

…And remember that no matter what path you choose in life, God Almighty always loves you unconditionally and helps you when in need because He is Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem (Most Compassionate Most Merciful).