Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Worst Disease: Judging Others

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I seek refuge in Allah from satan the accursed.

In the name of Allah, most compassionate most merciful.

 

“Is not Allah the best of judges?” (95:8)

 

An incident from my trip to Italy during March of 2007 still affects me to this day.  My husband and I had just returned to Milan after a long train ride from Venice and were starving. We ended up in a McDonald’s restaurant, not so much for its culinary delights, but more so out of necessity as all other nearby restaurants were closed at that time of the night.  While my husband lined up at the counter to order our food, I took a seat and waited anxiously for him to return.  My eyes came upon a man who appeared to be in his early fifties, eating his food with some really poor table manners.

 

My thoughts were somewhere along the following:

“That man is really disgusting!  Look at him stuff his mouth with all those fries at one time.  Good God! And why in the world are the fries drenched in ketchup?  That is so childish.  Only kids do that kind of stuff.  I really can’t stand looking at him anymore because he is grossing me out.”

 

But for some reason, before I could turn my gaze away from him, Allah SWT opened my eyes and made me really observe him.  I noticed that the man was dressed shabbily and saw the growth of stubble on his face.  He only had a small order of fries on his table.  He also seemed a little mentally unstable, either due to intoxication, a mental illness, or a mix of both.  Guilt flooded my mind as I realized that the man was extremely hungry but could only afford to buy small fries and perhaps lathering them with ketchup helped make him feel more full than eating them plain.

 

Then my heart broke to pieces as I watched the restaurant manager walk up to him, grab him by his collar while saying something in Italian to him, and then dragged him to the door, finally giving him a firm push out the door.  I wish I had had the courage to speak with the manager about the way he handled that man.  He was after all a paying customer and I did not notice him bother anyone.  But I made excuses to myself that night, ranging from, “what if he doesn’t speak English” to, “what if he throws me out of the restaurant” to “this is none of my business, so I should just eat and then go to the hotel room and sleep.”

 

My biggest regret is about how I judged the man so harshly.  I was quick to decide that he was disgusting.  And I was quick to cringe at the sight of him pushing those fries in his mouth, not stopping to wonder why.  It scares me when I think that had it not been for Allah’s grace and mercy, I would never have considered to try to understand what made him behave that way.

 

I failed my test, but not in vain.  My mistake has taught me that we live in a very big and complex world.  There are a multitude of people whom we cross paths with and don’t even realize how different their lives are from our own.  That night, Allah SWT temporarily popped the bubble I had built around myself. I saw a person who shared this earth with me, and yet lived in a very different world.  But regardless of what world he lived in, it was wrong of me to judge him.   It taught me a lesson on the importance of compassion.  I learned that when we meet or see someone so different from ourselves that we cannot understand them, then the least we can do is respect them as a creation of God.

 

I hope that this incident inspires you to reflect on your own life and think about the time you made the mistake of judging someone too harshly or too quickly. Then push aside the cloud of guilt, and consciously decide to improve your way of viewing others.  And the first step to that is always a sincere repentance for your past errors followed by a heartfelt plea to Allah SWT to strengthen you with His loving and perfect guidance.   Maybe, if we make an effort to be caring and respectful towards those different from us, Allah SWT will bless us in return by making others compassionate and understanding towards us.

 

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salutations be upon him) said, “ Should you become eager to mention another’s faults, recall your own. “ (Ar-Rafi)

Battlefront: Music

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I seek refuge with Allah from satan the accursed.

In the name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful

It used to be that as soon as I got in the car, I turned on the radio and surfed around to find a good tune.  I looked forward to driving or sitting in the car just so I could hear music.  It is a different experience listening to music in the car versus at home or at work.  In the car, I feel like I can fully enjoy the music because there is nothing else to do.  At home, I might play some music but often tune out mentally while in the midst of some chore or activity.  But for the last couple of months I have been fighting my old habit of listening to whatever sounds good.  I am literally at war with myself when it comes to music.

 

A couple of months ago my father made a comment about how the lyrics in many popular songs are disgusting and he ended by stating that he didn’t understand how we (his children) could continue listening to that stuff.  His words deeply resonated with me and later that night I vowed in my heart to at least make an effort to refrain from listening to songs that promoted immorality.

 

It was a much tougher battle that I thought it would be.  Sometimes a song would come on and the beat got me in a great mood, but then I realized that the lyrics were filled with shameful ideas.   Then came the battle between my conscience and me.  My conscience would be yelling at me to change the station while my hand would hover over the frequency dial, the excuse being, “But this is the best part!”  I got some extra help from Allah SWT, as one day, while I expected to delay changing the station my finger somehow touched the dial and in less than a second my ears heard a new, “clean” tune.  It almost felt like a trance had just been broken.  I asked myself, “It was pretty easy to change the station so how come I had been delaying or not changing it all these years?”

 

Another really big problem I initially had was that nobody else around me cared enough about this topic.  When I was the passenger and someone else was picking the radio station, I sometimes felt a little foolish to tell the other person to change the station, especially if the person was clearly enjoying the song.  But soon after, my heart would sink and I would get upset with myself for being a coward.  Eventually I began to muster up strength and began discussing how I had decided to change the station when an immoral song came on. Often my plea was met with silence and indifference, but soon enough people in my life started turning the dial every time I brought it up, and before I knew it they were actually changing it by realizing themselves.

 

Once I had more control over the music in my life, I felt a little stupid for my reluctance earlier to follow the right path.  Research shows that the mind is designed for two purposes and that is to protect us and to ensure our survival.  Therefore, once a set of actions become a part of our lives, the mind will fight to keep it that way as change could be threatening in its effects. This has both positive and negative sides depending on what habits we acquire.  Hence, anything new and different from what we are accustomed to requires extra effort and discomfort on our part until it becomes habitual and as a result, comfortable.

 

This is what I had to go through for the last couple of months and by the grace of Allah SWT I have developed much better self-control when it comes to the songs I enjoy.  When in the beginning I was slow and reluctant to change the station because the song sounded good despite the wrong message, I am now quicker to change the station once I realize the song contains something immoral.  Sometimes that means giving up the pleasure of listening to something very melodious and upbeat.

I urge you to make a sincere commitment between Allah SWT and yourself when it comes to music.  Promise yourself that you will try your best to only listen to songs that do not cross the limits set by Allah SWT, for music is a beautiful gift from God Almighty.  It captivates our attention and gives us great joy.  Therefore it should be every person’s desire to keep this medium pure and free of shameful and immoral ideas and words.  Once a large number of people start tuning out songs with immoral lyrics, musicians and record companies will be hit hard on their wallets and will be forced to reconsider the types of messages and words they project through their songs.

 

So understand that life is a war with yourself.  This war is full of battles that must be fought sometimes on a daily basis.  It is easier to give in to your habits and cultural norms, especially when it comes to music.  But if you remind yourself that you can only enjoy the blessings of Allah SWT within the boundaries of decency and good morals then you will make it a little easier for yourself to make the right choices.