Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Pursuit of Paradise

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I seek refuge in Allah, from satan the accursed.

In the name of Allah Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

 

Man’s heart is full of hopes and desires.  From the time he is a small babe till the time he lays in his death bed, breathing his last breaths, man strives for paradise.  Although true paradise can only be given to those blessed by God Almighty, and only after this life is over and audited, the fact that we are all internally wired (by God) to seek paradise is clear for everyone to observe.

If you are looking for proof of paradise, you need not buy expensive telescopes to scan the heavens, nor fat textbooks detailing the interpretations of religious texts on this subject.  All you need is your sound mind and a few moments of silence to reflect upon your nature as a human being.

Think.  What do you secretly and sometimes even openly desire?  What does every human being desire in life?  It does not matter if you lived during the earliest human history, the ice age, the medieval age, or modern times. It also does not matter if you are a man, woman, young, middle aged, old, modern, traditional, liberal, religious, agnostic, or any other label.  Every human being that has ever lived, is living, and will ever come to live will always want the same: paradise.

So what is this paradise we all want so badly?  It is the need to be surrounded by beauty in our surroundings, in ourselves, and in our spouse.  It is the desire to be cocooned in unparalleled comforts and luxuries.  It is that dream to simply lounge, holding out our glass for the perfectly dressed server to refill it with a refreshing drink.  Everyone wants eternal youth coupled with perfect health.  Perhaps the most compelling evidence for paradise is our deep desire to live a worry free life forever, which is only possible in paradise, the best gift to mankind from God.  We all prefer to ditch our chores and work to hang out with our loved ones at feasts, hearing only the sound of friendly chatter and our collective laughter, basking in our merry mood and peaceful ambience.

Indeed we all want and work for paradise.  We also crave recognition and respect, which is what every dweller of paradise is promised.   Some of us decide to build our paradise right here, right now.  But the paradise we build for ourselves in this world and the one God has built for us in the next is incomparable.  The problem gets worse when we become consumed with filling our worldly lives with all the delights of our version of paradise without taking care of our spiritual needs, or worst of all, by robbing or short changing others of their rights and properties.  We forget that this life is the bridge to our next life, and so, this bridge will lead us to our rightful destination when the time comes to face the fruits of our actions.

 

Those of us who strive for the unseen paradise of God through our daily thoughts, words, and actions, will be in much better position to receive our Master’s mercy and blessing of eternal youth, beauty, peace, luxury, and happiness in comparison to those of us whose sole aim in life is to achieve the paradise of this world.  In this life, we must balance our need for luxury with our need for spiritual growth if we are to ever have any hope of achieving the eternal paradise of the Loving One.

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Tricked R Us

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I seek refuge in Allah from satan the accursed.

In the name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful.

 

Satan is tricky, conniving, and most unfortunate for us, forever persistent in his pursuit of our spiritual demise.  There are many routes he can take to get us going on the path towards eternal doom, and all of them usually involve some sort of deception and trickery.  The following are the three types of tricks he tries on us (based on my own life experiences).

Trick 1: sinful acts

The first and easiest way to get us in trouble, is to get us to try out and get us addicted to sinful acts, such as drinking, gambling, fornication, adultery, slander, or any other sin that any person of pretty much any faith would consider immoral or indecent.  But the problem is that the above mentioned sins have greatly become normalized and even expected forms of life choices for an increasing number of people.  Satan has done his job right by getting people to turn them into “good” things and then getting people to perpetuate their normalcy through educational institutions, media, and thus constantly shifting social norms.  The acts I mentioned seem wrong because of the names I gave them.  But the other way they have been incorporated into mainstream society is by the use of alternate titles, descriptions, or expectations attached to the sins, for example:

  • drinking is known as hanging out with friends at the bar,
  • gambling is normalized through state-run lotto tickets and casinos,
  • fornication is encouraged “as long as you love each other” or to “gain experience”
  • adultery is often okayed as a means of escape from an unhappy or volatile marriage, and
  • slander is seen as simply exposing the real person behind a fake one

If not stopped immediately, a person will become habituated to them, and therefore they will become addictions and thus a necessary part of one’s life. The best way to keep away from such acts is to be around the kinds of people who are doing a good job of staying on the straight path and who will become a support system to keep us on track.  Regardless of whether acts are moral or immoral, they become a part of our lives if those around us are constantly doing them.

Trick 2: Looking down on people engaged in immoral behavior

If you are determined to stay away from sinful acts, and through your prayers and self-control are able to steer clear of such behavior for the most part, then you can be attacked by satan in another way.  Remember that all satan wants, is for you to end up in hellfire, and he will go into every avenue to get you to fall on your face.  If he does not have much success getting you to succumb to the usual temptations that lurk in society, then he will bring your moral feats to your attention.  He will insist that you look at your moral accomplishments in life and then congratulate you for not being like the majority of disgusting and misguided people out there.  In this way, you fall in the trap of a sin even greater than drinking or gambling, and that is arrogance.  You will turn your nose up at the people who make bad choices in life and pat yourself on the back for making sure you are on the right path.  However, the correct way to handle one’s successes in relation to others’ failures would be to feel gratitude and humility towards Allah SWT, followed by fear and plea to God Almighty to always protect you from evil and harm.  Nothing is guaranteed permanent in life, even good morals, and so one must not feel falsely secure about anything.

Trick 3: challenging satan

Usually at the same time as getting you to look down on others, satan will start working on making you feel like you have such a strong level of faith in God, that you can challenge anyone about anything and remain untouchable by fear and confusion.  He will probably suggest that you engage in controversial or taboo topics displayed by any person regardless of their religious affiliation or agenda.  The truth could indeed be that you do have a strong level of faith in God, but satan will use this against you by challenging you to prove him wrong and to confirm your steadfastness by reading and watching discussions about topics by people who may either be misguided or intentionally trying to confuse believers.  At first, you may feel emboldened by your research into the unknown, but at some point you will probably come across a discussion or words that will send you into a spiral of confusion.  This will in turn weaken your faith because you will feel extremely uncomfortable not knowing the right way to approach some subjects, and will probably start scrambling to find something to falsify this new and conflicting information to regain the strong foothold over your faith.   If you do end up in this situation, know that you will fall flat on your face and it will take you some time to regain your same level of faith. But God willing, if you are patient and determined, Allah SWT will keep you on the straight path and strengthen your faith in Him.  If anything, such an experience will teach you a good lesson on staying humble and to view your faith as a any other blessing of God, such as your health, family, and finances.

Vitamin K

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In the name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful.

Sometime after the Iraq invasion, I caught a part of a documentary on life for Iraqis on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).  I do not remember exactly what part I started watching this documentary from, but I do remember vitamin K.   

The documentary trailed an Iraqi man, whose wife was pregnant with twins.  The woman ended up in preterm labor due to the stress of living in a war zone, and delivered a very frail set of boy and girl twins.  I watched in shock as the presiding doctor did the best he could with the limited medical supplies to keep the twins growing inside a poorly equipped incubator.  The babies were extremely tiny and skinny, and their appearance begged the pity of any observer.  I kept hoping and praying that this story would have a happy ending, constantly asking, “they wouldn’t show a story on TV where babies die, right?”  

 The man was often sent out to find supplies or medications to sustain his twins’ health, and each time I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the cameras capture his slim figure walk through the hospital room door carrying the supplies in his hands.  But then the twins’ health started to deteriorate again, and the doctor, with his voice calm and collected, told the cameras that they were now Vitamin K deficient, and the hospital did not have anymore supplies on site due to the current volatile and dangerous situation of their country.  The father once again set out to hopefully purchase vitamin K from the black market in time to save his vulnerable babies.  But during his absence, the twins’ health took a turn for the worst and I watched in horror as the cameras zoomed in on their tiny, pink bodies, their eyes squinting, as they struggled to breathe. With no available oxygen ventilators, the doctor and staff were forced to standby and witness two innocent babies take their last breaths.  

 My own shock and pain at seeing that through a television screen were so unbearable that I could not help but feel the tightness in my chest as my eyes gushed forth tear after tear in mourning.  Even as I write this post, the memory of those dying babies brings tears to my eyes and I am forced to pause and wipe my eyes before continuing.  

 The pain only increased as the cameras capture the father returning through the hospital doors with the vitamin K in his hands only to be told by the doctor that it was too late as the babies had just passed away.  The man walked out of the room only to reappear soon after with what looked like two shoe boxes.  It felt like someone had placed a boulder on my chest, as I watched the man pick up each lifeless little body with one hand, while reciting “inna-nillah” and placed it inside each shoe box, covering it.  

 His voice remained completely calm as he recited the dua for his deceased children, and his entire demeanor depicted a man who clearly had faith in his Maker, who despite his loss, understood that God had not abandoned him, that he was being tested with the most difficult of circumstances.  My eyes fixed on the two shoe boxes carrying the lifeless babies, that would act as coffins for someone’s children.  Think about that for a moment.  These parents had to face premature birth of their children, followed by their death, only to have to bury them inside a shoe box.  At that point, the video froze and the credits rolled.  That was the end of that story as I knew it.  

 I like to give myself some perspective by comparing that story to the birth on my own triplets born prematurely.  But I must bow down to God Almighty because He has been very generous to my family.  I did not have to face the hardships the Iraqi parents faced.  

 My pregnancy was monitored by one of the best trained doctors in the world and my babies were delivered at one of the best hospitals in the world, closely monitored using the best technology and drugs modern times could offer, all paid for by the publicly funded medical system of my country.  My babies not only had the best doctors, but also some of the best trained nurses in the world, having at least one nurse by their incubator twenty four hours per day seven days a week for seven weeks until they were strong enough to come home with us.  Their vitals were constantly monitored and any slight changes were noted and taken care of if needed.  

 The one night when one of my babies stopped breathing all of sudden, the electrical monitors immediately alerted the staff at the NICU and I watched the doctors and nurses rush over to him to switch on the ventilator to get him to breath again.  I was so afraid I would lose him that night as I stood helplessly over his incubator, the loud vibrations of the ventilator dominating my ears.  But the by the grace and mercy of the loving Lord, my baby began breathing, and within a couple of days, went off the ventilator.  There were other moments when we were afraid for the health and well being of our little babies, but we had the peace of mind that they were being taken care of by some of the best trained staff and equipment the world could offer, and were grateful for every day that passed by with them breathing, feeding, and growing.  There was no vitamin K shortage at their hospital, and there were no bombs going off outside, just the usual, orderly traffic and hustle and bustle of people walking about a peaceful city. 

 Most of us take peace for granted.  We do not understand that there are millions of people in our world who cannot step foot outside their homes for fear of being shot at or being blown up by a bomb.  We feel nothing when we start our full tank cars and pull out of our neat little driveways to drive around town looking for the bank or grocery store or movie theater.  And we feel nothing but self-pity or perhaps rage when we or a loved one ends up at the hospital, angry for being made to feel discomfort and pain.  Most of us forget that once we are done feeling sorry or angry, we need to feel gratitude for having access to quality medical care.  Access to quality medical care is not a joke.  It is a huge blessing without which many of us would probably die.  In fact, most of us would not be here were it not for Allah’s blessing of modern medical care.  We have all had health scares in our lives, and so we all need to thank Allah SWT for giving us and our families access to proper drugs and care that allows us to remain as functioning family units and a thriving society.  

 Let us pray for the brave medical staff working in conflict zones, and are often underpaid, understaffed, and ill-equipped to treat their seriously ill or injured patients.  And let us also remember to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters who would do anything to get a couple of drops of vitamin K from the black market to save their dying children.