Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beyond life

Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? What’s the point in life if we’ll eventually die in the end? and all kinds of questions that are considered taboo, might be exactly the same questions that many people are asking as we struggle to find meaning in life. Although I feel confident and comfortable with the answers that I have, there was once a time when I was amazingly distressed by not being able to get satisfactory answers for them.

Not knowing what we’re living for is truly a tragedy. And in the end, for many people, life is merely about following where their desires take them to, without any real sense of deep purpose. And when one follows his desires, there will never be satisfaction. Among the objects in which people try to fulfill their desires with are wealth, power, and social status.

Many people spend their entire lifetime in distraction, trying to gather the all the riches that they can gather. Many people work all their lives to receive recognition from other people, whether they work in a corporate setting, whether they are scientists reaching for the top in the scientific community, politics, or whatever profession they may be engaged in. But all the wealth and achievements gained, what do they really mean in the end?

In the Islamic tradition, we are told to look beyond the illusion of life. That everything that we receive and experience is a test for us. The achievements and the failures in life are only means for us to learn about how to be grateful or patient towards what God has given us. To use what we have or don’t have to serve the One who gave it to us in the first place. Do we give out our money to the poor? Do we use our power to benefit people? Do we learn things to be able to help others? If what we do only corresponds towards fulfilling our desires rather that for doing good deeds for God’s sake, we really need to reconsider what we are doing.

Everything that exists will perish, without exception, including all the efforts IF we only did them for the sake of our desires. We will only know for sure about the true value of our efforts once we visit our graves, when it will be too late to have regret.

Monday, August 29, 2011

All Sons of Adam are exalted

In every society exists a social stratum, whether legally enforced or not. Examples of legally enforced social strata can be found in societies which follow Hinduism, such as India. The kingdoms of ancient Indonesia also adopted this social stratification, up until other religions were introduced, such as Buddhism and Islam, which offered equality opposed to stratification. This social stratification based on Hinduism is called caste.

When people are divided into groups based on their socio-economic conditions, injustice is bound to happen. Whether it’s the old caste system in Hinduism, or the class system in Japan before the Meiji restoration, people at the higher class who have privilege, will most definitely oppress the ones at the bottom part of the strata. Perhaps, it’s in the animalistic human nature to want to dominate over others. Thus, it results in revolutions and revolts by the oppressed group, as it is also in human’s nature to understand truth and justice.

Nobody, no matter how rich or powerful has the license to humiliate or take the lives of those who are less fortunate, opposing colonialism, oppressive slavery, and the likes. In fact, in the Islamic tradition, when one kills a person without any just reason, it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity. Unfortunately, even in this era which is claimed to be the era of “democracy and equality”, we can still find discriminative treatments based on socio-economic backgrounds.

If only we were able to look beyond the sight of the physical eye, we would be able to see the value of every single human being. If only we were able to see with our hearts, be able to perceive the truth beyond what the physical eye sees, we would understand how amazing everyone is with their own uniqueness. Nobody is below anybody else, as opposed to the belief of many. In fact, as the Qur’an would say, “Truly, the children of Adam are exalted!” every single one of us without exception.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Spending in extravagance


21th day or Ramadhan

One of the things we do to find pleasure is to spend money. Of course this is natural, but it sometimes goes out of hand to the point we become extravagant with our spending. For me, this happens most when I am left by my family for a long trip. I usually end up buying things that I don’t really need. At one time it was a new Dell laptop, and then a digital DSLR plus some lenses.

As said previously, spending in extravagance is a way which we think can make us happier in facing the turmoil of daily life. While the truth is, it is more harmful than beneficial. Rather more like a tranquilizer which makes us forget about pain even though the wound is still there.

Extravagance can cause big problem is all societies. This is especially true in the case of credit card use in the US. Credit card debt is a major problem in the US, where the average family today carries $8,000 in credit card debt according to the American Bankers' Association (Dave Ramseys blog). What is this if you don’t call it extravagance?

The truth is, even without being extravagant, many of us are living luxurious lives which can only be dreamt by the kings of the past. To have cool drinks straight from the fridge, while the old kings had to bring ice blocks from the north, to have flowing water with a turn of the knob, while they had to set up there palaces near rivers, and other facilities that we often take for granted.

By being extravagant, we become desensitized to spending our money in the correct way, especially to give in charity. We spend on unnecessary things while people are dying out of hunger in other parts of the world. So evil is the act of extravagance, the Qur’an calls the extravagant the brethren of the devil himself. Thus, we should protect ourselves from falling into extravagance and always be mindful in what we spend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The exalted station of women


20th day or Ramadhan

In many parts of the world, women in the society are oppressed and don’t have any freedom to do what they feel is important. This condition is mainly due to the incorrect opinion (from both the women and men) that women are inferior in some ways. It was even more severe in some ancient cultures, where the father would bury their baby girls alive out of disgrace and humiliation. This was the practice of the ancient Arabs before Islam came to the Arabian Peninsula.

In truth, there’s nothing inferior about women. Men and women are just “different”. They are designed differently, have different strengths and weaknesses, and thus will inevitably have distinct roles in society. One will not exist without the other. Men and women complete each other and all of this is a mercy from God.

In fact, in the Islamic tradition, in many ways, women are much more exalted than men. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about whom one should honor after God and His Prophet, he replied, “Your mother.” The questioner asked who comes after that. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Your mother.” The question was repeated a third time, and the answer was also the same. At the fourth time, then he (pbuh) then answered, “Your father.” This shows how high the station of women is in reality.

And when we think deep upon it, why wouldn’t women be given a high station? It is through our mothers that we first received God’s mercy in the womb. She carried us for nine months, she was patient with our long hours of crying at night, she educated us in the truest sense, and she nurtured us and was always concerned about us, even after we’ve fully grown up, things that a man (like myself) would probably never be able to do adequately. Thus, isn’t it natural that women are exalted by God?

Noble women are the key to success of a community. Every successful man has behind them an amazing woman in his support. Whether it be his mother, his wife, sister, or grandmother. Even the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had his wife, Khadijah al Kubra (the great) as his number one supporter. Thus we should have high view of women, despite the effort of many who try to degrade them into merely objects of entertainment and pleasure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Being careful with what we ask for


19th day or Ramadhan

Imagine this scenario. You’re up 10.000 meters above the ground on a jumbo jet Boeing 747. Suddenly, you hear a loud thump from outside. The plane shakes violently and the emergency light goes on. You are told to fasten your seat belt and put on your oxygen mask. The captain then announces a technical problem (which might well be an engine failure) and asks everyone to stay calm. At times like this, I guarantee that even the vilest of people or even the most stubborn atheist will suddenly remember to make (or at least think to make) prayers. The One to whom that prayer is directed to, that is God.

And for me, there is no doubt that the prayer is a very powerful arsenal for those who use it, as I have experienced its power at first hand. There have also been scientific experiments that prove the effect of prayers, which is interesting, although I’m not a big fan of the effort of connecting science and religiosity. For this, you can “Google scholar” the key word “effects of prayer”, where you’ll be able to find more than 200.000 hits. However, to really appreciate the power of prayers, I believe that one needs to experience it at first hand.

Because of its sheer power, prayers can also be dangerous at times. At times, people say their prayers with emotion or in an angry state, which results in difficulty for them. In an angry state, one might make a bad prayer towards their children, wealth, or themselves.

There is also the possibility that we might pray for something that may be bad for us, even though it seems good. For example, one might pray, “O God, please give me that exotic car!” thinking that it’s good for him. While in truth, the same car that he prayed for might give a life full of unease, being afraid that someone might scratch it or damage it. Or even worse, that same car might get him robbed or even killed.

Thus, we should be careful with what we ask for. The best thing to ask for is guidance, mercy, and Him being pleased with us, for that is where true happiness lies, if we but only knew.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Being merciful towards parents


18th day or Ramadhan

One of the tragedies of our times is the lost of respect towards parents. I was lucky to be raised in a time and place where from an early age, we were taught to respect our elders, especially parents. While nowadays, we see children being totally disrespectful towards their parents, and nothing seems to change no matter what the parents do about it.

One of the reasons that immediately popped into my mind is the TV. Let’s face it, TV has taken the responsibility of education at home. The average child in the US watches 4 hours of television per day (, and more than 50 percent of them would prefer the TV than spending time with their parents.

And when we see the cartoons shown on TV, most of them teach disrespect towards parents. In cartoons like the Simpsons, Crayon Shin chan, etc., disrespect towards parents are viewed something comical and funny. While in truth, it can destroy the very foundations of the society i.e. the family.

In the Islamic tradition, respecting the parents is in the highest priorities that God has set for us. Parents are so sacred, that we’re not even allowed to say the slightest expression of disrespect towards them. In fact, we are obliged to always be kind to them, especially when they reach old age.

The words in Qur’an is to lower our wings of humility towards them. And when we see a mother bird protecting its chicks, it risks its own wings in order to keep her chicks safe. That is how we should be to our parents. After all, it is through them that God brought us to this world. They are the largest proof of God’s mercy towards us. They took care of us when we were small, had sleepless nights taking care of us when we were sick, cheered us up when we were down, showered us with love when we needed it the most, and other forms of mercy that we can’t enumerate.

May God forgive all of our sins and our parent’s sins. And may God shower mercy upon our parents as they showered mercy upon us when we were children.

The guest called death


17th day or Ramadhan

The smart human being is fully aware of the coming of death. Why wouldn’t we? After all it’s the only thing that is absolutely certain in life. All of the other things that we will experience are full of uncertainty. The job we will get, how many children we will have, how much money we will make, etc., are all in the list of uncertainties in life.

On the other hand, death is “the real thing”, and as beautifully articulated by Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, “Life has the name of life, but in reality it is death”. Death is a guest that will come to everyone no matter what. Whether they lock themselves in a high tower, run like hell from it, or whatever effort they do, death will not be deceived. It’s time is fixed, and it can’t be changed. Those who are meant to die will die. And those who are meant to live will live on.

A great hero in the Muslim tradition, Khalid ibn Al Walid, fought in numerous battles during his life. He was one of the bravest warriors who fought side by side the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is said that he always longed for death in the battlefield, as God gave glad tidings for those who fight and die for His cause. However, ironically the bravest warrior died on his death bed, despite all his near death encounters in the battlefield.

Thus, we shouldn’t be afraid of death. Rather, we should be more concerned about how we walk towards it, the things that we do while we’re alive. Are we being good human beings that benefit other people, or are we wasting our time with things that are of no benefit for us and others? Surely we should think deeply upon our lives so that we don’t regret it when the guest called “death” comes to us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Humbleness in our good deeds


16th day or Ramadhan

How often do we get proud after doing a good deed? For me, the answer is probably almost always. With pride, there may be a possibility that one becomes self righteous from their good deeds. And while it may be OK at first, self righteousness can turn into arrogance and lead one to the path of wretchedness.

In the Islamic tradition, whether a good deed is successful or not is seen by whether or not God accepts it. And there are several criteria that one must observe.

The first one is the intention of the good deed, whether it was done for the sake of God, or for other things. For example: whether it was done for money, for other people’s praise, etc. The second criterion is that no injustice was committed in the course of the good deed. And the third one is to have both, hope and fear of the acceptance of God, as this will increase ones effort in the quality of their good deeds. There may be other criteria, but let’s just simplify it up to here.

One noble example is given in the Qur'an when our father Abraham built the Ka’ba with his son Ismail (peace be upon them). After conducting such an amazing service for God, they were not proud and still made sincere effort to pray to God to accept their services.

Thus, after conducting a good deed, we shouldn’t be overly confident and proud with it. On the other hand, we should keep ourselves humble and have balance between hope and fear of God’s acceptance of it. That way, we will be able to avoid self righteousness and in turn improve the quality of our good deeds.

The forgiveness of Yusuf (Joseph) peace be upon him


15th day of Ramadhan 1432 (2011)

One of the most beautiful stories ever told is the story of the Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him). His life’s story is rich of lessons that we can relate to. It shows us the meaning of being grateful, having perseverance and patience, being merciful with others, and being just. In this opportunity, I’d like to focus on being merciful to those who are unjust towards us.

It’s always uncomfortable to have annoying siblings. Although I can’t really relate to it (having only one wonderful sister), I’m guessing that it’s similar to having annoying friends (which I’ve had quite a few). However, in the case of Yusuf (pbuh), he had brothers who were beyond annoying. In fact, they hated Yusuf (pbuh) so much, they had it in them to kill Yusuf. Although they refrained from doing it, they still committed gross injustice by throwing their youngest brother into a well.

From there on, life was a struggle for Yusuf (pbuh). He was found by slave traders who sold him for a low price. He was then framed and accused for adultery, thrown into jail, and had to suffer again for several years. Eventually, by God’s will, he came out of jail and became the number two man of Egypt at that time, only second to the Pharaoh himself.

Several years passed by, and Yusuf eventually met again with his brothers. The same brothers who plotted to kill him and got rid of him. The same brothers who harbored immense hatred towards him. But now, Yusuf (pbuh) has the upper hand. He is the ruler of Egypt, and his brothers are poor people who are begging for food from the severe draught. The perfect scenario to take revenge or recompense for what they did many years ago.

But what did Yusuf do? He forgave all of them. Knowing that everything that happened is by the Will of God, and the true enemy is the devil who sowed seeds of hatred in his brother’s hearts.

Thus, we should reflect on this story and remember about it whenever we get angry with anyone. Of course there are going to be people who may be unjust with us. But it would most definitely not be worse that being thrown into a well and having to live a life full of difficulties as experienced by Yusuf (pbuh).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The dilemma of homosexuality


14th day of Ramadhan 1432 (2011)

The discussion on same-sex marriage issue has been heating up recently. As controversial as it is, it is real and needs serious attention. The first country to pass the permissibility on same-sex marriage is the Netherlands in 2001. And after that, many countries started following.

Homosexuality itself has been present from ancient times. In fact, it is well described in the sacred texts of all monotheistic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), which described the story of the Prophet Luth (Lot), peace be upon him, and his people. The people of Luth were homosexuals, and they eventually got punished after still lingering with their severe homosexual acts after receiving endless reminders from the Prophet.

The act of homosexuality itself is a sin and clearly forbidden in all three traditions. And we believe that it being forbidden is nothing else but as a protection from the evil that it can bring. As that is the purpose of sacred law, to protect human beings from the evil they have in themselves which they don’t fully understand.

Homosexuals on the other hand, are human beings that also have the right for respect and dignity. In fact, many of them realize that their tendency is not natural and are struggling to get rid of it. Many of them tried a normal marriage in order to cure the tendency that they had. Some succeeded and some didn’t.

We have to realize that in most of the cases, homosexuals are products of the diseased society that we live in. The act itself is wrong and completely forbidden in all of the monotheistic faiths, but it doesn’t mean that we should reject the people who are inflicted by it from our societies. Several Muslim scholars say that the society should help them in their struggle to get rid or suppress their unnatural tendency, rather than condemning them and belittling them as human beings.

May God protect us and our family from the serious tribulations of the times that we live in.

Being just in measuring the balance


13th day of Ramadhan 1432 (2011)

In ancient times, when supermarkets did not exist, weighing was a central / important aspect in business transactions. This is especially true when it came to food. A certain amount of money was given for a certain weight of food.

However, there came times where people would commit injustice and cheat people into paying for lesser than what they should have received. For example, they would say that their merchandise is 10kg, while in truth they only weighed 9.8kg.

The cheating got so severe, that it became one of the main central themes of the messages brought by the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them). One of them was Prophet Syu’aib (peace be upon him). As with many prophets, when he delivered the message to his people, out of rebellion, they did not want to put the effort to try to comprehend or think about the message that was given. Eventually, the people were punished and put as an example for future generations.

Nowadays, although not that explicit, there is still injustice in the business deals that we experience. Whether it’s by hidden expenses, covered up truths about what is sold, a price that way exceeds the real price of the unit, etc. This cheating can also take form as bad service, going home early from work (while getting the full amount of pay), etc.

Being unjust in business transactions were one the causes of the decline in ancient communities. Thus we should also be aware of our conducts and do our best to be just in all our affairs.

The slave that we are


12th day of Ramadhan 1432 (2011)

Either we like it or not, we are enslaved to one thing or another. In many cases, we might not even realize it. Some people are enslaved by their work, their family, with lust, greed, or whatever they obey and strive for.

In truth, we can choose what we want to be enslaved to. We can choose to be enslaved to what was said previously, or we can choose to be enslaved to God, our real Master. When we choose to enslave ourselves to God, we will break free from all the other types of slavery that exists. Or in other words, the moment we surrender to God is when we will become truly free human beings.

As a consequence of being a slave of God, we belong 100% to Him. A slave doesn’t have the privileges that a company worker has. There is no weekend, no sleeping time, etc. His soul and body is fully dedicated to the Master.

But God is indeed a merciful master. He has given us everything that we have, despite of us deserving them or not. What did we pay for getting two perfect eyes? What did we do to deserve our limbs? What did we do to deserve our ability to speak? And the list goes on and on. And on top of that, we don’t even own all of those blessings, as one day they will all be returned to its Owner.

Unfortunately, we human beings are built with ingratitude inside of us. No matter what is given to us, we still find it in ourselves to complain about what we don’t have and overlook what we do. And so we must struggle our hardest to be grateful slaves.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Being enslaved to the culture


11th day of Ramadhan 1432 (2011)

The moment we step foot into this world, we are exposed to a way of life that we ourselves did not choose to follow, the particular culture of the region. We grow in that environment and the right and wrong within in it becomes our norm. We follow the norms that our forefathers have taught us and strive to protect them.

Although it’s perfectly fine when we follow what is beneficial, there are times when the things within a culture become burdensome, destructive and contradict common sense.

One of the examples in my culture that immediately popped into my mind is how difficult it is to get married. I am sure that this is also the case in many cultures. The groom and bride need to make a cumbersome amount of preparations if they are to get wed. That range from preparing financial requirements to organizing the ever so large wedding reception.

While the truth is, to want to get married is a pure and noble thing, and should be facilitated for ease, especially in these times where adultery and fornication are prevalent. Why would people want to make difficult a noble effort? The answer is because of the culture. Because everyone else is doing it. Because of the shame of not going along with the culture, even though it’s burdensome, of little benefit, or even harmful.

Whatever culture we follow from those before us should always be looked with a critical mind and heart. Don’t be a slave towards it. Especially if it is not part of Divine guidance sent down by God. Because we will indeed be responsible for all of our actions, and we will be in loss if what we followed is actually useless or even harmful for us in the end.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The first supremacist


10th day of Ramadhan 1432 H (2011)

Almost all of the wars, genocides and holocausts in human history are caused by supremacism, which is the belief that a particular race, species, ethnic group, religion, gender, sexual orientation, belief system or culture is superior to others, and has the right to dominate, control or rule.

Supremacism has always been there in human history. In fact, it can be traced way back before that, up to the creation of man. The first supremacist was the devil himself. He was ordered to bow down to Adam, but refused out of arrogance. Giving the argument that he was made out of fire, and Adam (peace be upon him) was from clay.

Due to this act, he was banished from heaven. He became an outcast and a true enemy of humanity, which we will have to continue fighting up to the end of time. The devil’s argument, saying that fire is nobler than clay was a mistaken notion, because the true essence of nobility is not measured by physical attributes and affiliations that we have, but rather from what is in the heart.

Thus the devil became the first supremacist. And he has succeeded in deluding some of the worst of humanity to follow his footsteps. Slavery, war, colonialism, etc. are all the product of supremacism, deluding the criminals of humanity that other human beings are low enough to be used or even slaughtered without mercy.

We may not be able to do anything in this life. But God is Just. There will come a day where all the criminals of humanity be brought forth, and they will have to answer for the crimes they did. In this life, they can only receive one death sentence. But in the next, the will become fuel for the hellfire, and there they will squeal and feel the pain of dying over, and over, and over again.

The end of racism


9th day of Ramadhan 1432 H (2011)

Racism is always a problem on every corner of the globe, in every social setting. I remember that even in football matches, racial incidents still occur. Strange, considering that a football match is a place where people are supposed to have fun. Even in Indonesia we still see Indonesian-Chinese people being discriminated because of their race.

I find it strange to see people being boastful about how they look, what color of their skin is, about what nationality they are, or whatever. For all that I know is that nobody has the authority to choose these things. It’s God’s authority, and only those who are short minded and lack of intellect would boast about their lineage or race.

In the 1960s, a man by the name of Malcolm X opposed the racism towards the black people in the US. At first, he fought racism with another type of racism, regarding white people as devils, while the black as the original people of the world. However, after he went to Mecca for pilgrimage, and saw all colors, white, black, yellow, and red, being as one in worship, he contracted is original statement. There, he experienced the hospitality and brotherhood of people who would be considered as “white people”.

All of us without exception are of the children of Adam (peace be upon him). Thus, we are brothers in humanity no matter what color or flavor we are. If God wanted to, He could have made us all the same, from our looks to how we think. But He didn’t, out of divine wisdom. And if we could truly understand this from the bottom of our hearts, God willing, we will be able to see the differences that we have as something beautiful.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Appreciating the blessing of speaking


8th day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

To be able to speak is indeed an amazing blessing. If we would just reflect on how complex the act of speaking is, we would use this blessing for better use. Speaking involves so many organs in its process, even up till now, scientists are still unable to create a unified theory about it. It involves the tongue, the lungs, obviously the nervous system, the mouth, and a whole lot more. Not to mention all the different languages that we have. An amazing act indeed!

The Muslim grammatical scholars agree that the ability to speak is one of the main characteristics which differs man from animal. In fact, many of them call man, the talking beast.

But when we think about how it is used nowadays, we should be ashamed of ourselves. We use it to insult people, for saying shameless words, for gossiping, and other displeasing acts, showing us that we may not deserve to have this amazing blessing.

In the Qur’an, it is said that the norm is, whatever we say, there is nothing good or useful in it. The words that we utter are useless, EXCEPT the words that we use to encourage charity, to encourage acts of righteousness / good deeds, and the words that we use to make conciliation or peace between people.

So in order to truly appreciate the amazing blessing of speaking, we should ponder how we use it. Do we say things that are good, pure, and beneficial? Or is it the contrary? May we be given pure tongues that bring goodness to whoever the listener is.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Noble characters of the dwellers of paradise


7th day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

We live in times of insecurity, rage and animosity. People cling on tightly towards their wealth, as they think it’s the source of security. Even when knowing that other people are in dire need of financial help. People are reactive towards everything they feel and see, raging about what they feel unsatisfactory. Maybe even we fit into these descriptions in one way or another.

These are opposite from characteristics owned by the future dwellers of paradise. These people have security with their Lord. They are not afraid to give in charity whether they are in ease (they have plenty of resources) or in tightness (not having plenty of resources themselves).

They are secure with their Lord and their own selves, that they have the heart to not get angry towards whatever injustice is committed upon them. Not only that, they find it in them to be able to forgive and forget about it, leaving no traces of the damage that was done.

Another characteristic that they have is the sensitivity to realize their own faults. They realize their faults quickly and repent as soon as they can. Thus they improve themselves as human beings all the time.

People with noble characters are hard to find nowadays. And no wonder our societies are in chaos. In order to transform our societies, we need to transform ourselves at the individual level. If we can obtain the characteristics of the future dwellers of paradise, that would be a great victory indeed. And as a bonus, our societies will in turn be much better than how they are now.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Being obsessed with our image


6th day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

We are living in an age where people are obsessed with their image in front of others. This is especially true regarding how they look. Many people go to all ends to enhance how they look, to look more “beautiful” in front of others. They do it through surgery, extreme diet, by wearing expensive branded clothes, through make up, etc.

All do it for a different reason. Perhaps for their career, for self esteem, for experimentation, etc. But ultimately, the goal is to be happier and to expect recognition from other people.

The truth is, we should know that every human being is beautiful in their own unique way. It is God who created and shaped the human being in the womb in perfect manner. Whether it be male or female, handsome or otherwise, happy or miserable, with perfect measure according to His Divine wisdom.

Unfortunately we are trapped in the stereotype on beauty made by the corporate marketing and branding, that the pinnacle of beauty is within the actors and artists who walk on the red carpet wearing clothes with little decency. The way they look and dress become the dream of o so many.

The bottom line is, we are all beautiful. Whether short or tall, good looking or not, black or white, no matter what physical attributes that we have, God was the one who gave them to us. And if anyone understands beauty, the Creator, Shaper of whatever exists most definitely knows best. We need to break through the perverted perception of beauty created by those who have their own selfish agendas.

The beloved (peace and blessings be upon him) said that God does not look at how you look and your wealth but He looks at your heart and deeds. And we should also judge according those parameters. Thus, let’s do our best to become deep people in the shallowness of the times that we live in.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Showering our souls with charity


5th day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

No doubt that water is the most important substance in life. 80% of the human body is made out of it, and without it, life as we know would not exist. Water also triggers seeds to germinate and nurture them to become full grown plants which sustain life. The presence of ice on a new planet is also seen as a good indicator for the possibility of the existence of life.

We can go on and on talking about this amazing molecule. But what I’d like to share here is again a reminder from the Qur’an. Water is made as an analogy of charity for the sake of God. To give in charity is one of the ancient commandments that all the messengers and prophets (peace be upon them) were told to deliver. Thus, it should be an honor for us to be engaged in such an act.

The likeness of charity for the sake of God is like a garden that receives plentiful of rain which doubles the harvest. And if only small amount of rain showers it, it is enough for it. The garden is a person’s soul, while the harvest is a person’s good deeds. Thus, the one who gives in charity for the sake of God’s pleasure will find ease and many opportunities to perform other good deeds. And consequently, these good deeds will make the soul stronger and happier.

The devil threatens us with poverty, thus it becomes so difficult for us to give even a small amount in charity. While it’s so easy for us to spend on luxury that we often don’t need. But the truth is, as the Beloved (peace and blessings be upon him) said, a man will who spends in charity for the sake of God, will ascend a higher degree and status because of it. Furthermore, there is a guarantee from God that whoever gives in charity for His sake will get his or her wealth being multiplied even more.

There are many of our brothers and sisters in humanity who are suffering even now. Our brothers and sisters in Somalia, in northern Japan, and all over the world. It’s always a good opportunity to give in charity, but it is even better in this blessed month. Thus, let’s refrain from spending on what we don’t need, and shower our souls with giving in charity.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A rock hard heart


4th day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

Rocks are such amazing objects. They are among the hardest substances that the earth can produce. Metamorphic rocks like marble and quartzite are so hard and durable, that they are used to build buildings that can last for generations.

In the Quran, the hardness of rocks is associated with the hardness of the heart. Yes, hearts can also metamorphose into becoming hard, even harder than rocks. The hard heart is insensitive towards goodness. The hard heart doesn’t show any compassion whatsoever when being presented with the suffering of others. The hard heart despises kindness and mercy. The hard heart doesn’t respond towards words of Truth.

The reason of the hardening is simple: swaying away from the Truth after having belief, conviction and certainty towards it. And this happens because many people enjoy being rebellious and want to live life according how they want to live it. In this particular case, the children of Israel were shown miracle after miracle by Prophet Musa (peace be upon him). But these miracles that they saw didn’t increase them in faith. Rather, they became more rebellious towards what the Prophet commanded them to do.

Since ancient times, the prophets and messengers that came to humanity instructed the same basic commandments. Worship God (alone), be dutiful and good to parents, kindred, orphans and the poor, speak good words to people and perform prayer and give charity. The people of old rejected the commandments out of rebelliousness, arrogance and disbelief. Thus, their hearts were sealed and hardened, which is the worst tragedy that can befall a human being.

No one is safe from this tragedy. Thus we should continuously work hard to maintain every bit of faith that we have, work hard to tread the path of righteousness, and ask God to put us firm on His path. May He bless us with soft hearts that are full of His remembrance.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The harm of a small joke


3rd day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

We often take for granted our interaction with other people, whether we mean to or not. Going up to the point where we hurt other people’s feelings with our speech albeit unintentionally. We make jokes and funny insults thinking that they are amusing and can strengthen the bonds of the relationship, while the truth is, it often does otherwise.

This happens most often among good friends, spouses, or family. Thinking that those who are closest would have it easier to forget and forgive. Although it may be the case in this world, it most certainly will not be in the next.

We will be faced by a difficult day where brothers would run away from each other, where a person would run away from their parents, their spouses and even the children that they cherished so much. It is the day when nothing but justice will be brought forth. And those small jokes and insults will also be brought forth, which could become troublesome for those who commit it.

Although right now our friends or family may look as if they don’t mind us cracking jokes and funny insults at them, on “that day” they might be in a deficit of good deeds. And they will not hesitate to take our good deeds due to the injustice and heartache we caused them (through our jokes). Or in other words, a joke can cost us paradise and put us into the fire. Of course, not all jokes are bad, and in fact jokes can be good and pure, as taught by the Prophet SAW. But too often do we take it overboard.

Therefore, in this blessed month, let us introspect our relationship with others, and try our best to avoid foul talk and useless speech. Instead, let us use good words and honor each other, for that is the best way to truly strengthen our bonds of love between us. May God make it easy for all of us to reach for success in this month.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Dangerous blessings


2nd day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

Everything in life is a blessing. But for the ancient Arab (as with many people today), the most cherished blessings are having children and abundant wealth. However, without the proper attitude, they can become dangerous and lead the possessor down to the path of wretchedness.

People who have abundant blessings and don’t think deeply about them, can become self secure and arrogant. They begin to think that they have the blessings merely because of their own effort and strength. While the truth is, God gave it to them as a test. Simply said, the ones who are ignorant and don’t have gratitude towards God’s blessings have failed the test.

Being self sufficient and arrogant with what we possess can lead to many diseases (Al Qalam, ayah 10-14). The worst disease of all is to reject the truth and goodness that other people tell us. And unfortunately, we live in times like this. The rich and powerful often fail to see the goodness that other people advise them to. This might also be the case with us.

We were born into this world as weak and lonely creatures. Without any wealth, children, strength, or anything else. But God blessed upon us the ability to grow, get stronger, gain riches, and blessed us with children and companionship. Therefore, let us reflect and show gratitude towards all these blessings, so we can benefit from them and avoid the danger that they can bring us.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Don’t worry, be happy... with everything

1st day of Ramadhan 1432 Hijriah (2011)

Obviously, we as human beings will often find ourselves being disappointed whenever things aren’t going our way. We may have worked tirelessly to achieve a goal, yet we didn’t get what we wanted. We may get hurt and twisted our ankle even though we tried to be as careful as possible, and all kinds of other mishaps. At these times, we might feel restless and disappointed with what happened.

As a medicine for this restlessness, an ayah from the Quran (Surah Hadid, 20-21) mentions about this scenario. The truth is, whatever we get, and whatever we don’t get, is already pre-destined. So everything that happens is supposed to happen, and they happen for a reason. For the believer, we have certainty that whatever God wants is what is best. And our ability to perceive what is good and what is bad is so very limited. Who knows, maybe through a calamity we face, we might learn good and noble characters that outweigh the harm of the calamity.

So if we miss good opportunities, lost our wealth, got injured, or even face death. We should know that it was supposed to happen and we wouldn’t be able to escape it no matter what we do. And we should face whatever calamity we face with patience and forbearance. Likewise, whatever good that happens to us, all of our success was supposed to happen inevitably. So we shouldn’t be arrogant with our achievements and be grateful instead.

Wrapping it up in one sentence, quoting a sentence from Ibn Kathir’s explanation of the Qur’an, "Every one of us feels happiness and grief. However, make your joy with gratitude and endure your grief with patience.''