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Practicing the pause

“Practice the pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray.” – Author Unknown.

Living in this day and age has become similar to a filthy rat race to the top. Everyone is so busy doing something, getting somewhere, meeting someone that we forget to take a break and just inhale the air around us as opposed to the robotic breathing we are accustomed to. Just as everyone is quick to move forward in their lives, they’re even quicker in reacting to whatever may be tossed onto their path. We as a society have forgotten the importance of the ‘pause’.

In times of anger, we snap fizzle and pop, causing collateral emotional, and sometimes physical damage to those we love most. In times of sadness, our tears fall down our faces like nature’s very first waterfalls. When we’re in doubt, it’s almost like the whole world can hear our mind breaking, slowly and painfully. When our little hearts tucked away deep within the confines of our chest are gifted with happiness, it jumps and jives around, trying to tear its way out of our chests and into the wider world. And despite not being able to, that happiness shines on the faces of those it is bestowed upon. Bright, glowing faces of happiness.

The point here is that humans are vessels of emotions. And even though different people channel their emotions differently, there seems to be a recurring pattern with emotions when the ‘pause’ isn’t practiced in its correct moment. Time and time again, Allah attributes reflection to understanding. People that reflect on all aspects of life are those with understanding. In this instance, pausing can very well be used interchangeably with reflecting because when practicing the *pause*, time is given to *reflect* on the situation at hand. How and why things went the way they did. How to de-escalate the current atmosphere. A reasonable way to come to an appropriate solution. By pausing, we put our animalistic side of acting on instinct a seat on the bench, and let our humanly reason and logic shoot some hoops. Pause. Pause. Pause. And then, reflect. You can never go wrong.

“Will you then not reflect?” (The Holy Quran, 37:155)

Us & Them

As I sit here at 11:40pm on a Sunday night, I can’t help but think about the world of chaos we are living in. Everything from the vices present in the Western world, to the senseless killings that are the everyday norm in the Muslim world.

And then I think back to the days of the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. About how he (saw) lived, and how his companions lived. The things they strived for compared to what we strive for. The society they lived in, and how they faced the adversities that knocked the wind right out of their lungs. The way they worshipped, and how they lived when prosperity was bestowed upon them in abundance. And then my heart sinks just that little bit more, deep within the confines of my chest.

We, the Muslims of today love listening to the inspiring stories of those that came before us. It puts some strength in our spines and a little courage in our hearts. It gives us a strong sense of pride, history and identity. We look at the giants of our religion and are able to hold our heads high at what they achieved and everything they stood for. We know that they’ve set the standards, not only for Muslims, but for the whole of humanity.

You see, these men and women we look up to and admire so deeply knew what it was about. They knew the secret to a happy life, and they understood the essence of their purpose on this world. They knew when the winds of change blew, and how to repair the damage that was done. These great men and women understood the meaning of living in a metaphysical world. Metaphysics is something that transcends physical matter, or the laws of nature. The companions understood that their actions would cause a direct or opposite reaction in the world. They would sin, Allah would withhold something from them. They stood up for the rights of the oppressed and looked after the orphans, and Allah would bless them with prosperity. Their interpretation of the world was so different to our interpretation of it, and that is *the* defining difference between us and them. We live in a physical world, and they lived in a metaphysical world. They recognised that everything is from Allah, good or bad, and they realised that what Allah sends their way is a direct result of their relationship with Him.

Perhaps that is why they mastered the art of living and were granted such high ranks. That’s what makes them a cut, or two, above the rest of us. They strived for perfection, and we just strive for greatness.

The spices of life

“Every soul shall taste death”, is one of the many things Allah has promised the humans living on this earth, regardless of race or religion. Nobody can escape the grips of death when their time comes, no matter how old or young, how rich or poor.

Something I would like to bring your attention to is that Allah uses the word ‘taste’, or ‘savour’ as opposed to something like ‘experience’. You see, us humans, we taste the different flavours of life via the many experiences we undergo. We taste the sweetness of having family and friends around us, we taste the bitterness of tragedy that descends upon our lives, we taste well deserved victory after attaining something we’ve been trying to achieve, such as a degree or a good job. Every experience brings with it a distinct taste, a flavour of its own. And death is no different.

For lovers of all things good, death will be another distinctly sweet taste they’ll experience. Could there be anything sweeter knowing where they are headed and who they’ll be keeping the company of? And for those that derive pleasure from causing mischief on the land of God, well, they will also taste death with a distinct flavour. How you live on this earth and the flavour preferences you’ve chosen determine what flavour you’ll be served at the time of your death. The choice *literally* lies in your own hands. So ask yourself: do I want my departing experience to be a good or a bad one? And then live your life accordingly.

“Be like melting snow, wash yourself, of yourself”

So often we find ourselves at war with ourselves; much like the tides of the ocean, constantly crashing against itself, beating itself over matters which are out of its control. The great difference between the oceans and humans in this regard is that on the surface, it is what it is, at war with itself; but deep down, right at the heart of the sea, there is serenity and harmony, unmatched by anything else. With humans, it’s the exact opposite. On the surface, most people seem calm and collected, but nobody knows of the reality of the state of their sanity, of the war raging within their own soul – a war which seems so far gone, there’s absolutely no point of return, there’s no half way mark where an agreement can be made, with themselves, for themselves. You see, the oceans, however violent and aggressive it may appear to be with itself, is loved by billions around the globe for its originality, nakedness, vulnerability, and complete honesty. Everybody knows the incomparable serenity that lies under the crashing waves, and they find serenity within themselves when around large bodies of water. Or rather, the seas and oceans eminate serenity from their very core. Humans on the other hand, bottle up their inner conflicts under a facade because of the stigma our societies have created around such topics. If a person is uncomfortable in their own skin, or if they’re mentally or emotionally unstable, they’re labelled with such negative terms and called derogatory names, or are said to be seeking attention. But what we don’t realise is that mental health is a serious epidemic that isn’t addressed enough, in Muslim, as well as non-Muslim societies, but moreso in the Muslim society. We put so much external pressure on these people, like there isn’t enough of an internal war going on already. Sweeping it under the rug and saying they’ll be fine, telling them they’re not grateful enough or that they aren’t that great of a Muslim if they feel depressed. The Prophet’s of Allah went through phases of depression, and they were the best humans to ever walk this Earth.

So if you know someone that isn’t doing too well, be there for them, genuinely. Be a listening ear, a pillar of strength, a dose of happiness, and a beacon of light for when they need it, and and even when they don’t.

For all those that have gone through, or are currently going through depression, don’t bottle it up inside yourselves. Talk to a trustworthy friend, a brother, a sister. Get it out of your system, do things that make you happy, often. Write about it, talk about it, draw about it. Use whatever avenue you need if it helps in the healing process, but whatever you do, keep moving forward, even if you’re crawling your way out of this seemingly inescapable darkness. You see, these mountains you carry on your shoulders, you were only meant to climb.

I end with the following quote which helps me through my toughest days, in hopes it giving strength to someone else;
“Oh Lord! My heart is so small, how can you place such big sorrows in it?” “Look,” He answered; “your eyes are even smaller, yet they behold the world in its entirety.”

“… and We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein”

When Allah (SWT) stated in the Quraan that He is closer to us than our jugular vein, He is stating that the role faith plays in our life is just as important as life itself. Our jugular vein, if cut, causes almost instant death due to the amount of blood which is able to escape from it. Our jugular vein, one of the most vital parts of the human body; the one vein we’re unable to live or function without, Allah says that He is closer to us than that very vein which is essential to our survival! The jugular vein is quite a vulnerable vein, so Allah could be telling us to trust in His absolute power, even during the most vulnerable points in our lives. The jugular veins are also great places for IV lines to be placed, so Allah could be saying that everyone will die at some point, and when modern medicine is no longer able to sustain us physically, faith will be able to provide some sort of comfort. And what better comfort is there than knowing that our Creator and our Maker is closer to us than our organs that are inside us? Knowing that whatever adversity that has befallen us, or is to befall us, will only do so with His permission. When sorrow and grief echoes through our hearts, He knows. For every thought that travels through the nerves of our brains, He knows. For He is close, closer than you feel He is, and even closer than you can imagine! Reach out, call Him as you would call upon a friend, and pour your heart out. He knows your pains, He’s just yearning for your call.

“Your Lord did not abandon you, nor did He forget”

More often than not, when adversity barges through the door of our hearts and sadness overtakes our emotions, we start to question why Allah would do this to us. We come up with conclusions like, ‘Allah doesn’t love me’, ‘Allah has abandoned me’, or, ‘Allah has forgotten about me’. Allah (SWT) addresses this issue in the Quraan by stating the fact that He hasn’t abandoned us, nor has He forgotten about us, and the hardships we’re facing. He is assuring us that Oh My Slave, I’m still here, I haven’t gone anywhere, and I haven’t forgotten about you either. For a Lord that loves His slaves more than a mother loves her child, would it be befitting of Him to abandon and forget you when He’s already promised that He hasn’t? For a Lord that runs towards you while you’re walking towards Him, would it be befitting of Him to abandon and forget about you when He’s already promised that He hasn’t? Of course not! During a test, the teacher usually makes their presence known, but doesn’t give the answers to the test. Similarly, in life, we go through trials and tribulations that can sometimes completely crush our faith in Allah, and the greater good. It is during these times especially when we’re supposed to notice the presence of our Lord; for He hasn’t abandoned us, nor has He forgotten. When the tests of the dunya bring us to our knees, we’re in the perfect position to pray to Him, to call upon Him for strength and to stand up one more time. To ask for help in fighting the demons in our heads, and the evils of life which surround us. Most importantly, we should know with full conviction that He hasn’t abandoned us, nor has He forgotten, simply because He said so. And it is not befitting of my Lord to utter anything but the truth. Indeed, He is The Greatest manager of all affairs. ☝

Allahu Akbar

Allahu Akbar. How many a times do we hear those words in a day? Allahu Akbar. How many a times do we utter those words in a day? Allahu Akbar. Do these words resonate through our throats without going past the vessels and chambers of our hearts? The same words which have the ability to humble mountains and trees, the birds and the bees, the skies and the seas.. has no effect on us. Us humans, the only specimen which Allah the Al-Mighty, in His infinite wisdom and might, gave sound logical judgement to, we don’t ponder on those very words which give further confirmation of our helplessness and dire need of Him. When we say Allahu Akbar, we’re not only saying that He, Allah, is The Greatest. We’re completely submitting ourselves to Him and to His will and decree. We’re saying that He is greater than anyone and anything that we face. We’re saying that He knows what is better for us than we know for ourselves. He is THE Greatest. There is nothing that is greater than He, subhanahu wa ta3alaa. We’re saying that nothing in His care can ever be lost. When we raise our hands in prayer whilst saying Allahu Akbar, we’re acknowledging the fact that we are mere servants of a King who is in no need of us. We are nothing without Him, and we can achieve nothing without His help and guidance.
So next time you’re standing before your Lord, before proclaiming His greatness, take a minute to ponder on the weight of your words and everything it entails with it. Let those words completely overtake your mind, body and soul. Let those words course through your veins and through every corner and crevice of your heart before leaving the security of your lips. The whole dynamic of your prayer will change once those words resonate deep within your core. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. There is no power greater than He ❤