Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Eid, A Day of Sadness? (By: Mohammad Zafar)

Several years ago a friend was relating a story to me of someone he knew back home. The young man, my friend mentioned, wanted to go visit his family on Eid to celebrate with them but was in the middle of a Dawah trip. He kept asking if it was alright for him to visit his family when an elder eventually replied: "our Eid will only come when the Muslim Ummah will become united".

Several years ago I found that comment admirable; what a selfless man! He refused himself any of life's joys until he could do his part to unify the Muslim Ummah. That was several years ago. Today, I don't think much of it.

Being sad or depressed on Eid has become a very common occurrence. We feel we cannot and should not allow ourselves to celebrate occasions due to grievances around the world.

Recently I have heard people around me ask:

How can you afford to be happy with all that is happening to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Syria, in Egypt, in Gaza, in Burma, and so forth? How can we really be happy when they are in so much pain?

But if we ask these questions, then isn't it only fair we also ourselves:

Can I afford to be sad with the gifts Allah has given me? Can I afford to be sad for receiving guidance? Can I afford to even frown when I know I can speak to Allah anytime and anywhere? Can I really afford to be sad when He has given me so much?

Should we, as Muslims, be people who always laugh and enjoy what life has to offer? As delightful as it may sound, that would ignore the times for us to be serious. So are we a people who always need to be sad and worried for others insofar as forgetting ourselves? As selfless as it may sound, that also ignores the times one should rejoice.

We are human.

We laugh. We cry. We fall. We rise. We succeed. We fail. We hope. We despair. We live. And we die.

There are moments in our lives where we ought to shed tears. Isn't it in our best interest to cry in Ramadan for our sins? But then there are moments in our lives where we ought to rejoice, smile and laugh. Isn't it only fair we thank those who help us by smiling and putting on a cheerful face?

In fact there should be moments for both sadness and happiness. The danger is, and has always been, falling entirely to either side of the spectrum.

Perhaps that balance is what we need to find ourselves when we both speak and listen.

One of the most beautiful things I heard once in a lecture regarding the day of Eid was, "Today is a day you have to find an excuse to be happy. Just find an excuse".

If you feel you don't have money, then thank Allah for your legs and how He has still allowed you to walk for free.

If you're feeling alone, then thank Allah for His company.

If you have been sick, then thank Allah for choosing to wash away your sins by this illness when on the Day of Judgment people will be willing to give the earth full of gold for Allah's Mercy.

If you have a few friends, or no one friends, then thank Allah for being His friend.

If you feel people around you are celebrating Eid in a more comfortable manner than you, then stop and think about those who have less than you.

If you don't have a special someone in your life, then thank Allah for keeping you away from an abusive partner, one that would break your heart far more than loneliness could.

If your heart grieves for your fellow Muslims suffering around the world, then remind yourself that celebrating Eid doesn't make you forgetful but someone who is balanced.

And for the all things you wish for, keep asking Allah. Who would you ask anyways?

An Eid without disunity in the Muslim Ummah may perhaps never come. But Eid al fitr will come after every Ramadan. And Eid al Adha will come after every Hajj. Then it'll be up to us if we want to celebrate that day or not.

Friday, 10 April 2015

"As long as you tell me the truth" (By Mohammad Zafar)

Back in grade 8, when I received a suspension from school along with a bunch of classmates, I realized I would have to say something to my mother on why I would not be attending school the next two days.

Some of my classmates decided to act sick in order to avoid the backlash they would receive while I, having no idea how my mom would reply, decided to just tell her.

With all my family in the room I held my head down and told my mom I was suspended for the following two days. My sisters heard and began to ask, "wait what?". As for my mom she immediately, without any hesitation, said smiling, "That's told me the truth. I don't mind as long as you tell me the truth" - much to the chagrin of my sisters. I was rather surprised. It even felt weird. But I have actually began to see the benefit of her response many years later.

Even today I sometimes see friends pick up the phone from their parents and blatantly lie saying, "Oh we are just at a coffee house" when watching a movie for example. It is part and parcel, I feel, a habit grown in response to the reaction of parents. When I tell some of them, "hey, why don't you just tell your mom you wanted to watch a movie at the theaters?" the response usually is, "No bro, you don't understand. My mom is gonna freak out, give me a lecture, and not get off my case..." and then they say something eerie, " know what, it's just so much easier this way".

Sadly it is.

And sadly it is also a behavior that can continue when one gets married as lying to the spouse then becomes habitual (Doesn't lack of trust ruin marriages?) - friends, colleagues, children eventually just follow suit too.

What's important to keep in mind –especially at a young age– is that it may not necessarily be the benevolence of the children or their "natural" good nature, rather it may very well be the character of the parents which plays a larger part in this cycle of lying. If my mom would have reacted angrily, I am not sure if telling her the truth would come so easily.

Lying is, and will always be, a sin regardless of the excuses we make. However, wouldn't it be better if we made telling the truth come more easily than lying?

We can all learn to ask ourselves:

Do I react like this to my friends?
Do I react like this to my spouse?
Do I react like this to my parents?
Do I react like this to my children?

Perhaps we can all learn to be better listeners which would encourage people around us to approach us in honesty.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

"The Muslim Community Can Really Learn From Itself" (by: Mohammad Zafar)

Also published on Virtual Mosque:

A while back as I got into an argument with my older sister, we both stopped speaking to one another which deeply upset mom. I decided to seek counsel with a friend on the difficulty of going back, setting aside our differences and making things right. He then asked me something to which I could only answer with silence: "Do you want to wait for a tragedy to occur which forces you to go back and talk to your sister?"

I had no reply.

I mumbled no, but still knew it would be hard for me to go forward. And he didn't need to say more, I knew exactly what he meant. What if something happened to mom, would we both still be stubborn enough to ignore one another? What if something happened to my sister, would I even for a second not come rushing to help her? What if I or her passed away without one of us having a chance to apologize to the other? What sort of guilt would we feel then?

Some time later both my sister and I set aside our differences and made things right. She came to apologize to me in Ramadan while I, not being able to sleep at night knowing how hurt my mom was, eventually obliged. We had a great, perhaps the best, mediator between us.

Long after that cleared up I still remembered the words my friend told me which still leave me speechless till now. Was I really waiting, inevitably, for a tragedy to occur which would force my hand?

And while although this is a micro example of one Muslim family, I believe we can use the same approach towards a macro problem of the Muslim community. Do we have to wait until a tragedy occurs to put aside our differences?

Our community, at large, is just like the stubborn guy I was. There are far more important issues than the ones we spend hours and hours arguing over to no avail. And while some of us may recognize our arguments can, at times, be trivial, it doesn't seem to stop us in a pragmatic way.

In light of what recently took place in America, did it have to take the execution style murder of three young vibrant students for us to realize that perhaps we should not waste our time with trivial matters?

And while every issue should indeed be paid attention to, what is vital to understand is just how much? How much time is really needed to argue about which shaykh should be refuted? Or if we should belong to this group or that group? Or if one opinion is better than the other? How much?

These arguments typically end whenever one becomes tired or simply just bored to continue. They can last hours for some people or days and weeks for others lasting as long as they need to until both sides simply cannot prolong it anymore.

How true was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said: "I guarantee a house on the outskirts of Paradise for he who leaves an argument even if he's right" (Sunan Abu Dawud).

Deah Barakat had a dream: "I have a dream to have a unified and structured community".

I am sure that Yusor and Razan would have felt the same way, so why don't we make that their legacy? The three future leaders of our community who were killed but left with us a need to set aside our differences, stop rebuking others at every chance we get, and simply just be there for one another.

If we all hope to be in each other's company in Paradise, why don't we start to work on it right now? Why do we need to wait for calamities to occur to know that?

I was able to witness firsthand how not speaking to my sister hurt my mom, the guilt of which I could not bear. Imagine if we could all see how disappointed Allah (swt) became with us for the way we constantly treat each other? How would we bear the guilt then?