Dear Ramadaan…

And in these final ten, we strive still more – to try to gain as much as we can from these fleeting, limited moments. Moments which will be gone a week from now. A day of celebration, of course, yet for those who understand the loss – a day of mourning, too. Continue reading

The incredible journey

Nearly a year ago, I wrote this piece –which crystallised the dream that so strongly made its way into my heart and mind at the time. For those who are familiar with the process of going for Hajj, you’ll know that many across the world – including here in South Africa – need to go through a process of accreditation with the country’s Hajj authorities, since there are limited Hajj visas available to many countries.

So, this being my main mission at that time, I’d check our local authority’s website for the date when I’d be able to register for the coming year. South Africa only gets an initial quota of 2500 people that can go – a tiny number based on the fact that we’re a minority group in South Africa’s larger population.

So to get into the 2011 list seemed far from guaranteed. And to cut the chances further, there were already people that were unsuccessful the previous year who were pushed over to the 2011 list.

I knew that – in the realm of human efforts – the earlier I registered, the better my chances of success. So imagine my surprise when I happened to visit the registration site just a couple of days after registration for the new year had opened. You can call it ‘luck’ or good timing – but I believe it was Divine intervention. Allah is the One that decides who goes and who doesn’t go – and this was my first sign that it was to happen for me.

My wife and I were extremely blessed to be in that first batch of 2500 that were accredited. Getting accreditation early meant that we could prepare well in advance – in all senses. But some weren’t so fortunate. Many had been waiting and waiting for the additional quota, and were in limbo with regard to planning, leave, shopping, etc. Now, just a few weeks before people start leaving, the country’s additional quota came through (yesterday). The extra quota is a disappointing 500 extra – which is far less than was expected. That makes this the smallest South African quota in recent years; and it makes me even more appreciative of the blessing of getting to go.

During the course of the last year, we’ve gone through some challenges – but nothing too major. For me, one big issue was the loss of motivation – or rather – loss of intensity in motivation; and I spent long periods not doing what I thought I would in terms of preparation. But, of course, I still did take in a lot of information and advice – via books, speaking to people, websites, lectures (including good ones here) , and Hajj classes (which, it seems, is uniquely Capetonian in that we have 6 months of Hajj classes and not just a one day seminar).

And I knew that the preparation for this journey – and the journey itself – needed to be a long term thing. What I learn now – the good habits and actions I pick up and bad ones I drop – need to be set in stone; set into the foundation of my life.

Because as much as we all aspire to change and be better, the reality is that it’s extremely difficult. And every year, Ramadan comes around, and we have hope of making permanent life changes after it leaves. But sadly, for many of us, the same pattern repeats annually – where the ‘buzz’ wears off, and we go back to our old selves and forget the striving we intended.

But this Ramadan was different. This post-Ramadan is different. Because I’m not going back to my ‘normal’ life. I’m supposed to be building – building up that spirituality, patience, taqwa, and all good things – to take with me on this incredible journey of a lifetime.

And I need that all for the actual trip; but more importantly, I need it for after the trip. Because, as people say, the hard part is not the actual pilgrimage. The hard part is living that Hajj when  you get back home. Living the rest of your life in a state of heightened spirituality and consciousness, with better values, better habits, and a better you.

To go on Hajj, and to have it accepted and be totally cleansed of all your sins (including those against other people – who you would have sought forgiveness from before leaving) – is something tremendously liberating. I have this idea of carrying this burden of sins right now – a lifetime of wrongdoing and flawed thinking and habits to the very root of my existence – which all built up from the time I was a child, through my teenage years, early adult life, and to this day.

And if Hajj is to take all of this off my back – wash it away and give me a clean slate – then when I come back, I need to do my best to never let things of that nature build up again. Because I may never go back for Hajj. I may never go back there at all – even for Umrah. So it really is a once in a lifetime shot. One chance to drop everything bad and start again.

That’s not to say that I expect change to be instantaneous – because that’s not very realistic. I expect change to come over time – little by little (which is the critical concept of gradualism that is such a big part of the Islamic ethos of change).

But what I do hope will be instant is that sincere intention to change permanently. That point where I’d say to myself: ‘This is it. From this point on, I intend to leave everything bad behind, and strive for everything good. And whether I succeed or not, this intention is absolutely, one million percent solid and unshakeable. And I’ll try, with Allah’s help, for the rest of my life, to work towards fulfilling it – no matter what happens in future.’

The process of how that change happens – I don’t know. But the core is the intention, and that’s my focus. Will I be ready to do that? To make that intention and be serious about it? Committed to it?

‘Positive change’ is a very nice term – it sounds good, and it feels good to think that you’re pursuing it. But when things get tough, and when you’re faced with intense challenges to that goal, that’s when your real test comes.

So that’s what I need my core focus to be. Preparing myself to be ready to make that intention, firstly, and then being committed to it thereafter.

I’m scared as I write this – because this heart of mine is so attached to things I know I’d have to leave behind, for the most part. But if there’s any experience that can strengthen me to the point where I’m ready to go forward with it, then this is it.

So now, with just under 4 weeks until departure insha-Allah, I know all the logistical and physical preparations that need to happen; and I even know some of the spiritual preparation I need to still do. But underlying everything, there’s only one thing that truly needs to be ready – the heart. And my heart isn’t ready; and I don’t know if it ever will be. But I go forward knowing that it’s the main roleplayer in whether I succeed or fail in this.

So, more than anything else, that’s what needs to be my focus. And I hope and pray that, by the time I reach that peak of the 5 days, this heart will be where it needs to be.

To all who read this blog: I want to thank you for the role you’ve played in my life – whether you commented or not, and whether you’ve been reading long or not. This blog has been an important part of my identity and life for the five years I’ve been at it, and I appreciate the chance to share what I’ve shared with other people.

And now, as I prepare to leave for this journey, I ask that – if I’ve offended or hurt any of you in any way – please forgive me. I’ll try to remember you all in my duas, and ask that you do the same for me, and for all who are going; and for those who didn’t get the chance to go this year.

And if you yourself are planning to go at some point in the not too distant future, please start preparing NOW. We prepare so much for our big exams and tests in our academic and professional lives – but this is truly the most important experience we have as Muslims in this world. So it deserves the best of preparation – and that begins long before you go. Long, long before.

And even if you think it’s impossible at this time – due to finances or whatever – know that Allah chooses who goes; and it’s not impossible for Him to choose the most unlikely of candidates.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And the three pillars of success in anything – I’ve come to learn – are first making the sincere intention, then asking Allah for success, and then making your efforts (while always bearing patience and continuously asking Allah for success).

Future memories

It’s Saturday night, and the people have gathered. The lights go out. A hush descends as the crowd becomes quiet. The screen begins displaying its image.

A man appears.

He speaks. He tells of a group of people who will have lived their lives for a period, enjoying life – doing as they pleased. These people received certain information and requests – warnings that their life choices were dangerous.

But they rejected these warnings – thinking they knew better. Thinking they were entitled to continue engaging in the lifestyles that they were enjoying, and that no consequences would harm them if they continued.

But then their lives will come to an end. Death approaches them, and they see a different reality.

The curtain is lifted from their eyes. The truth smacks them like a sledgehammer. They finally realize the truth: the messages that came to them were true. The messengers that warned them were not liars, or gullible fools hanging onto a fantasy – a make-believe idea that had no bearing in the real world.

The world they existed in – where freedom and unlimited fun reigned – was an illusion. And the world they’re now facing is real. Real; troubling; and never-ending.

They beg for more time. They ask to be sent back. Now that they know the truth, if they have another chance, they’d do it all differently. They’d accept the messages. They’d believe the messengers. They’d live in the way they were asked to.

Or so they believe.

But if they were sent back, they would do the same thing again. Nothing would be different.

And they will be forced to remain in this state of regret until the Day of Resurrection – when they will be called to account for that which they used to do, and will have to deal with the consequences thereof.

 

You’re probably wondering what this scene describes. What movie was this? And when did this happen?

This was no cinema. And this was no movie.

This was the scene in a mosque – in Zeenatul Islam, District Six, Cape Town – last Saturday night. It was in the basement level, after the taraweeh prayers were concluded for that night of Ramadan.

The speaker – the man who described this series of events – was the esteemed Islamic scholar Mufti Ismail Menk, who is visiting from Zimbabwe. The events he described was a snippet from the Quran – and the intro to his lecture for the night. Down in the basement level, they put up TV screens so that the people downstairs can see the speaker on the main level, as he delivers his talk.

This particular narrative – about the regretful people who will want to go back – is based on Surah Mu’minoon (The Believers: Quran – surah 23 – verses 99 and 100). It describes those who, in worship, join partners with Almighty Allah (i.e. the idolaters / pagans). And when their (worldly) lives are about to end, they finally see the truth and wish they could have another chance. (Full tafseer here.) It could also describe those who have been negligent as regards the commands of Allah (Tafseer Ibn Kathir). In either case, we would do well to safeguard ourselves against the company of such people, lest we become of them – since the people we surround ourselves with can play a huge role in our beliefs and choice of lifestyle. And – even without friends like these – we would do well to guard our own selves so that we never slip into those categories; because we’re not immune – we never know where our wrong choices in life could lead us.

 

I began with this story because it came on a night that was very memorable. Memorable not because it was extra-ordinary in its events, but because of the epiphany that struck me during the evening.

This Ramadan, Cape Town has been blessed once more to have the visit of the always-inspiring Mufti Ismail Menk (see details in last week’s post). And my habit this month has been – on Saturday nights – to go to the taraweeh prayers he’s leading. So on this particular night, I took a break during the salaah and looked around, and just took in the atmosphere.

All these people standing, so dedicated, in long night prayer – with the Quran being recited so beautifully by one of the world’s greatest (for me, at least) Islamic personalities – and all this in the blessed month of the ummah.

I had one of those flash-forward moments: where you just appreciate the present. Something about it just strikes you deeply. You imagine that – in the future – you’re going to look back on this moment, on this period of your life, with fondness.

And for those few moments that I pondered this – those moments that this atmosphere hit me – it was just awesome. How special a time this is. How blessed. How amazing.

This experience – taraweehs with Mufti Menk – stand out for me in this month. I’ve been in that downstairs level both times so far, and when the talk starts, it’s like this huge sleepover. They put the lights off, the TV screens come on, and everyone gathers together to watch.

It’s like a cinema – and it’s a Saturday night, which makes it even more similar to that experience. But in this case, it’s actually virtuous to be in this gathering. This isn’t some Hollywood movie – designed for our entertainment.

How amazing that all these people are gathered here – on a Saturday night – to watch something ‘religious’. Everyone so eager to take in the lessons and wisdom about to be imparted, by Allah’s mercy and permission, from this tremendously-loved speaker – a caller to goodness.

The theme for this series of talks this month is the stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them all). And what amazing stories they are – so full of wisdom and lessons for all of humanity – whether we call ourselves Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or even atheist. Humans naturally incline towards stories – and these are the stories of the best people to ever walk the Earth: the messengers and prophets – chosen by God – to convey a simple message to humanity. The same message throughout the ages: your Creator is ONE, and you should worship Him alone. And because this series draws directly from the Quran – which we believe is the pure, un-altered word of God – as Muslims we know these stories are 100% true; free of the fabrications that were introduced in other scriptures that have been corrupted.

Another event that night was while I waited outside to go home. A Somalian brother stopped by to speak to me – saying how tired he was in taraweeh – almost falling asleep, but pushing himself to go on. He’d slept only 2 hours the night before. And he said how inspirational he found Mufti Menk to be – how balanced a speaker he is: not too liberal, not too conservative; but balanced.

And, clearly inspired, he spoke of how the change of the world starts with us: if we live right, and teach our children right, they’ll be better than us; and in two or three generations, they can change this world. Bring it back to its senses.

It was such a random encounter – he spoke to me as if he knew me well; but I didn’t know him at all. It was a bond – brotherhood in Islam. That’s what made it so easy – so comfortable a conversation. And before long, he was gone. A seemingly-random experience – but one, I suspect, that was meant to teach me something.

Anyway, Ramadan is usually a special month – but this one is standing out even more for me. I know it and feel it. Like Ramadan 2007 – when I was on the verge of fulfilling my most dearly-held dream of marriage. That was such a special month – and one I look back on fondly.

And this one – this month –feels like it’s going to be the same in terms of nostalgia. I may be restricted in terms of the spiritual depth I would otherwise want to pursue (mentioned not long ago in this post), but even despite that, this month has an air to it that is definitely exceptional.

In future years, insha-Allah, I’ll look back and remember how beautiful this was. These are future memories in the making, and I’m extremely grateful to be living through these experiences.

 

But to make this post interactive, I ask you – the reader:

How’s your month been so far?

And have you had any of these “future memory” moments? (Either this month or at another time.)

 

 

Weak one

 

One week into Ramadaan, I find myself scared. Scared that it’s going so fast. Scared that I’m nowhere near where I want to be. Scared that if I don’t step up now, it’ll be over before I know it.

 

I entered the month with so much hope, so many plans and so much determination to implement them. I had a schedule, a categorised list of things to work on, and the enthusiasm to get moving on it right from day one.

 

And then it hit me: illness. Aches that hurt the physical being, and tiredness which clung onto the mental, stripping away any hope I had of getting that good start I hoped for.

 

But there was hope, because despite the setbacks, I refused to give in. I didn’t want to admit defeat to an illness which – in my view – was more an irritation than a serious medical concern (thought it could well have turned into that). The timing was frustrating, but it all fell within a bigger picture – a wiser plan which I’ve yet to comprehend.

 

And now, with a week gone, the physical strength is back (alhamdullilah), but so too is laziness. And this is not the time for laziness.

 

Added to that, a recent medical discovery has meant I’ve got to make some changes in something which is very dear to me, but a terrible habit which has spiralled almost uncontrollably this year. Some might call it silly, but each of us has our struggles. And this has been my biggest one in recent months. And now I’m forced to change. No choice – I have to, because if I don’t, the long term consequences can be serious.

 

So, it’s fuel to the fire I’m trying to rekindle within me. And I’m grateful, because – I’m ashamed to say – it often takes something external to be imposed in order for me to make a real change. Change used to come easier, but as I’m getting older, it’s much, much harder.

 

I’m learning the lesson first hand, that it’s better to change while you’re young and have the chance. I’m not that old yet, but it reminds me how far I’ve got to go, and the discipline I need to inculcate in order to live a life of continuous improvement. Or at least one in which I’m progressing, rather than standing still or falling back into old (bad) habits.

 

But hey, this is a month for discipline. A month in which change is easier to implement. In actual fact, it’s really like a microcosm of the rest of the year when it comes to self-discipline:

 

  • During the fasting day, we can watch ourselves and behave properly. We can see what we’re capable of when it comes to restraining our lower desires and being at our best. 
  • When night comes, and we’re ‘free’ again to indulge, we hopefully remember that we’ve fasted for all those daylight hours – and it would be a mockery to recklessly stuff ourselves full of everything we lay our eyes on. (Though, ironically, this is the month where there’s more food than any other time of year).

     

That’s pretty much like the relationship between Ramadaan and the other 11 months: we have one month of restraint, then 11 others in which we should try to remember what we did, and hopefully maintain some level of that discipline.

 

It’s a hard lesson to learn, self-discipline, but one which is critical to our success in this life and the Hereafter, for “Allah loves not the prodigals”.

 

Whatever your personal struggles this Ramadaan, I hope it’s getting easier day by day. May the next three weeks bring with it heightened awareness of where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there.

 

Keep the faith

Y

The month of Return

Another year, another time to reflect: on time gone by; on resolutions met or failed; on progress in life’s realms – the spiritual, emotional, physical, mental…

 

Ramadaan is, for me, the marker to every year. The time when I gather up my hopes and ambitions – those highest of dreams for my future – and put it into a plan; a strategy to advance for the year to follow.

 

In my childhood and immaturity, Ramadaan was not special in the spiritual sense – but more so in the physical sense. The changes it brought about with fasting, and the togetherness we had in the family – something seldom felt most other times in the year.

 

And then, in recent years, it represented a time for spiritual intensity. A time where I could – without question – focus on my relationship with my Creator. The last two Ramadaans, especially, were vital in this regard. I’ve written before about milestones, plans within the month, and ambitions when it’s over, and looking back on those postings, I so wish that this year – like those of recent memory – will also bring with it such a passionate drive. A drive within myself to work on things which are within my reach, and hopefully – in the process – advance towards things I imagine to be out of reach.

 

Last year was the first Ramadaan in my adult life where I wasn’t working. Being unemployed has its perks – especially in Ramadaan. There’s no excuse for not striving, because you have the time to embark upon the things you want to do. You can sit with the Quran. You can spend hours alone just pondering, reflecting, having long talks with God. You can make the effort to wake up in the middle of the night for the most precious of prayers. You can analyse your worldly affairs, see your shortcomings, and put in place structures and plans to overcome the weaknesses.

 

You can, you can, you can.

 

Why?

 

Because you have the time. You have the most precious resource given to humankind: time.

 

Of course, if you’re working, studying, or otherwise occupied – you still can do some of those things; but not nearly as much.

 

For me, the big difference between last year and this year is sacrifice: when I had the free time, I didn’t have to sacrifice to do all that I wanted. And now, when I don’t have the free time, I wonder if I’ll be able to give even a quarter of the attention that I could give last year.

 

There’s another big difference this year: I’m no longer alone.

 

Looking back on my resolutions list from the end of last Ramadaan, I see a list of solo ambitions – things which, in my solitude, I hoped to strive for to improve myself, my circumstances, and my relationships with others.

 

It’s ironic that, after having so special a Ramadaan – one which established the promise of so much solo advance after it departed – my life changed almost instantly, in a way which seemed to put all those plans aside.

 

Allah took me through that month, building me up to perhaps the height of solo ambition; and then, just a week later, answered a dua which I’d been making for years up to that point. The dream I’d harboured for so long finally came true, and life literally entered a new phase. One almost opposite to the alone-ness which had been the base for so much of my reflections and ramblings on this blog and in private up till that point.

 

And though it was, at times, a painful transition for me – from near-constant solitude to near-constant companionship – it is what I wanted, and I wouldn’t change it at all.

 

A journey has begun: A journey which was I was being prepared for in all the years before this union came to be. A journey which must be guided by the goals I set as a lone ranger. A journey that should be supported by the companion which God has granted me for this most hectic of life’s phases thus far. A journey in which, by His Will, I will find within myself the potential He has placed in me, use it wisely, and gain the ultimate of rewards: the Good Pleasure of my Lord.

 

I’ve been faltering and slipping a lot of late. And those weaknesses which were once conquerable, now seem to be growing stronger and stronger.

 

This blessed month has come just in time. Once again, the opportunity for change is here.

 

I just hope I’ll have the will to do what needs to be done to get myself back on track.

 

When eyes are opened

Why is it that ‘celebrity’ is such an admired and celebrated status in today’s times?

These are normal individuals who are separated from us only by a particular talent, which is being put to publicly-visible use. What makes them worthy of an elevated status? A pedestal which places them way up there, while the masses below stand in awe of their particularly attractive feature, be it looks, talent, or any other.

You know, idolatry is alive and well in the 21st century. There are entire industries built on it: magazines, entertainment channels, tabloids.

Why are so many people sucked into the vortex of superficiality that is perpetuated by this concept of celebrity, and these industries which feed off the vain desires and lusts inherent in each one of us?

These desires, though, can be controlled. We just need to realise that, make the choice, then avoid the environment which tempts us into this indulgence.

It’s amazing how – for whatever reason – once you leave a way of life which you were so accustomed to; a way which so vastly occupied your thoughts, those things fade away into insignificance.

You can live without them.

You do live without them.

You see there’s more to life.

You pass this phase, and hopefully, you move onto something better.

Maybe the pattern of consumption remains within you; and you now apply that pattern, subconsciously, to your new interest. But the content has changed. Hopefully for the better.

Surround yourself with the influences you think are right for your future. The people, things and places which you think will take you closer to your dreams…what you aspire to be.

When you reach old age, and look back on your life, let it be a life spent in worthwhile pursuits; and not one in frivolity and meaningless consumption.

All will perish in this world. But what remains, eternally, is your deeds; and the choices you make, for which you will be held accountable.

May we all be guided to the right things in life, and get the ability to see things as they really are: to open our eyes, and see the deceivers around us for what they really are.

And have the resolve to try to change what we need to, and the strength to keep going, especially when those forces of wrong try to lure us back to our previous ignorance.

When eyes are opened, the world becomes clear.

Stop

There’s a lot to be said for delayed reactions: Stopping yourself from instinctively reacting. Forcing yourself to not go the usual route, and trying to take the situation in, see the bigger picture and the good in it; then decide how you WANT to respond.

When you can do that, I think a degree of success has been bestowed on you in terms of how to manage the trials of this life.

This has been a tremendously trying last month for me, with life being a rollercoaster of experiences – good, bad, and most definitely challenging.  And *how* badly I respond to such challenges has been exposed, over and over again. I’m sad to say: I fail. Many times, I just fail.

There’s an impulsiveness in me. A spoilt little kid, who wants everything his way, and often lets his first reactions – whether expressed or held in – be one of selfishness: “what does this mean for me?”. “How does this affect what I had in mind?

But when you face a barrage of such difficult situations, and you see yourself falling short again and again, you begin to realise that you’re supposed to be learning from these mistakes. You’re supposed to be realising that there’s something fundamentally wrong within you, and the only way that’s going to change is if you yourself recognise your flaws, and commit yourself to changing, improving, being better than what your instinctive self has been all this time.               

I never imagined life could be this insane. I never thought a person could be subjected to so much ‘trouble’ – so much confrontation, so much turmoil, so many home truths being shoved in your face in such succession.

But it is as it was meant to be; and the brutal honesty is something we all need; especially if we’ve lived most of our lives in our own worlds – as is the case with me.

Life’s challenges can make you or break you. They are there to put you in your place: show you when you aren’t living up to the standards you should be; either those placed on you by others, but especially those you aspire to for yourself.

Difficulty builds character. It is a blessing, a gift from our Creator, to shape and mould us into a better form. To bring us out of complacency and false comfort, and push us to strive for what we know is right.

Strive to rise above the superficiality and fickleness of the visible life; and remember that we each have, within us, a beautiful soul which yearns for the real life.

And how we handle things in this life, largely, is an indication of what awaits us once the curtains are closed, and we face the true reality which every soul shall taste. 

With hardship comes ease. And without hardship, we wouldn’t appreciate the ease when we do have it.

So, next time you’re faced with something which immediately demands your reaction, take a moment to stop, think, then respond in the way which portrays the best of your ambitions for who you want to be.

Lessons for a new year

Once again, we’ve entered a new year – both in English terms and Islamic. And while the English new year is often associated with ‘holiday time’, increased crime, road accidents, and other terrible events that strike each ‘Festive season’, the Islamic new year is different.

Our new year is based on the migration, or Hijrah, of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – a time where the believers (i.e. Muslims) were instructed to leave their home, Mecca, where they were being oppressed by their own people – people who hadn’t accepted Islam, and saw it fit to persecute those who had embraced the religion.

Today’s Jummah talk drew some parallels between the Hijrah and today’s time, and I’d like to share some of these with you. I’ll paraphrase the essence of what he was saying, and add some of my own thoughts. I hope that I can accurately convey the wisdom and teachings the speaker was trying to bring across this afternoon. If there are any factual inaccuracies in this post, please correct me. My Historical knowledge is not as good as it could be.

1. Sacrifice

Firstly, we should look to our pious predescessors – the first Muslims – with admiration, for the trials and suffering they braved for Islam.

They were subjected to tremendously cruel crimes against humanity (to borrow a modern term) – being insulted, tortured, and sometimes even killed – all because they accepted the Truth: that there is none worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad (s.a.w.) is His messenger.

Why did they undergo such trauma? Why did they hold on, in the face of such torment and pain?

The answer is simple: they understood that Islam is the Truth; and they understood what Islam meant for the world. It was sent to save humanity from the darkness and ignorance it was languishing in. It was sent to bring mankind back to our natural way (Fitrah) – our natural recognition of Allah as being the only deity. Pure monotheism – which has been the message of all the Prophets, peace be upon them – from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and all those in between.

We watch movies nowadays where the good guys – usually a lone hero – is sent on some mission to save the world. And we cheer when he succeeds.

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)’s mission was the same – only this was real life; not Hollywood stories and special effects.

The first Muslims understood how important the cause of Islam was – and by understanding that, it was natural that they could sacrifice everything for Islam: their homes, wealth, possessions, even their lives.

Lesson:
These days, we have to be willing to sacrifice for Islam. We have to seriously look at the world we live in, analyse it, and recognise that Islam is the solution to all our problems – if only we took the time to learn it and live it in its purest form. If we give for Islam, if we sacrifice, and we work together, Allah will surely change the condition of this ummah.

2. Self control

The companions of the Prophet put up with so much abuse, and their leader, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) put up with so much abuse – but they did not lose control. They didn’t retaliate and fight back in anger.

Lesson:
In the face of severe attacks against our religion and character, we should not give in to the animalistic instinct to retaliate – to fight back violently. Instead, we should remember our predescessors’ example, and seek help – as Allah advises us in the Quran – in patience and prayer. Allah is in control of everything. He could so easily remove the abuse, silence those who say and do what they are doing – but He doesn’t do that. He doesn’t make it that easy for us – because this is all a test. We have to pass this test by reacting in the right way – and that reaction should be largely based on self-control. Remember Ramadaan, just a few months ago? When we ‘trained’, for 30 days, in self-control. We should try to apply the results of that training all year round; and take our predescessors as the example to follow.

3. Truth over personal interests

The Quraysh leaders of the time, according to the speaker, knew that Islam was the truth; yet they refused to accept it, because it was against their personal interests. They were the richest, most powerful tribe in Arabia, and the message of Islam threatened their status and worldly position.

They chose to ignore, even fight Islam – instead putting their own personal interests as their top priority.

In the end, Truth prevailed, and they were defeated in this world. As for the Hereafter, their punishment will be given by the True Judge of all things, Almighty Allah.

Lesson:
Always put truth and righteousness above your own personal interests. As the Quran states, be just and speak the truth, even if it is against yourself.

4. Under siege

A very good parallel drawn was one relating to sieges and boycotts. In the Mecca period, the Muslims were put under siege for three years. No one was allowed to take food or supplies to them, and no one was allowed to trade with them. This strategy, employed by the leaders of the time, was meant to weaken the resolve of the Muslims.

Today, in Palestine, Muslims (and even non-Muslims) are similarly under siege. Under the guise of ‘security’ and other manipulations of conditions, the people of that country are being starved and deprived of basic things, and the oppressors are systematically trying to strip away their dignity and destroy their resolve in standing up for the Truth – standing up to stay and reclaim the land that is their own.

Lesson:
Just as the first Muslims endured such sieges, relying on Allah alone – and not people – so too must the Muslims of the modern age endure this strategy that the oppressors are so ruthlessly employing. And just as the Muslims of the past prevailed, by the mercy of Allah, so too will the Muslims of today prevail, insha-Allah.

5. Pluralistic society

In the Meccan period, the Muslims lived side by side with non-believers: polytheists, idol-worshippers, and others who lived by other religious systems, beliefs and practices.

The Muslims did not isolate themselves, worrying about the possible negative influence that they may be subjected to, as a result of living among those in ignorance.

The Muslims were strong in their Islam, and built their own identity – despite living in a pluralistic society.

Today, in non-Muslim countries, we also live in pluralistic societies. Yet some of us seek to isolate ourselves from other groups, living in enclaves and protecting our own way of life – not sharing our beliefs and beautiful deen with others.

Lesson:
We should again take example from the first Muslims, and live side by side with non-Muslims without hostility. If we’re strong enough in our Islam – we should be trying to share this deen with them; not running away from them. It takes a lot of courage, and confidence to do it, but insha-Allah, if the will is there, Allah will make a way. We just need to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to educate others about Islam. Da’wah organisations such as the Discover Islam Centre (Cape Town), and Bridges Foundation (Egypt), are doing excellent work in the field of Da’wah. Find out more about such organisations, and help if you can, and learn what you can from them.

It is the duty of every single Muslim to help spread this deen of Islam. Each of us is responsible for making an effort. We shouldn’t just leave it to the imams, sheikhs, Tablighis and others who do it for a living, or as a large part of their lives.

We each have the potential to invite others to Islam; and the first step to that is to try and get your own Islam right. Educate yourself, and try to improve yourself. When you feel you know enough – and you don’t need to know a lot – maybe you’ll have the courage to try. There are lots of great resources out there to learn and teach the basics of Islam. Check organisations like IPCI and the Bridges Foundation.