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Video Link: Final Ramadan Reflection 2011 - Eid Mubarak

Text:
A sincere request for forgiveness for any mistakes or any offense I may have caused any one and a heartfelt prayer and wish for you and your families to have a wonderful Eid, surrounded by goodness that multiplies. May we take out of Ramadan the best of deeds and actions that stays with us year round and may we be blessed to once again greet this noble guest into our lives and homes. May all your prayers, charity and good deeds be accepted. Please keep my family and I in your dua.

Since this is our last odd night going into what is/may be the last day for us, I decided to re-post this video. To remind myself and all of us, to turn to God to seek forgiveness and to know that God is always with us and willing to forgive all of our mistakes. Let us take these final moments to turn to God and seek forgiveness and renew our commitment to building our relationship with our Creator and being ambassadors of mercy to our societies.

Video Link: Reminder- Are You Worthy of God’s Forgiveness

Text Summary:
Sometimes when we reflect on the mistakes we have made in our lives, the wrong doings that we may have committed we see them as being so huge or so much that there is no way to overcome them. Sometimes, people around us make us feel that because we’ve made mistakes that we are not good enough to be around them, that we have no right to be present in organizations or gatherings and that our voices and concerns are not legitimate. They push people away by their tone, their glances and their unspoken words/actions. Almost as if we were some horrible individuals and they were so perfect.

At times the guilt can be so overwhelming that we can almost get lost inside it and we may feel as if we are not only unworthy in the eyes of people, but unworthy in the Eyes of God. This feeling however, is not what a Compassionate, Merciful Lord wants for any of us. Unfortunately, there may be people who want that for us, because their egos are so fragile, because they feel so poorly about themselves that they want to feel better than others. Other times, it’s because they forget their own mistakes and transgressions and so take a overly moral, “super-righteous” tone in their behaviour and actions.
In the end however, it must come back to- “What is my relationship with God?”.

It is important to remember that there is no sin/mistake/transgression for which God is not capable of forgiving us. When we reflect on a narration of the prophet peace be upon him in which he said that God would say to His servants- if you approached me with sins that would fill the earth and ask for forgiveness, I would grant you just as much forgiveness”.

You see, God does not expect us to be perfect. Whatever mistakes we’ve made, whatever wrong we have done, don’t think we are so far removed from God that God will not forgive us. Sometimes we have to humble ourselves and admit that we messed up. We all make mistakes but if we turn sincerely to God and ask for forgiveness, it is there for us, just like He is present for us always.

Does that mean we can intentionally go out and do wrong and say, “its ok, God will forgive me anyway”? No, we cannot. That would be making (trying to) a mockery of God’s Mercy. It means that we are human and we make mistakes and God knows that.

What did the prophet peace be upon him teach us? He said- replace a bad deed with a good deed. And if we are truthful with ourselves, we know that we have made many mistakes and so we need to be busy trying to do good for ourselves, our family, our community and the world around us.

This Ramadan, let us be mindful of God’s ability to forgive us and let us seek it actively. Let us also remember to try and correct our mistakes by putting forward as many good actions as possible.

Video Link: From Your Questions To God’s Answers This Ramadan.

Text Summary:
Ramadan came almost a month ago to visit us and how is she leaving us? In what state did she find us? Did she find us poor and is leaving us rich in spirit? Did she find us bankrupt and is leaving us with the wealth of remembrance? What promises are we making now that she is leaving for another year, knowing in our hearts that we may not be here to see her again? Did we set some goals for ourselves? Even though we are anticipating Eid and all the joy that comes with it there is also a sense of sadness that Ramadan is leaving.

Did you notice yourself doing anything different? Did you start making some improvements? Did you find yourself having hope after feeling hopeless? Did you find strength that you forgot you had? Did you realize that you are stronger than you often gave yourself credit for having?

So how do we set goals for ourselves so that the spirit of Ramadan is taken with us through the rest of the year. The last thing we want is to be “Abdul Ramadan”- servants of Ramadan. Instead, taking the glimmers of light that now radiate from within, we should seek to magnify it in our daily lives.

Is it now that we pray all five of our prayers if we weren’t doing it before? Or add one or two more to whatever we were doing? Do we start to add an additional day of fast on a Monday or Thursday? Do we stop backbiting? Do we give more charity? What do we do to continue to build our relationship with God, so that God becomes the eyes by which we see, the ears by which we hear and God becomes the basis of all our actions.

Let us use the growth from this month as a place of strength and humility because while we will find strength that we have within us, we also realize that we have areas of growth. Let us use this as a catalyst to seek forgiveness from those around us whom we may have hurt/upset in some way whether it was un/intentional or not. Imam Ghazali says that there is no time when two people sit together without one person offending the other. So we should keep this in mind and be humble in our dealings with each other. Yet at the same time knowing that we expect mercy and forgiveness from Allah, we should be quick to show mercy and forgive others ourselves.

Let us find those we love and those we interact with and seek their forgiveness. At the same time, let us set a goal or two for ourselves to take with us from Ramadan. Don’t try to do too much, because sometimes we feel this “high” and we want to “do it all” but that often leads us to give up before too long.
Write down your goal/s and then share it with a friend or two or maybe a family member so that they can help keep you on track and help you to continue to grow and to become the best you that you can possibly be.

In the same spirit, I would like to ask for your forgiveness on behalf of myself and my family, if we have done anything to hurt/upset you in anyway- please forgive us.

Any mistakes from the Ramadan Reflections series are my own and any good comes from God. Please keep us in your prayers during the remaining days of this month and thereafter.

Video Link: How Do I Find The Balance To Do What I Should Be Doing?

Text Summary:
We’ve spent time this month reflecting on how our relationship with God as Muslims should manifest itself in the way we engage our society and community and be ambassadors of Mercy. As we bear this in mind, it is important that we remember that Allah SWT describes us as “Ummatun Wasata”- a middle nation. This means that we should not become excessive in anything that we do but always strive to maintain the middle path.

Sometimes this happens with those who become active in trying to help in their society/community. At times they begin missing their prayers because of this desire to help or begin to neglect their families. Others begin to focus so much on their prayer (outward aspects or inward) or seeking knowledge that they forget that it must be followed by taking action. Sometimes, we become so “active” that we forget about the needs of our brothers and sisters around us, the people we know and we say we care about, yet we neglect or sometimes are oblivious to their needs.

In essence, when this starts to happen, we begin to lose sight of the fact that there is a methodology that we must follow, an order of priorities that begins with the fard and follows with looking after our families and brothers and sisters, our neighbours and our communities/societies. Change, in all aspects, must begin with us and this was exemplified by the way the prophet peace be upon him in the way he lived in his life in a balance and just way.

We have to think about “who” has a right over us? We begin with ourselves, the prophet peace be upon him said, “Your body has a right over you”. At times we neglect this because we are too busy or we use being busy as an excuse as to why we have poor diet/exercise habits. Our bodies are a trust from God, we must look after them.

On one occasion, the prophet peace be upon him saw a lady and asked about her, Aisha, may God be pleased with her, said that she was a woman known for her excessive prayer. He went to the lady and told her that she is only meant to do what she is able. What he meant by that is not that we shouldn’t strive to do more but we should not make it become a hardship on ourselves. We also need to evaluate how we work within our families. We cannot say that we are “busy helping in the community” while we are neglecting our families.

Instead, we have to begin to re-conceptualize the way we think about our families from an Islamic perspective. For too long we’ve gotten caught up in the dominant culture of thinking such that marriage distracts us from our true purpose of being. We get caught up in the houses, the cars, the clothes; it’s why we are always “busy” with work and we never have time for friends/community work. If our purpose is connected to our relationship with God and is about worship and being ambassadors of mercy, then marriage should double that endeavour. It brings two families together and two people who should share that purpose.

Our families should become units who work together to become better with our relationship with God and to give back to society. If this is the focus of both people, then we will be able to make our societies a better place. We do this with our children as well and include them in this process.

Remember that the prophet peace be upon him said that whatever good deed that you begin and people follow after you, you will get the good deed for doing it and for each person that follows it without diminishing their own good work. We should keep the ethic of balance in mind while trying to work diligently to increase our good. At the end of our lives, it is the only thing that will truly matter.

Video Link: What We Do Will Live Beyond Us - Will You Be Proud?

Text Summary:
As we go through the remaining days of Ramadan, we should reflect on the things that we have and how we use them. We are at a critical point in our global history where the environment is being damaged and what is happening may well be irreversible, affecting our children, their children and many generations to come.

God reminds us in the Qur’an that the earth is like a mosque, that we can pray any where; we are constantly reminded in it’s verses to look at the signs that we see when we reflect on the sky, the earth, the trees, the ocean and we are told to travel through the earth and observe and reflect on those civilizations that preceded us. Sometimes, we are so arrogant that we believe our civilization is the greatest one yet, there were so many others in the past that accomplished great things, some greater than we can achieve today.

The challenge for us in the next few days as we think about our behaviour in the next few days and the changes we need to make is to remember that our actions have an impact on those around us and the effects of what we do can last beyond our own lifetime into that of our children and their children. Quite simply put, “What will your legacy be for our children and theirs?” is it one that you will be proud of? for which you will be rewarded by God.

We are reminded in the Qur’an that we are ambassadors of God. So what does that mean? Keeping this in mind alongside a saying attributed to Chief Seattle, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” we must critically reflect on what we do.
This Ramadan, do we get food served to us on volumes of Styrofoam that will only add to landfills and cause future problems? Do we leave our cars idling even though we know that the carbon emissions are causing the polar ice caps to melt? Are we adequately reusing and recycling so that we are not creating volumes of garbage that will affect later generations? Are we calling for fair and accountable international policy as countries like Brazil consider destroying more of the Amazon Forest in order to pay of debts and meet their society’s needs? Do we leave water running when we make wudu or brush our teeth when people around the world are dying because they don’t have access to drinking water? Are we wasting food when people are dying because of lack of food?

We may try to fool ourselves into thinking that our actions don’t have that much of an impact, but it really does and we will be held accountable for it by God and by our children. In the world today, there is the emergence of a new class of refugees termed, “environmental refugees”. People who will no longer be able to live where they used to because of environmental changes. This group is expected to grow steadily in the coming years in part because of our behaviour and our support for over-consumption.

The prophet peace be upon him once moved where he set up camp and lit their fire because he didn’t want to disturb an ant nest. Something we may consider insignificant.
We must think globally and act locally. We can make simple changes to our lives to help save energy and cut down on wasting resources. Let us remember that God will not change our conditions until we first change what is in our own hearts. We have to follow this with our actions and then pray for the best outcome. Ramadan is a time for reflection and positive change- what will you do?

Video Link: When Your Actions Say You Know More Than God.

Text Summary:
In the Qur’an, God tells the story of the creation of Adam. When the angels and jinn were commanded to bow before Adam, Iblis (Satan) refused, “you want me to bow to one who was created from clay, when I was created from a smokeless fire?” At that moment, Iblis was given respite until the Day of Judgement.

At that moment, despite being in the Presence of God, arrogance left him ruined and impoverished. Arrogance, is a fatal blow that destroys hearts, relationships and most importantly erodes our relationship with God. Iblis behaved as if he knew better than God in that moment by not submitting to what was asked of him. As humans, we too do this on many occasions. If we take our prayer as an example, it is prescribed in a certain way and at certain times. Yet, many times we find ourselves delaying it, missing it or finding excuses why we can’t do it. As if our wisdom is greater than the Divine Wisdom that laid the prayer out in a way that is best for us. Our actions in these moments say, “I know better than God” OR “God doesn’t know what I know” and while this may not be what we intend, it is something we need to realize that we are doing when we deliberately leave aside what God has prescribed for us.

What it tells us is how careful we must be to guard against pride/arrogance.

Another way that we feed the sense of pride and arrogance in our own souls occurs when we spend time talking about other people, saying things about them behind their backs, their faults and flaws. Even when we preface it with, “I would say this to their face” or “this is the truth”, if we know someone would not like it to be said about it, then we should NOT be saying it. Would you want someone to be doing that to you? The only reason people engage in such behaviour is to feed their ego and make them feel like their better than others.

We do this as well when we begin creating labels and boxes for others in our community. Words like salafi, sufi, tablighi, ikhwani are thrown around today. Some people use their positions of power/influence to paint entire segments of the community with broad strokes simply to feed their own power agendas. We jockey for positions of influence and try to prove why our organization or group is far superior than others. Maybe if we stop and look at these other groups and people, we may find that there is much good that they are doing. In fact, sometimes I wonder if the reason why we do this is because of jealousy or recognition of the fact that they may be doing things better than we are. In times like this, it is important that we move away from believing we own “true guidance” and remember that others may have a much closer relationship with God than we do.

This Ramadan, let us climb down from the pedestals we have created for ourselves and walk in humility with our brothers and sisters in humanity. Let us be kind and respectful and treat others the way we want to be treated. This month, let us remember that the person/s we may look down on may be more esteemed in the sight of God so perhaps we should humble ourselves and learn from/with each other in a spirit of brother/sisterhood and with the intent to make our communities and societies fair, just, compassionate for all.

Video Link: What Do I Do When Things Don’t Fall Into Place?

Text Summary:
In the Qur’an, Allah reminds us, “Oh you who believe, be steadfast in patience and prayer. Verily God is with those who are patient.” We live in a time when so many things we want to do, all we need to do is to press a button. From our remote controls, to microwaves to smartphones, push a button and almost instantaneously, we get what we want. We live in the “fast food” era- even the food we eat, can come out of a box and be ready in a minute or two.

We almost now expect that everything we want- we should get it instantly, in the moment, right when we say we want it, it should just materialize for us. While this is ok in some things, in many other ways, it is facilitating a loss of the character trait of patience. Even worse, it is fostering this sense of “me”, “ I want this right now, so I should get it, RIGHT NOW”.

When we think through our lives though, there were many moments when we wanted something badly and wanted it – right then and there- yet, it didn’t happen. In that moment, I have two choices, I can be miserable OR I can remember that God’s plan is perfect and in my humanity, I may not be able to understand why. Yet, the saying, “hindsight” is 20-20 can be telling because when we look back at those moments we may understand the wisdom in why it didn’t happen (or not) or realize why what happened was better for us (or not) (it all depends on how you look at it).

This is why we keep being reminded throughout the Qur’an to have patience, perseverance and to stick to our prayers. The three things combined help to anchor us. To remember that God’s plan is perfect, that with time we can get what we are striving for and that ultimately God is still in control of all things and if we trust God, then we should know that His Compassion, Mercy and Justice will help us through all things.

So when things don’t go our way, we should remember to be patient because of this and when we start becoming impatient- we should find people around us who will remind us and help us to be patient, to persevere and keep praying. To remember that God is there, God never left you nor will God ever abandon you. So if we are patient and ask God for what we want, and we pray then help and the answer to our prayers will come. It may not come at your time or my time, but it will come in the right way at the right time.

Video Link: Your Chance to Get What You Want.

Text Summary:
These beautiful days and nights are wonderful moments for us to really connect with God. On many occasions, we spend time asking others to help us with stuff, when we are lost or suffering, often we look for our answer in people. We forget that the we should seek assistance from the Source of all help and all we have to do is simply raise our hands and ask God directly for what we want.
Dua (or supplication) is the “will of God that can change the will of God”. We have to take action and do our best but in the end, we depend on God and know that the help comes from only God. Many of us know of examples where people take medicine and do everything they are told when they are sick and it does not work and others who may not do much and they are cured. When we are sick, taking medicine is our responsibility to do our best but the cure comes directly from God. This is why no one can ever give us a 100% guarantee on the outcome of anything. As humans our ability is limited.

When we have a need, we go directly to God is because God is in control of all things. In these beautiful nights, there is one special one in which the angels will descend by their thousands listening for the caller, calling on their Lord asking for forgiveness and for their needs to be taken care of. It is the night when God makes His decree clear and so the best place for a servant to be is in a position of humility, arms outstretched praying for what s/he wants or in prostration doing the same.

What is clear to us, is there is no intermediary- the only barrier between us and God is our willingness to approach, to call on God, to ask for what we want/need. This supplication can be done standing, sitting, or lying down.

We should remember in our dua/supplication - to 1) praise God 2) to send blessings on the prophet peace be upon him, 3) to be sincere 4) to state our condition (Zakariya peace be upon him said, “I am an old man with gray hair’), 5) state what we want and ask with conviction- we do not make dua and then say, “insha Allah” because the purpose of making dua is for getting what we would like and knowing the the One Who answers all prayers is capable of answering them.

What we should keep in mind is that Allah may answer our prayers in one of three ways. 1) God may answer our dua directly 2) God may not answer it directly but instead avert a calamity that was going to befall us 3) It may be reserved for us in the next life. So don’t lose patience. Make dua and keep making it and trust that God will answer it. We won’t always know the how/when but we should trust that whatever happens is for our best and greatest good and that our dua will be answered.

Video Link: What Can People Expect From You?

Text Summary:
In another narration from the prophet peace be upon him, he said- “He is not a Muslim, one whose neighbour is not safe from his injuries. It causes us to reflect on how we treat our neighbours. He, peace be upon him also said- that neighbours have so many rights over us that he thought God would have also given them inheritance rights.

It should make us think- Do I know my neighbours? Have I ever spoken to them? Do I lend my hand to help? If your neighbour did something that upset me, did I endure patiently or did I get angry and lose my temper/self-control in my response?
If they were to speak of you from your actions with them, what do they know about you? what do they know about Muslims/Islam?

In another narration, the prophet peace be up on him said that the best of you is the one from whom people can hope good from them and expect no harm and the worst of you is the one from whom they expect harm to come from them and they can expect no good.

Think about the people we interact with on a daily basis- what can they expect from us? Can they expect goodness? Do they think we will bring to them compassion, mercy, kindness, wisdom and justice OR do they fear being judged, being told that they are not good, to be looked down upon, to be told they are going to hell, they are not good enough. What do they get from your actions? Do they feel that they are worth your time? or not even worth a conversation? We communicate much through not only our words AND through our actions.

One of the hallmarks of the prophet peace be upon him was that he loved his people, despite any theological differences. They came to him for help to solve their problems, they left their money with him and always knew they would get it when they needed it, he always lent his hand in care for those around him, whether they were Muslim or not- because he, peace be upon him, was a messenger of Mercy to all of humanity.

In the conquest of Mecca, which was not only bloodless, he maintained the honour of Abu Sufyan- one of his greatest enemies and in no way sought revenge. What we should strive to is a relationship with people where they look forward to seeing us, when they expect that they will be greeted with a smile, when they know that if they have a need, we will help them with it because we walk in that legacy of Mercy. The question we need to ask ourselves then is, “Am I an ambassador of Mercy on this earth?”

Video Link: Remembering Those Who Don’t Have The Choice To Fast

Text Summary:
This month, we’ve given up many things that we would ordinarily think we could not do without. Some of us have heard the comments from some of our non-fasting friends, “There is no way I could do that”. Yet, many of us have found strength inside ourselves that we may have forgotten, or may not have even been aware we had. Some of us depending on where we are in the world have been fasting 16-18 hour days which gives us ample opportunities to feel that sense of hunger and thirst. Yet, again for many of us, we know that at the beginning and end of the day we have the luxury of a meal.

There are many people around the world who do not have this. They fast inside Ramadan and outside of its windows because they have no choice. They have been stripped of their basic human right- to have food to eat to ensure their survival. We must remember that the prophet peace be upon him said, “S/he is not a Muslim- the one who goes to sleep with their stomach filled, while their neighbour goes to sleep with their stomach empty”. This is so critical in parts of the world such as the Horn of Africa, where some parents are being confronted with the horrific choice of deciding which child they have to leave behind to die in order to try and save the others. In other parts of the world, there are those who are affected by war and climate change and so continue to suffer.

As we shift back to our own context, iftar for many of us is a party. We stuff ourselves with food and we overfill ourselves. Many times, not only are we spending extravagant amounts of time preparing food, but unfortunately, food is wasted.

Perhaps one of the things we need to think about this month is to cook less and give more, to cook simple meals and not waste our entire days trying to cook and losing valuable opportunities to do good, perhaps ensuring that our neighbours are ok is of greater significance. We can also prepare food and carry to local shelters or help to feed the homeless around us. THIS is the spirit of Ramadan.

We need to remember that what we have is a gift from God and just as it is a blessing that we have food, in an instant, that could change. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that in our times of need people will think of us and try to assist?

In the same way, let us think of those who are in need and try to help them as well. It is our duty and the right of those who are hungry upon us. Let us not say we are busying ourselves with Ramadan and the last 10 days and deny those in need, their most fundamental right to eat!.

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