Being SMART During The Last 10 Days

Nabiha started Ramadan with a good kick, zealous to complete her goals and take the steps towards the changes she wanted in her life. She was extremely excited, following her strict regime ‘To a T’. Extremely careful not to skip a day, for she had made up her mind to change and make the most of this blessed month. She did good, until the tenth day of Ramadan hit, the first third, she was feeling over-confident, and her motivation started to wane – just a little. She decided to give herself a break – just for one day.

BAM – the last ten days are approaching faster than she imagined; the first ten days surely hadn’t been so fast had they?  She felt guilty, having become lax with her goals and fell further behind than she would’ve dreamed, her to-do list now piling up. Her motivation was pretty much a thing of the past, and she had to struggle and fight to try to catch up. She felt despair…would she be able to make the most out of the last ten days like she’d originally hoped?

Many of us face a similar, if not the same, situation as Nabiha. We start off Ramadan all excited, rearing to go, only to crash and burn before the end has even arrived, feeling unmotivated with the idea of ‘throwing in the towel’ becoming more and more appealing as the days speed by.

A common mistake that we make is setting unrealistic goals that are general and broad.  After falling into this same trap time and time again, in countless situations a wise teacher taught me how to make SMART goals. Which means making your goals:

 S – specific, significant

Make sure that your goal is well defined and that it’s clear to anyone has basic knowledge of your goal.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

Measure whether it’s obtainable and how far away is the completion.

A – attainable, achievable, action orientated

Make sure you can actually achieve your goal within the set measured time that you’ve set above.

R – realistic, reasonable, result-orientated

That you can realistically do it with your given resources available, taking your level of comittment into account.

T – time based

Make sure you have enough time to complete your goal and not too much time as this can affect your project performance.

One valuable lesson my mom taught me was to eat my ‘Elephant’, goal,  bite by bite rather than trying to swallow it whole. As we can undoubtedly vouch from experience, it’s extremly easy to get overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Even though the last ten days of Ramadan are almost here, it’s not too late to re-evaluate your goals and readjust your plan, using the SMART template above as a guide.

The Miracles of the Prophets: Part 3 – Prophet Mohammed

Prophet Isa and Musa were given miracles distinct to their time, that amazed the minds of those around them, their stories forever etched in history. However, this begs the question. What about the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who was sent not merely to convey the message to a certain people, but rather the people until the last day, ourselves included? What miracle was he given that could entice the minds of the people today? It’s true that just like both Musa and Isa he too had miracles that he performed that amazed his people. However, his biggest miracle, the one lasting even until this day is that of a literary miracle.

The Arabs were widely known for and took great pride and treasure in their oratory skills. Eloquence was considered the highest quality that man could possess. Language had reached its peak of development and they would often hold yearly contests in which lines of speeches and poetry were recited from memory. Language was so revered that they even went as far as to etch the ten most famous poems in gold and hang them on their sacred place of worship, the Kabah. Even today, Arab societies pride themselves on their skills of poetry and word.

Therefore, in order to tantalize the minds of the Arabs and create a lasting miracle that even the people of our time could clearly see, Allah, exalted is He, blessed the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, with the Quran. It is a miracle that stretches even farther than just a literary miracle, being one of scientific miracles, historical miracles and the like. However, for the sake of this article I will focus merely on the literary aspect of this miracle.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was a man who was known for his complete honesty and could neither read nor write, never partaking in poetry or the like. The people of his time were so overtaken by the literary miracle of the Quran that despite opposing him, it was impossible for them to deny. One such case was that of when a man of Bani Makhzum (a noble tribe in the city of Makkah) heard the verses he said:

“Today I have heard from Mohammed a speech which does not belong to the category of the speeches of the human beings and the genii [spirits;jin]. It is very melodious and possesses a special beauty. Its branches are full of fruits and its roots abound with blessings. It is an outstanding narration and no other narration is as outstanding as this.” (Majma’ul Bayan)

The Arabs fell in love with the unusual rapture, attraction, sweetness and melody because they could not find such an elegance in anything other than the Quran. The earthquake it caused in their hearts was not merely for this man alone but also for the leaders, who greatly opposed the Prophet, not wanting to change their lifestyle. The key figures of the Quraysh (the tribe of the Prophet) would go in the darkness of the night and keep hidden just to listen to the recitation of the Quran, standing there until dawn, completely mesmerized; only to find the other leaders and make a promise amongst themselves not to partake in such a thing again. However, due to its beauty they still were unable to keep away and continuously returned, catching each other again and again, making the same promises. (Ibn Hisham)

The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him said: “All prophets were given something which would cause people to believe in them. The thing which I was given is none other than a revelation (the Quran) which Allah revealed to me. So I hope that I will have the most followers among them on the Day of Judgment.” Al Bukhari

The Quran is a guidance, a book that brings man out of darkness and into light, a map that clearly outlines the right and wrong, the best path to follow, giving clear directions to the ultimate treasure, Allah’s pleasure and Paradise. It is such a lasting miracle, that even today, more than fourteen centuries after the revelation of the Quran, the captivating sound of the recitation can still be heard in all different parts of the world, leaving an impression on the hearts and minds, and transforming those who listen to it, preserved in its original form not a single verse having changed.

“And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears, because of the truth they recognize. They say, “Our Lord we believe; so register us among the witnesses.” al-Maaida (5):83

“…and We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as a guidance and mercy…” an-Nahl (16):89

“… a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion…” al-Baqarah (2):185

“And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them onto Our ways”. al-Ankaboot (29):69

Unlike most scholarly and scientific texts, the Quran is a book that has not needed to be updated for over 1400 years. It is a work that has been preserved in its original living language without a single changed word over time nor lost to translation. The Quran itself testifies to its own literary miracle in the verse:

“And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant (Mohammed), then produce a Surrah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. But if you do not – and you will never be able to – then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.” al-Baqarah (2):23-24

To this day, it stands up to the test of time and no one has ever met that challenge, despite their best efforts. The Quran is indeed the biggest literary miracle of all time and with it comes the proof of its divinity as it was first spoken to the Arab community by a chosen man who could neither read nor write, yet was obviously divinely inspired to our beloved Prophet.

The Miracles of the Prophets: Part 2-Prophet Isa (Jesus)

After Prophet Musa (Moses), peace be upon him passed away, those who had witnessed the divine miracles sent to him also passed. Thus, the tales of those miracles faded into stories told by the people of old, not holding the same weight as it did when observed in person. Therefore, Allah, Exalted is He, in His Infinite Wisdom and Mercy sent another Prophet, Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him, to the people as a reminder and to incite the return of submission back into the people’s hearts.

Isa, peace be upon him, was sent to witness to the Jews, who at that time were noted for their exceptional abilities in the field of medicine. They were highly respected and revered for their seemingly magical abilities to mend bones, heal wounds and cure the sick. Thus, Allah, Exalted is He, favored Isa, peace be upon him, with the divine miracles that made the masters of that time submit to the truth of Allah’s Unity due to the undeniable miracle that defied all human comparison. An example of this can be illustrated in a few single verses from the Quran:

She said [Mary], “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.

And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel

And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed, in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

Aal Imran(3): 47-49

Isa’s birth was a divine miracle in itself, as he was born to a mother who was chaste and pure. Likewise, during his lifetime, by the permission of Allah, Exalted is He, he was able to make the blind see, the lame walk, heal lepers and bring the dead to life. These abilities were clearly beyond that of the Jewish doctors. You can imagine that when they saw this it was clear enough proof that he was a prophet of Allah and they too, like the great magicians in Musa’s time, submitted to the worship of Allah alone, Exalted is He and free of partners.

The miracle of the last prophet, Mohammed, peace and blessing be upon him, will be made clear and evident just as the miracles of these two great prophets that proceeded him, in part three, the final part of this series.

Read The Miracles of the Prophets: Part 1-Prophet Musa (Moses)

 

The Miracles of the Prophets: Part I-Prophet Musa (Moses)

Man has a natural distaste towards submitting to another and only does so if he is forced by the latter’s physical strength, mental superiority or if he has shown feats far beyond the abilities of other men. In the first two cases he yields reluctantly, while in the third he yields because of his belief in a higher force or power defying all human comparison. For this reason, Allah, Exalted is He, has favored His messengers, not only with revelation but with miracles, clearly proving the divine origin and truthfulness of their messages. The inability for people to imitate these divine miracles of the Prophets made their societies willing to bear witness to Allah’s Unity and obey the commandments of the Prophets.

The early Prophets were sent to a specific time and people due to the difficulties involved in communication and transportation. Thus, their miracles were particularly suited to the areas of knowledge in which their people excelled in, in order for the miracle to have maximum effect. There are three main examples which I would like to share that clearly demonstrate this point. First of Prophet Musa (Moses), the other of Prophet Isa (Jesus), and lastly that of Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon them. Their examples go into great length and therefore I will divide them into three articles.

Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, was raised amongst the Egyptians, a civilization that was far advanced in its time and home to some proud and mighty people. It was ruled by Firaoun (Pharaoh) who thought he was mightier than God and greatly oppressed his people. In this time the people were well noted and versed with the knowledge of occult arts, sorcery and magic. Hence, Allah, Exalted is He, bestowed upon Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, related miracles that would prove to these people the truth of his message.

The following is a clear example, right from the pages of the Quran: Prophet Musa, after having received his message was ordered by Allah, Exalted is He, to return to his people, despite being a fugitive, to confront the vicious Firaoun and implore him to follow the truth.

[Pharoah] said, “If you take a god other than me, I will surely place you among those imprisoned.”

[Musa] said, “Even if I brought you proof manifest?”

[Pharoah] said, “Then bring it, if you should be of the truthful.”

So [Musa] threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent manifest. And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white for the observers.

[Pharaoh] said to the eminent ones around him, “Indeed, this is a learned magician. He wants to drive you out of your land by his magic, so what do you advise?”

They said, “Postpone [the matter of] him and his brother and send among the cities gatherers.”

So, magicians were assembled for the appointment of a well-known day. And it was said to the people, “Will you congregate That we might follow the magicians if they are the predominant?”

And when the magicians arrived, they said to the Pharoah, “Is there indeed for us a reward if we are the predominant?”

He said, “Yes, and indeed, you will then be of those near [to me].”

Musa said to them, “Throw whatever you will throw.”

So, they threw their ropes and their staffs and said, “By the might of Pharaoh, indeed it is we who are predominant.”

Then Musa threw his staff, and at once it devoured what they falsified. So, the magicians fell down in prostration [to Allah]. They said, “We have believed in the Lord of the worlds, The Lord of Musa and Harun [Aaron].”

[Pharoah] said, “You believed Musa before I gave you permission. Indeed, he is your leader who has taught you magic, but you are going to know. I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite side, and I will surely crucify you all.”

They said, “No harm. Indeed, to our Lord we will return. Indeed, we aspire that our Lord will forgive us our sins because we were the first of the believers.” Ash-Shu’araa 29: 29-59

These magicians, who were the best and most powerful in their land, had clear motivation to win and gain the favor of the tyrannous Firaoun, yet when they saw the miracle of Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, his message was clearly and undeniably the truth. They displayed this by falling in prostration, disregarding and having no fear of the Pharaoh’s punishment, bearing witness to Allah’s unity. The Pharaoh’s plan of gathering the people and having them bear witness that Musa was a joke and a mere magician completely backfired as they must’ve watched in awe and amazement as these great sorcerers abandoned the Pharaoh and bore witness to the truth.

In the coming article, I will discuss another example, that of Prophet Isa (Jesus), peace be upon him, and how he too had a miracle that was tailored to the areas of knowledge in which his people excelled. Afterwards I will move on to the last Prophet’s, peace be upon him, miracle, a miracle that is still at work and can be seen in our lives today.

GPS

You slam on your breaks, your car stopping abruptly at an unexpected dead end, throwing you back against your seat from the sudden halt. “You have arrived,” your GPS chimes loudly from the little screen that you paid a good penny to install in your car. You look at it in frustration, jabbing the screen furiously, as it continues to chime that you’ve arrived, unmoved by your now swelling fingers. You huff in frustration and savagely turn off the engine, fighting with the seatbelt for release, as it tries to imprison you. You open the door and manage to slam it behind you, stumbling out not-so-gracefully and catching your fall with the palm of your hand scraping against an angry rock before you. You stand up, wiping off your knees with your throbbing palms. The sun is raging above you, intent on making you it’s victim, as you cover your eyes, tasting the heat, almost as if it were a solid, nearly suffocating you as you look behind you, aghast, as there is more than one route.

You’re not even sure which one you came from.

You’re lost.

The GPS took you to the wrong location.

You sigh heavily, opening the car door, and slump in; the GPS is now silent. You take a deep breath, reminding yourself that it’s just a gadget, as you inspect the coordinates you entered.

They’re correct.

Yet you’re at a dead end.

Suddenly, you remember a map your mother had given you last year “just in case” that you had promptly shoved into the glove box. Your hands shake as you reach for it; there’s hope, or at least you pray so. You pry it open, grabbing the neatly folded map and undo it with the gracefulness of a toddler as you spread it over your steering wheel, trying to pinpoint exactly where you are.

Sweat beads around your temple, trickling down your face. You wail in frustration as you realize that you’ve never really read a map. You lean back bitterly against your seat, tears stinging your eyes. You take a deep breath, determined not to give up as you look at the map again, batting down the desperation that threatens you, as your eyes scan it once more. You groan, banging your head against the back of the seat when you realize that you had been given an outdated map from 1993.

***

When thinking about dunya’a, worldly life, this story illustrates the significance of having accurate guidance in order to get where one needs to go. Likewise, this is additionally imperative when thinking about our journey to Akhirah, afterlife. We were not put on this Earth without direction. Contrary to what some philosophers believe, the pieces of the ‘map’ are not strewn across various religions in every corner of the globe. “…‘Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]…’” Aal-Imran (3):191

Rather, Allah, Exalted is He, in His Mercy and Wisdom, sent us both messengers and a book of guidance as our ‘map’ for the ultimate abode in the Akhirah. “This [Qur’an] is enlightenment for mankind and guidance and mercy for a people who are certain [in faith].” Al-Jaathiya (45):20

Unfortunately, many people go through life aimlessly, unsure or unaware that the accurate map is easily accessible. This leads to getting lost; making most of their efforts go to waste. Outwardly, things may seem to be going good in your life. Perhaps you have a good job, a significant other, but certain questions will never go away.

Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? What happens when I die? Is there life after death and if so, what should I be preparing?

If you don’t have a satisfactory answer for these questions, as you’re unsure where to look, they will continue to gnaw at your heart, no matter what other trappings of success you may achieve. Without this accurate map, the Quran and the Sunnah, a person may make choices that he will only realize were wrong after he dies, at a point where it is too late.

Don’t allow yourself to become lost, in a maze, confused and desperate whilst following an inaccurate source of guidance. There is no guidance except with Allah, Exalted is He. Realize that choosing to follow anything else is a guarantee of failure. Allah, Exalted is He, has sent the perfect GPS with the pages of Qur’an as our Guidance, sayings of the Prophet as our clarification, and Sunnah, the living example of the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, as our example.

“…And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy…” An Nahl (16):89

Salah: The Reminder of the Muslims

It’s no secret that we live in the 21st century. We now live in a demanding world where we have smartphones buzzing every couple of minutes as we run to school or to our jobs, we are extremely busy with distractions popping up every single second of our day. In today’s society, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the moment and forget our purpose or the fact that life is short, slipping away and that this dunya’a, this world, is a mere test, a blip of our existence, a mere blink of an eye.

Allah, Exalted is He, says in the Quran: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” Adh-Dhaariyat (51):56

As Muslims, we’re well aware that our purpose in life is to worship and please Allah, Exalted is He. We also know that the second pillar of Islam is Prayer, an obligation on us five times a day. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Muslims who hold the thought that Salah is a burden, that it is something for Allah and not for us and that we don’t need it. However, the fact is that this mentality is completely twisted, because the truth is that your worship is not a gift to Allah but rather, it is a gift from Allah to you.

Allah says in the Quran: “…Allah is free of need, while you are the needy…” Muhammad (47):38

For some, the average Muslim, it can be hard to wrap your mind around this concept. How is it a gift to us? That question is one with a lofty explanation. I could write hundreds of pages on how exactly Salah benefits us. However, I want to touch on one specific concept, the very tip of the iceberg.

As I stated before, we live in the buzz of the 21st century, but our purpose is still to worship and please Allah, Exalted is He, and the fact is, that this dunya’a is still a test. So, this begs the question: how does praying five times a day help us, in our busy lives, to fulfill our purpose?

The key to this answer is that one of the reasons why salah is required, is because it is a reminder.  A reminder to the Muslims to wake up, take a step back from all the bling and distractions this world has to throw at us. It is a time to reevaluate our position on where we stand with Allah, and how exactly we plan to fulfill our purpose.

To be honest, it grieves me to hear that the average Muslim feels that they have no time for Salah and that they feel it is a burden. Because let’s be real, for the average Muslim, Salah takes about 30 minutes out of our day, divided by five, that’s five minutes at different times a day, out of the 1,440 minutes that our 24 hours hold. With those five minutes, at different times of the day, it’s our reminder that yes, even though we are busy we can’t allow ourselves to be so caught up in this dunya’a that we become too busy for our Creator and forget the eternity that we’re all striving, hoping and praying for.

However, not only is Salah a reminder, but it’s also an open opportunity where Allah is asking you to turn to Him and relieve all your hardship and sorrows and ask for anything you desire. It’s your one-on-one conversation with Allah, the All Knowing, The Most Forgiving.

Allah says in the Quran: “And your Lord says: Call upon Me; I will respond to you…” 49:60

As I’ve mentioned, this small fact about Salah is just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t even begin to cover the hundreds of gems within Salah. However, what I really hope and pray to Allah, Exalted is He, for the Muslims who do have a hard time getting up to pray and find themselves missing Salah, that this will help you realize that it really and truly is a gift from Allah, Exalted is He, to you and not the other way around. Take advantage of this gift, of this reminder, and make a conscious effort to take just 5 minutes out of each part of your day to take a breather and return to your Lord, reassess your situation and reset your intentions.

Realize that Allah has created us as imperfect beings so He does not expect perfection from us. However, He does expect us to try our best and when we slip to turn back to Him. For Allah said in the Quran: “Surely Allah loves those who turn unto him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” 2:222.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, also said: “Every son of Adam is a sinner, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” At-tirmidhi.

United We Stand

As humans, it is not an odd thing to ponder over our existence. Not only do we ponder over the reason why we’re here but also why now? In this specific time? Perhaps we wonder why we couldn’t have been born in another era. Like in the medieval times with all the cool knights and posh ladies or maybe even in the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) time and era. Maybe practicing Islam would’ve been easier in that time, surrounded by his greatness and his message. Being able to see his blessed face and hear his invaluable wisdom with our own ears. Imagining just beings able to sit with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) makes our heart yearn and wish we could’ve been there as we wonder if he (peace and blessings be upon him) would’ve loved us. However, if we take a step back and truly contemplate the reason why we’re in this era, we would realize that Allah SWT has put us here because we are the people who are best suited for our times and trials.

In the Quran Allah states: “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Al Baqarah, 2:286)

It’s safe to say that Allah, Exalted be He, with His Infinite Wisdom has placed us in our time because we are the ones best suited to face the problems that are going on in our world right now. The people of our times are the only ones who can face the trials and tribulations that are occurring outside our doorstep. What’s even more interesting, is that not only were we placed in this world, the 21st century, but we were also led and guided to Islam in this very critical time.

Few ponder over that fact. Why are we Muslims brought into this time? Some would chalk it up to chance, however, we know as Muslims that everything Allah SWT does is for a reason. Allah has guided us to Islam with our specific talents and capabilities because we have a purpose to fulfill in our Ummah that has now become divided.

It is our responsibility as Muslims to wake up and realize that we do have a purpose. First and foremost, our ultimate purpose is to worship Allah as He SWT states in the Quran: “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).” (Adh-Dhaariyat, 51:56)

Allah also stated in the Quran: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided…” (Al Imran, 3: 103). As we take a look at the condition of the Muslims today, it is easy to deduce that we have mostly become ignorant of this Ayah in practice, and are indeed in a dire state as we are truly divided. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and use the fact that we are youth to get away from the responsibility that this revelation brings.

However, if we were to look at the Sahabah’s stories, we would find that many were youth; great and mighty youth who were active in spreading Islam and keeping the Ummah from becoming divided as ours has now become. One of the things that we can do today is work on ourselves, get yourself educated and then turn to your family and educate them. When you have started to do that, work outside and educate other people about Islam, including the Muslims.

Use your talents and capabilities that Allah, Exalted be He has blessed you with, and make a difference in the era that we share. Also, take pride in the fact that even though you weren’t born in the era of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), that he did indeed love you and yearned to meet you as well and by working hard to fulfill your purpose in this world for the sake of Allah you are indeed pleasing Him, bithnillah.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “I wish I could meet my brothers.” The Sahabahs then asked: “Aren’t we your brothers?” To which he replied: “You are my companions, but my brothers are those who will believe in me without having seen me.” (Musnad Ahmed).

 

Gratitude: The Key to Happiness

Going through life can seem like a blur. Especially at our age where we are overwhelmed with the uncertainty of the future. Most of us don’t know what we want to be or why. Yet we’re being pressured from all sides to decide.

What do you want to be?

Some would say famous, others would say rich. Then you’re asked what career? Lawyer, doctor, soccer player, teacher…the options are unlimited and hard to narrow down. However, no matter what we do or do not decide, at the end of day, we are all aiming for happiness.

Happiness is the mysterious wonder of the world, some could call it the eighth wonder. Everyone is looking for it yet few find it or even know where on earth look. It’s the hidden elephant in the room, there but invisible, seemingly out of our reach. If you were to ask any millionaire if they were happy most of them would say no.

Take Jim Carrey for example, who said: “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they would know that’s not the answer.”

So, what is happiness then? A wise friend once told me to close my eyes and imagine that the only thing that I would be able to bring into today were the things that I was grateful for yesterday. What would I have?

This got me thinking, would I have my home, my mom and dad, my siblings, as annoying as they can get, my car? What about things even more basic than that? Would I have my eyesight, my hearing, the ability to walk, talk and eat even. Would I have my knowledge, the ability to think? I started racking my brain, becoming distressed, what would I have?

When thinking of all the things that I couldn’t imagine living without, the thought of wanting more seemed impossible. How could I want more when I wasn’t even sure if I would have the things I had yesterday?  It was at that moment that an Ayah of the Quran rang through my mind: “And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them.” [Surah Ibrahim: 14:34]

In that instant I truly realized that the key to happiness wasn’t money or fame but rather gratitude and contentment. Being grateful and content with what you have right now in this very moment. When you stop, and take this approach you easily recognize the true favors that Allah, Exalted is He, has bestowed upon us.

However, what’s even more amazing, as if that weren’t enough, is that Allah says in the Quran: “If you are grateful, I shall certainly increase you (in favor) …” Surrah Ibrahim: 14:7

Allah, Exalted is He, in all His Mercy has guaranteed, that’s right guaranteed, to increase the things we are grateful for. So not only will you be blessed with things you couldn’t imagine living without, Allah will increase them.

When you wake up every morning think about the exercise above, bring the things that you are truly grateful for to the surface. You will find that your day will be much brighter. Instead of filling your thoughts with what ‘could be’, you’ll be taking a step back and acknowledging the blessings that are. This will give you the chance to start your day with a clean slate and work on the person that you aim to become with the ‘eighth wonder’ of the world directly in your heart and Allah, Exalted is He, with you every step of the way, bith’nillah.

“… And we will reward the grateful.” (Āl ‘Imrân 3:145)

The Secret of Today

When we’re young we’re often asked a seemingly simple question. What do you want to be when you grow up? As kids we can think of a million things we want to be: superheroes, firefighters, veterinarians, doctors perhaps even florists, nothing was impossible to our little minds. Then we grow up and the reality of the world hits us as we’re asked the same question—that used to fill us with joy and games to play for hours as we ran around the house roleplaying our destiny—but now the same question freezes our mind. Sure, we may have a slight idea, a dream, but then we’re plagued with doubt.

Is it really right for me?

Can I actually accomplish it?

Will I really get there?

These thoughts, unfortunately for many, often lead to anxiety and stress, as we envision who we want to be…but we don’t know how to get there, how to achieve it, and again can I? We spend all day worrying about it, which naturally leads us to taking no steps at all because we can’t think of anything but the next step, which still remains a mystery. Then after some time passes, a week, a month, sometimes a year we look back and realize all the time we’ve wasted worrying, being anxious and realize that we’re not any closer to becoming that person we dream to become. However, what most don’t recognize is that the secret of becoming that person starts with our today.

We tend to live in this dilemma of regret of the past and anxiety of the future and we forget to live in our today. We fret over what we can’t change (yesterday) and we stress over what may never happen (tomorrow) to the point that we no longer have a today. Today is a gift from Allah SWT with no promise of tomorrow as stated by Ibn Umar:

When morning comes don’t expect to live until evening and when evening comes, don’t expect to live until morning.”

Meaning: Take advantage of the time you have in your hand and don’t worry about tomorrow until/if it comes.

One of the things most people take for granted is their youth. As youth, we are mostly free from major responsibilities, like heading a household and paying the bills, and are full of energy, completely capable of doing so many things for the sake of Allah SWT and reaching our maximum potential. And yes, to answer your unspoken doubt, you can reach your maximum potential! See the secret is taking that goal, dream, potential, whatever you want to call it, bite by bite and doing a little bit of it today. Because when you spend your time making the best of the time you have in front of you, you’ll see that little bit you do today will build up and that over time will lead to those goals and that potential.

Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.” At Tirmidhi

In Islam, we’re taught to use our time wisely and to tie our camel, do our part and put your best effort in. Put in your best effort and work on your goal today and trust in Allah SWT. Trust that He will take care of that future that you are working so hard for.

And in Allah (Alone) let the believers put their trust” 14:11

Stop beating yourself up and realize that you are a work in progress, which means you will get there a little at a time and not all at once. Take note that the struggle that you’re going through today is indeed building the strength that you need for tomorrow and that no matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. Make the most of your today because as they say: “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.”

Take hold of that enthusiasm that you had when you were a kid and make this year’s resolution one to put your best effort in, trust the future to Allah SWT and make the most of your today.

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Sarah Al Hajjar

I’m Sarah Al Hajjar, a 19-year-old American Muslimah who converted to Islam in late 2006 at the ripe age of 9 years old. Alhamdulilah, Allah has blessed me with the ability to travel the globe, which has opened my eyes and allowed me to see the different conditions and practices of Muslims worldwide. My experiences have taught me the true beauty and blessings of being Muslim and has allowed me to live under a philosophy that all people, whether they are born Muslim or not, at one point in their lives, have to choose Islam for themselves. This realization has made me passionate to use my voice and my pen to highlight the gems of Islam that surround us all. Insha’Allah, by the will of Allah, readers will become equipped with the confidence and desire to deepen their relationship with Allah, Exalted is He; thus preparing them to weather out the tests of this Dunya’a having faith and trust in Him.