Fight

I had never experienced a year like the last when I finally realised that my life was perpetually plummeting down a boundless hole. You never know the end of a nosedive until it hits you. Shifting my mental composure and life philosophies, life hit me hard and without warning. I read different books, darker books, spent the majority of my time chasing vain goals in the name of self-improvement. And, much like walking in the dark, I felt confused and questioned myself frequently. I found comfort in, consoled myself with, the thought that any pain that I am feeling will add to my strength and life experience. It did in a way. But oh how wrong I was…

The journey was one of self-actualisation – or so I thought. I became obsessed with the notion of self-improvement, and focused intensely on my social skills, skills I was desperately lacking leaving school. I fantasised on ungrounded expectations of returning to my family a different person, a man, so to speak. I talked more, met more people, laughed more. But the more I turned outwards for my validation, the more I felt empty. I couldn’t figure it out. I wanted to be strong. So I did the only thing I knew how to: I continued…

I learnt how to speak in different accents, learnt different languages, practiced being strong, being weak, being funny, being angry, all within limits of course. I lost faith in who I was as a person, and more importantly, who I was becoming. I doubted and questioned my motives. Why? Who do I want to be? Why do I want to be him? What does it all matter in the end? I continued…

I met all sorts of people, people I would have never dared talk to or approach. I allowed people to trample over me; I got a kick out of it. All I needed, truly, was some sort of recognition. What did I want to achieve? Fame? Celebrity? I don’t know. But the better I got, and indeed I got good, the farther the goal seemed to me, and the deeper I dug into the confines of my own psyche. I abused my mind and my soul, and without realising it, became obsessed with my new addiction.

My depression lead me further down. Wanting to rely on myself and my mind, I kept far away from external guidance such as religion, and as a result, I lost touch with my own internal moral compass. I became an empty vessel, adorned and furnished with the most extravagant colours and designs, but an empty vase nonetheless, until…

One night, I voiced my internal screams to the closest person there was to me. I scared that person away, and was proud of myself for it, for I noticed everyone who was ever close to me slowly drifting away. Was I happy? The answer was simple but disappointing. That is, until I embraced the Book, the Quran that freed me of my thought and reminded me of the man I once was, ignorant and indifferent to the glamour and splendour of external value. I remembered, I always looked deeper. And so like that, my life was transformed. I saw happiness and light in things that would elude me time and again. I connected with people, and was very clear with my intentions and actions. I formed attachments again with those that I feared so to lose. I reunited with my purpose.

Starting exercise happened around the same time, which allowed me to channel out much of the excess negative energy that was now a part of me. I vowed to keep it up every day, and ignore the effects (good or bad) or consequences. I started to lose weight, though I did not care at the time. But back in London where little value is given to me at all on a deeper level, that became all that I valued. My image in the mirror gave me my self-confidence, and took it away just as easily. I was afraid to break my vow, even though it was eating away at me. I lost my appetite for food, and found consolation only in my reading of wisdom and religious texts. Soon, I lost even the ability to think. My energy had depleted, and I was again a dead rock at the bottom of the sea. Though I kept my vow.

Only when I returned with my family did I feel whole again. I saw my old friends, ate my old food, but kept many of the habits that have now become a part of me; I would not let anyone interfere with my “system,” as I called it, detrimental as it may be, it was nothing short of perfection to me. This hunger had become my friend, and soon took over again, replacing once more my real friends.

It was a tough battle, one not easily won, but inevitably won nonetheless… to some extent. I had learned a valuable lesson from my reading that rid me once of my hunger. It was wisdom that amalgamated all other wisdom. I had written about it before, so I need not repeat myself (see my article: Institutionalise). But now I wanted to see what I could do alone. I went against the grain, striving for something so close, yet only just too far out of reach, as nothing but my own psyche was stopping me from achieving this goal. Goal? What goal. Again it was darkness. I knew not what I wanted, only that I wanted to build up my body every day. To what end? I didn’t know. Yet I continued, searching for the key that would unlock my mind. Alone, I wanted to achieve the result. But how could I, I never achieved anything truly alone? And that is the enigma that I so desperately needed an answer for. How can I strive alone, when everyone and everything else goes against me. Do I run away? Do I conform until the opportunity arises? Do I derive my inspiration and validation from my reading, and is that enough? I know one thing about success, and that is that it requires hard work, discipline, patience, and the divine command of “Be,” and it is…

I am afraid that if I stop, I will lose all that that I worked to hard to attain. I am afraid that I will lose motivation and confidence in myself. I am afraid that my vanity will be the only thing drives me, but will some day be the only thing that stands in my way of achieving that which I want. In the end, is it worth the trouble and pain? Can I find the solution, or perhaps, is the solution just to give up?

I will leave with this:

“There was a certain original man who desired to catch his own shadow. He makes a step or two toward it, but it moves away from him. He quickens his pace; it does the same. At last he takes to running; but the quicker he goes, the quicker runs the shadow also, utterly refusing to give itself up, just as if it had been a treasure. But see! Our eccentric friend suddenly turns round, and walks away from it. And presently he looks behind him; now the shadow runs after him. Ladies fair, I have often observed… that Fortune treats us in a similar way. One man tries with all his might to seize the goddess, and only loses his time and his trouble. Another seems, to all appearance, to be running out of her sight; but, no: she herself takes a pleasure in pursing him.”

Recognition: Thank you Mike Tyson, for giving me permission to lose hope in myself, only to regain it in my humanity.

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Art-icles

I just tried to write a post by the name of “Care,” but failed in my own standards. I seem to not be able to write how I want to, or used to. I sound so like the articles that I am constantly reading now online. My, so called, Art with words is gone.

I wouldn’t say “gone” as much I would like to say dormant, for it is always there, but buried under deeper sands. Still, I find it increasingly difficult to funnel out the nuances that I once could spike at ease, or excite my mind with a word that seems to have given the sentence a weird twist. “Weird,” seriously? I never say weird…

Read bro. Don’t let this mild entertainment with those fads get to you as it has done to many, filling them with empty wishes, and vain hopes. If you surround yourself with the fast, you will tend to speed up, and if you surround yourself with the leaders, you are either bound to pick up your game, or be soon swept out of the race, having being proved unworthy. Prove your worth, don’t linger among the page long pieces of “advice” that have little evidence to back them up. Pick yourself up man. Keep rising. Surround yourself always with the best of writers, the funniest of comedians, the most beautiful of characters. Watch them. Emulate them. Surpass them, because there is little point in doing what someone else has already done. The true purpose of reaching the heights that they have long after they have gone is for others worthy in heart and soul to stand on their shoulders, and see what remaining roads they have left untramped.

The Self

You are a thing, and your self is another. You want beauty, morals, and ideals, and she wants pleasure and distraction. Drive her, and she will respond. Shove her, and she will jostle back.

Do not limit her pleasures, wants and desires: she is to them entitled, as is a child to his toys and play. Rather persuade her and use gentle coercion, and you will find she is more understanding than you once thought. If she gives you something, thank her and give her a treat. Give her gifts and deal with her gently, so is the dealing of one with a child.

Scoff you may. “Where is the likes of this so called self?” Is it in my head, my chest, my ears my toes? Maybe it’s on display on my bedside shelf. “It is you!” I respond, “but not the you you understand.” It is not the you you can hold in your hand. Nor can you see it, smell it, or give it away. It is not yours to keep, it will leave you one day. It is your unspoken desires, thoughts, feelings of no regret, it is just as smart as you, don’t let it make you forget.

As such we go in life, from one relationship to the next. This one, however, we did not choose. We are given it, safekeeping it in the vaults of our hearts. Deal with what you are given well, give it respect, be gentle and harsh when need be. In your hand is one end of the rope, pull it as hard as you want, but do not underestimate how hard it can pull back…

Institutionalise

Our times oblige us to focus on too many a thing our mind and body cannot cope with. We want to do, to be, everything that we can. We want to be like our idols, our heroes, and those we admire. We want to change, and to bring about change. Yet, something always beats our ever growing ambitions, laps every one of us, time and time again. And we see our rival everyday, from the moment we open our eyes to the moment they shut back closed, wondering if they will be opened once more. What mightier a foe than that which controls our very pulse and breaths, and marks our births and deaths?

Time. The clock is inanimate, but its hands are forever on the move.

Humans are therefore inherently weak, not even able to surmount their own selves, let alone their surroundings. Their shell is a soft tissue, penetrable to the slightest stone or needle. Their hearts are a malleable muscle that drives a light liquid to the material body and mind, and drives emotions to the spirit. Be the mind a mountain, then the emotions are a waterfall, flowing down the easiest route and clinging onto straws and dirt for colour and substance. Why were we made so weak? That a single blow stuck to a vital point can send us to below our feet, that a single word can change our lives, that a single experience once experienced can set the course of our lives. At the same time, how were we made so strong? That a single voice can move the hearts of thousands, and a pebble tossed by hand can set in motion an avalanche that when begun, does not think twice about destroying a house or burying an entire forest,

What is the difference, then, between weak and strong? Are we debilitated by our surroundings, or do we surmount them?

The answer, I think, lies outside of the individual, of emotion, talent, or intelligence. It lies, rather, in the collective. What better a rope to tie a man with than that of guilt or shame? What better food for the heart than promises of gold and fame? A single shriek may set us on our tows for a day, but the angry horn of mob united in heart and soil – yes soil – speaks within a people for the rest of their days.

Why not, then, use this powerful weapon for good, as surely it can be for evil. Become a leader of others, before yourself, for indeed, that is what gives you the power to change yourself, before others.

References:

A man once famed for his impeccable manners was asked how he had come to obtain them. He replied, traveling obliged me to meet people, those of their manners I admired, I followed, and those which I disliked, I avoided.

Read

Read. Reading is the rock with which the tool of the mind is sharpened and honed. It is the shaper of the heart, and the vessel that contains the flowing water of human thought. Read and you will be quick with your tongue. Read and you will be interesting. Read and you will never be lost for words.

Ideas and memories take little to make their mark in the brain, but they are inviscid in nature, and are hence soon lost to the cycling winds if not solidified. Continuous reading – and what I mean by reading is the exposure to ideas in any form – is the only solution to mental frigidity. When something is read, it is understood, and when it is understood, it is remembered, and when it is remembered it is recalled, both within the frame of the mind, and in the realms of action.

When a fact is told to a child, and understood, it is truly remembered for life. “Swallowed gum takes 7 years to digest.” That is because the child has little else to base their thoughts and actions on. As such, the more emotional weight something has, the more it is ingrained in a human, in both thought and action. That is the job of an educator – educator and not just a teacher. Also, the more time passes from when something is initially learned, the emotional weight behind that thought is much lost, as is the memory or idea itself. We seldom open up the topic of how our day was a year or ten ago. “How was your day today?” and not, “how was your year?” or the like…

A note about wavelengths. As human beings, we like to follow the easy path. I strongly affirm this statement. You may say that actually, with willpower, we sometimes push ourselves to follow the more difficult one. But here, you are only referring to physical difficulty, as with someone who uses his mind to coerce his muscles to sprint up a steep hill. When motivated, remember, this path is the easier one emotionally and to the heart, as when the heart desires something, there is little more nourishing to it than satisfying its passion. And so remember when advising people, that you should not work on their actions, but rather their passions, for that is where their hearts peek, and are waiting for the race gates to open, to gallop at wind speed. Remember, a change in mind is a change in interests. A change in interests is a change in passion. And a change in passion is a change in heart. Remember, befriend only a person who you do not mind being the same as in heart. Instead, choose them for no other object but their heart: truly it is sufficient enough a reason.

Some questions remain, but I leave my post open ended, perhaps to fuel the readers’ (if any) thoughts, and perhaps to fuel my own. On a side note, please refer to my Snapshot post. Please comment if there is anything of interested to be added, I’m most sure there is…

Khutbah: Friday, 20 January 2017

Bismillah Wassalatu Wassalamu 3ala rasulillah

The three stages to success.

What is success? Success seems to be the goal that everyone is striving for in our world today. From doctors to engineers, office workers to politicians. As muslims who believe in Allah SWT, we must strive for success in both this world and the next.

Allah says: “And from the people there are who ask for this life, and this amounts to nothing in the next. And from them that ask for good in dunya and good in akhira and to be excused from the punishment of the hellfire. Those are the people that get a rightful amount from the good that they have done, and Allah is quick in judgement.”

Why strive for success? The prophet SAAW said “hold on tight to what will benefit you.” And this benefit as we have mentioned is in this world and the next.

Allah SWT has created for us the framework that we need to use to attain this success in any endeavour that we strive for, and has lightened our burden with the promise of his help. So before anything, ask Allah to grant you the success that you wish for, make dua to Allah in secret, as he has commanded:

“And your lord has said, ask and I will grant.” This is the promise of Allah, the secret weapon of a believer. When Allah SWT is on your side, then who is against you? When Allah SWT is against you, then who is on your side?

What is the first step? But once you have begun your journey, you must also act to the best of your ability having trust that Allah will deliver upon you the results. “Verily Allah loves those that give their best”. Allah has promised the muhsinin (people who do their best) the knowledge, wisdom, and power to deliver upon what is right. In the story of musa AS “When he became of strong and balanced age we gave him wisdom and knowledge, and that is how we repay the muhsinin.”

This goes hand in hand with seeking Halal means of success, for there is no point in success attained through means and methods that are not inline with what Allah has commanded, such as taking upon interest, or the sale of haram products, or success that requires the missing of obligatory deeds. In fact ihsan comes hand in hand with doing such good deeds, as Allah has revealed: those who keep the prayer, safeguarding themselves, giving zakah, and staying away from useless talk. Any success attained without these things my brothers and sisters is no success at all!

The second step that Allah has put for us is patience, for not as soon as one strives to act that results come flying, but with time. When one of the early students of hadith was walking as a young man, he thought of quitting his study as it was too difficult to continue. Upon seeing a rock which was indented by the dripping of a single water droplet over time, he knew that he needed to be patient, and that Allah will grant him goodness if he is patient, just as He has struck a hole in the rock with little effort from te droplet but time. This student proceded to become one of the major scholars of hadith in the islamic tradition. Allah says: “Seek help from Allah through patience and prayer, verily Allah is with those who are patient.”

Then what? Finally, success is in the hands of Allah. It may come and it may not. And if it has been attained, what should one do to make sure that it does not fade away and that we can benefit from it in the akhira. Many have attained knowledge in some form, but soon forget what it is that they learnt. Allah says “Allah has decreed that if you are grateful, you shall be given more, and if you are ungrateful, then verily my punishment is severe.” Thank Allah for the blessings that he has bestowed upon you! Know that these results have not come of your own doing, but from Allah. Be humble to Allah SWT, and he will give you more. And saying alhamdulilah is only the first level of gratitude. The second level is using what Allah has given you for good, “And seek with what Allah has given you the next life, and do not forget your portion of this life.” Finally, the last level of gratitude is helping others to obtain the same success, for the prophet SAAWS said that jealousy should be avoided except in two instances, “The man who Allah has given wealth, and he spends his nights and days spending it in truth, and a man who Allah has given wisdom so he uses it and teaches it to others.” This is giving back.

Second khutbah:

You may say that these ideas are abstract, but they are in our own book that Allah SWT has sent down upon us. In the story of Yousef AS, how would Yousef have survived and attained knoweldge if he did not possess ihsan? How would he have gone through years of prison without having patience? And finally, Allah granted him the opportunity to use what he has been given. How would he have benefitted from this is he did not thank Allah for giving him this opportunity.

I would finally like to reiterate the Hadith that I have mentioned in the beginning of the khutbah, a beautiful hadith:

المؤمنُ القويُّ خيرٌ وأحبُّ إلى اللَّهِ منَ المؤمنِ الضَّعيفِ ، وفي كلٍّ خيرٌ ، احرِصعلى ما ينفعُكَ ، واستِعِن باللَّهِ ولا تعجِزْ ، وإن أصابَكَ شيءٌ ، فلا تقُل : لو أنِّي فعلتُ كان كذا وَكَذا ، ولَكِن قل : قدَّرَ اللَّهُ ، وما شاءَ فعلَ ، فإنَّ لو تَفتحُ عملَ الشَّيطانِ