Archive for November, 2012

Be so close to the Qur’an that… [Fajr]

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

Over the past year, I had been keeping a ‘Be so close to the Qur’an’ series on my Facebook Page: |~| Fajr Blog |~|, and I thought to collate it all here for those who don’t visit the page. It’s an ongoing series, but here is the first collection:

Be so close to the Qur’an that with every turn of its page, your heart also turns. You undergo a change of character; and come out better. You come closer to Allah and you understand your religion more.

Be so close to the Qur’an that not only do you consider it to be your companion in life, but it also considers *you* to be its companion both here and on Yawm al-Qiyamah (Day of Resurrection).

Be so close to the Qur’an that whenever you open to read it, it draws you in deeply and takes you on amazing journeys through power concepts and thought-provoking dialogue, through history and the undisputed facts of the future and Hereafter; learning life lessons and learning about yourself. The journey doesn’t end until you end it (by closing the Book).

 

Be so close to the Qur’an that you make it your first point of judgement and guidance when you quarrel or fall out with a relative, spouse, friend or stranger. You place it before you with the sincerity to resolve matters and follow the causes for peace.

“… If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause harmony between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and All-Aware.” [al-Nisa: 35]

Be so close to the Qur’an that if you happen to miss your daily portion of it, it preoccupies your mind and you are not at peace until you take your regular nourishment from it.

Be so close to the Qur’an that just hearing the words, “O you who believe…” strikes something within your heart. You are all ears and attentive; ready to respond.

Be so close to the Qur’an that you truly feel its blessings in your life.

Be so close to the Qur’an that while many love listening to music and lyrical tunes, for you nothing can beat the melodious recital of your favourite Surah (chapter).

Be so close to the Qur’an that you actually walk F E A R L E S S. In every place, at all times, and every stage of your life. Your fear is only from One Being, and He is above His Throne, `azza wa jall.

Be so close to the Qur’an that the mere contemplation of a verse brings tears to your eyes.

Be so close to the Qur’an that after a long and tiring day, all you want to do is make wudhu’ (ablution) and sit down with a cuppa tea in a cosy spot for some heartwarming reading and reflection.

Be so close to the Qur’an that it becomes the first companion you turn to when you need to hear comforting words, or a shoulder to lean on in difficult times, or guidance in times of confusion. It becomes your first point of contact alongside salah (prayer) and du’a (supplication).

Be so close to the Qur’an that its melodious verses drown away the meaningless chatter of this world and you prefer listening to it instead of listening to much of Mankind…

 

Be so close to the Qur’an that you become recognised for it; in your character and the way you carry yourself through life.

Be so close to the Qur’an that being in its company makes you feel like you are in the best company; the most serene, thought-provoking, heart-warming, and tranquil of gatherings. People think you are alone… but you are anything but alone.

Be so close to the Qur’an that you can’t fathom the idea of dying without having memorised it. You can’t see yourself standing in front of Allah in complete ignorance of His Book, His Verses, His Words.

Be so close to the Qur’an that everytime you hear a verse, you stop and check yourself against it. Is it a command/prohibition which you adhered by? Divine advice which you’ve taken on board? Wisdom which you’ve learnt from? Check yourself against every verse and be the first to benefit from it, because you are that close.

Be so close to the Qur’an that before embarking on the path of knowledge, you first immerse yourself in it. You do not place any branch of ‘ilm before knowledge of the Book, and thus you spend your early learning days learning all about it.

Be so close to the Qur’an that its verses replay melodiously in your mind…

Be so close to the Qur’an that you can find for yourself a verse reflecting every moment of your life. You will always know what to do.

Be so close to the Qur’an that the worldy chaos around you only increases your yearning towards secluding yourself, reciting its verses and being in its beautiful company.

Be so close to the Qur’an that nothing, nothing can come in between it and you.

Be so close to the Qur’an that a day without it leaves you feeling empty and deprived.

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Depression & Suicidal Thoughts

“A bend in the road is not necessarily the end of the road. You may just need to make that turn in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Yasir Fazzaga

My Notes:

The Quran makes it clear that by virtue of our humanness, we will face challenges in our lives and we don’t get to choose when or what. With the challenges, it’s not just the loss but the impact it has on us. Depression is one of these challenges.

Depression is not necessarily a character weakness, and not something you can tell someone to “snap out of it.” So if you know someone who is depressed, don’t assume they are weak. Depression can happen to anyone of any ethnicity or religiosity.

Islam says that because you are a Muslim, you have access to tools, so if you are depressed, you will be prevented from going into despair.

Religion prevents the despair, not the depression.

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause for people between 18 and 35 and the 2nd leading cause of death for college students.

Usually the depression is not as much of a problem as the way that people choose to cope with it (e.g. drinking, drugs, etc.).

Tools

1. Early prevention – if you detect it, do something about it. Depression is about doing nothing and idling, so we need to do something. Being functional despite being depressed will help you get out of it and/or have lesser form of depression.

2. Surround yourself with a good support system – about 80% of people, before completing suicide, called a loved one. If someone reaches out to you, take that seriously.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts: People giving away valuables.

Don’t be afraid of asking people “I’m noticing you’re very depressed.”

3. Seeing a therapist does not mean that you are weak because you cannot do it on your own.

4. Re-labling – you’re not necessarily changing the facts, but you re-label it and it can change your outlook.

5. Knowing Allah through His Names and Attributes

6. Close the gap between what you believe and your actions – your actions should be a testimony to Islam and Imaan.

7. Prayer and getting close to Allah. A lot of times a therapist will send a person to receive “spiritual healing.”

A good therapist helps you to tap into the well of tools that you already have.

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Attn: FREE New Online Course – ‘Logical Progression’ by Abu ‘Eesa Niamatullah

Attn: FREE New Online Course – ‘Logical Progression’ by Abu ‘Eesa Niamatullah.

Starting Wednesday 5th December 2012, 8pm GMT, 1pm MST, 3pm EST inshaa’Allah.

Cheadle Masjid, CMA Trust, 377 Wilmslow Road, Heald Green, Cheadle, SK8 3NP

Facilities for men and women, and will be streamed live online.

Free of charge. Enrolment is obligatory, subject to Terms and Conditions.

Register here.

~

Sh. Abu ‘Eesa:

Here’s something to reflect on for your Friday evening: our new “Logical Progression” class starting on 5th Dec 2012. It’s time to rock some of that ole skool jazz. =)

 

I get asked ALL the time about “an Islamic curriculum for us to study” and “we don’t have a teacher in our area” and “our kids are growing now and need something” blah blah blah.

 

Well this is my response. I’m committing my life to this iA and the reason for that is because I know it’s worth it. I want to cover in this class every single possible thing that comes to your mind with respect to the Deen. That could be adab, the fiqh of wudhu Salah Siyam etc, your kids birthday parties in school, ‘aqidah, politics, business, salawat and taslim, historical controversies, shi’ah, sufis, salafis, your job, your parents, taking your wife swimming, taking your female boss to dinner, why hadith can be weak but accepted, making wudhu with an egg cup of water, your turban, democracy, the footie last night, the footie playing live, the Europa league tomorrow, new Muslims, bored Muslims, the absolutely flippin’ works. If it exists, we’ll put a Deeni spin on it. Ay na’m.

 

Anyway here are some key points you’ve been asking about:

 

– Yes it’s FREE although that’s the least of your problems. Money has never been the issue for Muslims. I’ve been in this game for long enough to realise that it’s their NAFS which is the issue. Folks pay out of their ears to sort their dunya and akhirah out, and even then they can’t be bothered to turn up after a week or two.

 

– This will be the last weekend to register to receive all the English and Arabic course notes and texts in time

 

– The PG team have nearly finished vetting 2000 student applications. The good news? 99% of you will be receiving user details soon. =)

 

– It’s not what you know, it’s not even WHO you know, it’s whether you WANT to know. Don’t use stupid excuses like “I’m a beginner” and “I know nothing” and “I don’t know Arabic” and “I’m a loser” etc. I know that already son, so what? That’s why it’s called Logical Progression. That’s why we’re starting at the beginning and we’re ending at the end Sherlock.

 

– you need to attend the class live online (or in person if in Manchester) *from the beginning*. We might reopen registration to those guys who realise what a mistake they made later on but seriously, I sincerely advise you that if you really want to benefit from the real deal then join us from the beginning because we won’t waste time explaining fundamental tools and principles again and again. No, this isn’t al-Adab al-Mufrad. =)

 

– you need to have your family with you, especially children over 9/10 for maximum benefit.

 

– you need to not miss sessions although recordings will be available for 36hrs for all those with an excuse or living outside of the UK

 

– don’t bother turning up if you want Islamic-conference style fizz-bang-wallop. And before you say Ilmfest, that’s different. =)

 

– this is for those who are in it to win it. We’re here for the long haul. We’re talking years here folks, not days. Don’t be scared off though. We’ll be chilling along the way too. =)

 

All questions can be directed to the team here at http://propheticguidance.co.uk/register/faq/ and those who haven’t registered can do it here http://propheticguidance.co.uk/register/ and those who use only Facebook can hook up here https://www.facebook.com/events/150237775122651/?fref=ts

 

Don’t delay, keep the Shaytan at bay, register today, let’s do Deen the AE Easy-E way and I can’t rap.

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How Shaytan Causes Enmity Between People

“A word can also be one of the means used by Satan to stir enmity; it is sometimes perceived in a different meaning in people’s conversation; so it creates an environment of hatred. It is for this reason that Allah swt has ordered us to utter only good expressions: “Say to My slaves that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between you. Satan is an outright enemy to man.” Surah al Israa, verse 53.

Sayyid Qutb said, interpreting the verse, that people should say what is best all the time and regarding every matter; they should select the good expressions, in order to prevent Satan from disturbing their love and friendship. Satan creates enmity between brothers with just one vulgar word slipped, which would be followed by a bad reply; so a spirit of love and affection would change into one of controversy and enmity. A good word heals any injury of the heart and encourages everyone to respect one another.”

Source:

How to Protect Yourself From Jinn and Shaytan by Waheed Abdulsalaam Baly

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Street Sweeper’s Life Transforms in Makkah

An expatriate working as a street sweeper in Makkah saw his life change in a blink during the Haj season after his estranged brother sought to make amends for wronging him by returning his share of the family fortune.

The Bangladeshi man was sweeping Taneem Street in Makkah when an old man wearing the Ihram cloth of Haj pilgrims crossed the busy road and embraced him warmly much to the perplexity of passersby. However, the sweeper returned the embrace, indicating his familiarity with the older man.

The embrace in fact was between two brothers who had not seen each other for more than five years in the aftermath of a bitter dispute over inheritance rights, Saudi news site Sabq reported. The two men were from a wealthy family in Bangladesh, but the older brother had refused to give his sibling his share of the inheritance estimated at 17 million Saudi riyals (Dh16.64 million) in cash in addition to several properties.

The older man even managed to have his younger brother sent to prison whenever he asked for his share. The younger brother, disappointed and dejected, opted to leave Bangladesh and work as a sweeper in the holy city of Makkah. As it turns out, the sweeper has become a millionaire in his home country.
Read more: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/street-sweeper-s-life-transforms-in-makkah-1.1097619#.UKsPWHrJWNM.twitter

 

O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. [Surah An Nisaa; ayah 1]

 

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Close the Door

“So keep yourself busy with closing the door to evil and corruption before you become unable to close it, instead of keeping yourself busy wondering about the one who made the door and how come he did not keep it closed…” 

Shaykh Saalih al Munajjid

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7 Habits: How to Start Building Your Productive​Muslim Lifestyle

How to Start Building Your Productive​Muslim Lifestyle

How to Start Building Your Productive Muslim Lifestyle - Productive Muslim

So you’ve read every ProductiveMuslim article/e-mail so far, you’ve attended our seminars and other seminars on being productive, active, focused, etc. The question in your mind: How do I put the knowledge in my mind into a practical solution that would help turn my life around?

Build the Right Habits

The key to turning around your life and embedding all that you’ve learned into a practical day-to-day solution is to build that into a series of daily habits. Habits have 3 main parts:

1. Trigger: something that kicks off the habit. It could be a particular time (e.g. 4:00am) or a sound (e.g. athan) or a feeling (e.g. stress). Any trigger psychological, emotional, physical or external which alerts you that it’s time to start a habit.

2. Routine: this follows the trigger, so perhaps you have a 4:00am trigger that makes you jump out bed, brush your teeth, make wudhu, and get ready for Fajr. Routine is the set of steps you’ll consistently make – initially concisously, but eventually unconciously- every time the trigger goes off.

3. Reward: this is the prize that your brain craves at the end of each habit. Continuing the above example, this could be the feeling of calmness after Fajr prayer, or the feeling that your teeth are clean after brushing them.

For any habit to be ingrained (consciously or unconsciously), it needs those 3 elements, and if you observe your life today you’ll notice many habits that have been developed without even thinking about them.  The beauty of building habits is that once a habit is firmly ingrained in your life, it becomes effortless. Notice how some of our parents or grandparents wake up so effortlessly for Fajr prayer, even without an alarm; that’s the power of habits!

So which habits do you need to develop so you can bring all the components of ProductiveMuslim lifestyle together? I’ve identified 7 Productive habits below:

1. Morning Routine Habits

Your morning is the start of your day and it’s an extremely important aspect to getting a head start at your new productive lifestyle. This begins by looking at your morning and understanding how to overhaul it. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: “When you make over your mornings, you can make over your life. That is what the most successful people know.” You can click to learn about what the ’perfect’ ProductiveMuslim morning routine should be; but, as a basic minimum, the following should be the cornerstones of your morning routine:

  • Fajr Prayer: Needless to say, your day should at a minimum start with Fajr athan. The benefits of this prayer, not just from a spiritual point of view, but physiological and emotional point of view, is immense and you don’t want to miss it. If you’re strugging to wake up for Fajr, check out our “How to Wake Up For Fajr?” Series.
  • Athkar + Quran: After Fajr prayer, it’ll be time for your “Spiritual Breakfast” with the Morning Remembrances (Insert link to MRDF PDF on Morning/evening supplication) and Recitations of Quran. This is one of the 7 Spiritually Productive Habits we recommend you keep up each day.
  • Exercise: You might think that you exercise to keep your body healthy and looking good, but reality, exercise benefits the brain far more than your body! It helps you to be more focused, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves your capacity to learn (Insert amazon affiliate link to SPARK: The new science of exercise and the brain). Mornings are the best time for you to build your exercise habit, since you still have a reservoir of willpower to draw from, compared to when you reach the end of the day and you’re exhausted and just want to relax. Research has shown that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to continue exercising habitually (i.e. once a week) compared with those who don’t exercise in the morning.
  • Planning your day: Getting into the habit of planning your day instead of jumping straight into it with work/activities can immensely improve your productivity. You’ll identify your M.I.Ts (Most Important Tasks) for the day, arrange/rearrange your schedule to fit certain important commitments that have come up in the last few days and simply make yourself feel in control which is a key to leading a productive life. A tip here for planning your day: divide your day in “chunks of time.” These are blocks of time which you’ll commit to do something in them, e.g. after Fajr until 8:00am. Then 9:am – 12:pm…etc. It’ll help you allocate certain tasks to certain chunks of time and develop habits to do those same tasks around those specific chunks of time (e.g. I do most of my writing in my early hour “chunk” of 6:00am – 8:00am).
  • Breakfast: This should be the reward for your morning habits. If you successfully managed to wake up early, pray Fajr, did your athkar, recited Quran, exercised and planned your day, then treat yourself to a hearty healthy breakfast which will load you with  energy to continue being productive for the rest of the morning.

2. Commuting Habits

Another very important habit to be concious of is what you do in your daily commutes to work/school. Most people spend on average about 30-45 minutes commuting to work/school, and in some cities this stretches to 2-3 hours. Instead of wasting these hours, build your daily commutes to include productive activities such as listening to beneficial audiobooks/podcasts, planning your day, journaling, thinking strategically for the year, etc. [Check out our “Productive Commuting” article for more tips on how to commute “Productivemuslim style!”]

3. 1st Hour at Work Habits

What you do in the first hour of work will determine how Productive you’ll be for the rest of the day. Thus, developing the right habits for the first hour of your work is crucial to building a Productive lifestyle at work. The most important habit to STOP yourself doing is checking e-mails first thing in the morning! Many productivity experts advise against such a habit because it truly makes you submit to other people’s “urgent” demands and requests and you’re not in control on what gets done first.

Here’s a brief routine I’ve adopted for my 1st hour at work:
a. Read a book related to my work/career (or study for a certification/professional exam) (30 minutes)
b. Plan my work day hour by hour (10 minutes)
c. Start working on my Most important tasks first (20 minutes or more)
If you’re interested what the rest of your day should look like at work, check out ProductiveMuslim’s Work Routine Article.

4. Focus Habits

We live in an age where attention is limited more so than time. Therefore, cultivating the habit of staying ruthlessly focused in whatever you do is an extremely crucial skill to develop in this age of distractions. However, being able to focus is a habit just like other habits and you need to develop it, this includes:

  • Removing distractions from around you:
    • Turn off non-urgent notifications on all your devices (laptops/phones/etc). Remove the “pings” that only serve to distract you.
    • Do NOT check your phones obsessively (put your phone in the drawer!)
    • Practice the Pomodoro technique for each task you perform (1 task, 25 minutes, nothing else).
  • Simplify your life: Try not to clutter your life with so many projects or things to do that you can’t focus. Your motto should be: Simplify.
    • Make your desk nice and clean and remove the clutter of paperwork on your desk (Try to put all the stuff on your desk on the floor and only the item you’re working on on your desk, your focus will improve immensely!)
    • Make your desktop computer/laptop clean and remove unnecessary files/shortcuts from your computer screen (resist the temptation of having 10 programs open at once! It’ll only slow your computer down and not help you focus).
    • Avoid multi-tasking and adopt the art of uni-tasking; one task at a time. Neuroscientists have found that our brains are ineffecient at thinking of 2 things at the same time.

 5. After Work Habits

We normally think that we only need to be productive at work and once we come home we can be lazy, unproductive couch potatoes! One thing we advocate at ProductiveMuslim is to lead holistic lifestyles that balances one’s performance at each area of his/her life. This is inspired by the hadeeth of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who said: “Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you” [Bukhari].

As I normally say in my seminar, if you’re the most successful CEO in the planet but a failed family man, you’ll be held accountable for that. We’ve laid out what a ProductiveMuslim routine should be after work, including taking a shower, quiet time for remembrance of Allah, and dinner with family.

6. Weekly Review Habits

Every week, make it a habit to take 1-2 hours of your daily life to pause and think about every aspect of your life:

  • Your spirituality/Deen
  • Your Health
  • Your family life
  • Your work/study/career life
  • Your community life
  • Your personal development/manners

Do a review about each of these aspects and ask yourself questions such as:

  • How am I doing in each category?
  • What can I do to improve?
  • What actionable thing can I do next week to grow in this area?

These weekly reviews are habits of highly successful people who reflect and adjust their daily lives so that overall they achieve success in dunya and akhira. However, if you do not do a weekly review, you might tread a path that years later you’ll realise may not have been the best option.

7. Sleep Habits

Sleeping is a ritual that one must take care of, because how you sleep and when you sleep will have an immense effect on how you’ll be productive each day. We’ve covered what a ProductiveMuslim night routine should be in the following articles: ProductiveMuslim Sleep Routine and How to master your sleep during Ramadan.

This is it… the 7 habits of highly productive Muslims that brings together all that we’ve shared over the past years on this website!

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The Hidden Secret

Translated by Abu Sabaya

“…We can prove the existence of this secret with tangible evidence from the words of those who do not believe in the Hereafter but who do believe in being active and energetic, and believe in the necessity of making good use of their time. We will present this only for the sake of knowledge and comparison, nothing else.

Many studies have been carried out regarding the subject of human potential and the extent and power of this potential, and this is a topic that we can all gain something from. Everyone who studies the human being and his hidden potential says that it is something quite extraordinary! The human – any human – has unbelievable hidden reserves of power and energy! Let’s take a normal person with an average level of intelligence. If we tap into his hidden potential, it is possible for this person to become from the greatest geniuses – greater than we can imagine – and it is possible for him to be from the greatest leaders in the world, and it is possible for him to be from the greatest authors in the world, and it is possible for him to be from the greatest scientists in the world.

How?

They say that this potential is reserved and exists. However, it needs something to tap into it and bring it out.

For example, take the long distance swimming marathon race – and it is from the practices and innovations of Greek jahiliyyah and religion. They made it a religious ritual in which they race around the Alps, which they considered to be a holy mountain, saying that the gods live in these mountains. These are all false religious beliefs that have spread around the world since then. So, if the one who races ten or twenty kilometers runs out of energy and quits, the doctors who observe him will say that he still has hidden energy reserves until now – an natural, organic reserve of energy that is endless. This is indeed something amazing.

So, what is the proof for this?

They say that if someone who is in a race and becomes exhausted and quits suddenly encounters a hungry lion who is trying to eat him, he will get up and run away as fast as he can. So, subhan Allah! Where did he get this energy? Did it descend from the sky? They say that this is proof that these hidden reserves of energy exist, and it is possible for the racer to take advantage of them in the time he has left to win the race. The only limiting factor is the weakness of whatever is being used to tap these reserves and bring them out. If such a factor exists and is strong, these reserves will be accessed on a greater scale.

What if we were to apply this principle to the reality of the first generation – the Companions – and how they were?

They were regular bedouins, just like all of the Arabs. They included those from Quraysh – and they are a virtuous people – and those from Banu Tamim and Yemen, just like other people. However, when they believed and entered Islam, look at how their potential and abilities were tapped!

For example, look at ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud. He was a sheep herder on the outskirts of Makkah, and there have been thousands and millions of other sheep herders throughout history. However, when this herder and the other Companions believed and entered Islam, they became transformed into something amazing. He was from the most famous scholars of the city of Kufah in the Islamic state, which is famous all over the world. People would travel there from all over to visit ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud, the sheep herder! How was his potential tapped and how was his hidden power brought out?

So, the entire issue has to do with what it is that brings it out. This instigating factor would come to the Companions – and I ask Allah to grant us this in our hearts – and you would never see from them one who sought Paradise or was escaping from Hell sleeping.

One of the Salaf said: “Whenever I want to sleep, I would remember Paradise or Hell and jump up like someone who was crazy, and I’d be unable to sleep afterwards.” Subhan Allah, he would recite the Qur’an and pray, he would want to sit down, and he would suddenly remember an obligation he had of Jihad, enjoining the good and preventing the bad, etc. So, how can you make this a time to relax while for him it is a powerful instigator?

Praise Allah that this is the nature of the believer, as it can be the case that he is sleeping on his bed, has one of his brothers ask his help in something, and he then wakes up and becomes enthusiastic in fulfilling this task. It is as if he didn’t want to sleep in the first place and was instead looking for something to do, and he might even spend long hours doing whatever it is his brother asked of him. Here, we come to know the secret of the victories of the Companions, as all of their hidden potential was tapped. There is the Paradise, and you want to sleep. Suddenly, you remember the maidens and servants that are in it, just like the Companion said: “There is nothing between me and Paradise except for me to be killed.” So, he threw away some dates he was eating and entered the battlefield because this is Paradise, and the strongest instigator is for you to remember Paradise and go forth to do something, or for you to remember Hell and step back from doing something.

This is why the believer can turn away from the most intense, strongest, pressing desires, just as what happened with Prophet Yusuf. In fact, this happened to the man who was trapped in the cave when his cousin came and they were about to sleep together, and she said: “Fear Allah and do not break the seal unlawfully!” So, the fear of Allah came to him while his lust was thriving, and he left it all for Allah because this thing came to him that was stronger than every lust and stronger than every desire and stronger than every instigator. So, the person forgets everything and goes back to being strong and upright, and he uses this energy and power in something good.

One of the Salaf was very old, and he was very pious even in his old age. So, the people were amazed and said: “An old man who is able to maintain his piety to this level?” So, he replied: “I protected these limbs from what Allah had forbidden when I was young, and He protected them for me when I became old.” Amazing! The energy and potential is still there!

So, look at the potential that Allah has given us. Concentrate on it and you will find the most amazing things. However, this potential is like petroleum: if its owner leaves it to spill on the ground, nobody will gain anything from it. However, if he puts it in his car and starts the engine, the car will move with the permission of Allah…”

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Counseling Tips: Don’t make rookie mistakes

Bismillah walhamdulillah

A few things to keep in mind so that you don’t make rookie mistakes (like I did):

  • Seeing it through their lens and Defining terms. Don’t worry about trying to understand everything about the client through your own lens. Try to see it from their lens, and one way to do this is to ask them to define their terms. Don’t let them say “I feel lonely,” without getting them to define what “lonely” means to them. Yes, I know you know what lonely means. That’s what lonely means to you. Find out what it means to them. And what are the implications of being lonely?
  • Try not to show approval or disapproval towards things that the client is saying. They probably already know what is right and wrong. If that’s what their problem was, they would ask you “Is this right/wrong?” If this is not what they wanted, by expressing your approval or disapproval, you’re essentially letting them know what you’d like to hear from them and what you’d dislike. They will then alter themselves accordingly. That doesn’t mean their problems are solved, it just means they’re going to only tell you what they think you want to hear. The goal is not to encourage them to share everything with complete disregard, but to allow them to mention what they feel is necessary in terms of finding a solution.
  • Realize that you are only hearing a piece of it. Your client is one person. Their issues will usually involve other people. Realize that you will always hear one side of the story.
  • Giving advice. Don’t be too focused on giving the client advice, especially not right away. Just hear them out first. Sometimes giving someone that space to talk is therapeutic in and of itself without you interjecting with what you think they should do. If it looks like they want advice, don’t just give it straight away.  Ask them what they want you to say. What kind of advice would they like to hear. The answer should be an interesting point to launch from.
  • “I was in that same position!” – The problem of trying to “identify.” Don’t identify with the villains in the client’s stories. Sometimes the client will tell you about a huge issue between them and their best friend and after explaining the entire situation to you, the worst thing you can say is “I know exactly what that feels like, the same exact thing happened to me. Except I was in the position of your friend.” You know what she’s probably thinking now? …. ” Great, now I don’t wanna hear anything you have to say.” In my opinion, what’s best is to remain neutral and not identify with anyone. People are very inclined to identify with the client too, and this isn’t necessary. You can advise them without admitting that you were in the same mess a few years ago.
  • Don’t react to them and don’t reciprocate. Some people have a way of being and acting that makes other people act differently too. It’s good to make a note of this to yourself, but be aware of it, and remain who you are. Example: Your client may be someone with an attitude. Now you feel like putting her in her place. But don’t. Stay calm and neutral, alter yourself if you have to. And when the time is right, you will have a chance to point this out to her, gently (I’ll mention ways to do that later, inshaa’Allah). She’s probably used to people reacting to her in a certain way, and it’ll catch her off guard to see you behaving differently from what she is used to, and it may open up her heart to listening to what you have to say.

More to come inshaa’Allah

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Counseling Tip: Someone is complaining of family problems

Bismillah walhamdulillah

Someone comes to you and begins to complain of a terrible relationship that they have with someone in their family, or better yet, with their entire family!

“My mom and I just don’t get along, it’s been like this for years. She’ll never change.”

“Me and my sister are always going at it, and I can’t take it anymore! What should I do?”

And so on.

After providing them with a space to talk and feel understood, try these tips:

  • Try to get them to role-play an actual argument that occurs, so they can feel what it’s like to be on the other side, and so that they can hear themselves.
  • Gently get them to assume responsibility for any of the friction in the relationship. Don’t fall for the “it’s not my fault” bit. Remember that the counselor always receives a biased and one-sided account. Encourage them to be un-biased and to assume some responsbility, even if it is just a little.
  • Ask them if it is important for them to improve the relationship, and if it is, ask them if there is anything about themselves that they can change in order to improve it. They will probably respond with a reasonable course of action they can take like “Maybe I can do the dishes more often.” Work with them to make the plan more specific and very do-able. This includes any possible hurdles that may come in the way and solutions for those possible hurdles.

An example:

“Is there a possible outcome that you’re afraid of, something that would happen as a result of you starting to do the dishes more often?”

“Yeah, she’s going to think she won.”

Now you have something to work with.

A possible way to respond: “What does it mean to you to “win?”

Sometimes it helps for them to just hear themselves answer these questions.

  • Final tip: Point out to yourself, and then to them, any patterns that you notice in the troubled relationships. Then inform them that if they can alter certain things about themselves and their own interactions, that relationship can change and in fact, the entire dynamics of the family can change. Every family has a set of unspoken rules. There are so many of them that sometimes we don’t even realize they’re there. Some of these rules need to be broken, so that those harmful patterns can be broken. [An interesting side point: Many times we see an entire nuclear family take a 180 degree turn in a matter of years, and all it took was for one person in that family to be guided and to turn towards the deen. This person then begins to break many different unspoken (and harmful) rules, has excellent manners in a house that is not used to such manners, is sincere, consistent and steadfast, and eventually everyone’s heart is turned, walhamdulillah.]

waAllahu Alam

[Some ideas taken from] Reference: The Gift of Therapy by Irvin D. Yalom; published 2002

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