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4 Personal Development Lessons from Surah Al-Kahf

Virtues of Surah Al-Kahf

From the established Islamic traditions for Fridays is to recite Surah Al-Kahf. Regarding this, the ProSurah Al-Kahfphet (peace be upon him) stated, “Whoever recites Surah Al-Kahf on the day of Jumu’ah, will have a light that will shine from him from one Friday to the next.” (Bayhaqi)

One of the meanings of ‘light’ in such contexts is guidance. This means that Surah Al-Kahf serves as a means of guidance for those who recite and reflect upon it once a week. As part of our weekly reflection on Surah Al-Kahf, here are four Personal Development lessons extracted from the four core stories of Surah Al-Kahf.

1. Focus on what is within your control

A common lesson in personal development is the motto: “Do not allow what is outside your control to stop you from doing what is within your control,” The people of the cave personify this lesson. These were a small group of seven believers in a town which wanted to harm them.

Not many options were available for them, but they focused on the few options they did have. They did have the choice to believe, so they did. They did have the option to leave town, so they went to the save. And they have the power of dua, so they invested in it and were saved through a miracle.

The lesson is clear: Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. Allah will take care of the rest.

2. Wealth is not success. It is what you do with it that matters.

The second story of Surah Al-Kahf focuses on the parable of a wealthy farmer who was deluded by his wealth. He began to boast and look down upon others, and eventually he lost everything. This story teaches us that wealth is temporary and is not the true measure of success. Wealthy people can fall and poor people can rise up. These changes in financial situations occur all the time.

As believers, we see wealth not as success but as a tool and resource. It can be used for success if we use our wealth to do good deeds and help others. When we have  wealth, we need to do the opposite of this man. We need to stay humble, thank Allah, care for others, and utilize that wealth to benefit the ummah. In this lies the real success.

3. Benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of others

True Personal Development requires us to humble ourselves and learn from others. Whether it is through their books, articles, lectures, workshops or personal mentorship, we learn from others and cannot learn on our own.

In Surah Al-Kahf, we see the example of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) travelling a great distance to meet and learn from the wise Prophet Khidr (peace be upon him).

Prophet Musa’s (peace be upon him) long journey and willingness to learn from others should inspire us to be the same. Whether it is Islamic knowledge or personal development, we rely on those with more knowledge than us to grow. We need to humble ourselves in order to learn from them.

4. True Leadership is about justice

The final story in Surah Al-Kahf is about Dhul Qarnayn. He was a leader and Allah gave him power over many countries. Allah tested him with power and said that he had the ability to treat people kindly or punish them. Dhul Qarnayn passed the test by choosing the middle way: Justice.

Dhul Qarnayn chose to be kind to good citizens and punish the criminals. In doing so, he showed us the true meaning of leadership. Leaders don’t treat everybody the same. They do not treat the criminals and law abiding citizens the same. This is not justice. Justice means protecting those who are good by punishing the criminals.

Islam teaches us to be just, even if it is against our own selves and our own families. This justice is something we all must learn if we wish to succeed in leadership roles. We must not favor people due to family relations or other reasons. Each situation must be viewed objectively and each individual dealt with justly.

Conclusion

Surah Al-Kahf is a powerful Surah full of amazing lessons. The more you reflect on it, the more you learn. Try reflecting on it from new perspectives and you will gain new lessons. Let us try to do this during our Friday recitations.

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6 Spiritual causes of increasing Rizq

Increasing Rizq

Rizq (sustenance) includes many things: wealth, health, food, intelligence, resources, time, and life itself. All of these are things which Allah provides us with As Muslims, we believe that Allah is Ar-Razzaq (The Ultimate Provider) and that everything we have is from Him. Increasing Rizq is something that every iIncreasing Rizqndividual desires, although their intentions may differ.

Some people want more of this world for wrong intentions, for materialistic reasons. This article is not for such people. The six acts of ibaadah outlined in this article assist the righteous in increasing their Rizq. They are spiritual causes of increase and will only benefit those with sincere intentions.

As believers, we should seek more Rizq so that we can use it for noble purposes which include: taking care of our families, assisting others, earning Paradise, and uplifting the community. We should seek increasing Rizq for such reasons and not selfish gain. With these intentions clarified, here are six spiritual causes of increase in Rizq, all extracted from Quran and Sunnah:

6 Causes of increasing Rizq

1. Taqwa

“And whoever has taqwa of Allah, He will make for him a way out, and He will provide for him from where he does not expect.” (Surah At-Talaq 65:2-3)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Quran. Multiple times in my life, I have witnessed and experienced people of Taqwa receiving Rizq from where they never imagined. This is the promise of Allah and Allah’s promise is always true. Increasing our Taqwa, and remaining firm on that Taqwa during times of trial, is the first and most fundamental step to experiencing miracles when it comes to Rizq. Taqwa is key to success.

2. Tawakul

“And whoever has Tawakul in Allah, then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.” (Surah At-Talaq 65:3)

The second half of the above verse is often left out of our conversations. The first half emphasizes Taqwa, and the second half emphasizes Tawakul. Tawakul means to work your hardest, while remaining convinced that Allah will provide for you what is best for you. It is keeping strong faith in Allah’s assistance, even in the most difficult times. Tawakul is a crucial key for unlocking increased Rizq.

3. Charity

“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over?” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:245)

We shouldn’t give charity just to experience increase in Rizq. We should give charity to assist the poor and help others improve their lives. Nonetheless, the returns on giving charity are multiplied ten times over or more, depending on the sincerity of the intention and the quality of the charity. Generosity is a common factor you will found among all righteous Muslims who experience high levels of Rizq. It is the multiplier. If someone has Taqwa and Tawakul, and also gives a lot of charity, then they can expect their Rizq to multiply beyond their imagination.

4. Gratitude

“And when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you, but if you are ungrateful, then My punishment is severe.’ ” (Surah Ibrahim 14:7)

The fourth rule of increasing Rizq is to be grateful for whatever Allah has currently given you, no matter how little you feel you have. The general rule is that complaining leads to decrease and gratitude leads to increase. Take a look at everything Allah has currently given you and thank Allah for each and every thing. Make gratitude a part of your daily routine.

5. Istighfaar

“And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers. And give you increase in wealth and children and provide for you gardens and provide for you rivers.” (Surah Nooh 71:10-12)

The fifth point is taken from the advice of Prophet Nuh (Peace be upon him) to his people. He informed his people that if they repented, then Allah would increase their Rizq. The verse mentions rain, wealth, children, gardens, and rivers. All of these are Rizq. So the fifth step is simple: we all sin every day, so we should all seek Allah’s forgiveness multiple times a day. This Istighfaar causes Barakah and increase in Rizq.

6. Maintaining Family Ties

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever would like his Rizq  increased and his life extended, should uphold the family ties.’ (Saheeh Bukhari)

The final step is to maintain family ties. A true believer does not break ties with family, and goes out of his/her way to forgive and move on. When we do whatever we can to maintain family ties, the reward is increased Rizq and increased lifespan. This is the Barakah of maintaining family ties.

Final Reminder

Remember that Dunya is just a means to an end. It is the pleasure of Allah is most important. Increase in Rizq is not worth much if we do not use that Rizq to earn Allah’s pleasure. Remember that increased Rizq also means increased accountability on the Last Day. Remember that we will be answerable for our wealth, time and health, and Allah will ask us what we did with all these gifts He gave us.

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The Paradox Of Working Smarter

By Sarah Masud

“His command is only when He intends a thing, He says to it “Be”, and it is.” 
(Surah Yaseen 36:82)

Nothing is impossible for Allah. If he wished he could have established Islam by saying ‘Be’. If he willed he could have had every person be born as an obedient Muslim. Yet it was Allah’s plan that things should take their natural course. From Prophet Adam (pbuh) to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), many generations passed. Many civilizations came up, and were destroyed.

So many prophets and messengers appeared through the course of establishment of Islam, not one without a story of struggle and patience. Pondering upon this fact made me wonder. If someone of utmost supremacy did not apply any shortcuts to establish His religion, then what makes us, the humans, think that we can take shortcuts to success. Haughtiness and stupidity, I guess.

The phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ has become the anthem for today’s generation. Some of us are ready to gamble money in lottery to become rich overnight. Others are willing to take unapproved medicine to lose fat, without any exercise. We are fooling ourselves in the alchemy of success, without investing an iota of time on self improvement. We have become a short sighted generation, focused on instant gratification.

But these shortcuts to success are momentary. They in turn cut short our chances of success, depriving us of a lifetime of achievements and contentment. These shortcuts to success bring more harm than good. They are a digression from the path of righteous. And who does greater wrong to himself, than he who digresses and is led astray by the Satan.

Working Hard and SmartWorking Hard

Working smarter cannot be a substitute for hard work. These two aspects are not antithesis of each other. In fact, they are complimentary. One has to work hard to achieve success. It is only during those years of earnest hard work does one realize his strengths and weakness, leaving room for improvement. It takes years to learn the tricks of any trade, and become smart. In short, you first work hard to attain smartness, and then work hard to sustain that smartness.

Learning to be smart at work is like a return on investment on the hard work you put in. The more you work hard, the smarter your working becomes. So stop roaming the blind alleys of shortcuts. Be smart, and work hard.

“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives, and that his effort is going to be seen. Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.”
Surah An-Najm 53:39-41

About the author: Sarah Masud is a Data Science intern at Red Hat Inc. She loves to read and write in her spare time.

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25 Islamic Quotes About Adversity

Adversity – Life is a TestIslamic Quotes

Allah created this world to test us. This test separates the people of Paradise from the people of Hellfire. As a result, we should all be ready to be tested in different ways. Sometimes we are tested with success and sometimes we are tested with adversity. To help you deal with the latter, here are 25 Islamic Quotes to remember when dealing with adversity.

25 Islamic Quotes about adversity

10 Quotes from Quran:

  1. “Then Indeed, with difficulty there is ease. Indeed, with difficulty, there is ease,” (Surah Al-Inshiraa 94:5-6)
  2. “Verily, We shall test you with some fear, and hunger, and with some loss of wealth, lives, and offspring. So give good news to those who are patient. Those who say, when inflicted by hardship, ‘Verily to Allah we belong, and verily to Him shall we return,’ Upon them is the blessings of Allah and His mercy. And they are the rightly guided.”(Surah Al-Baqarah 2:155-157)
  3. “Verily, We created man from a drop of mingled sperm so that We may test him; and We granted him the ability to listen and observe. We have indeed shown him the way, so he (may choose to) be grateful or ungrateful.” (Surah Ad-Dahr 76:2-3)
  4. “And when the believers saw the Confederates, they said: ‘This is what Allah and His Messenger had promised us, and Allah and His Messenger had spoken the truth,’ and it only increased their faith and submission.” (Surah Ahzaab 33:22)
  5. “Verily, We have made whatever is on the earth beautiful for it, so thatWe may test them as to which of them are best in deeds.” (Surah al-Kahf 18:7)
  6. “Allah does not test a soul with more than it can handle. For it is what it has earned and against it is what it has earned. Our Lord, do not hold us accountable when we forget or make mistakes. Our lord, do not place on us such burdens like how you placed those before us. Our Lord, do not make us bear that which is beyond our abilities. Overlook us, Forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Lord, so assist us against the disbelieving people,” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:185)
  7. “And whoever fears Allah, He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies on Allah, then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose.” (Surah At-Talaaq 65:2-3)
  8. “Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He displeased. Definitely, what is to come is better than what has passed. Soon your Lord will grant you, and you will be pleased. (Surah Ad-Duha 93:3-5)
  9. “Oh soul in a state of inner peace. Return to your Lord, pleased and pleasing. So enter among my worshipers, and enter my Paradise,” (Surah Al-Fajr 89:27-30)
  10. “And those who had Taqwa of their Lord will be led to Paradise in groups. Until, when they reach it, its doors will be (already) open, and its guards will say: ‘Peace be upon you! You have done well! So enter it forever!'” (Surah Az-Zumar 39:73)

10 Quotes from Hadith:

  1. “Amazing is the affair of the believer. Definitely, all of his life is good and this is not for anybody except the believer. If something of good happens to him, he is grateful and that is good for him. If something harmful befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him.” (Saheeh Muslim)
  2. “I am as My servant thinks of Me. I am with him when he remembers Me. If he mentions Me within himself, I mention him within Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in a better assembly. If he comes near to Me a hand-span, I come near to him the distance of a cubit. If he comes near to Me the distance of a cubit, I come near to him the distance of two outspread arms. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
  3. “Be in this world like a stranger or a traveler passing by.” (Saheeh Bukhari)
  4. “Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
  5. “Allah the Almighty has said: ‘O Son of Adam, as long as you invoke Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and you then asked forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the Earth, and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it [too].” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
  6. “Verily Allah has pardoned for me my ummah: their mistakes, their forgetfulness, and that which they have been forced to do under duress.” (Ibn Majah)
  7. “(The most severely tested people) are the prophets, then those closest to them in piety, then those closest to them in piety. A man is tried according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, then his trials will be more severe. If he is weak in his religion, then he is tried according to his strength in religion. The servant will continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
  8. “Verily, Allah has one hundred portions of mercy. From one portion the creation has been given mercy between themselves and ninety nine portions are reserved for the Day of Resurrection.” (Saheeh Muslim)
  9. “When Allah decreed the creation, he wrote in his Book with him on his Throne: My mercy prevails over my wrath.” (Saheeh Bukhari)
  10. “Our Lord descends to the heaven on the last third of every night, and he says: Who is calling upon me that I may answer him? Who is asking from me that I may give him? Who is seeking my forgiveness that I may forgive him?” (Saheeh Bukhari)

5 Quotes from the Salaf:

  1. “He whom Allah has predestined to enter Paradise, the reasons which will cause his entrance shall spring from calamities. And he whom Allah has predestined to enter the Hellfire, the reasons which will cause his entrance shall spring from lusts.” (Ibn Al-Qayyim)
  2. “A calamity that makes you turn to Allah is better for you then a blessing which makes you forget the remembrance of Allah” (Ibn Taymiyah)
  3. “There is a blessing in calamity that the wise man should not ignore, for it erases sins, gives one the opportunity to attain the reward for patience, dispels negligence, reminds one of blessings at the time of health, calls one to repent and encourages one to give charity.” (Al-Fadl Ibn Saleh)
  4. Imam Shafi’ee was asked: “What’s better for the believer, to be tested, or to be given power (to do good)?” He said: “And how can one be given power for good without first being tested? Allah tested Yusuf, peace be upon him, then He gave him power.”(Imam Shafi’ee)
  5. “The soul will never become pious and purified except through undergoing afflictions. It is the same as gold that can never be pure except after removing all the base metals in it.” (Ibn Al-Qayyim)

May Allah grant us all patience at times of difficulty, and gratitude at times of ease.

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Homeschooling: Are You “Trending”?

Homeschooling

Homeschooling: Are You “Trending”?

Guest Post by Umm Warda

A decade ago, homeschooling was relatively unknown, at least in my area.  On hearing that someone had decided to homeschool their children, the responses would typically range from confusion and incomprehension, to actual outrage that parents would “deprive” their children of a “real” education.

Today, homeschooling is a much more familiar phenomenon in many communities, with most people knowing someone who is going the homeschooling route.  More and more books are being published on the topic, and there is a growing market for resources for homeschoolers.  This is, no doubt, a good thing.  However, like any other change in society, it needs to be set in the correct context.

Some time ago, I read a post by a sister who had been homeschooling her daughter.  She was delighted at the fact that her 14 year old daughter had been accepted into college to study Art.  The post raised several questions and doubts in my mind, especially the question of why we are homeschooling in the first place.

Following a Trend

Humans are, by nature, social creatures, and they tend to copy the behavior of their peers.  When something starts becoming popular in a small group, you will soon see it rippling outwards and becoming popular among the larger community.  It seems to be – and I may be wrong – that homeschooling is in the early stages of becoming such a trend.

While there is nothing wrong with spreading good and beneficial practices. In fact, it is recommended in Islam. We must be careful to adhere to the original goals of homeschooling and not simply get caught up in “what’s in”.  As Muslims we should not be trend-followers.  The Prophet (SAW) had said, “Do not let yourselves be ‘Yes-men’ (i.e. following whatever the people do)…”[1]  We do specific things because they serve a specific purpose and have a beneficial outcome.  So before we begin homeschooling, we should think about our intentions and make sure we are doing it for the right reasons.

What are the Right Reasons?

Homeschooling has become popular amongst both Muslim communities and non-Muslim ones, but for different reasons.  Most non-Muslims like the fact that teaching only a few children means a better quality of education for each child. Which means getting into a good university (preferably at a younger age than their peers). Which in turn means getting a good job and a big salary. Basically, everything that they would define as success.

This “success”, however, is limited to this world.  As Muslims we should be planning for the Aakhirah.  Everything we do now should be done with the intention of it contributing to our Hereafter.

With this in mind, each parent needs to ask themselves: “What do I want to get out of homeschooling?”  If it’s only so that your child can have a diverse range of learning experiences, or score the highest marks on the board exam, or be the youngest in his year at university; then I’m afraid you need to recheck your priorities.

Yes, as Muslims we should aim high, and try and be the best at everything we do. This includes “worldly” studies.  But we must be clear about what takes precedence in our and our children’s lives.

Be Beneficial

The Prophet (SAW) said: “The best people are those most beneficial to [other] people.”[2]

Therefore, we should encourage our children to go into the areas that are most needed in our communities.  Look around for areas in which there are too few Muslims – Midwives?  Counsellors?   Fitness instructors for women?

If you have children whose characters may be suited to those fields, encourage them to go in that direction.  At the same time give them a strong Islamic foundation. There is little difference between a secular Muslim doctor and a non-Muslim one.

Furthermore, you can guide your children’s education in such a way that whatever he chooses to become, it can still contribute to his Aakhirah.  Does your son have head for business?  Instil in him a love for sadaqah, and the virtues of sponsoring the scholars and Imams.

Every characteristic that your child has should be moulded and shaped so that it can be beneficial to the Ummah, and not just so that he does what he enjoys for the sake of enjoyment.  Our children are seeds that have been given to us. We need to water and nurture them so that they can reach their full potential and help uplift this Ummah. Not waste their time in careers that are, let’s be honest, pointless.

Finding Balance

Of course there is room for hobbies in relaxation time, but they should not become the focus.  There is a big difference between playing soccer once a week with friends, and becoming a professional soccer player!

Therefore each parent needs to ask themselves the following questions:

“What do I truly want for my child(ren)?” and,

“What will best serve that goal?”

If we answer these two questions completely honestly, we will have a clearer picture of why we are homeschooling, and what we want our children to get out of it.

Allah (SWT) says in the Quraan: “…but of mankind there are some who say, ‘Our Lord!  Give us (Your Bounties) in this world!’ and for them there will be no portion in the Hereafter.  And of them are some who say, ‘Our Lord!  Give us in this world that which is good, and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire!’  For them there will be allotted a share of what they have earned, and Allah is Swift at Reckoning.” [Suratul Baqarah 2:200-202][3]

May Allah help us to make homeschooling a means of us being in the second category and not the first, Aameen.

References

[1] Jami’ at-Tirmdhi, Vol.4, no.2007 – Hasan

[2] As-Silsilah As-Saheehah, no.426 – Hasan

[3] Sahih International Translation

Umm Warda is wife, mother, and student of knowledge. She is currently in the 4th semester of IOU’s BAIS program and intends to seek knowledge until her last breath. Umm Warda grew up in a family of writers and thus had an appreciation for the written word instilled in her from a young age. She hopes that Allah makes her writings a source of guidance for others.

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