Keep stress at bay

Motivational Moments #8
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Everyone of us, without exception, faces stress to varying degrees.

The major problem behind stress and why we find it so hard to feel happy is that we as humans do things to please others. As we know, humans are hard to please, always demanding and expecting more. As a result, we get disappointed, which then leads to stress and keeps happiness away from us.

One of the major stress inducing factors is comparing oneself with others, especially with the ones who appear to have more than us. When we compare ourselves with others who are better than us, we go into a complex and instead of appreciating what we have, we start fretting over the things that we don’t have, thus causing depression and keeping us away from happiness.

A believer should never indulge in worldly comparisons as the Almighty has blessed each and everyone of us in different ways. However, if we were to compare, it should be a comparison with the ones who are below us in worldly matters but above us in terms of knowledge.

The approach of a believer should be that of pleasing our Creator, The Almighty. The reason why one should strive to seek the pleasure of the Almighty is the fact that He is the only One who will reward you, no matter how small your effort and any good done in His way does not go unrewarded.

People read different kinds of books in order to combat stress and try to achieve happiness. They look for quick fix solutions and seek help from therapists and medical specialists. They may get temporary relief but it will never get to the root of their problem. Truth be told, the solution is not that difficult.

For a believer, all he or she has to do is to follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu aleyhi wasallam) and the instructions laid out in the Noble Qur’an to keep stress at bay and pave the way for happiness. The Almighty, in His all-encompassing Wisdom has given the antidote and solution to every ailment we face and yet we neglect it and try to seek help elsewhere. Is it any wonder that we are currently in the state that we are in?

Time to ponder over this ….

Kindness in all matters

Motivational Moments #7
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Kindness without limit belongs to The Almighty alone and we see that attribute manifested in the purest form possible in our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

He not only preached the virtues of kindness but practically showed the virtues of kindness to all mankind as well as animals. He was a beacon of light not only for the Muslims but for the entire world. He would not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims and would treat all of them with the utmost kindness and compassion.

Kindness facilitates human understanding and reduces the chances of friction and conflict, which can be found in practically every walk of life. Islam teaches kindness towards all individuals, but more so towards certain categories, such as parents and orphans.

Acts of charity must also be accompanied by words of kindness. “Those who spend their wealth in the cause of the Almighty and afterward make not reproach and injury to follow that which they have spent, their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear to come upon them, neither shall they grieve.”

As Muslims we are also taught to speak kindly to the downtrodden, the less fortunate and the intellectually challenged; in essence to all His Creation, with no exception.

The main duty of a Muslim is enjoining righteousness and what is good and helping others take the straight path.

Remember that “every good deed is a charity.”

Likewise, the Noble Quran states, “Let there be a group among you who will invite others to do good deeds and enjoin what is right”. Therefore, regardless of the shape, size or color of a Muslim, goodness and kindness should be the chief qualities we display to others.

Kindness is highly regarded in Islam. “Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Allah loves kindness and gentleness in all matters, so we should try our best to show these qualities even when we face abuse and cruelty. On one occasion, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was insulted and cursed by his enemies but he did not return their curse or retaliate. Rather, he showed patience and forbearance and encouraged his companions to be kind.

Therefore, we should train ourselves and our children to be kind and gentle in all matters and even with animals and all of the Almighty’s creations. We should resist the temptation to indulge in what is cruel and evil. There are times when we have to let justice take its course, but we have to remember that the opportunity for repentance will always remain.

We ask the Almighty to beautify our manners with kindness and to protect us from falling into harshness.

“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.”

Immense bounties

Motivational Moments #6
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Ramadhan is the month in which the Almighty blesses us with immense bounties and showers His blessings more than any other time throughout the year. During this month, we are all advised to seek forgiveness and repentance. By doing so, it offers us a great opportunity to purify ourselves and start on a fresh slate.

We know that the Almighty is always there, ready to forgive those who have committed a sin and want to repent, but the month-long Ramadhan provides a great opportunity for us to repent and ask Him to forgive. We should never forget that no matter what we may have done, the doors for His forgiveness are open, up until the very last moments of our lives.

Seeking forgiveness has two benefits. First, it shows that a believer is conscious of His Creator. Second, the Almighty will grant blessings on those who repent and seek forgiveness.

In Ramadhan, we have increased ways of seeking forgiveness.

The fast itself, praying in the nights of Ramadhan and praying during the nights of Lailatul Qadr. Praying in the night of Lailatul Qadr is a cause of forgiveness in itself.

So seize the opportunity to increase and intensify all acts of worship to gain His Forgiveness and Pleasure.

During Ramadhan, the doors of mercy and forgiveness are open. How can we raise our hands and ask Him for forgiveness when we ourselves are not willing to forgive another human being?

So the next time you feel hurt because someone has wronged you, think of this.

To forgive is to give up your right to hate or hurt the person who hurts you. Hate hurts you physically, mentally and emotionally. When you forgive, you let peace, tranquility and happiness in.

The Almighty described the believers and said: “And those who avoid the major sins and immoralities, and when they are angry, they forgive.” [Ash-Shura 42:37]

This Ramadhan, let us try and forgive those who have hurt us. It shows strength, self confidence and a desire to be forgiven by the Almighty. Let us forgive our parents, spouse, relatives, friends, and co-workers and anyone else who may have hurt or wronged us.

As you can see, Ramadhan offers many sources of forgiveness. If you let this month pass by without seeking and being granted His Forgiveness, you have truly missed out. When then will you be forgiven, if not in this month? So don’t let ignorance and negligence overtake you. Use these blessed days and nights and seek His Forgiveness to get closer to Him.

Repentance

Motivational Moments #5
by Mufti Ismail Menk

“Every son of Adam sins and the best of those who sin are those who repent.”

Man is weak. Satan makes sin attractive so we wrong ourselves and do what the Almighty has forbidden us. But the Almighty is most merciful to us, His slaves. Whoever repents after committing a sin, the Almighty will accept his repentance, for our Lord is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful.

How do we ensure that our repentance is sincere and will be accepted by Him? We need to stop the sinful act. Regret deeply and feel remorse for the sin committed. Make a strong intention never to return to that same sin again.

So sincere repentance is not merely about words spoken on the tongue. Remember, the acceptance of repentance is subject to the condition that the person gives up the sin straight away, that he regrets what has happened in the past, that he resolves not to go back to the sin. And if his sin involves wrongdoing towards others, he needs to restore their rights as well.

The reality is many people find that their repentance starts off strong, but then slowly they get weaker and fall back into the same sin not long afterwards. So, we need to ensure that we stay true to our repentance and keep our promise to the Almighty.

Be conscious of Him. Remember Him often. Seek His help to stay away from the sin. Our Lord is ever merciful, ever forgiving. The mercy of the Almighty encompasses all things. If a person’s sins are very great and he has wronged himself very much, but he then repents, the Almighty will accept his repentance and will forgive his sins, no matter how great they are.

Repentance is the most noble and beloved form of obedience to the Almighty. He loves those who repent. Repentance has a status that no other form of worship has. Repentance also brings about a certain humbleness and a sense of helplessness. It makes us realize we are doomed without His Mercy.

So make it a point to repent quickly after the sin and combine it with firm faith and good deeds and you will feel yourself getting closer to the Almighty.

Sincerity is to the Almighty

Motivational Moments #4
by Mufti Ismail Menk

The Arabic word for sincerity is “IKHLAS.” Sincerity has been interpreted as being upright, truthful, pure, not showing off in one’s intention and conduct. We try to guard our hearts and to keep it as pure as possible.

Sincerity is therefore our intent to please the Almighty with our deeds and our devotion, without any ulterior or worldly motives. We need to be vigilant with our hearts and should only be concerned with His pleasure and His reward. The Almighty is the only One who can judge our actions to determine whether we are sincere. In particular, He knows whether a person commits good deeds out of genuine desire to please Him or merely to attain applause and approval of others.

Intention is everything in Islam. It is really our core. This is because all deeds are based on intention. Depending on the intention, the deed is deemed valid or void. This can make a difference between happiness or misery and reward or punishment. For example, two different persons might perform the same act, paying equal attention to it but one of them earns a reward while the other earns nothing or even punishment for it because the intentions were different in each case.

A Hadith reads, “Verily, deeds are rewarded by intention. And everyone will have the reward for that which the deed was intended.”

The big question is how do we ensure we are sincere to the Almighty in all that we do? Always ask Him to purify our hearts and to keep it sincere. Try to do things privately. Actions done in front of others are more prone to being insincere. In fact, we are told to hide our good deeds as we would hide our sins.

We should never be proud of our good deeds. Believing that our actions might be rejected by the Almighty will remind us to struggle even harder the next time. This should keep our actions sincere. We should therefore worship the Almighty sincerely and stay away from showing off and other evil intentions. We know that the Almighty does not look at our status and wealth, but rather at our hearts and actions.

All said and done, sincerity in intention basically boils down to a matter between you and your Creator; nobody else can know the real intentions why people do what they do, except the Almighty. A sincere person does not consider whether others will praise him or put him down. He doesn’t care about worldly recognition. Everything is done solely for the Almighty. We ask the Almighty to accept our actions and make us sincere in our actions.

Patience with sadness

Motivational Moments #3
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Sadness is a part of life. Our life consists of a series of emotions. There are two extremes: that of joy and happiness. The other is that of sadness and worry. In between all these is real life; what we go through daily, the highs, the lows, the mundane and boring and so forth. It is during such times that we must try to establish a connection with the Almighty. The stronger the connection, the less likely we are to plunge into depths of despair and extreme sadness.

The Almighty is the Most Wise and the Most Just. Whatever the condition we face and no matter what we are forced to confront, it is crucial that we open our eyes to the fact that He knows what is best for us. Though we shy away from facing our worries and fears, it maybe that we hate a thing that is good for us and desire something that can only lead to our destruction.

Human beings are weak. Sometimes the pain we go through is almost intolerable. Even the Prophets, whose link with the Almighty was unbreakable, felt sadness at times. They too turned towards the Almighty and begged for relief. However, their complaints were surrounded with pure patience and pure acceptance of whatever fate the Almighty had decreed for them.

There is no proper remedy for sadness than patience and constant remembrance of the Almighty. Think positively of Him. Delegate your affairs to Him and turn to Him at all times, both good and bad. The life of this world was planned by our Creator to maximize our chances of living a beautiful life in the Hereafter. When we face trials, they help us grow and mature into human beings who are able to function well in the short life we have in this world.

In times of sadness, think of Almighty and His greatness. Remember, He will not put you through a situation which you cannot handle. Knowing this can bring great relief. It can also help you focus on being calm and patient. It is important to understand that although the believer is encouraged not to complain, gripe and lash out in anguish about what he is facing, he is allowed to turn to the Almighty and supplicate to Him and to ask Him for relief.

Bearing patience

Motivational Moments #2
by Mufti Ismail Menk

What is the one thing that we have in common? We are all being tested in one way or the other. And the only way to get through it is by bearing patience.

But consider this, though it may seem obvious: if we are not patient, then what else is there for us to do? Do you have any other option? Do you know of any other solution that is better than patience? Even when you think you have escaped a difficulty, you will still have to face another one and another one. So you must arm yourself with patience and a strong trust in the Almighty.

Good or bad, everything in this life is a test. The Almighty tests us to see if we are grateful. He tests us to see if we are patient when His favors are withdrawn. When things go wrong, bear patience, trust Him. Do not give up hope. The Almighty has promised us success if we are patient. Patience will open our hearts to the present moment even if we do not like. Keep a sense of calm when things do not work out the way we want them to.

This will make us a peaceful lot. We will begin to enjoy many of the moments of life that used to frustrate us. Patience is a quality of the heart. The more patient you are, the better person you become. An effective way to strengthen our patience is through the link with our Creator. Do not lose that link. Exercise patience for His sake and the Almighty will certainly not let you down in your darkest moments.

Nothing is hidden from the Almighty. He is All-Knowing. He surely knows the burdensome task borne by those who suffer for His sake. Be patient with Him. Remember, nothing lasts. Bear patience for a little while longer and you will see His blessings and favors for the rest of your life!