Self-assessment

Motivational Moments #12
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Self-assessment is not something many of us do often. As most of us are not self-aware, we tend to look to others for approval, giving rise to the vicious circle of expectations, entitlement and ego.  Many of us do not reflect at the end of the day, why we did what we did. We hardly check our intentions. And that is a dangerous thing because actions are judged by intention. This is why we need to constantly assess ourselves.

In order to be truly honest with ourselves, we have to remove the masks that block us from being able to look in the mirror. Unfortunately, many of us are busy blaming others for most things that happen in our lives. Learn to take ownership of your problem, assess your strength and weakness. Remember not to focus solely on the wrongs as it can become demoralizing. But we need to recognize our faults.

Only by acknowledging our wrongs and weakness can we make true repentance and get back on track.

For serious self-diagnosis to take place, we need honesty, faith and hope. Don’t make excuses for our shortcoming, admit our flaws and pray that the Almighty sees us through it all.

We have to accept that we are human and these shortcomings are part of our nature, yet we can overcome them with help from the Almighty.

It has been a almost a year since Motivational Moments was launched and I have been writing these short notes to you, with the hope that you read them, reflect on them and make the necessary change to your lives.

We started Note 1 with the topic “Change” and now twelve months later we are ending with Note 12 on “Self-Assessment.” I pray it has made a difference.

 

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Piety

Motivational Moments #11
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Piety or Taqwa is defined as the action of restraining oneself from disobeying the commands of the Almighty.

Simply put, Taqwa is to be present in a place the Almighty has ordered and to be absent from a place He has prohibited.

Is it any wonder that the word “Taqwa” is mentioned 251 times in the Noble Qur’an?

In Islam, Taqwa is the quality of those who protect themselves from all that is considered as wrong and sinful. In stating this, there are two kinds of Taqwa: the first is just to avoid facing situations where sins may be committed. This is a passive approach and leads to seclusion and isolation, while the second is to face challenges and remain persistent and consistent in faith.

Certainly, consciousness of the Almighty or Taqwa is the medicine for our hearts, the cure for the ailments of our bodies, the rectifier of all evils and the light that illuminates our path.

In fact, Taqwa is said to be beneficial for all the difficulties and hardships of human life. Taqwa is one of the pillars of a person’s life, whether in one’s personal or social life. The whole basis of life would be unstable without it.

The process of attaining Taqwa takes time and grows with the strengthening of faith in the heart of a believer until he becomes convinced that the Almighty is aware of everything he does and each word he utters.

In the famous Hadith of Jibril (aleyhis salam) when he asked Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about Islam, Iman, and Ihsan, the Prophet ﷺ responded about Ihsan, saying it is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you can’t see Him you know that He sees you. That is the highest level of faith.

In order to fear the Almighty, a believer needs to remember death often, as well as life beyond this Dunya (world), our life in the Hereafter. This is one of the fruits of reciting the Qur’an often, reflecting on its verses and chapters. The many reminders of the Hereafter will help put the heart in the right state.

Remember we are fully reliant on Him. He can take us at any time.

So we must be conscious of the Almighty and totally submit to Him and obey His commands lest we are taken whilst we are indulging in sin and face the torment of the grave and His everlasting wrath.

Love

Motivational Moments #10
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Islam is the religion of love.

Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ was sent to guide us to love and to make clear that love is the cornerstone of our religion.

No religion urges its followers to adopt mutual love and affection like the religion of Islam. Islam encourages showing affection and love towards each other at all times.

Love in Islam is all-encompassing; it is not restricted to one form only, which is love between a man and a woman. At the centre of it all is love for the Almighty and His Messenger (pbuh), the Companions, may He be pleased with them and the love of good and righteous people.

Islam enjoins the general concept of love between mankind as well. This is first and foremost done by promoting the love of the Almighty amongst us.

Learn to love that which the Almighty loves and do not stop remembering Him. Serve and worship Him alone and don’t associate with Him any other and be ever conscious of Him.

Many of us find it easy to express love for the Almighty verbally but unfortunately our actions don’t reflect that love for Him. How can we claim to love Him when we take what He has revealed lightly, don’t follow His commands, and fail to behave in a way that pleases Him? Many times we find that love missing from our hearts because our hearts are filled instead with doubts, vain desires, and temptations of this temporary life.

To counter these, we need to firm up our beliefs. We need a better overall spiritual perspective in order to counter desires and temptations. We also need to clear those doubts that hinder the instilling of the love for the Almighty by learning more about our Deen (religion)  and seeking knowledge from reliable and approved sources.

Many of us spend a lot of time and effort to gain the love and pleasure of others and sometimes we may do it at the expense of disobeying the Almighty’s commands. We should realize that such things are futile and don’t last. They will earn us nothing but His wrath and displeasure. On the other hand, if we focus on cultivating His love in our hearts, we will not only get His love but He will instill our love in the hearts of others as well.

Love is so central to Islam that without it there can be no real faith. The relationship of love between us and our Creator, between us and others, and between us and all of creation is essential to reaching our full potential as human beings. When we nourish our hearts with love, when we manifest His love in our lives; with our families, with our friends, in our work, in our prayers, in everything that we do, the entire meaning of life changes.

May the Almighty bless us with His love and the love of those who love Him. May He fill our hearts with love. Amen.

Sacrifice

Motivational Moments #9
by Mufti Ismail Menk

Sacrifice, in general, means to give up something valued for the sake of other considerations.

But mention sacrifice in the Islamic context during this period and we are referring to the celebration of Prophet Ibrahim’s (aleyhis salam – peace be upon him) unquestionable submission to the Instruction of the Almighty and his willingness to sacrifice his son.

This is celebrated a day after Hajj – (Arafah); which is the fifth pillar of Islam. According to the Islamic calendar, the Eid is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah and the commemoration lasts for three days.

During the celebration of Eid ul-Adha, Muslims honour and remember Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) by slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, cow or goat.

The meat from the sacrifice of Eid ul-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by oneself and immediate family, one-third is given away to relatives and friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. It is also a means of providing charity, helping the less fortunate and underprivileged, fostering relationships and spreading goodwill.

More important than the slaughtering of the animal, is our intention to submit to the Almighty. This submission should extend to all aspects of life.

The Almighty has given us supremacy over animals and has allowed us to eat meat, but only if we use the most humane method taught by Him and seek His permission by pronouncing His name during the slaughtering. This shows that life is sacred and to be valued.

Most of us tend to look at spiritual sacrifice as simply giving something up, but we have to look inside ourselves to see why we are doing this in the first place.

In fact, sacrifice is an act of submission to the Will of the Almighty. Sometimes, He asks us to sacrifice something important to us in order for us to learn that there is something greater beyond. But sadly, at times we fail to understand these sacrificial values in our life!

Furthermore, we need to practice the spiritual effect of sacrifice so that we learn to rely on His provisions rather than the things we have built for ourselves. This is what submission is about.

Indeed, life is full of tests. We should be ever willing to sacrifice our money, comfort and time for the sake of the Almighty. We should strive to live truly to the expectations of the spirit of sacrifice of Eid ul-Adha.

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.