The human being was created from haste. I will show you my signs so do not be hasty! Surat Al-Anbiya (21:37)
Allah (SWT) advises us in the Qur’an about the nature of the human being. As an engineer, whenever anything breaks, my first instinct is to go to the manual. The Qur'an is the manual of life, the manual for society and of all existence. Currently, the world feels like it’s falling apart. So, I did what my instincts demanded and I checked the manual, the Qur’an. So much of the current crisis in Palestine was put into perspective for me, and while it still pained me a great deal to see my brothers and sisters suffering, I understood why the Palestinians themselves haven't lost hope yet. To try and understand the tenacity of the Palestinians there is an obvious solution: we check the Qur'an and the Seerah (Biography of the Prophet).
The Prophet (SAW) and his companions faced a very dark time during the Meccan da'wah(invitation to Islam) period. When the Quraysh realized that the monotheism that the Prophet (SAW) was calling for would force them to reform their corrupt lifestyles, they lashed out and persecuted any who dared follow his message. To protect their privilege, they tortured the weak amongst the companions of the Prophet (SAW). The Sahabah(companions of the Prophet (SAW))were resilient and they were the best of humanity; however they were still human. Khabab Ibn Arat (RA) was a slave blacksmith, a valuable resource to any slave-owner. His owner was a cruel woman, and when he (RA) embraced Islam, she tortured him using his own tools. He (RA) was beaten with the metal bars that he would forge. Coals from the blast furnace would be pressed against his back to the point where his skin would melt off. When, understandably, Khabab (RA) eventually complained to the Prophet (SAW), the Prophet responded: "Among the nations before you a (believing) man would be put in a ditch that was dug for him, and a saw would be put over his head and he would be cut into two pieces; yet that (torture) would not make him give up his religion. His body would be combed with iron combs that would remove his flesh from the bones and nerves, yet that would not make him abandon his religion. By Allah, this religion (i.e. Islam) will prevail till a traveler from Sana (in Yemen) to Hadramaut will fear none but Allah, or a wolf as regards his sheep, but you (people) are hasty." (Sahih al-Bukhari 3612)
There is a lot to unpack in this hadith. First, the Prophet (SAW) is implying that in the suffering there is benefit. Certainly, with hardship there is ease (94:6). When a human is tried and tested over and over again, they learn and become stronger. Bad times create strong humans. If there is no reason to get stronger, the human will not expend energy to become stronger. It's evolutionarily unwise to do so. He (SAW) also gave hope to the companions by telling them that their efforts are not in vain. Their success will be so great there will be peace in the entirety of the Arab lands. To put this statement into context, consider the following: at that point, Islam probably had fewer than 20 adherents and the Arabian peninsula was ravaged by raiders, thieves and tribal disputes. The success he (SAW) describes is unprecedented and seems unattainable. Finally, the Prophet (SAW) inspires them through examples of people who lived in the previous nations; he (SAW) reminds them that although that man had his flesh separated from his bones, he did not give up his religion, and thus attained Jannah (paradise). He (SAW) reframes the situation for them, and he clarifies the reality of what they are seeking. Worldly success is worth striving for, but the reward in the next life is better and everlasting.
The Prophet (SAW) also mentions a key component of the human being. He (SAW) tells the companions (RA) "but you are hasty.” Allah in the Qur'an mentions the verse, "the human being was created from haste, I will show you my signs so do not be hasty." (21:37) Being hasty is an ingredient in the creation of the human being. As human beings, we are intrinsically hasty. Think about the common statements of a child: "Are we there yet?" or "But I don't want to do my homework, I want ice cream now!" As we grow up, we learn to tame that impatience and as we tame it, we become more mature. We become capable of delaying gratification and of self-sacrifice. Allah (SWT) has promised us that He will show us his miracles, in this world and the next; we should strive to stay in a state where we are able to delay and sacrifice for the sake of Allah (SWT).
One of the best ways to get into the mindset of delaying our worldly pleasure for the hereafter is simply to remember the next world. Not a page of the Qur’an passes by without the mention of death or the next world. Ar-Rabee' Ibn Khuthaym was one of the Tabi'een, a member of the generation after the Sahabah. He was known to have dug a grave inside his own living room, and when he felt like he was too attached to the dunya (the world), he would sit in the grave in the dark and picture himself having just died. He would repeat the verse in the chapter of Surat al-Mu'iminoon, "My Lord take me back!" (23:99). This ayah(verse) describes the state of someone who dies in a state of heedlessness. What a chilling thought! To die without having prepared for the next life! It's the stomach churning feeling of walking into an exam completely unprepared, magnified a million times. How can we prefer the dunyawhen this is the reality? This is a test that we can't afford to procrastinate for.
Everything in this world is a test and every test is an opportunity to draw closer to Allah (SWT). Our brothers and sisters in Gaza are facing a grave trial and In Sha Allah, they are being accepted as martyrs and witnesses testifying that that there is no God but God. However, we always need to reflect on our own condition. Living our Western lifestyles, filled with decadence and luxuries, we are also being tested. Whilst our trial isn't as stark and brutal, it's insidious and has the ability to destroy us, both in this world and the next. When we are resurrected on the final day, we will be questioned, “why did you allow your brothers and sisters to be oppressed?” Can we truly say that we tried everything in our power to return safety and security back to the lands of the Muslims? Subhan’Allah, we go out on the streets, protest and yell for a few hours, then go home feeling that we have already liberated The Holy Land. We quickly forget that the occupation of Palestine isn't just a problem right now, it's been a problem that we have neglected as an Ummahfor decades. It's not enough to send thoughts and prayers. It's not enough to send relief and aid. It's not enough to advocate for our rights. All of these avenues should be taken, but they are not enough! If we are simply seeking to soothe our guilty conscience for living a life of luxury while our brothers and sisters suffer, then we can stop our action here. However, disciplined and consistent work needs to be done in our homes, communities and nations to develop ourselves and our institutions. In our current state, most Muslims study and work, and their highest aspiration is simply to fill their bellies. We need to be far more ambitious. We need to develop ourselves not just in religion, but in everything we do. As Muslims, we should be world leaders in science, politics, advocacy and business so as to claim our rights, not simply ask for them. Living in this land of freedom and security, we are given the opportunities to do that; we just need to overcome ourselves.
In the Qur'an, we see an example of how an oppressed nation was freed. The children of Israel had been enslaved by the Pharaoh. He kept them in humiliation and weakness, slaughtering their male newborns every second year to quell the demographic threat. Musa (AS) was not raised under the yoke of the Egyptian people, rather he was raised as a prince in the palace of the Pharaoh. He was educated, he was taught the arts of leadership, statecraft, and everything else that a prince might learn. Furthermore, he was raised by two amazing women: his biological mother, a woman who was so close to Allah (SWT) that she received inspiration from Him, and his adopted mother, the wife of the Pharaoh, a woman who was also divinely guided to the point where she is mentioned in the Qur'an (66:11). With this combination of worldly knowledge learned in the palace and spiritual knowledge acquired from his mothers, Musa (AS) challenged the Pharaoh. We as Muslims living in the West are like Musa (AS) living in the Pharaoh's palace. Musa (AS) understood that his luxurious lifestyle was built on the backs of his oppressed brothers and sisters. He (AS) always remained grateful and strove to give back to the community that enabled his success. He (AS) used the talents he developed in the Pharaoh's palace to eventually challenge the oppressor and free the oppressed.
It's natural to feel despair about what is happening in Palestine. However, we need to recognize that our despair comes from our hasty nature. There is hope even in this dark time, the narrative around the world is changing and the veil of propaganda is being pierced. As Muslims, we have the numbers, but we are weak because of our love of the dunya. This weakness allows foreign nations to help themselves to our nations the way people help themselves to food at a dinner table. To overcome this weakness, we must disconnect from worldly pleasures and constantly be in a state of remembrance of the Akhirah(afterlife). Always remember what is at stake; not just the land of Palestine, not just the lives and well-being of several million people, but our entire eternity in the hereafter. As Muslims, we need to follow the Qur'an and have a longer term vision for not just liberating Palestine, but for uplifting the entire Ummah. Every individual will be questioned according to their capacity and we need to get to a state where we are able to truly and sincerely tell Allah (SWT) on the last day "Yes Allah, I did everything I could."
It always amazes me how quickly the times change, Subhan’Allah. When I was hired to be the editor-in-chief and as I began planning for what the year would look like, I had no idea that it would be riddled with so much collective grief and trauma. Yet, there have been these revolutionary undercurrents of our strengthening faith in Allah’s (SWT) justice and mercy, our inspiration to lean into resilience through our community and our ability to come together to hold space for each other. There is no healing without dialogue and even though we planned to go in one direction when we began the academic year, Allah’s (SWT) plans triumph over all of our imaginations. This space is for you—a platform to have your voice amplified, to share your experiences, reflections, journeys and to contribute to the collective Muslim Experience. We welcome all blog posts, taking whatever form of writing that best expresses your stories, to share and create a shared narrative. This can include recommendations, reflections, reviews and any tale that you would be willing to share from the vantage point of The Muslim Experience. As a first year Masters of Social Work student, I am finding that the way I think about the world is changing. We need to create spaces where we can show up holistically. We may all be leading our own personal legends (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, anyone?) and taking our own paths but we are on this journey together—my hope is that our blog platform can reflect that In Sha Allah. Below, I present to you my wonderful team members who will be monitoring blog post submissions, editing and connecting your voice to our platform:
As the associate editor, I look forward to connecting with you—your thoughts, your emotions, your interests, your humor—through your blog posts. I believe that writing offers a window into one’s soul, and is a mirror that reflects our diverse realities. Oftentimes, readers see their own reflection in the words of others. Though we may all come from different ethnic, cultural, and academic backgrounds, there will always be something in someone else’s writing or (Muslim) experience that we can relate and/or connect to, and that is a beautiful gift from Allah (SWT), who swore “by the pen and what everyone writes” (Quran 68:1). I hope that all of you will be inspired to share your experiences and views with us. In doing so, I hope we can inspire others and strengthen the bonds within our community.
As blog co-director, the blog to me represents a space for Muslims at UofT to express themselves on any topic that happens to fascinate and vitalize them at the moment. Sometimes, it may simply be a book we’re reading that we want to talk endlessly about (as I have felt about certain books). Other times, it may be a personal story from which we want to share important, valuable lessons. Further still, we may wish to touch on global events and give our own reflections upon them. All of these are welcome and appreciated, and I look forward to reading submissions and tuning into The Muslim Voice.
At this stage of my life, everything is new. Just as I begin to find my footing, I am hurled back down by the collective pain of the Ummah. As I anchor my response in allyship, solidarity and strength, I call upon students who belong to the UofT community to share their stories. I can only speak to my case and in acknowledgment of that individuality and as the second blog co-director, I invite you to share yours. The TMV blog wishes to compile the plight, insights and experiences of the student body in the blog. We have a lot to learn from each other and I implore you to be a part of the learning process.
We thank you for reading this blog post and for trusting us with any of the words that you choose to share through us. We continue to pray for the healing and wellness of our entire community and Ummah—Ameen!
The blessed month of Ramadan has held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. There is always excitement in the air when it comes around every year. I wait for it eagerly, counting down the days. My non-Muslim friends often ask me how I could possibly be so happy to see the month during which I cannot eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. They believe that the task is absolutely impossible and tell me that they would never be able to do it. That makes me smile because I know that with a little bit of patience and willpower, it is quite possible. I clearly remember the first day I ever fasted - seven years old, missing a few teeth, and super excited to do what the big people, AKA my parents, were doing. I was not obliged to fast, as I had not come of age yet, but I wanted to practice and see what it was like. My mother deemed me ready for that big step and we decided that I would do it on a Saturday during the month. That Saturday morning, my mother woke me up before sunrise for suhur. I sat at the dinner table, drinking my glass of milk and eating my banana in the darkness. I probably looked like a sleep-eating zombie (I’ve never been much of a morning person!) I went back to sleep after that, waking up later at ten o’clock, fully charged with energy and ready to face the day. I was prepared for the day; I had a plan. I figured that the goal was to pass the time until I could eat again when the sun went down, so the only thing I had to do was find ways to occupy myself. I thought it would be easy enough, because of all the toys I had. And so - out came my Barbie dolls, my Polly Pocket dolls, my coloring books, my painting material, my books, and my DVDs. Needless to say, my mother was not pleased with the mess I had made… But it didn’t matter to me, because I was going to have so much fun that the time would pass by really quickly and cleaning up after would be worth it! But of course, it didn’t work out that way. Having the attention span of a goldfish, I got tired after a mere four hours. Being a seven-year-old child, I still knew what it meant to be bored and I had gotten to that stage. And so, like every other bored kid before me, I went to bother my mother. It was about two o’clock in the afternoon and I had just started to feel hungry. She gave me a few chores to do, and I (grudgingly) completed them. I also took a little nap to pass the time, but even that couldn’t keep the hunger pangs at bay for long. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to eat very badly, but I didn’t want to fail on my very first day of fasting! I generally eat very little and rarely ever get hungry, but at that moment, I felt as if there was a huge pit in my stomach. It was five o’clock, with three hours left before sunset. I was terribly hungry and cranky. My father told me that it was OK if I ate because half a day was a pretty good start for someone who had never fasted before, but I was set on finishing the day. Seeing my determination, my mother told me that I simply had to be patient and that it would be over soon. And so, I waited. The last two hours were probably the most excruciating ones. I was lying on the couch, staring very intensely at the clock, willing its hands to turn quicker and willing the time to go by faster. However, if Time knew what I wanted, it was being mean and doing the exact opposite. The seconds that slipped by felt like hours. I ended up annoying my father by asking him a million times how much time was left. His answer was always the same: “You asked me this a minute ago. Do the math.” As sunset slowly but surely approached, the apartment began filling itself with the delicious smell of my mother’s cooking. She was making all my favorite foods to reward me for my patience and my successful first day of fasting. I couldn’t wait to eat it all. When the adhan finally sounded, I was overjoyed! It was as if I had come back from the dead. All my hunger and tiredness suddenly vanished and I was jumping up and down, celebrating the fact that I had survived a full day without eating or drinking. I was so excited that I practically forgot to break my fast! I was proud of my achievements and so were my parents. I broke my fast with a date, as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had done long ago. That small date felt like heaven in my mouth, though I had never particularly liked that fruit before. I was very grateful for it and that made me realize how little we need to be happy. My family and I prayed Maghrib, then shared the feast that my mother had prepared. The atmosphere was comforting and full of joy and celebration. My first day of fasting during Ramadan was an incredible and humbling experience. I felt the pain of hunger and that made me very thankful for all my blessings. It taught me empathy because I realized that hunger is a sad reality for many people across the world. They live with it every day, without a feast at the end to keep them going. Fasting also taught me that if I had the right mindset, willpower, and patience, I could achieve almost anything, even if it was difficult. I have become more patient thanks to the month of Ramadan. Patience is an important quality when navigating through life and I am very glad to have acquired it at such a young age. Now, as I continue to grow and face new challenges, I know to be patient and stay strong, because it will all be worth it in the end.
“Allah shall not burden a soul beyond its capacity,” (Quran 2:287). For a long time, I thought this ayah spoke about external pressures like loss, financial issues, and any tangible problems that manifested its way into the mind. It wasn’t until I endured an emotional low that I realized this ayah extends beyond the tangible world. It applies to conflicts of the mind and the heart as well. I realize that mental health is often deemed as “worthless” and is heavily stigmatized in the ethnic world. Phrases such as “return to Allah” and “just pray” can feel debilitating at times when they are used to belittle your struggles, but enduring periods of depression and anxiety are tests—just like loss, financial ruin, and health complications. They are real issues that can manifest in physical ways such as shaking, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping. Sometimes your legs feel like jelly and your heart pains you. These symptoms aren’t a testament that Allah (SWT) is upset with you, but rather He is building you to make you stronger. Allah’s strongest soldiers are those who can deal with that which disrupts their inner peace, and yet strengthen their mind and heart, and grow in resilience. It is easier said than done to believe in this concept. Sometimes the mind dissociates and we’re left with this feeling of disconnect and sadness. I’ve recently begun watching Khalil Jaffer’s series titled, “The End of Negative Suffering.” In this series, he describes how to become more present in time, as dwelling on the past and worrying about the future can increase depression and anxiety. Within his lectures, he illustrates the human instinct to become comfortable in conflict, and how inner peace becomes disrupted by the voice in our head. Jaffer’s series is accompanying me on my own journey toward self-enlightenment. It is important to deconstruct this narrative that poor mental health is a result of poor emaan (faith). Allah (SWT) tests His believers in a multitude of ways, and it takes a special kind of resilience to dissect the innermost struggles of our being, and then create greater faith in Allah through the pain. Healing is not linear. Some days will be better than others, and some days it will feel like the world is completely out of your control. Know that this is not the end, because Allah (SWT) is within you. He is closer to you than your jugular vein, as mentioned in verse 16 of Surah Qaf. And so, I ask you to join me on this journey towards inner peace. We will get through the hard times because Allah has guaranteed that our capacity exceeds further than our struggles.
Side Note*lectures mentioned include some Shia history but it is towards the end and the last five minutes of each video. For the most part the series focuses on Psychology and Islam.*
You escape the moonlit night of Basra to enter a dark pathway. As you walk deeper into your path, melodious chants or hushed discussions replace the silence. Soon you are welcomed by a group of onlookers sparsely illuminated by the candle lights. You are greeted as you take a seat. A man, who could easily declare himself an Imam, speaks up, “In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Welcome! We are the brethren of purity, loyal friends, people worthy of praise, and sons of Glory.” Towards the end of the tenth century, the Abbasid caliphate was beginning to witness the onset of an orthodox influence. The change in atmosphere birthed the rise of a secret group. A group that can be compared to the Pythagoreans of old or the freemasons of recent. The group, whose identities are a mystery to this day, would meet every twelfth night to study, discuss, and write philosophy and science. They believed Islam was drowning under the rigidity of literal-minded scholars who rejected rationality. To counter this push, they wrote a 52-part book on mathematics, music, law, pleasure, cosmology, and the Soul, amongst other things. The collection was later read by the likes of Ibn Sina, Al Beiruni, Suhrawardi, and Ibn Taymiyyah. The group called this book the ‘Rasail Ikhwan As-Safa’ or the ‘Epistles of the Brethren of Purity.’ They called themselves the ‘Brethren of Purity, Loyal Friends, People worthy of praise, and Sons of Glory.’ We will just call them the brotherhood or the Ikhwan for obvious reasons. It is said that the group adopted the name ‘Brethren of Purity’ from a story in the ‘Kelileh va demneh,’ a collection of animal fables adapted from an ancient Indian collection, ‘Panchantra.’ The story involved different animals putting themselves in harm’s way for the betterment of each other. Like the rag-tag group of animals, the Ikhwan were loyal friends who were there for each other in their quest for salvation. That their name comes from an ancient Indian (likely Hindu) text, gives us an idea of their openness to all knowledge and philosophies. One can identify, within the epistles, the influences of Greek, Indian, and Persian philosophy. Their open approach reflects further in the importance they gave to every sacred scripture. They valued the gospels, the psalms, and the Tawrah just as they valued the Quran. According to them, “the truth exists in every religion.” In addition to the sacred sources and philosophy, the Ikhwan as-Safa also drew inspiration from mathematics, science, and the natural world. As was a common trend amongst the Muslim philosophers of the time, the brethren subscribed, with certain twists, to the neo-platonic philosophy. Neoplatonism divides reality into four levels. The most fundamental level is the One, beyond spacetime, belief, and understanding. From this One, and within this One, emanates the next level, known as the Intellect. This level, also beyond spacetime, contains perfect, unified knowledge of everything. From the Intellect emanates the Soul, the third level. This is responsible for utilizing the knowledge of the Intellect to create the final level – the universe as we know it. A central tenet of the brotherhood was the preference of ‘batin – the hidden’ over ‘zahir – the evident.’ Zahir is a literal approach to reading the Quran, in which you grasp the apparent, esoteric meaning. However, according to many Sufi schools, Islamic philosophers and the Ikhwan, an exoteric meaning can be found underneath the zahir, known as the batin. A testament to their creative and allegorical study of the Quran is their nuanced ideas about significant aspects of Islam. Hence, unsurprisingly, they were often termed heretics by orthodox scholars. A surprising idea of the Ikhwan that would’ve brought much criticism was their approach to the hereafter. The Quran refers to a temporary state between our two lives as ‘Barzakh’. The Ikhwan considered it to be a cyclical journey of rebirth that unpurified souls had to complete to achieve perfection. It was only after this perfection that they could unify with the One. Furthermore, according to the brotherhood, the fire of hell and the bliss of heaven did not exist. At least not in a literal sense. For them, heaven and hell were spiritual states rather than tangible locations. A lot has been discussed about the true identity of the Ikhwan as-Safa. Some guess them to be of a Sufi-Sunni background. Most believe they were Ismaili scholars or, at the very least, belonged to the Shia tradition. It is important to satiate our curiosity and identify the origins of the Ikhwan. Yet, you must’ve noticed the absence of any such discussion in this article so far. This was intentional. This article was meant to introduce you to a new understanding and a new approach. That of open-mindedness, of creativity, and of courage. The Ikhwan worked hard to conceal their identity. They aimed to “shun no science, scorn any book, or to cling fanatically to no single creed.” It was of no importance to them what religion one came from. So, it is of no importance to this article.
November 18th marked International Day of Islamic art, and while not a commonly celebrated day, it does offer an opportunity to reflect on the rich tradition of Islamic art in the West. Canada proudly hosts an abundance of Islamic art and tradition, being home to the Aga Khan Museum, the largest Islamic art museum in North America and boasting a rich collection across many museums and galleries. However, Islamic art is not just confined to these spaces alone. Its influences can be felt in contemporary art and architecture - sometimes where we least expect them. Toronto Pearson Airport is certainly not the first place that comes to mind when it comes to Islamic art. Yet within its labyrinthine terminals exists an evocative art piece, side by side the bustling crowds: “The Holding Pattern” is a set of ornately designed airport chairs at Terminal 1 constructed by Tazeen Qayyum. An accomplished miniature painter, Tazeen Qayyum’s artwork reflects her own experiences moving between Pakistan and Canada. The title refers to the circumambulation of planes when they are unable to land,which she connected to the political climate regarding the struggles of immigration that persist to this day. The pattern itself is an intricately woven biomorphic pattern atop a vibrant red backdrop. The backdrop bears a repeating motif. What seems to be an assortment of florals at a cursory glance however, are actually figures of cockroaches. A surprising choice to be sure, but certainly an inspired one. Taking the traditional techniques of Islamic art, Qayyum weaves them with unique imagery to bring them into a modern context. A creature typically evoking fear is meant to reflect the fear of other cultures within the western world. As she described in an interview: “The main idea for the cockroach has always been the idea of fear…. The cockroach itself is not the most dangerous insect around us - yet it is universally considered gross.” And here they are, given an artistic flourish that renders these creatures so beautiful that they could be mistaken for blooming flora. A common piece of furniture thus reflects the struggles of those who inhabit it. A testament to the strife that comes with immigration limbo and fears of religious intolerance in the land they hope to come to. This idea then makes the placement of this piece in the airport go from an odd choice to highly apropos in its setting which sees the continuous flow of people from across the world and how they are perceived by those who do not know their culture.
Why do both evil and good people have to suffer? We can understand immoral people being faced with challenges, but why virtuous people? One answer could be that blessings provide opportunities for the evil to reconsider themselves. If a wrongdoer was only met with chastisement, perhaps that would further harden their heart. Whereas if they were occasionally shone on by the sun, they might start to appreciate its light and get out of the cave they were putting themselves in. Okay, but why do the good have to undergo trials on this Earth? Well, consider this: If evil actions were always met with some suffering in this life and good actions were always met with rewards, then would we truly have good people on this Earth? If everything was as binary as this, everyone would choose to be good, wouldn’t they? If evil actions were so obviously unsuccessful, everyone would pick the good actions. But, as a result, we would cease to have people who chose good for good’s sake. Maybe we would have a few, but the majority would likely be choosing the good acts for their own sake. If one day, the evil actions proved more profitable, they’d switch. Because their allegiance was never with what was virtuous or right, but with their success. This is why both good and evil have to undergo trials on this Earth - to test the good people. Real goodness is difficult, which is why it’s so valuable. This leads to another point. Do good people sometimes take the easy path? Do good people always stand up for what’s right and admonish any evil they see? Or do they sometimes just let it slide by? Why might good people have this fear to speak against wrongdoings? It’s not that they aren’t good people - it could be the case that they’re giving undue importance to their own sake and fear getting reprimanded or hurt. Remember what we said about truly good people. They do it for good’s sake, not for their own sake. So when a good person asks why good people have to suffer, we could respond, “Are good people truly fighting the evil around them, or are they only keeping goodness in their hearts?” If not, then how could we say that good people are blameless? Consider the following hadith in Sahih Muslim from Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him): “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” Trials are a given when living on this Earth. But not everything that undergoes a trial has the same outcome. Someone can be going to university and go through all its trials, and come out the other end in an awesome fashion, or a “not-so-awesome” fashion. Someone can come out of a trial more disheartened and start to lose hope and faith in Allah(swt). Their hearts could be made more blackened as a result of the grit and roughness of the test. They might even feel antagonized toward Allah(swt). Or someone can come out of a difficult trial invigorated, with their faith made even stronger. Their hearts could be cleansed, by them using that same grit and roughness to scrape off any of the dirt from their hearts, instead of allowing it to latch on. The same trial. Two different responses and outcomes.
Finding Direction in the Midst of Uncertainty By: Soundous Louardiane
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This seems to be the go-to question that all adults love to ask children. As a child, I always had an answer: princess, ballerina, teacher, fashion designer… But now, when it arguably matters the most, my mind is blank. I have no idea what I want to pursue professionally, and I’m sure that most of us also feel the same way. We are lost, drifting in a sea of possibilities, and uncertain about our future. Nowadays, as young adults, we are presented with endless career options. A quick Google search brings up a list of over twelve thousand possible professions1. This is a blessing, of course, but it can also be a curse. Making decisions that determine the course of one’s life is already incredibly daunting, and the seemingly infinite number of vocational pathways only worsens that feeling. This can also give rise to the problem of choice overload, which is a “cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options”2. Not only does this add to the already difficult task of making the right choices for our future, but it also leaves us feeling more confused, hesitant, and stressed than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially increased the uncertainty we feel regarding the future. Most, if not all, professional fields have had to make great changes to how they operate, including, of course, the transition to an online work environment. However, some professions, due to their nature, could not undergo this online transition, making many jobs disappear and leaving many people unemployed. Moreover, these drastic changes to the professional world have introduced new factors for us to consider when making career decisions. This high level of uncertainty can be a source of great anxiety for many of us, as no one but Allah (SWT) knows what the future holds. However, the situation is not as hopeless as it seems. It is possible to find some sense of direction and serenity in the face of uncertainty, notably by developing an Islamic mentality. This would involve fully internalizing the concepts of Tawakkul (reliance on God) and al-Qadar (God’s plan). Tawakkul involves putting one’s full trust in Allah (SWT). As stated in the Holy Qur’an, “whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him” (Q65:3). By building a relationship of deep trust with Allah (SWT), we will worry less about whatever occurs, especially that which is out of our control, and take uncertainty in stride. This goes hand in hand with the notion of al-Qadar, that God has a plan for everybody. Whatever is meant for us will undeniably reach us and whatever is meant to be, will be. Our sole responsibility is to work to the best of our ability and be sincere in our efforts; the rest will work out according to Allah’s (SWT) decree. This is a very comforting thought, especially knowing that Allah (SWT) is the Best of Planners and the Most Merciful. Of course, changing our mentality by internalizing these concepts and living by them is easier said than done, but it can be achieved. We must only be willing to put in the work, and InshaAllah, with Allah’s (SWT) help, it will soon become easier and easier. Circling back to the practical matter of career choices, there are many ways to narrow them down. We can begin by reflecting on different elements that are relevant to our professional lives. Notably, we should think about the things we love doing and see whether they can be part of our professions. Equally important, then, would be to think about what we dislike and would rather avoid. It would also be useful to reflect on the boundaries that Allah (SWT) has set, in terms of Islamically lawful and (potentially) unlawful professional pursuits. All this could help eliminate many professional pathways and simplify the decision-making process. We should also consider exploring career options that both cater to our strengths and put our abilities to good use. Doing thorough research on different professions and fields can give us a better idea of what they entail and require, allowing us to better assess whether they match our personalities and priorities. Other important aspects to consider would be the type of salaries we want and are willing to work for. Continuously trying new and different activities, as well as reflecting on all our past experiences, can give us a deeper and clearer understanding of ourselves, which in turn helps us make important decisions about the future. Moreover, discussing this topic with friends and family can provide us with different perspectives that can help us see things more clearly. From an Islamic perspective, a good way to figure out what is best for our future is to perform Salat al-Istikhara (the prayer for seeking guidance). Allah’s (SWT) help and guidance will no doubt facilitate the best course of action. It is important to continue performing this prayer even if no clear sign or direction seems to present itself, because Allah (SWT) always answers our duas, sometimes in ways that we do not expect. Overall, it can be challenging for us to navigate through life. We often feel adrift and confused, especially when it comes to making important decisions about our future. However, strengthening our trust in Allah (SWT) and cultivating our self-awareness can provide us with a sense of direction that will help us in various aspects throughout our lives.
As the chill of autumn sets in and makes itself comfortable for the long haul - the flora and fauna that inhabit the university campus alongside us have begun their shift to prepare for the cold season ahead. Leaves begin their metamorphosis, as the uniform green hue along St. George Street rapidly shifts into an array of fierce reds, muted yellows, and vibrant oranges; a final burst of color before they bow down to the winter, leaving behind only barren branches. The sights and sounds of autumn are praised for their beauty, time and time again, across countless prose and poetry. For students, however, this ethereal transfiguration of nature arrives at a time when the demands of the Dunya are at their peak. As the workload continues to rise, it takes all of our physical and mental strength just to make it through the day, with night only bringing the dread of the multitudinous tasks to follow the next morning. On one hand, it does feel quite inconvenient that this splendor arrives at a time when we are least able to appreciate it. However, we know that the world and our lives do not operate on coincidence. Perhaps then, autumn arrives as a reminder when students need it the most. When our tunnel vision is so intense as we struggle to attain temporary accolades, a grand physical spectacle is needed to cure our myopia. Witnessing the physical manifestation of the passage of time naturally brings one to think of their internal clock. The ephemeral nature of the leaves and foliage mirror our own temporary nature. Our bodies morph on a slower time scale than the autumnal transformation of these faunas but the clock ticks for us just as much as them. Next autumn, we may be buried in the ground alongside these leaves, and it is well worth thinking of what transformations we will undergo before the final hour.
I am an undergraduate student in Toronto and I will never forget the moment I got an email from the university declaring that classes are going to be delivered remotely starting next week. That same morning at 9 am, I was on campus attending a tutorial for one of my classes. I didn’t want to go because of the looming news about how quickly COVID19 was spreading the past few days, but I also thought that it can’t be a huge issue as the classroom is not always full, so I should be fine. Besides, tutorials are mandatory and I needed the mark.
I sat at the back, away from the other students, completed my quiz, and was picked up to go home. Later that day, I had a biology exam that I had spent the last week studying for. I was going home to do some more studying before returning to campus. Then, 2 hours before the exam was to start, right as I was leaving my house to go to campus, I see the email; “Exam has been postponed”. To say that I was upset is an understatement. I went on a furious rant with my friends about how hard I studied for this exam and how prepared I was - how was I going to remember the anatomy of a crocodilian heart or blood circulation of fetal mammalian hearts by the time they figure out the next appropriate exam date?
As I sulked in my room, Allah’s words popped into my head, “…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)
My anger subsided and I reviewed my notes daily to keep things fresh. I grew accustomed to my new life in quarantine with my family and made witty remarks about how my introverted self can live her best life now that I can stay home all day long.
But two weeks later, I grew tired and bored of staying home. Netflix wasn’t as fun as it used to be and TikTok was just a mindless void I fell into whenever I was bored (which was quite often). I felt trapped and it was as if my country had grounded me for a month in my room. I felt like I had no freedom because I was being forced to stay home.
But suddenly, subhanallah, I focused my attention on how much freedom I did have. I realized how selfish I was being. I have access to warm, running water. I can eat or order whatever food I want. I have a roof over my head. I can trust my government and trust that I am safe in my own home. I have access to the internet so I can connect with my friends and family whenever I feel lonely. The reality is, I am so privileged and I never realized it until now.
The plight of the Kashmiris has been on my mind constantly. They live in fear of prosecution because of their religious beliefs. They have limited freedom of movement, of internet, of speech. It’s not just about the lack of entertainment, but of whole livelihoods being put on pause. According to NY Times, pharmacists couldn’t restock supplies and social media use was banned. Countries that are at war such as Syria fear for their lives, for their children, every single day. Going to school is as big of a risk as it can get and food insecurities are highest in war-torn parts of the country. But here I am on my comfy bed in Canada whining about the lack of freedom I have.
No one is perfect, we all fall into dark pits sometimes. We shouldn’t blame ourselves for having negative thoughts and for questioning ourselves once in a while. I personally take these moments and turn them into self-reflections, coming up with ways to better myself as a Muslim and citizen. We shouldn’t be scared to share our feelings with friends we trust because doing so allows us to dig deep within ourselves and uncover hidden thoughts that we keep even from ourselves. I learned to empathize with people who are in much worse situations than me and educated myself on their plight. I donated to causes which are fighting COVID19 and donated to rehabilitation efforts in war torn countries. It seems there always is light at the end of every tunnel.
I reflected on the ni’mah I do have from Allah and learned to stop taking what I have for granted. Now that we are in the midst of the Holy month of Ramadan, I urge us to give to those who have less and to take a few minutes out of our day to reflect on little blessings we enjoy every day – the ability to walk to the fridge and eat fresh fruit, the ability to learn from free courses online, the ability to say salaam to our family every day.
I completed an online course taught by Professor Steve Joordens of the University of Toronto and he remarked that during this time, we should be physical distancing, but becoming socially closer. In essence, this is part of our duty as Muslims, to check up on our neighbours, our friends, our family. And now more than ever, it is essential we practice social closeness. Quarantine, as bad as it seems, not only made me a better Muslim, but it made me an empathetic human being. This just goes to show that Allah truly is the best of planners. https://www.coursera.org/learn/manage-health-covid-19/home/welcome https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/technology/india-kashmir-internet.html https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/india-restores-internet-kashmir-7-months-blackout-200305053858356.html