On My Way to a Turkish Village

I am currently en route to a Turkish village to visit my husband’s relatives. We will be there for about 3 weeks, and I will not have internet access.

Although I feel a bit bummed that I will be fasting from Internet as well as fasting this last blessed week of Ramadan, I am also thankful to have this opportunity to live in a very natural setting, which is hard to find these days!

So…Early Eid Mubarak and Stay Happy!

A Lesson from My Daughter

My 5 year-old daughter Fatima and I were discussing her questions about Islam, and she asked a question that really got my reflection juices flowing. We were talking about Shaytan (Satan) and how he is bad and wants us to do bad things.

She then asked, “Is it good for us to say, ‘Shaytan is bad, Shaytan is bad,’?

I told her that as Muslims, we do not say this a lot. Instead, we say “Praise be to Allah,” or “Glory be to Allah” or “Allah is the Greatest.” Even though it is 100% true to say that Shaytan is bad, as Muslims, we are not encouraged to say this a lot, but instead we remember Allah’s goodness rather than Shaytan’s badness.

This idea relates to the importance of focusing our attention on the good. Focusing on what is good is a key principle of being a Happy Muslim. Even though there are bad things in the world and in our lives, the better behavior is to remember the good things.

In Islam, we are not encouraged to repeat a dhikr (remembrance of God) that focuses on Shaytan’s badness. We focus our remembrance on God’s goodness. Also, in life, we must train ourselves to remember the good things and blessings in our lives. It seems silly to think of doing a prayer that focuses on Shaytan’s badness. Yet, in our daily lives, we tend to pay attention more to what is wrong and bad.

When we choose to focus on the good in our lives and in others, it is like focusing on Allah’s goodness to us. We will become more thankful to Allah, and Allah will be more pleased with us, insha’Allah.

“If you are thankless—Allah is in no need of you—yet He is not pleased by ingratitude of His worshippers. And if you are thankful He is pleased by it in you…”
–The Holy Quran 39:7

Kindness: A Basic Value of Islam

Alhamdulillah, in 2012 I published my first book, “The Basic Values of Islam,” in which I compiled Quranic verses and hadiths that correspond with basic values such as honesty, kindness, etc. In this post I would like to comment on the value of Kindness.

As Muslims, we really should be striving to infuse kindness into as many of our social interactions as possible.

Consider the following Quranic verse and hadiths:

“Serve Allah and associate none with Him. Show kindness to parents, relatives, orphans, the needy, the neighboring kinsman and the neighbors who are not of your kind, the companion, the traveler in need, and to the slaves you own…”(Quran 4:36).

“God is Kind, and loves kindness in all things.” (Hadith of our Prophet recorded in Bukhari, Muslim)

“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.” (Hadith recorded in Muslim).

“Kindness” is defined as “The quality or state of being of a sympathetic or helpful nature.”

Even if you are having a problem with another person, try to still be kind. Try to talk to all people with kindness, and you will increase the happiness in your life.

Take the Good and Leave the Bad

imagesgA few years ago I had a negative experience in which my great uncle took my son to get a haircut and found chewing gum in my son’s hair. Rather than telling me about it, he called my mother (and probably told other relatives about it), expressing his concern about my parenting abilities.

A few days later, while I was recovering from the worst food poisoning I had ever experienced, my mother calls me and begins a tirade about how she is concerned about me neglecting my children (making sure their hairs are properly combed and presentable).

One of the worst things you can tell parents (in my opinion) is that they neglect their children. This was a difficult thing for me to go through, especially when my uncle chose to tell everyone except for me about the chewing gum in the hair.

The moral I took from this experience is to take the good from your experiences and leave the bad. Choosing to learn from your experiences rather than letting negative experiences affect your self concept/mood is a very empowering skill to learn. It empowers you to let go of feelings that are not helpful to you (such as feeling that you are a bad parent).

I learned to pay more attention to keeping my children’s hair looking neater and cleaner and to avoid gum getting into their hair in the first place. I could have wallowed in the negative feelings of being exposed to multiple relatives as a neglectful mother. Honestly, I did feel upset at first, which is normal, but you must recognize your negative feelings and then find ways to “take the good, and leave the bad.”

Emotional Intelligence

Alhamdulillah, my mother is a psychiatrist and, since I am visiting her now, I have access to a plethora of fascinating books. One of those books is “Emotional Intelligence” by Dr. Daniel Goleman.

Dr. Goleman contends that emotional intelligence is more important for lifelong happiness than cognitive intelligence, which is taught and valued more in schools. Emotional intelligence means that you understand the emotions of yourself and of others. Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness, empathy (being able to participate in the feelings of others), and self-control.

I believe that the most important skill to learn in order to be more “emotionally intelligent” is SELF AWARENESS. This means that you are aware of the emotions that are motivating your behavior.

When you realize that your feelings lead to your behaviors, you will better understand your life. You will be able to behave in ways that you want to behave.

One of the most important emotions, in my opinion, for living in this challenging world is: calmness. Whenever I am feeling anxiety regarding something going on in my life, I have trained myself to stay calm. This has been especially useful when dealing with family members. Sometimes a family member says something that bothers me. The first step is to recognize that I am feeling bothered (or some other negative emotion). Once I acknowledge that something has affected my inner calmness, I remind myself to become calm.

This is an amazing skill that can truly change your life if you can master it. When you are calm, you will make better decisions and you can see the situation more clearly and objectively. Sometimes the best decision is to be silent, to choose NOT to give your energy to something that you do not want to feed (such as a rude remark or a disagreement that just is not worth your time).

In my opinion, being calm is a good deed. Becoming calm brings many benefits to the world (such as preventing negative emotions and words). Since Islam is about doing good deeds, in my opinion there is much barakah (blessing) in being calm when we are being tested emotionally.

Sneezing Kids

I am the mom of two children and an auntie of eight, alhamdulillah. I am visiting my family this summer, and it is wonderful to be together. However, it is also very challenging!

One thing that happens a lot is sneezing. I just recovered from a sinus infection caused by a child sneezing in my face, and today another child sneezed right in my direction.

This was a difficult thing for me to deal with, and it affected my mood, especially since I seem to be prone to sinus infections. I am thankful that Allah (swt)has taught me about vitamin D3, which has helped me so much with preventing and treating my colds. However, today my sleep was not so good and my mood took a downturn.

I hope that readers will understand that it is so important to be AWARE of yourself when you are feeling low. Sometimes we ignore our low feelings, and this is not good because you need to take care of yourself. Do something to feel better. Take a break. Do what you can to relax with the circumstances you have.

Perhaps the Most Important Goal of Counseling

Perhaps the most important goal of counseling is to help people to train themselves to feel helpful feelings rather than unhelpful feelings. I cannot emphasize how important a goal this really is. You see, Cognitive Behavioral Theory is one of the most respected, validated and used theories of counseling. One of its teachings is that your thoughts cause your feelings, and your feelings cause your actions. Therefore, if you are able to train yourself to feel helpful feelings, those helpful feelings will translate into helpful actions, which means you will have a happier life.

What are helpful feelings? As Muslims, our main goal is to please Allah (swt), to worship and serve Him. Therefore, feelings that lead us to being better Muslims are helpful to us. Therefore, when you are feeling an unhelpful feeling such as sadness, frustration, etc., you must train yourself to replace it with a helpful feeling, such as calmness, hope, gratitude, faith, and peace. An important step is to be more aware of your feelings and to accept your negative feelings. Denying your feelings is not helpful. Once you accept your feelings, you are able to face them with honesty. The way that you replace negative feelings is to find a thought that genuinely makes you feel better. Keep thinking of replacement thoughts (to replace the negative thought that caused your negative feeling) and when you find a thought that genuinely makes you feel better (calmer, stronger, etc.) then you just learned to train yourself to feel helpful feelings.

An important point is that you must care about and value yourself enough to want to feel helpful feelings. Do you care about yourself? Do you value yourself as a worthwhile human being? If your answer to these questions is not a resounding YES then you must teach yourself to become your own best friend. You must respect yourself enough to work towards this important goal of counseling: to train yourself to feel helpful feelings rather than unhelpful feelings.

CONSULTATION!

images“And those who have responded to their Lord and established prayer and whose affair is determined by consultation among themselves, and from what We have provided them, they spend.” (Holy Quran 42:38)

“Thus it is due to mercy from God that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard-hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in God; surely God loves those who trust.” (Holy Quran 3:159)

These beautiful verses teach us that consultation, i.e. gathering the opinions of others for problems/issues you are facing, is a very good thing! The next time you are feeling uncertain or confused about a situation, why don’t you ask for other people’s insights? This is encouraged in the Quran! After all, you don’t have to actually follow what people suggest, but it certainly helps to get another opinion!

Are You Your Own Best Friend?

imagesDo you treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend? Would you ever show your best friend disrespect or unkindness?

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself” (Bukhari, Muslim). This hadith assumes that we already love ourselves. But do we really love ourselves?

When your best friend is going through a problem, you would show him/her your support and caring. Do you show yourself support and caring when you have a problem?

Islam teaches us to show each other kindness, patience, compassion, and forgiveness (Quran verses 4:36, 90:17, and 2:109). Don’t you think that we should show the same…to ourselves?

The Holy Quran describes one man as being “unjust to himself” (18:35). This means that we can be unfair to ourselves.

The next time you start to feel badly about yourself, why not remember to be your own best friend? You are a person too!

Thoughts About Marriage

imagesAs mentioned in a previous post, I am taking a *free* online course with seekersguidance.org. Recently I participated in an online session with our instructor, Imam Afroz Ali. This session was extremely illuminating and he answered all of my questions in a succinct yet comprehensive way.

One question I had was about patience in marriage. How long should we remain patient in a difficult marriage?

Imam Afroz made some great points. He said that patience is certainly a virtue and that divorce should never be the first recourse. He said that every marriage has problems, but we should ask ourselves this: “Overall does it help you to be a better person?” “Is this marriage worthy to be a part of?” He also said that we should ask ourselves, “Are we thankful for what we have?” He advised us to be thankful for the positive qualities of our spouse. He also said that we need to understand what the real problem is in the marriage. Often, couples get tangled up in the reactions to the problems/how they react rather than the actual issue that needs resolving.

I really loved his advice. Alhamdulillah I’ve been married for almost 14 years, and although I’ve had difficult points in my marriage, I am thankful that Allah (swt) helped me to “weather the storm” and stick through it. I’ve definitely grown spiritually, and really my husband is a good guy!