Spirituality in the Mundane

Years ago, I took the path of tasawwuf – Islamic spirituality.

The intention is always – drawing closer to Allah SWT.

Over the years, I saw scores of young women take the same path. Alhamdulillah for all the souls who need that connection with Allah SWT – we all need it- but alhamdulillah for the ones who feel that need. Who know that the most important relationship in their lives is Allah swt.

Somewhere along the way, however, we become lost in our Beloved. We yearn so much for the Perfect, that we see too many of the imperfections of this world stare back at us in the face. The imperfections make us hurt, and yearn more for Perfection.

Sometimes, the imperfections make us unhappy in this world.

But here’s the catch. When you are unhappy, you are unable to give your best to those around you. Your cup of Love becomes empty. And you cannot benefit your close ties. Exactly those close ties that our Beloved wants us to value. He wants us to keep these relationships strong; to give our all to them. Except in the cases where they want us to disobey the Beloved, which you see, are very few main pillars of the Deen. Apart from that, here is what the most perfect of humans showed us (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam):

 

Narrated Abu Huraira:

A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said. “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man further said, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked for the fourth time, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your father. ” [Bukhari]

To become closer to Allah SWT, we have the most interesting short-cut presented in the following hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “The word ‘Ar-Rahm (womb) derives its name from Ar-Rahman (i.e., one of the names of Allah) and Allah said: ‘I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb i.e. Kith and Kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. Kith and Kin). [Bukhari]

And apart from family, even with other friends and acquaintances, here is the model we are to pursue:

Narrated Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari:

Allah’s Apostle said, “It is not lawful for a man to desert his brother Muslim for more than three nights. (It is unlawful for them that) when they meet, one of them turns his face away from the other, and the other turns his face from the former, and the better of the two will be the one who greets the other first.” [Bukhari]

Being righteous means that we are closest to the Sunnah of the Prophet (s). This does not mean that we start judging others who have not taken the same steps as us in trying to draw closer to Allah swt. Instead, we are to drop all judgment on others. That is for Allah swt to do. Our job is only to strive to be closest to the Sunnah, to know that we will never reach the summit, but that we are to keep climbing to the top, as long as we are breathing in this world. And here is how the prophet (s) wanted us to be:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet said, “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them ).” [Bukhari]

It is in our dealings with the rest of humankind that we find Allah swt – *if* we are really searching. We find Him in reflection and prayer and sujood (prostration) and qiyam. We find Him in fasting and studying Deen, in the books and especially His Own Kalam. We find Him through all these ways…

And then He Wants us to find Him in the mundane. And for some of us that is where the real test starts.

SubhanAllah, here’s where I found ‘good character’ to be the most tested in me: parenting. As parents, we will be asked about our offspring. They are an amanah (a trust) from Allah swt.

Giving talks, and educating young women about our Deen is easier – educating toddlers and children in the basics of life is a hard job.

We are not only their nourishers – but we are their models. We are their models in emotional intelligence, in our mannerisms, in our discipline and in following the Deen.

Personally, it took me time to learn how important it was to discipline – it did not come naturally to me because you need a certain amount of firmness while disciplining. That gentle firmness and it’s efficiency was a new revelation for me. In other words, instant gratification will make your child happy and will stop him from throwing a tantrum, but in the long run, you have not taught him to control his nafs. And this is taught in the most basic of ways. I see it when I go to pick up my son from preschool. “1 – 2 -3 ” , the teacher goes and the preschoolers get up from their tables of lunch.

It’s time for the child to stop playing: you have to count to 3 and in a firm but very gentle manner. Such that he/she knows that there is no option to continue… And how does that happen? By being very firm in our own discipline and always ‘meaning’ no when we ‘say’ no. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Why am I mentioning this? Because as mundane as it sounds, I thought, here are non-Muslims, who are teaching discipline. Why? Because it is necessary to get anything done in life. Why is it that hours and hours of screen time bores our children? Why do hours and hours of facebook even make us sick of it? Because we know, inherently, that in proactivity, in creativity and in productivity lies a significant sense of accomplishment and gratification, which is not found in sloth and laziness.

Allah SWT has given us the perfect life model to show us what will be best for our Dunya and Deen.

Look at how much we have to clean as mothers. It’s a never-ending job – day in and day out – we have to keep going if we are to actually *see* any tidiness in the house. SubhanAllah, if regularity is needed in such a mundane act in this world, imagine the significance of regular actions and intentions to our soul? Everything asks for regularity.

The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “The dearest of actions to Allah is that which is done regularly, even if it is small.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The examples above are glimpses into ways of how we can think of Allah SWT and His entire “nizaam” that He Created on this earth, just by looking at the ordinary things in our lives, in ourselves, and in the way we do things.

“We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?” (41:53 Quran)

Apart from this I also wish to mention the other extreme. When people ‘only’ attempt to find Allah in the mundane. I will need to elucidate.

We live in times where either we have women who are praying and doing most outward religious actions, but they fail at parenting. Or we have amazing mothers, who not only dote over their children but raise them up well, discipline and all. Those who excel at both and few and far. But that is the challenge we face.

Salah is enjoined on us more than 700 times in the Quran.

Does Allah SWT give an exception to motherhood in the Quran? Does it say: Except those parents who fall asleep late at night because of the children, or are exhausted because of the day’s labouring, to them there is no sin?

No, that isn’t the case. We are told to turn towards Salah five times a day, which is actually a benefit to our parched souls. It is a spiritual activity in the midst of our mundane activities, teaching us that those mundane activities are done for a reason too. It is the way our Lord wishes to See us. Going about our daily lives either earning, or serving others, with small pockets of rest and leisure, spent with friends and loved ones.

But what if you were alone? What if He Wanted to see you alone instead of how you were with others? Do you have a relationship with the Lord most High? The One who Gave it all to you?

Alhamdulillah to that Being, who Created our lives in such discipline and leisure. In creativity and knowledge. In worship and prayer and meditation and reflection of the ultimate purpose of life. Even in everyday moments of life, we see the beauty of His Creation. We see His Beauty reflected in everything He Created.

When a child refuses to eat something that is healthy for him, because you have allowed him to get addicted to sugar and to that which is unhealthy, it reminds you of the soul of humans- sometimes we get attached to that which does not only not benefit us, but is harmful for us. And we stop tasting the sweetness of that which is truly good for us – just like kids who refuse to taste the sweetness of fruits, when they get addicted to white processed sugary foods – totally harmful to their little physical bodies.

It is in such a point in life, that one stops and prays:

Ya Allah, make each moment of mine truly a moment in which I remember you, reflect upon your Grace and Beauty and Grandeur and Might. Whether in joy or pain, in ease or difficulty, let me call upon you and be truthful to You and my promise to You.

Let me not forget that this ‘mundane’ is actually where You want me to be. It is where You Wish to see me make the ordinary sacred. It is where I am meant to celebrate sacredness and spirituality in something which is not in reality so banal after all.

Ameen.

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Choosing your Battles

There should be a disclaimer when there are bayans/talks/lectures on Islam, that the audience is meant to be for single people. Perhaps that is a bit too far-fetched and not possible. But let me explain what I mean.

As an unmarried person, you are independent and able to work much more on your spirituality than a married person especially when you also have children. Spirituality, as a mother, is a completely different picture from what you would typically hear in lectures.

And if you have friends that also portray and hail that perfect image of a mother – emphasizing perhaps on the most futile of details, IMO – then perhaps you need to find yourself new friends. Because motherhood needs support…

Let’s say your child will not let you wear a ‘dubatta‘ on your head. Mine didn’t. For two years of his life. He just did not… I wish now I had not fretted over it. I certainly will not for my other children in shaa Allah. This notion of the dubatta on your head typically has come across through generations in the subcontinent. You will not find any source for it in any of the Islamic literature. Your head need not be covered at home, amongst your mahrams.

But if you hear a friend say to you “if he is not letting you wear it in front of other women, you should get him used to it even when you are at home.” In other words, your failure to do this at home is why you are not able to do it in front of others, or not able to make your child used to it. First of all, this ‘it’ is not even a farz or a wajib. Perhaps it falls under mustahab (preferred). Do i need to choose this battle with my toddler over a hundred other battles that may even fall under fardh? Do I need to choose it over praying a salah with ihsan despite having my kids around me or while they sleep when a thousand chores and thoughts are running through my mind? Do I need to choose that battle over the battle of not letting my temper go lose? Do I need to choose this battle over the battle of connecting more with the Qur’an? Practicing patience itself is a daily battle once you have kids. Do I honestly need to add to this elaborate list of exhausting to-dos of motherhood?

Especially when you are wishing to draw near to your Lord, you certainly need to draw away from people or even friends who are introducing self-doubt in your life. Who, even though they may be doing it to help you, are subconsciously doing the opposite of what ‘help’ would mean. They will still be getting reward if their intention was to help you, so don’t hold it against them or think lowly of them- but in truth if you are not really being helped, then seek that help elsewhere. You will find it.

You need to do this because it is you who knows what battles you need to choose and which ones you need to avoid.

The first ahadith, in any hadith book that your ever study under a hadith teacher, will begin with the topic of “intention”. It is sad then, that as we grow in our knowledge, we forget the most basic of ahadith in our practical life. As a mother, I remind myself and you of this hadith:

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, related from his Lord the Blessed and Exalted, “Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and he made them clear. Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it, then Allah will record for him a single bad deed.”

Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6126, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 131

10847912_10154899539865722_4677162262313005984_nMay Allah SWT Grant us Wisdom to cherish each good deed, to cherish friends who encourage us in a variety of good deeds, to change the things that are in our control, and to let go of those that we are unable to change. May we take positive steps in our lives, and put the rest on the side table to be picked up when we have the ability to do so. May we know the more important from the less important, if there is any hierarchy to it; and may we cherish each and every little thing to the dot if there is no such hierarchy – or even if there is- because at the end of the day, the littlest thing will count in our book of deeds.

So, without getting lost in the little things which seem to be out of your control atm, pick up those you can pick up. Pick up those that will help you navigate the murky waters of isolation and struggle that is motherhood… Pick up those that will leave you feeling love for your Lord, who loves you more than 70 times the love you have for your bundle of joy.

Think about the atoms. The tiny things. It is too hard to think of mountains when everyday life is becoming a mountain for you to climb… And remind yourself:

So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it (99:7)