It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and the adhan on your phone goes off. Collecting your books and laptop you make your way to the washroom where you will perform a quick absent-minded wudu, forgetting mid-way if you washed your arm 3 times or was it twice? You pull your sleeves over your damp arms, and re pin your hijab, sighing as you watch the wetness of your hair begin to seep through your chiffon headscarf. Momentarily forgetting that these same spots, which are a cause of annoyance to you, will be illuminated on yawmul Qiyama.
“They (my followers) will come with bright faces and white limbs because of Wudu and I will arrive at the Haud (Al-Kauthar) ahead of them.”
You stand and raise hands to ears professing God’s greatness and recite the opening chapter as you slip into another world. Isn’t it funny that the Prophet ﷺ did not receive the legislation for salah with the angels around him, but rather when he was alone with his Lord. What can we learn from this?
Al Isra’ wal Miraj, illustrates that when you and I are in prayer, this is a time to enjoy seclusion with Allah. A slave is closest to her Lord when she is in sujuud. While the person beside you, can barely make out your muffled dua in prostration, Allah above the seven heavens hears you clearly.
One of Allah’s name is Al Hayy the living One, our prayer is not to some abstract concept, but rather to One who is Alive, Hearing and Seeing. The Prophet ﷺ tells us that “ you will be able to see your Lord as you see the full moon on a clear night.” A full moon has no clouds in front of it. It’s fully visible and shines lustrously against the darkness. So when we pray we should know that Allah is no less real than our surroundings, no less real than your hands, the carpet on which you rest your forehead on, no less real than the person whose feet you align with as you straighten the rows.
One of the reasons that the soundness and quality of our prayers will be examined, is because the ability of an individual to train his soul for khushu is a testament of painstaking devotion by a slave yearning to be connected to a Lord he does not see. The supreme challenge of our lives is obtaining khushu, which like every skill, is something acquired through apprenticeship, and eventually graced to us by Allah. The mastery of khushu in salah is delicate and difficult, as it demands that we train ourselves to hush the inner critic and re-root ourselves to see each moment as a chance to start anew.
If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day would you notice any dirt on him?” They said, “Not a trace of dirt would be left.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “That is the example of the five prayers with which Allah obliterates evil deeds.”
Riyad as-Salihin 1029
Sahih al-Bukhari 7434
Sahih al-Bukhari 528
“The Prophet used to sit with his companions as one of them. A stranger would come in but he would not know which of them was the Prophet until he asked and was told.” (Abu Dawood)
While discussing the ideal qualities of a leader Umar (r.a) once said. The only person that is suited for this job is one who is gentle without being weak, and who is strong without being harsh.” True leaders command and are trusted with authority because of their calm oversight and alignment between their words and deeds. In fact, integrity is perhaps the most potent ingredient behind their influence. Living in alignment of what they profess gives them credibility and inspires trust among people because they lead by example. They possess an inner strength and stewardship, and only assert themselves when necessary. Like a shepherd, a true leader makes decisions for the safety, and wellbeing of their flock. Speaking on the same topic, Umar further stated that: “The kind of leader I want is a man who if he is among his people while being their leader, will be thought of (by an outside observer) as nothing more than one of them, and who if he is among them while being nothing more than one of them, will be thought of (by an outside observer) as their leader.”
Popular culture has painted leaders as competitive for positions, and influence, domineering, aggressive and violent. However, true leaders are not necessarily the biggest or most distinguished members within a group. In fact, if an individual has to bully, suppress and attack people into submission, they do not have the qualities of leadership- it actually signals that they are not in control at all. True leaders on the other hand, understand that no value comes from belittling, shaming and bullying, because it leaves people bitter, confused and less likely to improve their own behaviour. They work intimately with the people they lead to understand them and with this knowledge, they avoid assigning responsibilities to people that are beyond their ability;
It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr who said: I said to the Prophet: Messenger of Allah, “Will you not appoint me to a public office?” He stroked my shoulder with his hand and said: “Abu Dharr, you are weak and authority is a trust. And on the day of judgment it (worldly authority) is a cause of disgrace and remorse except for one who fulfills its obligations and (properly discharges its duties.” [Sahih Muslim]
But they do assign tasks that incite people they care about to stretch their capabilities. Ultimately, love and a genuine desire to help them become more balanced is a sine qua non of a true leader:
“I have only been sent to perfect good character.” Musnad Ahmad (8595)
May Allah grant us understanding
Adab Ad- Dunyaa wad-Deen p311. Faraaid al Kalaam p111
One thing I have realized, as I get older is that increasing in age does not automatically make one wiser. Wisdom is gained by intentional participation in our trials, and a willingness to confront our wounds.
The work is very difficult and hats off to all those who are active participants in the quest towards their own growth. The path of self liberation, the ‘hijrah’ towards one’s authentic self is not for the faint of heart. I see you. When we think about our development over the course of our lives, it was not easy to go through. Why? Because to truly see oneself is painful. It is not an easy decision to choose consciousness over autopilot. To sit with uncomfortable emotions and to forgo denial. It is not an easy feat to choose to fully engage with the test in front of you. Many go through a lifetime repeating the same patterns, and cling unto long held beliefs that no longer serve them. Judging others, numbing, and spiritually bypassing our own needs is so easy. It’s seductive because it lets us escape the painful parts of ourselves.
But you chose not to. You chose to insert sticks into the cycle of outdated patterns and ways of being, to chart a new course. And through this, Allah bestowed wisdom upon you, that missed you years ago. So you see the solution is wisdom- and that is gained by not running from, but towards oneself. “Allah has not tested His slaves with anything but also provided them with what helps them sustain themselves against that trial and test. This is the perfect Wisdom of Allah, that He tests His slaves with the disease, and yet helps them find the cure.” Ibn Al Jawzi
The truth about trials is that they are our mirrors, reflecting back to us what needs healing. I believe that wisdom is a gift given by Allah, and with it we are given an opportunity to integrate all the parts that are buried within us. It is in a way remembering or a rediscovery of a ‘self’ we lost.
Do not be like those who forgot Allah so He made them forget their own selves.
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