On Saturday, the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari gave a lecture that was the highlight of the convention for me. The lecture was about contentment, and was a reminder that in this abode, we should strive to have good character and behaviour towards everyone out of our love for God and not because we expect recognition from others. It was also a reminder to be grateful for gifts and blessings for the duration we are gifted them instead of resentful or sad when we no longer have them. Throughout our lives, our hearts and hopes should be attached to God and to His Beloved, peace and blessings be upon him.
Finally, Shaykh Ahmed Saad reminded us to not have overly specific expectations, and to allow ourselves to surrender to God’s Plan. The qadr of Allah is inescapable, and the path to contentment is to understand that as much as we try to bring about the things we want, we need to understand that our lives operate within the walls of Allah’s qadr. The lecture made me think of times when I’ve felt stressed out (when I was new to Toronto as a graduate student for instance), and assumed that everything would be easy, and unfold in a specific way, and how I became a more serene, tranquil person when I accepted the presence of challenges and had high expectations of God, but wasn’t overly prescriptive of what life should look like. This lecture was a reminder of that same point, and so much more. Notes below.
Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari
- We live in a world that creates a need of buying, rather than buying because of need.
- We live in a world of distractions. Nature of life is distractions. Distractions are also tribulations and problems. The essence of distractions is that they prevent us from enjoying life.
- Story of a man who goes to a palace to learn the meaning of happiness. And he is told to look at the palace and enjoy its delights, but while doing so, to make sure not to spill a few drops of olive oil placed in a teaspoon. And when the man came back, they asked him if he had enjoyed the palace, and he replied that he didn’t see very much, as he was so focused on not dropping his drops of oil.
- Happiness is to enjoy what you have rather than worrying about what is coming to you.
- The past is past, tomorrow is uncreated, but right now you have this moment.
- We live in a world of “buy 2, get 1 free”, “buy 1, get the 2nd 50% off”. But in reality nothing is free, we pay for it with our health and our pockets.
- Companies want people to buy in bulk because they produce in bulk. People buy what they don’t need because they forget life has an expiry date.
- We develop an attachment to the world, which is why we have needs.
- There are two things that grow as we grow. And this is greed and the longing for a long life. Because we have the false feeling of living forever, we accumulate.
- The problem is not in the not having of things, the problem is in not being content.
- Qur’an tells us that man will live in difficulty. So when life shows you difficulties, you should not be surprised. This is just what life is. Shouldn’t expect too much, because this is what life is. A lot of discontentment happens because we wish for things that are not in our means.
- In reviving my contentment, I feel dignity.
- We see discontentment even in the weather. People wait for seasons. When it is winter, we wish it is summer. When it is summer, we long for winter. We are never content with any state.
- People are discontented with who they are and what they are blessed with.
- Allah has created you in the most perfect way. And yet you have discontentment in the way you are!
- Nothing comes from the Perfect except that which is perfect. Nothing comes from the Beautiful except that which is beautiful.
- Our kids are perfect for us. They may not be perfect for someone else, but they are perfect for us. Our spouse, our family is perfect for us.
- We comes to the world as visitors. We do not come as permanent residents. When we go, we give our passport to someone else.
- We are honoured creatures of Allah.
- You are more important to Allah than celebrities are to you. Nobody would write down everything that a celebrity does and says, what time they got up, what they did, what they said, when they went to the washroom. And yet Allah has malaika writing down everything that we do. And this isn’t because Allah wants to catch us red-handed, but because you are precious to Allah.
- Look after your spirit, your body.
- Greed leads man to worry too much.
- Planning your life is not a problem, obsessing is a problem. To sit beside a plant and wait for it to sprout is a problem. People would think us crazy if they saw us beside a plant, asked us what we were doing and we replied, “I planted seeds and I’m waiting for them to sprout.”
- If you look at an expert cook in the kitchen s/he doesn’t wait beside the pot for it to be ready. An expert cook estimates, they know how long it’s going to take and they prepare other dishes, other things.
- The question “If” makes hearts diseased.
- We need to break the destructive cycle of worry. Dua is the answer.
- Surah Takathur tells us that we worry about multiplying things until the grave.
- Sadness is such a poisonous thing, and leads to so many other problems.
- Important dua:
- Worry kills us. Worry leads to diabetes, to blood pressure.
- Sadness leads to other problems because when we are worried we become lazy. We become unable to be productive. We don’t love life.
- Limited resources and have unlimited worry.
Essentials of Quranic Contentment
1) Live without Expectations
- In our relationships, in anything you do, do it without expectations. Do it without expectation of someone paying you back. We wait for people to be good to us, and then get disappointed, but we shouldn’t expect a lot from others. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, told us to thank people when they do good to us, but to de-attach from them completely so that we’re not disappointed by people.
2) Discover the Giant Inside You
- You have a lot of potential. Love yourself. Invest in yourself. Recognise who you are.
3)Plan but don’t depend on a plan.
- Know that we plan, but Allah may have a different plan for us. And Allah is the best of Planners.
4) Realize that we have himma, and piercing zeal, but we’re surrounded by the walls of Allah’s qadr. Cannot overcome Allah’s qadr.
5)Shift your direction to Allah. Instead of looking what lies with other people, observe the beauties of Allah
6) Kill your Greed.
- Read the lives of people who left this life.
7) Appreciate people you are gifted with
- Parents, kids, the people Allah has placed in your life are the best people that suit you.
- Acknowledge the Divine Plan and be content with the Divine Plan for you. God tells us in Surah Naml that he has given some of you more than others. Acknowledge God’s blessings and God’s Plan.