Relationships are Connections of the Heart Supported by Reason (Gems from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani)

As a collaboration between the SeekersHub Toronto, the Muslim Chaplaincy at U of T and the U of T MSA, the Muslim Chaplaincy at U of T offered a course during the Fall of 2014 called Living Light with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. The sessions I attended were excellent, and left us with much to think about afterwards. Below, notes from one of the sessions. 

  • Have a daily point of connection to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him
  • The sunna is not just general principles, but practical specifics
  • The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him would keep in touch with people for decades afterwards
  • Part of goodness to parents is goodness to the friends of one’s parents. To be respectful to their friends.
  • Have loyalty in relationships
  • We often like to study intellectual things but most important knowledge is that that transforms how we worship and how we are with Allah’s creation. We must constantly ask: what is the right action entailed by the right intention and attitude?
  • Sometimes to determine this we need to momentarily disengage. When Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him asked the Companions to come out of ihram and they didn’t respond, there is a methodology we can learn in his response.
  • a) Disengage (went inside his tent)
  • b) Consult when unclear. Sometimes expressing your problem helps to view it correctly  (Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him consulted his wife)
  • c) Only respond when sure. Don’t say or do anything hastily. Say the good or be silent.
  • Good character is manifest when tested
  • With couples/any relationship – tell yourself, i don’t want to respond to how I feel and what he/she saying, I want to respond in way pleasing to Allah
  • Attitude and then action. Look at your spouse with mercy and love.
  • Opposite of love is not hatred, it’s indifference. If motive is to look with mercy, you are seeking the good.
  • Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, did not deal with people on the basis of what they said or did, dealt with people on the basis of heart. What is their underlying concerns.
  • Have an eye of love and mercy. Have a good opinion of your spouse.
  • Relations are a matter of the heart (emotions), they aren’t rational.
  • Relationships are connections of the heart, supported by reason.
  • Deal with people on the basis of good chraracter.
  • The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, gave us numerous examples – need to renew our connection to him, peace and blessings be upon him.

Your Perceptions Define Your Experiences (Gems from Soul Food with Ustadh Amjad Tarsin)

The Muslim Chaplaincy at U of T runs an amazing weekly discussion circle called Soul Food.  Below are notes from one of the sessions this term. Alhamdullilah for spaces to grow and learn with others!

  • A true sense of hope is hoping for God’s mercy and working for it.
  • When you see a sunset, why do you enjoy it? When you’re with family, what is your response? The response should be thankfulness
  • Take advantage of every moment as an advantage of drawing close to God. We are sowing seeds for the akhira (afterlife)
  • What is your purpose? Tip: Spend 5 minutes at the end of the day and sit and reflect. Engage in dhikr and quiet. 
  • Death is around the corner. Allah and eternal bliss is what we should strive for. Death gives you immediacy. Contemplating death allows you to ask the question, where am I going? I’m going somewhere based on what I do here. How do I achieve the goals I have in the best way possible?
  • Don’t be attached to results, be attached to God.
  • Companions weren’t morbid, they were content with death. Natural to have a fear of the unknown but if have yaqeen, better able to handle things.
  • Is what I’m doing, what I’m intending, something I will be glad that I did?
  • Seek greater goals. Then everything you do becomes an act of worship.
  • A righteous person, funeral is like a wedding. Your perceptions define your experiences.
  • Really important to reflect on life. Where are you going? What are we attached to? What are our lives about? People who have a strong sense of this strive to do the most amount of good. Their hearts are full of the things that really matter.
  • As attachments to the world decrease, arguments, grudges, backbiting decrease.
  • We shouldn’t be small minded people, we should look at the big picture.
  • We tend to have shallow communications. We hang out with people, but don’t have deep communications. 
  • Chicken soup to a neighbour, the greatest act to change the world. Mutual acts of caring performed often forge a sense of belonging. Try to reignite the role of neighbours.

 

Make Gratitude Your Banner (and other Jum’ah Reminders by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin)

Alhamdullilah for Jum’ah! Whenever I’m able to attend, it’s lovely to benefit from the lessons of teachers, and to fuel up with their reminders for the week ahead. Below are a few reminders I took away from today’s Khutbah by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at the University of Toronto. Duas that your Ramadan is going well! All mistakes in recall are my own.

1) This is a month of connection and reconnection. Reconnecting with God, reconnecting with family, reconnecting with community. Do not be of those who break family ties. And invite people. There are people in our community who may be international students far from home, or converts fasting on their own, or people who cannot afford iftar. Invite them over and feed them, and benefit from the tremendous reward.

2) Gratitude leads to increase. Make gratitude your banner.

3) The scholars say that Ramadan is a school. Take time to assess yourself honestly and ask yourself, what grade would I give myself? If you haven’t felt the sweetness of Ramadan yet, it’s not too late.

4) Security and safety are blessings. And it’s a blessing we cannot take for granted. We may all know people who do not enjoy this blessing, or are suffering from hardship or illness. But duas work. Take time every night, whether it’s one minute, or 5 minutes, or whatever you can do, to remember those who are suffering in other parts of the world.

5)  The last ten nights are coming, and in them a night is hidden that is better than 80 years of worship. Better than a thousand months. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was more active in these days than he was the rest of the month.

Living Within My Means: Contentment Without Consumerism (Gems from Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari at ISNA Canada)

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.

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The Divine Wisdom of Green and Environmental Stewardship (Gems from Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at ISNA Canada)

 On the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, we were blessed with a wonderful lecture by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin that was a reminder to be people of gentleness who are embodiments of mercy on earth, and who understand that honouring the connection between ourselves and the rest of creation is an integral part of our faith, not simply a  ‘good thing to do.” Ustadh Amjad reminded us that our faith is one of mercy, and when we learn something that contradicts mercy, we need to re-evaluate our understanding of what we’re learning. He also told us beautiful stories of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and brought joy to our hearts by sharing how all of creation loves the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. This is more than just “community service” he told us, “All of creation deserves our respect and reverence because everything worships and praises its Lord.”

Finally, Ustadh Amjad ended his talk by giving us practical ways to become stewards of the earth, and his reminder to eat halal, good, wholesome, pure food is the one that resonated most with me. Ustadh Amjad’s lecture gave us practical ways to do this in our daily life. Notes from the lecture are below.

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On Social Media and Happy Marriages (Day 1 at the ISNA Canada Convention)

This past weekend ISNA Canada held their annual convention at the ISNA Canada Masjid in Mississauga. And despite my full intentions to get there on time, I got lost on the 1st Day of the Convention, and only reached the masjid near the end of Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari’s lecture on Surah Kahf. What I heard was excellent though, and a good reminder to critically evaluate one’s time and energy in virtual spaces, to strive to have consistent behaviour regardless of who you are interacting with, and to have patience with the learning process.

After Shaykh Ahmed Saad spoke, Dr. Altaf Hussain gave a lecture on creating happy marriages and living “happily ever after.” He spoke about the importance of resisting the urge to have an elaborate wedding, and to focus instead on how a couple will live their life together afterwards. Once married he said, we need to focus on stopping “micro-aggressions” before they create major problems in our relationships, and build partnerships where dua and praying together and for each other are at the core of one’s shared life. Finally, he also addressed and you could hear the seriousness, emphasis and frustration in his voice as he spoke, about the importance of remembering that the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and Khadijah, may Allah be well pleased with her, had an age difference between them. As communities and families he said, we must stop assuming that women past a certain age/are older are unacceptable spouses. I stayed for that lecture as well before heading back downtown.

I was a bit shaken from getting lost and so my notes from the 1st day are very basic, but I’ve included them below. I’m not normally a conference -goer, but was really impressed by the quality of the ISNA Canada Convention. The volunteers were polite, there were so many families and young people in attendance, the bazaar was lovely, the masjid was beautiful, and throughout the whole event, you could tell that several months of planning and careful thought had gone into this weekend. Every lecture in the main hall had a sign language interpreter on stage to make the event more accessible, and the entire conference had a strong sustainability focus. Every registrant was given a refillable water bottle and there were no plastic water bottles sold at the conference alhamdullilah. May God bless and reward in the best of ways all those involved in this conference, and enable us to implement what we learned insha’Allah. It truly was a beneficial, needed weekend.

Accessible gatherings

Accessible gatherings

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Prophetic Love is a Love that Heals (Visiting the SeekersHub)

On Thursday last week my heart was feeling heavy, and so following my mother’s excellent advice that remembrance of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him eases the heart, I went to the SeekersHub Toronto to hear Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari speak and to participate in the weekly mawlid.

Though I’ve been in Toronto for the past couple of months, this was my first visit to the new Hub location, and I’m so, so happy I made the trip finally. (God bless and reward the kind soul that helped make the journey easier by picking me up).  If you haven’t visited the SeekersHub Toronto yet either, I highly recommend the trip. To start with, the space is beautiful.  One wall features a large calligraphy piece by Toronto calligrapher Sehar Shahzad, and seeing this piece in person is worth the trip alone. Her work radiates love, and its wonderful to see local institutions supporting local artists. 

But the Hub is so much more than a beautiful physical space. It almost felt like Eid that night- there were families and people of all ages in the Hub, and everyone was smiling, happy, and truly glad to be there celebrating the beauty of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and so many unknown ones, and to see how much the Hub has grown since I last lived in Toronto alhamdullilah. 

And even though it had been a while since I’ve participated in a mawlid, it was a very accessible gathering. The evening started with a beautiful recitation of the Dua Nasiri, a powerful dua that applies to our world and to our everyday, individual lives. One line in particular that I found moving was the following:

“You are the One on Whom We call to remove our adversities,
and You are the One we hope will dispel our sorrows.”

To you, our Lord, we have stretched out our hands
and from You, our Lord, we hope for kindness.

Be kind to us in what You decree
and let us be pleased with what pleases You.

 

Since the Mawlid I’ve been listening to this dua constantly, and I highly recommend hearing this recitation of this moving, important dua.  After the Dua Nasiri we recited a beautiful dua for rain, and again, hearing the dua and reading its meaning about physical and spiritual rain was a heart-softening experience.

Supplication for Rain

Supplication for Rain

 

Later on in the mawlid, Shaykh Ibrahim Hussain shared a beautiful Urdu naat with us, and though hearing about the Prophet in any language softens the heart and is beautiful, hearing poetry in a language where I can appreciate the subtlety of the poetry without the intermediary of translation was my favourite part of the gathering.  Sidi Nader Khan also shared an Urdu naat with us that was exceptional, and such moments are the ones have the most impact on my heart. Alhamdullilah for the diversity of forms of praise about the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him!

The mawlid closed before Maghrib with Sidi Nader treating us to an bluesy-jazz number in English that was extraordinary, and something we could all participate in through the chorus of “laa ilaha illAllah”. By this point in the gathering, I felt so much joy and happiness, and felt markedly different from when I walked into the door. Alhamdullilah for this deen and the light of faith, alhamdullilah for the beauty and mercy of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and alhamdullilah for the beauty and company of fellow believers! Truly, reflecting on the gifts we’ve been given make external challenges so much easier to deal with, and the Hub facilitates such remembrance.

After Maghrib Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari gave a powerful reminder (I highly recommend listening to it in its entirety!) about how the Qur’an should change our lives (notes below) and people stayed after the lesson for Isha, to drink delicious Moroccan tea (everything about the Hub is sweet) and to catch up and meet new friends and old. All in all, it was a night of tranquility, and I look forward to my next visit insha’Allah! 

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