Last night, a sister and I were working on tajweed and she shared something that is amazing. She said, that when we recite the Quran with observation of the tajweed rules, it forces us to be more alert and basically engage at a different level; basically pay more attention to the details. As we recite, we have to watch out for the idghaam, the ikhfaa, the mudood, the correct pronunciation of the letters, making sure we are fulfilling the rights of each letter. This subhanallah, is deep in itself and in application to our lives in general. We are to live conscious lives, instead of running on autopilot.
For example, in our five daily prayers, we tend to run on autopilot as it has become a regiment and routine, but we are supposed to do it consciously, at a deeper level of ‘paying attention’, and for many, this is a daily struggle. But alhamdulilah for the many little things Allah has given us to redeem ourselves, the encouragement of turning to Him, seeking repentance, seeking forgiveness, the many little things we can do to wipe away our minor sins, and of course, the chance to have another go at performing our prayers with more concentration. The fact that there are five chances in a day, is enough of a sign of His mercy, subhanallah.
The simple act of smiling, or saying good and kind words, can be a powerful source of blessing for us if we do it consciously; making the intention to please Allah and following the sunnah. Recently, in our Bukhari class, someone asked a question that brought about the mention of sitting on the floor as being the sunnah of the prophet saw. It was mentioned that if we eat on the floor with the intention of following the sunnah, then we will get the reward of following the sunnah.
I already eat on the floor. [Yes, we have a dinner table], but my husband and I prefer to eat on the floor. In fact, ever since we were married, we have been eating on the floor, with our fingers, from one plate. When the three older kids were younger, it was all five of us eating from a big platter, for lunch and dinner. But as the kids grew up, they also grew disgusted with each other’s food remains and decided to eat separately, from their own plates, at the table. So now, it’s only my husband and I who are left eating on the floor. Sometimes, Z would join us. In fact, he prefers to join us than eat from his own plate even though his siblings are all eating from their own individual plates.
Now, we don’t eat on the floor because it’s the sunnah. We eat with our fingers and sit on the floor because of our personal preference. Basically, it means, I don’t do that with the intention of following the sunnah. I just do it because I prefer to do it that way. But as this was mentioned in class, I begun to realize that subhanallah, by just making the intention to follow the sunnah every time we eat, we could have racked up that ‘reward for following sunnah’! Actions indeeds are by intention. Subhanallah. It’s so easy to do, yet also so easy to neglect. It just requires us to make conscious intentions when we do anything, in this case, eating. Subhanallah.
When we help someone, the intention may be to alleviate the burden of the person we’re helping, which in itself is a noble intention. However, if we set our intention to do this for a higher purpose; pleasing Allah, the reward will be based on that intention. Same action , same good intentions, but different in degree, thus different in outcome.
Subhanallah, how much Islam teaches us to live life consciously, to always keep Allah foremost in our minds. It actually requires effort to live conscious lives. Living life on autopilot is easier. But living a conscious life is like walking on a road that has patches of ice; we have to be alert all the time lest we slip and fall. In the word taqwa, there is a meaning of safeguarding, and in this context, living a life of taqwa is to safeguard our actions and intentions, and this, requires us to be alert all the time.
Subhanallah, for those who say Islam is just another one of those organized religion, yes, it is an organized religion, and that’s what makes it great. If we see the most successful corporation or company, organization is one of the most important criteria or feature that makes it successful. So why not in religion? In Allah’s creation there is so much organization, so much harmony, so many of these which we can ponder on and take beautiful lessons from. Allah, with love, care, and mercy has laid out everything for us, to facilitate things for us.
It is He who made the earth tame for you – so walk among its slopes and eat of His provision – and to Him is the resurrection. [Mulk 67:15]
The fact that science relies on the predictability of scientific facts is a great mercy from Allah. Without the predictability of gravity for example, life would be very difficult. The fact that the sun rises every day is a huge blessing. Imagine if the solar system is unreliable, or not punctual. It would cause a lot of inconvenience. There might not be any calendar let alone clocks! If gravity is not reliable, we might wake up grounded one day, and floating the next!
[And] who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency. So return [your] vision [to the sky]; do you see any breaks? [Mulk 67:3]
Do they not see the birds above them with wings outspread and [sometimes] folded in? None holds them [aloft] except the Most Merciful. Indeed He is, of all things, Seeing.[Mulk 67:19]
Science, something that we revere today, and look up to as advance modern knowledge that brought us from the dark ages to enlightenment, is the one thing that keeps pointing us towards the fact that there is a Creator.Yet, we have separated science from religion, and our scientists are studying this knowledge with this attitude. Scientists should be the ones who would be awed again and again as they are the ones who deal most closely with Allah’s creations every day. Every day, they are interacting with Allah’s signs. Well, we all are, but they are working at a deeper level, studying and discovering the beauty of creation and thus, with a little pondering, come to the conclusion that there must be a Creator that is All Merciful, All Powerful.
Yet, because of this attitude, we have been trained to take things for granted. We may react with “Wow! That’s amazing!” but we don’t go beyond that. After a while, our attitude becomes ‘factual’ because it’s a fact after all. “Oh yeah, that’s how it works. So what?” And with this attitude, gratitude goes away, and it’s replaced by ingratitude, such that if something doesn’t abide by scientific fact, we flip out. We have begun to assume that it’s our right that things should behave that way. In reality, Allah, the Creator, can do whatever He wants. He can make things unpredictable if He wants, yet He has made it predictable to facilitate it for us.
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. [Aali Imran 3:190]
Islam teaches us organization, paying careful attention to details, and this characteristic of paying attention to detail is what makes good scientists, doctors, computer scientists, engineers etc; people we want our children to be like. Even just in the five daily prayers, subhanallah, the positions we take when we make ruku (straight back so that if one places a glass of water on yr back it won’t spill), when we make sujud (thighs not touching stomachs, arms spread out, forehead and nose on the ground, all toes bent facing the qiblah, fingers closed facing qiblah etc), require us to pay attention to details. If we make the effort to do this, we get so much more out of it, and it’s fair too!
One who doesn’t put much effort (out of neglect, not out of not being able to of course), doesn’t deserve to get an ‘A’ for this, and one who does, deserve the higher ‘grade’ for it. In reciting the Quran, there are ettiquettes to be observed, in eating, in drinking, in sleeping, in cleaning one’s private parts, in making dua, there are always options for ‘bonus points’. The point in all these is to make us people who always strive for the best, who reach for the stars, who are motivated towards a common goal; pleasing Allah. That is why Muhsin is the highest level (Muslim, Mu2min, Muhsin). Ihsan is excellence; giving something more than what it deserves. Doing ihsan to another is not tit for tat, but ‘more’ for tat (in goodness). If someone is bad to you, you do good to them. It’s always going for the ‘more’ in good. It’s almost like perfectionism but without the negative self-bashing, hesitance, and despair that can come at the extreme end of perfectionism (I know this only too well :D).
Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire. [Aali Imran 3:191]
So, subhanallah….Islam is such a beautiful way of life, designed by the Creator who knows His creations inside out and beyond. When we recite the Quran, we should go beyond just memorization, but sit, actually look at the mushaf, engage in reflection, ponder at whatever level we are at, and get more out of it. When we recite the ayaat that we routinely do before sleeping, eating, going out of the house etc, we should pay attention to the significance behind why the prophet saw did that at those occasions and we will usually find the answer by scrutinizing those ayaat, like why Allah chose certain attributes for those passages etc, the word choice (Arabic knowledge is helpful), grammatical form, etc.
However, even with no knowledge of Arabic, we have the capacity and ability to ponder and reflect. At each stage of our lives, we will extract different things from the Quran. It is as dynamic as we are, because after all, it is as if Allah is speaking to us personally. He knows what we’re going through and He knows what we need. When we seek solace from the Quran, He will respond. As human beings with intellect, we are dynamic, we grow at every stage in our lives. It’s just amazing how Allah has given us intellect. It’s what separates us from other creations and all the time in the Quran we are told to use it.
Ironically, just by reflecting on how much we do daily routine on autopilot, we realize what an effort it is to actually utilize our intellect all the time. Yet it is a great and wonderful blessing, without which our lives would take on a different meaning.