This Ramadan, our special guest blogger and columnist will be sharing daily Islamic reminders with our community.

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Grow where you are planted

Have you ever been walking along a sidewalk and came upon a crack out of which was growing a beautiful flower? You may have thought that it was quite amazing that a flower would grow and even thrive under such conditions given the unlikelihood of its survival. But despite the less-than-ideal conditions, the flower grew where it was planted. Of course, it is most likely that no person planted the flower in that crack, but some seed was carried off by the wind and landed there and that is where the flower grew. The seed, it should be noted, did not have any say over where it would land or where it would sprout into a beautiful flower. I suppose if it did have a say, it would have chosen a more ideal spot in which to grow.

And we too, just like that flower springing forth from the crack of a sidewalk, must grow where we are planted. We may think that the conditions we find ourselves in are not ideal for growth to take place in our lives, yet we must make an honest attempt.  For this growth to take place it is essential that we use the resources and opportunities that have come our way to the best of our advantage so that we can both grow and thrive, and not worry or stress over not being in what we consider the best or ideal conditions. 

We cannot live in a world of fantasy where thoughts of “should” takes precedence over “what is.” If we wait for these so-called ideal conditions in order for growth to take place in our lives, we may never grow at all but stagnate and die from within.

You must come to terms with the realization that the reason you are in the place or situation you are right now is because that is what  Allah has ordained for you. When you internalize that reality and stop pining over the fantasy of where you “should” be, then you will be able to grow and even thrive.

You should remember you can control how you choose to see and perceive the situation that you are in at the current moment. Learn to reorient the way you think about your current situation.

You must also be willing to accept change because change is both inevitable and necessary to bring about progress. If things always remained the same, there will be no personal growth or forward motion in your life. Look upon these times of change as opportunities and not something to merely pine over.

You should also try to be thankful and value what you do have right now instead of always feeling negative about your life, because negativity will affect your overall energy levels and make it difficult for you to achieve further growth. Focus on what you do have and work on that.

In addition, try to learn lessons from your circumstances. When you make mistakes or when you interact with other people etc, be on the lookout for life lessons that you can use later on. Even in really bad situations, lessons can be learned. When you have this mindset you will see those circumstances and people that come into your life not as a waste of time and energy but as opportunities for growth.

And, as I stated above, try to practice acceptance of the current situation you were in, especially those things that you cannot change at the moment. Accept the things you cannot change and work with them.

You can also take the time to learn about those people who in the past were able to achieve tremendous things even though they started out under very difficult conditions and circumstances. Just because things are difficult and not ideal does not mean that things are hopeless. 

Wake up in the morning, express thankfulness to your creator and then focus on what are your tasks or obligations right now and get to it.

Yes, dear reader, it is possible to grow or you are planted.


Dear Muslims, try to make the world a better place in which to live

إِنَّ هَـٰذَا ٱلۡقُرۡءَانَ يَہۡدِى لِلَّتِى هِىَ أَقۡوَمُ وَيُبَشِّرُ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ أَنَّ لَهُمۡ أَجۡرً۬ا كَبِيرً۬ا
Verily, this Qur’an guides to that which is most just and right and gives glad tidings to the believers who work deeds of righteousness, that they shall have a great reward (in Paradise).   
Surah Al-Isra 17:9
As a believer, one thing you should strive to do is to make the world a better place as a result of your having lived in it. And how does one go about achieving such a lofty goal? The answer is one word: Islam.
I propose to you that if you live a life according to the teachings of the Islamic faith as found within the Quran and the prophetic Sunnah, your contribution to this world will be a positive one. And as a result of this positive contribution the world will be a better place for those with whom you come in contact. Please allow me to offer some specific examples.
When you live according to the teachings of Islam you will be an overall decent personyou will be charitable and kind towards others, friendly toward your neighbours, compassionate toward those who are less fortunate, avoid that which is harmful to yourself and to others around you, speak and conduct yourself in a dignified and respectable manner, be honest and fair in all of your dealings with others, have a deep love for justice and hatred for all forms of injustice, you will have no racism or bigotry in your heart or conduct, you will seek to obey all the laws of the land, be an excellent husband or wife and parent, be a responsible and trustworthy employee, maintain close family ties, respect the environment, reduce waste, shop ethically, avoid anything that intoxicates your mind, avoid vulgarity and cursing, earn you living in a lawful and honest manner, respect other people’s beliefs and conduct yourself with humility and overall respect towards everyone around you.
All the things that I have listed above are mentioned in the Quran and the prophetic Sunnah and if you bring these things into your life on a daily basis this will not only contribute to you being a better person but help in making the world a better place in which to live.
Beyond the items mentioned in this list, you will show consideration towards others in small ways such as cleaning up after yourself when you go to a public toilet, opening the door for someone,  giving people the right of way even though sometimes it may be yours, help people to resolve disputes, doing small favours for your neighbours such as mowing their lawn, removing their snow in the winter time or sending them over small gifts of food or other items, and being respectful and helpful towards the elderly and infirm. And these are just a few examples of how you would behave if you brought the teachings of Islam into your life.
Not only would you gain the respect of others as a result of conducting yourself in such a manner, but you would also gain self-respect and would feel so much better about yourself.
Sadly, there are those who refer to themselves as Muslim but who only want to dominate over others, be harsh and hard-hearted, kill, heap all kinds of destruction and commit acts of oppression, criminality and terror. But such people are not acting upon the teachings of Islam but out of their own impulses and give little thought to the rightness or wrongness of what they are doing.
On questions of right (halal) or wrong (haram) we always refer back to the Book of Allah and the prophetic Sunnah.  People’s actions are not a proper measurement of right and wrong.
All of us want to live in a better world, but this does not come about by wishful thinking and we have to make a real effort. 
This Ramadan, resolve in your heart that the rest of your life is going to be lived in such a way that the world, even if in some small way, will be a better place. 

Strengthen Your Bond with the Qur’an

As we settle into the first week of this most blessed month, let us remember, that in addition to fasting, “Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed” (al-Baqarah, ayah 185).  It is “a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard to distinguish between right and wrong.” (al-Baqarah, ayah 185).  

Many of us will hear the Qur’an during Taraweeh prayers, and read it on our own personal time. This indeed, is the time, to develop a closeness the guidance from Allah.  And one cannot do that without understanding the message of the Qur’an.  

I grew up in a South Asian household, and as a child, I remember the importance of reading the Qur’an from cover to cover, in Arabic, phonetically. Once that was completed, families would often hold a celebration that their child had completed the Qur’an.  While we are rewarded for this effort, it always bothered me that I never understood a word I had read.  Not only that, there was so much reverence for the Qur’an, that It seemed like a distant, holy object – often read on the occasion of someone’s death. And, there was always a warning to stay away from understanding the message of the Qur’an on your own, lest one be led astray. 

But I truly came to love the Qur’an later by reading a number of English translations, in order to understand the meaning and message from Allah (swt).  The Qur’an became my daily companion throughout the year. And as I became more fluent in Arabic, the direct understanding became more profound.   

When I lived in the US as a graduate student, learned from a group of African-American converts who would gather weekly to study the Qur’an. They loved the book of Allah so much – by understanding the meaning and message. They strove to learn Arabic, to get even closer.  For them, the Qur’an was not a distant object to be revered, but rather, a close source of light and guidance. They carried their Qur’an everywhere, made notes, opened it often, and gave it its due respect by revering and following the message.  Their Qur’an was not covered in a special cloth, nor was it in pristine shape. The cover was worn due to constant use. They showed me how a believer lives with the Book of Allah.  

Let us take the time, during this most blessed month, to understand the message, to understand the words that our Creator has revealed for us.  If you do not read or understand Arabic, find a translation that speaks to you.  Read it constantly, and absorb the message.  There will be some ayahs that reverberate in your heart – learn those by heart and recite them often. Let the Qur’an speak to you personally, to your heart – for this is the guidance from none other than Allah.  

Today, there are so many sources on the internet and in bookstores to help understand the Qur’anic message.  Consult those that you like, for additional understanding.  But do not let go the constant companionship between your heart and the words of Allah (swt). Seek refuge in Allah before reading, and seek His Guidance while reading.  If you have children, let them see you reading the book of Allah – it will make a huge impression.  

Let this month be the month of cleansing and illuminating the heart with the Qur’an.