بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
by Amena Dossal
I remember my mother telling me about a retreat that was to take place from the 17th to 19th of February at the Arabian Sea Country Club, conducted by Sister Haifa Younus. I had been so immersed, studying in medical school for the past five years, that I had gotten by with just the bare minimum of ibaadah….fasting in Ramadan, and praying as I was told. I had never really ventured out to discover what my religion was truly about, even though I had attended classes regularly when I was much younger.
Dunya was the main focus of my life as I was too engrossed in studying and wanting to get a good USMLE score once medical school was over. Akhirah (Hereafter), honestly, had not been on my mind for a while, except for the fact that I did not want to go to Jahannum (Hell), always wanting to go to Jannah (Heaven). But then again, who doesn’t want to go to Jannah? Now that I look back, what I had failed to realize was that the way I was living life, Jannah was a long shot; Hell seemed more likely. But that is what as most of us do; we let that thought slide and we go on with our materialistic focuses in life, watching tons of episodes on TV, and studying for future goals – not reminding ourselves that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is the only One who can change our destiny, and Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is the only One who knows where we are going; we don’t know have any knowledge of that.
When I heard about the retreat, I told my mother I would like to go with her. I was looking forward to it, thinking that it would be a break, plus I would be roommates with my mother and grandmother. I honestly did not know what to expect, and I wondered what I was going to learn from it.
The day of the retreat finally arrived. I felt differently already, hoping and praying that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) would help me come back to Him. The retreat was called ‘Living Taqwa’. I remembered vaguely that “Taqwa” meant God-consciousness; sad to say that’s all I really knew. I didn’t know how many times taqwa had been mentioned in the Qur’an, nor did I give the term any importance. Sure, the word was part of my religion, but did I really practice it? No. I honestly didn’t even think twice in my everyday life about what it really meant, and I didn’t know how knowing it would change my life.
Taqwa, I learned, as many of you already know, resides in the heart. It is one of the qualities that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) loves; it is when we work, act and do deeds in the obedience of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), for the pleasure of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). It is the fear that drives to stay away from sins, based on the knowledge, that we can and will receive His punishment if we commit them.
Many women, myself included, wondered how to recognize whether we have taqwa or not. It is actually those conversations we have within ourselves when deciding what to do, good or bad, and what we eventually land up doing based on our knowledge and level of fear.
All Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has to say is, “Be”, and it is. When we think something is really impossible, building a relationship with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) should always be foremost on our minds. When we have that taqwa, that fear and love of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), that firm belief that everything we do is for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى); then only will we be able to attain the fruits of taqwa in this dunya; only then will we start seeing the impossible becoming the possible.
Yes, all of us pray for the highest part in Jannah, but we should not forget to pray for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to be closer to us, and for us to be closer to Him – because once that starts happening, we will automatically start seeing right from wrong, wanting to understand Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)’s words better and to become better Muslims and do better deeds.
The fruits of taqwa in dunya, are that Allah will make our affairs easier for us.(65:4,5) —>
وَاللَّائِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ الْمَحِيضِ مِن نِّسَائِكُمْ إِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَاللَّائِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ وَأُوْلَاتُ الْأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَن يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ يُسْرًا
ذَلِكَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ أَنزَلَهُ إِلَيْكُمْ وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يُكَفِّرْ عَنْهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِ وَيُعْظِمْ لَهُ أَجْرًا
“…And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him of his matter ease.That is the command of Allah , which He has sent down to you; and whoever fears Allah – He will remove for him his misdeeds and make great for him his reward.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Aţ-Ţalāq (The Divorce): 4 – 5]
وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَى آمَنُواْ وَاتَّقَواْ لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ وَلَـكِن كَذَّبُواْ فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَكْسِبُونَ
“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah , We would have opened upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied [the messengers], so We seized them for what they were earning.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Al-‘A`rāf (The Heights): 96]
يِا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إَن تَتَّقُواْ اللّهَ يَجْعَل لَّكُمْ فُرْقَاناً وَيُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ وَاللّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ
“O you who have believed, if you fear Allah , He will grant you a criterion and will remove from you your misdeeds and forgive you. And Allah is the possessor of great bounty.”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Al-‘Anfāl (The Spoils of War):29]
فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ فَارِقُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ وَأَشْهِدُوا ذَوَيْ عَدْلٍ مِّنكُمْ وَأَقِيمُوا الشَّهَادَةَ لِلَّهِ ذَلِكُمْ يُوعَظُ بِهِ مَن كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِر وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مَخْرَجًا
“…And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out”
[Al-Qur’an – Surat Aţ-Ţalāq (The Divorce):2]
At the end of the day, I came to realize that I am blessed wherever I am, and with whatever I have been given. And if I want more, I should ask Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) for it. I need that personal relationship with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to become stronger and remember Him all the time, everyday, 24 hours, seven days a week. With any sickness that comes my way, it is Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) who has sent it. With any happiness, it is Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) who has sent it. With any test, it is Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) who has sent it. That aspect of knowing that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is responsible for everything, is what will strengthen my relationship with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). Only He can cure me if I am ill, and only He can take away everything from me. I need to be thankful for what I have. I need to know my Lord. Yes, He is forgiving and He is merciful, but He is also the one Who will punish me for the wrong that I have done if I don’t act now and ask for His forgiveness.
Whatever opportunities that come our way, we need to take them and learn about Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). How hard is dhikr (remembrance) to do? How many times are we in our cars just staring out the window? All that free time – have we ever thought about using it to do dhikr (remembrance) or to look at our surroundings and realize how blessed we are?
The constant reminder that we are doing each and every act for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) will keep us on the Straight Path because He will always be in our minds, always in our thoughts. If we say we love our Lord so much, why don’t we act upon that love? We should fear Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) as much as we can, obey Him and not disobey Him, remember Him and not forget Him, and do shukr to Him and not kufr. That unconditional obedience is what a muttaqi is – careful and cautious of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)’s wrath, yet loves Him, knows Him, listens to Him, and remembers Him.
From the day the retreat began to the day it ended, one fact kept playing over and over in my mind: the importance of that relationship with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). The importance of loving Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). Yes, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) loves us 70 times more than our own mother does, but is that not a general statement we make and think nothing of? What are we doing for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to love us individually? How easily we give up when things are not going our way.
And that is what really hit me during this retreat. I was disappointed in myself – that I did not see how Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has blessed me with so many things: the fact that I went to medical school in Karachi, my home town, the fact that I had the chance to spend more time with my parents than my siblings who studied abroad. I had more time to spend with family; I had more time to practice my religion easily with my mother there to teach me, and classes at my grandmother’s house. I had more time and had the chances, but what made me feel sad the most, was that I didn’t fully avail those opportunities; I didn’t give my Rabb the chance for me to get to know Him. Yes, I know Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is merciful and that He is forgiving. And yes, I would do what I was taught, and would try to be a good Muslim, but how often did I try to get closer to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)?
The retreat was spiritually uplifting because it was so easy to be good – no TV to distract me, salah was always said on time, Fajr was easier, reciting the Qur’an was easier … just to be good was easier.
But now is where the real test begins. I know I may get lost along the way, but I pray to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) that He protects me from the whisperings of the Shaitan, and from the many desires of this world. I know Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) will have tests waiting for me along the way. May He help me to really get to know Him, and love Him, and remember him every day of my life, Insha’Allah, Ameen.