Push Stress Away

Let’s face it, stress happens! Between working, participating in civic activities, taking care of your home and family and managing your business, stress is bound to creep up somewhere in your day. Even though there are signs that the economy may be starting to turn around, this has been and continues to be a stressful year for most business owners. After many years of ups and downs, I have some tips on how to deal with stress in productive ways:

First and foremost; forgive yourself! – Business is not easy, and there is no way that you can do business and not make mistakes. Wasting energy on looking back and feeling ashamed is an exercise in futility that you cannot afford. Stop feeling guilty.

Identify the real problem – Entrepreneurs often say they just need more sales or more credit. From my personal experience and from looking at other businesses, I have found that this is frequently just the symptom. More often, the problem is bad marketing, bad management or poor financial management.

Don’t try to control things that are uncontrollable – instead adjust, respond,adapt.

Increase self-awareness of personal moods and feelings – anticipate and take steps to avoid stress build-up before it becomes more serious.

Explore and use relaxation methods – they do work if given a chance – yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, massage, a breath of fresh air, anything that works and can be done in the particular situation.

And of course, remember to think positively. If you think negatively, you will fail. In order to attract what you do want, you need to allow it to come to you. And stress is the very antithesis of allowing. Stress is pushing it away. So if you want to allow the good stuff to come to you, push stress away!

Empty Bowls: Compassion with Creativity

Empty Bowls is a deceptively simple idea that has generated millions of dollars towards alleviating hunger in communities across the United States and abroad. A project of Imagine/Render, Empty Bowls is “an international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger.”

There are millions of ‘empty bowls’ around the world because hunger is an endemic problem in every community. Artists, craftsmen, and community members create and donate bowls that are later distributed at an Empty Bowls Luncheon. Participants sit down to eat a simple meal of soup and bread and go home with a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the presence of hunger in the community. Potters, craftsman and artists also craft special bowls that are auctioned at the event. The food is sponsored by local restaurants and/ or community members and a hundred percent of the proceeds from the tickets of the luncheon and auction are donated to a local food bank, soup kitchen or charitable organization. These events are sponsored by local churches, potters and artists’ organizations, and schools. Each community creates its own unique Empty Bowls event while remaining true to the original idea.

I was extremely impressed not just by the simplicity of the idea but by the immense barakah that could come from making Empty Bowls a recurring event in Muslim communities across the States. A group of us friends in Jacksonville, Florida decided to make bowls and donate them for the local Empty Bowls Event that was hosted by the Lutheran Services. One summer we purchased supplies, taught ourselves to make clay bowls and decided to invite the community to have some fun. Almost a hundred people showed up and we sat down and crafted bowls from clay, painted them and had them fired at the kiln in the local museum. As our fingers kneaded and formed the clay, smiles and chatter filled the room; everyone had a wonderful time and went home slightly dusty but with the satisfaction of having contributed towards a good cause. Our donations were well received but we felt this was not enough.

Next year we decided to host our own Empty Bowls Luncheon and alhumdolillah it was a great success. It brought the community together for a worthy cause, we were able to raise a significant amount and simultaneously create awareness of the problem of hunger. Our event had a distinctive Islamic flavor to it: we were motivated by the desire to please Allah subhanawatala by serving the people and our responsibility as Muslim neighbors to help those around us:

“And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive,

[Saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah . We wish not from you reward or gratitude.”

(Surat Al-‘Insān 76:8-9)

Samosas and humus somehow made their way onto the menu and exquisite Islamic calligraphy graced the items on the auction table. The children sang Nasheeds and the Imam spoke about the importance of charity in Islam. A representative from the local food bank updated us on details about hunger in the community.

Empty Bowls is dawah, art workshop, and charity all rolled into one! Allah subhanwatala has blessed each one of us with unique talents and abilities and we have an obligation to use the skills at our disposal to further the cause of social justice in our communities. Explore Empty Bowl Events in your area and then host one at your local school or Islamic Center. We have developed a blueprint for the event and would love to share it with anyone who is interested.

Author: Sabeen Mansoori

Sister Lisha shares what she's learned from Hajj, and what you can expect to gain from the experience, in sha Allah! - www.MuslimasOasis.com

Lessons from Hajj

Sister Lisha shares what she's learned from Hajj, and what you can expect to gain from the experience, in sha Allah! - www.MuslimasOasis.com

The following is written by contributing author, Lisha Azad

Hajj is a life-changing experience in the life of a Muslim. It is a pillar of Islam, meaning it is one of a Muslim’s obligations to God. Yet it is not every Muslim who gets the chance or even chooses to undertake this journey of a lifetime.

As custom dictates, deciding to perform Hajj is a major decision in a Muslim’s lifetime. Performed usually only once in a lifetime, it is a journey involving intense mental preparation, in addition to the physical preparation required for any trip.

In some ways, preparing to go for Hajj is like consciously planning and preparing for your death and the afterlife – people actually end their debts, draw up their wills and make amends with family and friends who they have hurt or who have been hurt by them.

They entrust their kids and other dependents to the care of extended family members and make elaborate arrangements for their care and comfort, not just for the period of travel but also in case something untoward happens to them (the pilgrims) during the journey and they do not return.

Basically Hajj is a 4-day affair in and around the area of Makkah, involving intense meditation, reflection, contemplation, prayer and supplication. But for pilgrims coming from faraway foreign lands, it is usually a prolonged affair extending beyond a month, with visits to the Prophet’s adopted home Madinah and other neighbouring places of historical and religious significance. Hence the need for this elaborate physical and mental preparation.

Five years ago, when my husband and I decided to go on Hajj, we too prepared likewise. And when we had returned to the hotel after finishing the main rituals of Hajj, I collapsed on my hotel bed in an attempt to take stock of everything.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to reflect and question the rationale behind performing the rituals of Hajj. Why did God require His believers at least once in a lifetime to visit His house and perform certain rites? Surely there was a purpose behind these actions.

I believe that there is wisdom behind every act of Hajj. Through the rituals of this pilgrimage, God wants to instill in us certain lifetime lessons that can help us in our day-to-day lives.

For example, the circumambulation of the Kabah (tawaf) serves as a reminder to pilgrims (hajis) to strive in the sea of humanity, among people of different nations, colours, races, languages, keeping religion as the centrepoint, the focus of their lives. Equality between men and women and between different peoples is another lesson tawaf is all about, as also empathy and compassion to the old, womenfolk and the very young by urging hajis to give way (during the ritual) and treating them well.

The sprint between two low hills called As-Safa and Al-Marwa (sa’ee) in memory of Prophet Abraham’s wife’s Hagar who ran helter-skelter in search of water for her infant son Ishmael, is a call to hajis to be patient and persevere, at every point in life. Centuries ago, when the waters of Zamzam sprang out of the parched earth, a desperate mother’s will, trust and reliance on God were put to test, and her example is a lesson that utmost trust and reliance on God are crucial to success and peace of mind.

Stoning the devil by symbolically stoning pillars (rami) is a reminder of how essential it is to fight the evil that deters good at every point in life.

When hajis give up the little pleasures of life during Hajj, they remember the supreme sacrifice of Prophet Abraham and how he was ready to kill his son Ishmael at the command of his Lord. How readily can we ordinary mortals bring ourselves to attempt something similar for the sake of God? It is with this in mind that an animal is sacrificed in His name and the meat distributed among the poor and needy.

These were some of the thoughts that assailed my mind that contented morning. However, they weren’t the only lessons I picked up from this crash course in life that is the journey of Hajj.

After all, one of the main aspects of Hajj is that hajis are thrown into a potpourri of cultures, to witness so much that is so very different from what they are used to. From a worldly perspective, with all the luxuries and facilities that are available at so many people’s beck and call in this modern age, Hajj is proof of the fact that it is possible to live with the bare minimum: simple living, high thinking.

By setting aside time to contemplate in quietness each day, Hajj is a time to pray together and also get prayed for. It is the ultimate test of a person’s patience and an excellent teacher of tolerance.

With travel as its backbone, a Hajj trip can broaden one’s understanding of religion and peoples, helping him/her in the daily practice of righteousness. For the specially chosen guests of God each year, Hajj is a reminder that life may be a struggle in different ways but it always made easy with patience and with the help of prayer.

I am a freelance writer and published children’s author with hundreds of articles on a variety of subjects and four published kiddy books based on Islamic values and principles. Writing is my hobby-cum-profession and I have been writing for over 2 decades now, starting as a little child. More on my writing at www.lishawrites.com.

Right now however, parenting my 2 sons aged 3 and 9 and spreading the message of Conscious Parenting is my passion. I run a parenting page (and In Sha Allah, soon to be launched blog) on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach through which I aim to enlighten and educate parents through age-old wisdom, emerging theories, motivational/inspirational/fun quotes and photos, examples and tidbits of information to realize the powerful role they possess in shaping their child’s destiny. For further information, please visit the page at the above link – and chip in with your own parenting thoughts and tidbits!

Repentance is the first step, but what about the challenges after that? How will we learn from these obstacles? - www.MuslimasOasis.com

Why Is Life After Repentance More Grueling?

The following post is from guest author Salinayanti Salim

Repentance is the first step, but what about the challenges after that? How will we learn from these obstacles?  - www.MuslimasOasis.com

Until a year ago, I was living a life that I am not proud of. I could walk around unmindful of other people’s issues and situations. Worse, I committed sins and instead of feeling remorse, I felt regret for not committing a bigger sin just so I could fit in with the wrong crowd. But of course back then, I did not see it as wrong.

Alhamdulillah, I was given a chance to reconnect with Him when I decided to get up and pray Tawbah (repentance) one night. I promised myself that I would never look back and use this special opportunity to repair what’s broken. I embarked on a new journey enthusiastically, envisioning it to be easier than before now that I had repented. God is Merciful and loving, I mouthed to myself almost every day in the first few weeks. Little did I realize that it was quite the reverse from what I had imagined.

Just when I turn my back on the wrong, I suffer even harder hardships. I have had more rejections, failures and frustrations within one year as opposed to my entire life before.

Strange…is God still angry? Did I do it wrong? At one point I almost believed my choice was a huge mistake. I mean, what is the point of me repenting if it’s only making my life more intricate?

No, despite my flinch and confusion, He did not give me a simpler question paper, rather He gives me more knowledge to go about the harder one. And I am starting to comprehend the truths about hardships:

A Sincerity Test and A Ticket to Jannah

Hardships are tests formulated by God himself in order to identify the true believers and segregate them from the non-believers. The test begins as soon as we admitted His Oneness and that we will remain faithful to Him no matter what.

“Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?”[Al-Ankaboot: 2]

And Allah also says:

“Do you suppose that you will enter the Garden without encountering what those before you encountered?” [Al-Baqarah: 214]

The result will be the evidence to determine whether or not we are qualified as a believer, and whose Jannah will be their final abode. It is rewarding because in one hardship, provided that we passed the test, we stand a chance to claim two gifts; a believer’s status and a place in Jannah.

In a way, it is similar to a situation in university. We desire a scroll of degree and believe we deserve it. But the university will not give us anything until they see a proof which can only be attained through countless tests and examinations. We are fully aware that a student’s life is not easy, yet we accept the challenge because we believe it is good for us, don’t we?

Therefore, how about we adopt such inspiring attitude into our real life, endure all tests and strive towards Jannah? The price of declaring ourselves a believer is expensive, but it is payable through patience, steadfastness and faith.

Medicinal Treatment for ‘Heart Condition’

Back in the days when we pretended to forget the fact that Allah is watching our every step and move, we committed sins and were happy about it. Our heart was filled with uncountable dark spots as a result of many years of ignorance.

Upon repentance, it is necessary to do a follow-up by purifying the heart and like it or not, the method is not fun, but effective. Sins are like diseases which are curable if treated with the right medication. None of us are thrilled of having to swallow bitter pills whatsoever, regardless, we take our medicine on time because the need to heal outpaces our dislike towards the remedy.

Again, Allah consoles us with another promise:

“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [AI-Baqarah, 2:216].

Reflection: We must trust Allah on His wise judgment even if it is difficult at the beginning. The pain we are suffering in this world is so little as to compare with abundant pleasure and great rewards waiting for us in the hereafter.

Some Tips for Faith Rejuvenation

  1. We all experience inconsistency in our level of faith. Nevertheless, it is understandably normal for any human beings , as long as our obligatory duties, especially the 5 times prayers, are performed responsibly and big sins are avoided. In our final Rakaah (unit) and second Sujood (prostration), it is encouraged to spend some exclusive time with Allah, invoke to Him, pour our heart out and in sha Allah (God willing), our emotion will stabilize afterwards.
  2. If we have not done it, perhaps we should try now; start and end each day on a positive note. We can give ourselves assurance that everything will work out in the best way in accordance with Allah’s plan. Also, the words are easier to be internalized if uttered audibly than just a silent whisper in the heart.
  3. Never ever delay our intention to seek His forgiveness upon committing even the smallest sin. We can remember Allah, concurrently regret our misbehavior through the frequent utterance of ‘Astagfirullah al adzim’ (I ask forgiveness from Allah the all-mighty) (at least 100 times a day).
  4. In facing hardships, our faith can be revived by disseminating positivity to other people i.e. family and friends. Even though we are struggling ourselves, it is not an excuse to not help the others restore their faith. That could be Allah’s way of helping us. In sha Allah, we will feel better after that.
  5. On the edge of giving up, raise our hand and supplicate to beat the odds. Choosing to still rely on Allah while we’re at the lowest point of life is a sign of good faith. Miracles can and will happen.

No tribulation will overstay its welcome. At one point, all of our problems will eventually disappear. In the meantime, as a believer, we must continue our attempt to overcome any difficulty that comes in our way. Rest assured that no good deeds (even efforts) will go unnoticed and that Allah is forever near.

“Truly, God’s help is near.” (Al-Baqarah: 214]

Finally, readjusting our life navigation by making Al-Quran and Sunnah (way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) the focal point of our future undertakings is of paramount importance. It means, we refer to both of these sacred manuals prior to making decision, not after. In sha Allah (God willing), when Allah becomes our priority, We will be His.

Writer’s Profile

My Name is Salinayanti Salim from Kedah, Malaysia. I am currently preparing for PhD in Media and Religion. My hobbies include reading and writing as well as travelling. I love to learn and share knowledge for good cause.

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Heading overseas? Make sure you're ready to use the loo! Samina gives you a good laugh with her etiquette tips! - Part 2!

10 Things to Consider when Using Public Restrooms Overseas – Part 2

Heading overseas? Make sure you're ready to use the loo! Samina gives you a good laugh with her etiquette tips! - Part 2!

The following is a post by guest author, Samina Farooq

If you haven’t read the first part of this article, kindly read that first. As a recap…

Many restrooms house “unpleasant” surprises on the floor, toilet seats, and other areas. Public toilets are not cleaned by these people, so they feel less guilty for trashing them. This place is littered with Bathroom Stall Graffiti, spare bits of toilet paper and paper towels, liquids and solids of undetermined origin and a toilet bowl – discolored, clogged and smelling. The handles on the faucets and bowls may be missing also.

Now grab the onions and a large knife to explain the tears that are going to rain on your face by the end of the series. You are going to need a solid cry alibi.

6) Extra-hygiene means extra-danger

In your effort to be super hygienic, don’t wash your hands so many times or do wudhu (ritual cleansing) so obsessively that you flood the whole place. Use the water reasonably. 

Another extreme is flushing the toilet with foot instead of a hand. People with hands – PLEASE! Acrobatics required to use your foot to flush, raise your risk of injury from slipping and falling, if you’re standing on one leg to flush the toilet. A flamingo can do it well, you can’t. It may end you up in way more mess than you thought you can get into, from touching the handle. 

Some people go to extra length by not sitting on the seat and hovering closely above it. Now if you were in the one ply cubicle, the floor art is understandable because they move with a tiny gush of wind even. So please don’t hover above the seat, making it difficult for you to find balance even. 

You are in a world of communicable diseases, I accept! But a research says that 18% of your phones are more germ-ish than the toilet seat (unless you put the phone ON the toilet seat).

So might as well save yourself the extra agony and perch your rear end on the seat. Don’t be a human spaceship.

If you are going all Indian toilet up on the European toilet, then at least clean after yourself. Your shoe/slipper prints will be all over the seat. Roll the tissue around your hand and just clean it. I’m sure your mother taught you that as well before you had an accident in which you lost your memory on cleaning manners. By you I mean people, not YOU you of course. You wouldn’t do that, would you!?!

7) Patience is virtue, lying is not

You may usually find a long line in front of washrooms in places where there are little to no WCs available. Usually the queue would literally be hanging by the bathroom doors (if handles are available that is, otherwise  – hanging by the holes). You may just want to stand in line calmly because the person in front of you deems every move from you as a line-breaking threat and they have thought of every clever way to stop you. It may include physical violence as well. What impatience does to human beings sometimes!

There are times when calm is a word in dreams only. You will enter a stampede and the next thing you know, you’re in a washroom.

And even though it sounds like a better option than waiting in line and you may want to be the one to start that stampede through witty pretense, but it’s not. It usually involves pushing, shouting, hitting, lying, knocking each other down etc. (perhaps hair pulling as well). Bad deeds don’t add up to success. Even if you manage to push all other contestants in line, it won’t feel like a victory. So avoid being in that group. 

Don’t claim ownership of the bathroom. Or tell people that you’re waiting for your family member in there (thinking we all are after all brothers and sisters since Adam and Eve were our greatest fore-parents). Your turn will come insha Allah (God willing), don’t worry.

Save yourself from unnecessary lies. (And who doesn’t know, lying is bad anyway). Don’t render your hajj/umrah or any religious act that you are going to perform afterwards or performed before, useless. 

8) Your kids are YOUR responsibility

Help the little ones before you help yourself. Their level of control is zero as compared to yours. But first commode in the first row is always the bad choice. Because that’s where the most uncontrolled splatters are. Which of course makes sense – they couldn’t make it any further. So walk a little (or perhaps run like the wind), holding your gag reflexes on stand by as you poke through all the stalls anticipating post-culinary exploration disaster. But there will be a cleaner one, I can guarantee (almost 90%). Don’t lose hope. Just Un-witness the ones witnessed in line.

When you’re making sure that your kids are not eating their own boogers, also make sure that you are not the one sticking it on the walls.

If you find such things, don’t feel ashamed to clean it off with the help of tissues etc. I have personally witnessed women picking up someone else’s baby’s diapers and throwing them into the trash bags and cleaning up the area, just to provide better environment for the newcomers. It’s not an easy task. May Allah reward them immensely. 

So please! Those with diaper clad babies – when you change the diaper of your baby, please throw it into the dumpster. Babies’ faces are cute but their feces are not. Don’t just roll it in the air and let fate decide its destiny. When you clean after yourself, please do that for the baby as well. Man or woman – whoever is taking it for the team.

9) Don’t abuse the toiletries

Sometimes the flush is not working because of too much toilet paper clogged inside (or too much dinner). You may see the dustbin beside the pot, empty! And you wonder why do people throw everything around while there is space for everything given? People who lead adult-lives, by the adulthood they should know how to use a chair with a hole in it. Something that they have been taught to use and have been using since 15 years or so. Definitely we are the disease!

If the faucet sensor doesn’t work once, no need to constantly hit the poor thing. Because it may fire back by automatically turning itself on when you will least expect it. Be gentle with the public property. You don’t want to go outside explaining people that it’s not what they think it is.

Forego the hand dryer altogether because it probably won’t work anyway. Because you may stand there with your hands outstretched (crowding the place) waiting for some magic to happen but it won’t. If the restroom looks well maintained then probably it will but usually it doesn’t and all you do is make the crowd turn into a mob. 

Save people some space instead and wipe your wet hands with tissue instead, if you wish. 

Under dire circumstances, don’t jiggle someone else’s door handle angrily. Either you will lock them inside permanently or you will break the handle. Both ways, your future isn’t bright. 

Don’t take your overloaded purse/bag inside the toilet. Sometimes the hooks aren’t very strong. Sometimes there are no hooks at all. Either way, draping it around your neck may be the last resort. 

Hand it over to someone close, outside the restroom. Don’t bring them in just so they could wait outside your stall, holding your bag. It will crowd the area unnecessarily.

(If you think this all as a mere exaggerated joke, I would just say you’ve been extremely lucky. But these guidelines will help you in the future whenever you get out of the warm folds of your home sweet home)

10) Stay God-conscious

Jokes apart, this is something serious because one of the grave punishments includes someone not being conscious about cleanliness.

You can’t single-handedly eradicate the lack of hygiene issues in public restrooms but you can dilute its strength. We will never not be fighting. We will go on, we will always work this issue until it doesn’t need to be worked on anymore. This is just a small step towards some basic awareness – but a small step is better than nothing, better than an intangible ideal.

Please make purification – your half faith!

Our deen (way of life) is so beautiful and complete. It teaches us how to live a life – from smallest details to the biggest of issues. The very basics of life.

Basically, a good policy is:

Try to leave the vicinity in the condition you would wish to find it. Treat it like you usually treat your own toilet at home, specially when the guests are coming. Be the best version of yourself that ever existed. Be the super-you. You’ve got it in you somewhere, so just be that.

Be the change you want to see in the world. And if Muslims are going to present themselves this way, how are we ever going to preach? Actions speak louder than words. Even if nobody is watching you, Allah is. Angels are taking notes. You will be rewarded. Insha Allah.

May Allah guide us all to the best behavior that wouldn’t hurt us or people around us.

“Samina Farooq is the Co-founder of AYEINA and Co-creator of the #AlhamdulillahForSeries – A gratitude journal for Muslims. She’s an engineer by qualification, a Quran and Arabic-language student by occupation, a photographer by eye, a writer by heart, an artist by nature and a Muslim by soul. “