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

Life is busy, learn how to slow down, move on and remember God's blessings by looking at the clouds.

3 Life Lessons from the Clouds

Everything that God creates comes from benevolent sources, which are apparent to the minds that think. Sadly, more often than not, humans are immersed in this temporary life, running errands and meeting deadlines that we hardly allocate time to adore Allah’s beautiful and educational lessons. As unlikely as it may sound, there are lessons for us to learn with good reasons, from as near as around us to as far as from the other side of the globe. And yes, they are tailor-made to fit our daily encounters.

Life on earth is too hectic and we often stop to catch our breath in an attempt to keep up with its demands. It is rather difficult to regain motivation in the middle of a crowded setting that is the decadent society. When that happens, it’s a sign for us to look elsewhere to find the strength, to reason with our duties. So, what we could do is look up to the sky and learn from His magnificent creation, the clouds.

“It is Allah who made for you the earth a place of settlement and the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord; then blessed is Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an, 40:64)

What can we benefit from observing the puffy clouds?

  1. Life is a Transient

We are aware by now that nothing is this world is permanent, not even our problems. But the temptation of Dunya (temporary world) can be so strong that we let the fact slip our mind. So, just as much as we need to have regular intake of food for the body, we need food for our soul too, which is motivation. It is not possible to attend seminars or seek professional help every time we are in distress and our loved ones can sometimes be unavailable to us. Out of reach for human advice and alone, we are forced to seek alternatives to stabilize our emotion.

So, try this approach for a change; isolate ourselves, then look up to the sky and watch how the clouds never stay at one place more than few seconds, perhaps less. In some situations, they move even faster when pushed by the wind and storms. Even when the weather is nice, they still move on. Reflecting on the scenery truly inspires our soul and reminds us that life is short and changes are inevitable. We have to be adaptive and keep up with the pace stated by God. It’s worthy to mention that the clouds teach us not to be afraid of changes, but instead embrace and pursue them.

Just like God make the clouds stay afloat in the sky, He will not allow us to fall out of place.

  1. God loves Us

Allah’s love is prevalent and it envelops the world like a warm blanket. It also comes in many forms such as family, friends and sustenance. There are countless provisions He has prepared for us way before we were born and all we need to do is look and we shall find. Similarly, one of the most meaningful blessings He mercifully bestows on us is the shade. Allah’s love is apparent in the creation of the clouds in a way that they function to shadow us from the scorching sun. Especially for travellers and workers who work directly in the middle of the heat. Allah could leave us struggle on our own, finding ways to lessen the heat, but His love is so vast He provides the giant clouds which act like a giant umbrella to cool us down a bit.

If only we knew exactly how much heat the clouds had saved us from, SubhanAllah (praise be to Allah). Chances are, we would be speechless and only tears might express our thankfulness. Therefore, from now onwards, in the midst of feeling unloved, look up to the sky and we will see unconditional love among those clouds.

  1. Kingdom of Heaven is beyond the Fragile Clouds

It’s a great resuscitation after a long day, to disconnect from horizontal view and to start refreshing our eyes by looking at the sky. The heart deserves to know that as wide as the earth is, it is still incomparable to the kingdom of Heaven; another lesson from the clouds. Whatever we desire will appear in front of us immediately, with trees lowering their branches so the fruits are reachable by us. SubhanAllah (praise be to Allah)! Most importantly, the life in Jannah is permanent and peaceful. Misunderstanding, competition, dispute, jealousy and hatred are out of sight, being replaced by love, only love. That is the kingdom of Heaven, located somewhere beyond the fragile clouds. Isn’t it promising?

Physiologically, we are inclined to feel more invigorated after some good rest. So are our mind and emotion. Dissociating from the pressure around us and connecting with God’s reminder about a relaxing life in Jannah surely is an effective method. That, God willing, can be achieved through contemplation and belief that there is life more to the one we have now; in Jannah.

So, look up and watch the clouds, for that is the nearest reassurance of Jannah.

Life is busy, learn how to slow down, move on and remember God's blessings by looking at the clouds.

We can still attain tranquillity simply by staring at the clouds blankly, there are times when we are overwhelmed by a lot of stuff and we can’t engage in deep reflection. In a way, staring at the clouds can be a method to empty our mind. So, try it!

Other than the clouds, there are wonderful creations of God that we can understand and relate to our lives such as trees, rivers and mountains which are mentioned several times in the Quran.

Don’t we all feel blessed? Alhamdulillah (praise be to God).

How else can we use nature to strengthen our connection to Allah?

Is hijab just a piece of cloth? How does our personality play into our hijab? - www.MuslimasOasis.com

Personality of Hijab

There is more to being an ideal Muslim woman than her Islamic compliant clothing; her personality. In other words, a woman is in need of two kinds of hijab (cover) and both are equally essential. The first is outward hijab and the second is the inward hijab. So, what is an inward hijab?

Shyness (Haya’)

Sisters, let’s face it. We attract attention just by being women, even when we are not trying. Everywhere we go, we are observed by people around us, mostly male strangers. It is therefore vital to watch our every step and move by applying praiseworthy manners as a personality embellishment.

Shyness is paramount and the absence of it has the power to promote misconduct and create problems that didn’t exist in the first place. Unfortunately, the world today has become too liberal for anyone’s good where shyness is rarely practiced. In fact, it is perceived as a person’s social weakness while free intermingling is practiced worldwide.

It is worth noting that interaction between men and women is not completely disallowed. Under some circumstances like in a workplace and educational institution where it is necessary to have a direct contact, it is permissible as long as it does not transgress the limit stated by Allah.

Having said that, let us take a thorough look into the elements of shyness as our inward hijab that is to be donned in the presence of public, especially non-Mahrams (marriageable men). 

Hijab of the eyes

An ideal Muslimah controls her gaze and abstains herself from making inappropriate eye contact with the non-mahrams, be it alone or in the presence of a crowd. Even if she is sitting with her girlfriends and a cute guy happens to pass by, the whole group should lower their gaze in shyness. Just because the guy does not look back, it is not a license to stare at him. A good Muslimah always reminds herself that Allah is watching her behaviour and so she must behave.

Sadly, in today’s case, some Muslim women are not serious in guarding their eyes due to influences from the corrupted way of thinking and weak link with the Islamic understanding. Instead of looking away when they see the opposite gender, they collectively stare at the man and giggle. Some even dare to tease, or should I say, flirt with him! Masha Allah. Islam strongly advises against unnecessary contact with the males even in a needed situation, let alone in a paltry one. If there is no requirement to look up, it is best to lower the gaze in the remembrance of Allah.

Hijab of the mouth

Silence is not just a wise exchange for swearing and insulting, it is also a perfect replacement for gossips and enticing speeches. In Islam, utterances represent self-image and every word that comes out will be recorded by the dutiful angels down to the last detail. So, an ideal Muslimah is wise in picking her words. She runs them by her mind before she speaks, knowing too well that obscenity displeases her Creator and stains her personality. To wear the hijab of the mouth is also an indication for a Muslim woman to refrain herself from engaging in small talks, laughs and jokes with Non-Mahrams. If she must interact, she avoids using attractive voice and keeps the conversation succinct. She also refutes the popular belief that women have to be friendly with the male counterparts or they’ll end up alone for the rest of their lives. What a false notion! Such fear won’t exist in the mind of a pious Muslimah since she is rest assured by the promise of Allah.

Is hijab just a piece of cloth? How does our personality play into our hijab? - www.MuslimasOasis.com

Hijab of the mind

Is it uncanny to think that the mind needs a hijab? Similar to the other visible body parts, the inward entities such as heart and mind require some concealment. Donning this type of hijab proves to be amongst the hardest task since humans can’t simply shut down the brain. Humans think more than they hear, speak, smell as well as sense. So, an ideal Muslimah trains her mind to focus on what’s beneficial and divert from harmful thoughts like the images of non-Mahrams, forbidden relationships and people in revealing attires. In any way that she gets distracted, she immediately refocuses. She fills up her mind with the Quran and useful knowledge that can formulate positive thoughts towards reaching her goals and brings her closer to God.

Hijab of the behaviour

This hijab is subtly attached to the hijab of the mind. It receives instructions from the mind which is portrayed in one’s behaviour. Enough to say that a God-conscious Muslimah is aware of her presentation in the presence of Non-Mahrams. She realises that wearing decent clothes is supposed to be harmonized with decent attitudes. Meaning, an ideal Muslimah keeps her distance with her male companions as well as strangers and avoid bodily contact on every level. She declines handshakes and says No to being alone with a non-Mahram in a secluded area, unless there’s no possibility for corruption and no lustful desire involved. If needed, she’ll bring along her Mahram or holds the meeting out in the open.

Sisters,

Our social attitudes construct the perceptions of others about us. While we are not responsible of how they perceive us, we are totally responsible for what we give them to think about. In admittance, we have witnessed the ugly truth that evil is dominating the world by depriving especially women of the feelings of modesty and shame through an insertion of negative connotation into the word shyness. It is time to retrieve the foundation we have ditched for a while by balancing modernization and Islamic practices.

What can we do to stay in moderation?

  • Pray to Allah that He makes us among those who shield our pride with shyness. Also, straighten out our intention. I.e. what is the reason we go out?
  • Double-check our attire and make sure it is not flashy and our makeup is not extravagant because we do not dress for attention. We dress for protection.
  • Bring along the Quran or any other book to help us lower our gaze between times. Interestingly, reading is a productive distraction.
  • Choose to hang out with friends based on piety not popularity. They will make us voluntarily shy away from useless conversations.
  • Be empathetic towards men. It is tough enough for them today, having been surrounded by women who refuse to cover themselves appropriately, online and offline. Let’s not fan the flames.
  • Be steadfast in practicing Allah’s rules. Despite the reality of today where most people we know are too ashamed to hold on to Islam. Do not in any way give in to temptation just because it is conventional and on-trend.
  • Enough with the dubious fairy tales. Instead, study the stories of prophets (peace be upon all of them) intensively, since there are incidences and situations of their times relatable to our lives. Their journeys are the best of examples. In this case (shyness as a hijab), we may find the story between Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) and the daughters of Prophet Shuaib (peace be upon him) a helpful edification (Quran, Al-Qasas, verse 22-25).

Allah promises glad tidings for those who are modest and watchful of their actions for the fear of transgression.

Surely the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the believing men and the believing women, the devout men and the devout women, the truthful men and the truthful women, the patient men and the patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and the charitable women, the fasting men and the fasting women, the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard their chastity, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember Allah much – for all those, Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. [Al-Ahzab; 35].

How to Love Your Job? Learn to appreciate your work and the blessing it brings with these fantastic Islamic reminders! - www.MuslimasOasis.com

How to Love Your Job from an Islamic Standpoint

Oftentimes you force yourselves into doing something you don’t even like. For instance, your job. It is rare to find one person who sincerely fancies handling the same task daily. Be that as it may, as a Muslim, you realize that certain situations are inevitable and that responsibility is an obligation one needs to fulfil. So, when it comes to facing your duty, you should know by heart that there is more than one way to go about it to ensure happiness before, during and after the completion of the assignments.

How can the way a person look at things makes a difference in his or her working time thus producing fruitful results?

How to love your job

To this Allah has already prepared an answer:

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves”. [Ar-Ra’d: 11]

This verse indicates an entitlement of freedom in choosing, bestowed by Allah for humans, Alhamdulillah (praise be to God). That means, you have to do something in order to change the way you feel about work. Otherwise, before you know it, you’ll be retired and still miserable. Now is as good time to start as any.

To note, changes in this context focus on the present job and not suggesting to look for a new one. In other words, you can find ways to experience fulfillment in your job that you have right now.

Here are some tips that you may find workable:

Straighten Out Your Intention of Working

“Verily, all actions are but driven by intention and for everyone is what he intended.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Most people neglect the interconnection between their inner thought and productivity. Intention, in fact, is the anchor of one’s mission. It’s the navigator. That being said, taking it lightly can perilously impede the progress of a job. In order to relate to your task, it is suggested to re-evaluate the reason(s) of why you’re doing it. Is it because of money, convenience or status? Truth is, objectives that exclude Allah from the equation are short-lived. Once they are achieved, you’ll feel lost. Remind yourself frequently that what you do is only because of Allah and nothing else. That you are doing it not for other people and not expecting to be rewarded by none other than God Himself. In sha Allah (God willing), you’ll feel more contented with your task and your enthusiasm lasts longer.

Perform Night Prayers

Atha al-Khurasani stated that “when a person gets up to pray tahajjud (one of the night prayers), he will feel calm the next morning”. Tweet this

Night prayers are special. Despite lack of sleep, you’ll feel more energized than ever. It builds your sincerity because waking up at night is private thus entitles you to deserve Allah’s praises. That sincerity can be channeled into your attitudes to finish your work progressively. Upon gaining the pleasure of Allah, He opens up the door of your sustenance generously. Plus, in seeing such good results, it may convince you to liking your job. So, make a plan with yourself to sleep early and ask Allah to awake you in the middle of night to spend some meaningful time with Him. A word of advice, when you’re awake because of a crying baby or a need to use the bathroom, don’t go back to sleep right after. That could be Allah’s way of waking you up for a night prayer. Thence, take ablution and pray.

Read Al-Qur’an

Reading Al-Qur’an as a start of the day truly creates a difference in your opinions about your job. Tweet this It bears thoughtful reminders consist of happy news, stern warnings as well as relatable lessons for each individual:

“And We have certainly diversified [the contents] in this Qur’an that mankind may be reminded…” [Al-Isra; 41]

As a Muslim and a believer, it elevates your motivation through verses that emphasize on rewards and happy news. On the other hand, it admonishes you to be grateful of what you have as opposed to thousands of people out there who are still jobless. In addition, it strengthens your will to work harder to emulate the ancestors who were happier and more successful in a less modern setting.

Abstain from Small Complaints Even Jokingly

You would think it is normal to grumble because it’s a cultural norm, but such behaviour has a silent effect in your productivity. Tweet this It can also indicate obliviousness to Allah’s blessings.

“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe”. [Ibrahim; 7]

Small complaints to a likeable job are like flies circling a clean food. You can’t reach the food until the flies are cleared. Islam instructs the Muslims to be prudent in word selection and Islam is right. Words, once out, you can’t take them back and they are transformed into invocations. If a pray is granted, let it not be out of complaints and silly jokes. Alas, most people do it all the time, addressing complaints in a sarcastic, whiny manner until it becomes habitual. As a result, you’ll end up feeling wearied and unmotivated. While jokes are not entirely prohibited, there are limits to making them. If something is bothering you, speak up about it politely or remain silent as a sign of a believer. When you stop feeling sorry for yourself and assigning blames, you’ll notice an improvement in the quality of your work and the time spent is genuinely valued.

How to Love Your Job? Learn to appreciate your work and the blessing it brings with these fantastic Islamic reminders! - www.MuslimasOasis.com

Embrace Optimism and Share with the Others

Some suggestions instruct you to cut the cord with negative people. However, it is not easy to stop hanging with the people you work with, not to mention it is against Islamic teaching to break the established rapport. Therefore, what you can do is cultivate positive thoughts by demonstrating them in front others. Waiting for them to change their mind set would be futile, so you have to be first to act on it. You may also initiate pleasant conversations and creatively find a way to digress from controversial issues. In addition, feelings are known to be contagious, so spread a smile and practice kindness.

Umar (may Allah be please with him) said, “Generosity is an easy thing. It is a smiling face and kind words.”

People around you will pick up the positive energy from you. Thus, a job satisfaction can be obtained collectively in a happy environment. Who knows, one day, all of you may actually look forward to coming to work!

Challenge Yourself

How, you asked? You can do it by learning something new at your job. Boredom emanates from routine activities and you need some novelty to keep your job interesting. In other words, you are under-challenged. An optimist will see that as an opportunity to acquire something new, for an improvement.

It is possible if you venture out and engage in new skills that may be useful for your job position. Keeping it busy with new knowledge may distract you from thinking how much you dislike your job. At times when you are available, find something that can spark your interest and you’ll survive. The real enemy is not having too many things to do, it’s doing nothing.

A wise person fully utilizes his time because he doesn’t want to be among the losers:

“There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) health and free time.”  [Bukhari].

Dear brothers and sisters,

It might be overwhelming to try out all these tips at once causing you to feel frustrated after few days diving into them. The best is to elect one that you’re inclined to do and keep it consistent. Insya Allah (God willing), you’ll witness some good transitions within yourself. Remember, every journey to making changes begins with the first step.

I sincerely pray that you find these suggestions helpful. All the best!