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Be grateful to God and to your parents (DW#599)

Be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents [Quran 31:14]

Today’s verse continues our discussion from yesterday about showing ehsaan (excellent courtesy) and rahma (loving-kindness and compassion) towards parents.

An essential part of the courtesy towards parents is to show them gratitude. The gratitude towards parents in this verse is linked to gratitude towards God Himself. It is through the medium of our parents that He gives us existence and it is through them that He nurtures us and raises us from weakness to strength. Parents then, are a means of transmission of Allah’s bounties towards us.

This verse is particularly applicable today where the world seems to have shifted to a child-centered place. Parents struggle to set boundaries and children feel more entitled to material and nonmaterial possessions and accommodations than ever before. Putting this verse into action would perhaps begin to redress the balance of entitlement and gratitude.

 

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Remember your mother’s labours (DW#598)

Continuing our theme of loving-respect towards parents, today’s verse is from Chapter 31, Sura Luqman where Allah says:

We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [Quran 31:14]

This verse also emphasises the children’s duty of loving-kindness, compassion and excellent courtesy (ehsaan) towards parents. The verse then shifts to the particular contribution of the mother in bringing up children. Islamic narrations are clear on the principle that the mother’s status for the child is higher than that of the father. This verse explains why.

Since the mother bears the child, nurses him and does the hard physical and emotional labour related to child-rearing, her contribution is recognized and acknowledged. The verse alludes to the hardships of pregnancy, labour and breast-feeding. This is the time when she is the one who is greatly impacted by the child. It is...

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Lower your wings (DW#597)

Today’s verse is also from Sura Israa [The Night Journey] where Allah says:

Lower unto them the wing of humility out of compassion and say, "My Lord! Have mercy upon them, as they cherished me when I was little." [Quran 17:24]

As we said yesterday, Islam lays great emphasis on the courtesies towards parents, especially as they age. This verse also expresses the abundance of mercy, affection, and humility with which adult children should aspire to treat their parents.

Here, a beautiful image is evoked of a bird that lovingly spreads its wings over its offspring to shelter and protect them in the nest.

Scholars explain that this metaphor of a high-flying bird which lowers her wing out of tenderness to her offspring is apt because when the parent was strong and the child was helpless, parental affection was showered on the child and so when the child grows up and is strong, and the parent becomes increasingly helpless, the child must do the same for the parent. However, the child...

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Deal with Ehsaan towards your parents (DW#596)

This week we will explore some Quranic injunctions for dealing with our parents, a relationship which the Quran holds as the most sacred of human relationships with the highest expectations of virtuous behaviour from children towards their parents.

Today’s verse:
And your Lord has commanded . . . ehsaan (virtue, goodness, kindness, excellent courtesy) to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "Uff" nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.[Quran 17:23]

In the above verse from Sura Israa (the Night Journey) Allah pairs the command to worship only Him with the command to show ehsaan towards our parents.

The Arabic word ehsaan is a word with profound meanings including goodness, beauty, perfection, excellence, generosity.

This verse specifically counsels virtuous behaviour towards parents as they age. This time of life is where the roles of parent-child relationship are turned around. The parent, who has been the...

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Worship at night (DW#595)

And during a part of the night, say the night prayer beyond what is incumbent on you; perhaps your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy position. Quran 17:79

Reflection: These verses from Sura Israa (The Night Journey) are addressed in the first instance to the Holy Prophet (saw) advising him that the best means of closeness to his Beloved Lord is to stay up and worship in the night when the rest of mankind is sleeping comfortably,

It is said that the fastest means of transportation towards Allah is to worship at night. During the day so many things occupy our time and mind. We are distracted and it is challenging to find silence, solitude and peace to communicate with the Divine. It is easier to connect spiritually with Allah during the stillness of night when the demands of work and family are on hold for the moment. It is also easier to be free of the ego-drives of looking good that can sometimes creep into our worship, especially when they draw praise from others.

There is much...

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Acquire wisdom (DW#594)

And whosoever is granted wisdom has been granted much good. Quran 2:269

Reflection: This verse from Sura Baqara (the Cow) tells us that the attainment of wisdom is worthy in the eyes of Allah.

Hikma, or wisdom is quite different from the simple accumulation of knowledge. Today, we have a lot of information at our finger tips. Google can answer many questions for us and give us many facts in a split second. While it is worthwhile to acquire knowledge and learn facts (and a highly recommended act of worship in Islam), this by itself will not lead to a happy, useful or worthwhile existence. Or to salvation.

The facts and knowledge that we learn must be reflected upon, tried tested and practiced – in other words reflected upon, engaged with, and applied to gain insight beyond the apparent and the mundane. Only upon such engagement with acquired knowledge can our lives be transformed for good and we can be said to "be wise".

How: There is, of course, no simple formula for acquiring...

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Be courteous guests (DW#593)

O you who believe! Enter not the dwellings of the Prophet for a meal without waiting for its time to come, unless leave be granted you. But if you are invited, enter; and when you have eaten, disperse. Linger not, seeking discourse. Truly that would affront the Prophet, and he would shrink from telling you, but God shrinks not from the truth. Quran 33:53

Reflection: This verse lays out some rules of social engagement for the early Muslim community. The Holy Prophet (saw) was highly sought after not only due to his wisdom but also because of his amiable personality. When people would be invited to his house, they sometimes overstayed, chatting, causing the Prophet (saw) inconvenience. He was much too polite and kind to tell them to leave. Here Allah tells his companions to be mindful of the time and privacy of the Prophet’s household. It is a lesson for all of us on how to be courteous guests.

What: The verse has these injunctions:

- When you are invited for a meal, accept the...

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Did you notice the ease? (DW#591)

In verses 5 and 6 of Sura Inshirah (Expansion), the Quran states:

For truly with hardship comes ease! Truly with hardship comes (more) ease!

The scholars tell us that the verses means that

1) Whatever difficulties or troubles are encountered by men, Allah always provides a solution, a way out, a relief, a way to lead to ease and happiness, if we only follow His Path and show our Faith by patience and right action. The solution or relief does not merely come after the difficulty: it is provided right along with it.
And that the

2) Emphasis and repetition may imply that there is more ease than difficulty.
It is so easy for our attention to zoom in on what is wrong, what is troubling us and what is not quite right. It takes consciousness and intention to direct our attention to the ease that may still be present in our lives. If our knee is hurting, for example, we tend to focus only on the knee. What about our feet, our hands, our head and our organs which are pain free and working...

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What it means to stand with Hussain (DW#455)

Today's wisdom comes from my daughter Sara who wrote this piece on what it means to stand with Imam Hussain (as) 

As this year's azadari comes to a close, I've been thinking about what values this annual commemoration draws out of me: 

if I am with Hussain (as), I value and honor the significance of histories and herstories of oppression and of standing up against injustice, and I make a conscious effort to remember them in community. I believe in the power of storytelling. I do not dismiss these stories for being "so long ago" or of a different people or from a far away place. 

if I am with Hussain (as), I stand with the systematically oppressed, silenced, disenfranchised, abused, tortured, murdered, and imprisoned

if I am with Hussain (as), I work towards a level of commitment to justice for the aforementioned where I am willing to give up anything and everything - my comfort, my wealth, my ego, and my life - in pursuit of it

if I am with Hussain (as), I am of those...
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Remembering Hussain on Ashura (DW#454)

Today marks the Day of Ashura, the day when Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (saw) was martyred on the plains of Karbala (present day Iraq) in the year 680AD. 

Millions of people around the world commemorate this day with solemnity and a renewed commitment to stand for social justice.
 
In Islamic spirituality, there are many narrations from the Holy Prophet (saw) regarding the merits of remembering Hussain, his family and his companions. It can sometimes be challenging to understand the status that Hussain has with God and with people.

Here is a story which might help:

It is said that there was once a King who was fighting a battle and in the midst of the battle, a storm descended, and he came to be separated from the rest of his troops and found himself in a jungle.

Hungry and dishevelled, he was near panic when he saw a modest hut. He approached the hut and found that an old woman lived there.

He explained that he was lost and hungry and...

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