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Pay it forward (DW#412)

Sura Qassas: and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you[28:77] 

This verse, addressed to the rich despot Qarun, reminds him that the bounties that he has been granted are a gift from God, to be used in good works and charity. That he should be a conduit of these blessings, keeping the flow of blessings going by passing some of them on to those in need, rather than hoarding them all for himself.

Qarun believed that what he had was solely a result of his own hard work. He failed to see that the abundance of blessings can be a test to see how we will use these blessings. He forgot about all those who could have benefited from sharing in the blessings that were granted to him and instead he squandered them in meaningless ways and to feed his whims and passions. 

The lesson for us is this: whatever we have been granted of material, intellectual or social bounties are a trust from Him. These gifts need to be engaged as a force for good in this world rather than...

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Harkat mein barkat (DW#411)

In Verse 39 of Sura Najm, Allah says: And that man shall have nothing but what he strives for. (Holy Quran 53:39)

For today’s verse, I could not find a better title than the Urdu phrase: Harkat mein barkat, meaning there is blessing in movement/striving. One of the principles of life, taught by experience and by Divinity, is that human beings get what they strive towards.

It is important to note that what the Quran is telling us is that our outcome will be in accordance with our striving. What this means is that it intention and effort that counts. In the material world, we are told that winning is everything and that being second best does not count. 

However, in our relationship with God, winning and the outcome does not matter as much as the effort and the intention with which any action is undertaken. The outcome, of course, is never really in our control in the first place. We can work really hard at something and still not get the outcome we hoped...

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Recognize the value of a single night (DW#409)

The grand night is better than a thousand months [Sura Qadr, 97:3]
Laylatul Qadr (the grand night, night of power, night of destiny) is the anniversary of the night when the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw). This night, the holiest in the Islamic calendar, is a celebration to commemorate the arrival of the final guidance for humans. 

The above verse from Sura Qadr tells us that Laylatul Qadr, or the Grand Night is better than a thousand months. In the verse preceding this one, the Quran has invited us to raise our consciousness by asking And what will make you comprehend what the grand night is? [97:2]. This verse answers this question by informing us that the Grand Night, or Laylatul Qadr is better, more elevated than one thousand months. 

A thousand months is equal to more than 80 years, a quantity of time that is equal to, if not more than, a lifetime for many of us.

Clearly the Quran wants us to understand that there is a...

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Dust those cobwebs (DW#407)

In Sura Ankabut, Allah swt likens the security systems of human beings to the frailty of a spider’s web: The parable of those who take guardians besides Allah is as the parable of the spider that makes for itself a house; and most surely the frailest of the houses is the spider’s house did they but know. [Quran, 29:41]

When we reflect on the spider’s web, we realize that it has several rather interesting features:

It provides no protection: Although the construction of the web is a remarkable feat of architecture, and it can look beautiful, it does not fulfil a basic need of a house which is shelter and protection. The spider’s web doesn’t protect the spider from the elements at all. Wind, fire, water all penetrate through it. The mere brush from a broom or a hand can destroy it. How frail is this house!

It is spun from within: Whist other animals use materials from nature to construct their houses, the spider spins the web from a substance...

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Step up to leadership (DW#400)

Here is today's edition of wisdom from the Quran:

He said, ‘Put me in charge of the store houses of the land, I am indeed reliable, well-informed.’ (Sūrat Yūsuf 12:55, Holy Quran)
This verse from Sura Yusuf is Prophet Yusuf (as)’s reply to the Egyptian king when he appoints him to work for the government.
 
Prophet Yusuf (as) immediately suggests a specific position for himself and relates the qualities which make him ideal for this position.
 
We are sometimes confused about what it means to be humble – this verse shows us that humility is not at odds with putting yourself forward for a good cause when you have the qualifications and the capability of doing it well and when it is for a good cause.
 
In the days of self promotion and social media, this verse gives us solid advice on how and when to promote oneself:
 
Knowledge: he is well-informed. He has done his homework about the situation. It is not a case of feeling entitled to a...
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Divided you fall (DW#398)

And do not quarrel for then you will lose heart and your power will depart.
(Sūratul Anfāl, No.8, Āyat 46)

When we are part of a team, whether it is a couple, a family, a committee or a team at work, there are bound to be differences in thought and style amongst the team members. Teams that remain strong find ways to appreciate the differences and diversity of thought and approach. They remain focused on the goal rather than get distracted by petty differences.

If on the other hand, for a team that allows differences to turn into quarrels, two things are likely to happen:

  1. The energy is diverted from the task at hand. Instead of working together to achieve their goals, each person or quarrelling segment begins to work on its own, sometimes in opposition to the other team members. The result is a weakening of the morale of the entire team. 

  2. This results in a huge loss of effectiveness of the entire team. A weakening of power. The Quran uses the word ‘rīh’ to...
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Growth does not happen by accident (DW#386)

We have been comparing fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets and hopefully we are beginning to see the value of cultivating a growth mindset for ourselves.

Many of us may already have a growth mindset in some areas of our lives and yet be stuck in a fixed mindset in others.

For example, I could be very successful in my career and be updating my skill set through continuous professional development and yet believe that I am just unlucky at relationships, or health, or …. Do you get the picture? Just because we have a growth mindset in one area of our lives does not automatically mean that we have the same set of beliefs in others.

John Maxwell in his book The 15 invaluable Laws of Growthreiterates what we have been saying over and over again: that all change and growth begins with awareness and intention. To put it another way, positive change and growth does not happen by accident. If we were to ignore an area of our lives, it is more likely that it would devolve rather...

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Personal growth begins in the mind (DW#374)

What do you believe about your ability to grow and progress in your life?

Do you believe that you can and must grow in every area of your life? Or do you believe that you are born with a certain set of talents and abilities that are fixed? 

Do you think or say things like "I am too old to change" or "That’s just the way I am" or "Some people are just born that way" or "I could never do that"? 

Do you believe that the reason that some people are smarter or more successful than you is because they have "what it takes" in their area of success and you don’t?


Science is telling us that the way we think about our ability to grow (or not) has a major impact on all areas of our lives. 

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. is one of the leading researchers in the field of motivation and is a renowned Professor at Stanford University. In her recent and highly acclaimed book, Mindset, she employs rigorous science to help us understand why we do what we do. 

She explains...

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Start, then finish (DW#320)

While some of us have a hard time starting things, there are others of us who are "chronic starters". We are high achievers, we aim high and we always have a ton of projects on the go.

Finishing those projects, or completing those goals, however, is another story (again, don’t ask how I know this . . . ). Perfectionism greets us along the way and uses every tactic under the sun to block us from getting to the finish line.

I just finished reading a great book by Jon Acuff: Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. It is full of practical ideas on beating perfectionism and completing projects. And it is SUPER FUNNY (was laughing out aloud throughout J )

Here are the three things that I am working on, inspired by this book, to get to the finish line:

Cut your goals in half
This sounds contrary to what we have been talking about, but it is not. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a given amount of time (in the future, that is, not in the present). We always think we will have...

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Between discomfort and delusion (DW#316)

Goals worth achieving are not within our comfort zone. If they were, we would already have achieved them.

However, they cannot be so far outside our comfort zone that they are in the zone of delusion.

If you have never walked a single kilometer, setting a goal to do the Boston Marathon this year might be delusional. Making a daily habit to walk 5 kilometers might be in the discomfort zone but it is doable.

If you have not written a single article, writing a 500-page memoir this year might be in delusional. Starting a blog and committing to publishing an article a week will be a stretch but it is possible with the right planning, scheduling and accountability. It may, of course, lead to a 500-page memoir in the future . . .

If your bank account is at zero (or negative) right now, putting a down payment on a condo this year may be delusional. However, committing to saving 10% of your monthly income will feel uncomfortable but it is achievable if owning your own home has meaning and...

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