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Labeling (DW#490)

When people upset or annoy us it is very tempting to generalize their behavior into a character trait. For example, if someone throws their socks on the floor after you have tidied up, you may be tempted to label them as sloppy, disrespectful, uncaring or a number of other unflattering things.

Of course, we can also label ourselves, which is equally unhelpful. 
Instead of saying "I made a mistake," you may attach a negative label to yourself: "I’m a loser." 

Sometimes, we adopt a negative label for ourselves that others have used, and then use it to justify our negative behaviour because of the label.

"That is right, I have always been an angry person. That is why I cannot control my temper".

"You’re right. I am stubborn. And I won’t budge."

"I am a loser. So why should I try?"

When we label ourselves or others in this way, we mistake an action or behaviour for a character trait. And we know that behaviours and actions are much easier to change than the...

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Have you heard about EQ? (DW#448)

What do you think of when you think of when you think of someone who is intelligent? Are they logical, good at learning, solving problems, taking tests? 

This is the traditional view of intelligence which is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, solve problems, and adapt to new situations. Intelligence or IQ can also be defined as the ability that intelligence tests measure.

For the last few decades, however, psychologists and scientists have begun to question this limited understanding of intelligence. 

The most famous challenge, perhaps, was launched in 1996 by Dan Goleman with the publication of his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Goleman claimed that emotional intelligence or EQ is another aspect of intelligence that is often overlooked but it is what often determines success or failure in our lives. 

Before we go any further, let us understand what we mean by EQ. 

...

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You made me do it (DW#423)

objective productivity Jun 27, 2018

As human beings we mess up and make mistakes. Quite often. We sometimes behave badly with those who matter most to us. 

And when we are confronted about our poor behavior or judgment by a loved one, it feels uncomfortable and it is anxiety provoking. It can be tempting to deny our role in making someone upset by denying responsibility, or worse by blaming them for our own behavior. 

For those of us who are parents, our children can sometimes really push our buttons. We may lose it from time to time and get ashamed by our behavior. At this point, we say things like "You made mom/dad mad". "Look what you made me do". We may believe that we are hiding the fact that we fell short of our own values and we feel ashamed. But lets not kid ourselves. Our children can pick up on the fact that we are shirking responsibility. And the lesson they learn from this is NOT the one we want them to learn!

Similarly, in adult relationships which are abusive or severely distressed, there can...

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Hardship and ease come together (DW#414)

Sura Inshirah: Truly with hardship comes ease! [Quran: 94:5]

Such a beautiful and hopeful verse of the Quran! And the phrase is repeated in the next verse for emphasis. 

While we often read that there is a silver lining in the clouds, that hard times eventually pass, this verse reminds us that there is relief and ease not after a trial or challenging time, but right along with it

Truly with hardship comes ease. 

When we are going through tough times and challenges, we sometimes get tunnel vision: our focus narrows only to the pain or the challenge and we fail to notice things that are working as they should or are in fact working for our benefit. When our knees are hurting for example, we may not notice that the rest of our body is in fact, pain free. We begin to lose perspective and begin to see our whole life in terms of the challenge or the difficulty. 

At times like this, it is useful to remember that no matter how bad things may seem at...

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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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