Sunday, January 05, 2014

Twins of Faith 2013

Aisha (r.a.) was once asked to describe Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) character. She replied, succinctly, "His character is the Quran". That is, he was the living example of the Quran.

Thus, when we read the Quran and come across verses exhorting us to have patience / to be grateful / to be forgiving / just / merciful / etc., we should take a leaf out of our Prophet's (pbuh) sunnah and try to become all these things; we should try to become the embodiment of the Quran.

This was what was stressed in last week's (Dec 28 & 29, 2013) Twins of Faith Family Festival, with its theme "The Sunnah The Better". In fact, the stage backdrop was filled with some of the exemplary attributes of our beloved Prophet (pbuh). I copied some of them down and added a few more as I was listening to the talks given by the esteemed mashayikh.

Under the heading "Strive to be..." the long list of attributes was wordle-d into the image below.

While writing the adjectives down, I was feeling optimistic about the year ahead:
Yes, I can be kinder / more forgiving / more positive / etc.

But just days after the event, I realised just how deceptively simple the above adjectives are.
Because it's easy to be good when everything is going right; when you're in a conducive surrounding and amongst wonderful people.

But how do you remain patient when calamity strikes / when things do not go your way?
How do you stay motivated when you're dead tired?
How do you forgive disagreeable people?
How do you keep on being helpful to others when you're bogged down by work?
And how do you remain content in the face of temptations?

When school reopened for the 2014 session last Thursday (Jan 4), I shared the photo below on facebook. At the end of the exhausting day, I looked like the owl on the right.

It didn't take a whole year to transform me from a Hedwig look-alike into a train wreck; It only took one day (in my defence, it was a very trying day).

How do we remain calm and patient in testing times then?

Urm... [awkward silence] I don't know.

But what has helped me in the past is the beautiful verse, "God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear".

We often hear that when Allah loves someone, He will test him. It sounds counter-intuitive, no? Because if you loved someone, you would want to make life as pleasant as possible for him/her.

But as a teacher, I get the concept because teachers always have higher expectations of their BEST students.

When teachers administer a test, they know that a few students will excel above the others. In order to prevent the good students from getting complacent, teachers will give these students additional questions that are tougher or will mark their paper more stringently.

We do these things, not because we hate them. On the contrary, we do them because we know their worth and potential, even when they doubt themselves.

So these students might complain that we're being unfair or that we're being too harsh on them. But we keep on the pressure because we know what the students are capable of and  because we're certain that they can reach the high targets we have set for them.

Further, even though we push them hard, we are with them every step of the way. Whenever they want to throw in the towel, we'll cheer them on with, "Don't give up now, you're so close to the right answer" or "You can do it!" or just a simple "Try again one more time".

So, whenever you're being severely tested (while you perceive others as having a smoother ride), remember the above analogy. Your singling out is a privilege, not bad luck. Allah knows you capabilities and worth, even when you doubt yourselves.
And remember that He'll be there with you every step of the way :)