Happiness: Living the One Life You Have in the Now

“There are always new sounds to imagine, new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state so that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror” – John Coltrane, On Meditations

Last night, one of my friends called me about this exact issue of ‘seeing things clearly’. The conversation was extensive and definitely necessary . In many of our lives, we may find ourselves experiencing happiness and satisfaction, but we may end up doubting the happiness that we feel. We sometimes try to put up an excuse for why we can’t have the happiness that is currently in our lives. We actually try to rationalize why we aren’t good enough to to have happiness, have pleasure and be content. We always feel as if something will go wrong, as if happiness is always accompanied with bad.

So, I sat back listening to my friend for a good hour about the nature of human-happiness. As individuals, we are always seeking happiness. We are. We are always experiencing new feelings, sounds and smells. There is nothing wrong with this. Why can’t we become thankful individuals and just celebrate what we’re experiencing? There is no need to feel guilty for the pleasure that we feel from:

1. Love
2. Laughter
3. Sex
4. Family
5. Romantic partners
6. Friends
7. Colleagues
8. Animals/Pets
9. Ourselves
10. other….

As I sat through our conversation, I could feel the pain(s) of my friend’s struggle in accepting happiness. There are many things that I have heard from people in my life in regards to happiness. I have heard that one must not ‘please themselves sexually,’ ‘get praised for being a good person,’ ‘ live it up,’ and etc. Why do we set limitations on ourselves? What is the point to all of this? I’m sorry, but if I am not stepping on the toes of the next person then I am going to enjoy life. If someone want to indulge in eating cupcakes all day and night then be my guest. If someone would like to run miles to relieve stress then go at it. If someone enjoy masturbation then have at it.

The simple thought that we must regulate the next person’s life and their happiness is saddening. I’ve seen and experienced this kind of regulation. It’s oppressive and painful. Live and let live. Go out and live the life that you’ve always wanted. You can do it alone, with someone else or just with the universe around you. Take the world by the hand and live. Smile a little bit. Make love to the air. Laugh with a chuckle that extends to far and distant lands. Let the sun kiss you with its rays. Just experience new sounds, feelings, and sensations.

Never hold back from happiness. Never let anyone tell you that you should feel bad about the bliss that you are experiencing because we all know that tough times can drag us down and keep us down. So, when you have found your source of happiness then cling to it for dear life.

Finally, to wrap it all up in a few words: “It’s not that everything will be easy or exactly as you had expected, but you must just choose to be grateful for all that you have, and happy that you got a chance to live this life, no matter how it turns out.”

Their Life. Your Charity. Save A Life.

In the summer of 2008, a working-class family of four fell into homelessness for a period of months with only clothes, hope and each other. This family was like any other family. Simply trying to keep their head above water. However, they were experiencing a problem that many would usually turn a blind-eye to in their daily-lives. This family didn’t stand on your local corner, under a bridge, or on a street. Unfortunately, an economic-depression slipped up into their place of comfort-their home. Leaving them income-less and homeless with two teenagers that would learn the meaning of surviving and living on the outskirts of society.

In being stripped of everything that would make a family feel secure, they packed up their lives in their old car and left a life that they had once lived for a new life of instability. In finding themselves isolated from friends and family-members, they held onto their pride and dignity even in the face of despair and pain. In an act of self-preservation, the family of four never spoke of their struggle to survive with others, even between each other. In being left with nothing but each other, they soon turned to begging in hopes of having a place to lay their heads at night. In receiving money, the father, head of his household, soon turned to gambling in hopes of winning money to escape homelessness. Sadly, this act soon became another catalyst to increasing discord between the family-members. In between living and death, the family would live with others and stay in motels- sometimes a different one on a daily-basis. In having to deal with the struggles of surviving and trying to cling onto hope, the world became synonymous to living in a nightmare.

The family soon found themselves traveling down empty roads, lonely highways, and looking out windows to a world that excluded them. They had nothing. No money. No home. And soon, little hope for a future. The two parents would soon become argumentative with each other and doubtful about their tomorrows. Their two teenaged-children would later become clueless about their own survival. Every single day for the family became harder and harder because resources were running out. The charitable acts of others wouldn’t last forever. The hotel and motel-rooms would come to an end and need the next day’s payment. Sadly, this reality would force the family to pack up the little they had and to continue to some unknown place with unfamiliar faces. The world never seemed so cold and empty until then.

The smell of a homemade meal never lingered through their noses over those months. The warm feeling of being able to lie upon their own beds was never a reality for them over those months. The happy feeling of inviting over family and friends was never a reality for them over those months. The sound of children running up and down the street was never a reality for them for those months. The familiar smile from the postman was never a reality for them for those months. Over those months, the family of four found themselves living a life that was anything but the reality they once knew. Those months became their new reality. The family had a new reality that forced them to live in their old car at times, to change motel-rooms on a daily basis, to walk to local stores if the car ever had problems, to smile and to look presentable to those around them.

Unfortunately, the upcoming year for school would be starting for the two teenaged-children. They would be faced to lie about their summer and the wonderful vacation they didn’t really have. They would be forced to say no to friends about invitations and gatherings. The school would soon question their actual home-address once the mail was returned back to its sender. Every new day would seem like a lie and the smiles they would situate on their faces would only make the pain of homelessness and worthlessness penetrate even deeper in their hearts. The one thing that their friends and teachers didn’t know was the harsh reality that they would never know where they would sleep or do their homework after coming from school once the bell sounded for the end of the school day. An unspoken pain and hurt suddenly had set in for the two teenagers because they knew that their world was not the same as their classmates. They were homeless and without an address. And they were invisible.

As days, weeks, and months passed, the family of four soon got assistance in moving into their own home. They would soon find themselves situated in their own place across from the school. The mother found herself with a full-time job and decent income to provide and maintain. The father would soon find himself working odd-jobs to supplement his wife’s income. However, the pain they were feeling didn’t leave overnight. It didn’t even leave months later for they all could remember the different motel-rooms and roads they had once traveled to just find a place to lay their heads at night. As time went by, they found themselves reverting back to the lifestyle they had knew once before. They were reclining upon their couches, laying upon their own beds, and resting in their own home at night. The return of family-members coming over for visits would become a regular habit with occasional visits from their children’s friends. The world became better, but not perfect for they knew there were others like themselves that were experiencing homelessness on a daily-basis in conditions less-viable for survival. In undergoing their journey of survival, they were happy to know there were people willing to give them charity for a hotel or motel-room. There were people willing to give groceries when there wasn’t any for them to eat. They were most grateful for the charity that people gave to them for they were struggling without it.

In reading this story, I hope everyone will take time to think about charity and how it can save a person or even a family. As a Muslim, I believe the world is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves if there are people who are without their bare necessities in life. This family isn’t any different from the next family. They just fell upon some hard times and that’s understandable, especially in the world that we live in. So, remember the next person you may see on the corner, under the bridge, or walking next to you in a store. That person could be one of the individuals in the story I told. We can’t pinpoint the poor and needy just by looks. We can’t pinpoint the poor and needy just by their lack of material-items. The poor and the needy comes in all forms and sometimes it will surprise you the most to know that those who are struggling are those just trying to save face by simply wearing a smile. And this story isn’t meant to make you feel guilty for this family’s homelessness, but it is a story of awareness and realism. Our world isn’t always black and white. It isn’t always as transparent as we may think. The world that we live in is quite confusing at times and even chaotic. So, just remember that the world is a place of smiles when many are hiding their frowns. Furthermore, remember that sadaqa or charity is due upon every one of us, so don’t withhold whatever you may have for it was Allah that gave you such blessings. May Allah give us strength and a helping hand for those that need it the most. Ameen.

Do You Know Your Neighbor?

In a fast-paced world we sometimes forget about our neighbors. Our neighbors are the people that we may see every now and then when we have the opportunity to look up from our busy lives. We may run into them at the local store or at the local PTA meeting, but we never really ask how they are doing. Are we bad people? No, I believe that we are sometimes busy people. We are people that are constantly in a rush. We are rushing to do this and rushing to get that done. Nevertheless, the issue of rushing can make us miss out on knowing the people that lives next to us. We sometimes start up superficial relationships with other without truly knowing them. We may add them on Facebook or Twitter, but we really do not know about them. Sometimes we may have leftover food at home or we may cook up a ton of food for a gathering, but we never ask to see if the person or family next door would like some. We never think about the single man or woman next to us that may need a baby-sitter. We sometimes never think about asking the elderly couple down the hall if they need someone to go grocery-shopping for them. Yes, this doesn’t make us bad people, but this make us people who are always in a rush. Sometimes we need to just calm down and smell life. We rush so much that we tend to miss things. We never are able to simple stop.

The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a great example because he provided simple ways of living life. He came as a mercy. He came as a guidance. In guiding the people on living life he instructed the people to take care of their neighbors.

I Narrated by Ibn Umar (Radhiallah hu Taala anhu)

The prophet Muhammad said, ” The angel Gabriel kept on recommending me about treating the neighbors in a kind and polite manner, so much so that I thought that he would order (me) to make them (my) heirs.”
(Bukhari)

This is really something to think about in our daily lives. The prophet Muhammad is telling us that our neighbors should be treated kindly. We shouldn’t go around hurting our neighbors. We shouldn’t start trouble with the couple next door. We shouldn’t seek to say things that will cause an argument with the family next door. We should seek to create a friendly and respectful relationship with our neighbors. Also, the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told the people to be mindful of their actions with their neighbors.

The prophet Muhammad said, “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who is that, O Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam)?” He said, “That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.”

Many times we may find ourselves guessing about the affairs of the next door neighbors. We may want to pry into their personal affairs or conjecture about their personal lives. We may want to begin gossiping about their business, but the prophet Muhammad told us that we should not be harmful with our neighbors by our evil. We shouldn’t treat our neighbors poorly. We should be conscious that our neighbors have rights over us. We should seek to form a good relationship with those around us.

The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) definitely guided the people beautifullly, especially when it comes down to our relations with others. Our neighbors have rights over us and we should honor this to the best of our abilities.

Abir Islam: My Father and I

My father died when I was eleven years old.

A man of righteousness, as my mother described him.

A man that never gave up doing what was right and always held his family at the centre of his heart.

I love my father, but I did not get to know much of him.

I can remember how he taught me to pray at the masjid and taught me about the companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

He was truly a father I wish could’ve taught me how to become a man

I loved him for how he showed me how important it was to be Muslim.

We didn’t have much as I grew up with him.

He worked long hours, but he made up with longer hours to spend with us.

It was my mom, my older sister, my dad and I.

Now, I am fifteen years old and I ask myself if I am following the way of the Prophet Muhammad.

My father told me there was not a man who was as great as the Prophet Muhammad.

Every Friday, my father would sit the whole family down and tell us about the Prophet Muhammad and tell us stories.

Now, I wish I had that, but I remember them because I wrote them down just like my dad told me.

I wrap my turban the same way my father wrapped his.

I keep my thobe above my ankles and I let my beard grow just as the Prophet Muhammad, his companions, and my father.

I tell others about the example of the Prophet Muhammad and I learn from the imam about the Prophet Muhammad and his companions now.

I will never stop doing what is right and I will always love my religion because I know it is true.

And because I am Abir Islam.