Let The Darkness Guide You

[Something I found among my old notes from a long time ago]

Our Prophet (saw) faced every single affliction a human soul can emotionally take. He didn’t even get a chance to properly know his mother, let alone feel her love when growing up. He lost Khadija (ra) at the most vulnerable point of his life. Let’s not even get to all the things he faced from people. If anyone can be said to have been filled with darkness from all sides, isn’t it him? But all that pain had purpose. All that was prepared by Allah Himself.

Despite all that pain, he had a core full of light that had the potential to change everyone else’s cores. The entire world’s core. Did the darkness affect his mission? Of course. It was that darkness he faced all his life that helped him change history, change hearts, minds, countries, worlds! (The jinn were changed too, I’ll call that a different world). When we quote ahadith or follow him in order to please Allah, do we always think about his pain and sufferings? Maybe we should, but we hardly do. Because even if that was one of the most significant parts of his life, to us, that is a minor part of the whole picture.

Maybe human cores just work this way. The person himself sees/feels the surface – the darkness. Everyone else sees the core – the light. But only if the person himself unlocks the core first.

Think about all the other prophets. Every single one of them. Think about the salaaf. I personally don’t think imam Bukhari or imam Tabari etc were perfectly happy people. Most of them were surrounded by darkness too – the darkness of societal obstacles, financial hardships, emotional hardships, what not. But that didn’t stop them from writing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of pages of knowledge. Or changing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of lives, hearts. Because maybe, just maybe, Allah chooses the souls most tainted by darkness to serve Him best. How else can you explain why every Prophet faced such difficult lives and such extreme emotional trauma? Even if not, I’m sure of one thing at least: the darkness is a clue to what tremendous light lies inside. You might not care, but it’s there.

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Iman Levels: Expectations and Frustrations

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When I first started getting serious about my faith, I thought I had the whole picture figured out. I saw my upcoming journey as a gradual climb in my level of faith – a clean graph with an exponentially increasing slope. I knew it would be smooth, because why would I ever weaken in my faith or ibadah, right? I was so wrong; if I only knew. This journey is just like any other journey. It isn’t a constant rise; it isn’t clean; it isn’t smooth. But what I never foresaw in the beginning is how bad it could get at certain points. Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending decline that I don’t know how to stop. Some days I feel like I am an awful excuse for a Muslim – with a spotless exterior holding a rotten, hardened heart at the core. A heart that sometimes gets so attached to this world, to things and people, that it would rather spend all of its time doing nothing, thinking nothing…than to indulge in ibadah and ponder over the afterlife.

In life, there are things you want and there are things you need. If you are a practicing Muslim, oftentimes the two do not coincide – especially if you are at an early stage of faith. And sometimes it gets extremely difficult to accept the fact that what you need is so different from what you want; to accept that you aren’t being able to fully want what you should be wanting. I’m writing this random rant because right now I’m going through one of the most severe cases of that feeling in my life so far. It’s a feeling of helplessness – to realize you have no control over the things you desire and crave. The cynic in you might constantly tell you that it’s unnatural to force yourself to not have what you want – is it even worth it? Why are you even doing this? You deserve good things in life! – it keeps whispering and then shouting and then screeching at an unbearable pitch until you really start doubting yourself.

But wait, could I say that to a diabetic patient when they crave sweets? Would I tell them, “If it’s what you want, why not just have it? Stop being so stuck up, it’s just sweets. You deserve good things in life, you deserve the sweetest of sweets. Stop holding yourself back, that’s just unnatural!” Would I have said that to my 4 year old brother when he wanted to jump off the window ledge to reveal his flying skills?

Between being a 4 year old kid trying to fly and a 60 year old diabetic wanting sweets, we humans never really change. Deep inside, we are still the comfortably irrational beings who are at a constant conflict between wanting the right thing and wanting the fun thing. Swinging between being an “instant gratification monkey” and a seeker of eternal happiness – most days I have a hard time accepting my own thoughts. One of my favorite ayahs in the Quran is this profound statement by prophet Yusuf (AS):

“And I do not declare myself free (from blame). Indeed, the soul constantly commands to evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”
– Surah Yusuf, 12:53

Basically, as a human, I’ll never be able to NOT want what I shouldn’t, *unless* Allah SWT shows mercy on me and guides my heart to rise above. Which also means, I cannot stay away from evil or immorality by sheer willpower: it just isn’t enough. I need to constantly ask Allah for help as well.

This is comforting and scary at the same time. Comforting because now I know that my difficulty in always wanting or doing the right thing is actually natural, that’s how the soul is supposed to act – it inclines towards evil. And the fact that my Lord is always there to help me through it, that He will keep being Merciful and forgiving, as long as I ask Him, is the most comforting thing ever. Why scary? Because despite knowing this, I’m not praying enough to Allah, I’m not pouring out my heart in dua to ask Him for guidance. I’m still relying too much on myself, and disregarding the only way out – Allah’s mercy.

We’re either too confident that we are already guided enough, that we don’t need help (which is ironic, because an arrogant person cannot enter Jannah), or we are too convinced that it’s too big of a task to change for the better, to become more practicing, to get more regular and sincere in ibadah. We are constantly so busy either overestimating or underestimating our souls – that we forget the biggest piece of the puzzle – Allah’s power to change our state. Do we realize how narcissistic we are? We are practically placing our state of mind over the power of Allah SWT. Maybe we humans just really like to stay in a rut, even when we know the way out.

Five times a day, we are supposed to forget everything else and sincerely say to Allah – “ihdinaa as-Siraat al-mustaqeem”Guide us to the straight path! The most important thing in life we could ask for, and we skim through it as if it’s nothing. In fact, most times we don’t even mean it when we say it. Heck, we don’t even REALIZE that we’re saying it. How do I expect to be guided if I’m deliberately skipping my chance to ask Allah for guidance, day after day, every single time? Do we really think we don’t need His mercy and guidance? If this isn’t the worst sort of arrogance, I don’t know what is.

Anyhow, back to where I started: ups and downs in the faith-graph. There is one hadith that gives me hope about this hopeless state:

Sahih Muslim Book 037, Hadith Number 6623:

Hanzala Usayyidi, who was amongst the scribes of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), reported: I met Abu Bakr. He said: Who are you? He (Hanzala) said: Hanzala has turned to be a hypocrite. He (Abu Bakr) said: Hallowed be Allah, what are you saying? Thereupon he said: I say that when we are in the company of Allah’s Messenger ( ) we ponder over Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our very eyes and when we are away from Allah’s Messenger ( ) we attend to our wives, our children, our business; most of these things (pertaining to After-life) slip out of our minds. Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I also experience the same. So I and Abu Bakr went to Allah’s Messenger ( ) and said to him: Allah’s Messenger, Hanzala has turned to be a hypocrite. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ( ) said: What has happened to you? I said: Allah’s Messenger, when we are in your company, we are reminded of Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but whenever we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ( ) said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the Angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Hanzala, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation). He (the Holy Prophet) said this thrice.

Takeaway:
If we want to keep our faith up, we gotta give regular time to prayer, and to think, and converse about the deen – about Paradise and Hell-fire, about our Lord. We need to attend halaqas, discussions, lectures, whatever we can find, or maybe at least watch videos and read things – Hadith, Tafsir, books, articles (apart from the regular Quran reading of course). Because you know what? Iman doesn’t appear magically in the heart, neither does it stay there magically once it arrives. It is hard to find and easy to lose. We have to set away time for our souls – call it soul workouts if you may. Because if we lose our faith, nothing else we achieve on earth would mean a thing. And we can’t afford to lose it all, not when we know and realize the consequences; not when we’ve been given the blessing to understand.

 

He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.
– Surah Baqara, 2:269

And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not the understand?
– Surah Anam, 6:32

Quran Journal #1: Surah Kahf 18:28

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Okay,  I’m attempting to start a new series (inner me: haha here we go again), which I hope to write at least once per week. This will be about any ayah(s) I come across which deeply influences me, or makes me feel that it needs to be written about. Bismillah!

Why this ayah hit me like a truck:

Since the start of university (which was about 6 months ago), I have had a massive downfall in terms of good company. Most of the friends (lol friends?) I made are not particularly religious. Or even believers. At first I thought – well that’s always been the case and what could really go wrong? I’m a strong independent minded human who is NOT affected by other people’s thoughts or views. Hah, guess what Shaytan, you were (as usual) wrong. I did start to get influenced by everyone else’s astaghfirullah mindsets. As if my iman wasn’t low enough, I now have newer, stronger, shinier issues deep down inside my heart. Did NOT see that coming. Hey, fitnah, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE BRO?

So this week I read this ayah – which I usually skim over, cause it makes me feel guilty (meta conscience in action, damn) – and I realized i REALLY need to make some changes. Okay, I think that exact thought twice per typical day and then keep going without making any changes (ermm..) but THIS time it’s different. Because I’m writing about it. On my blog. Nuff said. (Yess that’s the secret to success, my boiz. Writing public posts stating your vague personal issues.)

Actions to be taken in shaa Allah:

  • Cut down talking too much to people who don’t have meaningful contribution in my life
  • The world sucks. Do not crave it. I repeat DO NOT CRAVE THE WORLD, IT SHALL BREAK YOU.
  • Stop wanting material things that others have. It’s never as good as it looks wallah.
  • Try to get more practicing friends.
  • Stay off social media as much as possible.
  • m o r e    i b a d a h

Now let me go back to reading the novel about jinn and hackers. Salaam.

The Paradox of Everchanging Truths – Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Beliefs

I was reading a Harry Potter fan fiction where Harry is a “rationalist” – in all implications of the word’s present day definition – and tries to justify every new thing he learns in the magic world from the point of his existing knowledge and beliefs. When something doesn’t fit, he upgrades/modifies his beliefs and theories (note to wannabe rationalists who “blindly” follow certain schools of thought). This one quote suddenly hit me hard, and i just had to write *something* about it. I haven’t written in a while so excuse my jumbled thoughts.

Professor McGonagall’s eyes were alight. “After you graduate, or possibly even before, you really must teach some of these Muggle theories at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter. They sound quite fascinating, even if they’re all wrong.”

So here McGonagall casually says that Harry’s muggle theories (i.e years of human acquired knowledge) are obviously wrong. He had been talking about some good stuff, like causality and temporal order (a cause having to occur *before* its effect, in the observable timeline), and Turing Computations (going back into a defined moment of the past and computing a different future from there) and things like that. He couldn’t explain the Time Turner based on his existing knowledge of how cause and effect works. So he accepted that it could work backwards too – something that happens *later* in time might control something that happened *before* it.

See, whenever we read or hear about something that doesn’t make sense according to our established scientific theories, we immediately dismiss the phenomenon as “impossible” or just fantasies made up by humans or superstitions. Or religion. While that is true in many cases, it doesn’t always have to be. There could be – and quite definitely are – laws that are beyond our understanding yet. For all we know, all the basic scientific theories we know now could be false in some way, or at least *incomplete* – which is why they fail to explain many things.

The mind projection fallacy, as described by physicist and Bayesian philosopher E. T. Jaynes, says that that if you are ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about your own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself; your uncertainty is a fact about you, not a fact about whatever you are uncertain about; gnorance exists in the mind, not in reality; a blank map does not correspond to a blank territory.

In this particular book the people of the magic world know for a fact that most muggle theories are wrong, and hence they have no problem accepting the reality of magic. Meanwhile Harry Potter, a sort of child prodigy back in the muggle world, just CANNOT come to terms with the apparent unbelievable-ness of magic world laws – which allow things like time turning, mind control, trapping a “large space” inside a “small space”, etc.

The lesson to take from this is, just because we don’t find something believable, doesn’t always mean it is false. We are a species that’s SO arrogant that we are never ready to believe anything that the currently most-credible institution in human society hasn’t declared believable. In the present world this institution is Western rationalist science. For a long time this institution was the Church (which followed different interpretations at different times, based on what suited the current emperor). During Moses’s time (ancient Egypt) it was the Pharaoh. Sometimes it was aristocrats, sometimes philosophers. Keeps changing, is the point.

The only constant throughout history is that we were always too arrogant to think outside the box. Pre-Copernicus scientists were too arrogant to believe that the earth wasn’t at the center of everything. 18th century biologists were too arrogant to believe that plants have life. Descartes was too arrogant to believe that atoms couldn’t be broken down. Hume was too arrogant to believe in the existence of anything we can not see. Non-Darwinians are too arrogant to believe in evolution. Darwinians are too arrogant to disbelieve in evolution. Present day rationalists are too arrogant to believe in the existence of a soul, or an intelligent designer of everything in the universe. Present day scientists are too arrogant to believe in anything that doesn’t show up in existing man-made measurement devices. And on and on and on.

The point is, we think we know. At every point in history, we thought we knew. And this, the present, is also a point in our history. That’s the part we always forgot.

And that is why when someone asks me how I believe in such “backdated, flawed” theories i.e Islamic beliefs (and that too, as a conscious decision) – I can’t expect them to understand what they’re too arrogant to understand. Yes, I believe in divine entities, higher dimensions, eternal consequences, an intelligent designer, and much more. I believe in a bigger reality. And I’m not ashamed of it.

.

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[Reference: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky]

My Favorite Shortcut To A Good Quality Salah

Want a shortcut to boosting the quality of your salah?

Memorize some new ayahs from the Quran. It can be just 3-4 tiny ayahs from the 30th juz. Or an entire surah. Anything.

Now pray your salah with the newly memorized ayahs after surah Fatiha (the minimum is 3 ayahs).

If you’ve done this before then you already know how incredible it feels. It’s not the same anymore. The effort your brain gives to keep the recitation correct drowns out all those unwanted distractions. You are literally forced to focus, without the strain of deliberately trying to focus.

The rush you feel…the warmth flowing through your body…the longing to linger on…how long have you been waiting for this? Every new word feels like an adventure! This is what keeps me going on the really, really bad days.

Trust me, it’s totally, totally worth trying.

10 Everyday Sunnahs We Need to Bring Back

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1. Saying Bismillah or Salam When Entering The House

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:

“If a person mentions the name of Allah upon entering his house or eating, Satan says, addressing his followers: ‘You will find nowhere to spend the night and no dinner.’ But if he enters without mentioning the Name of Allah, Satan says (to his followers); ‘You have found (a place) to spend the night in, and if he does not mention the Name of Allah at the time of eating, Satan says: ‘You have found (a place) to spend the night in as well as food.”‘ [Muslim]

2. The Right Side Rule

`A’isha relates that the Prophet (SAW) used to like to start with the right side when putting on his sandals, combing his hair, engaging in his ritual purifications, and in all of his activities.

When entering the house, wearing shoes or socks, putting on clothes and other such activities – the sunnah is to start from the right side. And when doing lowly or despicable acts like istinja’, removing clothes, entering the toilet etc – the sunnah is to use or start with the left limb.

3. Eating Less (One-third At Max)

Miqdam bin Madikarib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say:

‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]

4. Musafaha – Shaking Hands

It is sunnah to shake hands with when you meet someone of the same gender. It is one of those remarkable sunnah practices many of us don’t know about, or tend to forget. Science says that a simple touch can lower stress and release oxytocin – bringing about a feeling of trust, connection and other positive vibes. No wonder the Prophet (SAW) practiced this habit and thus left this valuable tradition for the Muslim ummah!

5. Sending Salawaat Upon The Prophet After The Adhan

It is reported that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:

“When you hear the Mu’adhdhin, repeat what he says, then invoke a blessing on me, for everyone who invokes a blessing on me will receive ten blessings from Allah.” [Reported by Muslim]

We should recite the durood after the adhaan ends.

6. Taking A Nap At Mid-day

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen do not take naps.” [At-Tabarani, Al-Sahihah, no. 2647]

A short afternoon nap, known as Qailulah, is a well-known Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Instead of oversleeping in the morning or napping in the late-afternoon, following this remarkable Sunnah of taking a nap at midday – a time when our bodies and minds just start to get exhausted – would ensure much more efficiency from us and help us avoid a grumpy day.

7. Using Miswak

Ibn Umar (Ra) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Make a regular practice of the Miswak, for verily, it is healthy for the mouth and it is a Pleasure for the Creator (i.e. Allah is pleased with the Muslim who uses the Miswaak).” [Bukhari]

Let’s try to replace our toothbrushes with the miswak and reap the blessings of this highly recommended Sunnah!

8. Dhikr Before Sleeping

The Prophet (SAW) instructed his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) to say before sleeping: Subhanallah (33 times), Alhamdulillah (33 times), Allahu Akbar (34 times) [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi]. Besides, we should make istighfar and recite ayatul Kursi and the recommended surahs, like Surah Mulk, before sleeping. The Prophet would hold his palms together, recite Surah Ikhlas, Falaq and Nas, then spit into his palms and wipe over his entire body as much as possible with his palms.

9. Duha Prayer

The Prophet (SAW) said, “In the morning, charity is due on every joint of the body of every one of you. Every utterance of Allah’s Glorification (saying Subhan Allah) is an act of charity, every utterance of His Praise (saying Al-hamdu lillah) is an act of charity, every utterance of declaration of His Greatness (saying Laa ilaaha illa Allah) is an act of charity, and every utterance of declaration of His Power (saying Allah Akbar); and enjoining M`aruf (good) is an act of charity, and forbidding Munkar (evil) is an act of charity, and two Rak`ats of Duha Prayers which one performs in the forenoon is equal to all this (in reward).” [Muslim]

It is two rakahs of supererogatory Sunnah prayer to be prayed in the morning, any time after the sun has risen but before noon.

10. Greeting Children With Salaam

We talk about the importance of spreading the salaam so often, yet disregard or overlook its value when it comes to children.

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that he passed by some children and greeted them. Then he said: “Messenger of Allah (SAW) used to do the same.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Let’s start as many as we can right away. Life is short and, as we all know, every sunnah counts!

5 Sunnah Habits That Boost Our Productivity

Originally posted on ibana.

One of the best things about taking up Islam as a complete lifestyle is seeing its blessings reap in literally every sphere of our lives. The actions directed by Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) are meant to be seeds that we sow for Akhirah, but their fruits are found sprouting right away in this life too. Every time we choose to follow the words and actions of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with the sole aim to achieve the pleasure of Allah SWT, Allah in His infinite mercy makes those very actions a means of enhancing our worldly lives as well, and boosting us physically, mentally and spiritually. Now that’s what you call getting the best of both worlds!

So when we think of leading productive lives, the first place where we should look for direction and inspiration is the Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). We will never find a human being whose life is as productive and filled with barakah as the life of our Prophet was. So before reading tons of articles and watching hours of videos about maximizing productivity, let’s start off with the best possible practices – practices taken from the life of our Prophet himself (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and we will soon sense the barakah surging in our lives, in sha Allah!

  1. Staying Up After Fajr 

    Muslim narrated from Jaabir ibn Samurah that when the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had prayed Fajr, he would sit in his prayer place until the sun had risen properly.How often do we find ourselves settling back into bed right after we have finished fajr salah – as if it is some kind of chore that disrupted our precious sleep? Not only does this habit kill the possibility of a highly productive morning (and in consequence, a highly productive day), but it prevents us from earning immense rewards and following a sunnah of the Prophet. The barakah of the early morning time is as amazing as it gets. Sometimes it seems outright unnatural and bizarre to me how much we can get done in just a few minutes in the early morning period, in contrast to even hours during any other time of the day.

    “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘O Allah, bless my Ummah in the mornings.’ [Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]

     

  2. Mid-day Nap 

    The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen do not take naps.” [At-Tabarani, Al-Sahihah, no. 2647]A short afternoon nap, known as Qailulah, is a well known sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It is one of the best ways to boost our bodies and rejuvenate our senses amid the tiresome work or studies cluttering our day. The timing of this nap prescribed in the sunnah is remarkable. Mid-day is the time of the day when we just start feeling exhausted (given that we started the day early) and just can’t seem to focus, no matter how interesting the work at hand is.

  3. Eating Less
    Miqdam bin Madikarib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah say:

    ‘A human being fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third for food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]When we take too much food or eat to our fill, the effect it has on the body leads to a feeling of laziness, sluggishness, lethargy and an overall drop in productivity. This priceless piece of advice of our Prophet can entirely change our everyday activity graph and ensure maximum efficiency out of us. So instead of the sudden drops in productivity for long periods after every meal, we’ll find ourselves giving our best at all times of the day – just by lowering the amount of food we take.

  4. Avoiding Speech After ‘Isha And Sleeping Early 

    The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to dislike speaking after ‘isha prayer (narrated by Bukhari, Muslim). The scholars derive the reason for it to be that it might lead people to stay up late at night, and consequently miss qiyam al-layl or fajr prayer due to sleep. Now this is an essential part of the cycle: we cannot expect to wake up early and remain wide awake through the morning if we stay up for hours into the night. Hence, this habit of calling it a day once we’re done with ‘isha prayer is key to maintaining the balance. Moreover, staying up beyond our body can take and exhausting ourselves can do more harm than good – affecting our productivity levels for the entire next day or several days in turn.

  5. Night Prayer
    The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has said: “Keep up qiyam al-layl. It was the way of the virtuous who came before you, it draws you nearer to your Lord, atones for your sins, forbids you from evil and protects the body from sickness.” (Tirmidhi)

    If you’ve ever prayed qiyam al Layl or the tahajjud prayer, you’ll know the difference it makes to our lives for a considerable amount of time following it. It clears our mind of grief and negativity, makes you feel amazingly closer to Allah and fully dependent on Him, strengthens your confidence (since trust in Allah is the best source of confidence) and in all – it gives you the perfect spiritual boost. No wonder our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) placed such great emphasis on qiyam al-Layl and encouraged us so much to establish it. Imagine repeating this highly effective practice every single night: imagine how awesome every single day would go!

 

Let’s take a typical day from our lives, and compare it with a day on which we practice each of these habits. The gap in between the two gives us the new goal to achieve. Let’s turn that gap into a motivation to establishing all of these amazing sunnahs in our lives. Let’s keep in mind, every sunnah counts!

 

A Three-fold Strategy To Survive Loneliness And Other Youth Issues

Originally posted on ibana.

Of the many struggles that the practicing Muslim youth face on a personal level, one of the most common yet untalked of is the battle against loneliness and frustration without falling into any of the fitnah and Haram that surround them. This is not just about fighting desires and urges, that’s a whole different discussion; this is more about the emotional turmoil and emptiness that too many young people have to face, silently wanting the luxury of someone to talk to and lighten the burden upon, when life seems to be moving a bit too fast. The most common advice everyone loves to throw at them is the getting-married-early scheme. While that is probably the best solution for most of these problems, in most cases it is not a feasible option and in many families and societies getting married at 18 (that too to someone with a matching level of “practicing the religion”) is but a utopian dream.

Hence comes in the idea of alternative strategies, which would not only help one go through the apparent “emptiness” or sidetrack one away from frustration, depression etc. but at the same time will also help them make the best use of the blessed time that youth is. Most people find their own way of doing this, or chalk out their own fitna-proof strategy to make it through, while for many, it is more difficult to figure out a way, and more hopelessness entails. Here is a three-fold strategy etched out from my personal experience, which I found extremely useful, and hope will help others too.

1. Taking Short and Long term challenges

Setting up practical, feasible goals and working towards them is one of the best ways to keep your mind off things that make you hopeless or frustrated. Take out some time to chart out some good actions you’ve always wished to do but never got started on. These could be small things like “Send gifts to 10 friends/relatives” to larger plans like “Memorize 3 Juz/Para of the Quran in the next 12 months” or “Finish reading a book of Seerah in the next 6 months”. If you haven’t already started learning Arabic, now would be the perfect time to take on that challenge! Try to put constraining time limits on the challenges so that there is always a motive to not slack off midway.

The Benefits:

  •  Always having an objective to work upon and look forward to
  •  Constant engagement in productive work
  •  Planned utilization of time
  •  Rewards for every good deed!


2. Increasing Nafl ‘Ibadah

On a daily basis, engaging in more frequent acts of ‘Ibadah can do wonders to our heart, mind and body. Observing the Sunnah fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, praying the nawafil prayers, Duha prayer in the morning, reciting more Quran in the day and during night, memorizing Ayahs everyday – simple steps like these can lead to a blissful sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Trying to pray regular Tahajjud prayer also falls under this category and should serve as a life (and afterlife) changing practice.

The Benefits:

  •  The happiness of trying to please Allah SWT
  •  A sense of fulfillment
  •  Constant engagement in productive work
  •  Barakah in time and activities
  •  Increase of Iman
  •  Rewards for every good deed


3. Righteous friends, righteous friends, righteous friends

This is one of the basic needs of any striving Muslim, especially one struggling to practice the Deen. In fact, even if you think you are in a somewhat well off condition spiritually, and are doing a good job at being a Muslim but don’t have righteous friends around you, you have no idea what you are missing out on. Pious friends are like the rear wheels that constantly keep you in check, consciously or unconsciously, and without even saying anything can encourage you towards better deeds and a more controlled life. Most importantly, these are the people you can trust your problems with and can always rely on for sincere advice based on Allah’s commands, because these relationships are built to please Allah SWT.

While too many young people turn to opposite-gender friendships or boyfriends/girlfriends to fill the void of loneliness and to feel lighter amidst depression and anxiety, righteous friends are the perfect alternative for practicing Muslims. Sisters or brothers in faith are the rare breed you can find to open up to and expect sincere, meaningful and unconditional support from.

When you feel like giving up because it’s too hard and the fitna around you is too hard to resist, there can be no bigger blessing than having people who can relate to your situation and keep pushing you forward. Do everything you can to get friends like this, if you don’t already have them. Make as much du’a as you can, because a blessing like this just cannot be missed.

The Benefits:

  •  Source of encouragement in hard times
  •  Competitors towards good
  •  Source of sincere, halal advice
  •  Alternative for harmful or haram friendships
  •  Potential cause of earning the Shade of Allah on the Day of Judgement [1]

These are some basic strategies to start with. Youth is one of the biggest blessings in the lifetime of a human being, and a time when no scope of earning virtues and accomplishing big things for the sake of Allah should be missed out at any cost. When we are questioned what we did with our youth [2], our petty problems will not be able to stand as excuses. So instead of being a generation that constantly whines about not being able to get married early, let’s be the generation that uses that very opportunity to become awesome Muslims.

Footnotes:

[1] Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven persons whom Allah will shade on a Day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a young person who grew up in the worship of Allah, a person whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other who meet and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man whom a beautiful woman of high status seduces but he rejects her by saying I fear Allah, a person who spends in charity and conceals it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and a person who remembered Allah in private and he wept.”
[Sahih Bukhari 629, Sahih Muslim 1031]

[2] It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The son of Adam will not be dismissed from before his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he has been questioned about five things: his life and how he spent it, his youth and how he used it, his wealth and how he earned it and how he disposed of it, and how he acted upon what he acquired of knowledge.”
[Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2422; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1969]

Retaining Enthusiasm In Du’a

It’s very easy to lose eagerness and enthusiasm in making du’a. It’s probably one of the most common spiritual problems for us. Once we lose the connection, we forget how it feels, and how much it helps, to pour out all of our problems to Allah. I may spend all morning whining to everyone about how many lemons life is throwing at me, but when I stand for dhuhr salah, I may not spend even a few seconds to ask Allah to help me through those problems. I may nag a friend at 3 AM about my depressions, but maybe I won’t even think about getting up and praying 2 rakats of tahajjud salah and crying in sajdah to Allah. I may clutter up my friends’ inboxes with a hundred issues, but when it comes to dua – I’ll go blank. “There’s nothing to make dua about.” “Make du’a about studies and work? Isn’t that kinda inappropriate?” “Everything will be fine by itself soon.” 

We go through 17 rakats of just fard salah in a day – that’s 34 sajdahs. And in how many of these sajdahs do we make sincere dua to Allah? Some days the answer is ‘zero’. Those are the days we’re failing at life.

Yes Allah takes the best care of us whether we ask Him or not, but being able to ask Him is in and of itself a HUGE blessing, a means of mercy. When we think we don’t need that blessing, we have fallen way too low.

Anyhow, I listed down a few points for myself to maintain the vigor in making du’a:

1) Make dua for others – for everyone that crosses your mind. The cousin you lost contact with; the childhood bestie you miss; the puller of the ricksha you rode today… make dua for their guidance, health etc. When you ask Allah to bestow some good upon someone, the angels pray “Ameen, and for you as well.”
So even if you can’t make dua for yourself, make the angels do it. 😀

2) Mentally mark down every single problem you mentioned to any human being throughout the day. Then make sure that you spill out that complain/query to Allah as well.

3) MAKE DUA IN SAJDAH. The Prophet (sm.) said we’re the closest to Allah when we are in sajdah, hence should make lots of dua at that time. (Yes you can say your duas in your own language, after you’ve said “Subhana rabbial a’la”. Google it/check islamqa if you’re not convinced.)

4) Whenever you’re alone, whatever you’re doing/not doing – on the road, in a boring class, while waiting for a video to load, before sleeping – make it a point to make du’a. About anything and everything. Voila! No more wasted time!

More later in sha Allah.
Just du’a it!

When Your Hands Are Tied Up

Imagine earning money, but not being able to give away a single penny.
Imagine memorising breathtakingly long and amazing surahs of the Quran, but not being able to recite them in your Salah.
Imagine learning things, gaining ilm, but not being able to teach them to a single soul.
Imagine knowing about the immense virtues of a good deed but not being able to get yourself to do it.
Imagine having a pen, but not being able to write.

Imagine your hands being tied up. Tied up in the strongest of loops. By the Lord of the Worlds Himself.

Maybe you sinned too much.
Maybe you sinned too much AND didn’t repent.
Maybe you wasted away your blessings.
Maybe you ignored the light inside of you and outside of you and all around you and thus, passively chose a path of darkness.
And by giving so much leeway to your Nafs, you sealed off your own door to good deeds.
You shut your eyes, only to open them and find your heart shut as well.

“Whomever Allah guides,  none can misguide him. And whomever Allah misguides, none can guide him.”  None.

18 Fun Things To Do When You’re Alone And Bored

  1. Record speeches in your own voice and listen to them.

  2. Write down/sketch out a dream you
    remember.

    giphy.com

  3. Draw a stick figure comic strip. Or write poetry. Just get your creative juices out.

  4. Do a DIY decor for your wall.

    http://www.makinghomebase.com/temporary-wall-treatments

  5. Read a book out loud in mimicked voices. (Record if you’re bold enough.)

    owl_reading_book
     

    Or you could try toggling the reading speed dramatically, like an audio record gone crazy.

  6. Clean your room/desk/shelf. Seriously, it’s fun.

    edd3ae92f82cc6d6914d0daa7eb1636d

  7. Doodle away your thoughts on a paper and call it a masterpiece.

    Like this.
    aead711fe5008da5826ff504bab30334

     Or this.
     question-doodles

  8. Cook/bake something!

    Hassle-back Potatoes http://aseasyasapplepie.com/baked-hasselback-potatoes/

  9. Stuff cookies, chocolates, fruits and random things together to make your own “Chef’s special dessert”.


    Maybe you’ll finally invent a way to eat bananas!

  10. Listen to insightful audio lectures.

    chm-audiobooks
    Nothing like just sitting back and indulging.

  11. Fill up a bottle with oil, water and some color. Shake it and watch the magic.

    9087lava
    A little childish is okay, right?

  12. Do work-outs!

    Workout
    There’s nothing  like a bit of flexing.

  13. Read the Quran or play it on loop.


    You might even get chunks memorized before long.

  14. Make lists. Or lists of lists. Or lists of lists of lists!

    Random to-do lists.

    Or a bucket list.
    bucketlist-radar

  15. Make/find something nice and wrap it up with all your creativity to gift someone you love.

     342105a89beb990619c68bf912ee5f59 http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/24-cute-and-incredibly-useful-gift-wrap-diys/#.wnx5zy7dJ

  16. Write inspirational words in your most fabulous handwriting on pieces of paper. Stick them on your table/wall/headboard/ceiling.

    OR roll them up like royal letters and gift them to a friend/sibling/cousin. Small things can mean a lot sometimes.

  17. Have a reading/listening/watching session on a history/science topic you don’t know very well.  

  18. If all else fails…..Read a book  Sleep Build a super awesome blanket fort!

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/donnad/5-steps-to-building-your-own-epic-blanket-fort#.ueL3Y0GZQ

Ibn Umar and the Stubborn Camel

Once Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) and his son Abdullah ibn Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) were riding with the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Abdullah had a camel (owned by his father) that was naturally very fast, and it kept crossing the camel of the Prophet and going beyond it, no matter how much Abdullah tried to hold it back.

At one point, Umar (ra) got really mad at him and said, “Ya Abdullah! No one should go in front of the Prophet! Move your camel!” Abdullah kept struggling with his camel and Rasulullah (Sm.) could see that Abdullah was hurt, because his father had put him down in front of the Prophet (Sm).

So all of a sudden Rasulullah (Sm) stopped, went to Umar (who owned the camel his son was riding) and said, “Sell it to me.” Umar (ra) tried to give it to him as a gift but Rasulullah (Sm) insisted and paid for the camel and bought it. 

Then the Prophet (Sm) took the camel, gave it to Abdullah and told him, “This is for you, Abdullah. Do as you wish with it.” (Meaning he was giving him permission to go infront of him.)

[Reference: Hadith is in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Hadith no. 781]

This story is way too beautiful, Subhanallah! The love and care of the Prophet (Sm) for Ibn Umar just makes me smile in awe!

15 Reasons Why All Of Us Should Have A Habit Of Memorizing The Quran

Hifdh or memorization of the Quran, to most of us, is a fairly distant dream that we simply wish to achieve at some far-off point in our lives; something we consider to be possible only for kids sent to special hifdh schools or madrasahs which detach them from the rest of the world and thus enable them to do this impossible-for-common-folk, utterly enormous feat. An unfortunately large number of Muslims also happen to believe that memorizing the Quran is an all-or-nothing venture: you either memorize the whole Quran and become a Hafidh or you remain satisfied with the few small surahs from “Ampara” i.e Juz ‘Amma that you learned as a kid. Thanks to such saddening misconceptions, most of us spend our entire lives missing out on some epic advantages, benefits and rewards that no other form of ‘Ibadah offer.

But here’s the thing: the Quran is THE most significant book in human (and non-human) history. Most of us happen to read it regularly too. But that’s where we decide to stop. We decide for ourselves how much our capacities will allow us, without even testing it, whereas Allah SWT Himself tells us “Indeed, We have made the Qur’an easy to remember. Is there any who will remember?” [Surah Qamar] four times in the same Surah! By considering memorization to be an impossible or over-the-top task, we are not just underestimating the promise of Allah that He has made it easy for us, but we are at the same time undervaluing our amazing faculty of grasping any kind of information and storing it in a way no other form of life on earth can do! Starting from primary school to the end of university, the amount of “memorization” we do is outright colossal and is multiple folds in quantity compared to the comprise book that the Quran is. To put it plainly, in context of an average high school student’s everyday studies, memorizing an ayah a day, or a few ayahs a week, is anything but impossible.

The best part of Hifdh perhaps is the way it impacts our lives, not to mention our Afterlives. Its benefits vary from person to person. But from a general point of view, I listed down a few of them that have been influencing and motivating me greatly at a personal level.

15. Builds Self-confidence

Nothing acts as a confidence boost like doing something you formerly thought you couldn’t.

14. Way To A Healthier And More Active Brain

Check out the article In Praise of Memorization: 10 Proven Brain Benefits for some science-backed motivation!

13. Prevents Swearing, Cursing, And Abusive Language

We have all heard that the Quran is a remedy for the heart. One of the best implications of this is seen in the way memorizing the words of Allah SWT can change the way a person speaks and interacts – which is a direct manifestation of the condition of one’s heart.

12. Turns A Bad Day Around

Imagine you’re having an awful day. There’s nothing that you’re getting done. It feels like a complete waste of all the hours and the regret of having wasted yet another day you’d been blessed with is only making it worse.

But then you open up the Quran and read an ayah a few times. In a matter of minutes, you imprint on your mind a part of the final Divine Revelation sent upon mankind right from the highest skies by Allah SWT. Those few minutes have made you a holder of something the vast majority of the world doesn’t have, and have possibly encertained you a higher level of Paradise in Sha Allah.
I bet your day is better now!

11. An Impeccable Sense Of Achievement

This is similar to the last point, but think of it in a broader sense: even if you aren’t doing too good in life from a materialistic point of view,  just knowing that you have memorized parts of the Quran i.e the words of Allah SWT can make you feel more accomplished, which in turn would boost other aspects of your life.

10. Carrying A Huge Collection Of Du’as All The Time

Ever read a Du’a and felt absolutely overwhelmed by its beauty, but then didn’t feel motivated enough to memorize it? Or maybe you did memorize it but then it slowly disappeared in the bottomless pit of your busy mind. Memorizing the Quran essentially means memorizing loads of Du’as along the way; du’as that are so awesome that Allah SWT preserved them in His book for all generations to come. And since we are supposed to revise the ayaat and surahs that we memorize again and again to retain them in our hearts for the long run, the du’as are also preserved for good, bi idhnillah.

Everytime you need one – in the middle of a hardship or just in the calm of the night before falling asleep – you can pull out any of those beautiful Du’as from the abyss of all the ayahs Allah blessed you to memorize.

9. Helps In Da’wah

As Muslims, we get asked a lot of questions regularly – by non-Muslims as well as other Muslims. “What does the Quran say about that?” “I’ve never read it, is it in the Quran?” “Do you have proof of this?” “Could you quote something nice from your Book?” A lot of these times, we know that it’s there but can’t quite remember it, or don’t know how exactly to answer. We’re left biting on our nails thinking – Only if I could remember that verse!

Having even a bit of the Quran memorized comes to a HUGE help in these moments, and other moments too – using a rare Da’wah opportunity, correcting a misconception among friends or relatives, consoling a friend, or reminding someone of all the fun awaiting us in Jannah, in sha Allah.

8. De-focusing From Anxiety And Negative Thoughts 

Amidst all the clamor and rush of the hectic life that the 21st century offers, just a few moments spent with the Quran trying to internalize its words is one of the best ways to take our mind off all the negative thoughts, frustrations and anxieties that instinctively seep into us every day. Even if you don’t want to get those worries off of your mind, the concentration that memorization demands will compel you to switch all of it off at least for a while. We all need that, don’t we? And that is part of the endless Rahmah (Mercy) Allah SWT has gifted us through His Book.

“O humanity! There has come to you a direction from your Lord and a cure for all [the ills] in men’s hearts – and for those who believe, a Guidance and a Mercy” [Quran 10:57]

7. Relating To Lectures And Talks

There are few things that give me as much delight as hearing a Sheikh/scholar quote something in a Khutba or lecture and being able to instantly recall it. That “Yes, I know that ayah!” moments is just completely worth it.

6. An Uncomparable Adventure

Hifdh is, beyond any of these things, an unparalleled and extremely intriguing journey. It’s like starting an adventure through a whole different world we’d always been too afraid to enter. It takes us through evergreen forests of memories and bottomless waters of wisdom, leaving us amazed at the pearls we collect along the way. Ever since I started this practice, it has left some of the most profound imprints in my mind – with certain ayahs giving me a déjà vu every time I recite it. Believe it or not, sometimes I even catch smells and feelings while memorizing an ayah, only to re-experience them way later while reciting the same ayah!

5. Be With The Noble Angels

Narrated from ‘Aa’ishah that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The one who recites the Qur’an and learns it by heart, will be with the noble righteous scribes (in Heaven) and the one who exerts himself to learn the Qur’an by heart and recites it with great difficulty, will have a double reward.” [Sahih Bukhari, 4937]

4. Brings Concentration In Salah

Instead of reciting the short surahs that you’ve been reciting in salah over and over again for years, making a change and reciting ayahs that are comparatively newer to your memory ensures a huge shift in your concentration level. It becomes much easier to ignore all distractions when you are focused on trying to remember the wording of the ayaat perfectly instead of following second nature, even more so if you know the meanings.

3. Enhances One’s Relationship With Allah SWT

The core purpose of sending down such an immensely weighty Book upon mankind – a book that even mountains wouldn’t be able to bear had it been sent upon them – is to connect us to Allah SWT and henceforth guide us. He decided to speak to us puny humans through this Book. Hence, one is bound to feel connected to Allah when His words are imprinted onto one’s heart. It becomes easier to follow the commands, easier to remember Him when His ayahs are cosily settled in the crevices of our forgetful hearts.

2. The Best Way To Repay Our Parents

Ever thought of all the things your parents did for you starting from even before your birth, and how we can never repay it no matter how much we do? Wouldn’t this be a good way to at least try? Imagine your parents  on the Day of Judgement – surprised by the way they are being honored – looking at you with amusement and delight; saying “I’m so proud of you” the way you had waited all your life to hear.

1. A Step Higher With Every Ayah

Al-Tirmidhi (2914) and Abu Dawood (1464) narrated from ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “It will be said to the companion of the Qur’an: Recite and rise in status, recite as you used to recite in the world, for your status will be at the last verse that you recite.”

So what’s stopping you now?

Memorizer of the Quran

The Best Gift Of The Year – A Friend For The Sake Of Allah

The Prophet (saw) said: “Among Allah’s servants are people who are neither prophets nor martyrs, but whom the prophets and martyrs will deem fortunate because of their high status with Allah.” The companions asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Inform us of who they are.” The Prophet (saw) told them that “they are people who loved each other for Allah’s sake, even without being related to one another or being tied to one another by the exchange of wealth.”

Sometimes in life you meet people who make you rethink your boundaries. Then they dare you to cross them. And then you find yourself standing somewhere you had only vaguely imagined yourself in. You find yourself striving towards the incredible future you once feared would never come. But now you don’t doubt the coming of that future anymore. Because Allah blessed you enough to meet people like that. People who give you hope, when all you see is darkness.

This year, Allah blessed me with one of those people. One of those people I have been praying for, for as long as I can remember. One of those people I have been looking for everywhere I went. For days. For months. Maybe even years. Just like any other striving Muslim, I too craved friends-for-the-sake-of-Allah. Yes there were already people in my life who encouraged me to be more practicing, who instilled a sense of Taqwa in me, who I loved for the sake of Allah too. Alhamdulillah for them. But as is human nature, I wanted more. I wanted beyond blood relations; I wanted friendships *just* for the sake of Allah SWT. Who would want to miss out on being under the shade of the Throne of Allah on the most scorching of days?

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There are seven persons whom Allah will shade on a Day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a young person who grew up in the worship of Allah, a person whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other who meet and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man whom a beautiful woman of high status seduces but he rejects her by saying I fear Allah, a person who spends in charity and conceals it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and a person who remembered Allah in private and he wept.”

[Sahih Bukhari 629, Sahih Muslim 1031]

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, when the much yearned-for friend(s) did not pop up in my life, I began to despair. Without realizing the simple fact that some things are too precious and aren’t given to one instantly, I despaired. And just when I was prepared to give up, Allah answered my prayer. Surely Allah is the best Listener.

And indeed, when Allah gives, He gives us the best, and He gives without limits.

Most importantly, He chooses the best time. I wouldn’t have realized this if not for this experience. Just when I thought wearing the niqab was too much for me, Allah sent someone who showed me otherwise. Just when I was about to give up on memorizing the Quran, Allah sent someone to push me forward and make me continue. Just when I lowered my priority on learning Arabic and earning more ‘ilm (Islamic knowledge), Allah sent someone who made me reprioritize. I can’t think of a more perfect example of “perfect timing” in my life!

Looking back at the year, there were hundreds of things and thousands of moments that made me happy. There were moments when I literally rolled off for laughing. There were words of appreciation from peers and grades that pleased my parents. But nothing measured to the happiness of finding a friend who takes me closer to Allah. No good results, no gifts, no gadgets. Nothing compares to the blessing of having a new competitor-in-good.

One of my favorite parts of the Quran is the following;

83:22
Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure.

83:23

On adorned couches, observing.

83:24

You will recognize in their faces the radiance of pleasure.

83:25

They will be given to drink [pure] wine [which was] sealed.
83:26

The last of it is Musk. So for this let the competitors compete.

[Surah Mutaffifin, 83 : 22-26]

It is quite hard to bring out the best in you when you don’t have anyone to compete with. And what better competition is there than the competition for Jannah?

If you lack righteous company in life, I urge you to look for it. Hunt for friendships like this. Go as far as you need to, but make sure you have righteous company. Whatever your condition is, even if you are doing incredible amounts of good deeds and serving the Deen to your best level and what not, do remember that it is VERY difficult to make it far alone. There are just too many blessings (barakah) in good company. The Prophet (SAW) himself was not alone when he left his homeland for the sake of Allah. When the Muhajirs of Makkah reached Madinah after emigrating, one of the first things Rasulullah (SAW) did was to create a bond of brotherhood between each Muhajir and an Ansar (Muslim of Madinah). The implications of this was beyond just economic help or societal bondage. There were spiritual implications too.

Let each of us try to get such spiritual implications in our lives too, by means of good company and love for the sake of Allah. After all, Shaytan attacks a lonely person more easily. The more righteous people you have around you, the stronger your defense is. How can we afford to miss out on all the barakah righteous company can bring to our life?

 If you can’t find anyone, make dua to Allah. Cry out your heart to Allah. I, for one, have experienced how incredible the implications of dua can be. It is bound to bring something good. Even when it seems impossible.

 

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