Monday, February 20, 2017

Seek to Create Permanent Value

On February 6th, during our regular meeting in the NYC, we discussed Chapter 46 from the Quran and the Life of Excellence.  Our discussion is based on the following ayas:

Sura 17, Ayas 18-21

If anyone seeks transitory things, We hasten to him what We will of them, to whom We wish:  then We bring him hell where he is miserable and unwanted.

And if anyone seeks for the future and strives for it, as it should be striven for, and has faith, his effort is greatly appreciated. 

To everyone We give, to this one and that one, from the gifts of your Lord; and the gifts of your Lord  are not restricted.

See how We make some of them excel over others; but the hereafter is of higher order and greater in merit.  

These ayas are looking to remind us, as the entire Quran is looking to do, that the work we do, whatever it is, and the thoughts we think, whatever they may be, will, in time, bring a net result.  We are continuously asked by God to reflect upon our lives, that is, to examine our thoughts regularly as well as what we do every day. We are asked to choose to do good works and focus our minds on what will bring about those good works. 

We can see why these constant reminders by God are needed because we don’t often realize how quickly time moves while we are looking to get through our days here.  Eventually, this should not be an additional something we need to add to the list of tasks for the day. If we are serious about living a life worthy of God’s attention, it will become a consistent and faithful practice of ours, just like living a life of faith needs to be the only life we should eventually be leading and striving for as we look to gain proper understanding of God’s message -- that being the purpose of our asking for His guidance every day. 

And it all starts with our reflecting and thinking regularly about who we are and what we are looking to achieve while here.  By now, we should probably understand that it is not about earning a livelihood and raising children which, in and of themselves, are good works. But not thinking about how to transform our own lives and make a difference in the lives of our children as well as those around us, that is, not thinking about how we can become the best human beings we can become -- through whatever work we do daily -- and propel ourselves higher in God’s estimation, is missing the mark.

It is not easy but God reminds us, again and again, that those whose minds’ eyes are fixed on becoming the best versions of themselves will never be the same as those who seek for things that mean very little and will pass away as they pass away.

Commentary/Summary by Alma Subasic

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Think Carefully About What You Wish For

On January 9th 20017, during our regular meeting in NYC, we discussed Chapter 44 from The Quran and the Life of Excellence.  Our discussion was based on the following excerpts\ from the Quran:

Sura 17 Aya 11                                                                                                             

People ask for things that are bad as if they were asking for something good, for people are prone to be hasty./People pray for things that are bad as if they were praying for something good, for people are prone to be hasty.

Man is a creature of haste (21:37)

These words tell us what God is seeing among people and is asking us to think things through before asking for something.  This clearly addresses what God is repeatedly emphasizing throughout the Quran, which is that we need to take heed and reflect on what we are doing because neither a prayer without conscious belief nor an unexamined life will get us what we are hoping for and feel we are entitled to because, in our mind, we follow God’s precepts to the best of our ability.  Only, and we can clearly say, only a life that incorporates our having consciously striven to understand what God is looking to teach us through our own unique difficulties and lenses will, with patient perseverance and holding on to His rope at difficult moments, in time, lead us to the right kind of understanding, increased faith, and a life truly lived in service to Him and through that, in service to the humanity. 

To bring this closer to each of our lives, what is important to understand here is that we cannot assume that the self-evaluation and a plan made at the age of 20 is the same as at the age of 40.  Because each one of us is unique, we each have a unique combination of skills meant to produce a specific result for this world.  The wise thing to do is to reflect as much as possible but to also ask for an advice from people whose opinions we value at that stage in our lives.  If we think deeply about that, it is very possible that each of us will be able to come up with one such person. I say this because by reading this chapter, we may be quick to say to ourselves that it is of course true that when we make any plan, those who have thought about it, benefit. But life isn’t very clear for a good number of us depending upon our life experiences leading up to the time when we have to make any decision.  We constantly make decisions that are based on incomplete and sometimes conflicting information, to which we must add the time variable that we feel is pressing on us. Oftentimes, decisions are made for us. The idea is to incorporate within ourselves the notion that with God’s help we will continue to adjust and will continue to keep growing from each and every experience and through all of that to understand God’s work and wisdom behind it all --  that however painful and uncomfortable it currently is or has been, that each and every experience/amount of burden was measured out/calculated to help us eventually reach a better and more peaceful state in this life as well as the next.

 Summary/Commentary by Alma Subasic

Prophet Abraham as a Role Model

On December 12th, 2016 during our regular meetings in the New York City, we discussed Chapter 42 of The Quran and The Life of Excellence, which is based on the following ayas:

Sura 16, Ayas 120-123:

Abraham was indeed a role model, obedient to God, true in faith, and he joined not gods with God.

He was grateful for the favors of God; He selected him and guided him to a straight path.

And We gave him the best in the world, and in the hereafter, he will be among the worthy.

So We have taught you this inspired message, “Follow the way of Abraham the true in faith, and he joined not gods with God.”

These ayas are teaching us the most important lessons we need to internalize in order to reach the goal every believer is looking to reach:  that of being rightly guided. 

God is telling us not to join gods with Him.  Looking at our lives today, we need to be careful about allowing influences of this world to overwhelm us.  We need to examine our lives and look to avoid giving people around us, our family, our jobs, and our bosses power over us. 

These ayas also teach us whom God guides:  those who are grateful to Him.  This means that it is of utmost importance that we spend some time every day expressing our gratitude to God.  But before we can express that gratitude, it is important to think about what we are grateful for.  If we truly focus our attention on the many favors God has granted us, we will begin to see that we really have so much to be thankful for as we begin to realize that we cannot move one step nor think a single thought without so many things coming together within our bodies to make it so.  Consistent and regular thanks will, in time, help us reach our goal of being rightly guided. That was God’s promise to us.   

Our prophet Abraham was one of those who was rightly guided and when God describes him to us to give us a true example to follow, He doesn’t tell us what Abraham looked like or where he lived or what he did for a living because none of those things matter when it comes to living a life worthy of God’s attention.  Therefore, the idea is to understand the principle of what makes one a role model as opposed to copying the role model’s external behavior.  The copying of the prophet’s external behavior limits us because we live in a different time and place. 

Summary by Alma Subasic  

Monday, November 28, 2016

God Has Blessed Us in So Many Ways

On November 14th, 2016, during our meeting in NYC, we discussed Chapter 36 from the book, The Quran and the Life of Excellence.  Our discussion was based on the following ayas:

Sura 16; Ayas 78-81

And God has brought you out from your mothers’ bodies not knowing anything – but He has given you hearing and sight and feelings, so that you may be grateful.
Have they not seen the birds flying in the air?  None but God holds them up.  In this surely there are messages for people who have faith.  
And God has given you houses as places of rest, ad tents from skins of animals – easy  for you to handle when you travel and you camp – and furnishings and goods for temporary use from their skins and their wool and their hair. 
And God  has made for you, in what He created, means of protection:  thus, He has given you places of shade in the hills, and garments to protect you from heat and cold, as well as such garments that protect you from danger.
In this way, He bestows blessings on you, so that you might acknowledge Him. 

 Looking at the ayas above, we can see the emphasis God places on acknowledging Him and His favors as we contemplate the world around us through the senses which have been given to us.  It is clear that we are not responsible for having the bodies we have and for sensing what we sense.  It is all created to serve one God and He is asking us to help ourselves by simply taking heed for a few minutes every day.  To the extent we think about Him regularly, we will come to the conclusions expressed in the Quran. 

 Focusing more specifically on how we can help ourselves, we need to make sure that we acknowledge many gifts we have in our lives.  Even if we are facing great problems, there are some things we can think of which are helping us and for which we can feel grateful, such as: we have a room or a home to rest in, we have clothes to protect us from hot or cold, we have the ability to her and speak, etc.  Changing our focus from what is bothering us to what is helping us, shifts our spiritual energy from negative to positive. 

 We clearly can’t ignore our problems because we have to protect ourselves as that is our inherent need.  It is the mindset with which we approach our thinking and doing anything about our problems that makes the difference.  Talking about our problems continuously prevents our minds and bodies from getting out of the negativity which we have attracted within and without ourselves, but when we look to see how else we can approach the predicament we are in, will, in time, bring some ideas that we can use to resolve our problems.  God is here to help us go through everything we face in life, not to constantly intervene and remove problems from our lives. If we think about it, we will, in time, realize that no strength of spirit or of body can come without significant amount of work.  

 Summary by Alma Subasic

Banish Satan When You Read the Quran

On September 12th, during our regular meeting in the NYC, we discussed chapter 40 from the book by Dr. Abdulhameed. The chapter is based on the following ayas:

Sura 16 Ayas 98-100:

When you read the Quran, seek refuge with God from Satan, the accursed. Behold, he has no power over those who have developed faith and place their trust in their Lord. He has power over those who take him as their master, and who thus ascribe to him a share in God’s divinity.

We are all aware that both good and evil reside in us and that we have a tendency to express compassion and love as much as we have a tendency to express arrogance, envy, and deceit. Our honest efforts to lessen the influence of evil tendencies through genuine asking for help with it and to increase the influence of divine tendencies within us will eventually inform how far we come in our efforts to live a happy and fulfilled life, to the extent we understand that the life in God’s presence is the only truly fulfilled life. 
We have all experienced and continue to experience difficulties and sometimes feel that our good intentions simply fade away no matter how hard we try to eradicate it from ourselves. When we read the Quran, we see that God reminds us regularly that shaytan’s work to obstruct and oppose us is never-ending and that he is a true enemy to us. That reminder should help us understand that we are actively being opposed in our efforts and that we need to continue our good work of purifying ourselves patiently and the help from God will come.

It is, therefore, important that we approach Quran as the book that is here to explain to us what is taking place within and without ourselves so that we understand ourselves and by extension, the world around us, better. We should not approach Quran with impatience expecting to immediately understand everything it is saying given that God had been preparing Prophet Muhammad for years so that he might understand it properly. We must not approach it with arrogance expecting it to support us as we are or expecting it to support our views of superiority over other people, and we must not approach it with a rebellious state of mind because we are angry with what it is saying. If we think about it seriously, we will realize that the consistent and the patient seeking for the truth is the only way to receive true answers. Of course, it is not easy, but as we all know, anything worth our while requires patience and considerable effort on our part. We only must want to do it.

Summary/Commentary by Alma Subasic

Advice on Food

On October 17th, 2016  during our Quran study session in the New York City, we discussed  chapter 41 which is based on the following ayas:
Sura 16, Ayas 114-115:
So eat what God has provided you, lawful and wholesome, and be grateful for the favors of God if it is God that you serve.
God has forbidden to you only what has died of itself, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and anything offered up to other than God. But if anyone is compelled by necessity, without wanting to or being excessive, then God is very forgiving, very merciful.
Eat the wholesome things We provided for you, but not to excess, lest My anger descend on you.  And whoever My anger settles upon has already fallen.

Most of the food practice in the Muslim culture has been around prohibitions.  It is, however, equally  important to focus on the other information in these ayas and understand the deeper message behind God’s words.  We now understand a lot about food compared to generations before us and we can easily understand that the above prohibitions were articulated to us to keep us healthy. 
In addition, God specifically indicates that when we eat, we must be careful about how much we eat.  This is something that we now understand is important for our health given all the problems that come from over-eating. 
We will also notice that every aya concerning food specifies that we eat what is wholesome.  That is clearly because by eating wholesome food, we keep our bodies healthy.  When we are healthy, we can do whatever we set our mind upon, while illness, especially prolonged illness, causes pain and we depend on others and are unable to do much. 
Therefore, it seems very clear after we break these ayas down that living healthily and making that our priority – that being the absolute basis of our being able to do anything else in life – should be a matter of common sense.
The exercise accompanying this chapter states as follows:
  1. Think of a habit you have that you know is bad for your health.  Write a paragraph in your journal on how your future life will be damaged if you continue this habit.  Make a plan to get rid of this habit as soon as possible.
  2. Think of a healthy habit you would like to add to your lifestyle. Write a paragraph in your journal on how your future life will be improved if you succeed in adopting this new habit.  Make a plan to change your daily routine to include this habit.   

Summary by Alma Subasic

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Make a Lasting Contribution

On July 25th, 2016 during our Quran study meeting in New York City, we discussed Chapter 38 from The Quran and the Life of Excellence,  by Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed. The chapter is based on the following aya:

Sura 16, Aya 96

What is with you passes away, whereas that which is with God is enduring.  And We shall give to those who patiently persevere their reward according to the best they did.

A human being is good by nature, but it is up to each one of us to uncover those characteristics within us that will help us live a life of lasting significance as opposed to satisfying the most immediate needs and wants and living in the moment. 

We make that choice for ourselves.  We either make a choice to strive in God’s cause to make a lasting contribution while on Earth, or we follow blindly what others around us do.  While enjoyment, rest, and relaxation are needed for our well-being, this aya reminds us indirectly that persevering in our effort to uncover our true goodness is a path to making a lasting contribution in this world and at the same time, a path to uncovering one’s purpose in life.

 This process of uncovering divine values within ourselves in an effort to make a lasting contribution is a hard one, which is why it is mentioned in the Quran.  It requires consistent prayer and self-evaluation and above all, perseverance during the long periods of apparent stagnation.  Here is where the divine characteristic of patience becomes extremely important, which is the reason why patience is mentioned on almost every page of the Quran.
We won’t be able to successfully go through the tests of life, the burden apportioned to us, and achieve lasting peace as well as a life worthy of God’s agent here on Earth unless we learn the lesson of patience.  So, while we look to uncover the divine characteristics within us as we work to make a positive influence on people around us, we are uncovering our own purpose and finding that we are slowly but surely becoming who we have always wanted to become – God’s friend and an example of how we should be living our lives. 

Summary by Alma Subasic