This year is different to previous years, where I will be sharing a deep self-reflection on maintaining our faiths in an ever-changing world during Ramadan and beyond inshallah (If Allah Wills).
In the midst of the climate where there is access to all forms of technology from small to large devices daily, there is an urge to depend on them and; we all are evolving knowingly and unknowingly to adapt but also to uphold our faiths.
I am speaking from my personal experience. My reflection does not aim to share points for people to agree or approve of me. It is about respecting and understanding differences.
Technology requires discipline for its purpose of use, time and whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of using such tools. I come from a family background that has a sense of love, faith, sharing, care, respect and the importance of education and smiling all the time regardless of the weather.
I was first introduced to the world of technology when I was young and had a small children's laptop called V-Tech where there were many activities from Maths, Science, humanities, puzzles and much more. I have always been a fan of books and; my beloved mother used to take me to the library to read books from stories, educational and understanding my faith.
Both of my parents were encouraging about learning.
At secondary school, my older brother introduced me to the world of MSN. We both used to speak with our school friends there and; I made friends in Birmingham, around the UK and abroad. It was interesting how networking occurred and progressed from MSN to Facebook and Skype over the upcoming years.
Meeting people. Desires.
How many am I still in touch with today from MSN?
Possibly 1 or 2.
All friends settled down, had children, worked and moved forward.
I did not have many real-life friends when I was young. My race was an issue to some. My father’s race was an issue. The occupation of my parents was an issue. Some people looked beyond that and were family friends and visited. This significantly affected my esteem as I grew older and over time, I chose to accept the standards and mindsets of people and be grateful for who I am and what I am. It was a long journey of acceptance.
My parents were patient, especially my mother ensured my siblings and I had the best support and care possible.
I have made good networking relationships, inspiring figures and associates that positively helped the community.
It also hurts less than when you see and hear people.
Distance does not correlate with understanding. You may have people that are so far away and there is some form of connection that is unexplained. Learning other people’s cultures, hobbies and interests and understanding the differences between mankind.
Another advantage is that technology is a learning tool. There are amazing educational websites, e-books, e-magazines, learning new facts, courses and much more. It serves as an opportunity to learn and not make money a factor to stop from learning. In the UK, we are lucky than in other countries who have to pay to get an education from kindergarten to school to college and then university. Learning online does not replace teachers or educational establishments but it helps to introduce and help consolidate knowledge and exams.
Also, technology helps connect with my loved ones who live in other countries through WhatsApp, social media, Telegram and Skype to stay in touch. However, it would have been better to meet in person, flesh and bones, do fun activities together, be active, visit historical artefacts and much more.
However, one of the disadvantages of technology I came across was it made me shy and less confident to communicate in person. We also need to be alert as there is no such thing as privacy and take care of who we speak. One of the key lessons I have learnt is about trust. You got to trust yourself and trust Allah (The Most High).
I trusted many people whether friends through social media or in person.
I picked myself up.
I moved forward without looking back.
Some people are lessons and others are blessings.
When people smile at you, it does not make them a friend. It is a form of kind gesture or character. Each time I started new at an institution or workplace with colleagues:
I became excited too easily.
Trust too easily.
Become attached too easily.
Get hurt too easily.
Furthermore, the character and behaviour are significantly different between the time of the Prophet and His companions, the time before the technology existed and the time after technology. For example, before technology, people used to visit each other more in person, benefit each other with knowledge and help one another in the good and bad times. To book a holiday, there was a travel agent's office. To book an appointment, in person than telemedicine.
Now, in technology today, responses are via text messaging services, phone calls or replying to social media statuses, virtual booking systems, and purchasing items. The differences between the eras are because how we use and spend time is different, what we consider a priority, commitments and how everything is balanced.
Moreover, rather than advising people in private one-to-one, screenshots of messages, videos, memes, backbiting and other actions where people side with their favourites or friends, sell each other rather than stay with the Truth. Some friends even see you do something wrong but do not advise you. A simple reason is a fear of hurting and losing relationships.
This suggests a gap between time and how we emulate and make the conceivable effort.
Yes, I am 32 and some readers may think, oh you just found out now?
I knew before but the whole cycle was repetitive.
There are times many of us go through detox and hibernating each year.
However, why each year?
Failure of expectations repeated.
The same errors were repeated.
Initially, I used to cry and blame others.
However, the sole cause is me.
Why did I allow it to happen and how?
Over time you will realise that not everything needs a response or reaction and understand boundaries.
We allow people to jump the hurdles and cross over without a start or finish and then we ask ourselves why we get hurt.
Each time we approach Ramadan, our hearts yearn for Allah (The Most High).
My dear brothers and sisters, we all need to spiritually wake up.
Having gratitude when a trial approaches for what Allah (The Most High) blessed us with and keeping hold of our faith like hot coals.
Thank Him for not making it a severe trial.
Thank Him for granting patience and ability.
Thank Him for strengthening and it becomes a lesson.
There is a time when we need to build ourselves.
Having cracks like Kintsugi is great because broken is beautiful.
Indeed, we are just travellers and time will be like a blink of an eye.
Our temporary existence in this world is our ultimate preparation for the eternal world.
Yes, we have one life and make the most of it. However, we need to think of the purpose for our existence which lasts no more than 100 years in most cases rather than eternal.
Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy upon him) narrates:
"Oh, son of Adam, you are here for a few days, whenever a day is gone, a part of you is gone."
So whatever experience we undergo is merely a blessing in disguise to bring us closer to the Almighty.
The parables of the Prophets and Sahaba (may Allah have mercy upon them all) serve as an important reminder of relief to us all that we have not experienced the severity they underwent.
Once it is stamped in our minds that most relationships are acquaintances. They come into our lives for a reason to either support, strengthen or be a lesson in disguise.
You will rarely have a friend from start to finish of your life.
You will rarely meet someone who does not do a mistake.
It is also rare that I will not do a mistake either.
You can count the number of friends on a hand.
The concept of apologising and accountability is key. It helps you to recover. A form of self-relief because harder hearts harbour hatred.
However, what you do next is totally up to you whether you choose to continue the friendship or whether it will form a barrier where it is a ‘forgive but never forget’ attitude.
Having respect is not only about respecting others but also respecting yourself.
I am responsible.
Responsibility is key.
I have my errors. I am imperfect nor can I please everyone, we can do our best but not reach perfection. There will always be at least one person who will want to say something they are unhappy about.
It is better to accept the truth from someone you do not get along with than to accept false even if someone is very close.
Sometimes we just need to pause.
Take a deep breath.
Say, Bismillah (In the name of Allah).
You can do it and He knows your going to make it.
In this blessed month of Ramadan, I pray we seek refuge and turn back to Allah (The Most High), our coach and our ultimate guide, the Quran.
In an ever-changing world, we need to return to our etiquettes of communication, whether through technology or in person, and be Ambassadors where everything we do is for the sake of Allah (The Most High) and not seek the pleasure of people:
The intention is the purpose and heart of every action.
I sometimes ponder how many of my deeds are accepted.
Have I done enough?
We just continue to renew our intentions and not give up.
“Know you not that Allah knows all that is in the heaven and on the earth? Verily, it is (all) in the Book (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuz). Verily, that is easy for Allah.”
[Surah al-Hajj 22:70]
"But as for those who strive hard in Our cause -We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold, God is true with the doers of good."
[Surah Al-Ankabut (The Spider), 29:69]
"And be patient, [O Muhammad], for the decision of your Lord, for indeed, you are in Our eyes. And exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord when you arise."
[Surah Al-Tur (The Mount), 52:48]
These triple verses provide comfort and focus on our purpose and how to maintain our faith and perform good deeds daily.
We need to think of practical solutions where we need to keep trying.
‘What is Zhuhd (asceticism)?'
He said contentment.
He was asked ‘what is piety?'
He said to avoid illegal deeds.
He was asked 'what is ibadah/worship?'
He said to perform obligatory religious duties.
He was asked 'what was modesty?' To seek justice. He added the greater form is in our tongue.
[Siyar 'Alaam an-Nubalaae by Imam adh-Dhahabi, 8/434]
There are some people where good deeds exceed their faults.
Stand together even if you disagree.
Friends. Family. Colleagues. People in general.
Ibn Uynanah said Amr ibn Al Ass (peace be upon him) said:
‘The wise is not the one who knows good from evil but he also knows the better of the two evils."
[Siyar 'Alaam an-Nubalaae by Imam adh-Dhahabi, 3/7]
Ibn Btta (May Allah have mercy upon him) said:
"I heard al Barbahari saying social intercourse for advice opens doors of benefit. Social intercourse for arguments closes the door to benefit."
KPI: Keep People informed, involved, interested and inspired.
Be a phoenix that rises from ashes after being burnt.
Pray good, Do good, Keep good, Spread good, Eat good, Sleep good and Think good. Dhikr good. Humble good.
May Allah allow us to become the four types of people:
'Allah is with the believers'
[Surah Al-Anfal (Spoils of War), 8:19]
"Allah is with those who have patience"
[Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow), 2:153]
"Allah is with those who have taqwa (i.e. stay away from sins due to His awareness)."
[Surah Al-Tawbah (The Repentance), 9:36]
"Allah is with the doers of good."
[Surah Al-Ankabut (The Spider), 29:69]
Alhamdulilah, for every matter and; I pray we all make the most of this month as if it is our last and do not let the days and night waste away.