“BEING ME”

Yesterday I attended the “Being Me, Me Myself & Allah” conference in Kensington; at first I was a bit hesitant about going because I know my kids get restless too quickly and that I get agitated when they do; but now I’m glad I did because I learnt so much mashallah!

The conference started from 10 and finished at 6 but we only stayed until 3 so I missed some of the talks but heard the ones I felt most relevant to me.  This is a write-up of the notes I made from the conference especially for those sisters who could not attend, in the hope that they too, may benefit from the knowledge of what was said.

The first speaker to kick off the conference was Ustadh Musleh Khan, his bio reads as follows: Musleh Khan was born in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.  In 2002 ustadh Musleh was accepted at the Islamic University of Madinah where he completed a diploma in Arabic followed by a BA in Islamic Law from the faculty of Da’wah and Usul al-din.  Ustadh Musleh has been counselling and offering spiritual support to sisters for almost10 years.  He has conducted several sisters only classes/intensive courses on several topics including: The Complete Muslimah, A Muslimah & her husband, and Women & politics.

The talk was entitled: Finding true happiness and the notes were as follows:

  • 50% of people believes that happiness is genetic
  • 10% of people believes happiness is circumstantial – that the situation occurring at this present moment determines happiness or lack of happiness and cannot be changed.
  • 40% of people believe that happiness is intentional; that whatever you decide to do will determine happiness and therefore it is within your control.  It was this 40% that was looked at in more detail.

As Muslims, we should strive and struggle for the pleasure of Allah swt and that should be our attitude.  Everything we do should attach us to Allah and we should attach to Allah; things do not occur for no reason, sometimes we know why things happen and sometimes we don’t.

STEPS TO HAPPINESS

  • Contentment: when we understand that whatever occurs within our life was already decreed and that our goal should be striving for the sake and pleasure of Allah swt then we will be content with the outcome be it good or bad.  Sometimes it’s not important to understand why it happened, it’s just important to accept it did happen.
  • Be grateful with the Qadr of Allah swt: there is a reason why life and death was created as a test, to better ourselves and purify ourselves.  Surah al-Mulk was quoted here: [Allah] “who created death and life that He may try you – which of you is best in deeds” (verse 2).  It’s not the amount of good deeds we do but the weight of those good deeds; quality versus quantity.  Being grateful does not mean being happy, it means being content with whatever is decreed.
  • Satisfy your soul/heart: RasulAllah (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam), after praying Tahajjud used to sleep for a small portion of time (15-20 minutes).  After praying salatul Fajr he (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) would sit in the masjid and perform a personal remembrance of Allah.  Then he would give naseeha (advice) to people which consequently satisfy their hearts and souls.  It is important to start your day on the right track
  • .Choose wise companions/ good friends: a hadith states that a human is always on the path of his friend; a corrupt friend will inevitably corrupt his friend.  when choosing a friend you should:
  1. choose a friend that is higher than you in some regard e.g piety, so that you are encouraged to strive harder, rather than choosing a friend that drags you down.
  2. Look at how they treat their family.  If they are bad to their family then they are not good friends.  If, they are good to their family –  the people who they live with and probably get on their nerves more than anyone else, and they can still control their temper, then there is a good chance they will be able to control their temper with everyone else.
  • Prioritise your life: what you think about first thing in the morning is usually what your heart is most attached to; this, of course, should be Allah.  How many celebrities can you name off the top of your head? Now see how many of the sahabiyat you can name.  What you think about most is what is illustrated through your actions; therefore, if you spend most of your time in the remembrance of Allah swt you will only do good deeds.
  • Choose a righteous husband: a spouse defines happiness; it is important to look carefully when finding one and make sure he fulfils several criteria including talking and comforting you.  RasulAllah (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam), sometimes used to just sit with A’isha ra and just ‘chill’; they would sit in the masjid and just talk about stuff like life and the masjid etc.  How to find a good husband:
  1. Look for a brother who is good to his family
  2. look for a brother who is responsible on all levels who can physically and financially give you what you need not want.  Look for a husband that can handle your tenderness and deal with the emotions of a woman with wisdom rather than with emotion.  A’sha ra could be hot headed at times as she was young, sometimes she would come up to rasulAllah (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) and say she didn’t like one of his wives for no reason.  He, (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) was simply stay quiet and leave the room and A’isha would be left to contemplate her actions.
  • Make the Qur’an Kareem a part of your life; when was the last time you read the Qur’an Kareem for the sake of loving it?  Even reciting a few lines when you are travelling or walking or going home helps you to remember Allah and strengthens your eeman.  There is no excuse for not reading the Qur’an Kareem when it can be found everywhere.

 TRUE HAPPINESS LIES IN GOOD DEEDS:

How do you feel after you have done something for the sake of Allah, and how do you feel when you have committed a sin?  By keeping your heart attached to contentment and the Qur’an Kareem, you can attain happiness too insha’Allah.

Amal Stapley was the next speaker to take the stage, her bio reads: Amal is the founder of the SuperMuslimah Project, a coaching project that supports, motivates and encourages Muslim women to step forward in their lives with confidence.  She accepted Islam in 1992.  Amal then went on to graduate from the International Islamic University of Malaysia in Psychology and Islamic studies.  Following this, she lived overseas in Jordan, the USA and Egypt for 20 years, working with a number of Islamic organisations, including the American Open University, Harf, Iqra TV and the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, among others.

The is talk was entitled: stepping forward with confidence and the notes were as follows:

Confidence is something that lies within us all it is not something that suddenly comes to us one day.  It is a skill that anyone can learn if they try and everyone at some point suffers from a lack of confidence , bu they don’t let it defeat them and they carry on moving forwards.  The sisters were asked to close their eyes and imagine confidence entering their bodies and radiating slowly throughout their core, flowing to all their limbs, feeling the warmth and energy that confidence brings with it.  It was remarked upon how the sisters sat taller and with more confidence just by doing this simple meditative technique.

Sister Amal spoke about how there is a misconception associated with Islam’s views of women; that women are told that being modest means being subservient and being unable to speak their own minds and to lock their feelings away.  Men and women were created equal in Islam and are supporters of each other; they are judged on piety and knowledge.  We should only fear Allah swt and are never tested with anything more than we can handle.  Examples in Islam of confident women are: Summayah Bint Khubbat, the first female martyr in Islam who withstood torture and eventual death for her belief in Allah swt yet did not break down and succumb to the wishes of Abu Jahl.  Khadijah ra an astute, rich, business woman known for her excellent character of being confident, calm and comforting; and other Muslim women like Asma’ bint Yazīd who killed nine Byzantine soldiers with the pole of her tent.  These women were wives and mothers and raised strong Muslims.  We are all individuals with skills and disabilities.

How to be confident: we are all confident in certain things like walking when we were young; we mimicked people and no matter how many times we fell we kept getting back up and would not give up.  It didn’t matter if people laughed at us or if we made mistakes because we knew we were trying our best.

The third speaker on stage was Zohra Sarwari; her bio is as follows: acclaimed author of no less than 10 books, speaker, entrepreneur and life coach, Zohra is an inspiration.  At the heart of her portfolio is her family, and she homeschools her children and has done so to such a standard that they are typically several years ahead of their peers.  The programme she has matured for her own children has allowed them to follow in their mother’s footsteps becoming authors whilst being as young as five!  Zohra has appeared on CBS and FOX News, and often delivers seminars at some of the best Colleges and Universities in the United States of America.

The talk was entitled: raising the next generation and the notes are as follows:

Steps to success:

  • Acknowledging the problem: mothers often do several things that stop them from acknowledging problems they face when raising children such as:
  1. playing the blame game; we never blame ourselves and yet always blame others like friends, school, TV for how our children behave when they act out.
  2. Sunday school: we send our children once a week to madrasah expecting it to be enough for our children and for them to change.
  3. Bribery: DOES NOT work; the more we bribe our children the more we have to continually bribe them to see results.  Bribery only works for a limited time and then children revert back to their old ways or lose interest and we have to bribe them again.
  4. Punishing the kids.

We need to change ourselves.

  • Being proactive: taking responsibility for our actions and being the role model we want our children to learn from.  Using our initiative when teaching our children about behaviour and morals, being a positive influence in our children’s lives and promoting leadership.  The opposite to this is being reactive where we are influenced by other people and circumstances; there is no responsibility and no initiative being used –  we are left idle, living life like a vegetable.  We can be proactive by investing in things that count like books rather than toys; and getting rid of bad things that our children don’t need or limiting them, like TV and games consoles, computers etc.
  • Waiting patiently.

Hafizah Ismail’s bio reads: Hafizah Ismail is the founder and director of Children of Jannah, the only organisation set up to offer support to grieving Muslim families following the loss of a child.  She has authored ‘Sorrow to Serenity’, a book which provides powerful steps to help a mother find peace through the pain of child loss.  Hafizah supports people through grief of all kinds, and actively promotes the need to address the topic at a more comprehensive level.  As a public speaker and life coach, Hafizah is currently in her fourth year on the Students’ Guild Islamic Studies programme and is studying Qur’an with the Al Manhal Institute.

This very touching talk was entitled: from pain to peace: providing comfort and the notes were as follows:

Knowing how to comfort someone can greatly affect their demeanor; the recovery environment for someone who has suffered loss is vital for their mental well being, we don’t want to make it worse by saying the wrong thing.  Sadly, many mothers have said that their loss has been made more heart wrenching by hurtful and stinging comments made by others who never stopped to think how what they said had an effect on these grieving mothers.

The reward for consoling a person is huge in Islam; Ibn Masood narrated that rasulAllah (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) said that whoever consoles a person afflicted receives the same reward as the person affected.

There are 42 other losses other that the loss of a loved one but the 2 main ones are:

  • the death of a beloved one
  • divorce ( loss of future hopes and dreams)

Any loss can cause grief like the loss of success or a business or money etc.  We know that many of the prophets were afflicted with loss such as:

  • prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) who was tested until death
  • prophet Nuh (alayhis salaam) who cried for 300 years
  • prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salaam) who was thrown into a pit of fire and then commanded to slaughter his own son
  • prophet Yaqub (alayhis salaam) who cried until he went blind
  • prophet Musa (alayhis salaam) who had to face Firaun and had his own people reject him
  • prophet Isa (alayhis salaam) who had no provisions except what his disciples brought for him
  • prophet Muhammad (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) whose uncle was slain and was mutilated and mocked by his own people.

As people, we know how to acquire things but when we lose something or someone we don’t know what to do and we say what others expect us to say like “I’m doing fine” instead of saying how we really feel; we don’t show it.  As children we naturally release our emotions like happiness and sadness, so what is it that changes as we grow older that makes us feel that we can’t express our grief?  The answer is people; people judge us and our eeman plummets, they say things to hurt us further, things that do not comfort us.  When our feelings bottle up we end up exploding and that can be very dangerous.

TOOLS FOR COPING WITH LOSS:

  1. Trust in Allah swt through your grief; Allah swt loves you, He will never rob you or place any burden on you greater than you can bear, if you can do that then you are granted victory regardless of your situation.  You are not alone, Allah swt is your companion, for the one who has none has Allah al-Wadud, The Loving.  Your loss is unique to you and cannot be compared to others as everyone is different and unique.  Umm Musa put her faith in Allah swt when she had to conceal her pregnancy from Firaun’s guards amd give birth in secret and then put her baby upon the sea.  She was rewarded by being reunited with her baby and being able to feed him from herself and was even given a wage for doing this subhanallah!
  2. Express your emotions of grief fully; give yourself comfort and TLC.  Tears are a mercy from Allah and there is nothing wrong with shedding them.  Give yourself permission to grieve, people who don’t show any emotion are either dead or psychopaths, it’s normal to feel grief.

HOW TO COMFORT SOMEONE AFFLICTED BY GRIEF

There are 2 types of statements: butterfly statements that help you rise up and fly through your grief into the new person you have become, and bee statements that are practical and heartfelt yet sting like a bee.  Butterfly statements are supportive and uplifting.  Many people think saying “be patient” is what we should say to someone grieving but there are many ways of helping someone and comforting without using commanding words.  RasulAllah (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) said “whoever fulfils the needs of others, Allah [swt] will fulfil his needs”.  When you reach out to others, Allah swt will reach out to you.

  1. Acknowledge the grief and the grieving person, don’t avoid them or avoid talking about the loss because you don’t know what to say as its worse; a mother stated that though she may cry if someone mentioned her child’s name, the pain was worse and she hurt more when they didn’t.  Say to the grieving person “I can’t imagine what you’re going through but am so sorry for your loss and am heartbroken for you”.  Sharing some memories of the loved one can help a lot also.
  2. Understand the impact of the loss; don’t expect people to ‘get over it’ or tell them to ‘quit wallowing’.  There is no set time-line for getting over grief, they can’t get over it because it will always be there with them forever and they are not who they once were they have become a new person.
  3. Listen: hear them and let them talk because this maybe their only opportunity of describing their loss.
  4. Remind: offer grievers reminders from the Qur’an like Umm Musa; each story has a reason for being told in the Qur’an – to make our hearts firm.
  5. Make Dua: remember them in your Dua on a regular basis and pray for them to find peace and make it through this difficult transition.

Through empathy the beautiful characteristics of a person are demonstrated and remember, Allah swt loves kindness.

The last speaker I heard give a talk was sister Khafayah Abdulsalam.  Her bio reads: Khafayah is a mother of four beautiful gems.  She is also the founder of UMMUKA (your mother), an organisation which sets out to empower mothers using Islamic principles and practical solutions to become the mums they want to be, and make parenting fun.  Khafayah is a certified Mummy Coach, Master NLP Practitioner, Writer and Public Speaker.  With over 5 years of relevant coaching experience, bags of real life ‘coping as a single mum’ know-how, Khafayah is an inspiration to all mothers out there.

This talk was entitled: mums on the run: making parenting fun and the notes are as follows:

Every woman is born a mother, whether you are given that child by Allah swt is a different matter; we all have that maternal side within us.  We have so much information available today in the form of parenting books and blogs etc that it makes it difficult to do whatever Allah swt says.  Children don’t come with an ‘A-Z’ manual but our guidance should be from the Qur’an and sunnah.

RasulAllah (sallilahu alayhi wa sallam) never once told off his children; we should try to emulate him and our goal in life should be to attain Janaatul Firdous but instead of turning to Allah swt, we turn to others first.  We have no time for our families because we are so busy and as a result our families have broken down; we rely on our ‘electronic babysitters’ (the TV) to do our jobs for us and keep our children entertained when is should be us doing this as it is our responsibility.

Sayidina Ali ra said that we should not bring our children up in the same way we were as our environment changes with times and what worked for us when we were young may not and usually does not, work now.  From 0-7 years we nurture and care for our young, from 8-14 years we start to discipline them and teach them morals and do their tarbiyyah trying to connect their hearts to Allah swt.  From age 14+ we befreind our children and focus our children on the remembrance of Allah swt as he is watching.  We need to restore the family unit so we learn how to raise children and perform tasks like changing nappies so that when we have our own children we are not totally clueless.

We have to introduce boundaries for ourselves because if we don’t know our own goals and morals then how can we expect our children to?  Children are a test for us and they will push our buttons and we need to expect this instead of expecting our children to be perfectly behaved.  We need to connect before we correct e.g. saying “I love you dearly but..”  Getting the children to think through what consequences of actions should be helps too because they will think it is fair and be more likely to stick to it.  Quality time should be spent with children; we need to become the role models as children learn by watching us so decide on who your own role model is and try to emulate them.  Tell children what you expect of them instead of saying the word “don’t” because when you say don’t they do!

I hope, insha’Allah you all found these words as helpful and inspiring as I did; I cannot stress how amazing the environment was and what an eeman boost it was mashallah.  May Allah swt bless all the sisters who worked hard on this project and participated and may He bless all of us insha’Allah and grant us Jannah and give us sabr and strength.  Ameen!!

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