It’s About Love & Gifts

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Appreciation notes from my students were gratifying aspects of my career as a teacher. If only I’d kept more of them. I found this one as I was cleaning out a dresser, and I love it when former students—now adults—care to “friend” me on Facebook and when I see them succeed various milestones of life.

After all, I always felt that each of them was my kid, and even though the boys and girls are now fully adult men and women, some married and some with children, I remember just about all of them. I guess that I must have done something right.

As we approach the start of another school year, I’m missing the classroom a bit, and have genuine appreciation for the gifts given to me. I am a teacher.

For this reason, if the reader will permit, I want to share and highly recommend a book I received from my daughter, who was gifted with it by her cousin prior to her two month journey to teach, tour, and connect with family in Turkey and Jordan.

Reclaim Your HeartReclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed taught me that all we tend to put in our heart—our relationships, the value of our intellect, looks, health, wealth, position, and possessions—are actually gifts. Such gifts should be kept in the hand though, not the heart. For the heart is only for the Creator, and gifts bestowed to us are eventually taken away.

If such valuable gifts reside in the heart, they become objects of coveting and obsession; and when removed, they create such deep pain from their loss. We miscalculate that they were given by The One, and we may not realize that the Creator gives what is best for us. Sometimes the revocation of a gift is meant to remind and draw us back to The One.

My daughter, despondent over the genocide in Gaza, asked her aunt if such a horrific situation—one of the most densely populated, essentially trapped and defenseless populations being killed like ‘fish in a bucket’—if it depressed her? Her wise aunt stated, “Allah created mankind to be forgetful, and it is a gift.” Those of us who have lost mothers never forget the strength of our bond; yet, we are able to function because we are able to forget, accept, and continue.

In Islam, families mourn for three days; then they are expected to accept God’s Will and people move on. The loss of a spouse is certainly more disruptive, and two months is acceptable before re-engaging with the world. The point is to realize that we must accept; and we trust that The One gives what is best, no matter how seemingly tragic on the surface.

Given the circumstances in Gaza, I surmise that the haters and malevolent perpetrators will determine their eternal justice. Yet how humanity can generally ignore or misconstrue the situation, in spite of obvious media manipulation, I cannot fathom.

The Palestinians have transcended this world; their faith so solid as to recognize that this existence is fleeting, and so they greet their fate with resolve and capitulation to The One who can best serve justice. When people no longer fear death and accept it, they cannot be vanquished.

Our gifts, our blessings are to be cherished and preserved, but keep them in hand, not in the heart. Hope for their return, and better, as destiny proceeds.

We are members of the human family, and those who remember, care, serve, and educate others will find themselves in rank just under the prophets.

Be glad, patient, and share.

Difficult Days and Dua’a

Winter in my backyard. Difficult Days and Dua’a 

Written Friday night, February 22, 2013–Purulent nasal discharge and an internet glitch blocking further productivity, I’m nursing a nasty head cold. Wanting to maintain prolific gains of the week after designing presentations and writing their associated research papers, I cycle working a little, napping a little, to appease the swell of ambition egging me on. With so much I wish to do, and the frustration of not having stamina to sustain effort for long, I’m mindful to be patient and seek some good in it.

Compounded by the travails of winter, and stressors of all kinds, my heart holds an element of gratitude that those closest to me remain whole, basically healthy, and have positive expectations. Yet, I know of two young girls who have debilitating autoimmune diseases that struck hard. One can’t help but feel sad that they and their families suffer; yet, what can help bring relief from such trials?

Referring to an article by Yasmin Mogahed, titled “Dealing With Hardship” in Islamic Horizons, I found a firm inspiration to share. She began by citing the story of Asiyah, the righteous wife of renowned Pharaoh who pursued Moses and succumbed by drowning in the Red Sea. One of the most brave and virtuous women, she is mentioned in the Qur’an, “God sets forth an example for those who believe—the wife of Pharaoh who said: ‘My Lord, build for me with Thee a house in heaven, and save me from the Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from an unjust people.’” (Qur’an 66:11)

Mogahed continues in her article to reveal that she had recently faced a difficult test, and she asked people for their sincere dua’a, their supplications to God for her. She wrote, “And the beauty of having righteous, angel-like souls as your company is something priceless.” Of special strength and significance to her was a text message she received that read, “May you be shown your home in Jannah (heaven) so that any hardship is made easy on you.”

As Asiyah was bound to the most horrific husband, and as Ibrahim (Abraham) was pitched into fire for contesting with his elders that their idols were false gods, it is written that Asiyah smiled when Pharaoh tortured her and the fire was made to feel cool for Ibrahim, who did not burn.

For those skeptics, it must be acknowledged that “With every difficulty, there is relief.” (Qur’an 94:5) I can also attest that when I have come to points whereby I did not have the fortitude to prevail, when all was seemingly hopeless, painful, and gloomy, that when I deeply sought relief, it came. For me, I do believe in the power of prayer; and even if we are not the ones in dire straits, perhaps we have an obligation to others. Maybe we are also meant to help each other, through sincere dua’a. It binds us, keeps our hearts soft, supports us in tough times knowing that people care; and if we choose to believe, that there is hope for recovery, remission, healing.

“Everything for a reason,” I say, not believing in coincidence, but rather in destiny. With that, my dua’a are ways to express what little power I have. Perhaps that is why I’m sick today, because I’ve been heavily making dua’a for a lot of people, as I empathize with their dilemmas. Maybe it is useful for me to feel energy depleted, chapped, and needing a recharge from the One who can provide everything without measure, and once again thrill in the surge and return of creative drive, vigor, and secure relief from strife.

Saturday afternoon, February 23, 2013–After lots of garlic, chicken broth, hot tea, and rest…I felt that surge back to about 80%…”With every difficulty….”

For it is He who sends the winds bearing glad tidings before the rain-showers of His mercy–until when they lift heavy clouds aloft, We drive them to a lifeless land. Then upon it, We send down water, Then We bring forth with it fruits of every kind. Thus do We bring forth the dead, so that you may become mindful of your won resurrection.–(Qur’an 7:57)