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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

5 Things You Can Do For Yourself in 2006

5 Things You Can Do For Yourself in 2006
By Abdul Malik Mujahid


Free people control their time and money. Slaves control neither. So let's take charge of ourselves through planning for ourselves now so there is a purpose to our lives beyond the mundane routines of earning and consuming.

None of us know how long we have to live. That's why we have to make sure we use what is left to contribute to the betterment of this life as well as to ensure that with God's mercy, our deeds will help us secure an excellent standing in the everlasting life.

God wants us to live a thoughtful life of hope, working for the future of this world and the hereafter.

"O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah. And let every soul look to that which it sendeth on before for the morrow. And observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do" (Quran 59:18).
Below are some ideas that can help jump-start your own thinking and planning process to yourself and others in the next 12 months.

1. Increase your time for yourself
Our prayers are not only an expression of our desires but also of our goals. The Most common Dua Muslims make is

Rabbana atina fiddunya hasanatan wa fil akhirate hasanatan wa qina azaban nar. (Quran 2:201)
Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come and keep us safe from the torment of the Fire.
Considering that we are asking God for the best of both worlds we must plan for this as well.
Questions to ask yourself:

Did I plan for the last year?

Have I learned anything new in skills and knowledge since last year?

Am I making more money than last year?

Am I satisfied with my life and contribution to society?

Do I have more friends today?

Am I a better Muslim today than last year?

Are my deeds leading me on the right path to Jannah?

Things to incorporate into your plan:

Learn communication skills. One of the major crises of Islam in America is the inability of our community to effectively convey our faith and our perspective on issues. Learning how to speak and write well is critical to fulfilling this need. Becoming a better communicator is an excellent way to serve Allah and the community. On an individual level, the person who can communicate effectively not only makes more money, but also has better relations with bosses and co-workers, as well as other important players in our society.

Learn leadership skills. This includes learning how to manage our time as well as managerial skills. Muslims, whether it's in our personal lives, mosques and Islamic centers or in our youth groups, are in dire need of these skills. The need to lead our communities so that we become better contributors to society and can better defend our rights has never been so important.

Strengthen Your Family: Muslim marriages are at risk. Today, about 34 percent of Muslim marriages in North America end in divorce. So if you're thinking of getting married, learn marriage skills from the many books and resources available. If you're already married, sit down with your spouse today and honestly discuss the state of your marriage as well as how it can be improved.

Develop contingency plans. During Hurricane Katrina, I went to a Red Cross site where the need to be prepared for any disaster became very clear. The same was reflected in the Asian Tsunami crisis and the recent earthquake in Kashmir. Prepare yourself and your family for all kinds of emergencies, whether natural disasters or hateful attacks.

Develop a reading list for 2006. Pick an area in which you want to volunteer time for.

You don't have to take courses to develop these critical skills, although it will be a good idea if you can incorporate it into your educational plans. You can also read books, listen to CDs and tapes on these topics in the car on your way to work, watch videos, etc. Find out if your Masjid can organize a half-day seminar on these topics.
Dua: Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come and keep us safe from the torment of the Fire (Quran 2:201)

2. Connect with your neighbors
Like us, our neighbors spend more time with the television than with other people. TV exaggerates. TV distorts. TV preaches bad news about you, which fuels Islamophobia.

Over half of Americans would like to see Muslims' civil liberties curtailed. This is just one statistical reference of the kind of challenges we face. As a result, about 75 percent of Muslim Americans surveyed by Zogby International say they have been discriminated against or know someone who has been.

But when neighbors meet each other, they see each other's humanity. Remember that it was many neighbors of good conscience who stood with Muslims after 9/11.
What kind of relationship do you have with your neighbors? Consider this Hadith: Prophet Muhammad. peace and blessings be upon him. once said, "Jibreel kept recommending treating neighbors with kindness until I thought he would assign a share of inheritance" (Bukhari and Muslim).
Questions to ask yourself:

How much time do I give to relating to my neighbors?

Does my neighbor feel comfortable enough towards me to ask about my faith?

Have I invited neighbors to my home lately?

Ask yourself if you participate in the happiness of your neighbors.

Do your neighbors know you are Muslim?

When was the last time you read the Prophet's sayings about neighbors?

Is your relationship with your neighbors reflected in your budget?

When was the last time your Masjid had an open house for neighbors?

What to incorporate into your plan:

Throw a block party.

Organize a neighborhood watch program

Take part in local elections

Send special dishes to your neighbors with a recipe and ingredient list

Make your lawn and garden a joy for neighbors to watch

Customize with your name and distribute the Muslim neighbor pamphlet

Invite neighbors to family occasions planned for this year

Offer to take your neighbors through a guided tour of your Masjid

Dua: Oh Allah! Open our hearts towards our neighbors and open their hearts towards us.
3. Work to save America America is at risk today. Not just by terrorism but by the war on terrorism as well. Our ideals, our liberties, and our constitution need a new civil rights movement.
People like Senator John McCain have shown how important it is to stand up for basic human rights by speaking out candidly against America's use of torture in the war on terror. Tens of lawyers have volunteered to file charges to get due process of law for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Americans have expressed outrage over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison last year. This is the beauty of America: free speech and the right to criticize government and oppose its wars.

America is not just important for Americans. America, as a world leader and the host of the UN, the World Bank, and the IMF, is important for all of humanity.
America is our home. Over 50 percent of American Muslims were born here. Others have chosen this country by voting with their feet by immigrating here.

In the current situation, of illegal monitoring of the Muslim community by agencies like the NSA and the FBI, as well as other civil rights violations against us, it is not only us who are being harmed. American ideals are at stake as well. America needs help in balancing its need for security while maintaining its commitment to liberty.
Questions to ask yourself:

Am I a better citizen today than I was last year?

Am I a better bridge-builder than I was last year?

Have I volunteered for America?

Have I taken a stand for justice?

Have I related to Americans of other backgrounds and faiths?

What to incorporate into your plan:

Resist the dehumanization of America. This is what warmongers do. Since we know that dehumanization of Muslims is resulting in criminal behavior, we should be the first ones to stand up fighting when articles, emails and some leaders dehumanize America and our neighbors

Study and communicate with an American think-tank

Buy airtime to broadcast the daily Muslim talk radio show that Radio Islam has started in Chicago, during which neighbors talk to each other

Develop a personal relationship with an opinion maker

Join a civil rights organization

Volunteer for a human rights organization

Join an organization that encourages discussion on foreign relations like the Council on Foreign Relations.

Subscribe to magazines and journals about American foreign policy

Run for public office

Volunteer for a candidate of your choice in the mid-term elections of 2006

Join an interfaith labor or peace network

Work on bringing Muslims together at the city level. Ask the Muslim leadership if Muslims have a common agenda and why we are not working with each other.

Dua: Oh Allah! Help us become better citizens. Help us make America a better citizen of the global village. Keep us and our neighbors safe and liberate us from the fear of unknown. Help us deal with our enemy justly.
4. Increase your time for Islam Jannah isn't free. We must work for it while making Dua for Allah's Mercy to enter this beautiful place of eternal rest and tranquility. The time to work is now. Not tomorrow. Not the Next Life. This beautiful Guidance from God is subject to a lot of ridicule in today's America. This dehumanization of Islam and Muslims is hurting Muslims as well as America. Muslim Americans can be the bridge-builders who liberate the middle path from Islamophobia as well as the extremism of some Muslims.
Questions to ask yourself:

How much time have I volunteered for Islam? How does it compare with the time I spend watching TV?

Is my family a part of the Muslim community?

Are Muslims working together in my city?

What do I know about Islamophbia and other forms of prejudice in society?

Is my Masjid a part of any social, justice, peace, or interfaith coalition?

Is my faith connecting me to the cause of the poor and the oppressed?

Things to incorporate into your plan:

Take a vacation for Islam. Devote one or two weeks working for an Islamic cause of your choice.

Volunteer to organize an open house at your mosque.

Become an agent of Muslim unity. We can do a lot better for Islam and America if Muslim organizations can work together as a federation putting their resources to work for the common agenda.

Ask your Masjid leadership what they are doing for Muslim unity.

Meet, call, and write to Muslim leaders you know and ask what they are doing to bring Muslims together.

Start classes for interpersonal communication at your Masjid.

Volunteer in soup kitchens or homeless shelters run by other groups.

See what Islamic books and audio-visual material your library has available and what it can order.

Attend a local interfaith, labor or peace and justice network. Showing up sometimes is half of the work.

Duas: "Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate from the truth after You have guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Your grace. Verily You are the Giver of bounties without measure" (Quran 3:8).

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him used to pray: "I seek refuge in You, O Allah, from knowledge that does not benefit and from a heart which does not fear".
5. Give sisters their space I know a number of Muslim sisters who are very conscientious Muslims and practice Islam thoroughly. However, they no longer go to the Masjid. Islam needs Muslim women and Muslims need sisters willing to devote their time and skills to our faith.

There are two major questions asked by non-Muslims about Islam. The first relates to violence and terrorism. The second is about women in Islam. Whenever a sister talks about these topics, her mere standing up and answering these questions wins half the battle.

We will always need good books, articles and literature about women in Islam. But we also need solid examples of Muslim sisters actively involved in healthy Muslim communities where their full participation helps our communities grow on the balanced path of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
Questions to ask:

Does the space for sisters in your Masjid resemble sisters' space in the Prophet's Mosque?

Do sisters have equal access to the Imam and the Masjid library?

Do mothers have a lounge available to them?

Are sisters a part of the leadership in the community?

Are women in your family able to spare time for Islam?

What can I do to facilitate sisters' participation in community life?

Am I consuming less and giving more?

Things to incorporate into your plan:

Learn how to run your family based on the Shura model


Develop a sisters' leadership caucus in your city. If sisters don't do this, it won't happen.

If the Masjid leadership is elected yearly, then issue an annual report card on the Masjid from a sisters' perspective.

Make sure your community newsletter/newspaper reflects sisters' aspirations. In my experience, sisters are generally better writers and designers. Get them involved.

If you're the only cook in the family, get everyone else involved in learning how to cook and take care of the home.

If you are not married, narrate or write down your worldview of marriage. Make sure the potential spouse you are considering knows about your views. Insist on both of you taking premarital classes.

Establish social service organizations in your communities. Sisters' leadership is emerging from this sector.

Talk to the Imam about giving woman-focused Khutbas.

Dua: Ya Allah! Help us understand that Islam is not just for men. Ya Allah help us reason with Muslim brothers and sisters who disagree with our position of giving proper space to women in Masjids. Ya Allah, help our community establish justice for all, men and women.
Conclusion: One of the most certain things about life is its uncertainty. In the last 12 months we have seen how natural disasters can eliminate life. But death can take us any time, regardless of the method.

We came into this world alone and we will leave it alone. Whatever we do, it is only for our benefit. In our graves what will count will not be how well off we were in this world. It will be our good deeds.

Your good deeds demand your time and your money. With your planning and budget, this world can be better while ensuring a good life in the Hereafter.

May He bless our plans and intentions.

Peace.

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