Monday, May 28, 2012

For Kids, Jannah Always Starts With Chocolate

If you want to grab a child's attention... start talking about Jannah. Alhamdulilah this is one teaching method I have tried and tested and honestly, the way children suddenly become energised with the imagery, eager to respond to questions about what they want in Jannah,  yearn to find out the limits of what they can have, smile when you tell them... "there is no limit!!!" and have a glow in their eyes at the possibility, I have not found in teaching anything else. MashaAllah.

You see, the topic of Jannah links to pretty much everything. I wasn't teaching it as a topic itself this week, rather to my memory we were talking about the merits of saying Asalaamalaikum. But with every good deed in the deen, and how generous is our Lord that He Has Made even a greeting worth reward, everything can be a means to attaining His Favour and attaining Jannah. Now you're thinking, well what about sinning, that's not a means to attaining His Favour. But even there, staying away from the sin, away from the temptation itself is a mean of His Reward! How Generous is Our Lord?! May He Make us worthy.

With kids, Jannah always starts with chocolate. A mansion with a swimming pool made out of chocolate soon evolves into a palace made of sweets and cake. That palace became a palace the size of London, made of ice cream. "What if it melts?" a child asked. With no right or wrong answer, I had to ensure all bases were covered..."If it melts you start licking it! Or you wish for another one BHAM! it's back. Or you wish that it doesn't melt and it doesn't melt! Whatever you even think of you will have!" Is it false hope? Not at all. And its not far fetched dreams either, but rather pays homage to a child's fitra and how even in this day and age, with all electronic gadgets seeking to kill of natural creativity from a young age, children still carry vast imaginations. I guess it also shows why children especially love storytelling. And to be honest, I love telling the story of Jannah!!

In the Ramadhan Summer Camp Allah has Enabled me to run, our ice breaker for the children is for them to say their names, ages and what they want in Jannah. Best icebreaker EVER. Within 10 minutes, we know the children, the children know us and we all know why we are at the Camp. To learn the deen, hang out in good company, and seek His Favour. Also to find out the ways in which we can chill out in Jannah together! Subhannallah, my brother who runs the camp with me and I couldn't stop cracking up at the Jannah Icebreaker and the way it panned out. As we went round the circle, it was obvious each child wanted to out do what their classmate had said before them. It started of with mansions and rivers of chocolate (like I said, every time! Willy Wonkers factory's got nothing on our Chocolate dreams!), moved onto X boxes and Nintendos, flashy cars that I had not even heard of before, until one child said simply "I want to see my parents with me in Jannah." My brother and I praised the mini Muslim, amazed at the deep thought behind the answer. Now thought processes began to change. The next child, who mashaAllah has grown up in a household where love of the Nabi is focused on said "I want to see the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him!!" My brother and I were surprised that such a wish could be asked for in a circle of 6-13 year olds. MashaAllah we praised the dream. Now then, how does the next person beat this exactly? Nothing of this world will beat that we thought, and wished the next child good luck in their wish! Yes, my friends, the next child, and I say CHILD blew us all away in responding "I want to see Allah in Jannah!!!" Everybody laughed, hearts honestly alive. Subhannallah this story still cracks us up to this day!!

Discussing Jannah will always have a positive effect. I still remember the glowing hope and excitement I would feel when my older brother would discuss it with me when I was young. May Allah reward my older brother for spending time instructing us towards goodness when we were children. He is 12 years older than me and my twin brother and would often tell us to sit and read this thick spiritual manual called 'Irshad- master of the Sufi Way' with him. Inevitably my twin would say he needed to go upstairs to get something and never return back down. Reading even one paragraph from that book seemed like a task and a half. But honestly, the adults in our lives make us who we are and may Allah bless all children with inspiring adults in their lives, be they people in their families, their teachers or even those not physically with them, such as the sahaba, mothers of the believers and prophets. I went on a tangent and now I return. How time flies, yet this memory of walking down my road with my older brother remains strong. It seems like yesterday. My older brother started talking about Jannah and what I would like in it. We talked about all the fruits available and what I particularly remember is that we discussed how we wanted all mums cooking there. Especially the dishes she rarely made. I remember we concluded on mums lasagne and cream chicken being what we would eat the most in Jannah. And to be honest that walk down the road is one of my fondest memories of spending time with my brother and of learning the deen.

I was listening to a lecture on Jannah by Shaykh Hassan Ali not long ago. Adult's wishes for Jannah evidently move beyond fountains of ice cream, into rivers of non intoxicating wine amongst other things. An eternity of being a youth. An eternity of favour and reward. And Allah Has Promised us this for our patience and worship. One thing that particularly struck was when he jovially stated, "The only thing Haraam in Jannah is to leave it!!!" What a thought! Another video with spoken word about Jannah grabbed not only my attention but my heart in its lyrical beauty especially at the description of how we will be the same ages as our parents in Jannah. Amazing. Imagine!!

We are instructed to balance fear of Allah with hope in Allah. We can only attain Jannah through His Mercy after all and its important that we realise this, and teach it too. But Subhannallah, Jannah is such a stunning creation even the mere thought of it mesmerises us here on earth. Our eyes twinkle and the prospect of what is potentially to come, with His Mercy, makes us motivated to work towards it. Yes, believing and worshipping Allah just for attainment of Jannah may be of the lower of intentions, as I have heard and read (and when I find the exact wording will quote), while worshipping Him for His Sake alone and because He is our Creator and Master the highest, but Jannah has also been created and mentioned oft in the Qur'an for us to work towards and seek to attain! For children, I assure you it is a topic discussed with joy and awe.

May Allah enable us all to work for His Cause and remember Him with sincere hearts. May Allah have mercy on all Muslims and raise us in good states. May He Allow us to be in the Shade on the Day of Judgement. May His Mercy allow us to walk into Jannah with ease. And may we be of those who experience this moment as promised in the Qur'an. May He unite us with our loved ones in Jannah, May He Allow us to drink from the Prophet's hands in the Gardens of Bliss. May He Allow us to be of those blessed, blessed, blessed souls who see Him. May Allah grant true every child's dreams of Jannah, for infinity...and beyond! Ameen.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Path of Worshipful Servants

 ".....You must realise, Oh my brethren (may God favour you and me with His Good Pleasure), that worshipful service [ibada] is the fruit of knowledge ['ilm], the benefit of life ['umr], the income of strong servants, the stock in trade of the saints [awliyah], the path of the truly devout, the allotted portion of the mighty, the goal of those endowed with aspiration, the emblem of the noble, the vocation of real men and the choice of those with faculties of vision. It is the way of good fortune and the path [minhaj] of the Garden of Paradise. God has told us; "And I am your Lord, So Worship Me" (21:92).  He has also said" "Behold: this is a reward for you. And I am your Lord, so worship Me" (76:22)

The path of worshipful service is indeed a rugged path and a hard road, fraught with many obstacles, serious hardships, remote distances, enormous difficulties, frequent hindrances and impediments. It is beset with deadly perils and interruptions. This is exactly how it needs to be, since it is the path of the Garden of Paradise and this represents a confirmation of the saying of The Prophet (peace be upon him),  "The Garden of Paradise is indeed surrounded by things that are repugnant [makarih], while the Fire of Hell is surrounded by objects of lustful desire [shahawat]". He (peace be upon him) also said, "The Garden of Paradise is indeed a rugged ground on a hill, while the Fire of Hell is indeed a smooth ground in a sequestered courtyard."

Then in addition to al of that, the servant [of the Lord] is weak, the time is difficult and religious commitment is subject retrogression....."

~Al Ghazali - The Path Of The Righteous Servants - To the Garden of the Lord of the Worlds
Translated by Muhtar Holland

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