Community Revisited

Having a group of people with the same religious beliefs that you congregate with regularly, it turns out, plays a part in your mental well being. When talking about protective factors to a person’s mental well being, one of the items listed is having a congregation that the person can go to and get support from. In submission we refer to our various congregations as communities, but they all serve the same purpose.

I’ve said it before that having a community or congregation is a gift and a blessing from God. Through your congregation you are able to get support, encouragement, understanding, and even a sense of stability and consistency when everything else in your life seems shaky. This may be why throughout all the revelations sent down to us from God and the rites given to us by God, He has consistently encouraged us to observe and hasten to our congregational prayers and to force ourselves to be with those who believe.

[62:9] O you who believe, when the Congregational Prayer (Salat Al-Jumu’ah) is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the commemoration of GOD, and drop all business. This is better for you, if you only knew.
[18:28] You shall force yourself to be with those who worship their Lord day and night, seeking Him alone. Do not turn your eyes away from them, seeking the vanities of this world. Nor shall you obey one whose heart we rendered oblivious to our message; one who pursues his own desires, and whose priorities are confused.

But as God tells us Satan is our worst enemy and will always try to drive a wedge among the believers and divide them in any way possible. Sometimes it may be obvious, but most times it is a slow and subtle process that escapes notice until some damage has been done.

As humans we are susceptible to countless distractions that come with this life: work, children, school, TV, sickness (getting sick ourselves or perhaps taking care of a sick relative(s)), family life and responsibilities, stress, finding or holding on to relationships – and the list goes on. Living day by day can be a distraction on its own. So it’s extremely easy for Satan to pick any tool he wants to distract us with in order to divide a community. Members can have disagreements and fight; people grow distant from each other or the congregation; people become too busy and distracted by life, or any number of seemingly valid reasons for removing or distancing oneself from the community.

[17:53] Tell My servants to treat each other in the best possible manner, for the devil will always try to drive a wedge among them. Surely, the devil is man’s most ardent enemy.
[35:6] The devil is your enemy, so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his party to be the dwellers of Hell.
[43:62] Let not the devil repel you; he is your most ardent enemy.

If the congregation or community is large, then these may be experienced more on a personal level where the members waver in between joining the group on some days and not joining on others. If the community is small then these distractions can lead to stagnation, regression, and even the dispersal of the community as a whole. Should this happen then Satan will not only have succeeded in distracting and driving a wedge between the members of the community, but also in removing a point of support, stability, and encouragement from the lives of the people of that community. That is why it is important for the members of a community to hold fast to one another and hold fast to God; to make every effort to stay united, and care about one another. This is especially important when there are so many distractions, and we feel so overwhelmed that interacting with the community feels like an “extracurricular” activity for which there is no time.

[3:103] You shall hold fast to the rope of GOD, all of you, and do not be divided. Recall GOD’s blessings upon you-you used to be enemies and He reconciled your hearts. By His grace, you became brethren. You were at the brink of a pit of fire, and He saved you therefrom. GOD thus explains His revelations for you, that you may be guided.
[22:78] You shall strive for the cause of GOD as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in practicing your religion-the religion of your father Abraham. …Therefore, you shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and hold fast to GOD; He is your Lord, the best Lord and the best Supporter.

We are each other’s support. We are each other’s encouragement. We are each other’s stability So let’s make every attempt to be there for each other, and be there for ourselves. Do not let Satan distract and divide us.

[7:17] “I will come to them from before them, and from behind them, and from their right, and from their left, and You will find that most of them are unappreciative.”

Steadfastly Persevere

Life is made up of many moments – happy moments, sad moments, successes, failures, and disappointments. Many of these moments though have the the potential to seriously damage us if we are not prepared for them. It’s easy for us to get carried away by a single good or bad moment and let it color everything – to let it consume us and get lost in the emotions involved in the moment. We get so lost and carried away that we forget ourselves until we begin to feel the consequences of our actions and forgetfulness. It’s then we see that we must change. Unfortunately, though, sometimes we realize it too late to easily rectify the damages.

By God’s grace and infinite wisdom, He has provided us with specific instructions and tools to help protect us from losing ourselves in these moments. God tells us in the Quran in chapter 57, verse 23 (57:23) to not grieve over anything that we miss nor be proud of anything that He has bestowed upon us. Taking heed of this crucial advice guards against all the possible ways that Satan and our own ego can cause us to lose ourselves in the moment.

[57:23] Thus, you should not grieve over anything you miss, nor be proud of anything He has bestowed upon you.  GOD does not love those who are boastful, proud.

When we are blessed with success we may become elated–or as God says in Quran 11:10, “excited, proud.” We could become thrilled by the success and revel in it. Those who are conscious of God remember to thank Him for His blessing (and we cannot thank Him enough). Regardless of which category we fall into, after a moment of gratification, it is easy to begin to see everything in light of that success. We think that it is the beginning of a continuous upward climb and that whatever hardship we suffered up to that point will never touch us again. So with this mindset, we may gradually forget and begin to take things for granted. We put in less sincere effort in maintaining what we have. We begin to think that the provisions and circumstances that we are enjoying now because of God’s grace, will never end. This is because we end up taking God for granted. Eventually our forgetfulness and subsequent unappreciativeness lead us to new hardships and it’s then we realize that we’ve become unappreciative.

[11:10] Whenever we bless him, after adversity had afflicted him, he says, “All adversity has gone away from me;” he becomes excited, proud.

When we suffer any adversity, lose something, or find that we are unsuccessful in our attempts at a particular goal, we may become consumed by despair. We may start to believe that anything we attempt will fail. We lose all hope and motivation, resigning ourselves to believing what Satan tells us – that we are failures, weak, stupid, incompetent, worthless, losers, etc. This way of thinking is very negative and may have more far reaching consequences. It is also the hardest of the two mentalities – thinking either nothing or everything will fail – to escape the longer that it goes on.

If we let ourselves slip into either state of mind for a prolonged period of time, it becomes very difficult to carry out anything, especially when it comes to worshipping God. That’s why throughout the scriptures God repeatedly encourages us to steadfastly persevere in all aspects of our lives. So to succeed we must steadfastly persevere. We have to learn to accept and appreciate the blessings as they come with grace and humility without allowing it to lull us into complacency. We must learn to succeed without losing our focus, drive, and determination.

We have to learn to accept our shortcomings, failures, and losses with serenity and grace, so that we do not allow it to darken our view and rob us of hope and the desire to strive. At the same time we have to learn to appreciate these events for the lessons that they can teach us, and the weaknesses that they point out to us. As we learn to appreciate these moments of failure we are better able to strive toward our goals and toward God, in a better, more efficient and enlightened manner.

[3:186] You will certainly be tested, through your money and your lives, and you will hear from those who received the scripture, and from the idol worshipers, a lot of insult. If you steadfastly persevere and lead a righteous life, this will prove the strength of your faith.

[11:115] You shall steadfastly persevere, for GOD never fails to recompense the righteous.

And from the Bible:

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Luke 21:19 By standing firm you will gain life.

Brothers and sisters in faith and humanity, let us continuously struggle and strive towards our goals and towards God, fighting through adversity, pain, loss, stagnation, and complacency.

Revelation 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Reflections and Confessions

There’s someone in my life whom I used to be very close to (we were almost inseparable) but gradually over the years we’ve drifted so far apart that I find myself constantly asking, ‘how is it that two people who were so close can grow so far apart?’ It really baffled me and for the longest time the only answer I could come up with was that it’s because they changed into something detestable; because they decided to pick up every habit and behavior that I found worthy of disdain and disgust; because they’ve disappointed me in every way.

So for the longest time without realizing it I put 100% of the responsibility for the distance and animosity between us squarely on their shoulders. I went over every instance when their decisions disappointed, annoyed, angered, hurt, or disgusted me and saw that by all logic my assessment was correct and they were 100% at fault and deserving of blame.

How clever and cunning is the ego.

This was my logic and justification. It wasn’t until recently that by what can only be the grace of God I reviewed the “evidence” from a broader, less ego driven perspective. To my ego’s disappointment, I see now that the blame is not entirely theirs, and should not have been placed entirely at their feet. Because not only did blaming them prevent me from making any effort at reconciliation, but it encouraged me to add fuel to a fire that Satan was using to drive us apart.
So far apart.

[14:34] And He gives you all kinds of things that you implore Him for. If you count GOD’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Indeed, the human being is transgressing, unappreciative.

The interesting thing is that this person and I had a conversation once where they told me outright that part of the problems they had with me is that I was unappreciative of something they had done for me. My reaction at the time, and for weeks after, was to think “Ha! Me? Unappreciative? Please. Anything you did, it was because you wanted to. I never asked you for anything.”

How self-sustaining is the ego.

God tells us that we are unappreciative, and we are. We’re extremely unappreciative. Sure we may remember to thank God for the obvious big things that He grants us, or for the prayers that He answers but there are countless “little” and unexpected, unasked for blessings that we neglect to even take notice of, much less be appreciative of.

So when I was finally able to look past my ego and look back at our past interaction, while taking into account the things they said to me, I realized I’d been greatly unappreciative. There were so many instances where God provided for me through this person. Some times it was something “little” like a game or something, and other times it was for things I didn’t even realize I wanted or needed yet.

So many blessings God provided. But as I look back I can’t remember being thankful or showing much appreciation when I received them.

So, with this new clarity, by God’s grace I was allowed to see just how deeply, and how subtly, my ego had been influencing my behavior and driving a wedge between me and this person. I also saw how much of the “blame” that I had been throwing on them could easily be placed on me.

So with new clarity, a sense of shame, a sense of regret, and appreciation I thank God for opening my eyes to all the ways I’ve been unappreciative and ego driven. I pray that He guide and help me to amend my actions and my thoughts, and to be increasingly more appreciative of Him everyday for as long as I may live.

[2:286] GOD never burdens a soul beyond its means: to its credit is what it earns, and against it is what it commits. “Our Lord, donot condemn us if we forget or make mistakes. Our Lord, and protect us from blaspheming against You, like those before us have done. Our Lord, protect us from sinning until it becomes too late for us to repent. Pardon us and forgive us. You are our Lord and Master. Grant us victory over the disbelieving people.”