Living with a Purpose

Living with a Purpose

Many people struggle to find purpose in their lives. They go through life without any real direction or noble objectives. This search for meaning grows more desperate if they attain financial success. Financial success without purpose often leads to a sense of emptiness and directionless life primarily because one must face the devastating realization that money does not guarantee happiness or contentment. Their search for happiness resulted in a pursuit of wealth which once achieved proved fruitless. This is a common problem in the modern world.

Capitalist culture preaches that the pursuit of wealth, or happiness through wealth, is the objective of life. But what happens when a person achieves wealth and isn’t happy? What happens when a person finally acquires wealth and riches, yet still feels empty, purposeless, and unsure what to do with the rest of his life? The pursuit of more money does not fill this gap at all.

Life without a purpose is meaningless, boring, and depressing. Many people around the world are searching for a purpose in their lives, and philosophers spend countless hours debating the purpose of life. When they are unable to find it, many people then choose to invent their own purpose. This self-defined purpose may be a form of philanthropy or leaving some kind of legacy.

The purpose of their life becomes their projects, and they dedicate the rest of their lives to this. This may help some people feel better, but for many others, they know deep down that these aspirations are arbitrary and not the definitive purpose of their existence. Projects and passions of this nature, while beneficial to society, don’t really solve the issue of finding one’s true purpose. Instead, these self-defined purposes are simply decoys masking the deep inner struggle to find the true purpose of life.

Yet great people like ʿUmar II lived with true purpose. They did not need to search for it or face internal struggles of discovery. It was clear to them, and all the goals in their lives revolved around it. This is because ʿUmar II and people like him took their purpose in life directly from the teachings of Islam.

Unlike other religions, Islam is very clear about the purpose of life. It is stated in the Quran, “I only created jinn and humans to worship me.”[1] 

The meaning of this verse is that God did not create humans without a purpose or reason. That Divine Purpose is that God created humans to worship Him and, through that worship, to become a manifestation of His Divine Attributes on earth. He created the earth as a place to test humanity and gave us free will so that the results of that test will be our own.

The purpose of life according to Islam is “to worship God”. However, many people may have difficulty understanding what that means on a practical level. Does it mean abandoning our businesses, retreating to the mountains and spending our entire lives in ritual worship? Not really. The Islamic definition of worship is a lot more nuanced.

Worship in Islam is a broad term that covers a variety of actions, beliefs, and emotions. It is not limited to ritualistic acts of worship, although that is an important part of it. Worship in Islam is equal to the concepts of obedience or submission. In fact, the linguistic meaning of the word Islam is “to submit to God.”

So when Muslims say that we believe that the purpose of life is to worship God, it means that we believe that our entire lifestyle should be done in a manner that is pleasing to God. This means that the worship of God manifests itself in every action that a Muslim consciously makes.

This includes beliefs, actions, and emotions. When a Muslim believes that God will assist him/her or that an event that occurred in his/her life is destiny, that belief itself is an internal form of worship. When a Muslim prays, fasts, or gives charity, these are physical acts of worship. When a Muslim fears God, loves God, and trusts God these emotions are internal acts of worship.

The Islamic concept of worship is so vast that it includes everyday acts. When done with the correct intention, and within the boundaries set by God, even mundane acts like eating, sleeping, working, and having sex become means through which God is worshipped.[2]

It is with this comprehensive understanding of the Islamic purpose of life that we gain more clarity into what drove the productivity of ʿUmar II and people like him. ʿUmar II was a firm believer in Islam, with a strong connection to God.

Because of this, he treated everything he did as an act of worship and strove to do everything in a manner that was pleasing to God. His simplicity, justice, mercy, kindness, advice, and projects were all endeavors through which he worked to fulfill his purpose of life: to live a life pleasing to Allah.

To understand ʿUmar’s initiatives and motivations, we need a clear understanding of the Islamic purpose of life and how it drives the goals and ambitions of Muslims. Without this insight, many of ʿUmar’s decisions, projects, and goals do not make any sense.

Islam teaches its followers that life is about submission (Islam) to God and that every aspect of life should be done in a manner that is pleasing to Him. This concept shapes the lives of Muslims across the globe. Everything from marriage to business is based on this primary concept: How can I do this in a manner that is pleasing to God? It is this profound question that shaped ʿUmar’s policies and decisions.

This article is an extract from Productivity Principles Of ʿUmar II, learn more about the book here.

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[1] Quran 51:56

[2] Kamdar, Best Of Creation, pp. 28-29

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
New eBook: Quran 30for30

New eBook: Quran 30for30

The Qur’an is brimming with lessons, stories, guidelines, and rulings for the believer. Every surah carefully placed, every section organized perfectly. So how are these Qur’anic chapters related to each other? What can we glean from the stories told within them?

Explore key lessons from each juz’ and learn about the significance of the Qur’an’s divine arrangement with this Qur’an 30for30 series companion book!

Tip: To enhance your Qur’an 30for30 Season 2 viewing experience, read the eBook chapter corresponding with each day’s juz’ before watching the episode!

What’s in the book

  • Brief summaries from Season 1 of Qur’an 30for30
  • Key themes and lessons from each juz’
  • Additional context from books of tafsir and author commentary

Get the ebook from the Yaqeen Institute website here.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, 0 comments
Regarding Exams and Fasting: An Invalid Qiyas

Regarding Exams and Fasting: An Invalid Qiyas

There has been some talk recently about “updating” Fiqh to include exams as a valid excuse to delay fasting. This talk has come primarily from the modernist/liberal school of thought. Their argument is that Muslims are backward and too literal in their thinking and need to update Fiqh for the times.

This argument is flawed in many ways. The analogy of exams being a type of difficulty that leads to concession is flawed. The idea that our Fiqh processes are outdated and backward is also flawed. To demonstrate this, let us take a look at the main Fiqh Maxim governing who can delay a fast.

The main Fiqh maxim regulating this ruling is al-Mashaqa Tajlibu al-Taysir which can be translated as “Extreme Difficulty causes relaxation of the Law”. This maxim is found in all four madhabs and is a point of consensus among Sunni Muslims. The maxim is simple, the Shariah has built-in processes of flexibility to handle extremely difficult situations.

However, the maxim cannot be applied based on whim and desire. There is a list of difficulties that cause relaxation of the law. This list is derived from the Quran and Sunnah.

Types of Difficulty

There are primarily seven things that can cause relaxation of a law:
1. Coercion i.e. being forced to do something
2. Travel as traveling is difficult as you are outside of your comfort zone dealing with many unpredictable variables
3. Disease/Sickness
4. Forgetfulness i.e. people are not held accountable for lapses in memory
5. Ignorance i.e. ignorance can work as an excuse is some situations6. A general calamity like a pandemic or drought
7. Lack of legal competence i.e. laws do not generally apply to children, extreme mental health cases, and people who are asleep.

All of the above categories are explicitly stated in either the Quran or Sunnah. The verse of fasting (2:185) mentions two of these sources of difficulty: travel and illness, making these the two primary valid reasons to delay a fast. Scholars have included other health risks in this as well like pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The category of extreme difficulty is generally restricted to these seven things, except in rare circumstances where something else rises to the level of extremity. even then, these new circumstances can often easily fit into one of these seven categories. For example, the current pandemic falls under category six, and tyrannic regimes may trigger category one.

A Clear Process

The relaxation of laws, however, cannot be done based on perceived difficulty or manageable difficult. The very concept of worship has some level of difficulty built into it to make it a means of purifying the soul and exerting effort in pleasing Allah. If we allow relaxing the laws for any difficulty, that would mean excusing Fajr because we are tired, missing Asr because we are working, or delaying fasting because it is a hot day.

Almost any law can be modified if the category of Mashaqa is left open-ended without any parameters. Thus, it is restricted to those things found in the Quran and Sunnah, which are summarized in the list above.

Exams are a general difficulty. There is no health risk for the average student, nor is there any coercion to break the fast. The only time a student would be allowed to break a fast is if it becomes a genuine health risk, eg: dehydration. In that case, they are doing it due to the reason mentioned in the Quran, not because of exams.

Our Shariah does not need reform. It already has a built-in system to update Fiqh as and when needed via the principles of Fiqh and Maxims of Fiqh. These are guided by the goals of the Shariah. All of these concepts are derived from the Quran and Sunnah and categorized and explained by our pious predecessors.

Conclusion

If any new verdict is to be passed on an issue, it must be done utilizing the proper methodology of ijtihad, and not simply because “I think” or “I feel” or any other weak reason. Fiqh is a system with its own methodology, parameters, and experts. If you are not a Mufti, leave it to the Muftis to work out these details utilizing the proper methodology.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
The Role of ʿUrf (Culture) in Fiqh

The Role of ʿUrf (Culture) in Fiqh

ʿUrf means custom or local culture. In Fiqh, the local culture can be used as a basis for deriving laws in areas that are culturally sensitive and not explicitly detailed in the Quran and Sunnah. Although the term ʿUrf is primarily used by Ḥanafī and Mālikī scholars, the principle of utilizing the local culture in formulating Fiqh rulings is actually found in every madhhab.

This is because all four madhhabs agree upon the Fiqh Maxim, al-ʿādah muḥakkamah (local culture is the deciding factor) which is considered one of the Big Five agreed upon maxims and a core foundation of Fiqh.

But what does ʿUrf really mean and how does it work in Fiqh? ʿUrf means that the culture of the good people (ahl fitra) of a society is considered source of local laws.

This is because Islam is meant to be multi-cultural and practical in every time, place and culture. Islam was not sent to unite the world upon a single culture, it was sent to be practical in every culture in every era. To achieve this, the laws of Islam remain flexible enough to accommodate different cultures.

In many areas of Fiqh, the rules are shaped by the local culture, and even when Muslims migrate to a new land, they are expected to adapt to the culture of the lands. It is not part of Islam to force a foreign culture upon the people of any land.

The concept of ʿUrf is derived from many evidences. The clearest is the verse of the Quran regarding the rights of spouses, “Live with them with maʿruf (what is considered good in the culture)”[1] The Quran does not explicitly state what the rights of the spouse are, it leaves it up to ʿUrf. Thus, the details of the rights of the spouse depends from culture to culture. Related to ʿUrf, Ibn Masud said, “What Muslims deem good is good in the sight of Allah.”[2]

Conditions for acceptance of ʿUrf

However, not all cultural practices are accepted as good in Islamic Law. There are strict conditions in place to prevent this principle from being abused. These conditions can be listed as five:

  1. It must be popularly and consistently followed by the majority.
  2. It must be the current culture at the time of the ruling.
  3. It cannot contradict a stipulated condition.
  4. It must not contradict Quran, Sunnah, and Ijmaʿ
  5. When ʿUrf and Qiyas contradict, Istiḥsān can be used to resolve the conflict.

When ʿUrf meets these five conditions, it becomes accepted as a source of local law. It is also important to note that ʿUrf is used primarily in muʿāmalāt (social dealings), rarely in ʿibādāt (acts of worship). This is because acts of worship are derived primarily from revelation, whole social dealings change from culture to culture, so the shariʿa remains flexible regarding the second, but not as much regarding the first.

As a result, ʿUrf is primarily used as a principle in the Fiqh of business, marriage, family, food, clothing, entertainment, and other social issues. This makes it extremely relevant to our times, and one of the core components in the contemporization of Fiqh.

Examples of ʿUrf

The way Muslims dress is largely dependent on ʿUrf. While covering the awrah (navel to knees for men, everything except face and hands for women) is an obligation, there is no set ruling on what type of clothing is needed to do this. The idea of Islamic Clothing is a misnomer that developed only in recent times. In most Muslim lands, the style of clothing is largely dependent on ʿUrf as long as it meets the requirements of the Shariah.

Similarly, the rights of spouses are largely dependent on ʿUrf. The Quran simply calls for good treatment of one’s spouse, without going into details. Good treatment is a cultural variable, as what is considered good in one country may not be considered good in another. In some cultures, women are expected to cook for their families, in other cultures men provide the food, and some cultures may outsource food preparation to others (servants in ancient cultures, restaurants in modern cultures). The debate on whether it is a woman’s duty to cook or not is dependent on culture, and the ruling will change with the change of cultures.

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[1] Quran 5:19

[2] Musnad Ahmad

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
How to overcome procrastination

How to overcome procrastination

This is an extract from Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management. Access the full ebook here or grab the Self Help Bundle to get this and nine other life-changing ebooks today!

Procrastination is the single most common word I hear whenever I bring up the topic of Time Management. “I’m a procrastinator” is the common reply people give me for why they are unable to meet deadlines or organize themselves well. Procrastination is treated like a fact of life, something inherit that can’t be changed or overcome, but this is nothing more than deceiving ourselves.

Procrastination is a habit, and a terrible habit too. However, like all other bad habits it can be overcome with strong will power, commitment and a reason to succeed.

The ability to change a bad habit and replace it with a good one is something every human has the ability to do, all we really need is motivation, and that is what I hope this chapter serves as, motivation to finally let it go.

In order to overcome procrastination, it is important that we understand its roots and causes. There are four main reasons why people procrastinate:

1. Lack of goals or vision

This has already been covered in details in a previous chapter. Goals are our motivation to go the distance and make something of our lives. Goals serve to motivate us, inspire us and give us a reason to face each day with renewed energy.

If someone lacks goals, they see no reason to commit to something, to do a good job or even to get it done on time. Life for such people is just a series of obstacles to survive with minimum effort, and so they leave every task for last minute and don’t really focus on quality either.

The first step to overcoming procrastination is to have goals to work towards. This will motivate you to organize your life in such a way that these goals are accomplished over time.

2. Deception

Shaytaan uses the trick of deception to get people to procrastinate, especially when it comes to righteousness and repentance. The common phrase “I’ll repent when I get older,” is a classic example of deceptive procrastination. We fool ourselves into thinking we have plenty of time to do something in the future.

In the case of repentance, procrastination is deadly and can cause great harm to one’s life in this world and especially in the Afterlife. Yet we apply this same mentality to other aspects of our lives. We think we have plenty of time to write that assignment, submit that report, prepare that class or prepare the meeting notes, until we realize that we don’t.

Then the rush is on, with great anxiety, fear and worry we rush to complete something at the last minute and the result is poor shoddy quality work, and a lot of unneeded stress.

The key here is to understand the deception of “later”. As Muslims we are taught to never leave anything for the future without saying “inshaa Allah” (If Allah Wills).


وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَٰلِكَ غَدًا إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ

“And do not say about anything that I will do it tomorrow without saying if Allah wills,”

Surah Al-Kahf 18:23-24

This statement “inshaa Allah” is meant to be a reminder to us that the future is in Allah’s control so we shouldn’t delay anything that can be done today.

We don’t know what tomorrow has in store for us, so let us lift the veil from our eyes and realize that every moment lost through procrastination is wasted time that you can never get back for the rest of your life. The time for action is now, not tomorrow.

3. Perfectionism

Another cause of procrastination is perfectionism. This is the one thing that caused me to procrastinate in launching my writing career. I always wanted to be an author and to spend my days writing books.

I had many ideas and wrote many outlines, summaries and first chapters. However, I found myself unable to move forward beyond that due to my desire for my writing to be perfect.

I would look at my first draft, full of mistakes and in major need of editing, and think to myself that nobody is going to read this. I would end up putting it away frustrated and moving on to attempt my next project. Perfectionism stood in the way of writing or completing any important project.

One day I finally realized that my chain of thought was ridiculous. I am a human being, and the writings of human beings are never perfect. First drafts, in general, are always a mess. This is why we edit, and hire editors, and even have to publish revised editions.

I realized that if I want to have a career in writing, I need to let go of my desire to be perfect and just write. Write whatever comes to mind, I can always edit, rephrase, delete or expand upon it later. Once I realized this, the procrastination ended and the writings began to flow.

You too may have a goal that you have been putting off because it isn’t perfect. The only way forward is to realize that it never will be perfect. It is a human project and being human means embracing imperfection. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be your best effort. So let go of your desire for perfection and just focus on doing your best.

John Perry, the author of The Art of Procrastination, offers some valuable insight into how to overcome this problem:

You have to get into the habit of forcing yourself to analyse, at the time you accept a task, the costs and benefits of doing a less-than-perfect job. You must ask yourself some questions: How useful would a perfect job be here? How much more useful would it be than a merely adequate job…and you got to ask yourself: What is the probability that I will really do anything like a remotely perfect job on this? And: What difference will it make to me, and to others, whether I do or not?

Often the answer will be that a less-than-perfect job will be just fine, and moreover it’s all I am ever going to do anyway. So I give myself permission to do a less-than-perfect job now, rather than waiting until the task is overdue. Which means I may as well do it now. (Or at least start tomorrow)[1]

4. Instant Gratification

The fourth major cause of procrastination is the fact that many of us are programmed mentally to focus on instant gratification. The modern advertising industry thrives on instant gratification. From the time a child is able to understand, he is taught to prefer immediate delights over long-term deals. We grow up with this mentality and it has a detrimental effect on every aspect of our lives.

As Muslims, many fall into major sins like fornication because of focusing on instant gratification, instead of the long-term deal of marriage and the responsibilities that come with it. Likewise, people are looking for the instant fix, instant high, get rich quick schemes and even shortcuts to Paradise and Caliphate.

It is this instant gratification mentality that has led to the birth of modern extremist movements like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, who look for violent shortcuts to Paradise and Caliphate, instead of focusing on the long-term deal of purifying their souls and striving against their desires.

This mentality crosses over into our time management too. We may have goals and dreams, but the instant gratification of that next chat, next funny video, and next snack break gets in the way and causes us to procrastinate and often give up on anything that requires long-term effort.

This mentality is completely unislamic and destructive. The state of the ummah today is proof of this, on one hand the violent extremists seek shortcuts to Paradise, and on the other side the average Muslim prefers instantly satisfying his desires over working toward righteousness.

Islamic teachings emphasize the concept of Sabr which translates into many concepts like patience, persistence, self-restraint and consistency. All of these indicate long-term effort and long-term success. The idea of quick methods to success in this world or the Afterlife is a deception, unrealistic and unislamic.

Overcoming this barrier requires a shift in how we think and view the world. We need to understand that success, be it worldly or Afterworldly, can only be attained through long-term hard work. There is no shortcut to fixing the problems of the Middle East, just like there is no shortcut to training your soul or attaining financial success. If you want something, you need to be ready to commit to it long-term.

I will speak more about the concept of Sabr and its role in time management in a future chapter. The purpose here was to help us understand why we procrastinate. It is only when we understand why we have bad habits that we are able to move on and overcome them.

Positive Procrastination

As anti-procrastination as I may sound, I too procrastinate when it is beneficial. Procrastination, when planned, can actually be a very beneficial time management skill. Positive procrastination means to put things off until the right time to do it.

For example, if I am tired and it is after work hours, I choose to rest and have fun and put off any tasks until the next day. If it is work hours, and I am feeling drained, I take a short break and do something fun before getting back to work.

Some people might think I am procrastinating. After all, why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? My reply to that is, “Because I know I will do a better job at it tomorrow than if I do it now,”

If you have very high goals and aspirations, it is not possible to do everything in one day, one week, one month, one year or even one decade. You will have to plan and prioritise, and that means procrastinating the things you don’t need to do yet, in order to make time for the things you need to do now.

Sometimes the thing you need to do later is hard work and what you need to do right now is take a vacation. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that, it is in your best interest to take that vacation, recharge your body and mind and return revitalized ready to do a much better job than you would have done had you not taken the vacation.

This form of procrastination is good, as it is part of prioritizing and planning, and so it should be done without any feeling of guilt. Anything that benefits you in the long run is a good thing, even if that thing is a form of procrastination.

Just get started

So you have a goal, you know you shouldn’t procrastinate, you have a plan but you haven’t committed to it yet. Something is holding you back. Your mind is filling with excuses. If this is the case then you need to look yourself in the mirror and firmly remind yourself that there is no benefit in delaying anything good.

Every day wasted can never be returned. Why waste this precious resource? What do you have to lose if get started today on changing your lifestyle and focusing on your goals?

Think about your life in ten or twenty years’ time and where you would like to be then, and realize that if you want that, you need to start working towards it today. Delaying is not going to get you anywhere.

Remember that this whole drama is playing out in your mind and you control what you focus on and which thoughts you act on. So put aside the excuses, take control of your time and start changing.

“He who counts tomorrow as part of his life does not recognize death as it should be merited. How many days are to come but he will not be there! How many wishes he has for the days to come that he will not get! If you comprehend the terms of life and the speed with which it flees, then you will detest your desires and wishes,” Awn Ibn Abdullah[2]

New Habits – New Beginnings

Time management is a matter of replacing bad habits with good habits. We all have some habits that waste time or cause delays. Procrastination was focused on because it is the most common, but there are many others like laziness, oversleeping, overeating, and excessive socializing. Interestingly, the classical scholars referred to these things as corrupters of the heart.

Not only do they waste our time but they eat away at our souls and lead us down the part of wastage of other resources too like wealth and knowledge. If you are committed to time management then you need to be ready to change many habits over time.

The key to changing a habit is the following formula:

1. Identify bad habit
2. Identify good habit to replace it
3. Start replacing the bad habit with the good one today
4. Be consistent until the new habit is truly a habit (average 30 days)
5. After that, it gets easier, so you can move on to focus on changing another habit. Changing habits requires commitment and Sabr, but they serve only to benefit you and you have nothing to lose when replacing a bad habit with a good one.


[1] John Perry, The Art of Procrastination, p. 20

[2] Ibn Jawzi, Time Is Valuable, pp. 23-24

You can read the rest of this chapter in Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management. Access the full ebook here or grab the Self Help Bundle to get this and nine other life-changing ebooks today!

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Time Management, 0 comments