From the Heart, Home

A Little Reflection

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“I really wanted to keep it”, I admitted to my friend, H.

The cake he had sent for my birthday was too much for me to eat by myself. With the current pandemic restrictions and a messed-up schedule due to Ramadan, it was obvious that I couldn’t really have friends over to celebrate with me. I wondered if I could perhaps share a few slices with the security guard downstairs at the reception. That should work, I thought. I quickly grabbed my phone and dialed his number.

After exchanging the initial greetings and informing him about my name, I said, “It’s my birthday today.”

“It’s mine, too!”, he excitedly said.

“No way!”

“What a coincidence! We share the same birthday”, he confirmed that he was not joking about it.

“I’ll see you down in five minutes, yeah?”, I said and hung up.

I didn’t think much after that. I grabbed my Abaya and Tarha and lazily wrapped it around my body. The cake was still on the tabletop, uncut. I lifted the box, slid into my slippers and got out of my room. I went down and he was there, smiling as always, waiting to say: Assalam u alaykom.

“Walaykum salam. Happy birthday!”

“You too”, he said.

We carefully took the cake out of the box. I let him cut it even though it had my name on it. It didn’t matter who did the cake cutting. We sang the happy birthday song together and the little ceremony was done. He told me that there were few other guards on duty for the night in adjacent buildings and he could share the cake with them. I cut a large slice and he helped me place it on a tissue paper. I wished him good night and walked back up with only that slice in the palm of my hand.

I had done a good thing.

But, when I returned to my room and began storing that slice in the refrigerator, my heart sank. I wondered if I could instead have kept half the cake for myself and only given the other half to the guard. After all, it was my favorite flavor: rich chocolate with loads of nuts and creamy chocolate frosting. It was Ramadan, the month of sharing happiness. And, I knew for a fact that sharing the cake had certainly made the guard happy. But, why was I having second thoughts?

It was greed. The feeling of parting with something I loved didn’t sit right with me.

I told about it to my friend, H, and he jokingly said, “Today, you gave it away. Tomorrow, you are going to crave for cake again and order one from Sweet Truth Bakery.”

Umm, no. I think this slice will satisfy that craving and I won’t have it again”, I texted back.

My mind was still stuck at one question though: Could I have possibly taken a greater portion for myself?

The cake was a gift sent exclusively for me. There’s no harm in actually wanting to keep it for myself. I decided to distract myself for a while and began doing other things.

It was getting late and I hadn’t prayed Taraweeh. I realized that I couldn’t postpone it any longer or sleep would dominate my plans. Since mosques are closed this year due to the pandemic and no taraweeh prayers are held in a congregation, I decided to pray Taraweeh at home by reading from the Qur’an. I got up, made wudu, laid the Sajjadah in the direction of Qiblah, and took the Qur’an out of its holder. It was the 4th day of Ramadan and I was due to begin with the 4th Juz. I had just finished reciting Surah Fatihah and flipped open the Mushaf, allowing the bookmarker to guide me to the fourth Juz. I began reciting the introductory verse.

aaa

I was in the middle of Salah. I couldn’t believe the timing of this verse! I stared at it for as long as I could.

Ramadans have come and gone and with each Ramadan, I have mostly achieved reading the Quran end to end. I can’t remember the number of times that I have read the fourth chapter, alhamdulillah. But, this time, the verse sounded different, as though directly speaking to me, putting my dilemma to rest, once and for all. SubhanAllah! Had I not experienced the feeling of greed to keep it all and the stinginess to share such a big portion of a delicious cake, I would move on to the next Ayah in my scurry to complete recitation.

The word Al-Birra [الْبِرَّ] is from the root ba-ra-ra which means a forest or a dry land. A forest or a dry land is vast. Therefore, Al-Birr is such good deed which is enormous in its size. It is not used for a small deed. It also means fulfilling one’s right. This word was used for Yahya [John] ‘alayhi salaam in Surah Mariam ayah 14, wabarran bilwalideini … [And dutiful to his parents.]” (19: 14)

Source: VerseByVerseQuran

Bir is not just achieved by praying, fasting, being dutiful to one’s parents and giving in charity. It’s also about spending, for the sake of Allah, from that which you love. To me, at that moment, it was the cake that I had found so hard to give away not knowing that the reward would be much greater for doing so.

It’s easier to part away with old clothes, used shoes, and leftover food. There’s not much value associated in those possessions as we easily can replace them with better ones. But, imagine, if the outfit you bought for yourself for Eid is the one that you had to give away in charity? Would you do it without giving it much thought or would you find an excuse?

The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another.” [Al-Bukhari]

We don’t mind giving expensive gifts to our friends and family because, deep down, we know we will, most likely, get back equally valuable gifts from them. As much as Islam encourages gift exchanges to spread love among loved ones, it is certainly not the same as charity. Charity is given, for the sake of Allah, hoping no return or reward from anyone except Allah. It does not have to be to a needy person. Your family qualifies for charity. Any Muslim you interact with qualifies. After all, charity is not just parting with wealth. Even a simple smile is considered charity.

“Smiling in the face of your brother is charity … and pouring out from your bucket into your brother’s bucket is charity.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)

But, it’s easier to smile than part with our cherished possessions. And, that’s why, among some of the specific actions that constitute Birr (Righteousness/Piety) in Islam, spending in the way of Allah from what you love weighs so heavily.

I pray that Allah accepts our good deeds, the ones we easily do and the ones we struggle to achieve.

It’s beautiful how the Qur’an is a book full of reminders giving us comfort by its words when we need it. It speaks to each of us in unique ways answering the questions that we have not yet openly asked its writer. Generations have come and gone, books have been replaced as they each eventually lost their charm and relevance, but the Qur’an remains: unchanged.

A little reflection is all it takes. Let it speak to you. Let it heal you.

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