6 Precious Islamic Spiritual Lessons Learned in 2013

By Fatima Ariadne

Double facepalm!

I imagine you would scream, “what the heck, Fay? Isn’t it too late to make a new year resolution and making a contemplation about the passing 2013?”. I know, I know, guys. I blame all my lab bacteria who imprisoned me for tedious work LOL, and I’m not sure I can blog so frequently at this time. But please don’t be mad, it’s still New Year and not technically late :p.

But here I’m back again! Re-writing something that’s supposed to be published like in January 10th, 2014. I say it’s never too late to contemplate our passing ages.


Not a New Year Resolution…

“Our Light Shall Remains” — Fatima Ariadne photography! :)

Being the night owl, I slept after 1 AM almost every single day and maintain a strange sleep pattern. Hence, I wasn’t intentionally stayed awake pass midnight to expect a New Year momentum or fireworks. Still, I was lucky enough to catch some fireworks in neighborhood. Just exactly in 2012, I spent my new year eve on my dorm bedroom, and being in the second floor, I was very lucky I could watch colorful beautiful fireworks from my window for 40 minutes – directly!

Sometimes I wonder, why do people spend hell a lot in fireworks, trumpets, music stages, festivals, and new year resolution. Aren’t we supposed to change ourselves for better every single day, not just every 365 days? But that’s a fact about us humans : celebrations are reminders.

Like when muslims celebrating Mawleed, aren’t we supposed to praise and love our Prophet every single day, not just in a specified date? Though honestly, I love Mawleed for the only fact that that’s the day my beloved master Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born to this world. And the fact that it’s a national holiday here, I have a license to be a lazy bum for a day (Yay!).

But then, celebrations are sometimes powerful reminder, a small kick and wake up alarm on where we’ve been. And in this point we remember the journey we’ve marked throughout the time. I hope.

So here are the 6 lessons…..


1) Time is Scarce. Utilize It. Dare to be Imperfect.

Say hello to my lab pet…. Lactobacillus acidophilus, but we shall call them Lacto-BOO :>

All along 2013 I’ve been terribly slow and trapped into perfectionism. Now I’m chasing and racing with time to finish my Thesis, which is actually just 30% remained so I can bye-bye from graduate school. Truth be told, I’m pretty burnout with grad school and longing to pursue entrepreneurship, not being trapped in a 9-to-5 job subjugating to other people’s rules. In the other side, the whole family of mine pushing me to pursue “institutional” career, in order that my education is “not wasted”. I was thinking that if I would be in “institutional” career, it should be as a  scientist or related field. But entrepreneurship path is a MUST, no matter what.

Finally, through my perfectionism disease that slowing down my progress, I just painfully learned one thing : time is scarce to think too much. Indeed, failing to plan is planning to fail, but there is stark difference when you’re planning too much and trapped in analysis paralysis.

So now I just learn the courage to be imperfect. Plan sufficiently though it might not be “perfect” according to my meticulous logic, take action, and improve the lacking points from there.

Imam Shafi’ie once received a message from the Sufis : “Time is a sword. Use it to cut something, or it will cut you”. So much truth.

Ponder this : If you can turn back time and change the past, what will you change first?


2) Khushoo goes beyond a mere “concentration”

I often wonder about New Agers who said when they’re meditating, they feel like floating in Nirvana. True I’d sit for a while, do diaphragmatic breathing, silencing my mind and counting breath while listening to binaural beats audio or Solfeggio Harmonics to stimulate the relaxation state. But I actually felt like flying to empty outer space or woo-woo planet. Stress is gone, relaxing yes, but no colors or bubbles, leave alone Nirvana. Perhaps my expectation is just too high. But I still do this kind of meditation regularly for relaxation.

Having a very chatty mind, I had a difficulty doing all my prayers in a perfect khushoo (Divine mindfulness). I would be like, “ugh, what time is it now?”, “oh my gosh it’s too hot/cool/dusty/damp/whatever”, “oh no, shut up you silly butt, it’s already first raka’aah and you wanna fart now?? Oh sheesh here we go I’m gonna bow/rukoo I hope I’m not farting!”.

So to improve my Salaah quality, I approached it the way I approached my meditation : “silencing mind – counting breath – concentrating”. Truly it helps pretty much.

That was until God blessed me by giving me the understanding of Ihsan : “to serve God as if you see Him, and even if you can’t see Him, He always witnessing you”. And bam! Dhikr and salaah are no longer “silencing mind – counting breath – concentrating” activity anymore. Sure these three steps can aid you concentrating and bringing you khushoo – but the real khushoo is to actually feel the Divine presence to your mind and bone and letting Him possesses you. As if He’s standing in your room or make yourself and the whole existence disappear. Then you realize that you + others around you are 0 while God is 1.

After all, that’s why He is the only and single Absolute Reality.

Read here to get the same adventure!


3) Dhikr is Illumination

One day Sophia taught me this kind of silence dhikr, “remember Allah everywhere, silently, even when walking in the middle of crowd”. Honestly, this dhikr is kinda difficult sometimes. It’s easy to be distracted, to daydream randomly – to do anything that is not dhikr. But once it works out, it’s very serene – like discovering Nirvana. As if now you have a secret sanctuary no outward storm can shake, that is within your heart.

Have you ever heard the term “lucid dreaming”? It’s when you’re dreaming in your sleep, you realize that you’re dreaming. You’re conscious inside your dream that you are actually dreaming.

Now that the dreamer realized that he’s dreaming, he can do something outstanding in dream that can’t be done in waking life. Like flying, walking through wall, visiting a beautiful place, or just observing the unusual dream landscape around passively. The more experienced the lucid dreamer, he can go far to manipulating reality in his dream.

I’m lucky enough that I’m a natural lucid dreamer since childhood :D. I have floated to the zero-gravity space filled with stars, did operatic singing perfectly, playing difficult piano sonata, flying in sunset, seeing Aurora Borealis, and manipulating sky color or objects in dream during the lucidity. Lucid dream is a wonderful experience that many people and parapsychology researchers pursue it.

So what’s the message in this?

Your dhikr and remembrance to Allah is like that of Lucid Dream. This life is only a dream. When we chose to just be drowned in the ephemeral sea of dunya (worldly life), we are the sleepers. But when you’re conscious you’re “dreaming” in the middle of your dream, that’s a different story!

Dhikrullah is not just about counting recitations of praise to Allah. The true dhikrullah is actually to be mindful of that sleeping state in dunya and to be awaken from it, to realize that our true home is in Allah. And when Allah is with you, impossible becomes possible. Just like in lucid dreaming, you’ll be able to manipulate the dream reality wonderfully. (Talking about manipulating reality, the awliya or saints or friends of Allah are known to have unusual abilities for it, which often referred as “karamah”)

The essence of dhikrullah is awakening.


4) Kindness and compassion beautify life like no other

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, messaged :

“Kindness doesn’t enter anything unless it beautifies it, and it doesn’t leave something unless it tarnishes it”  (Sahih Muslim)

Have a bad day? Thinking to hit some Enya or Katy Perry on your mp3 player? Now now instead, how about trying them regularly whenever you can :

a) When you meet a beggar, a bum, or a needy, don’t just give them a cent then pass away. Actually wrap some quality food, the same food like what you would give yourself. Then give the food to them.

b) Whenever you meet someone in distress or adversity and you feel you cannot help them decently, commit to do some night prayer or Salaah Nafl to supplicate to Allah to ease them. When we’re supplicating for blessings for other people, the same blessings will actually fall back to ourselves too. Think like when you lit other candle with your candle. Your candle will not die out from sharing its light, and the room will be brighter than before.

“There is no believer praying for his brother behind his back, except the angels will say ‘(Amen) you will get the same’” (Sahih Muslim)

c) Practice a non-judgmental awareness and thinking. Practice judgment to empathy.

d) Hug a tree and say, “Praise be to God that you’re exist. Thank you for being strong and may God bless you with a good life”. Do this to other plants too that you’ve met if you can – without hugging, just supplicate for them and bless them.

Yes, trees and plants have consciousness. One day you might find that out after you do this practice regularly. I’m a tree hugger and plant whisperer, and I’m not ashamed to admit that.


5) Learn Islam’s sacred law. Learn spirituality. BOTH

Some people say they are more “spiritual than religious” and don’t get me wrong, maybe I’m kinda fit that category, oops! I was once trapped in a mindset of treating Islam as a merely a “checklist religion” – like, “this is lawful, this is obligation, this is unlawful”. But then I just realize, a body without spirit is a corpse and a spirit without body is a phantom (LOL sorry I can’t think about a better analogy ;)).

Think about it. Without khushoo, prostrating is no more than push-ups. Without love and heartfelt sharing, sex is nothing but bestial act. Without passion and imagination, human beings will be no different than programmed robots or walking processors.

Without a TRUE connection with Divinity and sincere willingness to SERVE the Higher Good for Him and others, religions will be nothing but a barren doctrine and “holier-than-thou” groupie move.

Body and spirit are two sides of the same coin. Ponder this saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), how futile the acts of physical worship that deprived of Divine consciousness, or spirituality, inside them :

“How many people do fasting, only get hunger and thirst (and nothing beyond it), and how many people do Night Prayers, only to be deprived of sleep (and nothing beyond it)” (Musnad Ahmad)

So my sincere suggestion is : be religious and be spiritual BOTH, and don’t be just one of them. I believe true spirituality is supposed to cleanse our soul from lower ego and evil inclinations, to strengthen our harmony with Divine and His creations, and of course to be assured that we get a better life in eternal life! — not just for a feel-good cotton candy on the moment.


6) Always keep your cup empty

Imam Malik once said, “saying I don’t know is half of knowledge”. But I’d prefer the saying of our master Muhammad (pbuh), “a good question is half of knowledge” (Sunan Bayhaqi).

But still, these two sayings carry the same soul. The former indicates humility, while the latter indicates curiosity. When your pride makes you satisfied with your own state now, you’ll be less inclined to learn more. You’ll be stagnating.

Unfortunately, I have met muslims who say “because such-and-such knowledge is not mentioned in Qur’an and Hadith, this is not valid and muslims should not learn it”. Man, that is just a no-no. The coordinates of map, the nervous system behind the eyes, fountain design, analog computer, glasses and lens, distillation technique, cataract operation, major-minor musical scale, and tumor operation are not mentioned in Qur’an and Hadith – but it was muslim scientists who developed them. Now we’re just wailing “why oh why we are now left behind from the West in term of science?”.

Many influential muslim figures in history are multi-talented. Avicenna is a philosopher, physician, physicist, and chemist. Ibn Qayyim Al Jawzee is both Islamic scholar and scientist (astronomer, psychologist, and chemist). Al Ghazali is a theologian, mystic, and philosopher, whose methodology was implemented by Thomas Aquinas to avert the Renaissance effect toward European Church. I could go on and on, but you can do your own research ;).

Now rant over. I remember a quote, “always think of yourself as a raw mango. If you think you’ve riped enough, then know that you’ll be rotten in no time!”. When we think we’re “high enough here”, we have decided to stop growing. The University of Universe is larger than what your five senses able to perceive. Fountain of wisdom never cease to spring for all the seekers who sought that.

And curiosity is the key to the knowledge you seek. Ask a better question and you’ll get a better answer :). Quoting Albert Einstein :

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”


Off-Topic RANT :

Now I truly feel stalked. Look at the number of this very post in WordPress, showing number 1111 :

I have shared story here how I always see 11:11 and twin numbers in a weird unexpected way, and it shows no signs to stop. Now as I’m typing this, my digital clock is showing 13:13. When I read book on Healing in cellphone it showed 11:11. I’d really like to rape the song “Jingle Bells” into “Jingle Numbers” now :p.

Thank you for reading my rant! (Now I’m back to analyzing Lacto-BOO -__-).

  1. 3 years ago

    Hi Fatima,
    Most important what I have learned is I love my creator , He is my Rab, who means everything to me, and when you love, you don’t count, you can go on and on, in anything … Prayer, dhikr.

  2. 2 years ago

    Assalaamu alaikum,
    My younger sister messaged me the link to this website telling me to ‘learn something’. And I am glad that Allah (Glorious is He) guided to your words. They are wonderful. And they reflect the wonderful – ness of you. I admire how you explained the things that Allah taught you and shared your knowledge. It is truly great to read your posts and I hope for you the best of this world and the next. Please continue the good work.
    Once again thank you for being who you are and for writing so beautifully. This was worth reading.

    P.S. about the jingle numbers – yeah it’s weird and it’s something even I came across a lot of time but then before drawing any conclusions I stopped and told myself ‘When I meet Allah, I’ll ask Him – that is if I remember.’ :D


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