Productivity Lessons from the Hijrah.


With the beginning of each Islamic year, our scholars and Imams remind us of the story of the momentous Hijrah (migration) of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companion Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) from Makkah to Medina which they undertook over 1400 Years ago. This Migration was a very special journey and a turning point for Islam and Muslims in that it was chosen to mark the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Although there are many lessons that one can extract from the Hijrah, I just wanted us to focus on some of the productivity-related lessons one can learn from the Hijrah.

Perhaps the first lesson that strikes me, and is often not talked about, is the difficulty and magnitude of the decision to migrate itself. We tend to think that this migration was a simple 3-day journey by camel between 2 cities, and don’t give much thought to its implications in those days. Living amidst the globalised tourist industry, we tend to forget the difficulty of taking a journey to a completely new territory which you’re not accustomed to the terrain, culture, or people. By all scales, the migration itself as an act was not that easy. How many of us are truly ready to leave our homes, our families, our businesses and just go to a new town and start from scratch?

So, the question is why? Why did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) migrate? The standard answer is that the migration occurred to escape persecution from Makkah and save the Prophet’s life (peace be upon him) from an evil assassination plot. But I believe there’s another reason, one that derives an important lesson about the Hijrah: staying in Makkah with the persecution from the Makkan people was unproductive for the Prophet (peace be upon him) because the environment was not conducive for the message which he (peace be upon him) carried, Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had to find a way out, he (peace be upon him) had to find a venue for his message to flourish. In essence, the migration was not about saving his life, but it was about saving the message and fulfilling his mission! The evidence of this is that immediately after reaching Madinah, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) didn’t relax but immediately went through an all-embracing process to establish a faithful and strong society by building a mosque, establishing a market, managing the politics of the new town, and so on.

So there’s a deep lesson here about the Hijrah that is subtle but important – it is that the Hijrah is a process of transfer to a better situation to enable you to be productive and active vicegerent on Earth.1 It is not meant to be a means to find a comfortable place where one would relax and stop being productive. Rather, it is a search for an environment more favorable to continuous and constructive productivity for Allah’s sake.

Think how you can apply the above to your life? What do you need to ‘migrate’ from in order to live a productive lifestyle in conformity with your purpose of worshipping Allah (Subhanhu wa Ta’ala)? It doesn’t have to be migration from place to place, but it could be migration from a non-halal job to a halal one, or migration from sins to repentance, or from evil deeds to good deeds.

The Pre-Planned Journey

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his companion Abu Bakr Al-Siddeeq (May Allah be pleased with him) went through a lot of preparation for this epic journey. They prepared their transportation, planned how to hide their tracks, hired a guide, and even appointed the people who’d bring them the news from Makkah and who would bring them the food each night.

One might ask: Why did the Prophet and His companion have to go plan so meticulously to go on this Hijrah? Wasn’t this Journey blessed by Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala)’s permission for the Prophet to migrate to Medina? Aren’t these the best of people in those times? Surely, Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) could have prepared for them a miracle of instant transportation to Medina like He did in the journey of Israa wal Mi’raaj?

Placing Your Trust In Allah

When we think of these questions, we realise, that this journey was not about the Prophet and his companion only, this journey was for us – the Muslims – to learn deep lessons from, to study from it and extract unforgettable lessons that apply to all times.

The Prophet and his companion prepared and took all the means to teach us the lesson that even being the best of mankind, even if you worship Allah, you need to use the means Allah has provided to achieve your goals in life. This indicates the need for action to fully trusting in Allah’s decree, in fact it’s part and parcel of believing in Allah’s decree. The above point is highlighted further in those precious moments where Abu Bakr Al-Siddeeq (May Allah be pleased with him) spent with the Prophet in that cave between Makkah and Medina. They were hiding there, but the Makkans were able to trace their tracks to the cave. When the Makkans approached the cave, Abu Bakr Al-Siddeeq started panicking saying: “O Prophet, if they look to their feet they’ll see us!” But the Prophet’s confident response was: Don’t be Afraid, Allah is with us”.

These powerful words should be on the tongue of every Muslim and Muslimah in any situation of difficulty he/she faces after you’ve exhausted all possible means.

Practical Lessons From The Hijrah

I want us to think about this practically, how we can apply this concept of balancing between taking the means and trusting in Allah in our lives? This requires a special mindset that comes with training and constantly self-evaluating your actions. When you have goals, you need to force yourself to prepare the utmost whilst at the same time praying and pleading to Allah as if you’ve no means at all.

I remember once I was given an extremely challenging task at work, I did my utmost and worked hard to surmount the task but at the same time I started praying to Allah to make it easy and finish it on time, and subhanAllah it all went smoothly. You honestly taste the sweetness of true tawakkul when you strike this balance between taking the means and trusting in Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).

The Measuring Stick of Justice

One final beautiful lesson from the Hijrah is the instruction that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave to his cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (May Allah be pleased with him) asking him to return the ‘Trusts’ that were with the Prophet to the rightful people in Makkah. I had to stop at this and really imagine the situation to understand the magnitude of this act of honesty.

Imagine you’re in a town where most people don’t like you, they make lies about you and they want to kill you. But they also trust you with all their precious goods. On the night you are about to leave, you could potentially take ‘revenge’ for all the pain and suffering they caused you, instead you actually return these goods to them! What does that teach us? What does that tell us about our attitude to the Non-Muslims even when they harm us?

It teaches us that our measuring stick in Islam is Justice, not our whims and desires or revenge or hatred. We do justice even to our worst enemies and this is how we become servants of Allah instead of servants of our desires. We become truly the Best of All Nations when we apply such principles in our lives.

These were some of the productivity lessons from the beautiful Hijrah, I hope we can learn from them and apply them to our lives so we can have a true turning point within ourselves just like the Prophet and His Companions did after the Hijrah. Thinking back to the Hijrah, what other lessons of productivity have you come across? Share your thoughts with us below!

12 Super Sunnahs We Should Seriously Begin to Follow


Quick question to refresh our minds: who was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? As Muslims, we believe he was the last and final messenger of the Creator to mankind. His life is an example for generations after generations until the end of time on how to live in a pure and humble way, with the worship of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) the Creator as our purpose and pivotal role.

The word “sunnah” is used to describe the life and teachings of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The sunnah is an ultimate guidance for leading a productive, successful life. Sometimes we neglect the sunnah, however, and we find ourselves googling “how to be successful/smart/productive”, while the sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has provided us with gems on how to do just that. Better yet, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Whoever revives my Sunnah then he has loved me. And whoever loved me, he shall be with me in Paradise.” [Tirmidhi]5

Not only for our personal gain but out of love for our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), we should try to live our life by the sunnah as much as possible. We should be active in learning about the life of the final messenger to mankind ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). While engaging in knowing about the life of a person, your love and respect for him grow. Similarly, when learning about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), you will find hundreds of stories, attributes and habits that will be beneficial for your life if implemented, In sha Allah.

In this article, we will discuss 12 sunnahs of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that we must aim to revive, In sha Allah, in hopes of increasing our productivity, and seeking the company of the beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in the Hereafter.

1. Sleeping and waking up early2

Our sleeping pattern plays a great role in our ability to function effectively during the day. The hours after Fajr are among the most blessed of the day. Starting the day off by praying the morning salah sets you in the right frame of mind to be the best you can be throughout the day. However, in order to rise in the early hours it is imperative to sleep early as your body requires an adequate amount of rest.

Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him):

“He used to sleep early at night, and get up in its last part to pray, and then return to his bed.” [Bukhari]

When you have a million things to do, it is easy to fall into a horrible cycle of sleeping late and waking up late. Due to our failure to wake up early, one day extends into the next in order to finish your list of tasks. Break that cycle today! Wake up early and sleep early to be the strong, successful you that you want to be, In sha Allah.

2. Having a pleasant smile always

Ibn Jaz reports: “I have not seen anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).”[Tirmidhi]

Smiling has been shown to increase the natural antidepressant hormone, serotonin, causing the one who wears a smile to be happier. We underestimate the power of a smile on both ourselves and those around us. This characteristic is highly contagious and plays a massive role in building relationships with those around you. A positive mind and attitude is irreplaceable in the quest to be productive and achieve your goals in life. Smiling is a simple, inexpensive act that helps lift your mood and make you feel more grateful and content since our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was seen frequently doing it. So, let’s follow along this great sunnah. Consciously take note of your usual facial expression: is your normal expression a happy one or do you always appear sad, exhausted, preoccupied or frustrated? It will take a bit of regular effort, but you can cut down on the frowning, smile more often and spread joy and peace around you as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) instructed.

3. Using the siwak

Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“If it were not that it would be difficult on my nation, then I would have ordered them to use the siwak for each prayer.” [Tirmidhi]

This hadith indicates the view of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) towards the siwak. Siwak comes from the Salvadora persica tree and has many anti-bacterial qualities, making it a great way to maintain hygiene of the mouth. It can be said, given how often the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would have liked us to use the siwak, that there is a big emphasis on maintaining oral hygiene. It is narrated that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would use siwak upon waking. The teeth are delicate and when problems occur can cause tremendous amount of pain, so this sunnah introduces preventative measures against a problem that can have you rolled up in bed for days. Siwak is easily purchasable and relatively cheap, making it an easy sunnah to uphold. It keeps the mouth clean and fresh naturally and effortlessly all the time.

Abdur-Rahman bin Abu ‘Atiq said: “My father told me: ‘I heard ‘Aishah say, (narrating) from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): “Siwak is a means of purification for the mouth and is pleasing to the Lord.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]

4. Oiling hair

I heard Jabir bin Samurah being asked about the grey hairs of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He said: ‘If he put oil on his head they could not be seen, but if he did not put oil on his head, they could be seen.’” [An-Nasa’i]

The act of oiling is something many of us do not recognise to be a part of the sunnah. This hadith alludes to the idea of using oil to prevent grey hairs being visible, highlighting that the sunnah of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) encompasses every aspect of life. Oiling hair on a regular basis prevent hair loss and greying, promotes strong and lustrous hair by strengthening hair protein and rejuvenates and relaxes the mind by soothing the brain’s nerves and capillaries. We seek all this by spending a great deal of money at hairdressers and spas, yet this simple sunnah can save us a great deal of money, time and effort whilst we continue to live like our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

5. Maintaining the 1/3rd rule in eating

Miqdam bin Madikarib said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) say:

‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]

It is an underestimated fact that food has a dramatic effect on your body’s and brain’s performance. This hadith clearly highlights that overeating is a reprehensible quality we should stay away from. However, it is also important to remember that undereating is equally as harmful to a person. In order to function, we need to have a balanced outlook towards our meals; your level of food consumption should not leave you feeling tired or bloated as this is a state that leads to laziness, which is a vice we seek refuge in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) from.

Can you conquer the world by sleeping? No. So, eat a nutritious, balanced meal that is sufficient in suppressing your hunger.

6. Speaking good or keeping silent

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“He who believes in Allah and the Hereafter, if he witnesses any matter he should talk in good terms about it or keep quiet.” [Muslim]4

We often find ourselves in situations where we sit and talk about things that do not concern us. We waste precious minutes, even hours, just by talking about matters that will not increase us in knowledge, character or anything for that matter. When speaking ill of a person or situation, the conversation becomes elongated, sadly due to the desire to gossip. The beauty of this particular sunnah is that it will help you save time and reduce the amount of energy used to contemplate over irrelevant matters being discussed. This energy and time could be well spent on something beneficial, such as reading Qur’an or doing vital tasks, or only speaking things that benefit oneself and others in dunya and akhirah.

7. Doing hijama (cupping)

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“If there is any healing in your medicines, then it is in cupping, a gulp of honey or branding with fire (cauterization) that suits the ailment, but I don’t like to be (cauterized) branded with fire.” [Bukhari]

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would be cupped on a regular basis. This form of treatment has been used throughout history in a number of countries. The benefits of cupping are vast, including the removal of toxins within the blood. Studies have shown cupping to be beneficial in the treatment of migraines, fertility and joint pains. This can be taken as a therapeutic measure against stress, helping to relieve a person of thoughts that impinge on their ability to complete their daily tasks.

8. Visiting the sick

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and set free the captives.” [Bukhari]

The concept of looking out for others is found throughout the teachings of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Sadly, we are regularly aware of people within our circle of acquaintances who are tested with an illness, big or small. Visiting and spending time with them has two major benefits. You demonstrate love towards another, instantly tightening the bonds of kinship/friendship. Also, to see someone who is unable to function as well as they normally can, is a strong reminder to us all of the blessing of health that we currently have and take for granted. The next time you hear of someone who is ill, try your best to go beyond sending them a ‘get well soon’ and practice a forgotten sunnah: make the effort to be physically present and comfort them.

9. Sitting when eating/drinking

It was narrated from Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him): “The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) prohibited that a man should drink while standing.” (Qatadah said) So it was said: “And eating?” He (Anas) said: “That is worse.” [Tirmidhi]

Those who stand to eat or drink always look like they are in a rush. Sitting down to eat slows a person in their eating habits, reducing the amount they are likely to eat and the unhealthy speed by which they do so. As mentioned above, eating consciously prevents a person from becoming fatigued due to their stomach size. Importantly, eating together as a family, which requires you to sit, is a crucial way to build relationships.

10. Sleeping on your right side

“When Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went to bed, he used to sleep on his right side.”[Bukhari]

One of the main points to consider when a person wants to have a productive, blessed day is to look at how you go to sleep. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the most successful in how he spent his days; the way in which he took to his sleep plays a role in helping him to be like this. Following in his footsteps is the key to unlocking a fruitful morning.

11. Saying Salam/Bismillah before entering a house

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“If a person mentions the Name of Allah upon entering his house or eating, Satan says, addressing his followers: ‘You will find nowhere to spend the night and no dinner.’ But if he enters without mentioning the Name of Allah, Satan says (to his followers); ‘You have found (a place) to spend the night in, and if he does not mention the Name of Allah at the time of eating, Satan says: ‘You have found (a place) to spend the night in as well as food.”‘ [Muslim]

None of us want shaytan to enter our homes; we are aware of the distractions he creates to lead to our destruction. That being said, it is fundamentally important to seek refuge from his evil ways. Upon entering our homes, it is crucial to utter the Name of Allah to prevent our doors being open for him. shaytan is an enemy of productivity and success; his ultimate goal is to see us fail in our journey to develop a relationship with Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Take the measures, as given in the sunnah, against him because he will squeeze into whatever gap visible to him. Never let the enemy win!

12. Untying the three knots

Waking up for Fajr is a battle many of us have experienced or are experiencing. The hours of the morning, as mentioned above, are a blessed time for being productive in studying and completing various tasks. The sad reality is, many of us miss out on this because we fail to wake up for Fajr on time.

Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“During your sleep, Satan knots three knots at the back of the head of each of you, and he breathes the following words at each knot, ‘The night is, long, so keep on sleeping,’ If that person wakes up and celebrates the praises of Allah, then one knot is undone, and when he performs ablution the second knot is undone, and when he prays, all the knots are undone, and he gets up in the morning lively and in good spirits, otherwise he gets up in low spirits and lethargic.” [Bukhari]

This hadith sets out the plan of action to be successful: wake up, praise Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), perform wudu and pray fajr. Being lively and in good spirits are the perfect ingredients to having a productive day, and this is what you will achieve when you follow this sunnah, In sha Allah.

How blessed are we that our religion teaches us about all the ingredients of a successful life? Alhamdulillah!

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Courage!


By Sister S Bemath

Many of us are poor imitations of what we ought to be . . .

It is a fact of life that all successful people have one trait in common—courage. Without it there is little hope for achievement and fulfilment. We can never be our true selves until we learn to be courageous. Courage enables us to face difficulty, danger or pain in a way that allows us to maintain control over a situation. We can build courage by identifying things that frighten or challenge us and thinking of strategies for coping with them. We can also build courage by remembering that nothing can harm us unless ALLAH wills it and nothing can benefit us unless ALLAH wills it. Many of us are poor imitations of what we ought to be, our actions often governed by other people’s opinions—hardly a satisfactory way to control one’s destiny.

So what is courage and how can it transform the routine lives most of us seem to lead? It is not just mastering of fear. Courage requires us to remain steadfast in our beliefs. It asks that we stand by the convictions we express and never give in an inch, no matter what the cost. It can be likened to taking a blank sheet of paper and writing the first sentence of novel; to saying “No” when “Yes” is so much easier. It is the force which thrusts life onwards. It is to be cultivated and nurtured. If you know what you want to do with your life, take your first step forward today. Deep down most us know what we want, we simply lack the courage to take that first step, so we procrastinate. And, together with indecision, procrastination can prevent you from ever achieving anything.

Once you know what you want, make up your mind to look ahead—with courage. Some people are always planning to do great things; they declare they know exactly what they want and how to go about it. Yet somehow they never get started; never get past the preparatory stage because fear enters the picture. They lack the courage to step into the unknown. If you are such a person, make up your mind to put fear behind you, to go ahead, to make decisions. When you’ve made your decision, it’s time for action. Pluck up your courage and ACT! DON’T let yourself down.

Let me give you a practical illustration. Let’s assume you feel you should be promoted. You work hard and keep hoping. But that’s not good enough. Your employer probably takes it for granted that you’re satisfied, so it’s up to you to set the wheels in motion concerning your future. Speak to your employer. Ask to consider you for a better position when one is available. Be bold. Explain why you deserve promotion. If your employer refuses even to consider your request you must either accept the situation or look for another job which will give you the opportunities you’re looking for.

No matter how difficult it may seem. Make the choice to live consciously. Do not succumb to that half-conscious realm of fear-based thinking, filling your life with distractions to avoid facing what you feel in those silent spaces between your thoughts. Either exercise your human endowment of courage and progressively build strength to face your deepest, darkest fears to live as the empowered being you truly are, or admit that your fears are too much for you, and embrace life as a mouse. But make this choice consciously and with full awareness of its consequences. If you are going to allow fear to win the battle for your life, then proclaim it the victor and forfeit the match. If you simply avoid living consciously and courageously, then that is equivalent to giving up on life itself, where your continued existence becomes little more than a waiting period before physical death—the nothing as opposed to the daring adventure of life.

Courage, according to the Qur’aan Kareem, requires fearing nothing and no one other than ALLAH; not hesitating to act in the way which conforms the nearest to ALLAH’S good pleasure, and showing determination. Amongst the most important characteristics of the faithful are that they do not give up when faced with difficulty, and fear nothing and no one but ALLAH. They know that there is no power other than HE. This fosters courage in them, to overcome any kind of fear. An example of such exemplary behaviour is given in the Qur’aan Kareem:

(It is the practice of those) who preach the Messages of ALLAH, and fear HIM, and fear none but ALLAH: And ALLAH suffices as a Reckoner.(Qur’aan 32, Verse 39)

Don’t give up without embracing the daring adventure your life is meant to be. You may go broke. You may experience failure and rejection repeatedly. You may endure multiple dysfunctional relationships. But these are all milestones along the path of a life lived courageously. They are your private victories, carving a deeper space within you to be filled with an abundance of joy, happiness, and fulfilment.

A rose only becomes beautiful and gives fragrance when it opens up and blooms. Its greatest tragedy is to stay in a tight-closed bud, never fulfilling its potential… So, recognize your potential and utilize them. That is strength undefeatable!

Look Beyond The Packaging. How to Choose a Husband,Wife or Friend.


Is his hair nicely styled? Is he the perfect height? Are his dimples so cute when he smiles?

 

Is her makeup just right? Does her body have the perfect curves? Do her feet arch perfectly in those killer high heels?

 

This is packaging, it’s irrelevant.

 

American, Pakistani, Arab, African, black, white, this is a veneer. These qualities are insignificant by any true, spiritual standard. When you’re feeling ill and are curled up in bed, it’s not an Arab or American who holds your hand and tells you that it will be okay, who takes your temperature and cools your forehead with a towel, who makes you chicken soup with lemon… it’s a human being, a husband or wife who loves you.

 

We must get beyond superficial and meaningless classifications like race and nationality. In one of the most powerful condemnations of tribalism that I have ever read, the Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, in a hadith narrated by At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud,

 

“There are people who boast of their dead ancestors; but they are more contemptible in the sight of Allah than the black beetle that rolls dung with its nose. Behold, Allah has removed from you the arrogance of the time of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) with its boasting of ancestral glories. Man is but a God-fearing believer or a miserable sinner. All people are the children of Adam, and Adam was made from dust.”

 

And about the impulse to nationalism and racism in general, he said, “Leave it, it is rotten.” (Agreed upon).

 

Alright, how about this: That guy wanting to court you, is his Armani suit cut just right? Are his shoes sleek and stylish?

 

That woman who caught your eye, does her dress drape elegantly on her figure?

 

You know what? That Armani suit can’t stand on its own. It needs a hangar to stay upright. That elegant dress can’t raise your children right.

 

We must learn to look beyond appearances. I’m not saying that appearance is irrelevant, but how much of our attraction is based on true human beauty, and how much is based on distorted standards and poisonous imagery pumped into our brains by TV, movies, and advertising? In other words, to what degree have we been brainwashed?

 

The world of advertising teaches us to focus on the wrong things. Consultants are paid millions to design the perfect package for a box of cereal or an energy drink, just the right shape and bright color to catch your eye and entice you to open your wallet. Meanwhile, the product – likely as not – is actually bad for you, consisting of sugar, salt, chemicals and dyes. These advertisers are teaching us to make choices based on packaging and image.

 

What they are teaching us is entirely ruinous and wrong.

 

Human beings are not consumer products. We’re not disposable. When you marry someone you’re in it for the long haul. You’re with them when they wake up in the morning with crust in their eyes and hair pressed to one side of the their head; when they get laid off from work because the company is “downsizing”, and you don’t know how the bills will get paid next month; when they’re depressed, tired, sick; when they make mistakes, when they say and do the wrong things, when they lose their temper, when they’re afraid or insecure…

 

This is as serious as it gets. This is life, and a shiny but empty package won’t get you through it, won’t help on you the path, won’t hold you up when you’re weak, or make you laugh when you’re down. The package can’t do that. Remember that when you buy something, the package ends up in the trash. If you choose someone for the package only, you may be bitterly disappointed when the storm comes and no one is there to shelter you, or to hold.

 

These are lessons learned through heartache and disappointment.

 

Look deeper. Find a gentle and honest heart, a strong backbone, a striving spirit. Look to what the person does, how they live, how they treat people, how they relate to the Almighty. Look to that shimmering soul inside, and discern whether it’s a selfish and bitter soul, or loving and true. Look beyond the packaging to the core, and trust your God-given instincts, and you’ll find yourself a rare happiness, a precious partnership, or a true friend.

 

The most beautiful, powerful things in the world don’t come in disposable packages. Mountains, trees, ocean, sky, stars… their true attributes are bared to the world. They don’t need packages because they are stunning and profound in their essence.

 

By basing your life choices on matters of substance, you’ll avoid social and financial traps that ruin so many. You’ll build friendships as real and solid as mountains, with people you can trust with your reputation, your heart and your life. You’ll do work that matters, and leave a legacy that improves people’s lives in unforgettable ways.~*