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Equal yet Unique

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I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Bruce Lee

I noticed that my exercise habits usually break during Ramadan and that I have to spend quite a while afterwards regaining it. At the end of the day, muscles require nutrition to repair itself after exercise so it makes little sense for me to continue during the month if I’m not eating or drinking anything. However, the fact that I break that habit of exercising isn’t healthy for me either, so this Ramadan I tried to find a way to keep it alive.

I wanted a way of exercising that wasn’t intense, and so after some thought I considered focusing on flexibility because this can prevent injury. That lead to the idea that instead of focusing on intensity, I could instead focus on what it means to have technique. That lead me to look up martial arts videos on YouTube (Wing Chun specifically) because I’ve heard that a lot of it requires technique in order to execute. This doesn’t replace live lessons from a teacher of course, but at the end of the day I was after keeping a habit alive more so than anything else.

Alhamdulillah, I found it really interesting to see how form could change everything. Even in the simplest lessons like punching and kicking, you might think that stronger muscles might lead to better punches, but when I moved slowly, I could see where my technique was restricting me. Like when I did a static kick, I could tell that when I raised my leg, I began to lose balance. Noticing that, I focused my attention on making sure that if I kick then I’m stable throughout. I’d consider how different movements would make me feel in order to get a good idea of the most comfortable way of kicking. Every now and again I’d get restless and try to kick fast just to see how it felt like, but I eventually realised that by stabilising my balance, my kicks felt far stronger than before–with less effort. So too did my confidence in ability increase, motivating me to do more.

What was just as interesting was the change in my mindset. If I focused on intensity, I thought about how well I could do that one kick, restless to move onto another. In contrast, when I focused on technique and practiced it repeatedly, I began thinking about how I could manipulate this kick in different situations. I found this so enlightening because I realised that the latter was promoting creativity.

It got me thinking. You can see this anywhere, from the most basic things to the most complex. Complex algebraic equations require a solid understanding of algebra. You struggle to run if you struggle to walk. Someone who knows ten thousand kicks might not be able to use any of them at all.

I believe that when Bruce Lee said that he feared the one who practiced one kick ten thousand times, it wasn’t only because it was going to hurt more and have a higher chance of being successfully executed, it was also because that one kick when honed became unique to the individual, unpredictable and so significantly more difficult for the one receiving it to defend against. From this reflection and others I’ve considered, it seems as that potential rests within strength, and creativity and diversity rests within technique. The stronger you are, the more you can go for, but it’s within technique that you can learn to effectively make use of that strength and open up an entirely different world of opportunities.

And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and that which they construct. (68) Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down.” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colours, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought. (69)

Quran 16:68-69

Do you recognise this relationship between strength and technique within your own lives, and if so, how? Likewise, feel free to share your perspective if you see it differently from the way I do. After all, maybe there’s a better explanation than what I’ve provided.

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Disciplined Desires

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… And among the people is he who says, “Our Lord, give us in this world,” and he will have in the Hereafter no share. (200) But among them is he who says, “Our Lord, give us in this world good and in the Hereafter good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (201) Those will have a share of what they have earned, and Allah is swift in account. (202)

Quran 2:200-202

There are desires that must not be entertained, desires that can, and desires that should. When those that can be entertained are done without excess, it can become good for us. This is possible so long as you’re certain of two: accepting that it provides no direct benefit and that you are okay without it. When these points are met, what was at first permissible can also become good.

Through this I’ve found that you’ll be able to draw the line between comfort and excess of. Use your phone because you choose to and be at ease at the notion that you didn’t need to. It becomes excessive when you use it out of feel of need; you’ll recognise this when you find yourself using it because you know you couldn’t resist, you felt unnecessarily drawn to it. If you choose to indulge in it for extended periods of time then you might find yourself feeling bad, empty. When combined with hard times, it can sometimes feel like all the burdens of life suddenly come rushing back in. Like you might watch television because you don’t want to have to face life, and when you’ve run out of options of what to watch, you realise that life was still there waiting for you, and you absolutely hate it. This is excess.

There is a fine print to do with comforts to consider which is that every comfort inclines toward excess over time–no one willingly chooses hardship over ease without good reason. If we can’t recognise when our desires start to become excessive, we can lie to ourselves and allow these comforts to destroy us rather than helping us forward, but this provides no advantage. Instead, it’s a weakness that makes us a slave to whoever threatens it. This can be pushed to a point whereby it’s destruction will also become yours, and everything in this world has to disappear one day.

I believe this may possibly be one of the reasons why acts of charity can be so fulfilling and helpful to counteracting these disadvantages. You distance or remove yourself from something before it’s allowed to become excessive. When you can find and hold healthy attachments to whatever and whoever is in this world, you walk upon the Earth rather than in it. This means that although it’s changes can affect you, you rise above it all. When you can find and hold onto what isn’t a characteristic of this world, it’s as though nothing can harm you. And I believe the rope of Allah is the strongest of ropes.

Conquering Worry

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… we create a situation that promises victory, but as the moment and method cannot be fixed beforehand, the plan must be modified according to the circumstances.

The Art of War; Preliminary Reckoning

Whenever we make decisions, we can never truly guarantee the result we wish from it. We feel like we might not have the right skills or lack the necessary information. It might be that we’re confronted with multiple options and that we want our choice to be the best out of all possibilities. When we can’t do that, we tell ourselves that we want the decision to be free from mistakes or weaknesses.

We face situations we’re uncertain of far more often than not, and it won’t change to fit us whenever we want it to; you can’t ask the sun to come out on a certain day, nor can you decide exactly how someone reacts and when. If Allah allows it then alhamdulillah, but we can’t plan for unforeseen events or else they wouldn’t be unforeseen.

For every matter is a decree from Allah that can’t be changed without His will, yet we shouldn’t forget that He’s also commanded us to make use of what He’s given us. We trust in Allah, but we also remember to do our part.

And when My servants ask you concerning Me–indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.

Quran 2:186

Due to this uncertainty, I believe it’s more accurate to say that knowledge doesn’t lead to good decisions, instead it reduces the uncertainty and hardship resulting from it. When it comes to our responses to any given situation, I’ve noticed that we focus on the aspect of knowledge, on making absolutely sure that any decision we make is an educated and informed one, the best at that. It’s been said once that knowing is half the battle. We tend to accept and emphasise this, yet neglect that the other half is in its execution; in our ability to make any decision we make a good one after it’s been made.

When we only consider the preparations and not the ability that’s required after, then worry ensues. Regret. Helplessness. Every decision is unnecessarily drawn out until it feels like every decision is a bad one. Consequently, we become afraid to make any. After a while, we become afraid to do anything at all because life is full of little decisions to which we’ve become too tired to make any.

A few reasons come to mind behind why we‘d make any sort of decision. The most well known is to ensure that we choose one that reaps much good whilst minimising the bad that comes from it. The second is to create and make known the opportunities that are available to us. Another is so that we remain fully aware of the actions we’ve made for purpose of reflection and improvement, even if the decision be one of inaction. When we can recognise that decisions do more for us than just preventing loss and achieving the best, life becomes a lot easier on the shoulders. If this isn’t helping me, then my next step would usually be ask to myself why my shoulders were so heavy in the first place: what did I stand to lose such that I’d prefer to be blind of my surroundings and my own self?

Have you come across anything that you feel helps ease your worries? I’d love to hear your insights and suggestions.

Seeking the Balance

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Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “The deeds of anyone of you will not save you (from the Hellfire).” They said, “Even you, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)?” He said, “No, [not] even I unless and until Allah bestows His Mercy on me. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target.

Hadith: Al Bukhari; 6463

For every matter there’s a balance, a right to be fulfilled. We’re neither excessive nor deficient, instead steadily moving on. It’s through this moderation that we find efficiency, in that efficiency we find ease, in that ease energy for expanding our potential.

Amongst the commonly misunderstood concepts, it’s that of fear and hope. Hope is a light, yet too much puts us under the illusion of certainty, making us reckless. Fear is uncomfortable, but it makes us run. Too much hope for Heaven without fear of Hell will allow that danger to catch up or have him blindly straying into it. He who fears Hell without hope of Heaven will run without destination, from one fire into another until he finally gives up. The moderating right in this is through belief of the Last Day. It’s that we neither focus on Heaven nor Hell, but on the records of our lives that will act as proof for or against us in the Hereafter. It’s to look towards what takes hope away, grounding ourselves in hope against what we fear.

For every matter there’s a balance, a right to fulfilled. By Allah’s will, he who comes to know them and acts accordingly will find success both in this world and the Hereafter.

But seek through that which Allah has given you the home of the Hereafter; and do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.”

Quran 28:77

A Little Big Thing

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Alhamdulillah, it’s almost Eid! Alongside the month of Ramadan, they both always feels like a much needed vacation. Allahu akbar. I’d love to make a post one day about how great the month always feels. It’s like you spend the entire month with less, yet striving to do more good. It can get you to focus and become more efficient. When you look back, sometimes you can find yourself wondering how it all ever happened.

Whilst we’re talking about looking back, I’d like to ask for your forgiveness of my faults and weaknesses, if I’ve ever upset you or caused any distress. It’s always difficult to tell how a post may come across as.

Anyhow, I wanted to spend this post sharing some of the things about my blogging style. I’m so fortunate to have come across so many different types of blogs already that I’ve drawn good from. Insha’allah I feel it’d be nice to share some of the things I’ve been doing with my blog too every now and again, in case anyone else can learn from it and apply to theirs like I’ve been doing.

Consistency

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:“Take on only as much as you can do of good deeds, for the best of deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little.

Hadith: Sunan Ibn Majah

The practice I’d like to share today is to do with the consistency of my posts. As tempting as it is to post what I write straight away, I’ve been keeping three day intervals between each post. In theory, the idea is that these rest days are almost like my way of reminding myself and saying to others, “Right, your turn. Your stories are just as important as mine in all this, so I want to hear what you have to say too.” Whether I end up switching from every three to two days is up in the air, though I don’t think I’d like to post every day, so that I can keep that spirit and mentality of actively listening to others alive.

Maintaining this consistency has its advantages. These intervals give me an idea of how long I should make each post and when I’m trying too hard. For that reason, when I feel like sharing a lot in one go, I break down all the things that were great about that moment into multiple different lessons from other parts of my life, so it stops me from being perfectionist about everything. Quick drafts where I can instantly say, “Yeah, this is something I’d be okay with posting with its flaws”. This also means that I can have multiple posts lined up in advance.

I figure this sort of style can make my posts feel mechanical and detached, so one way I try to prevent this from happening is by editing it one last time shortly before the schedule to keep the writing fresh. If I make any noticeable content changes to what I’ve written, then I prefer to ask myself why. It provides a really nice balance between reason and emotion in my posts. I also have to accept though that posting in advance means that I’ll always be that one guy who’s always late to everything if I ever want to comment on something contemporary, but the bright side of it is that I’ll only ever talk about them if I can provide a fresh, useful perspective on matters. Technically, I could bump a post to the front of the line, but I like it this way. It makes me proactive rather than reactive, it keeps me moving ahead.

One final plus I’d like to mention is about when I’ve completed a post. That remaining time until they’ve all been posted allows me to do and focus more elsewhere, like spending time with my family or visiting and interacting with the blogs of others… though I’m still shy for the most part when it comes to commenting though. It’s something I hope to get better with time. It’s lead to more reflections that can be shared because I find myself living more rather than talking (assuming that I don’t fall into the trap of mindlessly scrolling), so there more room for inspiration. It allows me to take in every moment and love whatever I do.

Be Yourself

This isn’t my way of saying why you should adopt this approach. You’re you, and I absolutely love how some others style their blog and content. I’m really enjoying being able to read the blogs of others and messing around in general.

I’ve seen some really great blogs out there. What’s your style of blogging and what do you love blogging about? I’d love to hear more from you.

Irrelevant

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O you who have believed, avoid much assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

Quran 49:12

Due to the nature of the internet, there’s a prayer I wish to make. It goes a little something like this,

O Allah, I seek refuge with You from harmful assumptions, from making them and receiving them. And I seek refuge with You from involving myself in matters that do not concern me.

Let it go

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Never will you attain the good until you spend from that which you love. And whatever you spend–indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.

Quran 3:92

You’re on a journey with a destination in mind. Every item you decide to bring along has a weight. This extra weight will only serve to exhaust us quicker. Hence, I want to look further into what it means to only carry the necessary.

We have food because we need to eat it. We acquire it, only to lose it after use, so we have the fuel to get through the day and grow. Technology doesn’t bring about survival, it aids it. However, it’s easy to get lost in it. Pleasures and excitements are temporary in that they come and go. To cling to them to is seek a constant high that can never be achieved and brings about constant distress as you fall short of it. You could instead cherish the moment and allow it to make you grateful. There are times when letting something go brings you more benefit that keeping it would have.

There are also attachments that hold no weight and yet brings great long-lasting benefits. Belief, knowledge, experience, character. These are invaluable investments. They don’t have any physical value, but grant one the ability to see the value and means to everything. They’re worth attaining mastery of.

The less you can free to charity, the slower you’ll move. However, what we free isn’t necessarily lost. Sometimes what makes a burden so heavy isn’t the weight of one large matter, but the culmination of a mountain of smaller ones. We have to learn to let stuff go if we want to make room for something better. What better way to let it go than by giving it to charity.

To go Further, go Together

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Before the Covid-19 lockdown, I thought it’d be nice to take some introductory climbing lessons. We were learning to safely attempt a type of climb known as top rope climbing. In this type, it requires the efforts of two: the climber and belayer. The belayer is your lifeline–they hold onto a rope attached to you that ensures you don’t fall if you slip. The belayer is also the one who safely lowers you down, the catch being that you first have to let go and let them lower you. If you choose to cling to the holds on the wall, the rope becomes loose, damaging the effectiveness of the belayer to let you down smoothly at the least. This is an example of trust.

Climbing and Trust

There’s this verse I wanted to mention,

There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful. (128) But if they turn away say, “Sufficient for me is Allah; there is no deity except Him. On Him I have relied, and He is the Lord of the Great Throne.” (129)

Quran 9:128-129

Allah describes the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) as empathetic, concerned, supportive. And yet, if someone should refuse that, then it isn’t upon the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to take it any further. It isn’t just belief, it can also be extended to cover the the concept of achieving excellence. If someone trustworthy comes to us and wishes to help, they can only help so long as we’re willing to let them into our lives.

You can say that climbing is an artificial environment in that it isn’t a necessity for everyone to learn to climb, nor is it relevant in the lives of many. Regardless, it doesn’t dismiss the issue of denying the one whom Allah had given the power and so permission to support you. In the case of climbing, once at the top, I could choose to go down willingly, trusting the one holding the rope to bring me down. The second option would be to give up out of anxiety and allow the person to lower me down. The third is that I try to go down myself, jeopardising the ability of the belayer to keep control of me if I should slip.

Consider these three options in relation to life.

  • The first is that I learn to trust someone to cover for me so that we can together strive in Allah’s cause further.
  • I decide not to trust them in the second, until the unnecessarily high levels of helplessness forces me to, leading me to worry before, during and maybe even after. I decide trust only because I feel trapped. If it all ends good and well, then alhamdulillah, but that distrust may remain, so reducing my effectiveness in future situations.
  • If I went ahead with the third option and tried to do everything myself, it doesn’t just complicate matters further and significantly increase the difficulty of the situation, it also means that if I do attempt something and fail, I can’t expect a fail-safe because I refused every attempt at one put forward for me.

The first option is what it means to achieve excellence of trust in Allah. If you should come across someone whose character and ability is sound, and they lend their support, let go of what you can’t control in order to attain excellence within a matter. Part of what you can’t control is the possibility that the one you decide to trust might not be successful when they attempt to help you, no matter trustworthy they are, no matter how much effort they put into it.

Photo by andrew shelley on Pexels.com | You sure you want to risk this drop simply because you can’t bring yourself to trust?

Fear of Failure

What holds many of us back is this delegation of control that means that we’re left vulnerable. One might say that only Allah can be expected to have the power to achieve everything, and so we then say that so too does Allah alone deserve our trust because He’s the only one that never fails us. Let’s move away from that concept for a moment and take other concepts like service and love. To wholeheartedly focus on serving creation can lead to worshipping them; to serve the creation for Allah’s sake is to forward show excellence in one’s behaviour. To love another unconditionally can lead to uncontrolled obsession; to love for the sake of Allah is to achieve faith in religion.

On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) — the servant of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ)—that the Prophet said: None of you believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.

40 Hadith Nawawi; No. 13

Just like with service and love, Allah doesn’t have any comparison to His creation, and so to have trust between one another requires a different definition to trusting Allah. To trust one another without boundary is to be in reception of continual betrayal and pain; to trust for the sake of Allah is to guard one another against loss.

There’s another flaw to the line of thought that others shouldn’t be trusted for support because they can never be perfect. If we were to entertain this, then remember that everyone consistently sins and makes mistakes, including ourselves. If it’s considered unhealthy to conclude that we can’t trust ourselves to such a point that we no longer attempt anything out of fear of failure, then it doesn’t make sense to expect perfection from someone else in order to trust them, especially when that person might be even more reliable, credible, disciplined and able in that matter.

Climbing the Wall

To trust in Allah and to trust the people can be perceived as two very different concepts that can be bridged together by prioritising the first, and supporting it with the second. It’s that by trusting Allah, you learn to trust the people because you know that it will all go back to Allah. If anything, to neglect the second can act as a sign of a lack of trust in Allah to support you when the second fails. Anyone can say that they want to do more good for His sake, but you have to wonder why it is they won’t accept or recognise the importance of the community in order to get there when they reach a wall. It reminds me of what was said once, commonly attributed to an African proverb,

If you wish to go fast, then go alone; if you wish to go far, go together.

This is the significance of trust.

Say, “I do not ask of you for it any payment–only that whoever wills might take to his Lord a way. (57) And rely upon the Ever-Living who does not die, and exalt [Allah] with His praise. And sufficient is He to be, with the sins of His servants, Acquainted (58) […]

Quran 25:57-58

Hidden in Plain Sight

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Psychology can be considered unconventional in relation to the rest of science. This is because of how subtle it happens. Like we don’t see it, but it’s definitely there. Let’s talk about that.

Imagine the reactions of the public if, for every advertisement, a fine-print was written somewhere describing the psychological techniques deliberately implemented in order to persuade you to buy into their product or agenda.

“At the price 99.99 rather than simply 100.00 because it causes you to disproportionately underestimate the price”.

Unfortunately, this is how you get sales. As we learn more about the psychological of the people, more techniques are applied that compels us into something we wouldn’t normally do.

Fortunately, psychological knowledge can also prevent many evils in the same exact manner. If you know how something works, then you might be able to cut it off before it hits us. When we’re aware of our need to be able to justify ourselves, we can combat the issue of price by asking ourselves whether the purchase was worth it in relation to who we want to be.

Psychological knowledge can be used to mess with our heads, but it can be used to develop stability within our lives. Its knowledge is a reminder that we’re all human, that we all make repeatedly make mistakes on a very regular basis. We like to think that we know ourselves, but we know very little. It’s not unreasonable to say that there’ll be others that pick up on some of our quirks that we couldn’t see, so it’s important to be open to feedback because even within our areas of expertise. Sometimes we have to take it and assess the truthfulness of the claim if we want to be able to understand ourselves.

Restart! Honest Efforts

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,

That’s how I want this blog to start and end.

Back to the Past

Some background info, but I had a previous blog with this same website name and I’ve been doing some soul searching since then. The posts I’d write always made me cringe, so I decided I wanted a fresh start by deleting the website and then realised that, subhanallah, it would have been enough if I’d instead reset the content. My bad.

Going back to the part about soul searching, I was listening to the audio-book version of Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ and he describes the concept of a golden circle, whereby you have three categories: why, what, and how. By knowing your why, the how and what automatically fall into place. In one of his YouTube videos, he mentioned that our why can be understood by reflecting on our past, something that’s always been there. When I first heard that, I could instantly tell that there was something that has been driving me to do a lot of what I’ve done my entire life, except trying to figure it out wasn’t easy.

If you know me, then you’ll know that I always have a tendency to connect everything I know back to Islamic values. In this case, within the Qur’an, Allah regularly mentions how those who believe and do good deeds will enter Paradise. In relation to the concept of the golden circle, I wondered whether this concept could help drive me to do more good deeds, as well as improving upon my previous ones.

What I’ve learnt is that there are core values that everyone shares, yet we still remain different. Like everyone’s expected to act with justice, to show kindness or to maintain patience and such. At the same time, I believe that we each incline towards a value more so than others. They all feed into each other, and you’ll see what’s easy for you to practice when you understand who you are, with which everything else can branch off into. Maybe this inclination is the why I’ve been trying to figure out.

Figuring it Out

The obstacle to finding that why was context. Consider what was said in the Qur’an in the chapter of the sun (91:7-10), whereby Allah had inspired each soul with it’s piety and wickedness, and that you could either choose to develop that piety or bury it. First, I needed to recognise moments in my life where I blurred my own identity. Everyone sins, so everyone has complications to what they see of their past. After that, I found I then needed to look past the surface of my previous actions, tracing it through how I chose to express it until I reached its why. I would think that why to be one thing, yet something felt missing, as though a deeper layer was yet to be found. Eventually, it all clicked. For me, I have this tendency to emphasise honesty.

(Bear with me as I think through this.) Each person has their own circumstances in addition to the universal values that govern us: personality, including it’s strengths and weaknesses; natural talents; passions; environment. Your how represents the method you choose to move that why forward. You might have a crowd of people all with the same inherent why, yet how they primarily choose to express it is different. Your what is an extension of that how; it’s physically what people see, the end result of that how.

I like to keep moving, reflecting upon what this life is about and how the truth expresses itself from it. What I strive after reminds me of the verse in the Qur’an in which Allah had said to Adam when he was removed from Paradise,

… Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance–there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.

Quran 2:38

I realised that I love finding ways to bring the truth to life. It’s about making the good easy to understand and apply, something I seek Allah’s help in.

For that, my website calls itself Strangely Iridescent. You might find I’m trying and learning of new things and developing them how I can, asking myself as to what aspects of it can help to widen my perspective of life, as well a built upon my character.

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com | Iridescence is this phenomena in which a surface seems to shift between colours depending on the angle in which you’re looking at.

Looking Ahead

Insha’allah, I think a lot of good can come from sharing the lessons I’ve drawn from my reflections to others. Maybe you can draw something from it that you hadn’t considered or find it as a useful reminder if you’ve already known of it. Meanwhile, someone who’s better at it or knows something about the matter that I don’t can push me further in that field, add to it, discuss it with me, supporting me in my efforts too. To attempt to share what I’ve learnt whilst expecting no mistakes or any room for improvement would mean asking for objective perfection, and that’s reserved for none other than Allah, so I’m only here to say that I’m looking for better.

I ask Allah that by doing this, I can meet some great people, make good friends, and that we can support one another get through life together.

And let there be from you a nation inviting to good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.

Quran 3:104