Oops, I’m sorry you had to hear that! Don’t mind my friend, she’s been a little cranky lately. Believe me, that kind of anger usually stems from an insane amount of pain. Sometimes when people repeatedly get hurt by their loved ones, they end up shielding their hearts, terrified of getting hurt again, and refuse to submit to their compassionate natures. Slowly they become numb. They convince themselves that ‘strength’ is synonymous with ‘not caring’, when in fact it’s the exact opposite. A wise man once said: “Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
I understand why my friend steamed out like that, I actually hugged her instead of getting upset. Plus, she makes the best chocolate desserts in the entire universe, so I really can’t afford to lose her. LOL (Yeah, newsflash: I’m obsessed with chocolates!)
I’m also obsessed with quotes, especially the ones based on Islamic teachings. Squeezing a relevant quote in the middle of a conversation makes me feel smart for some reason, I don’t know! Here’s another life-changing quote by a man named ‘unknown’ (See how smart I am?):
Watch your thoughts for they become words
Watch your words for they become actions
Watch your actions for they become habits
Watch your habits for they become character
Watch your character for it becomes your destiny
This statement is pure psychology; proven, tested, dissected and written about in hundreds of books. I’ll show you how.
The vicious pattern
“How can caring for others give me joy if no one cares about me? This theory is NOT true!”
A disapproving thought quickly turns into doubt or denial. Thoughts turn into words.
“I’ve got my own mess to deal with so get out of my face!”
The negative thought is voiced out with anger to attack or repel others. Words turn into action.
“You need to be selfish to survive in this jungle! Toughen up like the rest of us or you’ll be eaten alive!”
Justifications are given till discouraging yourself and others from helping those in need becomes effortless. Actions become habits.
“Let others figure out how to get by, their problems can’t be our problems!”.
Loss of compassion changes a person. It leads to neglecting our pure and kind inner beings. Habit becomes character.
“A charity event? Man, that’s good publicity! Make sure you take a picture of me hugging the sick kids and those sad wrinkly old people!”
Sometimes, the only time any interest in kindness is shown now is under the spotlight, where it’s time to show off how great and loving we are. Being fake tarnishes genuine bonds of love and leads to a loathsome destiny.
Everything becomes about ‘you’, while you withhold the chance to put a smile on someone else’s face, even if it costs you nothing at all, thinking: “Why should I? I’m not a pushover!”
One thing leads to the other
Denial of truth -> repulsion -> discouraging people from helping others -> suppressing our purity and inner goodness -> showing Off -> selfishness to the point of withholding priceless kindness -> a miserable woeful life.
Interesting theory, isn’t it?
It’s not just the quotes. Take a look at the teachings of all the best-selling self-help books circulating millions of copies around the world. Their authors are celebrated professors, doctors and scientists. They spent years researching, studying and observing before cracking the code: the source of your happiness stems from making others happy. That’s pretty much the gist of it. But 1400 years ago, a blessed Prophet who wasn’t a psychologist or a neurologist or a sociologist or any kind of ‘-ologist’ conveyed the holy words of Allah , describing the same pattern that defines us till this day:
“Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan. And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray, [But] who are heedless of their prayer – Those who make show [of their deeds]. And withhold [simple] assistance (small kindesses).” [Qur’an: Chapter 107, Verses 1-7]
The power of small kindnesses
Just like abuse and bullying can have negative long-term effects on society, where those in pain ‘pay it back’ with more hurt and anger, kindness can and will do the opposite of that if you ‘pay it forward’. We all have the humanity and compassion ‘gene’, and I just love the word ‘withhold’ in this Holy chapter because it perfectly describes how we suppress our kind-hearted natures when we deny the reality of this life. We forget we are all connected, and that the joy you spread will eventually find its way back to you. Life is a chain reaction. You and I have the power to conquer poverty, hunger, disease and wars by causing a ripple effect with one small, good selfless deed.
So the next time you pass by a poor homeless woman on the street and avoid eye contact because it’s ‘awkward’, try pausing your busy life for a minute to ask “how can I help?”. We are the slaves of Allah and we have an important job to do, people! We have got to help one another. And now is the best time to start because guess who’s in town? The holy month of Ramadan! SURPRISE!
Ramadan’s a great time to be kinder
We plant trees to overcome pollution, take vitamins to beat fatigue, vacuum the house to clean the dust; it makes sense to conquer the negative with a positive, and what’s more beautiful than a fresh batch of hope to revive this ummah? Investing in small acts of kindness this Ramadan should be our ultimate goal. It’s effortless, simple and free. You make someone happy, which makes you feel better and makes the world a better place. Win. Win Win. This isn’t just about the mega bonus of Ramadan’s multiplied rewards! (Actually it so is, who are we kidding?)
Here’s a list to get you started:
For your lovely parents
- Thank your mom every day for the food she cooked and make yummy noises! (Cooking while you’re fasting is not easy! Trust me). Kiss her hands that have done so much for you.
- Ask your dad daily: “What can I do to make your day better?” Help him out with organizing his stuff, clearing his email or even just discussing things he loves to talk about.
For your precious grandparents
Umm, hello! Call and visit them! Make them feel special before they’re gone. Make them feel wanted and relevant by asking them to tell you stories – because there’s nothing they want more!
For your spouse and children
- Hide a note with a funny joke, compliment or piece of advice in your kids’ backpacks or clothes.
- Text your husband or wife saying ‘I Love You’ or how much you appreciate what they do.
- A minimum of three hugs a day for each member of the family (I’m serious! Sometimes all we need is a warm embrace).
- Be kind to your children whenever they nag about being hungry or tired. It’s the best time to teach them patience!
- Ask if your spouse needs any help in the kitchen or would like a nice warm foot massage after a tiring day at work. Keep your love alive.
For relatives, neighbors and friends:
- Send flowers (or yummy dessert) to a distant relative with a card saying “Just a little something to make you smile”. Invite them for iftar or share some specially made delicacies with them.
- Offer to mow your neighbor’s lawn or wash their cars.
- Go out of your way to restore ties of kinship this Ramadan.
- Tell your friends how much they mean to you and make dua for them.
- Volunteer to offer drinks and dates at a nearby masjid during taraweeh for the people. Make a flask of tea or coffee for the late night prayers (Qiyam al Layl) for the ones who come to the mosque!
For co-workers and other workers:
- Bring homemade cookies to share at work (with chocolate chips please!) Don’t worry, we will save them till after iftar!
- Praise clerks, assistants and workers and thank them for their hard work. Try doing this everyday!
- Leave a nice comment on articles you enjoyed (Uhmm Hint Hint).
For absolute strangers:
- Greet people with a smile (it’s a sunnah too!).
- Give up your seat for the elderly or a pregnant woman or just anyone who looks like they need to sit down!
- Hand out balloons to kids on the street. Distribute packs of dates and water (and additionally any delicacy if you wish) along your street to those who pass by.
For God’s beautiful creations:
- Leave a bowl of water outside for the birds (that’s when I had to explain to my son why animals don’t fast).
- Make tasbih (glorifying Allah) outdoors. Trees, insects, even the mountains and soil will join and bloom.
For those in dire need of small kindnesses:
- Leave a couple of colors and coloring books in the waiting room of a public hospital.
- Do some fun story-telling at an orphanage and bring them toys or snacks.
- Share a meal with a homeless person and sit with them on the ground.
- Listen to someone who is sad or lonely.
The ideas are endless. Just doing one simple act of kindness a day without expecting anything in return can truly change the world, and is beyond joyful and fulfilling. It’s in fact the number one reason behind success, inner peace and sound sleep! Helping others feel better is simply the meaning of happiness because:
“Is there any reward for good other than good?” [Qur’an: Chapter 55, Verse 60]
So believe in your Lord’s promise, have compassion, pray from the heart and invest in those simple acts of kindness during this blessed Holy month. And if that makes you a pushover, well, consider yourself the luckiest person on Earth for being one!
Share with us more small kindnesses that we can engage in daily during Ramadan and after!