Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ramadan Kareem or (Roza is coming)

Dear Reader,

Congratulations on reaching the holy month of Ramadan (it's linear). This is a time for introspection and spiritual reflection. Alhumdullilah I am devoting most of my time and energy into fasting, reciting and understanding the Quran and the nightly prayers. As a result, I need to take a break from time to time.


In the meantime check out my twitter feed (@SaqibSaqib82) where I will continue curating great content for you. Plus I have partnered with the like-hearted folks over at ISLAMSCIFI so you can stick that up your...bookmark queue?

PS: let's pray for each other every Ramadan!

UPDATE: To continue reading about my journey towards economic freedom visit my LinkedIn profile!

START HERE: I will return to this important topic once Ramadan ends. God willing my writing will be infused with newfound spiritual awareness and insights. I wish only good will and cheer for my fellow man. May we all meet in paradise Inshallah-Tallah, and may we all remain MUSLIMS till our last breaths. Ameen, Ra bull Allah mean.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Week 4: Ask not what man can do for you...

Dear Reader,

So I had reached my last week. The honeymoon was almost over. As I said nothing was expected of me at work. However, I couldn't help noticing the outpouring of support. People were genuinely rooting for me and wished me well. Confidants were told of my real situation while people who hadn't grown close to me were told a cover story. At any rate, I was lauded for my decision. People were inspired, they to dreamed of heading off on an adventure of their own. Rising tides and all that.

From this point, I could pivot and tell you how I am such a great #betablazers. And get you fired up on taking that big step into the unknown. And how you should just follow your dreams and the rest will follow. Don't let life pass you by! I am not going to do any of that, not yet at any rate ;o)

Like I said at the time I was feeling fear. I turned to my lord for help. Organically I began to be introspective and did a lot of soul-searching. Here is what I found:

While reciting the Arabic the word that struck me the most was Khalifa.
Alhumdullilah this is a word that I recognize. From my studies, I have come to know that we were created to be god's representative on earth. Also known as a viceroy. What a regal sounding word to describe such a noble creature. Trekkies can recall from Star Trek : Nemesis the Reman viceroy. Although from a slave race he carried himself with confidence and bellowed at the crew:

Reman Viceroy Vkruk: Enterprise, we are the Reman Warbird Scimitar. 
Jean-Luc Picard: Praetor Shinzon, I'm pleased... 
Reman Viceroy Vkruk: I am not Shinzon. I am his Viceroy.

How gangster is that? And that is the exact mentality we need. No matter our circumstances no one can take away our core value. No one can fire you from doing god's work. You need not worry about pleasing other. That's the purpose of your creation. That is why you are here so it doesn't matter what other think as Allah knows best.

So what does that mean for you? This means that in order to find true inner peace, we must choose to accept our mission. The key for being successful in this mission is having a balanced internal state. That is we must be mindful of our emotional, physical, mental AND spiritual energies. All four must be recharged and harnessed by making sure our foundations are sound. Once these pillars of energies are recharged you can unleash your talents. Drive them towards establishing your legacy. Target your next opportunity. But most of all to ensure true balance be mindful of your social obligations. 

I am terrible at this. I am a natural introvert and love to curl up with a good book. Or watch a good movie or do research and then regurgitate that research on my blog. Notice how these are mostly solo activities. Yes, I have pure intentions as I wish to benefit others with my knowledge but you reading these words behind a screen lacks for a physical connection. It makes all the difference in the world to go out and meet people who you like and spend time with them, enjoying each others company.

But where do we start? Well this diagram helps me to focus:

Now I can't take credit for this one I came across it during a Productive Muslim Webinar (do check them out!). Notice how family is dead center. Therefore, that is where we need to start. If you are married that means start with your wife. Make sure your relationship with her is going smooth. I know that takes a lot of work. But we must maintain a happy and healthy relationship with our soulmates. All for the sake of Allah. If we can do this we can branch out and make sure our children are being cared for and nurtured. If your parents are still alive be sure that their needs are being taken care of in their old age. 

Pay attention to your relatives especially younger cousins. You can be a big brother/sister to them lend them a sympathetic ear. Make sure they are on the right path. Help them with their college and career goals. In the process, you will better yourself. Learn from your grandparents', aunts and uncles. They may be from an older generation and things may have changed but some things are universal and constant focus on gaining those nuggets of information. 

Did you notice a theme here? The call to action was that of service. Be of service to others. It is not about you, but what you can do for others. All the while making sure your intentions are pure, every action you take should be simply for the pleasure of Allah. Here is how I plan on serving each layer.

As I had mentioned core relations (family/relatives) are key without that nothing matters. After that, you will need to serve people that you meet on a regular basis. As per the diagram they are neighbors and colleagues. I would add to that friends. These three groups of people make up your social circle. You may not have much choice in selecting your neighbors or colleagues do to the fact that you can not always control where you live or where you work. But you can choose your friends. I would suggest making friends with like minded people. People who will help you on your journey, who "get you". This way you don't waste time explaining yourself. And you can get on with forging deep bonds.

Now it may seem obvious how you can serve your colleagues. Help out with workloads so that they can go on vacations. Do a good job so that they can count on you. And be easy to work with. These qualities were why people truly missed me when I left. And then serve your neighbors by a) respecting their property b) reaching out to them making sure all is well (a Muslim does not fill his belly while his neighbor starves, may Allah grant us Taufik). But how can you serve friends?

Well if you are just "hanging out" I would say that they are not true friends as they don't respect your time or theirs. You don't need a huge list of friends just a few good ones. Listen to them share their burdens. I have one friend who suffers from infertility as I do. We bonded over this issue as we helped each other out. Another friend shares my positive outlook on life. I love hearing from him as he always sparks something new in me. He is also goal oriented and motivates me to reach my goals. That's why I am always seeking his company. Try to keep a distance from friends who like to argue for argument sakes they are not helping anyone, including themselves.

Community. This is your neighborhood. For me, the best way to get involved is to go to the neighborhood mosque. I am blessed to live by 3 really great masjids. I also frequent another one that is a 30-minute drive from my house. The point being this is my way of getting involved with the community. Again the idea is to be of service and I am always on the lookout for just such an opportunity. It doesn't alway have to be big. One time when heading out for Fajr jamaat it was pouring.. I grabbed my boots and umbrella and made my way to the masjid, alhamdullilah. Afterward, I notice a youngster waiting by the door. I could have simply walked off in the rain not caring about him. But no I made an effort to inquire if he was alright and if he had an umbrella. Something small and insignificant but not to Allah.

Then we come to the global Muslim community or the Ummah. There are so many opportunities to serve this segment of humanity that I could not possibly list them here. The main thing is to use your talents best you can. I will present to you what I have in mind later on. Then we reach humanity all 7 billion of us on this floating blue marble.

To be honest I couldn't possibly engage with all of them. So I tend to focus on geeks and liberal minded people. As for the hate mongers out there, I will never cease to pray for their salvation. As the true enemy of mankind is iblis. May Allah protect us all, Ameen.

Want to know what happens next? Tune in next week! This is your brother reminding himself out loud. If you found something beneficial it was from Allah. If I have said something wrong it is my shortcoming and I ask your forgiveness. Saqinator out!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Week 3: The only thing to fear...

Dear Reader,
I give you...

"Metallica (The Black Album)" (1991)
"Enter Sandman"

"Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I die before I wake
Pray the Lord my soul to take

Hush little baby, don't say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head"

Growing up in the 90's I remember blasting this track every time KROQ played it. This was the first time a heavy metal song went mainstream. For my reflective self, the above quote really struck me. A quick google search will tell you that it is an ancient prayer, steeped in wisdom. No wonder it struck a chord with me. If I may I would like to strike that same chord in you.

Can you imagine that each night we slip into a  coma? I am not being scientific here so don't quote me. But deep sleep is the closest thing to a coma that I have experienced. And yes we can go into the biological mechanisms that restore our energies and bring us out of sleep. But who controls that? If one day your body decides not to behave as expected, what will you do? Your family could call a doctor when they find you unconscious the next morning. But once the doctor has exhausted his bag of tricks, what else can you do? 

The point I am trying to make is that it is only by the grace of Allah that our bodies are restored. We know this through our beloved prophet, a living link to our creator. Read the following hadith

The Prophet said: “When a child of Adam gets up in the morning, all the limbs humble themselves before the tongue and say: ‘Fear Allah for our sake because we are with you: (i.e., we will be rewarded or punished as a result of what you do). If you are straight, we will be straight; and if you are crooked, we will become crooked’.” [Sunan al-TirmidhÄ«]

From my understanding, he has placed great emphasis on the first words uttered in the morning. How many times, including myself, have our first words been swear words? When the alarm blasts in your ears and you are startled out of your sleep do you have an angelic prayer on your lips? For the longest time, I didn't have a single positive thought after my lord had restored me from my sleep. How ungrateful indeed.

That's why my gameplan includes a morning chant, as soon as I get up I ensure that I recite alhumdullilah, subhanallah and allah-hu-akbar 10 times each. You can also add on the kalma if you like. This way you do justice to your body and create a positive mindset. Furthermore, this recitation automatically informs the rest of your day. I can tell you the days on which I don't do this are the days where my negativity skyrockets. I feel frustrated as to why things are not going my way. This is not a healthy attitude to have. I remember when I was In Amway I listened to a CD that said you should think about your business as soon as you wake up. I always felt that was wrong. Shouldn't we pay tribute to being restored shouldn't we crave serving our lord to show our gratitude?

To drive home the point imagine you are being restored from your grave. Who else but Allah has the power to do that? Certainly a fellow creation can't no matter how "powerful" e.g. boss, police, or head of state etc. They are dependent on their lord whether or not they admit it. We get confused we think because our boss signs our check he owns us and we must submit to him. That we must forget our other obligations and just work for him. Use our god gifted body, energies and talent to increase his bottom line. This is no way to live and it all stems from wrong thinking. 

A word of caution. Please do not misread me. I am not implying any rebellious actions. Just like you wouldn't want your kids disrespecting you,  please don't disrespect those with authority over you such as your boss the police and other public servants. If you have grievances work within the framework (if you are being oppressed with no legal recourse trust in Allah and console your community elders) to have them addressed.

What I am advocating is a mind shift. I implore you to reject the reality that has been imposed on you and use your spiritual awareness to decipher another reality. I submit to you that people who you depend on for a paycheck are simply a conduit for the sustenance that has already been written for you. This sustenance will reach you no matter what. Just like the angel of death seeks you so does your income. 

The reverse is also true. You have people who are dependent on you. Such as your children, spouse or elderly parent. In that case, never be arrogant. I am guilty in thinking very highly of myself that because of the hard work I did I was able to feed my spouse. If tomorrow I keel over and I am no longer able to "work hard" will she just shrivel up and die? I think not. When my father died in my late twenties I was fortunate enough to be able to start working. You can also prepare your family by making them more independent. Also making investments to generate automatic income is another great safety net. Don't go for life insurance though. A strange notion for sure but I will have more on that later.

The point being you are simply a conduit for your "dependents". The sustenance written for them will reach them no matter what. That's why you should never put off having kids for the sake of money. I know it sounds counterintuitive but just think about it. Not having kids will stunt your emotional development. Your sense of empathy and compassion for another human being will never be realized to its fullest potential until you cradle your own child against your chest. The love that will pour out of your heart will be felt by all.

Incidentally these are the very traits needed in a leader. People will line up to work for you if you can show that you truly do care. So ask Allah to increase your bandwidth. meaning increase your capacity as a conduit so that you become the source of sustenance for your dependents (this can include your employees as well).

All of this was circling in my head the week after giving my written resignation. Sure work was easy now as I had entered into my honeymoon stage. Nothing was expected of me and pretty much got paid to do nothing for another two weeks. Heck, they even threw me a party. But I knew I would be without a job/income within a matter of weeks. This is where fear gripped me. What if I ran out of money? What if I couldn't pay my landlord? etc. etc. These were valid concerns and the associated risks needed to be mitigated. The irrational primordial fear was counterproductive and whispers from the devil. I had to have more faith in Allah. I had to have faith in the talent he had gifted me. I had a fight on my hands. A struggle for survival where only the strong survive.

Want to know what happens next? Tune in next week! This is your brother reminding himself out loud. If you found something beneficial it was from Allah. If I have said something wrong it is my shortcoming and I ask your forgiveness. Saqinator out!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Week 2: Declaration of Independence

Dear Reader,

Let's pick up where we last left off, shall we? I had verbally fired my biggest client, by more or less saying "I QUIT". She gave me the chance to think it over but Alhumdullilah I had already done all the thinking I needed before those words left my lips. Let me give you a bit of background.

During a recent trip to Pakistan, I stumbled across the Four hour work week, by Tim Ferris. It was tucked away in the back of a Liberty Books giftshop. I was familiar with Tim through his podcast which my college professor had recommended. So I decided to take home a copy. (Home you say? Meaning the states, right? Nopes, I can crash at a friend's houses in multiple cities, including Dubai. This allows me to be a global citizen but more on this later) I devoured the whole book within days. From what I can recall, there are a few key points to consider. First of all, if you truly want to be in control of your schedule always opt for remote work.

If you have a laptop, a good internet connection and a quiet workspace you have more than enough resources to support yourself. Also, go for incremental retirements. Gone are the days where you remained a loyal employee and worked for years on end for the same employer. Hoping to qualify for their pensions. In the age of Enron and downsizing, this is sheer folly. Furthermore, Islam teaches us that we don't know when or where our death will come. Who is to say that you will be around 20 years from now to collect that pension? I know we don't like thinking about our mortality but the fact of the matter is that death will visit us all and not always on our terms. Just ask Prince or MJ. 

That's why I have resolved to develop my Khushoo and pray each prayer as if it is my last. With 5 daily prayers, there are plenty of reminders of our frail existence. Which automatically wards off any arrogant notions. Add to that the meditative effects on focusing on your recitation bowing in submission and praising your creator.  Alhumdullilah I leave the prayer rug recharged and ready for my next challenge.

So I was itching to start a mini-retirement after 2 years of service. During Ummrah, I implored Allah to give me this opportunity. I knew the tranquility of focusing on what is important to me could not compare to any paycheck, no matter the amount. So as I thought things over, I developed a steely resolve my retirement will not be denied! I will most certainly resign and there was nothing more to it. 

And why shouldn't I? It wasn't like I planned on lying on a beach all day wasting my time and money. Heck no! That would be a disservice to my family who is counting on me to provide for them. In my hearts of hearts, I knew this route is the BEST way to provide for them. Just think about it. Our life's mission is to be like the prophets. We must walk in their footsteps to be truly successful. The prophets were all freemen. Do you think they worked 9-5 and then saved humanity during the evening or weekends? Umm...no. They worked on their mission 24/7 as long as their hearts were beating they strived to spread the good word. Simply put we need more freemen.

Liberating ourselves from imposed schedules is a must. We have the right to be in charge of our own calendars. This time was gifted to us by our creator, it behooves us to use it in a responsible manner. What does this kind of thinking give us mentality? We prepare for our death each time our head touches the prayer mat. The lyrics "I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose Fire away, fire away" come to mind (sorry for earworm). How can we be sure that after taking a hit we can get right back up? Easy, we must be honest with ourselves and seek harmony, be in tune with our destiny. This way we can flow along with all the ebbs and flows of life without having them tear us apart. 

Furthermore, I didn't have a plan for my retirement I had a gameplan. The difference between the two words is that the latter is more action oriented. Others seem to agree too, it looks like my  isolated musings were not that far off. There is another brother, mashallah, who has taken the same approach. Enter Dr. Meraj Mohiuddin, the author of Revelation. I watched a video in which he explained his origin story. 

One day while studying for his exams he realized that the amount of knowledge he had in head with regard to the medical profession paled in comparison to his religious knowledge. He couldn't tell you the historical context of a random surah (I am guilty of this as well). This was something that bothered him. So after completing his exam he decided to keep his exercise muscles fresh by applying the same academic rigor to his religious studies. After accepting a challenge thrown down by Sheik Hamza Yousef he went ahead and created a glossary of names to help students of the Seerah. One thing led to another and he produced a fascinating book on the life of our beloved prophet (PBUH). 

Surprisingly the good doctor views our beloved more as a coach than a teacher. The word coach is important as it implies action, training, and discipline. All things that are relevant as we seek to better ourselves. Far from being passive, we are encouraging ourselves to jump in and go with the ebb and flows of the movement of life, ultimately fulfilling our destiny by completing our twisting and turning journey right back to where we started, our lord. I just loved the fact that my gameplan was based on time tested and proven methods. I didn't have to sit with new age gurus telling me about foo foo ideas on productivity that don't even take into account that we have souls! The gameplay is fluid enough that I can and have tweaked it based on received feedback. Thus becoming a powerful tool to guide me as I ventured into my first retirement.

So come, Monday morning I sent off an email thanking my manager for taking me in showing me the ropes, developing my technical skills and facilitating me best she could every step of the way. I also mentioned my last date so that it could be communicated to Human Resources. After sending that email I could imagine how the founding fathers must have felt. Placing their names on the Declaration of Independence met a declaration of war. Mother England wasn't going to just sit by and let some no good colonist have their freedom. There was going to be a fight and they best be ready!

Want to know what happens next? Tune in next week! This is your brother reminding himself out loud. If you found something beneficial it was from Allah. If I have said something wrong it is my shortcoming and I ask your forgiveness. Saqinator out!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Week 1: Let freedom ring!!!

Dear Reader,

One week ago I quit my job. It was a nice corporate job at a large financial institute. But alas it wasn't for me. To be honest I would have stuck around except that my performance was low and I was struggling to keep up (this is when you need, to be honest with yourself and take stock of your skills. Only advertise those skills that you are proficient in as the expectation is for you to be self-sufficient in that area). My management gave me every opportunity to improve I dug in and tried my best. But it was not meant to be. I was placed on a 3-month notice, my last chance to improve. I figured since I clearly didn't have the mindset for the job (as the past 2 years had shown) what was another few months going to do? So after talking it over with my wife I handed in my resignation.

A word of caution. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I knew I didn't have a future at the company. Accordingly I reduced my expenses like putting my masters on hold.  (I only did half the required credit hours, planning on resuming as soon as I can) Which allowed me to save up. Also, I don’t have a mortgage, my credit cards are paid off including my car (btw, since the dealership is no longer the owner I scaled down my insurance to the minimum legal requirement). I would encourage you to consider your financial status before giving up a steady paycheck. I had to ask myself how many months me and my wife could coast by with no income and based on the money I had on hand. The answer was several months, God willing. So I decided to take the plunge.

A strange sense of relief overcame me. During my remaining two weeks everyone saw a visible difference in my attitude. I went from a sourpuss, lethargic commuter to a happy energetic human. This feeling was wonderful. And I vowed to myself that I will NEVER let this freedom slip away again. So rather than scrambling to look for another job I came up with a game plan (more on this later).

Jobs seems to be the defacto way middle-class people earn a living. But we all know that this is not sustainable. What happens when you grow old? become ill? What do you do then? This is understood by me and others but there is a fear when it comes to venturing out on your own. It stems from a lack of guidance. Believe me, I am only venting here, this by no means is a success story. Rather I am relating to you what I am going through at the moment.

I am facing a lot of family pressure to get another job. Which doesn't make any sense to me. I have been moving from job to job for the past 10 years. I suffer for the sake of my family. But am I really doing them any good? I don't have children, yet (please pray for me and my wife). But I have every intention to have a child of my own. I want to leave them with a positive mindset. I can't do that working for someone else. Who doesn't have my best interest at heart, who cares only about the bottom line, who encourages servitude and browbeat you if you don't "make them happy". If this isn't slavery then what is?

I need to work for myself. I am driven by the entrepreneurial spirit. It is my internal state that is deeply concerned about the legacy I will leave behind that makes me shun the cubicle. I always knew this about myself and made several attempts to create something I could call my own. I chronicled my adventures in multi-level marketing on this blog (see a previous post). That didn't work out but since I had sincere intentions and had faith I didn't care about the outcome. Rather it was good to meet like-minded people who shared my passion for breaking free. I wish them the very best and keep in touch with to this day. After all, I learned a lot from them. Especially the concept of self-development. Something previously unknown to me.

The likes of Napolean Hill, Dale Carneige and other self-help gurus grace my library shelves. However, there was one key ingredient missing, in their books. Faith. Being a Muslim I am very cognizant about what Islam says about any and all issues. I wondered what Islam says about self-development. Turns out there is plenty. If you have not done so, check out Abu Productive over at productivemuslim.com. Mashallah the team at Productive Muslim have outdone themselves. They have done the research and have shown how the habits of our beloved prophet(PBUH) are still relevant to us in this day and age. 

I had mentioned a gameplan. In a nutshell, it is my daily routine, modeled on the daily routine of my beloved prophet(PBUH). Why this sudden love for the prophet? He was always a role model for me and I knew he is the last prophet. And that the Ummat is the humanity's last chance to submit to the true will of our creator. But I never understood why we should love him more than our parents, nay even more than ourselves. It wasn't until I went on Umrah and gave my salam at the side of this great man's grave that I came to realize the privilege I was bestowed. A sudden realization of all he has done all he has sacrificed just so that we can follow the beautiful religion of Al-Islam. The experience moved me to tears.

When I came back, to the states from my pilgrimage I was given the "bad" news. I had to sign a document that stated that I could not do the job. There were complaints documented against me. Complaints stemming from the fact that I could not deliver, due to the fact that the job was not a good fit for me. But what really disturbed me were clauses in the document that essentially said that I had to be even more submissive and docile if I hoped to hold onto my job. My manager expected me to be terrified, but I have a firm conviction that Allah never burdens a person than more than he can bare. And that my life's purpose is not to please other creations rather, I must strive to please my creator. So I signed the document and spent the night thinking about my next move. It was a no brainer for me I had to quit before getting fired. There was no way I could meet those strident requirements. 

So I gave my verbal resignation to my manager. She was great, God bless her soul. She couldn't bare to see me in any kind of distress and advised me to think about it some more. So that weekend I honed my gameplan some more. I thought through my whole day structuring everything against the five daily prayers, making time for family, exercise and dawah. This was the kind of freedom I always dreamed off! There was no doubt in my mind as to what my response would be, come Monday morning.

Want to know what happens next? Tune in next week! This is your brother reminding himself out loud. If you found something beneficial it was from Allah. If I have said something wrong it is my shortcoming and I ask your forgiveness. Saqinator out!