A few weeks ago, my brother and I broke our fasts on the plane, after which I turned to him and asked whether he smelled a hint of fresh bread being baked in a nearby oven. Within a moment of his reply in the affirmative, an air hostess appeared next to me with a basket of twine in her hand: “Ma’m, would you like some fresh bread?” I turned to her, a beaming smile plastered on my face, and the following flashing in my eyes:
So which of the favours of your Lord would you deny? [Surah ar-Rahman, 55:13]
You see, we were heading to Pakistan, a land dotted with various kinds of trials and tribulations. Amongst these is poverty, one of the most pressing issues of the country. If you have been to Pakistan, particularly Karachi, you know all too well that you, the common civilian, cannot avert your eyes from the realities of poverty on the streets. At every traffic jam, at every junction and at every stop signal, your window will be knocked on and a child will try to sell a balloon, a mother will beg for a few rupees for her infant’s stomach, a man dressed in rags will quickly clean your windshield in hopes for some income, or an elderly individual will raise his or her hands towards you in despair.
Having been accustomed to and aware of such harsh realities, and in anticipation of being on the poverty-stricken streets of Karachi in a few hours, the sudden arrival of my hot bread taught me a lesson in gratitude and had me breaking down with overwhelming emotions. You see, I hadn’t even had a chance to plead Allah subhana wa ta’alaa for hot bread, or for any bread. In fact, I hadn’t even fully processed the fact that I craved the bread I smelt before an indulgent selection of it arrived by my side. Not only did Allah subhana wa ta’alaa know of my desire for hot bread after a long fast before I knew of it, He also sent it to me in all its glory before I even had to ask. Alhamdulillah!
My mind compared this treatment to the realities of the streets I was about to witness in no time from then, and the disparity shook me to realization. I realized I’m not grateful enough, not deserving enough, not acknowledging enough of Allah’s mercy upon me, and yet He still gives, gives and gives! A certain unrest overcame me, and immediately I felt a sense of social responsibility towards the people on the streets. I was blessed enough by Allah to receive hot bread without asking, so why don’t I try to provide the same delight to the less fortunate?
If you’re reading this post, you should know that you are already privileged by the sake of your Creator. You, my sister, can read. A lot of people cannot do that. You have the ability to comprehend and feel what you read. A lot of people cannot do that. You have access to the Internet, and most probably an electronic device that is displaying this article to you. A lot of people do not have that. You have a desire to better yourself as a muslimah. A lot of people do not have that. Most probably, you have a roof over your head and a snack to bite on. A lot of people do not have that. You are privileged. You are blessed. We are blessed, and that entails gratitude on our part. And gratitude consists not only of a thankful acknowledgement, but also of actively giving back from your gifts.
The first step to giving back from your gifts is identifying your gifts. To be blessed by Allah subhana wa ta’alaa does not only have monetary connotations. Our Creator has adorned us with not just wealth, but also with talents, ideas, innovative thinking, an educated mind, generosity & compassion, and so much more. Some of Allah’s blessings to us are common, but some are individual and subjective, and the only person with the ability to unlock those blessings is you yourself.
Try out some of these ideas for gift giving and charity that will really make a difference!
Once we’ve identified, acknowledged and thanked Allah for what He has given us, it’s time to use it to give back to His other creations. I’m going to share a few of my ideas with you:
With the ‘bread incident’ in mind, the first thing I want to do is buy some hot bread, find a few people on the streets, and serve them the bread just like the air hostess served me hot bread. You can do this with anything, be it cupcakes, cookies, biryani, pizza or some delicious, unnamed homemade recipe. It can also be something as simple as cold water in the Middle Eastern heat. Just try to serve the less fortunate with something they can indulge in.
Before moving on, however, I want to lay emphasis on something. Just as we feel good when someone serves us food or drink with courtesy and good manners, so do other people. When we give someone something, we must give it with respect and preserve dignity on both parts. Charity shouldn’t be thrown into begging hands, it should be presented to smiling faces.
Need a gratitude adjustment? Read this!
Secondly, I identified my passion for and considerable skill in writing. I made it a goal to go public with my writing, despite having no background with the blogosphere. For years, I stored unedited, sometimes unfinished pieces of work in a single folder on my desktop. And then one day, a friend forwarded me an email about Me Muslima, allowing me to begin checking something off my list of things to give back. Alhamdulillah.
If you draw well, or speak well, or count well, you too can use your talents to benefit the community at large. If I could go back and change one thing about utilizing my talents, I would search for opportunities even more actively. I wouldn’t underestimate the power and amount of connections on the Internet. I say go for it with all your heart, and be confident about your talent. And remember, talent will rust over if it is left locked up for too long.
Share Your Ideas with Us
Finally, I want you to share your ideas with me and the rest of the Me Muslima community. This may be the last paragraph on this page, but it is certainly not the cap of what you can do to productively utilize your assets. How have you been able to give back from your blessings? How have you planned to return the favors you were given? What kind of hot bread will you serve to the world? Get in touch with us here.
Ayesha Burney is a young student of Mass Communication, an aspiring writer and blogger, and part of the Me Muslima support team. Her passions lie in da’wah, writing, education of all sorts and, typically, chocolate. Her writing, as you will find, almost always has a reflective element to it, as she uses the fingers-to-keys method to organize the workings of an overthinking mind. She writes to share with you her reflections and her learning experience.