This article was courtesy of Amb. Ebrahim Rasool, former South African Ambassador to the United States. He has long been involved in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. He held several executive positions and received several leadership awards. He has mobilized Muslims and the broader denominations for a deeper understanding of Islam and faith under conditions of oppression and currently under conditions of globalization. He is the founder of the World for All Foundation.
My accidental discovery and deliberate use of my inner strength – the power in me – was one of the hardest tasks of my life. The difficulty lies in confessing how unconscious I was when I discovered my inner strength, and how desperate the circumstances were when I realized that if I did not use it, I could go under. However, I decided to dig deep into my soul to find out how to channel this journey outward for an audience in search of an inner force for the barakah or blessing associated with its positive use best accessible.
This trip goes back to June 6, 1987. After my first stay in Apartheid Prison in South Africa, I spent the next 18 months underground to escape the draconian powers that gave the state of emergency to the already powerful police force to hold on to indefinite trial, to remove her, to place her in solitary confinement, and to interrogate her inexorably. They finally caught up with me.
I was supposed to spend the next 14 months as a political prisoner, first in a Wynberg police cell and then in Pollsmoor Prison, where Nelson Mandela was also a political prisoner. The first four months of my detention were in solitary confinement. The only people I dealt with were the security forces who interrogated me.
For this time in prison, especially the months of solitary confinement, the only resource I had was the Koran. It was the Koran that my life and survival would depend on. Each conscious moment was based on gaining food, strength and power from the Koran. Around the morning prayers, I simply tried to make as many Arabic recitations as possible. After breakfast, I memorized my favorite verses and chapters. In the afternoon I read it in English in a deliberate search for meaning, the interpretations of which I recorded on the gaps left by Yusuf Ali. In the evening, I made an index of the Koranthemums on toilet paper (the only available paper) with the refill of a ballpoint pen smuggled by an overseer.
For me, the Koran was my conversation with God , It was about his tune, but also about being attuned to his mind. It was about his prayer and life rules, but also about his intention. It was about reading the story of the prophets, but being inspired to act today. At that moment in prison, the Qur'an was about my conversation about not breaking interrogation and telling you how to stay healthy and responsible against your enemy and how to stay intact by limiting the damage to my soul.
"The Koran had to be my keeper against my visible external enemies, who asked the questions and issued the threats, as well as against my insidious inner ones, who exhort you to resignation, bitterness, hatred or anger."Click Tweet
However, it was not the Koran itself that acted against my interrogators. It was rather the Koran that drew my attention to the power within me and linked it to the source of power.
The Quran was a guide on how to use the inner power to radiate barakah (blessing) from the outside. This was a journey with seven tips that I only understood afterwards.
Tip 1: Connect to The Ultimate Source
The Prophet (SAW) said to his companion, "I will give you the ultimate treasure of Paradise: Say 'La hawla wa la quwata illa billah' (There is no strength and no strength except Allah).Sunan Ibn Majah)
This assertion that all original power comes from Allah, the ultimate source of power, is an explanation of humility and protection against arrogance at the same time. a chance to participate in this power and a warning against becoming a source of competition; and an invitation to access that ultimate power and then use it forever. The Prophet did not try to disempower us as human beings, because such an interpretation would nullify man's unique ability to use the power of choice and decision, and banish us to the level of other creatures with an instinct without will , and therefore are free of responsibility and accountability.
We are challenged to be powerful devices. Each device has a unique and great ability when it's on. However, this is only the case when the device is connected to a power source, regardless of whether it is connected or a battery is inserted. It has to be charged. Therefore, the prerequisite for the discovery, discovery, and use of the power contained therein is first to submit to the charge of the Force Source, the ultimate source of power: Allah Al-Qawy (Almighty, Source of Power)!
Tip 2: Be whole, to be mighty: the Koran is not a supermarket
The first two weeks of my detention were marked by mixed feelings. I had to be strong and powerful to withstand the relentless questioning. At the same time, it was about rejection: I was not so powerful and important and therefore I was sure to be released when the statutory two-week review took place. In this time of hopeful despair, I read the Qur'an like in a supermarket: I went to my favorite courses – all socio-political chapters – and searched with my favorite products on the shelves – the verses that announce an inexorable struggle against injustice – and the selection of mine favorite brands – promises martyrdom and paradise for my efforts. My reading was a relentless search for divine confirmation of why I was in custody and the promise of divine liberation from suffering or the divine reward for the sacrifice.
But I read the Koran – in conversation with God (SWT) – unlike the Muslims I interviewed: The Imam who favors Fajr but does not move to stand up for justice, who only reads to perfect the rituals ? ? The pious man who reads to confirm the length of the pants and the extent of the hijab, but does not notice the human sacrifice? How different was I from those who chose the aisles and products and brands that were only interested in their interests? Did I even read the Koran to confirm what I know and who I am?
At the two-week mark, the police asked me to pack my things, sign my discharge form, and leave the cell door. When I got out, they arrested me again after following the letter of the law. When I reconciled with the prisoner for a long time, a verse from the Koran shot at me:
"Do you believe in a part of the Scriptures and do you reject a part?" (Quran 2:85)
This was the Koran that told me that I needed to be complete, complete and complete when I wanted to access and connect to the ultimate source of energy. There is a middle ground between the loneliness of the ritualist and the activism of jihad, which prevents the former from being a coward and the latter extremism; between escapist spiritualism and soulless social commitment; and between the rules and regulations of Islam and the intentions, values and principles of it. But to find this middle ground, I had to read the entire Koran from beginning to end and talk to Allah (SWT), but not about my supermarket conditions!
Tip 3: Be Disturbed To Disturb: Pray Vertically And Serve Horizontally
Holisticness gives rise to social activism through a deep spiritual commitment and ensures that spiritual commitment leads to social action. Those whose lives are based on perfecting the rituals – their vertical worship – are reminded in the Qur'an that their nocturnal standing must be reconciled with their social commitment during the day and therefore mitigated. Similarly, those whose activism – horizontal ministry – is so laborious that they can not find time for meditation, reflection, and spiritual connection can be one-dimensional.
The moment my social commitment was for me, that I was vulnerable and isolated, I had to disturb my own life: How should I interrupt my meetings so that I could pray? how to fast outside of Ramadan in the midst of life and death struggles; How do I donate from the little I earn from an informal existence? how to adopt an ideological viewpoint that can be questioned and ridiculed in a world that has become skeptical of God when so much suffering is justified in the name of religion.
My reading of the Qur'an then taught me that it could be simply that in designing every prescribed worship there was the double effect of being disturbed to bother! Prayer, sometimes at odd times, connects vertically with God but at the same time it is the means to "teach good and avert false things"; while fasting simultaneously teaches God-consciousness and solidarity with the poor; Just as Zakah cleans the giver and helps the disadvantaged. and even the pilgrimage to Makka finally brings you the knowledge of God but only after you have met yourself. In fact, the disruption of the self provides an even greater ability to disrupt the forces of injustice, poverty, hunger, ignorance, and more. This is the Barakah – the blessing that radiates horizontally – when the vertical axis is allowed to interfere. This vertical axis is the point where the current flows from the ultimate source to the device.
Tip 4: A mutual conversation with God : ask and listen
In these desperate first weeks in prison, I communicated desperately with Allah , I wanted to be freed from my ordeal. I wanted to get out of jail. I wanted to resist my questioning. I wanted mercy and I wanted forgiveness and I wanted paradise and I wanted my family to be cared for. It was about me. It was an unfulfilled communication.
As Ramadan approached and I was preparing for fasting, prison authorities thought I was going on a hunger strike, the ultimate weapon of political prisoners, the decision to starve themselves and alert them to the injustice they are facing , Suddenly the menu changed: a jumbled up of food became a jaw-fed gourmet meal that was served at the moment of your greatest hunger to lure you out of your hunger strike, or quickly weighed carefully before serving you and then refute it at the collection point – also milligrams – your claim to a hunger strike. But determination at that moment was not my most important Ramadan lesson.
The lesson emerged from a more intense reflection of the usual verses of the Koran concerning the month of fasting:
"Oh you, who believe! Fasting is as prescribed to you as prescribed to you before you can learn self-control.
(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if one of you is sick or on a journey, the prescribed number of days later should be invented. For those who manage it (with hardship), a ransom is the diet of a needy. But who gives more of his own free will is better for him and it is better for you to fast, if only you knew.
Ramadan is the (month) in which the Koran was sent out as a guide to humanity. He is also clear (sign) for leadership and judgment (between right and wrong). Anyone who is at home this month should use it for fasting, but if someone is sick or on a trip, the prescribed period of time should be made up for later days. Allah intends every possibility for you. He does not want to get you in trouble. (He wants you to keep the prescribed time limit and glorify Him by leading you, and maybe you'll be grateful.
When my servants ask you about Me, I am really close to them. I listen to the prayer of every petitioner when he calls me. Let them listen to My call and believe in Me with a will. that they go on the right path. (Quran 2: 183-186)
Especially verse 186 caught my attention:
"When my servants ask you about Me, I am very close to them. I listen to the prayer of every petitioner when they call me. Let them also listen to my call with a will and believe in Me. that they go on the right path. "
How many times have I missed Allah's side of the conversation because I was obsessed with my needs and desires?
I was very good with the first part of the exchange where I am heard, but often I forget the mutual part: with a willingness to listen!
And Allah knows what distracts from listening to His message. If we do not listen, our own power and our barakah diminish. The Qur'an also advises when is the best time to attend this conversation. The "Reading the Koran at dawn" is always witnessed. (Quran 17:78)
Allah is omnipresent. Allah prophesies not only the best time, but at the moment of the greatest vulnerability of the Prophet (SAW) as he sought refuge in his cloak, a chapter of the Koran was revealed to elaborate the idea of this conversation. and to motivate it when the distractions are the least:
"Get up to pray at night, just a little bit, half the night or even less or a little bit more. And read the Koran in slow, measured, rhythmic tones. Soon you will receive an important message. "(Quran 73: 2-5)
After highlighting the time, duration, and style of reading, as well as the expectation of an upcoming message, the reasons for these details are revealed:
Truly, getting up at night is most effective for governing the soul, and most suitable for formulating the word of prayer and praise. It is true that you have a longer occupation with ordinary duties during the day. "(Quran 73: 6-7)
I realized that I did not receive the message – the other side of the conversation – because I was distracted by either my daily concerns or my own obsessions. I had to rule my soul to be free from these competing interests.
What fascinated me was the idea of "frame" the word. The word of Allah, the text, is inviolable, but its framing requires a soul that is free of competing interests, prejudiced intentions, and the needs of the now and the here as the main determinants. For the Word to be heard, understood and internalized, the soul needs relative purity and discipline. In other words, for the word to be properly framed, the text must respond to the context – time and place – or the pretext – which needs you bring – and not the subtext – but not overwhelm it. previous scholarship. The loneliness of the night may be the best atmosphere for such a conversation in which I can be rid of fears and anxieties, distanced from anger or excessive affections, or distracted. Such a framed conversation releases the power within, because the connection to its ultimate source is unshakeable.
Tip 5: Intentionality: the power to set the purpose
The notion of Niyyah intention runs the risk of becoming cliched or ritualistic. With a reciprocal conversation that opened haltingly, imperfectly, but ultimately powerfully, I finally had the courage to ask why. One of the reasons was the dozens of formulas we had memorized before every prayer, every wash. Entry and exit from the toilet, the apartment, the transport and in almost every life event. Why the "I intend …"? Because I built up enough will to listen, my mind opened up for meanings that went beyond the ritual. If God (SWT) says that people were created ONLY for worship, is this a reminder to be in the mosque only, in constant prayer and in fast mode? Or is intention (niyyah) the mechanism by which every act, event or engagement in life can be transformed into an act of worship? Did I understand worship only as a ritual – which is crucial – but missed the even greater opportunity to transform life into worship by using the power in me and radiating barakah and blessings?
In every moment of loss we remember the two fixed points in life:from Allah we come"- and our goal -"We return to Allah'. What a privileged world view we have, in which we build a purpose in everything we do, we build intentionality because we are aware of our purpose. We do not just start by expressing intentionality, but by giving the intentionfor God's sake'. Thus Barakah is embedded, more clearly in the ritual acts of worship, but more importantly, in the everyday actions of life in working, playing, learning, relaxing, relating, or contemplating, if we allow them to be transformed by intentionality.
Tip 6: Finding the true North: What is it worth to die for?
In the middle of my time in Pollsmoor Prison, an overseer managed to arrange an encounter with Nelson Mandela. This was a moment that could make every ordeal worthwhile. Imagine meeting someone whose image, voice and words are forbidden and forbidden under apartheid. Imagine you were with someone you sang freedom songs about and for whose freedom you marched and under whose inspiration you put yourself at the apartheid machinery. Now you have met a leader who has been in jail for nearly 25 years, is optimistic about our future and knows about you, Ebrahim Rasool, a mere activist in a nation of heroes.
As I pondered Mandela's resilience, faithfulness, and hope, I was drawn to his words – which we recited in subdued tones – when he was to be sentenced to life imprisonment, in which he and the other Rivonia Trialists stood between this life judgment and the death penalty. In anticipation of the death sentence Mandela called on the judge and made a statement of his life's confession:I appreciated the ideal of a democratic and free society. I hope that it is an ideal that I live for and that I can achieve, but if need be it is an ideal for which I am ready to die. "
With these words, Nelson Mandela distinguished himself from populist leaders who manipulate for short-term successes but are unable to sacrifice for long-term value. extremists who are able to die for their cause but are unable to live it; and leaders driven by anger and inspired by the best of human ideals.
Mandela was ready to die for his ideals, but he was much more anxious to realize and live them.
At that moment in jail, my goal was renewed, I refined my goals and realized the values of life based on personal ambitions, injuries and motives – I knew what it was worth sacrificing and, if necessary, dying for it! Then I knew what I wanted to live for! I was helped to improve the quality of my conversation with God (SWT), develop a more conscious sense of intentionality, and now develop a purpose in life to support values. The power in me was less latent and obvious, and when people outside of the prison mobilized for my release, spraying my name on walls and demanding my freedom, I knew that the Barakah was radiating because in a small part of my personal history became part of one greater human and political narrative that could only promote the freedom we longed for.
Tip 7: Immerse yourself: "We show you the way"
There is a fundamental difference between the inner power and the ability to control life. Rather than thinking that you can draw every course in your life, predict every choice at intersections on the road, and find the most direct route to a destination, the most important thing to do at the point of departure is to dare to take the plunge into life! So many make a perfect planning of this journey, perfect decisions at intersections, perfect companions on the journey, perfect success guarantees the conditions for a conscious life, for the use of their inner strength and for the radiation of their blessing to the world. To use a cliché: the perfect should not be the enemy of good!
This became clear when I came across the Quran chapter called The Spider Al Ankabut:
"Those who seek in our ways will show them the way."Qur'an 29: 69)
There is very little to be feared if you have taken the steps to join the ultimate force, if you have fully read the Qur'an and spoken and listened to Allah (SWT) in a way that is a means of higher purpose, and worship if you have purpose as well as life purpose. When they make their living, you must not fear your inner strength and keep your barakah or blessing from the world, especially if your next journey is still unknown and your decisions at the intersections of life are unclear. Allah (SWT) will show the way, but you must take the plunge. The Prophet (SAW) once even suggested that fatwas (judgments) from the heart could become your guide.
Wabisah bin Ma'bad (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
I went to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and he asked me:Have you come to inquire about piety? "I answered in the affirmative. Then he said, "Ask your heart for it. Piety is that which satisfies the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which casts doubt on and disturbs the heart, even though people rightly pronounce it and give you judgments on such matters over and over again."(Ahmad and Ad-Darmi).
But we have to get to the point of choice and decision. We must not fear our power or hold back our Barakah!
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