As salaam alaikum,
Once again, just the translation (Asad) of a few ayat that gave me pause and resonated with me now, in this time of my life.
"True piety does not consist in turning your face towards the east or the west--but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance--however much he himself may cherish it--upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God." (2:177)
On the freeing human beings from bondage tip...let us not scoff at that! Just because on of the more horrible slavery periods of our recorded history as perpetuated from the trans-Atlantic African slave trade has been over for not yet 150 years (that's not a long time), you'd best believe that there are slaves everywhere still. The most flagrant case I know of in the western hemisphere is the enslavement of Haitians in the Dominican Republic sugar plantations. There are probably isolated pockets of slaves in the US, too, under the radar. Then there are plenty of cases of virtual slavery with those who are paid ridiculous wages, and other types of slavery. There are those in bondage today that can be freed!
So let's leave the minutiae of Islam alone for a second, because true piety is something that few Muslims I know have attained! And I count myself in the number, of course, lest I complain too much!
This is the hardest thing for me, I think: remaining patient in times of adversity. Adversity for me, I think, is not being able to get married, and I haven't been that good about being patient.
Piety is an awesome thing...there are so many more things we can do as Muslims to attain it, and I feel like we so seldom focus on these things...
Another thing I liked...God reminding us:
"And if My servants ask thee about Me--behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way." (2:186)
God is with us, hears us and responds to us whenever we call...so let us do our part and respond to Him and believe Him, actually, which is the least we can do in gratitude! As the Qur'an says multiple times, most of us are ungrateful.
It's hard for us who feel so far from God sometimes to be truly grateful, but He lines up a way to think about it that I like:
"And when you have performed your acts of worship, [continue to] bear God in mind as you would ear your own fathers in mind---nay, with a keener remembrance! For there are people who [merely] pray, "O our Sustainer! Give us in this world"--and such shall not partake in the blessings of the life to come. But there are among them such as pray "O our Sustainer! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come, and keep us safe from the suffering through the fire": it is these that shall have their portion [of happiness] in return for what they have earned. And God is swift in reckoning." (2:200-202)
This is a gauge I often use for myself throughout the day or in the course of life...and I strive to be conscious of God more than I am conscious of my parents. Just as I want to follow the way that my parents set out for me, I more want to follow the way that God has set out for me. And though I do wish to be guided the straight way, I feel like I downplay the next life in my prayers. You would think this wouldn't slip my mind...
But sometimes I'm overwhelmed my my own day's trifling burdens that I forget to pray about the life to come, though I tussle with this one. Even though the rough times, which are relatively rough to me and relatively easy in the face of what is suffered by the rest of humankind, I find an unexpected comfort in this:
"[But] do you think that you could enter paradise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle, and the believers with him, would exclaim, "When will God's succor come?" Oh, verily, God's succor is [always] near!" (2:214)
I will take any of what I call my hardships every day, then, since this seems to be the natural course of things. May it fortify me and prepare me for the rest of this life and the next.
May our collective hardships fortify us and prepare us for the rest of this life and the next!