The Dunya is a Marshmallow

If you haven’t heard of the marshmallow experiment before, it was an amazing study done in the 1960’s by a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel, and it has been replicated on large and small scales, for the sake of both research and humor, many, many, times. In short, preschoolers are set alone in front of a plate containing a single marshmallow (the original experiment also offered cookies and pretzels as options). The child is then told that they can either eat the treat right away, or they can wait for the researcher to come back and receive a second marshmallow.

It doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal; it’s just a marshmallow. I don’t know many people (other than myself, occasionally) that find just one marshmallow satisfying. However, this proved to be a very difficult task for young children, especially given the long wait with absolutely nothing to do except look straight ahead at the marshmallow, and succeeding to resist the temptation in order to receive long-term gain proved to be a good indicator of future health, success in school, and stable relationships. There are many examples of the marshmallow test available on the web, but I have yet to find one that doesn’t involve lots of music or have poor sound quality. If you do go looking for it, it is incredibly funny to watch, with children nibbling around the edges, squishing the marshmallow, sniffing it, stuffing it in their mouth and then spitting it out, and hiding from it to avoid eating it.

I found this experiment extremely interesting because it is really a simulation of the ultimate test. Allah (SWT) has put us on this earth with many distractions, temptations, and beautiful things, but the reality is that the dunya is really just a single marshmallow, small, full of air, and unsatisfying. If we resist this marshmallow, what we get is not another marshmallow, but an eternal supply of everything pleasant and good, anything we would ever desire, and a purified soul so that we can completely enjoy it. Even better than all of that, we get to see Allah (SWT).

But wait! The marshmallow that is the dunya is actually one of those dual-colored marshmallows, and you are actually only required to abstain from eating half of it. The halal, permissible half (halal marshmallows!) is perfectly fine to consume, and it won’t take anything away from the reward you seek. You just have to avoid the other side of the marshmallow, the haram, forbidden side. And just like ten minutes seems like eternity to a four-year-old but is really nothing, so is the length of our lives. We can personally attest to how retrospectively short the last five years have been, how we blinked one day and our children grew up, how we all know someone that didn’t live as long as we thought they would.

Sahl bin Sa’d narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “If the world to Allah were equal to a mosquito’s wing, then He would not allow the disbeliever to have a sip of water from it.” (Hasan) [Chapters on Zuhd: Jami At-Tirmidhi]

Allah (SWT) Himself says in the Quran:
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”
(Quran 57:20 Sahih International translation)

Are we going to meet Allah (SWT) having consumed the entire marshmallow, sacrificing our afterlife? Are we going to spend endless hours obsessing over it, squishing it, nibbling at it, and eventually accidentally eating from the haram side? Or are we going to be patient, recognize that it is only a distraction, and choose to wait for the superior, eternal reward instead?

May Allah (SWT) give us the perspective to keep this world in our hands and not in our hearts, Amen.

A Helping Hand: How (and why!) to Fulfill your Community Service Requirement

This article was originally posted on (authored by me) to encourage the IOU student body and remind them of the virtues of volunteering. It is somewhat specific to the students, but insha’ Allah it will benefit others as well as let people know about the great work being done at IOU. Register as a free student today and access the amazing classes on the open campus!

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whosoever removes a difficulty from a believer, Allah will remove from him a difficulty on the Day of Judgment. Whosoever comforts a destitute person, Allah will comfort him in this world and the next. Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the next. Allah will aid a servant (of His) so long as the servant aids his brother.”


“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.”

[Daraqutni, Hasan]

Borrowed from the Colorado Virtual Library. I really admire your photo, and I hope you don’t mind me using it to promote community service!

These are just two examples of the hundreds of ahadith that directly cite the virtues of community service. Allah (swt) promises the Muslim Ummah that if we follow the teachings of Islam, we will reap the rewards in this life and the next. Public service is one of the essential ways that Islam accomplishes this goal. When we do good in our communities, we receive rewards in the next life, but we also directly improve the lives of our brothers and sisters by Allah’s will. That is why IOU, in the spirit of “changing the nation through education,” is now implementing a community service requirement.

While this requirement will, by Allah’s leave, result in major blessings for the IOU family, we can’t ignore that some students are displeased with the recent policy change. Here at IOU, we want you to know that we are here to help you every step of the way to make this a rewarding, enjoyable experience.

First, let’s talk about some of the immediate benefits of volunteer work. Your time will be spent more productively, your money will have more barakah in it, and you will feel good about yourself when you see the smiles on the faces of people you help. Just a few hours of your time can change the life of someone in need.

Seeing the positive impact of your work softens the heart, improving the quality of our ‘ibadah. We get the reward for helping a Muslim and we get the increased reward for better worship! When we do community service in person, we get even more reward because we smile at people and make them feel good, and “a smile is a sadaqah” [tirmidhi]

Whether you plan on using your degree to get a job in the Muslim community, become a da’ee, or simply for personal benefit, community service is a priceless component of your education. If you plan on using your degree for employment, community service will build your network so that when you need a job, you will easily find one, in sha’ Allah. If you plan on becoming a da’ee, by the time you finish, you will already be a da’ee. If you just want the degree for your own personal benefit, community service will protect you from ‘ilmun la yinfa’ (knowledge with no benefit, or knowledge that isn’t put to use. The reason that the children of Israel incurred the wrath of Allah!)

For those who are unfamiliar with community service and are having trouble figuring out where to start, here are some great ways to make your hours:

  1. Call your local masjid and find out what projects already exist.
  2. Call the local Islamic school and ask if they need regular volunteers to work as teacher aids, librarians, etc. (they do)
  3. Visit sick Muslims in their homes and the hospital.
  4. Give da’wah in hospitals, hospices, and prisons.
  5. Find names of the elderly in the community that don’t have family and visit them, making sure they’re taken care of.
  6. Start a charity drive to collect any need in your community (school supplies, food, household items, etc).
  7. Start a class, or halaqah, using the knowledge you gain at IOU.
  8. Teach quran using your tajweed skills to educate your brothers and sisters in proper pronunciation of the quran.
  9. Invite new Muslims to your home and teach them to pray, wear hijab, and recite small surahs.
  10. For banking, psychology, and business minors, offer counseling services to the community. Leave your number on the community bulletin board (be sure to add the word “free”) or tell your khateeb to announce your services after the jumu’ah prayer.
  11. If you live on Mars and none of these options are open to you, IOU always has volunteer work that needs doing both online and on the ground.

However you manage to complete your hours, make sure to say “bismillah” before you start and ask Allah (swt) to keep your intentions pure. May Allah make this task easy on all of us and compensate us all for the work done for His sake on a scale beyond our imaginations!

Law of Attraction

I was watching a documentary on Netflix the other day called The Secret. If you haven’t watched this documentary, it discusses a natural phenomenon called the “Law of Attraction.” It essentially states that your strongest thoughts and emotions will manifest themselves. For example, if all you think about is making a hundred thousand dollars in a year, every day, and you visualize yourself living that lifestyle, and constantly imagine and expect that this will become real for you, the “universe” will grant your wish.

On the other hand, if you are always focused on what you are dissatisfied with in your life and do not express gratitude or hope, then the object of your dissatisfaction will grow. If you keep wishing that a headache will go away, for instance, or that you will become debt-free, then actually you are pushing your headache and debt to grow. The object of your thinking is negative, so the outcome is negative.

I found this to be an incredibly interesting concept. As a believer in a merciful, giving, sustaining Creator, I know that there is Someone listening when I express my deepest wishes. It wasn’t the fact that prayers get answered that was so interesting, but the mechanism. Adhering to this law guarantees you will express gratitude, hope, persistence, and confidence in prayer, all of which are key components to duaa’ (supplication). I have definitely found this to be true. I will add to this, though, that sometimes a sense of immediate fear or urgency can be just as powerful. God is merciful. Below are some examples from my own life.

When I was in kindergarten, I really, really, really wanted a yo-yo. I don’t remember why, exactly. The older kids were probably going through a yo-yo phase. At any rate, our teacher had a “lost and found” drawer, and throughout the week, if you lost something, you looked in that drawer. On Friday, though, anything in the drawer was up for grabs. Each of us (all five!) got to pick one item out of the drawer. When my turn came to pick something, I hoped and hoped that there would be a yo-yo inside. I had pretty good experiences with my expectations being met thus far, and I really believed there could be a yo-yo in the drawer. My teacher opened up the drawer. To my disappointment, I saw no yo-yo. I resigned myself to picking up a small toy hamburger and went back to my seat. As I inspected my hamburger, I found, to my great surprise, that it WAS a yo-yo!

This is probably the exact same yo-yo. Retrieved from

This is probably the exact same yo-yo. Retrieved from

The most recent story that comes to mind happened just this week. I have been contemplating my thoughts on store-bought chicken lately (much more on this in another post), and when my mother-in-law asked me why I hadn’t tried buying chicken from a particular establishment yet, I told her about my doubts and feelings. The very same night, my brother-in-law called her and said, “I just slaughtered a chicken. Do you guys want it?” We were both very pleased.

A much stronger example that is much closer to my heart, though, happened the day I turned 38 weeks pregnant. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my doctor, and she wanted to perform some routine (and not-so routine) procedures before, during, and after the birth that I was not comfortable with, not all of which were even recommended by ACOG (The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that OB’s like to pretend they must obey without question, but in reality don’t).

I was with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law when I received a letter by certified mail that she was terminating my services. In case you aren’t familiar with pregnancy, you are basically expected to give birth any minute after 38 weeks, so letting me go at such a late stage for ANY reason was highly unethical. She didn’t even make sure I had another doctor before she “fired” me.

I tried to have a sense of humor about it, but I was pretty scared. Most doctors will not consider taking a patient so late, especially if she did something bad enough to be fired once! This was my first child, and I hardly wanted to meet my doctor (who would almost certainly be a man; another uncomfortable possibility) when I was in labor. It was time for Dhuhr, the noon prayer, so I prayed and then offered another, smaller prayer. When I was done, I prostrated and begged for everything to turn out all right, and for the baby and myself to be safe.

I rejoined my in-laws and got on the computer. I was planning on sending my obstetrician a (somewhat passive-aggressive) letter back telling her that what she was doing was highly unethical, and that it was in her best interest to take me back for the remainder of my pregnancy. However, I really didn’t want the person overseeing my birth to not want to be there. I opened my email to send the letter to myself for later review.

Before I exited the window, an email popped up from a midwife (shout-out to!). I had been looking at birth centers weeks before out of curiosity, and they had told this midwife that I was interested in a natural birth. She gave me her number and told me to call her. I called her as soon as I got home, and long story short, she found me an excellent doctor that hesitantly agreed to meet with me. We were from the same home state, held very similar beliefs about birth and what is best for mom and baby, and got along gloriously.

I ended up giving birth at a much better hospital with much better policies with amazing nurses that happened to be doulas and seemed exclusively dedicated to my care, at no extra cost. I got exactly what I wanted with tons of extra support, whereas if I had gone through with my plans at the other hospital with the other doctor, I almost certainly would have had surgery. God is merciful, and he does not leave his servants in times of need.

There is one more beef I have with this documentary, though. They (the people testifying to this phenomenon) talk about these blessings as if they brought them on themselves, or that the force that bestows these blessings is something other than an intelligent creator. Believing that the “universe” just gives you stuff you ask for is like expecting a bridge to build itself. Someone has to do it. And even if it feels like you did all the work, God is the one that rewarded that work.

We also need to remember that both the positive and negative events in our life are trials from God- opportunities to please him and secure his blessings in the afterlife, and are not in themselves guarantees that God is pleased with us. Therefore, we must thank God for both the perceived good and bad in our lives, for they are both means to the same end, and the reward for responding to those events appropriately is worth any and all trouble that they may cause.

When has the Law of Attraction affected your life? Was it positive or negative?

Hello world!

Assalamu Alaikum! (Peace upon all of you)

My name is Summer. I’m Muslim, I am studying special education, and I love real food (with lots of fat!) and the healing it can provide. I like DIY projects, and I dream of one day having my own backyard farm. I would like to homeschool one day. In a nutshell, I like doing everything myself, at least once. You can expect this blog to reflect all of that. But what does any of that have to do with the 15 century?

We’re living it!

If you’re Muslim, you may know that we are currently in the 15th century AH: After Hijra. This title also reflects my appreciation for things that are old and traditional, such as preparing slow-rise sourdough, making your own soap, or growing your own food.

Feel free to comment, ask questions, or buy me a small farm.