Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: I have an institute. My direct competition is right opposite my office. They have numerous students for the same courses we offer. We have hardly a handful. Clients see them first and end up being dissatisfied. After a year, some clients ‘suddenly’ discover us. Is there some sort of hidden element blinding the people from seeing us? A bad djinn? A Satan helper?
Answer: In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate.
Thank you for your question. May Allah grant you the best of states and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.
When we feel stuck or lost in any given situation, it’s often wise to trace back one’s steps and see what may have gone wrong. It is also very useful to look at the situation from different perspectives so we can see clearly the way forward and find a solution. An easy way to do this is looking at it from both a spiritual perspective and a worldly viewpoint. With this approach in mind, I hope the following advice will be of benefit inshallah.
A SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVE
Intention: The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) stated, ‘Verily, works are according to intention.’ When we begin any act, it is important to start with the correct intention. Correct intention means to direct the ultimate purpose of your works to God. Correct intention also includes serving God’s creation, providing a communal need, earning a lawful income to provide for oneself and family etc. When such intentions are made, we can confidently proceed with the knowledge that we are on the right footing. This applies to everything in life, and in doing so, all our acts, from the mundane to most significant events in life, have the potential to be acts of worship, gain reward, maximise blessings, and more importantly, are an opportunity to draw closer to God.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to go back and review our intentions in any given act. If you find that your intentions were not as they should have been, don’t worry, simply renew your intention firmly now and move on (optimally pray two rakats of salat tawba first, see below). If you find you already had praiseworthy intentions, then simply renew them and work through the other suggestions below.
Looking inward: God, Exalted is He, tells us in the oft-quoted verse, ‘Allah does not change a people’s condition unless they change what is in their hearts.’ When we find things are not going the way we would like, even despite having good intentions, the next step is to look inward and inspect ourselves and our relationship with others. Introspection is key to finding the answer to many of our spiritual and worldly problems. For example, we may ask ourselves:
– Are we persisting in any sin, in our private or professional life, whether by action or words?
– Are we fulfilling the rights of God in our daily life and trying to abide by the shariah as best as we can?
– Have we been remiss in fulfilling the rights of our fellow human beings, relative or stranger?
– Have we been unjust to anyone, or owe anyone anything?
– When we look inside our hearts, do we harbour rancour, ill feelings, or any other undesirable feelings towards anyone?
There are many, many questions one could ask oneself. Sit still in a quiet room for 5 – 10 minutes and inspect your heart’s content. If you find anything disagreeable by Islamic standards, or that you would be ashamed to say out loud, then turn to Allah and ask Him to remove it from your heart and replace it with its opposite. Just as the physical body requires cleansing from toxins through detox and fasting, the spiritual heart requires cleansing also. Its detox is the introspection of the inner self, taking oneself into account, and asking God to remove whatever is objectionable.
Understanding that everything is from God: Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them both) reports:
“One day I was riding behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.’”
We can deduce many profound lessons from this hadith, but the one most important for us in this situation is that we understand and have conviction that Allah alone has the power to benefit or harm. This is a fundamental principle of our belief, that all good and evil is from God. Once we understand this, our experience of the various difficulties and tests that befall us in this life becomes more manageable, as we appreciate that ultimately it is in line with the divine Will of God and from divine Wisdom, even if we cannot perceive it. When viewed from this perspective, we can face challenging situation with an inner strength and contentment, and with patience and hope. Be positive and work forward, in the certainty that God is in charge.
It may also be beneficial to study a basic course in Aqidah, such as those offered in the SeekersHub courses page. Sound knowledge of belief fortifies one’s faith and brings about certainty in God’s Decree.
The Prayers of Repentance and Need: Two powerful prayers will be of considerable benefit to you in your situation, Salat al tawbah (Repentence) and Salat al Haajah (Need). The prayer of repentance is a doorway to success, as God loves the one who asks for forgiveness and loves to forgive. Ask Allah to forgive all your sins, those that you are aware of and those concealed to you. Likewise, the prayer of Need is an opportunity to ask God for what you need and want in worldly affairs and in the afterlife. They consist of two rakats and du’a afterwards.
Du’a (supplication): Your use of invocations and Quranic verses is commendable. Below are some simple supplications from the Sunnah which may be useful to you. It may be a good idea to have a set time in the day and night to recite these:
Supplication for increase in sustenance and good works
اللهم انى أسالك علماً نافعاً و رزقاً طيباً و عملاً متقبلاً
“O’ Allah, I ask you [to grant me] beneficial knowledge, goodly sustenance, and accepted acts” (Ibn Majah)
Seeking protection from the devils and jinn
أَعُوذُ بكَلِمَاتِ اللهِ التَّامَّاتِ الَّتِي لَا يُجَاوِزُهُنَّ بَرٌّ ولَا فَاجرٌ مِنْ شّرِّ مَا خَلقَ، وبَرَأَ وذَرَأَ، ومِنْ شَرِّ مَا يَنْزِلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وِمنْ شَرِّ مَا يَعْرُجُ فيهَا، ومِن شَرِّ مَا ذَرَأَ في الأَرْضِ ومِنْ شَرِّ مَا يَخْرُجُ مِنْهَا، وِمنْ شَرِّ فِتَنِ اللَّيْلِ والنَّهارِ، ومِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ طارِقٍ إِلَّا طَارِقاً يَطْرُقُ بخَيْرٍ يَا رَحْمَنُ
“I take refuge within Allah’s perfect words which no righteous or unrighteous person can transgress, from all the evil that He has created, made and originated. (I take refuge) from the evil that descends from the sky and the evil that rises up to it. (I take refuge) from the evil that is spread on Earth and the evil that springs from her, and I take refuge from the evil of the tribulations of night and day, and the evil of one who visits at night except the one who brings good, O Merciful One.” (Husnul Hasin)
When confronted with a difficult situation:
اللَّهُمَّ لاَ سَهْلاً إِلّاَ مَا جَعَلّتَهٌ سَهْلاً وَأَنّتَ تَجّعَلَ الحَزَنَ إِذَا شِئتَ سَهْلاً
Oh Allah! Nothing is easy except what You have made easy. If You wish, You can make the difficult easy (Ibn al Sunni)
When feeling helpless regarding matter:
حسبي اللهِ ونعم الوکيل
Allah is my sufficiency, and how perfect a benefactor (Abu Dawud). This invocation can be is best repeated 3 times or more in odd counts.
For increase in Reliance on God:
حَسْبِيَ اللّهُ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
Allah is sufficient for me. There is none worthy of worship but Him. I have placed my trust in Him, and He is the Lord of the Majestic Throne.
Recitation: According to one Hadith, the Prophet (Peace and blessing be upon him), used to invoke God’s protection against the mischief of Jinn and the evil gaze of men (using various words) until God revealed the Surahs, Al Falaq and Al Nas. Thereafter, the Prophet (Peace and blessing be upon him) firmly held on to these and discarded all others. This is a testimony to both the tremendous importance and powerfulness of these very two short surahs. Recite them at night before going to bed and when you wake up.
Sadaqah: An extremely potent, yet often neglected, tool to fulfil one’s needs, achieve one’s ambitions, and to expiate sins, is to give regular charity. It doesn’t have to be large amounts, small and regular payments are better than unsustainable large payments. Monetary charity is good, but if money is tight, there are many other ways to give charity, such as sharing food or helping people in need, so long as it is with the right intention. Many people have attested to change in life circumstances through the simple act of giving charity.
Good Opinion (Husn al dhan): Lastly, try to always maintain a good opinion of people. Whilst you can’t rule out ‘hidden elements’ affecting your school, it is not something you can know for sure, so the best way forward is to not think about it in this way for now. Good opinion of others can only bring good, while suspicion and ill-feeling usually only bring more problems.
To summarise the spiritual aspect of finding a solution, these are the main points:
1. Renew your intention for your business venture / school
2. Reflect on your inward state 5-10 minutes anytime of the day or night. Resolve to give up any sins, reflect on your relationships with those around you and firmly decide to restore all rights to others.
3. Increase your certainty that everything is from God through the supplications mentioned and taking a basic course in Belief.
4. Prayers of Repentance and Need – Pray these two simple prayers at any time, at home or in the office, with short but sincere du’a at the end .
5. Du’a and Recitation – Make a set time in the morning and evening to repeat these simple supplications / surahs with focus and sincerity.
6. Give small amounts of sadaqah regularly, if able.
7. Try to maintain good opinion of everyone (Husn al dhan).
By doing the above, you will feel you have simply, but thoroughly and methodicall, taken all the steps you can from a spiritual perspective. Resolving the rights of others should be the absolute priority before all else.
THE WORLDLY PERSPECTIVE
The second side to finding a solution to your problem lies in exploring worldly means.
Courses offered: You mentioned that you offer the same courses as your competitor. Perhaps you can explore other related courses that they do not offer. Alternatively, think of ideas and ways to adapt and present your courses in order to distinguish your school from others.
Marketing: It would be a good idea to review your marketing strategy. Make sure your posters are attractive and professional. Look at different public spaces for distributing posters or leaflets for your school, such as community centres, mosques, supermarkets, libraries, and advertise in local papers etc. The wider you advertise the more likely people will notice, especially if they come across your school’s name often. Make sure your school name is a good one! Also, get a professional and memorable logo designed and include it in all your marketing.
Online presence: If you haven’t already, get a good website made for the school and make it easy to use and informative. Write a mission statement and give clear information on your courses and fees. Choose a design and layout that stands out compared to other similar schools.
Free taster lessons: Giving free knowledge is an excellent way to bring in new customers. Free taster lessons and short courses are an excellent publicity strategy which benefits both the business and the client.
Pricing: Make sure your prices are competitive and reasonable. If you can, offer seasonal discounts or block booking discounts.
Events: Organise free events at your school that are related to your school subjects. Make it relevant to the interests and needs of your clients. You could ask guest speakers to come and give talks or hold discussions about subjects important to the students you get. Many professionals, such as writers, artists, doctors, local politicians, teachers, business people, religious scholars etc. are happy to speak for free. In this way your school takes on a new and interactive dimension.
Design and Layout: Ensure that your school is designed and set-up in way that is appealing to your young students. Open spaces, natural light, and bright clean rooms are much more noticeable and appealing than dull or drab looking classrooms.
Ask for advice and brainstorm in a team: Working in team are a great way to bring together and share ideas and work out different solutions to a company’s problems. Consult with others and get advice before making any decisions.
Moving location: If you feel that you have done all the above then it may well be worth moving your school to a new location. You mentioned that both schools are in extremely close proximity and that people don’t notice you, despite your poster. Is it a possibility that they get confused and think it’s an extension of the same school? A move to new premises (if possible) may well be a good idea and a turning point for your business, in terms of both distinguishing the two schools and for resolving the feeling that unknown factors may perhaps be at work where you currently are.
I hope the above advice will help in resolving your issue. May Allah increase you in every good and protect of you from every harm, in this life and the next. And true success is from Allah alone.
 Nawawi, M, Riyaad as Saliheen, Mu’assasah al Risalah, annoted by Shuayb Anaut, p. 29
 The Holy Quran, [13:11]
 Nawawi, M, [Hadith: 19] 40 Hadith al Nawawi, Dar al Minhaj, p 71.
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007 he travelled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim. Sciences studied include: grammar and morphology, theology, and legal methodology, with my main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh, completing the entire Hadrami curriculum. His teachers include Mufti Muhammad Ba’Oudan, Habib Ali Mashhur Bin Hafiz, Mufti Muhammad Ali al-Khatib, Habib Abdullah Mehdar, and Habib Abu Bakr Bilfaqih.