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Apr 23, 2014

Seven ways of getting over grief Part 2

By Arty

Bismillah

Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) tells us in the Qur’an that we were created in toil: “We have certainly created man into hardship” (90:4). This life is not supposed to be easy; it is a life of tests and our reward for passing the tests of this temporary life is eternal bliss in the heavens.  In Part 1, I offered some tips on how to endure grief and the power of making dua.  Let's continue on:

4) GIVE CHARITY

A mother who had just lost her pregnancy said in a support group, “I could not wait to do something I had control over so I started planning the makeover of my home. I had to do something I could control.” This mother was non-Muslim, so her perspective was different; however, doing something to better the situation is one of the best ways to get over grief. Giving charity and helping others, who are in more need than us, helps us turn our grief into a productive and positive moment. Giving charity on behalf of those we just lost also helps us feel as if we have done something for them, and are not completely helpless. Finally, helping others takes the focus away from our own worries and helps us to be grateful.

5) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH RIGHTEOUS COMPANY

The nasiha (sincere words of advice) of the righteous is like medicine. The righteous ones will remind you of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and they will make sure they do not add to your agony. They are also those who will sincerely pray and make dua for you. Thus, making sure we have righteous company around us at times of grief helps a great deal in putting us back on the path of recovery.

A great example of this is the example of our mother, Khadija, (radiallahu anha), who immediately comforted our beloved prophet (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam) when he came back from the cave distressed.

"....Then Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) returned with the Inspiration 
and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, 
"Cover me! Cover me!". She covered him till his fear was over 
and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, 
"I fear that something may happen to me." 
Khadija replied, "Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. 
You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, 
serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones." (2)


6) SHED TEARS OF MERCY

It is okay to cry when we feel pain, grief, and sorrow. Shedding tears is actually from the mercy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

..and the eyes of Allah's messenger (peace be upon him) started shedding tears. 
'AbdurRahman bin 'Auf said, "O Allah's Apostle, even you are weeping!" 
He said, "O Ibn 'Auf, this is mercy." 
Then he wept more and said, "The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, 
and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim ! 
Indeed we are grieved by your separation.” (3)

Our beloved prophet (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam) shed tears many times throughout his life and they were all tears of mercy. Tears are a way to relieve the pain we are feeling inside and show mercy to others. What is forbidden is to wail, complain, and show displeasure at the decree of Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala). Prophet Ya'qub (alayhi salaam) cried so much at the loss of his son Yusuf (alayhi salaam) that he became blind. However, he never showed displeasure at the decree of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala); rather, he showed patience, the most beautiful form of patience.

[Yaqub] said, “Rather, your souls have enticed you to something, so patience is most fitting. Perhaps Allah will bring them to me all together. Indeed it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise” (12:83).

And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Yusuf,” and his eyes became white from grief, for he was [of that] a suppressor (12:84).

He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you do not know” (12:86).

7) MAKE PATIENCE YOUR BEST FRIEND

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is with the patient. If Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is with you, who can harm you? If Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is with you, He will see you through any difficulty, and victory will be yours. As our beloved prophet (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam) said:

“Know indeed that victory comes with patience” (4)

Surah Yusuf in the Qur’an also shows us how much patience is vital in getting over grief. Yusuf and his father Yaqub (alayhum salaam) practiced the most beautiful form of patience and, as a result, Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) reunited them and made Yusuf (alayhi salaam) one of the wealthy leaders in the land. The main lesson one can take from Surah Yusuf is to NEVER lose hope, never give up on the Mercy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala):

“...and despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah 
except the disbelieving people” (12:87).

These are just seven of many suggestions and tips on how to get over grief. What are some other suggestions which could help someone cope with grief? Please feel free to share with us so we can all benefit. May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) bless us with beautiful patience so that we can persevere throughout all the trials put in our paths, and be granted the ultimate reward: Jannah.

“And will reward them for what they patiently endured [with] a garden [in Paradise] 
and silk [garments]” (76:12).



References:

(1) Muslim 2/632
(2) Bukhari 1/3
(3) Bukhari, 2/390
(4) Ahmad 1/392


Apr 21, 2014

Environmental Issues Series: Why should Muslims care about the Environment? Part 2

By Tara Alomari

Bismillah



We all know that the Muslim Ummah is in dire straits. With widespread poverty and starvation in many places and extravagant wealth in others, to conflicts, oppression, ignorance and injustices, there are many issues which catch our attention. However, how many of us stop to think of the environment and how it relates to these other issues? The first part of this article answered the question of why we, as Muslims should make the environment a priority over, or at least equal to, other issues of concern to our Ummah, as well as demonstrate how all the other problems are connected to the issue of the environment. We shall continue this discussion in this part.


The reality of climate change is supported by every single reputable and rigorous scientific association in the world. There really is no debate about the fact that it is happening, and we should seriously question the motives of those who try to make it seem debatable. For example, according to NASA, carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have ever been in human history. This disturbance in the age old balance of carbon has multiple negative effects on the earth and all living things; effects which echo off each other, creating negative feedback loops that make the problems worse and worse. For example, the warming of the atmosphere caused by elevated carbon dioxide levels has been causing the arctic ice to melt; when the ice melts the arctic becomes less covered in white and loses its ability to reflect the sun’s rays, which causes even further ice to melt.




This graph depicts the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere over the course of the last 400,000 years. In 1950, which was about 100 years after the beginning of the industrial revolution, the levels rose higher than ever before. After 1950, levels continued to rise so swiftly that it practically looks like a straight line. These are not just estimates. They are based off of hard data obtained from ice core samples, geological sediment records, and other sources. In case you’ve ever wondered, where such statistics come from, there are scientists today studying the amazing record of our earth which is preserved deep in the ice in Antarctica. What happens is this: every year, a very fine layer of ice collects on the surface of Antarctica, trapping below it the previous year’s layer along with a variety of other molecules, such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, helium, etc., which were present in the air and water that year. Over the years, these records pile up, like pages in a book, recording the atmospheric conditions of our planet over the millennia.

One of the most easy-to-recognize manifestations of climate change is the rapid melting of polar ice caps and other glaciers all over the world. Let us look at Africa again and examine the case of Mount Kilimanjaro. A mountain coated in year-round snow that has supported life (all the animals of the area as well as countless civilizations) for thousands and thousands of years (at least 11,000 years) from rivers derived from its glacial top has only in the last 50 years begun to disappear. Does that not seem strange to you? In fact, from 1920 to the present, 80% of Kilimanjaro’s ice cap has disappeared. Now, the rivers that flow from it are becoming smaller and smaller, some drying up in the summer, and some disappearing completely, resulting in the desertification of the area, crop failure, starvation, malnutrition, conflict over resources, and a range of other problems.

Just as it was mentioned that the heavens and earth reflect the signs sent down in the Quran, reflect on this:

Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so that He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done so that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. (Surah Ar-Rum 30:41)

This is climate change in a nutshell, described perfectly and succinctly by Allah in the Quran. We are now beginning to taste a little of what we have done. The corruption, oppression, destruction, and fouling of the environment we live in cannot carry on forever without consequences. We, as Muslims must stand up and reclaim our honored position as Khalifas. We as an Ummah must face climate change head-on with the wisdom of the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad, sal Allahu aleyhi wa sallam, and reestablish justice in every form on earth. We must return to righteousness.


Stay tuned for part two of this series: the How’s and Why’s of water conservation!




[i] Courtesy of NASA. Available at http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
 

Apr 18, 2014

Stress busters for marriage

by Bela Khan

Bismillah

After my last article on repairing marital relationships, my inbox was flooded with e-mails seeking help and guidance. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of e-mails I had to reply to. However, that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it inspired me to shed light on another related subject: stress busting in marital relationships.

It is family ‘Z’ now.

When a man coming from a family ‘A’ marries a women belonging to family ‘B’, they start a new family ‘Z’. This family ‘Z’ is neither ‘A’ nor ‘B’. It’s a new family with its unique set of values, principles and rules. If the two pioneers of this family (husband and wife) sit down and decide upon their values (yes, they can take all the goodies from their individual families ‘A’ and ‘B’), they will save themselves from a lot of trouble and needless bickering.A very strong cause of friction between the couple is referring back to their individual families every now and then.

“My family always held dinner parties.”
“My family cooked meals twice a day.”

You can avoid this by having your own set of values, and avoid referring back to what your old families used to do. By doing this, you will eliminate a very strong motivator of rift between you two.

So this is the way, family Z thinks and works:

“My family used to sleep very late but we will make sure that ‘our’ family sleeps early.”
“My family used to spend thousands of dollars on shopping, but ‘our’ family will opt for the middle path.”

Sounds cool, does it not? Below is some friendly advice to keep in mind while tackling marital differences.

Compassion or competition?

Let us be open-hearted and realistic enough to accept this reality first: No couple on earth can “always” live in compassionate harmony. Differences are bound to surface. We need to graciously acknowledge these differences in word and deed.

Take a common scenario: The husband is a very passion-driven and career-obsessed man. The wife, too, happens to be a visionary woman but once the knot is tied, she is left to take care of the laundry, dishes, cooking and kids 24/7. The husband is not concerned in the least bit that many of his wife’s innate talents and desires are being stifled. What should his correct approach to this situation be? He can either choose to ignore all the sacrifices the lady is making; and declare in a callously nonchalant manner: “So what? Every woman on earth does this; she is not doing anything unique for the first time”. Or he can place himself in his wife’s shoes. How does it feel when someone deprives you of all the dreams that you cherished for decades, and locks you up in a cage with your life confined to cooking and cleaning? Once the husband truly empathizes with his wife, he would definitely try to lessen her household burden (by pitching in to help, hiring a maid, or simply decreasing his demands and lowering the bar) and try to give her adequate time and space to live her passion.

It is true for the reverse scenario. Consider the wife who is well-established in her business and generating revenue from seemingly everywhere while the husband just lost his job. Will the wife chide him now and label him a ‘loser’? Or will she be able to empathize and provide him a helping hand and reassuring support?

You are made to find tranquility and compassion in each other. Competition is for the strangers. For you, it is love, peace and respect only.

And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility and He has put between you love and mercy.” (30:21) 

You will not always see eye to eye on every subject

No matter how strong your compatibility is, no matter how perfect a fit you guys are for each other, difference of opinion is inevitable. Couples will have disagreement, fights, heated discussions, and let us face it - it is the very consequence of being a human with intellect. Here are a few pointers to save your home from becoming a battleground every other day:

- Stick to issues which concern the present. He might have embarrassed you in front of your sister-in-law 10 years ago, but today is not the time to discuss it. If you will keep on bring up past issues, you will never be able to resolve the issues at hand. You will only drift further apart.

- You might feel that she ‘never’ pays heed to your instructions and that she is ‘always’ complaining about your mom, but using words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ to highlight the other's mistakes is lethal. These words are enough to instigate her to start throwing dishes at you.

- Remember, you lose the right to be respected the moment you stop respecting. At the end of the day, both of you are intertwined in a divinely-ordained relationship. Name calling, blame-game and pointing fingers suit the hooligans only.

- Win-win solutions always help. Do not try to have everything in your basket. You will only stumble and fall. Mutually beneficial solutions are really helpful in the long run.

And say to My slaves (i.e. the true believers of Islamic Monotheism) 
that they should (only) say those words that are the best. 
(Because) Shaitan (Satan) verily, sows disagreements among them (17:53)


ACTION STEPS

- Define the values of your family and vow to never go against them, come what may.

- If you have not done it lately, steal some moments for compassionate communication, confession and re-union.

- Come to common terms on at least 5 issues you both have not settled yet. Writing always helps.

Brainstorm and share some more vibrant tips with us.


I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below!



Apr 16, 2014

Seven ways of getting over grief Part 1


By Arty


Bismillah

Advertisements of people having fun, seemingly leading the perfect life, is portrayed everywhere as if this was the norm, the default. Thus, when a trial hits us, we believe we are the only ones dealing with grief, we feel as if we are the only ones suffering and the oh so popular whisper of shaytan, “Why me, why is this happening to me?” keeps coming to our mind with the sole purpose of turning us into ungrateful beings. 

Grief is by default what we, humans, will inevitably encounter in this life, thus we need to prepare ourselves to react in a manner that is most pleasing to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) so that we can turn this moment of grief into a moment of victory and reward for us. In one of his lectures, Mufti Menk said something powerful. He reminded his audience that the most beloved to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), our prophet Muhammad (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam), buried all of his children except for one, Fatimah (radhi Allahu anha). Why? Why did our beloved prophet (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam), the most beloved to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), have to go through so much grief?’ 

The grief and trials were obviously not to punish the prophets, but rather to elevate them even higher in status so they could be perfect examples for us to follow when we are faced with grief. With that in mind, here are seven ways from their perfect examples, to help us get over grief.

1) REMEMBER THE PURPOSE OF OUR CREATION

The first thing we should do when calamity strikes is to remember why we are here and where we are going. Instead of being sucked in the moment of grief, which could blind us from the greater objective, we should immediately remind ourselves:

“Innalillahi wa inna elahi rajioon.”


… Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return” (2:156).

By repeating this statement in times of grief, Allah (subhannahu wa taala) promises us three things: His blessings, Mercy and Guidance. As a result, we turn our moment of grief into a moment of victory and a moment of great reward.

Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. 
And it is those who are the [rightly] guided” (2:157).

Umm Salama (radiallahu anha), Mother of the Believers, is reported to have said that the messenger of Allah (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam) advised her to repeat the statement “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return” when she lost her husband, Abu Salama, and to add the following supplication:

"Allahumma jurni fee museebatee wa ‘akhliflee khayran minhaa." (1)

"Oh Allah take me out of my plight and bring to me after it something better".

Shortly after she repeated the statement and dua, she received the proposal of none other than the Messenger of Allah (sallalaahu alayhi wassallam). Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) replaced her husband with the best husband anyone could wish for.

2) INCREASE IN DUA AND PRAISE
An important lesson we learn from the above narration is that it is important to increase in dua and supplication at times of grief. Times of sorrow are times when we are more vulnerable and it is easy for us to say something that might be displeasing to our Creator. In order to protect us from that weakness, let our words be words of praise and supplications instead. Let us say good or remain silent, especially at times of intense grief. Not only does engaging in ‘dhikr’ (words of praise and remembrance of Allah) protect us from saying something sinful, but it also acts as an anti-anxiety pill, as medication for our soul.

Indeed, Allah (subhannahu wa ta’ala) promises the one who engages in dhikr inner peace:

…Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (13:28)

Making dua in times of grief and calamity also saves us from the calamity we find ourselves in, as per the example of Prophet Yunus (alayhi salaam), who, when trapped in the belly of the fish in the darkness of the ocean, called out to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) saying:

There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.” (21:87)

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) heard his supplication and saved him from his trials:

And had he not been of those who exalt Allah, He would have remained inside its belly until the Day they are resurrected.” (37:143-144)

This is indeed a great example for us to follow.

3) CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF FAITH IN THE HOME

Home should be a place for the remembrance of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

... and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer..” (10:87).

At times of grief, one is more vulnerable to the whispers of the shayateen, thus, by making your home a place of remembrance of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), it is protected and you are protected. Make Qur’an part of your healing process by increasing your reading of it in the home.

And We send down of the Qur'an that which is healing and mercy for the believers...” (17:82).

_____
I hope you enjoyed reading this part.  Insha Allah, more tips to follow in Part 2.

Apr 14, 2014

Environmental Issues Series: Why should Muslims care about the Environment? Part 1


By Tara Alomari

Bismillah



There are over 700 verses in the Quran that command us to reflect on nature. Why do you think this is so? Many scholars actually consider the natural world to be a reflection of the Quran- and vice versa - in the sense that the world is filled everywhere we look to signs of Allah’s presence and majesty. It is no coincidence that the “verses” of the Quran are called “Ayat” or signs, just like the signs in the heavens and the earth. This establishes, beyond a doubt, the importance of the natural world for our understanding of the Creator. What, then, is our role in regards to it?

Allah has given us the role of Khalifas of creation, but what does Khalifa means exactly? What benefits does this role give us and what does it demand of us? The word “Khalifa” has been translated many different ways and can be understood to encompass the roles of stewards, vicegerents, leaders, and protectors. Like all positions of power, we have the ability to become the dictators and oppressors of Allah’s creation. Allah says in the Quran:

And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, 
"Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority." 
They said, "Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, 
while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?" 
Allah said, "Indeed, I know that which you do not know." 
(Surah Al-Baqarah 2: 30)

This verse, which establishes the special position that Allah has put us in on this earth, should give us hope despite its description of our known failure to live up to it. This is because, even though the angels knew we would spread corruption, spill blood, and be terrible dictators rather than responsible, humble stewards, Allah had a reason, despite all of that, to give us this lofty position. If we are to live up to the role which Allah has created us for in this dunia, then we have to stop being heedless of our actions and embrace our responsibilities towards this fragile world with humility and graciousness towards the One who created the whole, incredible world.

Furthermore, this is THE essentially Muslim issue. To care about the environment is to reclaim our place, our honor, and our duty. Unfortunately, caring about the environment is often seen as a Western issue, or the concern of new-age hippies and dreamers. “We’ll deal with our own problems and then we’ll think about the environment” is what too many Muslims say and think. They do not realize that poverty, economic injustice, and health (social and personal), are all linked to environmental sustainability. Everything really is interconnected.

The many problems of the Ummah will never be solved unless they have an environmentally sustainable basis. For example, the widespread famine and various conflicts that we see at present in the Horn of Africa will never be solved in the long-term by collecting people in refugee camps and giving them food rations. This is obvious. These are necessary short-term medications that treat the symptoms of the problem, but a real solution must reverse the desertification of the land that has taken place. Desertification is the man-made process whereby the natural resources of a land (meaning the plants, trees and wild animals) have been consumed faster than they can replenish themselves, causing once green trees and rich, wet soil to turn to barren skeletons on parched clay and sand. It is often the result of exploitative farming practices and over grazing, as the case has been in the Horn of Africa, where it has led to widespread crop failure and subsequently starvation and increased conflict over resources.

This demonstrates very nicely the next point, which is that Allah created the world in “Al-Mizan”. What is Al-Mizan? In one sense, it is the scale of deeds (bad and good), which we will all be presented with on the Day of Judgment. However, it also refers to a part of the reality that infuses our world. Allah says in the Quran:

And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance [Al-Mizan]. 
That you not transgress within the balance. And establish weight in justice 
and do not make deficient the balance. And the earth He laid [out] for the creatures. 
(Surah Ar-Rahman 55: 7-10)

Here Allah defines Al-Mizan, or the Balance, describing the creation of the heavens and the creation of the earth, which is laid out for whom, He says? (Hint: it is not for us.) The preservation of Al-Mizan, the sustaining balance of life on earth, is not merely a good thing to do; it is a commandment from Allah.

The use of Al, meaning “the”, demonstrates that this word is used in an absolute or ultimate sense. It is “THE BALANCE”, not “the balance of___”. So, we can understand that it encompasses all of the great balances of life, including the dynamic balance of nature, through which the cycles of life, water, carbon, etc., perpetuate the existence of life on earth. If any of these cycles which make up the great Balance are upset, then life cannot be sustained. True justice, equity, equality, and other human virtues are vital to upholding Al-Mizan, not just amongst human communities, but also for ensuring the quality, safety, and dignity of all life on earth. When humans fail to meet their role as Khalifas on earth, what ensues is an unbalancing of the Balance, or, in other words, climate change.


Stay tuned for the next part of this article!



Apr 11, 2014

5 Steps to strengthen your relationship with your mother (Part 2)

By Melody

Part 1


Bismillah


We continue to look at the other ways in which we can strengthen the relationship with our mother.

3) Spending time together
Once you establish your want to embark on this journey, the next step is planning to regularly spend more quality time with your mother. This can be in the form of going out to meals, shopping together, spend more time with her during holidays, or simply at the dinner table. It can be hard at first, especially when you sense a generation/culture gap, but give it a go. 

Listen to your mother’s life experiences and you will find that aside from the different environment she may have been in, there is still much you can relate to. You begin to realise, “Hey, she was just like me once.” Conversely, talk to her about your life and about your day at school/university/work. Tell her if you have a problem and ask her to make duaa for you; the mother’s duaa is a powerful tool that should not be disregarded. As you experience the power of her duaa and the sincerity she has for you, and as you sense peace upon being on good terms with her, watch how your heart will automatically soften and ultimately lead to you enjoying her company and inshaAllah becoming almost like good friends. 

Remember what Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said when someone inquired about who is best entitled to one’s companionship; in the hadith we are told that he simply replied with “your mother” three times, therefore ensure that you dedicate time within your schedule to spend with her.

4) Patience
Conflicts, arguments, and quarrels amongst parents and their children are common in any home. It can be difficult to resist anger in times of conflict, especially when you feel you are wronged. So here is some advice to help overcome those moments. 

In the middle of a heated argument, the best thing to do is to keep silent. Another tip would be to say ‘sorry,’ even if you feel it’s not your fault. Immediately, you will see the argument will cool down. This may take a lot of self-control, but you will get there with practice, of which the key is to be patient.Undoubtedly you will slip at times, but what you should NOT do is give up. Keep returning to Him (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in repentance and ask for guidance; you will be amazed at how He is able to transform an awkward situation so subtly. Ponder over the following beautiful words of the Qur’an in relation to parents:

And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, 
"My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small. 
Your Lord is most knowing of what is within yourselves. If you should be righteous [in intention] - then indeed He is ever, to the often returning [to Him], Forgiving 
(Surah Al-Isra 17:24-25)


5) Helping around the home
Whether it is house chores, helping your younger siblings, taking over a role that your mother normally takes on, or undertaking an action that you know will please her, take the initiative. Indeed, by following the steps above, over time you will find that these actions will actually be done out of love, not out of “must;” this will really show in your behaviour. Furthermore, remind yourself of the tremendous rewards associated with doing these acts, and little by little you will see your relationship blossom.


References
1 Sahih Muslim, Book of Prayers, number 1656
2 These observations were taken from tafseer notes by Nouman Ali on surah Al-Israa verse 23, the PDF of his tafseer notes can be found here:http://www.linguisticmiracle.com/download-all-tafseer-notes-compiled-in-1-zip-folder-14mb
3Sahih bukhari, volume 1 book 2 no.47
4Sahih Bukhari, hadith 8.2

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What do you suggest to strengthen one's relationship with their mother? Leave a comment in the comments section below :)

Apr 9, 2014

5 Ways to Give Sadaqah [Part 2]

By Amal S

Read Part 1 here


Bismillah


“…Sadaqah will be a proof of one’s faith and commitment to Allah. It is the expiator of our mistakes, and a very small amount can bring unimaginable spiritual and material rewards, both in this life and in the Hereafter. It protects one from the Fire of Hell and extinguishes our sins. It leads to blessings of one’s wealth in this world as well as the best possible investment in the Hereafter, personally managed by the best of advisors, Allah the Almighty, the Most Merciful.”[2]

So let us get started on what we can do insha’Allah.

Ideas with Huge potential reward: 

1. Plant a Tree
You can do some gardening in your backyard if you have one, or you can plant a tree for just £5 at http://treesgivelife.org/

“When a Muslim plants a tree, whatever is eaten from it is charity from him and whatever is stolen is charity and whatever is subtracted from it is charity.” (Muslim) 

2. Gift a mushaf (copy of the Qur’an) to a child, new Muslim, or any Muslim
Simply buying and giving a mushaf of the Qur’an can bring you tremendous reward every time a letter is recited from it.

3. Get friends and family to come together to pitch in for a Sadaqah Jariyah Project 

a. You can leave behind a water pump for people to use for just £150

b. You can have a well built for a village to use for just £450

c. You can have an entire small masjid built in Pakistan for £5,400

‘Whosoever builds a house (masjid) for the pleasure of Allah, whether it be small or large, Allah builds for him a house in Paradise.’ (Tirmidhi) 

4. Teach… the Arabic Alphabet
Either teach your siblings, family/friends, or volunteer at a weekend Islamic school and teach the Arabic alphabet. Insha’Allah you will be rewarded when they recite the Qur’an, read hadith, or study Islam. (A prerequisite is that your pronunciation of Arabic letters is proper.)

Teach… Al-Fatiha and/or How to Pray 
If you know tajweed, then teach a child or new Muslim how to recite Qur’an, Al-Fatiha and/or how to pray. Insha’Allah you will get rewarded for every single prayer they pray.

Embark on the path of learning the Qur’an from a teacher and teaching it 
It will take time to learn tajweed, recite correctly, and memorize. But the rewards for becoming a teacher of the Qur’an are unimaginable. You can embark on this journey here.

Share… beneficial knowledge 
You could share an authentic hadith or teach someone a du’a from the Qur’an or Sunnah. Encourage others to do good – such as feeding the poor or making a habit to pray Duha prayer.  

You could also volunteer at an Islamic school or masjid, helping them with admin or whatever else to keep running is also highly rewardable insha’Allah.

5. Set up a direct debit so that you are automatically and effortlessly giving charity every month. 


Different ideas: 
1. Skipping a vacation abroad, and donating the price of that to charity
For example, instead of going to Florida, you could take a rest at home and donate the cost of flight/hotel (eg. $1,000) to charity. Think of the reward bi’ithnilah…

2. Fast on Mondays and Thursdays (the Sunnah), and give your lunch money to charity 
Double the reward Insha’Allah Ta’ala – fasting + charity

3. Plan a fundraiser with family or friends 
Please keep it halal, many fundraisers start out with pure intention but sometimes free-mixing and music, etc. enter into the picture. We have to recheck our intention if we start something for the sake of Allah and then try to attain His Reward by doing things which displease Him.

If you have a halal fundraiser and raise $300, Allah Ta’ala can multiply that by 700 times! However someone can raise $50,000 at an objectionable fundraiser but perhaps its reward will not be multiplied or even accepted. We ask Allah to accept our deeds and seek refuge with Him from displeasing Him. So raising $300 properly can actually acquire more reward by Allah’s Generosity and Mercy than raising $50,000 improperly.

These are all of course in addition to the obvious acts of charity – feeding one’s family, being kind and helpful, being good to our parents, giving the Islamic greetings, and so on.

Let us choose one or more of the ideas above and do it, bismillah!

O you who have believed, fear Allah. And let every soul look to what it has put forth for Tomorrow - and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Aware with what you do. (59:18) 

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References
[2] Abu Eesa Niamatullah, http://www.islaam.net/main/display.php?id=1200&category=12
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Do leave comments in the comment section below :)

Apr 7, 2014

Why Airbrushed Women Should Not Hurt your Self-Confidence

By Wordsmith


Bismillah


We all have those feelings of insecurity about the way we look, especially as women. Bombarded with images of models/celebrities with the perfect hair, makeup, bodies, clothes; it really never ends.

But what does that do to our self-esteem? I personally feel like crap on some days, the days when everything looks or feels wrong.

But maybe it is not us who look wrong... maybe the standard we compare ourselves to is way off...

When most women think about their bodies and how “ideal” they are, their judgments are unfortunately not fueled by their latest medical check-up or even calculating their Body Mass Index (BMI). Their thought process is actually a very unhealthy one, based on extremely unrealistic images perpetuated through the famous (or in this case, infamous) film industry and mass media.

Writing this article was very therapeutic for me. I hope that these facts/tips help refocus your psyche on reality and boost your self-confidence, as they did for me.

1. Hollywood, models, and pretty much all women on TV are... FAKE
What if I told you that the typical female body type featured in the media is mirrored by only five percent of American women (1)? Is that not a reality check? Only five percent of the one hundred fifty seven million women in the U.S. have a figure that mirrors that of models/actresses in the media. The rest probably look a lot more like you and me and your voluptuous aunt Khadijah.

Most Hollywood performers are actually not the average human beings. Besides the fact that they have relatively rare figures, it is widely known that cosmetic surgery, ranging from breast implants to chin Botox, is a popular fad amongst celebrities. Toby Mayer, a plastic surgeon of Hollywood, states quite bluntly that “everyone in Hollywood has had surgery (2).” And besides the silicon, it is pretty obvious that no Hollywood star has ever performed without makeup, nor have they made a public appearance without the assistance of their professional prep-team. Pamela Anderson’s perfect beach waves were not a product of her own Do It Yourself curling session at home nor were her blinding pearly whites made by simply brushing twice a day.

The reality is that the media’s depiction of perfection, especially in Hollywood, is a fake one. Case in point, we all need to stop comparing ourselves to airbrushed, photoshopped, silicon-fashioned people. Being that we have established the fact that no one looks like that naturally, let’s move on to the next point.


2. Sex sells
I think it is important to recognize why we, as a society, are so manipulated by these images of retouched, perfect, and non-existent beauties. Why is the same highly-fabricated myth perpetuated as the only accepted depiction of beauty and femininity in mass media?

Well, for one thing, sex sells. It is really easy to sell someone a product by appealing to their human desire and sexuality. Heck, even Green Giant, a frozen vegetables company, uses an attractive female to sell their frozen broccoli. Because when people think of their product, they not only think of fresh broccoli but also a sexy woman dressed in radiant jade green. She is flawless and beautiful, so maybe their broccoli is equally fresh? In fact, research has found “[that] seeing an attractive man or woman in an advertisement excites the areas of the brain that make us buy on impulse, bypassing the sections which control rational thought (3).”

This does not mean that the typical image of a woman depicted in the media is what is the most attractive. Obviously, different people have different perceptions of what beauty is, especially among different cultures.

But, as a society, we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that only tall, thin, flawless, white women are beautiful because they are most often the “ideal women” on TV. Such is most evident when we use this non-existent standard to evaluate our appearances and try to match our looks to what is projected to us.

3. Stop Buying Tabloids
If you are one of those people who constantly keep up with celebrities and every detail of their personal lives, including their stretch marks, you should not be surprised at the fact that you are so dissatisfied with the way you look.

Keep in mind that awrah for women, even amongst women, is from navel to knee. So it is technically haram for you to be scrutinizing the bodies of every model and actress in Seventeen. Maybe that is the point.

Your obsession with unrealistic and far-removed human beings will only serve to hurt you in the long run. These people are not going to help you lose weight, and you will never look like them no matter how much you spend on your cover-up. Rid yourself of this attachment, because Angelina Jolie does not even know you exist.

But Allah does. Which brings me to my final point.

4. Perfect is how you were created
In surat At-Tin, Allah says the following:

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature (95:4)

If God Himself, has breathed His spirit into you and vows that you have been perfected in creation, of what importance are these insignificant, unrealistic standards in relativity to the one Allah has set for you?

Br. Wael Abdelgawad says from Islamicsunrays.com it much more eloquently than I can:

“You are perfect, whether you admit it or not. Go with it. Live up to it. It’s not a burden but a liberty. It is the freedom to be who Allah put you on this earth to be. It’s the freedom to dream and achieve without the chains of self-doubt or self-deprecation. It’s the freedom to accept yourself, love yourself, and allow yourself to love others fee-sabeel-illah, in Allah’s cause, and to live a full life of meaning and worth (4).”

In more practical terms, take the time to admire yourself the next time you look in the mirror. Smile and praise/thank Allah for whom He has made you, both in your individuality and appearance. Embrace your own uniqueness and think of this ayah when you feel your self-esteem riding low.

And when you are just having one of those days, make it a “Pick Yourself Up Day.” Make a homemade face mask. Get your nails done. Treat yourself. Put a little more effort into your appearance. Sometimes that’s what it takes, because looking good makes you feel good. Just beware of confining your definition of “looking good’ to one that reflects an exclusively surreal standard. Most importantly, take the time to admire the positive aspects of both your character and natural beauty, because both parts make you who you are.

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Apr 4, 2014

5 Steps to strengthen your relationship with your mother (Part 1)

By Melody

Bismillah

One of the most difficult duties to maintain at a time where respect for elders is becoming insignificant is adhering to good treatment towards parents, particularly the mother. The key to establishing a strong bond with our mother is to work from within, after the outward will automatically manifest. Here are a few practical steps on how one can embark on such a journey and, inshaAllah with sincerity, time, and effort, result in a healthy, stable relationship with the key woman of our life.

1) Duaa

A sincere supplication can change lives. This is the first crucial step to helping you on your way to building a strong relationship with your mother. Regardless of where you stand at the moment and how weak your relationship is with your mother, sincerity in duaa can make the journey easy for you and transform your relationship dramatically. Do not forget, though, that the key is to be sincere. By that I mean for you to really want what you are asking for from your heart; you should be willing to work hard to achieve it. To help reach that point, you should spend some time reflecting, as I will explain further in my next point. In addition, choose praiseworthy moments to make duaa, such as in sujood and in the last third of the night1, and supplicate to your heart’s content!


2) Reflection

a. Quran

The Qur’an is a good place to start when seeking guidance and advice; it is our Master’s way of communicating with us. With regards to parents, there are numerous verses in the Qur’an that emphasize the importance of treating our parent’s kindly, and reflection on such verses can be a huge motivator to treat parents with kindness and compassion.

“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small." ” (Surah Al-Isra 17:23-24)

Notice something remarkable about the Qur'an; in this verse, and many other verses in the Qur’an with regards to the good treatment of parents, the word “ihsaan” is used. We know from the hadith of Jibreel that the highest level we can reach with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is Ihsaan (excellence). However, with regards to parents and our expected treatment towards them, ihsaan is actually the starting/lowest point! This greatly highlights the importance of treating them with excellence. Furthermore, Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) in this verse mentions straight away, after decreeing tawheed, to exhibit the best possible behaviour towards both our parents. Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) asks from us an unconditional relationship with our biological parents, even if they are not kind towards us, even if they are non-Muslim, even if we feel they do not understand us, still they should be treated with kindness.

b. Contemplate blessings

One of the many possible factors that blind us from treating our mothers the way we ought to is forgetting their favours upon us and taking them for granted. But if we were to regularly reflect on how different our lives would be if they were not with us, and how much they contribute at present and have contributed in the past, we would realize that we can never truly give back the unconditional love they have been giving us since birth.

“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.”(Surah Luqman 31:14)

Imagine not having a mother at all; imagine being deprived of a motherly figure from birth. Whilst we may find their over-protective nature irritating at times, let us think about the underlying intention behind what they say/do, and the utmost blessing it is to have a figure in our lives that cares and desires the best for us as much as they do I want you to watch this video, not to spark depression but to help fuel the drive to make the most of your time with her, whilst she is still within your reach: http://youtu.be/4hYiChv1QOM

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What do you suggest to strengthen one's relationship with their mother? Leave a comment in the comments section below :)