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Jul 14, 2014

Dear God

By Wordsmith


Bismillah

Dear God,

I feel really dumb writing out things you already know. But it helps me understand how I am feeling, because things get really jumbled up inside me sometimes.

So, as you know, I am dealing with something and I do not know the severity of it. It could be very simple. Or not. But nonetheless it is making me very anxious and timid. You would think after being tested for years now I would be stronger in my faith and surer of myself, but sometimes I can't find that strength.

I wonder if this is just one of those downhill trips I have to go through in order to go uphill again...

I really believe that coincidences do not run this world, but some days I find it so hard to accept things, more so than I do on other days.

Some days I just believe so strongly that I can storm through and look past it all.... Other days it weighs me down so much that I can't even sleep.

I wonder if we are tested with what is our strength, in order that it is certain we make it through. Or are we tested with our weaknesses, in order that they become strengths? I guess it is all how you look at it, and whichever will help you get through your test more easily.

I remember reading something written by Yasmin Mogahed (please God, bless her because I love her!). She was talking about looking past the struggle we are in and not allowing that burden to drown us and keep us from seeing what we can gain from it.


Why are we in such a situation? What can we gain from it? What weaknesses does it prove we have?

Have we turned to You and acknowledged those vulnerabilities? Have we asked You for help? What strengths have we gained, or can gain?

Most of the time, these thoughts do not come easily. Nor do the prayers. But this route is much easier than taking its alternative, in which there is no one to rely on or trust in. It hurts, but I see the beauty and benefit in it.

If our sole purpose is to worship You, and we have chosen to believe in your Qadar, it is our duty that we wade through our struggles and confront them. It is easy to reflect on how committed we are to a cause when our lives are going well, we are healthy, and the people around us are loving and accommodating.

But what about when the real test comes along? Do we have enough grit and trust and hope in You to be able to carry on? Can we still see the world through rose-tinted glasses or do we become arrogant and impatient, simply passing time and awaiting our hurdles to move past us?

Rather than sulking or freaking out, which is my usual reaction, I need to take that time to re-examine my weaknesses. To strengthen my relationship with You in ways that I have previously overlooked, because hardship sharpens my vision so that I am critical of myself. I learn to backtrack and reconsider. When you feel like you are on top of the world, why would you want to look back?

And it is not easy. At all.

But I know this to be completely true (again, by Sr. Yasmin Mogahed):

"When they slept, He was awake. When they broke, He held you up. When every means failed, He saved you. When all the creation left you, He remained. He always remains. Never forget when the storms pushed you to your knees and there was no one else who could help you, He carried you. When you were broken and you swore this time it couldn't be fixed—never forget who fixed it. Never forget what He saved you from. Never forget how He put you back together. That moment when you felt helpless and alone, never forget who never left. To forget this is the greatest heedlessness. No matter who or what may be beside you now, never forget those moments when it was only Him. Only Him. That is loyalty."

And I pray to You, Ya Allah, to give me the strength I need. I know that You will not make me bear a burden that I cannot carry, so give me peace of mind and strength to grow and overcome this hurdle, physically and spiritually.

Make me not of those who turn to you only in utmost struggle, but ALL the time.

Keep me loyal to You.

AMEEN.

Please comment below. Use this as an opportunity to share a thought of benefit for the sake of Allah :)


Jul 11, 2014

Health Food Myths Busted

By M

Bismillah

Calorie watching is an important part of some dietary plans, admittedly. But for those, like myself, who prefer to eat without calorie counts, knowledge about what to exclude and incorporate into a healthy diet proves beneficial. With all the information out there, the boundaries and the ‘yays’ and ‘nays,’ it is easy to get caught up in the latest trends. Here are a few tips on foods that one should re-evaluate based on its considered health status and allowable consumption quantities.

The Adjustment

To compensate for today’s health conscious public, many mass produced food stuff accommodate by decreasing fat content, but the public fails to see that the sugar content remains just as high. Food labels are more stringent now, making it easy to investigate the health authenticity of what’s being eaten; so go ahead and decipher/dissect the ingredients table. Remember that if sugar, or salt, appears in the top four of an ingredient list (ingredients are listed from largest content to least), this indicates an unhealthy amount in relation to the item.

Sugar can be disguised as sucrose, corn syrup, fructose, and glucose. It does not provide nutrition and does not sustain a person like food which are low on the Glycemic Index (GI). Low GI foods are those in which the sugars and carbohydrates do not cause our blood sugar levels to rise suddenly. They contain good sugars that digest slowly. Refined sugars, unlike natural sugars, could lead to weight gain and increased blood sugar levels. Large amounts of sugar, consumed over a period of time, lead to a sugar high addiction. Nevertheless, sugar is still an important part of a balanced diet. Natural sugars in vegetables, whole grains, fruits and low fat dairy are considered good sugars. The recommended daily sugar intake for women should not exceed 6 teaspoons per day in total, and 9 teaspoons for men.

Amount Amendment
  • Eat smaller portions.
Larger portions, logically, contain more calories.

They also:
  1. Encourage people to eat much more than they normally would 
  2. Cause people to underestimate how much they are actually eating
  • Portion control
  1. Use smaller plates and cups where possible (at home, restaurants, etc)
  2. When eating out, order a smaller size where possible, and share larger portions. Meal sizes tend to be larger at restaurants, encouraging larger than normal amounts of food to be consumed. 
  3. When at home, dish out a little less than you would ordinarily
  4. Practice a mindset of eating less and focussing on being satisfied, instead of over satiated.The following hadith narrated by Ibn `Umar highlights this:
    Allah's Messenger (salaAllahu alayhi wa salam) said, "A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food…)”(Sahih al-Bukhari, hadith #5394, Book 70, Hadith 22)
  5. Wait 20 minutes before over-indulging. If you still feel hungry, wait for a while before taking that third helping. It takes a little while before the stomach registers itself as being full. A little break combat overeating. 

Know what is good and what is not

Portion control is important. But on the other side of the coin, one needs to eat the right food too.

Reassess the following food in your diet:

1 .Gra –No-la

Considered a healthy breakfast and snack food, granola is almost always baked with an amount of sugar. There are healthy aspects to granola: substantial amounts of nuts, fruit, and oats. Nuts have healthy oils and omega 3’s, fruits are fibre rich and vitamin packed, and the oatmeal provides fibre and healthy, slow-release carbohydrates. Consider using granola or muesli as a topping or addition to cereal or yoghurt, rather than the main component.

2. Dried Fr‘oo’t

Dried fruit makes a lovely snack, an addition in breakfast cereals, and in dishes. Because it is dehydrated, some might consider larger amounts healthy. Realistically, six or seven pieces of dried fruit equate to three and a half pieces of fruit. It might be dried but there remains a high sugar concentrate within. Portion control in this instance would be wise.

3. Fruit Juice?

Fruit juice is healthy and delicious, yet some brands contain huge amounts of sugar. Also fructose is used instead, as its sweetness supersedes sucrose (sugar), weight for weight. To the best of my knowledge, our bodies are designed to metabolize glucose and not fructose to a large extent. As a result, fatty acid levels increase. Juice tends to have the natural fibre removed from it, which is present in fruits. The actual fruit will be more satisfying, and contains natural fibre.

4. Got (Skim) Milk?

Skimmed milk, especially for toddlers, may not be as healthy as one thinks. Research conducted at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine discovered that two-year- olds who consumed mainly low fat and skimmed milk were more likely to become overweight by the age of four. Studies conducted yielded a 57% outcome of being overweight. Academics believe that this is due to children feeling fuller after drinking full fat milk, as opposed to skimmed milk. Milk is an important part of a child’s diet, so it should be incorporated in the form best for growth.

5. Flavoured Yoghurt

Flavoured yoghurts are commonly considered healthy. What many fail to realize is the high sugar content within them. A standard pot of yoghurt can contain up to 27 grams of sugar. 5 grams is a teaspoon of sugar. A simple calculation shows that over 5 teaspoons of sugar can be present in one little pot of yoghurt.

A healthy diet should be part of your lifestyle, not a hindrance. It is easy to enjoy a healthier lifestyle with just a few simple adjustments. Happy eating!

Interested in learning more? Here are a few informative articles I looked at for this piece:

“The Importance of Portion Control” by Marion Nestle, a Paulette Goddard professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health

IOL, which represents online, well-known South African publisher ‘Independent Newspapers’, has the following articles on its website
· “Cut a little salt for a big health gain – study” by Jeremy Laurance
· ‘Low-fat foods are often filled with sugar’ from the New Zealand Herald.
· ‘Skim milk doesn’t stop kids getting fat’ by Jenny Hope

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


Jul 9, 2014

Dealing with Motherhood

by Umm Halimah

Bismillah

Let us face it: being a mom is hard. There is a reason why the Prophet salAllahu alaihi wasallam mentioned the mother 3 times before mentioning the father in the famous hadith about who deserves our company the most. 

 Narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him): “A man came to Allah’s Messenger (saws) and said, 
“O Allah’s Messenger! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet (saws) said, “Your mother.” 
 The man said, “Who is next?” T
he Prophet (saws) said, “Your mother.” 
 The man further said, “Who is next?” The Prophet (saws) said, “Your mother.” 
 The man asked (for the fourth time), “Who is next?” The Prophet (saws) said, “Your father.” (Sahih-al-Bukhari) 

I have to admit that even though I have known about that hadith for a really long time, I never fully appreciated it until I became a mother myself. The fact that my father raised my brother and I by himself for most of our lives, has always made me more inclined to feel that fathers were the ones most under- appreciated. However,now I feel that sometimes mothers are expected to endure the struggles with a smile and pretend all is well and perfect while being highly consumed by their children’s needs and desires. I also feel that there is a lack of appreciation and understanding of the role of motherhood.

If you are like me, you may have been very excited about having children and looked forward to having little people to teach and shape into great human beings inshaAllah. You may have dreamt about teaching them surahs and hadiths and how to be well mannered, smart, and confident members of society. But you also may have skipped over the reality of your life before those dreams can be realized: the sleepless nights, the crying, the poop, the whining, never having your home looking or smelling quite like you would like all the time, etc. I think you get the point. Now, perhaps you dream of undisturbed bathroom breaks and going out by yourself. Of course not everyone feels this way, but I am sure some of you do and find yourselves sometimes clinging to the last flickers of sanity.

I am here to tell you that you are not alone. I am also here to remind myself and you, of the importance of your job as a mother, and the fact that there is One who acknowledges your struggles and will never forget about them and with whom you can find great reward, if you have the right intention inshaAllah. After all, Allah says, 

“And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years – give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination” (Qur’an 31:14). 

In this day and age,motherhood, especially stay-at-home motherhood is not given its full due. This is true of the greater society and Muslim society alike. Even I had to fight the idea that I was somehow doing something less by staying home with my kids instead of working on my career. I remember some asking me how I can just sit home and do nothing. I fought the urge to shout back “sitting down and doing nothing is hardly part of my current state!” However, when you see and hear messages like that, you may start to doubt yourself and it makes focusing on your job of motherhood a bit difficult. And, if you are the kind of person who really enjoys adult company more than that of children, sometimes you need some reassurance.

Alhamdulillah, I got a dose of that reassurance recently when a dear, older, and wiser friend visited me. She reminded me to reflect on how important the duty of motherhood truly is. So I did. We must remember that children are a blessing and a test from Allah. How we deal with and perform on this test can affect our eternal destination inshaAllah. Allah says in the Qur’an,

“And know that your properties and your children are but a trial and that Allah has with Him a great reward” (Qur’an 8:28). 

We are more likely to attain this reward if we understand the importance of our jobs as parents – as mothers. In a famous hadith, the Prophet salAllahu alaihi wasallam said 

“Each of you is a guardian and is responsible for his ward. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of the members of his household; and the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so each of you is a guardian and is responsible for his ward” (Bukhari& Muslim). 

It is important for us to remember this responsibility when we feel like giving up. Our children are one of our primary responsibilities and we will be questioned about how we raised them. We are their guardians in the truest sense of the word and they are the future of our ummah. Therefore, we should not allow the hardships of motherhood to make us feel depressed or belittled. In fact we are honored for this most vital of positions and will be greatly rewarded if we try our best to carry out our duties. After all, there is nothing in this world like the love between a parent and child and we should foster and nurture this love and affection. In fact this may be our way to salvation. In another hadith the Prophet (saws) said, 

“When a person dies, no good deeds will be added on his record except for three: continuous charity (sadaqtul-jaariyah), beneficial knowledge, and a pious child who supplicates for him” (Muslim). 

 May Allah guide us on the straight path and give us the wisdom and fortitude to raise righteous Muslim children who will supplicate for us after we die, ameen.

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

Jul 7, 2014

5 Steps for Giving More Effective Dawah

by Sabina Giado

Bismillah

Many of us are actively engaged in the activity of Dawah (invitation to Islam), both to Muslims and to non-Muslims. Since this was the ultimate purpose of our prophet Muhammad’s (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) life, let us examine some of the best practices for giving Dawah.

The below points are raised by Br. Abdelrahman Murphy and Br. Nouman Ali Khan.

1. Check yourself first

Why do so many of us born Muslims love to hear convert stories? Is it because we need reassurance that we are indeed on the right path? Is it because the edicts of Islam are sometimes difficult to the point of frustration?

We should examine and purify our relationship with our Rabb. While difficulty on the road to Ibadah is to be expected, if we have not accepted our role as slave, we cannot expect others to do so.

2. Build on similarities, not on differences

The Noble Qur’an never shamed or belittled the words or works of Musa or Isa (alaihis salam) or any of the other prophets (peace be upon them). We are taught to respect them; in fact, it is an article of faith that we cannot be Muslims without believing in it. We should not be approaching non-Muslims with the message of “You’re wrong. We’re right.” Rather the message we should be giving is, “What you have is right. We have the final step towards becoming slaves of Allah (Subhaana Wa Ta’aala).”

Even with those who are not from the book, we should be building on what they already know about faith, spirituality or the world, not trying to tear it down and start again – since this by definition, is a more difficult task.

3. Love and serve people; do not preach to them

The reason the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam)’s message had credibility in Makkah is because everyone knew what a great man he was even before he became a Messenger. This is why even Khadija (radhiAllah anha) could not fathom the idea that Allah (Subhaana Wa Ta’ala) would punish him as he was so generous, helpful and upright.

We need to show how Islam makes our lives and the lives of the community better, not worse. It is a better act of Dawah to see a Muslim regularly helping at food drives than to simply hear a message about Islam being peaceful.

4. Drop the agenda. Our job is simply to remind

  فَذَکِّرۡ اِنَّمَاۤ اَنۡتَ مُذَکِّرٌ

So remind, [O Muhammad]; you are only a reminder. 


 لَسۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ بِمُصَیۡطِرٍ

You are not over them a controller. 


(Surat-al-Ghashiya, 21-22) 

Even though he often became very anguished over their fate, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) did not have any control over the minds and hearts of the people he was preaching to. His job was simply to remind. Br. Nouman Ali Khan says that the word ‘them’ was not included in the ayah above because Prophet Muhammed (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was not supposed to worry about them at all. His focus should always be on the reminder.

We should adopt a similar focus inshaAllah.

This changes the way we act in dawah situations immeasurably. We are no longer trying to ‘convert’ someone. We can always tell when someone is talking to us just to get something or just to tell us something they think we should know.

In dawah situations, our objective is to remind them of their fitra, their true nature, and the way they should truly worship their Creator. And that reminder comes best when it is shown rather than told.

5. Do not expect immediate results

The decreasing attention span of the current generation is beyond the scope of this article.

However, the fact is, we have just started on that road to correcting the bad reputation of Muslims around the globe. It might take us a very long time and an honest effort to get us back to the place Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was in, where even his sworn enemy was happy that his daughter married him. InshaAllah, let us try to be patient even when the going gets tough.

Everything good in this article is from Allah (Subhaana Wa Ta'aala) and all mistakes are from me.

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


Jul 4, 2014

The Muslim Youth and Halal Entertainment

by Amina Edota

Bismillah

Modern Challenges

Today's ultra modern entertainment industry with super rich investors and unending initiatives brings with it, constantly changing forms of entertainment -from Hollywood to Bollywood; X-boxes to tablets and many others. 

From this virtual world of imagination and fantasies, to real-time celebrity, music & drug themed parties; the Muslim youth are faced with challenges of how and where to spend their time for leisure, because many of these modern kinds of entertainment have no place in Islam.

Rather, Islam encourages entertainment for uplifting experiences as well as activities for reflection and refreshment, all the while recognising the need for the youth to seek entertainment while maintaining their Islamic identity and preserving their honour and dignity.

Reminders

There are important reminders for the youth to utilise that period in life of great energy and embrace the opportunities within; because it will pass eventually and only those who utilise it wisely will reap the rewards in this life and the next. One of such reminders is contained in the following narration.

The feet of the Children of Adam, on the Day of Judgement, will not move from their Lord until after being asked five things: His life and how it occupied him, his youth and what he did while it lasted, his wealth, how he acquired it and how he spent it, his knowledge and what he did with it (At-Tirmidhi)

From those who are blessed to live beyond their 60s and 70s; we observe that a lot of things change physically and mentally. And while their hearts may still be attached to worship and good deeds, the body may lack the ability to withstand many activities.

Halal Fun

It is perfectly all right, and in fact advisable to take time to relax. The youth should not remain engrossed in work, chores or studies all the time. It is important to balance work and leisure. This will help to relieve stress and have a clear head for bright new ideas. 

Whether alone or in company of friends, it is important to avoid hanging around without any purpose or frequent snooker halls and places where free mixing, drugs and alcohol are in abundance. The youth must not simply kill time, or fill it with activities that bring no benefit.

Balance is required in engaging even in halal entertainment. For example, watching educative and enlightening programmes on TV as well as seeking valuable information on the internet is encouraged but should not become excessive or addictive.

Simple Entertainment Ideas

Here are few simple and permissible entertainment ideas.
  • Spending time outdoors appreciating and contemplating nature and its beauty. Picnics & barbeques can also be organised outdoors. Nature walks and visiting parks are also relaxing and a big change from being indoors, especially in front of a screen.
  • Sports are typically fun - keeping the body fit & healthy. They imbibe discipline and foster team spirit. Our beloved Prophet SalAllahu alaihi wasallam enjoyed some sports too. And the companions, RadiAllahu anhum, also engaged in sports. Whether it is basketball, swimming, races or gymnastics - a healthy body is stronger, and consequently allows a more fit and active life.
  • The Masjid serves as a social centre for Muslims. Some offer activities specifically for the Muslim youth and this allows socialisation with other youth of similar interests and age. Thereby fostering a sense of community and belonging.
  • Performing or listening to spoken Islamic poetry such as those of Br. Boonaa Muhammad.

For a blessed entertainment session, the youth must engage only in what is permissible and avoid all that is prohibited - such as free mixing of sexes, gambling, alcohol, porn etc

Enjoying good times with family and friends, in a halal way is a form of worship while creating fond memories and loving feelings. The Muslim youth can have fun, get relaxed and fit, and still earn some ajr (reward)

Since the ultimate goal of the believer is to earn Allah's pleasure and attain Paradise, the Muslim youth must always aim to fulfil the duties that are due upon them and relax when required in permissible ways.


References
Addressing Adolescence(1998) A Guide to Parenting in Islam. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari. Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, London
A Muslim Boy's Guide to Life's Big Changes(2006) Sami Khan. Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, London
A Muslim Girl's Guide to Life's Big Changes(2005) by RayhanaKhan.Ta - Ha Publishers Ltd, London
The Music Made me do it(2011) An In-Depth study of music through Islam and Science. Dr GoharMushtaq.International Islamic Publishing House, Saudi Arabia


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

Jun 30, 2014

SHORT STORY: THE HELPER - Chapter 1

By Ruksana


Bismillah


Before Khaled’s mother, Maryam, left this world, she only had one wish: “Take your brother and his wife to America. I want you all to stay together…he is your kin.” Aware that she was soon to depart from this dunya and on her way to Allah, the Most High, no one had to remind her to utter the shahada: “La illaha illa Allah, Muhammadan Rasulu-Allah (There is no god but Allah and Muhammed is His messenger).” She repeated this over and over again until her head fell back on her pillow, her thin body having been exhausted from a recurring heart ailment that she had refused to treat as she was afraid of hospitals and doctors. Maryam succumbed to sleep in Khaled’s arms.

It was not long when he awoke and felt her hand drop away from his. It was then that he knew she had gone away. Tears rolling down his pale face, Khaled trembled from the shock of not having his mother with him anymore. Even while whispering the customary statement, “Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi Raaji'oon” (To Allah we belong and to Him is our return), he could not help but think about his loneliness without his beloved mother. Who would worry about him while he was in America? Who would give him guidance? Who would he turn to during his moments of sadness and happiness? His mother would no longer be with him. She was…gone. Khaled was left to face the harsh realities of this world alone.

In the days ahead, it was Khaled who arranged for the washing of his mother’s body, the janazah prayer, and the burial afterwards. It was him, rather than his oldest brother Ahmed, who contacted relatives to deliver the news of his mother’s death. This was in addition to him having to complete a myriad of other tasks related to funeral planning and death certificates. The entire village came to make dua for Maryam at her janazah. She was loved by everyone, including the beggars who she had always fed (even on the days her own family was running out of rice). Her death marked a turning point in the village of Hema. It was not only her elderly status that gained her a reputation, but rather her extraordinary kindness and generosity had stood out in a village known to be shunned by nearby residents. The residents of Hema were constantly envious of each other and resorted to all kinds of trickery and deceit for their selfish interests, and few people in that village could be trusted. Poverty made most of the villagers bitter and resentful.

Khaled, who had been away studying in America, was clueless about the bitterness that had been eating away at his fellow villagers’ hearts. The naive young man had big dreams for his brother and his brother’s wife. He even dreamt of building up the village of Hema, having new wells installed, improving the telephone communication lines, and sponsoring the young boys of the village to study in the city. Maryam had always advised him to be a good Muslim and help those in need, especially his own kin. Ever since he earned his first job as a letter reader and writer for the illiterate people in the village, he had helped others in need. As such, Khaled took his mother’s advice to heart and was determined to obey her last wish.

Khaled’s brother, Ahmed, was not at Hema when their mother died. He was away in the city with his new wife Tahmima. Khaled had sent word to Ahmed four days ago that their mother’s condition was worsening, and it was likely she would pass away soon. However, Ahmed came too late. Khaled tried to convince himself that Ahmed had probably been kept at the city for some business he had to tend to. But a nagging voice in the back of his head casted doubt in him.

When Ahmed and Tahmima finally came back, Maryam had already been buried.

“Little brother,” Ahmed uttered, looking grieved, “Did Ama ask about me before she died?”

“She wished you had been next to her in her last moments,” Khaled replied.

“Well, I tried, but you know how traffic is in the city, we were struggling just to get out.” Ahmed avoided Khaled’s eyes.

Khaled forced himself to believe his brother, feeling ashamed that he was having bad thoughts about him. He could almost hear his mother’s voice warning him to always trust his brother, who he had looked up to from a young age. Brushing aside the doubts, he decided to renew their brotherly bond, which had become sour due to petty differences over the last few years. The grief and sadness attached with losing their mother gave Khaled incentive to appreciate his brother more. If it had been possible, he would have sacrificed everything to save his mother. That was no longer possible. He decided he would do everything in his power to bring Ahmed and Tahmima to America.

Khaled imagined how it would be: Ahmed and Tahmima would arrive in New York City, where he was living. At this time, he would have already saved up money from his job at the restaurant to rent out a small 2 bedroom apartment for them. At the same time, he would secure Ahmed a job in the same place where they would work together. After some time, and after he found someone suitable to marry, Khaled and Ahmed would save up enough money to move to a bigger place, possibly a two story house. Tahmima and Khaled’s wife would get along like sisters, and the couples’ children would grow up together like siblings.

This was an ideal dream, and Khaled found himself feeling enthusiastic about returning to America to fulfill it. He could not wait to share the idea with Ahmed, as he was sure he would be ecstatic to hear it. Of course, Ahmed and Tahmima were expecting to immigrate to America with Khaled’s help. However, Khaled’s dream would soon be shattered and he would be left devastated.

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Are you waiting for the next chapter? Please leave your comments in the comments section below :) 


Jun 27, 2014

Luqman’s Advice to His Son (Part 2)

by Shazia Arif

Part 1

Bismillah


Our parents, who are they? They are our caretakers, our sustainers, and our first love. What responsibilities did they not fulfill as our parents? What struggles did they go through to bring us to where we are today?


Previously, we discussed the first advice Luqman gave to his son which was about the severity of committing shirk. The next advice Luqman gave his son was about the rights of parents on their children.

“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness...” Qur'an, 31:14.

Your mother carried you in her womb for a long 9 months. A pregnant woman gains 25-35 pounds, on average, during her pregnancy. To those who have never been pregnant, just imagine so much extra weight added to your body along with fatigue, mood changes and hormonal imbalances during pregnancy. Those women who have been pregnant know exactly how much weakness a woman goes through during this stage.


“...and his weaning is in two years...” Qur'an, 31:14

Nursing a child for a maximum of 2 years is hard work. Any woman who has nursed children can tell you how long these 2 years may seem to them. Many of the mother’s nutrients go to the child, which again, causes a lot of weakness to the mother. In this regard, Allah Almighty continues in the same verse 14 of the Chapter 31,

“...Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.” Qur'an, 31:14

At the end, our return is to Allah subhana wa ta’ala and if we show gratitude to Him and our parents He will reward us greatly for this act.

“But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness...” Qur'an 31:15

Don’t follow your parents if they follow another religion other than yours, and if they ask you to disobey Allah, you do not follow them in that regard. This is because, after all, Allah’s subhana wa ta’ala obedience is most high. However, that does not mean you can treat your parents in a bad manner, rather Allah subhana wa ta’ala commands that you must continue to treat your parents with kindness and respect in this world.

“Sa`d bin Malik said, "This Ayah, was revealed concerning me. I was a man who honored his mother, but when I became Muslim, she said: `O Sa`d! What is this new thing I see you doing Leave this religion of yours, or I will not eat or drink until I die, and people will say: Shame on you, for what you have done to me, and they will say that you have killed your mother.' I said, `Do not do that, O mother, for I will not give up this religion of mine for anything.' She stayed without eating for one day and one night, and she became exhausted; then she stayed for another day and night without eating, and she became utterly exhausted. When I saw that, I said: `O my mother, by Allah, even if you had one hundred souls and they were to depart one by one, I would not give up this religion of mine for anything, so if you want to, eat, and if you want to, do not eat.' So she ate.''- Tabarani

“...and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]...” Qur'an 31:15

Follow those people who will lead you to the path of Allah, and these people will be the ones who turn to Allah subhana wa ta’ala in repentance. This is also in indication that we should always repent to Allah subhana wa ta’ala.


“...Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.” Qur'an 31:15

At the end we will return to Allah subhana wa ta’ala . Allah subhana wa tala will show us what our deeds were, whether we were obedient to our parents or not. Whether we respected them, or humiliated them.

From this article, we learnt:
- Importance of obeying one’s parents
- Importance of obeying Allah subhana wa ta’ala over our parents; there is no obedience to the creation if there is disobedience to the Creator
- Importance of always respecting one’s parents
- The high rank of a mother in Islam

To conclude there is a short du’a from the Qur’an that we all can make and memorise for our parents’ inshaAllah:

رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا

rabbirhamhuma kama rabbayanee sagheera

“My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small." Qur'an, 17:24



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

Jun 25, 2014

Our Compassion Makes Us Strong

By Hend Hegazi

Bismillah

Working moms and stay-at-home moms, alike, have very busy schedules. Just like the working mom, the stay-at-home mom gets up early to wake everyone up. As her husband gets dressed, she prepares breakfast and lunches. She calls out every so often to check on the progress her kids have made. Her husband grabs a piece of toast and heads out the door, leaving her searching for the missing sneakers underneath the couch. Grabbing the sneakers (and a couple of stray socks, a slice of stale bread, and a sticky hard candy while she is at it), she thinks she finally has everyone set. 

A sense of relief begins to come over her as she sees the school bus turn the corner up the street. Just then she hears, “Mom!! I forgot my report upstairs in my desk!” She becomes super woman as she flies up the stairs, rescues the report from underneath the bed (she already knew it would not be in his desk!), and flies back down the stairs. Three seconds later, the report is safely in the bag, the kids have all been kissed, and she waves goodbye as they board the bus.

At the same time, the working mom double checks that she is wearing matching shoes, that there are no remnants from breakfast stuck to her, and that the kids have not removed her keys from her purse. She takes off for work, where she will undoubtedly be greeted with problems and new deadlines to meet. The stay-at-home mom rushes to tidy the house before she takes off to run errands, where she will deal with crowds, and maybe some not-so-friendly customer service representatives.

At around 5 o’clock, everyone returns home.  As the husband takes a shower, she starts dinner, not yet having taken off her shoes. An hour later, she is washing dishes as he takes a nap in front of the television. She puts in a load of laundry, and just as she is about to jump in the shower, her oldest son asks her a question about his math homework while her youngest throws up all over himself. She attempts to clean up the mess and simultaneously answer the question, but to her relief, the stench is motivation enough to send the inquirer fleeing to his room where he can try to figure it out on his own. An hour later, the kids have finished their homework, the puke is all taken care of, and she is finally showered. Just as her butt is about to land on the couch, she hears, “Could you get me something to drink before you sit down?” (It’s not really a question, of course, but we would not get into that now.)

Despite all she goes through on a daily basis, we rarely acknowledge her strength unless she is forced to deal with crisis. All parents who lose their children mourn. Some collapse and seclude themselves. No one can blame them; the loss of a child is considered, universally, to be the most difficult tragedy a person can face. The most astonishing part of it is that moms tend to push through quicker than dads. The fact that the woman—who after carrying her child for 9 months in her womb,was the first to hear his laugh, taught him to read and count, sat up nights nursing him when he was ill—can actually stand back up is remarkable. In many families where this tragedy occurs, it is usually the woman who supports the others. She continues to cry, but she forces herself back to work. Her heart continues to bleed, but she tells her husband that their kids need them both to be strong. She hates that she is alive while her child has died, but she cooks dinner and does the laundry.

The point is obvious, but the question remains…How is it that she is the rock? How does she endure?

The short answer: She is stronger because God endowed her with more compassion. She can hate it when her newborn keeps her up all night, but it is her innate compassion that gives her strength enough to hold onto that wailing baby instead of throwing him out the window. She can hate when her pre-teen talks back to her, but it is her compassion that flexes its muscles, keeping her from beating him over the head. She can roll her eyes when her “exhausted” husband cannot take out the trash, but she knows that if she dumps the garbage can over his head, that will just make more work for her.

She gives, almost endlessly, because she knows she has to. The miraculous thing is that most of the time it is not a chore; she enjoys doing it all because it is for the people she loves. She does it all, and smiles, and can keep going, because if these same people needed it, she would sacrifice her life for them for the sake of Allah. Because that is the strength God blessed her with simply for being a woman.

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

Jun 23, 2014

Time in the Kitchen - Part 2: Recipes

by Amal S

Part 1

Bismillah

Here are two recipes! These are two Persian recipes for all those who enjoy (or are open to trying) sweet dishes.

The first recipe is for a Persian dish called Shirin Polo, literally Sweet Rice.

As with most ‘traditional’ ethnic recipes, there are variations to this recipe you can find online – for example, some people will add sliced carrots, some people will not use raisins/sultanas. This recipe is not suitable for those who have nut allergies, unless of course you eliminate all nut ingredients from the recipe. Do not be put off from trying out this recipe by the many steps; it is actually quite an easy dish to make once you are familiar with it, and it is an intuitive recipe to follow.

Ingredients:

· Basmati Rice
· Chicken
· Onions
· Butter
· Sliced Almonds (usually bought pre-packaged, though I suppose you could peel them and thinly slice them yourself)
· Sliced Pistachios (unsalted)
· Oranges (to make orange zest)
· Orange juice
· Honey
· Saffron (not essential)
· Salt
· Raisins (seedless)
· Sultanas (seedless, golden/green-coloured raisins)

The Chicken

1. Chop up your onions and chop up your chicken.
2. Add some oil to a pan
3. Fry the onions until golden in colour
4. Add the chicken to the pan. Add salt, pepper, and turmeric (and cumin and/or cinnamon if you like) to the chicken and stir. Add water to the pan and cover
5. Allow the chicken to cook (20-25 minutes)
6. Keep a cup of the broth remaining in the pan after the chicken is cooked and add saffron to it if you like

The Rice

1. I use a rice cooker, but if you are not using one or need a recipe on how to make Persian rice, you can Google it or go to : http://www.farsinet.com/farsieats/recipes/polow.html
2. You can either add some of the chicken broth at the beginning, or preferably after draining the rice so its flavour stays.

The Sweet Stuff

1. 10 minutes before the rice is done, you need to prepare the Sweet Stuff!
2. Peel oranges to create orange zest. Try to remove most of the white inner layer as it can have a bitter taste. If you like, you can boil the orange zest and then drain and rinse to make sure any bitter taste is removed – though I do not go through the trouble of doing this and there is so much sweetness already in this recipe. Chop/slice the orange zest into small pieces.
3. In a pan, add butter and set at a high temperature. Add the orange zest, almonds, pistachios, raisins, and sultanas to the pan. Add a splash (or more) of orange juice. Add 2 spoons of honey. Make sure to mix and stir, and decrease the temperature when it seems to be boiling. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until the orange zest looks cooked but not too long so that the other ingredients do not burn.

Putting it all Together

1. After draining the rice, add a bit of chicken broth.
2. Add and mix the chicken into the rice or you can serve it on the side.
3. Add the sweet stuff mixture to the rice, gently but thoroughly mix it in and let it sit for a bit.
4. If you have extra sweet stuff, you can use it to sprinkle/decorate over the top of the rice.
5. There you go! Ready to eat! You can also serve with plain yogurt if you like.


The second sweet dish is called Adas Polo (Lentil Rice) with a twist (dates!)

Ingredients:

· Basmati Rice
· Chicken
· Onions
· Salt
· Green/Brown Lentils
· Dates

Method

1. Make your basmati rice and chicken as outlined in the previous recipe.
2. Boil some lentils until they are just slightly undercooked.
3. Add the lentils to the rice and mix.
4. Chop dates (removing the pit),add them into the rice and mix.
5. Cook until ready.
6. There you go! Ready to eat! You can also serve with plain yogurt if you like.

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


 

Jun 20, 2014

The Etiquette of Visiting Another Home

By Melody

Bismillah

What I find fascinating about the Qur'an is the way it helps us see matters in their proper perspective. Sometimes, our judgements can be made cloudy due to cultural or social norms and we are confused about what is actually right and proper; the Qur'an helps set these matters straight and guides society to do what works best. For example, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alaihi wa sallam, wine drinking was considered praiseworthy and a means for pampering the soul, but the Qur’an came to gradually abolish drinking alcohol and highlights that, though it has its benefits, its disadvantages outweigh the advantages and so the best solution would be to avoid it all together. Similarly, the Qur'an and sunnah explain in detail the etiquette of visiting another home, making Islam a true a way of life in even the simplest of matters.

1) Ask permission before entering a person’s home

“O you who have believed, do not enter houses other than your own houses until you ascertain welcome and greet their inhabitants. That is best for you; perhaps you will be reminded.” [24:27]

Before entering another person's home, it is important that permission is sought first. Alhamdulillah, nowadays, with technology, it is easy to contact others beforehand to arrange a time that is suitable for both and thus avoid awkwardness.

2) Knock three times

Three times is the maximum. The most common way that we ask permission before entering a person’s home is by knocking, but of course one can easily ring the doorbell as well or any other means to indicate your presence including giving salaam. If after knocking, nobody answers, it is required to leave.

“If any one of you asks for permission three times and it is not given, then let him go away.” (Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 74, Number 262)

3) If refused entry, go back

Even if you have come a long way, and gone to specifically visit a person, if either nobody answers the door or you are asked to go back then it is necessary to leave. Banging on the door shouting “I know you are in there!” is a complete no-no. It can be hard to be told to go back when you have made the effort to come, but remember that this is the homeowner’s right; let that help you be content with their decision. We are told specifically in the Qur’an:

“And if you do not find anyone therein, do not enter them until permission has been given you. And if it is said to you, "Go back," then go back; it is purer for you. And Allah is Knowing of what you do.” [24:28]

4) Standing to the side

Whilst standing outside the door of another’s home, it is important to stand on either the left or right of the doorway, and not in the middle to avoid the invasion of privacy. Perhaps there is something in the home that the homeowner would prefer you didn't see, so it's best to stand to the side where you're not able to see the contents of the home.

A hadith recorded by Abu Dawud from `Abdullah bin Busr, who said:

“When the Messenger of Allah came to someone's door, he would never stand directly in front of it, but to the right or left, and he would say, As-Salamu `Alaykum, As-Salamu `Alaykum.”

5) Greet with As-salamu'alaikum

Once permission has been given and you are welcomed in, say the islamic greeting of salam (i.e. As-Salamu `Alaykum), as highlighted in the above hadith.

6) When asked who you are, respond with your name

This is an interesting point. When you knock on the door and someone asks who you are, you should say your name rather than simply say "It's me!" Much confusion will be avoided this way because although your voice may appear obvious to yourself, the person behind the doorway may not be so sure. It's fascinating that there is an actual hadith (Sahih Bukhari 8:267) narrated that outlines this very point!

"I came to the Prophet with something that was owed by my father and knocked at the door.
He said: Who is that?
I said, "I am!'' He said “I,I” as if he disliked it.''


So there you have it. Outlined here are simple points we can carry out the next time we visit another person, based on the Qur’an and sunnah. This way, the homeowner has rights which are fair. We all desire to rest and take our freedom in our own homes; the placement of this advice helps create order and peace within our community.

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


Jun 18, 2014

5 Options to Spend Quality Time with Your Children, Without Gadgets

by Farheen Naaz

Bismillah


In the previous article Gadgets and Children we have seen how gadgets have become an important part of our lives and how they can affect the growth of a child. Parents often end up not spending quality time with children due to lack of time or just to take the easy way out by handing a gadget to their child to fulfil their emotional needs. In this article, we shall look at five easy ways to spend quality time with our children, without using gadgets.


There are lots of options to choose from to spend quality time with children. The most feasible and fun ones are:

1. Read Together – Discuss

Reading is a long lost habit of the yesteryears for many kids of the present world. Start from the early years and inculcate the love for the written word in your children. You can read a book together and discuss it once you are done reading. Choose from a wide range of topics to discuss (Which character do you like the most and why? Why do you not like the other characters? Do you think the story could have ended in a better way?)

There are lots of fun after-reading and pre-reading activities which you can participate in with your children to get to know them and also mould their thoughts the proper way.

2. Eat Together (Plan a Theme for Dinner/Lunch)

Quality time can be spent together at the dining table, if one encourages this in the family. Turn off that TV and start acknowledging each other’s presence! Make sure that at least one meal of the day is eaten with the entire family concentrating on eating the food together and progressing towards discussing their day with everyone at the table. Themed dinners or lunches can be planned weekly or fortnightly depending on your schedule. It can include anything from pizza night to Italian night to Indian night or to junk food night! Choose according to your family’s tastes. It is often said that a family that eats together stays together.

Parents can even team up with their children and plan a get-together for their friends. Another fun way to make eating together interesting is to organize a cooking competition wherein the family can be divided into teams and take up tasks for breakfast, lunch or dinner; as per convenience.

3. Evening Walks

After a hectic and tiring day all you would want to do is just pop into that bed and go to sleep, but do not forget your children who sometimes need to talk to you. And if you are not there for them when they need you, do not wonder why they will not share things with you when they are all grown up. Evening walks after dinner are a nice way to spend time with your children, while helping each other stay healthy and fit. It gives you the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your children and ask them about the happenings in their life.

Grocery walks are also a good way to spend time with your children. Take them to the grocery store and discuss the groceries to be bought and reasons why they do not particular food items.

4. Play a Sport/Game Together


Yup! Parents playing with their kids makes the kids feel special. There are a wide variety of indoor and outdoor games to choose from to play with your kid. Teach them a game you love, teach them all the rules of the game and teach them the tricks of the trade. It sure will make them feel special. Board games rule the spot when it comes to family fun together. Choose from anything: Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders among others.

5. Do Home Improvements

One awesome way to spend quality time with your children is to involve them in the work related to your home. Do not fix the broken table on your own, get help from your kids. This will not only give you quality time you can spend with them, but it will also give them life training. Who knows, you might end up getting some better tips from your kids!

These were just some tips on easy to do activities with your children. Spending quality time with children is more important than giving them worldly things to entertain themselves. The presence of parents at every step in a child’s life will help the child develop in all aspects. It is necessary for growing up which most parents forget as they are too busy with their own lives, failing to realize that their kids are a major part of it! Memories of childhood and adolescence make adults look back at life’s lessons taught in the most subtle of ways.

What are the tips you would like to give to parents on spending quality time with children without using gadgets?


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

Jun 16, 2014

Time in the Kitchen - Part 1

by Amal S

Bismillah

Many sisters spend quite some time in the kitchen either as a responsibility or as a hobby. It is wise to try and maximize our time and good deeds while cooking by (1) purifying our intentions before we cook, (2) upgrading what we do while we cook, and (3) improving how we enjoy our meals. This daily chore or pastime can actually become into a good-deed-accumulating experience insha’Allah!


(1) Before Cooking:

· Say Bismillah

· Renew and purify your intention
  • Make your intention to please Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala by serving your family, feeding people, and nourishing your body so that you can continue to worship Him Ta’ala.
· Choose tasty but simple recipes
  • It’s good to evaluate if regularly spending 8 hours cooking one dish is the best use of time when there are many delicious recipes that are both nourishing and tasty and are not so pain staking and time-consuming. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
· Remember our ultimate role and aspiration is to be a slave and worshipper of Allah, and our hearts and deeds are of most significance – not one’s flare at cooking, or lack thereof.


While Cooking:

· Cooking can be a nice time to remember Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala
  • “The comparison of the one who remembers Allaah and the one who doesn’t is like that of the living and the dead.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree] 
  • Listen to a beneficial lecture
  • Plan out dhikr chunks
        - Making dhikr while cooking seems like an easy task, but the mind and heart are easily distracted.       It might be more effective to allocate a dhikr you will say for certain chunks of time. For example,       do istighfar for 10 minutes, then tahmeed for 10 minutes, and then send peace upon the Prophet           (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), etc.
        - Different types of dhikr: Istighfar; Subhan Allahi wa bihamdih; la hawla wa la quwwata illaa billah;       SubhanAllah, walhamdulillah, wa La ilaaha illAllah, wAllahu Akbar; and others
  • Recite surahs from the Qur’an as revision

After Cooking:

· You could invite sisters over for a halaqah (sisters’ circle) & serve a meal
· Review the recommended, obligatory, and disliked acts associated with eating. Here are just a few examples:
  • Eat and drink with the right hand
  • Do not complain about the food
  • If a piece of food falls on the ground, pick it up, remove the dirt, and eat it
  • Say Bismillah before eating and praise Allah (Alhamdulillah) after eating (there are specific du’as to say after eating)
  • More information: http://islamqa.info/en/ref/13348
· Whilst eating:
  • Reflect on the ingredients and creation of Allah
  • Remind children in the family that Allah is the Provider (Ar-Razzaaq)
  • Have productive, beneficial conversations: family bonding, sincere advice, sharing beneficial information and reminders, making each other happy, kind words, etc.
· Nourish your Eman – The Qur’an
  • This can be done before cooking or after cooking
  • You’ve looked after your body, the family, and the heart with some dhikr, but now it is time to really truly enjoy the ultimate delight, taste the ultimate sweetness – spend some time reciting the Qur’an (along with a translation if you do not understand Arabic).
  • Whether it is a 1 page, 5 pages or 1 juz’, we ought to set a time in our schedule to spend with the words of ALLAH subhanahu wa ta’ala.
  • The Qur’an is one of the supreme ways to renew one’s Eman and heart
Most, if not all of us, find ourselves in the kitchen at some point in time. We should make this a time in which to remember Allah and follow it up with remembering Allaah during our meals. InshaAllah these practices will aid in having a happy kitchen and a happy home.

This concludes Part 1 of Time in The Kitchen. Be sure to look out for Part 2 where we will share some Persian recipes with you inshaAllah.

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