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Jun 20, 2015

Ramadan Diaries: De-Stressing From The Dunya: The Real Pursuit

Bismillah

A large, foolish majority lives like there is no tomorrow and that this world; this life and its material yaddi yaddi yadda, are the only pursuits to strive for. In the mad daily rush of mundane household chores and errands, the pressurizing weekly goals, monthly deadlines, annual commitments, and life goals we tend to forget that we are not here to stay and are accountable to Allah SWT on the Day of Judgement. We cast into oblivion, the fact, that the Hereafter is our permanent home and this world is simply an in-between stage of tests and trials. We can only be able to successfully de-stress from this world if we realize the two pursuits that we are really here for. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny (salAllahu aleyhi wa'aleyhi wasallam (SAWW)) clearly prescribed two pursuits of this world:“Knowledge and worship in this world, and Paradise in the Hereafter.”Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3488

We are simply trapped in this state of fake glamour which is designed to test our character. As Prophet Muhammad SAWW said: "The world is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the disbeliever." Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2324

A prison is not supposed to be a place of permanent dwelling and the idea is to serve the sentence and exit peacefully for a better future. That's the real pursuit. 

Pursuit Of Knowledge

Knowledge refers to everything that there is to be learned by our Creator, Allah SWT. And while some conservative perspectives decode it to be just Islamic knowledge, the more and more complete definition is the comprehensive knowledge of the world and its sciences, and all Creations of Allah SWT. This learning includes the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sunnah as a basic core and then academic sciences that we go after because they are studies of Allah SWT and His Creation if you think about it. Biology is the study of life, Chemistry is of molecules and substances Allah SWT created and Man discovered, and engineer learns Phsyics which is Allah's forces and phenomenon at play to run the show, and the list is endless.

So it is important to make dua'a this Ramadan for Allah SWT to increase our knowledge and guide us to the right resources. Prophet Muhammad SAWW guided us and said: "Ask Allah for beneficial knowledge and seek refuge with Allah from knowledge that is of no benefit." Sunan Ibn Majah 3843. Our lives should be spent; therefore, in pursuit of the fundamental types of knowledge that would complete our existence as we transition into the next world from this world.

  • Knowledge of the Qur'an: its pronunciation and meaning
  • Knowledge of Hadith: the authentic narratives of Prophet Muhammad SAWW which complete religious understanding
  • Knowledge of Sunnah: the righteous and perfect code of life as lived by Prophet Muhammad SAWW
  • Knowledge of Fiqh: the right decision-making knowledge each Muslim should have to live the Halal way
  • Knowledge of Islamic history: our golden heritage

Pursuit Of Worship

Worship also has a very broad meaning beyond the five times compulsory daily prayers (salah). Each act done to please the Creator is worship. If you bow your head, prostrate, and make dua'a that is worship. If you serve His people with kindness and love and bring humankind no harm, that; too, is worship. If you adhere to the teachings of the Qur'an, Hadith, and Sunnah, that is worship. And, if you control the evils within your psyche (nafs) that; too, is worship. This Ramadan, God Willing (insha'Allah) work towards de-stressing from the dunya by focusing on selfless, dedicated worship of Allah SWT. Focus on:

  • Worshiping the Omnipotent, the Almighty, and none other but Allah - the God of Heavens and Earth
  • Worship with sincere dua'a - the essence of worship
  • Worship with belief that only Allah SWT can make trials easy upon you, and He definitely will
  • Worship in the early hours of the day - Fajr
  • Worship in the later hours of the night - Tahajjud
  • Worship extra! - Nawafil
These two pursuits - knowledge and worship - are a fundamental part of strengthening our core and the work should begin now! May Allah SWT help us all focus our minds and soul towards the real pursuits and make us de-stress from the dunya so as to earn greater rewards for the Hereafter. Ameen.

Jun 18, 2015

Ramadan Diaries: Day 01 - Strengthen Your Core This Ramadan

By Anum Ali
Bismillah


"If you want to get rid of pain, you need to strengthen your core." 


... said my chiropractic health coach. She went on to elaborate how I can achieve that by de-stressing my mind, detoxing my internal systems, and training my body. I fell in love with the term "strengthening the core".

Our religion (Deen) is our core and we can use Ramadan to strengthen it. When I say religion I don't just mean theological Islam but the Islamic lifestyle according to Quran and lifestyle (sunnah) of Prophet peace be upon him and his progeny (Muhammad salAllahu aleyhi wa'aleyhi wasallam).

The theme for Ramadan Diaries 2015 is "Strengthening the Core" and it works around simple strategies:
  • De-stress: from the world (dunya) and focus on the Hereafter (akhirah)
  • Training: of the psyche (nafs)
  • Detox: from major and minor sins

De-stressing From The Dunya: Sunnah Reloaded

I recall Agent Smith's expression form The Matrix (1999). He was pretty annoyed by Humankind and said: 

" Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not."

True! It is a mad race we appear to be running each day in pursuit of worldly gains. Of course, Allah SWT has sent us to attain success and enjoy the boons and luxury of this world but we tend to forget that we are not here to stay, and that we will be accountable for what we do. People who over-indulge tend to believe that this world is a permanent haven and keep on striving for more of everything - money, fame, fortune, glamour, and etc. Such pursuits come with enormous stressors because an individual feels a constant, pressing need of either becoming rich, famous, superior to others, and etc.  He or she lives like there is no Hereafter and whatever is there to achieve is in this dunya alone. In this process they end up twisting and contorting their lifestyles, personalities, beliefs, and attitudes. Conclusively, they lose or compromise their faith (Imaan) over the world (dunya). This is where the Spoon Boy's advice comes in:

"Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead ... only try to realize the truth. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."

We need to realize (and there is no better beginning than Ramadan) that there is no dunya (material world). Only then can we escape from the stress, panic, troubles, and depression haunting our bodies and minds. If we follow the Sunnah (lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad SAWW), we can attain this state of true being. 

Prophet Muhammad SAWW said (narrated by Abu Hurairah):
"The world is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the disbeliever." Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2324


Training Of The Psyche (Nafs)
Ramadan is a month of quality control for a person which allows him or her to polish character, realize and refine virtues, and introduce and instill good manners. The biggest challenges are not hunger and thirst but the control of one's nafs. A successful fast is that in which a person succeeds in living through the day without food and water and also maintaining strong emotional and social balance.  Anger, greed, lust, hate, backbiting, lies, pride, arrogance, harsh talk, and possibly all evils budding from the likes of Satan (Shaytan) must be hunted down, restrained, and destroyed forever.

Ramadan Diaries will; therefore, be a journey to Strengthen The Core and I shall be sharing with you some strategies to De-stress, Detox, and Train. Taking it on as one principle per ten-day period (ashra) here is a proposed timetable insha'Allah.


Detox For Major & Minor Sins
Seeking repentance (Istighfar) is the only detox for major and minor sins. Ramadan is a golden opportunity for having sins forgiven and all records cleansed, provided your intention is pure and you never repeat wrong again.

Prophet Muhammad SAWW was heard saying (narrated by Abu Hurairah):
"Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven." Sahih al-Bukhari 2008

First Ashra:
De-stressing From The Dunya: Sunnah Reloaded


Second Ashra: 

Training Of The Psyche (Nafs)


Third Ashra: 

Detox For Major & Minor Sins

ONCE AGAIN, I WISH YOU A BLESSED RAMADAN KAREEM. MAY ALLAH SWT GRANT US ALL THE STRENGTH AND STAMINA TO SERVE HIM SELFLESSLY, AMEEN.

Jun 16, 2015

Dua'as I Intend To Make This Ramadan

By Danielle Garvey
Republished from original

Bismillah 


With the fast approach of Ramadan, many of us have begun preparations for this special month. For this reason I would like to remind everyone, including myself, that one aspect of ibaada we must not neglect in our preparations is that of du’a. Unfortunately, du’a becomes lost in the midst of our busy schedules either being neglected completely or reduced to a mere recitation devoid of any feeling or sincerity.

When Ramadan comes, the Doors of Paradise are opened, and the Doors of Hell are closed, and the Shayatin are chained up”(Ibn Maajah).

This is one of many powerful indicators that du’a made during Ramadan has a greater chance of being accepted. There is no better time than this to make a serious commitment to learning more du’as and incorporating them into our daily lives. A simple and effective way of achieving this goal is to compile a short list of the most important and relevant du’as you wish to learn. I would like to share some from my own personal list to be used as a starting point for your own inshaAllah.

1. Du’a of breaking fast

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسأَلُكَ بِرَحْمَتِكَ الَّتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَنْ تَغْفِرَ لِي

O Allah, I ask You by Your mercy, which encompasses all things, that You forgive me.

The fasting person has at the time of breaking fast, a supplication which is not rejected (Ibn Majah, Al Hakim).

As we can see from this hadith, we should choose the du’a we make upon breaking our fast carefully as it is guaranteed a response inshaAllah. I have chosen just one of a number of dua’s which are sunnah to say when breaking the fast however I favoured this particular one due to its focus on repentance which we are all in desperate need of.

2. Du’a for a family who invites you to break their fast with them

أفْطَرَ عِنْدَكُمُ الصَّائِمُونَ، وَ أَكَلَ طَعَامَكُمُ الأبْرَارُ، وَ صَلَّتْ عَلَيْكُم ُ الْمَلائِكَةُ

May those who are fasting break their fast in your home, and may the dutiful and pious eat your food and may the angels send prayers upon you.

This is surely the most beautiful and beneficial way to repay someone for having you at their home for iftar. Remember, any du’a you sincerely make for another, the angels will make for you also.

3. Du’a against laziness

اَللّهُمَّ إِنِّيْ أَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْعِجْزِ ، وَالْكَسْلِ، وَالْجُبْنِ ، وَالْهَرَمِ ، وَالْبُخْلِ ، وَأَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ، وَأَعُوْذُ بِكَ مِنْ فِتْنَةِ الْمَحْيَا وَالْمَمَاتِ.

O Allah, I seek refuge in You from weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, anxiety and sorrow, and I seek refuge in You from the torments of grave, and I seek refuge in You from the trials and tribulations of life and death.

For many of us laziness is a big problem, whether it takes the form of missing fajr, neglecting to recite Qur’an or, as previously discussed abandoning du’a. However, to truly benefit from Ramadan we must endeavor to overcome this. This du’a is beneficial to all of us in this regard but also because it seeks refuge from anxiety, sorrow, torments of the grave and the trials and tribulations of life and death. Its comprehensiveness makes it an excellent du’a to remember and use regularly.

4. Du’a of repentance

أستغفر الله العظيم الذي لا إله إلا هو الحي القيوم وأتوب إليه

The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Whoever says: ‘I seek Allah’s forgiveness, besides whom, none has the right to be worshipped except He, The Ever Living, The Self-Subsisting and Supporter of all, I turn to Him in repentance.’ …Allah would forgive him even if he was one who fled during the advance of an army.

We are all guilty of regularly committing sins, many of which we may not have repented from or did not even realise we were committing. In fact, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam himself said: ‘By Allaah, I seek forgiveness and repent to Allaah, more than seventy times a day.’ (Al Bukhari)

As the sunnah of our beloved Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam who was the best human being to ever live, it shows us how important it is for us to be constantly turning to Allah in repentance. We lose nothing when we do so rather we only gain benefits, including an increased closeness to Allah and a greater chance of entering jannah inshaAllah.

5. Du’a for forgiveness for the believers


رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَابُ

Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and the believers the Day the account is established.”(14:41)

The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

Whoever seeks forgiveness for the believing men and women, a good deed will be written for him for every single believing man and women (that he prayed for)” (Al-Tabarani).

SubhanAllah, such a simple du’a can reap such enormous reward. However, it is important to note that, as with any du’a, sincerity is required for it to be responded to and for the aforementioned benefits to be gained. In order to find this sincerity within ourselves we must have knowledge of the akhira; what will take place on yawm al qiyamah and the realities of jannah and jahannum. We must also develop a love and sense of mercy for all the believers and a fear for what could happen to them, including ourselves and our loved ones should Allah not forgive our countless sins. 

Indeed Allah subhaana wa ta’aala is Shy and Beneficent. He is Shy when His servant raises his hands to Him (in du’a) to return them empty’ (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).

As this hadith implies, regular remembrance of Allah through du’a has countless benefits including protecting us from sin and bringing us closer to Allah. The benefits are even more so during the month of mercy when the reward of every good deed is multiplied. To achieve an optimal appreciation of and benefit from our du’as, I recommend gaining knowledge of the etiquette of du’a, an excellent resource of which is ‘Du’a: The Weapon of the Believer’ by Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi. Most importantly, let none of us miss this incredible opportunity to earn reward from making sincere du’a a part of our everyday ibaada because none of us know if we will live to see it again.

References
www.quran.com
www.makedua.com
www.digitaldua.com
Du’a: The Weapon of the Believer by Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi
Fortress of the Muslim: Invocations from the Qur’an and Sunnah compiled by Sa’id bin Wahf Al-Qahtani

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

Jun 5, 2015

Setting Up A Ramadan Hangout

Bismillah


Book lovers have a reading nook, video games fanatics have a gamers' den, baking fans have a baking studio, artists have creative workshops. These are all hangouts for different kinds of individuals custom-designed to serve their life's most favorite pursuits. Ramadan is a big pursuit too! And it deserves a special hangout. 

A good Ramadan Hangout helps to trigger the feels and vibes for the beautiful month of blessings. It is equipped with the resources that help focus attention to the glorious mission of the blessed 30 days. Personally, I like my hangout to be my own place of solitude. But friends can arrange for a common hangout too where combined reward (Ajr) can be gained. Here are a few recommendations from Sisterly Yours: 

  • Ensure that your Ramadan Hangout is a clean, pure place. 

  • Make sure there are no distractions around the Ramadan Hangout e.g. Xbox, Wii, TV, and etc. 

  • It is best to pitch your Ramadan Hangout close to your musallah (prayer place). If you use ja-i-namaaz (prayer rugs) then you have what I call a mobile musallah and you can just have it set up besides your hangout. 

  • Ladies, your Ramadan Hangout should ideally be a centrally located spot in the house (still, secluded enough for alone time) so you can still keep a distant watchful eye on running the house. 

  • The Ramadan Hangout should be comfortable so you can lay down when you are tired, have good back support when you are sitting up to read, and have proper cooling for hot humid summers. 

  • Get fancy and decorate your Ramadan Hangout to create the feels of Ramadan. Create an ambiance that pulls you towards the hangout! Incense sticks, candles, lanterns, comfy pillows, get creative. 

  • Have a table, organizer basket, or storage boxes around the Hangout so your Ramadan Reads, and other resources do not scatter and make the place untidy and cluttered. 

  • Have a good light source because you will be reading. 

  • Have a power outlet in case you plan to recharge your cell phone, plug in your laptop/iPod/etc. 

  • Have a pen holder stocked with pencils, pens, and highlighters because you will be reading your Ramadan Reads, taking notes, or marking important facts. 

  • Your Ramadan Hangout is the place where you will keep your Ramadan Journal.
I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below!

5 TIPS FOR MAKING UP MISSED RAMADAN FASTS

by Aasiya Maryam
Republished from original

Bismillah


Debt is one of the many reasons people worry. Imagine taking a loan from someone, with intent of returning it by the following year. Now imagine not being able to repay this loan by the due date, and it just so happens that there arises a need to take out this loan again the following year, and the year after, and so forth. What you have now is a big debt on your shoulder, which has accumulated over the years. And now you do not understand what to do about it! How do you repay such a huge loan?!

While we are worried about this worldly debt, there is another debt that, if not repaid, can affect our akhirah (hereafter). A debt we owe to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) - the debt of our missed fasts! Most of us have not been able to make up the missed fasts from the past Ramadan, whether it is due to our own personal reasons, or simply out of ignorance.

We must realise that it is extremely important for us to make up these fasts because they are fard (obligatory) on us. It is an obligatory act and, in fact, we should have made them up before Ramadan of the present year. Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) says in the Qur’an –

"The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, 
a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. 
So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; 
and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. 
Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship 
and [wants] for you to complete the period 
and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; 
and perhaps you will be grateful." (2:185)

Here are 5 tips to get you started on this absolutely important task of making up your missed obligatory fasts:

1. INTENTION:


'Umar ibn al-Khattab relates that he heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, say, "Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended…” [Bukhari]

Begin with making a strong intention to make up all your missed fasts for the sake of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala). Seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent for delaying it. Make the intention to repay this debt in order to protect your akhirah.


2. PLAN:

Brainstorm and create a plan to make up these fasts.

· Firstly, count the number of days you missed. If you do not remember the exact number, then approximate, add a few extra days to stay on the safe side.

· Set a deadline – say 6 months or by end of the year. This is your deadline by when you must complete all the fasts.

· Depending on what is preferred and convenient for you, decide how many days a week you will fast. This could be Mondays and Thursdays, the white days (13,14,15) of every month of Islamic calendar, or Dawood’s alayhissalaam fast – fasting on alternative days, etc.

3. PREPARE:


Make all arrangements of what you want to eat for suhoor. Since you may be the only person fasting at home, you want to be ready for it. If you face a problem of waking up for suhoor set 3 – 4 alarms; you are sure to get up from at least one of them, inshaAllah.

4. ‘FAST’ FRIEND:


I have had a tough time motivating myself to make up my missed fasts. It was not until a close friend asked me to be her “fast friend” that I was able to kick start my mission- “make up missed fasts,” alhumdulillah. In case you are facing the same problem, find a ‘fast friend’ – you can keep each other updated about the number of fasts you have left, which days you plan to fast, how you plan to make up further fasts, wake each other up for suhoor, and also give each other the required motivation to keep going when you find yourselves getting lazy again, inshaAllah!

5. MOTIVATE:


I did not realize the importance of making up missed fasts until another close friend added me to her facebook group – (Sisters Only) Making Up Missed fasts of past Ramadans. It provides a lot of motivation and inspiration from other sisters to pay back the debt we owe to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. I urge you to join the group to help you get going, inshaAllah!

Fasting during Ramadan is an obligatory act of worship, and not making up the missed fasts before the next Ramadan (without a valid reason) is a sin. So, let’s seek Allah’s subhaanahu wa ta’aala forgiveness for it and make a firm intention to make them up on time in the future, inshaAllah.

May Allah forgive us and grant us ease to complete all the missed fasts.


NOTE: Regarding fiqh rulings on making up missed fasts, please refer the following links:
1. Ruling on delaying missed Ramadan and paying fidya
2. Do we need to make up missed fasts on consecutive days?

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


Jun 2, 2015

How to Maintain a Ramadan Diary

By Anum Ali

Bismillah 

Two years ago when I started writing my first Ramadan diary, online, I didn’t know that it would grow into a wonderful sisters’ blog. Furthermore, it evolved into a sisterly project - a combination of knowledge and entertainment. ‘Sisterly Yours’ is now a Facebook page listed amongst the ‘Top 100 Muslim Women Fan Pages’ according to a 2011 survey by the American Muslim Mom website. How it happened is a tale of some serious and dedicated diary-writing.

The Wonders of Writing a Ramadan Diary
In the year 2010, I embarked on the journey that I called the Muslim Dream. It is centered around a spiritual and physical struggle of becoming an ideal Muslim woman. Ramadan crossed my path and I took it as a starting point, I was going to begin with repentance. The theme of the Ramadan diary, therefore, was me seeking forgiveness from Allah, the Most Merciful.

There are two types of diaries with the first one being the personal diary and the second being a goal-oriented diary, and both help you discover yourself. When you combine the two types you get a beautiful chronological autobiography of your personal struggle. Recognizing and talking about your feelings and emotions helps you understand yourself. Your diary is an extended version of you. And, of course, you can always turn back the pages to read about your past events and emotions.

So when we speak of maintaining a Ramadan diary, we are talking about a 30 day log at the very minimum which keeps a record of physical, psychological, and spiritual state. It helps in setting up goals and the strategies to achieve them, manage time, and reflect on what we experience at the end of the day.

Choosing a Diary
It is entirely your own decision whether you wish to write in a classic leather-bound journal, a notebook, or type it out on your PC / laptop. It is again your choice whether you wish to keep it personal or publish it like I chose to do with my online Ramadan diary blog. If you choose to remain secretive you will not have to worry about confidentiality issues, criticism, and judgment by the readers. Your confidential expression will help you with emotional management without the feeling of being watched. However, going public will help you connect with productive communities and individuals with a similar Ramadan cause. You will have to sort through constructive and destructive criticism, though. If written for an audience, along with the personal development motive, a Ramadan diary could benefit the Muslim community at large.

Ramadan Diary Index
A diary written without much thought becomes more of a daily ranting blurb, however, a properly planned Ramadan diary will become a guidebook for your friends and family to benefit from. So, begin with a rough outline of your aims and objectives. Allah subhana wa ta'aala has already designated three ahraas (10 day periods) during Ramadan and their themes are rehmah (seeking blessings), maghfirah (seeking repentance), and nijaat (seeking riddance from hellfire). Your diary could have a three phase index based on how you struggled during the three ashraas. That’s how I maintain mine.

Daily Writing
Dairy writing is at its best when it’s being done consistently i.e. daily during Ramadan. The format of your entries is entirely up to you. I made it a point to include sections in my daily entries so it was an eclectic mix of knowledge and entertainment at the same time. It began with an introductory dua’a suited to the theme of the ashraa, for example, a dua’a for repentance in the second ashraa. I like including the latest from my favorite websites, so there was always a quote shared from Habibi Halaqas. It is a great idea to use Ramadan tools and resources like Productive Ramadan’s Taskinator which keeps a spiritual and physical log of your day. Websites also share beautiful quotes, hadith, and messages drafted on gorgeous, though-provoking graphics and I always use them to add life to my online diaries. The main idea is to speak about your day so it proves to be a reflection for you, an idea of what’s missing so you could incorporate that in your Ramadan routine.

Be Creative and Pass on the Ramadan Legacy
Your Ramadan diary, if written dedicatedly, could become an ideal gift for the Muslim community. If you’ve kept it personal, you can always choose to give it to your children or a special family member to benefit from your Ramadan tales. This way your Ramadan legacy can be well preserved. Many people get their diaries published and make the bestseller lists. Of course, they edit the details according to their preferences, but each individual’s Ramadan story is a heroic tale of how they have earned a special place in this world and the next by Allah’s Will.

I also feel that you might want to have a thorough recall of your previous Ramadan before you start the next to check how much you have evolved spiritually, and you can always take a trip down the memory lane by reading through your Ramadan diary.

Happy writing!

Jun 1, 2015

Sha'ban - The Bridge To Ramadan


Bismillah


Usamah bin Zaid said:

"I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Shaban.' He said: 'That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting."' (Sunan an-Nasa'i 2357)


So how would we like our deeds to be taken up as? Think of Sha'baan as a bridge to Ramadan. Right now we are passing over that glorious, hidden bridge that we often tend not to pay too much attention to, as Prophet Muhammad salAllahu aleyhi wa'aleyhi wasallam pointed out. There's a mad pre-Ramadan rush everywhere. Some people are too busy rushing weddings so they may get them done before Ramadan starts. Who would attend a wedding in Ramadan, right? Whereas some are too busy trying to have all their social meetups done before Tarawihs and prayers begin and occupy evenings and nights of their friends and families, and yadi yadi yada you name it.

Ideally, Sha'baan should be spent in an urgency to score good deeds because they are being taken up to Allah swt and our piles of good are increasing. This is like an added bonus that precedes Ramadan and only the early birds can benefit from it. 

Another beautiful analogy is that of irrigating the seed to reap its fruits in Ramadan. Sow your seeds (plan well and ahead) in Rajab, irrigate in Sha'baan, and reap the fruit in Ramadan.

I took this to heart and began working up my Ramadan act in Rajab. The biggest hurdle that ruined my Ramadan last year was a stubborn stomach infection that stays active all the time and does not let me fast. I found myself throwing up and writhing in pain from an empty stomach and had to give up fasts. This year I planned ahead,alhamdulllah, and asked my doctor about treating this bug before it ruined another Ramadan. So, throughout Rajab I was on a multi-antibiotics regimen that nuked the daylights out of the infection. I feel so much better, and I am working on keeping my stomach empty for longer periods of time so I can rehearse Ramadan mode. I am taking Sha'baan to work up Qur'an recitation (so I can finish the Qur'an by the time Ramadan ends), and planning on Ramadan resources.

Plan Sha'baan: Let's Walk That Bridge
  1. Use Sha'ban to set yourself straight: health concerns, address personal concerns, correct habits such as sleep patterns, etc.
  2. Make a head start on your Qur'an recitation. Aim for at least 1/2 juz per day (divide it into 1/4 juz in one sitting, and arrange for 2 sittings in a day) so you have 15 juz complete by the end of Sha'baan inshaAllah.
  3. Arrange for 'Ramadan Reads' - good books that you would be reading through Ramadan, make a head start on those.
  4. Set up a Qur'an schedule for recitation and tafsir (you don't want to be reading without meaning!)
  5. Plan good deeds: fasting, charity, winning hearts of people, treating parents well, etc.
  6. Set up your 'Ramadan Hangout' - a peaceful place in your house where you will go for prayers, reading Qur'an and books in peace and quiet, make it comfy and make it cool!
  7. Cross off distractions: let people know you'll be working it like your last Ramadan, ease up on TV watching, Facebook-ing, and etc.
  8. Finish up kitchen management: cleaning, bulk cooking, Ramadan menu planning
  9. Set up your Ramadan Goals: what do you wish to achieve this Ramadan?Basically, make Ramadan an extension of Sha'ban. You would be following a great advice of the Prophet (SAWW) - a wonderful Sunnah - this way.
Umm Salamah said:

"The Messenger of Allah used to join Shaban to Ramadan." (Sunan an-Nasa'i 2176)

Happy Sha'ban. Stay tuned for more Ramadan articles. Don't forget to join me for Ramadan Diaries 2015 inshaAllah.

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

Jan 28, 2015

Top 10 Tips for a Life of Gratitude




by Sabeen Mansoori

Bismillah

I have met people whose degree of ingratitude has shocked and saddened me and, I have met people who are so grateful that they have left me speechless. At Hajj there was a group of Hajis that wasted their precious time in the city of the beloved Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu aleyhi wa'aleyhi wasallam (SAWW) (peace upon him and his progeny) complaining and arguing about the fact that they had been given a four-star hotel instead of the five-star one that they were promised. As they raised their voices in anger, I thought about the thousands of people that would give anything to be in their shoes. How ungrateful can you be? I also have a dear friend who is suffering from an excruciatingly painful disease and yet she remains extremely patient and grateful. Her eyes are full of tears from the pain but when you offer your sympathies, she smiles and replies, “No worries, dear. At least I am still around to feel the pain.”

In Islam gratitude is not inculcated by simply writing thank you notes to people. A believer’s entire life is a note of Shukr (gratitude) to the Creator – a note that is written out of love and appreciation, sealed with acts of worship and stamped with deeds of service to His creatures. But how is one to write such a note? What are the skills that must be practiced and perfected so that we can protect ourselves from Kufr (ingratitude).

Top 10 Tips to Leading A Life of Gratitude

1. Sincerely Yours: 

Sign your life the way Prophet Ibrahim aleyhissalam (AS) (peace on him) did:

Say, "Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds.(Surah Al-Anam 6:162)

Allah subhana wa ta’la (SWT) praised him in the Quran:

"[He was] grateful for His favors. Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path." (16:121)

2. Have No Regrets

Prophet Yusuf (AS) who faced so many challenges in his life: being separated from his family, slavery, being seduced by his master’s wife, and imprisonment is nothing but grateful as he looks back.

And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration. And he said, 

"O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.(12:100)

3. Comparing is Complaining

Appreciate your uniqueness and the abilities, talents and opportunities that Allah (SWT) has provided you with: 

"And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others…(Sura An- Nisa 4:32)

Look up to and compare only in matters of Deen (religion) so that you can race to excel in acts of goodness. Comparing in anything else will only lead to regret and ingratitude.

4. Step Outside

"Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding." (3:190)

Join the congregation of the trees as they make sajdah (kneel) to their Rabb (Lord) and a new kind of gratitude and contentment will infuse your life.

5. Persevere with Patience
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah says in Patience and Gratitude: “Iman (faith) is in two halves: half is Sabr (patience) and half is Shukr (gratitude)” [1]. One cannot be attained without the other. Patient people are grateful and impatient people are ungrateful and unhappy.

6. Don't Be A Victim

Several times Allah (SWT) informs us in the Quran:

That is for what your hands have put forth and because Allah is not ever unjust to [His] servants." (3:182)

7. Believe in Jannah (Paradise) 
If you believe in Paradise then be grateful for everything you were not granted in this world because it will be unimaginably better over there. If your burden feels heavier now, on the Day of Judgment, insha Allah (by Allah's Will) the burden of your sins will be light. If you feel unappreciated and; therefore, ungrateful, know that Allah alone knows and understands.

8. Do Not Share Your Burden

Sharing your problems will lead to multiple problems. As you vent, your problems will seem to magnify as they become a part of someone else’s consciousness.They will feel sorry for you and you will feel even sorrier for yourself (see point 6 above). News might spread to people who should not know of your problems and might lead to unnecessary fitna. Wallowing in self pity will sap your creativity and make you an ungrateful, useless person.

9. If There Was No If

A what-if mentality creates burdens and fuels unhappiness. The Prophet (SAWW) warned against such mentality [2]:

Prophet Muhammad (SAWW) said:

"Seek out that which benefits you, seek help only from Allah and never say you can't do it. If any adversity comes to you do not say: 'If I had only acted in such-and-such a way, it would have been such-and-such;' but instead, say: 'Allah has decreed (it) and what He willed, He has done,' for verily, (the word) ‘if’ opens the way for the work of Satan." [Sahih Muslim]

10. Be Productive

Productivity and gratitude are intrinsically tied in a beautiful cycle. Fill your days with ibadah and zikr and serve the creation of Allah and you will be granted a life of gratitude. Gratitude will make you more productive which will make you more grateful and so on.

And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, 'If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.' "(14:7)

So next time you get the urge to complain, take a deep breath and reconsider. This exercise will have to be repeated several times a day till you develop an attitude of gratitude. I hope these ten tips help you in your struggle and make dua that they help me in my journey to a more grateful life. Please share any steps you have taken to add gratitude to your life.

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

References

[1] Patience and Gratitude Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah P.61 [Source] http://quranproject.org/Patience-and-Gratitude-563-d

[2] The What-If Mentality https://clearpearls.wordpress.com/tag/quran%EF%85%93/

Love and Hate for the Sake of Allah Part 2

By Asrar BenHoucine

Bismillah

Read Part 1

Why Islam Allows Punishments

Prophet Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam) fought to spread Islam; holy wars were fought because rulers refused to allow Islam to enter their lands; whereas Allah made it clear that Islam is for all mankind thus the message of Islam must reach each individual in its pure form. This is why Jihad took place. As humans we all have a choice in regard to the religion we follow. But no one should make that choice for us.

Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala sent down the Shariah (Islamic Law) which includes tax (Zakat). Zakat, which is given to the less fortunate, is a means for the community to eliminate poverty. However, there are those who do not pay Zakat and they will get punished in this life by Muslim rulers and they will get a severe punishment in the Hereafter. Islam allows for punishment to be carried out in order to bring stability to society.

Allah knows people can be selfish or even forgetful about others in need. So Zakat supports those in need. Giving up a yearly 2.5% of a working person’s income would not leave him in need nor will it make him financially poor. (Allah knows best indeed and He rewards those who give Zakat). As Muslims, we know that there are reasons behind every Islamic law and as Muslims we should have taqwa (trust in Allah) and trust His Wisdom.

A Mercy towards his Enemies

So how should we act towards the enemies of Islam? We cannot be rude or ignorant towards them. Islam teaches us to respect others and their religions. In Surah Kafirun, the Quran explicitly states that they have their religion and we have ours. As Muslims we are taught tolerance, manners, and respect. Our Prophet, Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam) is a great model for all this.

The prisoners of war taken captive at the Battle of Badr were amongst the Prophet’s bitterest enemies. Nevertheless, he made sure that they were given the best of treatment. Among them was Suhayl bin ‘Amr who was a fiery speaker and was denouncing the Prophet. ‘Umar, one of the Prophet’s closest companions, suggested that two of his lower teeth be pulled out so that he might not be so vile in his speeches. The Prophet replied:

Were I to do this, Allah would disfigure me on the Day of Judgement, despite the fact that I am His messenger.” (Bukhari)

References

Discover Islam. Messengers of God. The Prophet Muhammad a Mercy for all Creation. www.ediscoverislam.com.web.2013 

Sahih Al Bukhari # 3231 

Sheba, Adbul-Rahman al, Murad, Abdul-Rahman. Muhammad the Messenger of Allah. www.messengerofgod.info.web.2012

Utz, Aisha Dr. Psychology from the Islamic Perspective. Riyadh, 2011.Print.

www.washingtonpost.com


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter.  Please post in the comments section below :)

Jan 27, 2015

POEM: LOST WANDERERS

By Anum Ali

Bismillah 

O, Lord, the heart is aching, 

Pain bleeds, the drippage leaking, 

Collects into an ever-blemished soul, 

Corroding, eroding - the weakling. 

Trials, tribulations one too many, 

A helpless silence shrieking, 

We hold strong to Your Promise, 

A heavenly, silver lining. 

Our tears beseech Thy console, 

Our wounds beseech Thy healing, 

Lost wanderers we stroll the wastelands, 

Our footsteps search for meaning. 

There’s blood thinner than water, O Lord, 

There are ties but with no feeling. 

It is Thy love, still honey pure, 

At Thy council we find ourselves kneeling. 

Bless us with the nerve, O Lord, 

To face the storms upheaving, 

Our hearts cannot forbear the angst, 

Dreams, expectations, shattering, 

We hold Your Promise dear, 

In Your Will we keep believing.


Any thoughts on this poem? Please post in the comments section below :)

Jan 26, 2015

Love and Hate for the Sake of Allah Part 1

By Asrar BenHoucine

Bismillah


Relationships with our enemies from an Islamic Perspective

A lot of people come to believe that Muslims cannot be friends with non Muslims. Even our Muslim brothers and sisters find themselves confused on this matter. One must understand who are the enemies of Islam and why? Is it because of ignorance or do they know the truth but refuse to accept it? Why does Islam allow punishment? Some people tend to confuse revenge with justice or justice with revenge. So if you do something that can cause animosity then don’t you think this action will be judged as a hate crime, therefore causing people to hate you? How is one to act with those who are enemies of Islam? How should we relate to such from an Islamic perspective?

Manners of the Prophet towards his enemies

Aisha asked the Messenger of God (sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam), “Did you face a day harder and more intense than the Battle of Uhud?” He replied: “I suffered a lot from your people! The worst I suffered was on the Day of al-’Aqabah when I spoke to Ali b. Abd Yaleel b. Abd Kilaal (in order to support me) but he disappointed me and left me. I left the area while I was quite worried, and walked. When I reached an area called Qarn ath-Tha’alib, I raised my head to the sky and noticed a cloud that shaded me. Gabriel called me and said, ‘O Muhammad! God, the Exalted, has heard what your people have said to you and has sent the angel in charge of the mountains, so you can command him to do what you please.’” The Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam) said: “The angel in charge of the mountains called me saying, ‘May God praise you and keep you safe from all evil! O Muhammad, I will do whatever you command me to do. If you like I can bring the akh-shabain mountains together and crush them all.’” The Messenger of God (sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “It may be that God raises from among them a progeny who worship God alone and associate no partners with Him.” (Bukhari #3231)

This Hadith clearly shows that Prophet Muhammad had a chance that anyone of us would have taken but did not. He was not a man of war, but one of peace, and he said Allah might raise one, just one of the people to be Muslim. Furthermore, Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wasallam) conquered Mecca without any bloodshed. Many would think after gaining power and returning to the people who hurt him terribly, the Prophet would seek revenge. However, he chose to forgive those people and this act of kindness led many of them to convert to Islam. If only we can learn that peace is what wins over the heart and not anger and destruction. As Muslims, we know that Allah is All Just, and if anyone actively opposes Allah or His religion, they will answer for it either here or in the Hereafter. The only time it is acceptable for us to kill is in holy war when you are defending yourself or your home or the oppressed. Wars were always on battlefields, never did they take place on or near civilian territory.

Enemies of Islam

The enemies of Islam are those who intentionally and actively oppose Allah and the religion not out of ignorance but out of rage and anger towards Muslims and Islam. A recent example is the movie trailer that was released about a movie against Prophet Muhammad. This was done intentionally by the filmmaker and it was even stated that he knew that Muslims would become infuriated over the trailer and react in a vengeful way.

Another example is when US Troops in Afghan tried burning almost 500 copies of the Quran. According to the Washington Post, the soldiers suspected that prisoners were passing illicit notes in the margins of library books and decided to burn all suspicious books, 474 being Qurans. (Washingtonpost.com) However, this act was supposedly done out of ignorance of how valuable the Quran is to Muslims and ignorance towards the religion.

Revenge & Justice


We must understand that justice is not always served in this life. However, Allah is All Just and He will carry out complete justice on the Day of Judgment. Revenge on the other hand is taken in some cases, for example an eye for an eye. As Muslims, we know whatever happens on Earth has already been written in the Heavens first and nothing happens without the Permission of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. Therefore, in all matters, we should act rationally and never behave like those who are in the wrong.

In her book, Psychology from the Islamic Perspective, Dr. Aisha Utz states, “Hatred should be for the sake of Allah only, and should not affect us in a way that allows us to act or react irrationally. The matters that necessitate hatred include disbelief (when it is not out of ignorance), hypocrisy, innovation and sin.”

In most hate crimes carried out against Muslims, it is obvious that the perpetrator committed the act out of ignorance. Most people are just misinformed about Islam, blind followers of their forefathers; these people are NOT the true haters of Islam. As stated above, this is only due to ignorance.


Watch out for Part 2 !

Far from Home, Book Review

Written by Na’ima .B. Robert ~ Published by Frances Lincoln Limited (2011)
Reviewed by Amina Edota

                                                     Bismillah
Presently living far away from where I lived and called home for all of my adult years, the title of this book appealed to me in many ways. Not sure what to expect exactly but interested in the Zimbabwean setting, being African myself, I looked forward to reading it. I was somewhat mentally geared for the story of a teenager growing up in a traditional African setting and eventually experiencing a family separation. I ordered the book from Amazon website, saved it for a golden reading opportunity and devoured it while on a train journey from London to Scotland.

A short but gripping scene opened the book, leading to a lot of unanswered questions and lending mystery to the story plot. The main character was fourteen year old Tariro living in Rhodesia; the pre-independence Zimbabwe and narrating her story which steadily unfolded, leading eventually to the events of the independence then post-independence era.

The lifestyle coupled with events in this young girl’s life were captured through a lens of vivid description of the environment, customs and traditions, family life and mind of a young ‘care free’ child. Although deriving from completely different contexts and timeline, I found some of the personal issues and struggles faced by Tariro in Rhodesia of 1964 not dissimilar to those faced by young people in the UK today, from my experience as a mentor working with young people.

A rich African heritage and culture was captured; from the shared family meals to traditional stories and creative games of the children and young people, by the firelight. The pleasures of bathing in the river and savouring of goat meat stew, prepared from freshly slaughtered goat meat to the spirit of community love and unity. I found some of the traditions amazing but hilarious, such as the initial prospective call to a girl’s family about marriage (p. 22).

As sweet childhood innocence, hope and dreams turned into the terrors of war, tragedies and broken dreams, an intricate pattern is weaved connecting generations and lives of the two main characters – Tariro in part 1 and Katie in part 2. The chapters were titled making it easy to follow the development of the story, starting with chapter one of part 1 ‘the baobab’s daughter’ to the last chapter of part 2 – ‘History’.

The foreign words lent originality to the story and characters. There was a certain familiarity with repeated words as the story progressed plus challenge in trying to decode the meanings of words based on how they appeared in the sentence. Words such as ‘varungu’, ‘murungu’ and ‘chimurenga’ became familiar as I read along.

The emotions of the characters were so real that I could easily connect with them, as they traversed the planes of honour, pride, pain, joy and freedom all enveloped in secrets and struggles. The story climaxed to an end in quite an unexpected way.

Having read two books written by the author, ‘From my sister’s lips’ and ‘From Somalia with love’, this book ('Far from home') was a shift from her usual style that I was familiar with. Nevertheless, as an educationist, I believe it will serve as a useful educational resource with cultural, historical and political relevance especially to the young people. Muslim parents can also make a connection with some valuable lessons, which can be used as tools for building their children’s Islamic identity. This is by way of linking Islamically with some of the strong traditional aspects of some of the characters in their effort to maintain a cultural identity and uphold ties with their roots.

The timeline section at the end of the book was very useful; it gave clarity about events in the story and allows the reader to understand the possible social and political climate surrounding those events. It will add to the flavour of reading if readers come across the timeline before they begin the story so that it serves as a reference throughout.

Similarly, as I love to explore a book before reading by skimming and scanning, a table of chapters would be useful as well as a list of foreign words at the back with their meanings. I would recommend the book to young people (older age group) and adults.

Did this review make you excited about reading the book?  Post your comments below and let us know:)