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Feb 29, 2012

Our Little Ummah: Rights of Children in Islam (Part 2)

by Amatullah Aminah
Read Part 1 HERE

Bismillah

This part will shed light on the perpetual day to day rights of our children and the challenges we face in addressing them and/or recognising them. Usually, parents fail to recognise these rights because the child is in no position to claim them, especially when he is young. The parents, reined by their various cultural norms, innately know that an adult is always right, they know best and can never make a mistake in bringing up their children. A lot of us, unfortunately, are still living in ignorance and arrogance.

Arrogance prevents us from acknowledge our ignorance which subsequently leads to a smug self satisfied parent who thinks he knows all and is doing the best job of raising his children. We have to break this barrier and take efforts in educating ourselves, and I speak for myself first.

· Right to receive basic Islamic knowledge.

To receive basic Islamic knowledge is every child’s indisputable right, and this begins at a very young age. We have to take the responsibility to nurture them spiritually and work on their religious orientation. We must remember that there are only two ends; heaven and hell. Keeping this is mind we must prepare our children for the best fate. Allah azza wa jal says:

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded. (Surah Tahrim 66:6)

The Noble Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam's said: “Everyone of you is a protector and guardian and responsible for your words and things under your care and a man is a guardian of his family members, and is accountable for those placed under his charge.” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Do you see how severely we are bound to discharge our duty? Our children have been bestowed upon us like a trust, and we have to take care of that trust. They are an amanah from Allah , for which none of us can escape accountability.

However, sometimes parents pay no heed to their obligations. Consequently the children lose ethical vision and grope in darkness. Parents get too engrossed in worldly affairs promoting their financial situation and hoarding wealth while they fall short to enquire about the company their children enjoy or to inculcate in them the basic understanding of good and evil. Duties of parents are not confined to catering for their child’s physical well-being, nutritious needs and clothing only; they are rather demanded to care about the spiritual side of their child’s character, feeding his heart with knowledge and faith. We rely on our children to pass down the message after we are gone, what can we expect them to teach the coming generations if we bring them in naivety and ignorance? What legacy are we leaving for them?

· Right to be provided materially.

Primarily it is the father’s duty to financially provide for his children. He has to see that his family is well fed, clothed and protected. ‘Protected’ does not only refers to physical protection but also psychological and spiritual protection from undesirable elements which may hinder a child’s progress as spiritually mature, healthy and confident human beings. Furthermore, the father is liable to take efforts in safeguarding the child’s future in monetary terms as well. They are eligible to be spent on in kindness, while maintaining a fine balance between extravagance and stinginess.

If parents are divorced or separated it still falls upon the father to fulfil his child’s financial needs, irrespective of whether the mother is in a position to provide or not.

· Right to be treated equally.

Children should not be favoured upon each other. It may be that parents hold a special place for a particular child, due to his exceptionally good character and obedience but that does not allow them to treat their children unequally. It is injustice in the eyes of Allah; furthermore, it comes with its own detrimental repercussion, brewing animosity between siblings, leading to broken or strained relations in the long run. Many cultures give preference to sons over daughters- another practice abhorred by our beloved prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. We find parents educating their sons and neglecting their daughters, or maybe not investing on a daughter’s education as much as on a son’s, sons are an asset while daughters are looked upon as a liability. Getting good education is as much a daughter’s right as a son’s.

Fear Allah and treat your children [small or grown] fairly (with equal justice).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Bukhari and Muslim reported a narration from An-Numan bin Bashir that his father Bashir bin Sa’d took him to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and said, “I have given this son of mine a slave.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Have you given all your sons the like?’ He replied in the negative. The Prophet (peace be upon Him) said, ‘Take back your gift then.’

· Right to choose their spouse

A very sensitive subject in most of the cultures, none the less, it is time for parents to accept that a boy or a girl has a right to decide whom they would marry or not. It is a common practice for the parents to choose spouses for their children, and present the bride or the groom as the final choice. With all due respect, parents may advise, make suggestions, and offer choices but the final word rests with the children.

Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice, between accepting the marriage or invalidating it. In another version, the girl said: "Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right [to force a husband on them.]” [ref 1]

Children beware! Do not misuse your rights and take it as a license to court, date, have affairs and indulge in all sorts of prohibited activities. You have rights but they must be exercised in all decency and within the parameters of Islam. If you like someone, due to their piety, character, virtues etc, and you are eligible to marry and can support a family, report to your parents and ask them to extend a proposal on your behalf in a sophisticated fashion. Do not fall for shaytan’s trap of “I should get to know her better, before I talk to my parents. Hmmm maybe we should hang out someday” oh no ...that is not an extension of your right!

· Right to be psychologically nurtured

Children need to feel loved, wanted and cherished. Each stage of life demands a different psychological need. The comfort and confidence a parent can provide is priceless. They need their parent’s attention in some form or the other throughout their lives. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was exceptionally kind towards children, narrations reveal how he loved them, hugged and kissed them, initiated salams , cut jokes and gave them gifts. [ref 2]
 
As they grow to be teens their needs also mature, they want their parents as friends, they look forward to share responsibilities and know that their opinion is counted too, they want to connect with their parents at an entirely different level. Parents should be ready to metamorphose with them. Hazrat Usama bin Zaid was barely 20 years old when The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam assigned him the responsibility of leading an army to byzantine empire. That not being his first of course[ref3]. From the narrations of young sahabas we learn how the youth was treated in the Prophet’s society, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. There are numerous accounts of young sahabas which are shining examples of how we should deal with our adolescents. [ref 4]

As they grow old they still expect their parent’s support, encouragement and kindness. Love remains the same its mode of expression needs to be changed with time and circumstances.

I wish to conclude with a supplication that may Allah make us a generation of parents who are willing and able to give rights to our children. Love them as they rightly deserve, be their prop and blanket, educate them and prepare them for the challenges of a new evolving world. May their weapons be knowledge and good deeds, may their strength be faith and may their strategy to excel be that of the Quran. Ameen

The Noble Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in this context, said: “When a believer dies, his work ceases to be except in three areas: a perpetual Sadaqa (charity), some useful knowledge he leaves and a righteous son praying for him.” (Sahih Muslim)

References
[1] ibn Majah no. 1873
[2] Prophet Muhammad: A Mercy for Children http://www.farhathashmi.com/dn/ProphetMuhammadAMercyforChildren/tabid/654/Default.aspx
[3] Usama ibn Zayd - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usama_ibn_Zayd
[4] Young Sahaba in the Prophet's circle - http://www.lastprophet.info/young-sahaba-in-the-prophet-s-circle

Feb 28, 2012

Magazine Launch - Issue 1: A Focus on Islamic Relationships

All of us at Habibi Halaqas are very excited to present to our readers another exciting and God willing, beneficial initiative in the form of this online and in-print magazine.

Habibi Halaqas is now widely popular for providing rich content (especially articles and webinars) on topics from all spheres that touch a Muslim woman's life such as Islam, psychology, parenting, health, grooming, and more!

This magazine touches upon these same themes and topics and provides a compilation of articles, book reviews, stories, practical ideas, readers' opinions and more, all revolving around the same theme in one place!

The theme for our first issue is "A Focus on Islamic Relationships". We have tried to gather as much apt information as we can on men-women dynamics, mostly pre-marriage, and concise information on marital relationships. This issue provides a great starting point for women to start thinking about what's to come in their near future.

Dont miss out! Get your copy today!!!






WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT IT:

"My first reaction when I opened the magazine was: "Wow!". The layout is beautiful and elegant and the content remarkable. At first I was taken back by the fact that the topics seemed so: "Girly" But I was brought back to reality when I read: "For sisters by sisters" and realized that I wasn't their target anyways, and that made me extremely happy because I am a big fan of sisters taking initiative and doing their own projects. All in all I really enjoyed the magazine and I pray that Allah blesses this magazine with guidance, far reach, acceptance, and the ability to move to hearts and minds towards righteous actions. Ameen." - Navaid Aziz, http://www.facebook.com/NavaidAziz

"On first glance, the magazine's aesthetics grabs you and the content is sure to keep you! I can't say that I'm suprised - Kanika is the quality of a Muslim woman who keeps looking for ways to make a difference in the lives of others and her work ethic is such an inspiration - mashaAllah! HH magazine is a lifestyle publication that incorporates that which is good and useful and I look forward to greatly benefitting!" - Heba Elsherief, www.iamsheba.com

GET YOUR COPY NOW!!! - http://bit.ly/2012_issue1


Issue 1: A Focus on Islamic Relationships
36 pages, published 28 FEB 2012
Habibi Halaqas' first magazine issue focuses on marital relationships and the journey from pre-marriage to marriage of a man and a woman from an Islamic point of view. Issue includes articles such as 10 Ways to Avoid Mr. Wrong, Are You Marriage Material - Knowing When You are Ready?, Marriage Advice By Sisters-For Sisters and MORE! Dont miss out!!!

Whoever tries to be patient, Allah will help him to be patient



by Miriam Islam

Bismillah

Patience/Sabr is a much needed quality that we may or may not have much of but one that we absolutely cannot do without. It should form the foundation of our character as it is half of eemaan. The other half is gratitude. Allah has mentioned patience and gratitude in conjunction with each other. “Verily in this are signs for all who constantly persevere and give thanks” both qualities make up our emaan. Patience is exercised in following commands; the other half is expressing gratefulness in being able to follow his commands and being bestowed with our abilities/ intellect to understand.

Patience/sabr comes from the root meaning of to detain, or refrain or stop oneself. It means to stop us from despairing and panicking when an unpleasant situation arises. Scholars have said patience means to keep close to Allah and to calmly accept trials, without complaining or feeling sad.

Patience acts as a force in the sense that it either pushes you to do something or pulls you back from something. In pushing you to do something patience is needed when doing acts of ibadah like : salah, reading, fasting, etc. When pulling you away from something patience is needed to stop oneself doing bad or looking at haraam, or guarding the tongue. People exercise patience in many different ways where some are better at doing plenty of ibadah but cannot stop themselves from looking at haraam or do not care if they hurt someone with their tongue and actions. Other people may not have the patience to do a lot of extra acts of worship, yet they can give plenty in sadaqah, or they are always careful of their tongue and actions.

In exercising patience one reasons with his/herself in relenting to something against the nafs (desires). It means that one’s common sense and religious motives are stronger than individual whims and desires. There are different degrees of patience in relation to ones strength of character and emaan;

• Strong patience: Awareness/fear of Allah is greatest and so it supersedes any situation and helps you to control your actions and words. This is a high level of patience which cannot be achieved very easily by everyone, except for the Prophets and the truly righteous.
• Weak patience: Patience isn’t exercised in any situation and whims/desires completely take over. They will constantly make excuses for their behaviour, is a weak believer and may even abandon all acts of worship.
• Fluctuating patience: This is the case for most Muslims, where sometimes we can display immense patience and can control ourselves, whilst other times we don't exercise as much as we should. We mix our good deeds with our bad deeds in accordance with our eemaan/taqwa at the time.

There are always trials in life and sometimes it is very hard to maintain patience because the situation is beyond our control. Examples of such situations may be death, illness, not being able to have children, marital problems or other family problems. Depending on situation and degree of patience people can adopt one of the following four ways:

• You feel helpless, distraught and all one does is panic and complain to people and feel resentful towards Allah. This is the worst type of patience, because it keeps you away from Allah, makes you ungrateful for his blessings and unwilling to accept his decree.
• You accept your situation. You feel the hardship of it but you don’t complain and hope the best from Allah that things will correct itself eventually.
• You accept Allah’s will and you are content with it, despite it being hard on you. You put complete faith and trust in Allah.
• Accepting your hardship and being grateful for it. This is a very high level of patience as you actually thank Allah for your situation. You perceive it as a blessing, it is better for you to be in this difficult situation as it is beneficial for your status hereafter. You patiently await an outcome and are one of those whom Allah refers to in Surah Tur v.48 “Now await in patience the command of your Lord for verily you are in our eyes”. This immense patience comes with the help of Allah.

Patience can be acquired or strengthened, or at the very least we should aim to try because Prophet salallahu aleyhi wasallam said “whoever tries to be patient then Allah will help him to be patient” It can be strengthened in the following ways:

• Knowledge: Learning what pleases Allah and following his commandments. Knowledge will beautify ones actions and manners.
• Action: Knowledge of right and wrong should be followed up by action. Take measures to prevent yourself from being in an undesirable or haraam situation, avoid those whom you cannot control tongue around.
• Strengthen your motive of reason and emaan: Make your religious motive stronger than your nafs
• Remember the greatness of Allah: Our Lord is too majestic to sin against; our awe of him should deter us.
• Remember the blessings and favours from Allah: Show gratefulness for the favours bestowed because we would normally think twice to betray someone who has done us a favour, so the same should be applied when remembering everything Allah gave, it can all be destroyed.
• Remember Allah’s wrath and punishment: We should bear in mind the consequences of bad actions and remember that punishment could be severe in the hereafter.

The rewards for being patient is immense, it is mentioned in several surahs. Surah Al Asr mentions the patient ones alongside the righteous and truthful, whilst everyone else is in a state of loss. The angels salute the patient ones from every gate in Jannah (Surah Ar Rad 13:24) in other surahs Allah says

“ I have rewarded them this day for their patience and constancy! They are indeed the ones that have achieved bliss" ( Al -Muminun 23:111 )

“Those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!” ( Az Zumar 39:54 )

I'd love to hear your comments on this article. Please post them below! :)

Feb 27, 2012

Child Neglect

by Khadeejah Islam

Bismillah

Relationships are fragile. If they do not receive adequate love and attention, they begin to wither. In fact, all of Allah’s creations are fragile. Due to neglect, even the best of buds may not bloom. Due to neglect, even the purest water-bodies can become toxic to the extent that it chokes sea-life. What’s more? Due to neglect, many living beings, such as the dodo, may cease to exist. How much more important is it for humans to care for relationships, a subset of Allah’s creations? To preserve relationships and to ensure that they have a positive impact on our surroundings, we need to actively nurture them. Otherwise – as recent developments indicate – relationships will be marching towards extinction, creating an overall vacuum in the society.

Individuals share relationships with each other by means of kinship, friendship, marriage, and association through work, recreational activities, neighbourhood, places of worship, etc. On a broader domain, groups and nations share relationships with each other. Although relationships form the basis of a society, it is unfortunate to witness a downfall of or an imbalance in relationships.

Spousal violence, cyber-bullying, character assassination, workplace conflicts, discrimination, human rights abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, false allegations, gas-lighting, sexual harassment, ragging, peer pressure, religious persecution, abnormal sibling rivalry and aggressive foreign policies – which result in decades of war – reflect deterioration in relationships. Amidst a plethora of problems involving interpersonal and international relationships, child neglect is perhaps one of the most overlooked ones, in my opinion. We often come across resources on the prevention of spousal violence (men physically / psychologically abusing their wives or women abusing their husbands) and elder abuse (children hitting their parents for instance), but we hardly come across materials related to the prevention of child neglect – although they are all forms of domestic violence (not that I approve of any and not that there should be more or less emphasis on any).

Child Neglect – Definition and Statistics
“Child neglect is defined as the failure of a person responsible for a child’s care and upbringing to safeguard the child’s emotional and physical health and general well-being and the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs resulting in serious impairment of health and/or development.”[1] It includes neglecting a child’s physical, emotional, and financial needs and failing to protect the child from inadequate supervision and exposure to violence. Child neglect falls under the category of child abuse.

“Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. 78.3% of children suffer from neglect [considering America alone!]. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime. Children whose parents use alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.”[2]

Dealing with Child Neglect
Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.” – John Wilmot.

One reason behind writing this article was to create awareness about child neglect and to address this problem effectively. Although most parents want the best for their children, they get so overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to raise children properly that they unwittingly open the doors of child neglect by being either too strict or too liberal, ignoring a child’s individual needs and not discarding “theories” which may have worked on other children. Subtle forms of child neglect have become acceptable in most households due to a lack of awareness, as the following examples suggest:

Upbringing is not all about fulfilling financial needs…!

Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson.

When children complain of a lack of bonding or a feeling of void in their lives, their concerns must be taken seriously. Parents should never ask, “Have we not paid for all your expenses?” Financial needs are not the only needs of a child. They deserve your time, attention, understanding, and affection.

Apart from that, many mothers dislike being “disturbed” while they are watching their favourite sitcoms or doing something else, such as chatting with friends, which is insignificant when compared to the duty of raising children. As a result, hungry and tired children often approach their mothers only to receive a cold reply, such as, “Go and make your own food!” Although asking a child to cook or to tidy his or her room is a great way of teaching a child to be responsible and independent, mothers must be aware of the right time, situation, and method. Overwhelming a child with responsibilities while he or she is stressed out, tired, or hungry will only alienate him or her from the joys of bearing responsibility. If taking responsibility is made to appear fun, it will be a habitual process for children.

In addition, parents need to allocate about an hour or so every day – preferably before going to bed – to converse with their children. The issues discussed can be as simple and short-term as, “how was your day?” to much more complicated and long-term, such as career objectives. This way, many problems which a child may shy away from sharing or which he/she cannot identify alone can be unearthed.

On Letting it Go…
It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't.” – Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams.

Parents should – and usually do – make most of the decisions on behalf of a child as the latter cannot differentiate between right and wrong and he / she often seeks guidance from experienced elders. However, as the child enters the phase of adulthood, parents need to loosen the reins to avoid stifling the child’s development as an independent decision-maker. Surprisingly, many parents decide the colour and fabric of the child’s bag, select the courses that he/she will study, and even do the homework for him/her! Although parents should continue to play a key role in the choices that children make, they must also delegate authority to children. Failing to do that, children – when grown up – will suffer from dependence, indecision, and inferiority complex.

Parents must facilitate a smoother transition of power by allowing the child to take responsibilities and to participate in making decisions – all of which will then be reviewed periodically by the parents themselves. Living in chaotic times, it is very natural for parents to feel apprehensive about the freedom of children. However, being pragmatic is indispensable. Remember that you will not be accompanying your child during a business meeting or throughout the marital life. While teaching – for instance – ice-skating, the instructor has to let go of the hand of the student in order for him/her to ice-skate by him/herself alone.

A Responsibility, not a Favour!
Each of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The ruler who is in charge of people is a shepherd and is responsible for them. The man is the shepherd of his household and is responsible for them. The woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and child and is responsible for them. The slave is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for it. Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.[3]

Child abandonment is the practice of relinquishing interests and claims over one’s offspring with the intent of never again resuming or reasserting them.[4] It is by far the most spine-chilling form of child neglect. While it is prevalent – and understandably so – among the poor (although I do not approve of it under any circumstances), it is gradually creeping into the affluent society who have all the resources to raise children. In one case, a mother abandoned her two children because she “was reported to have wanted free time for herself and was quoted as saying that she had grown ‘tired of feeding and bathing’ her two children on her own.”[5] I have personally witnessed a situation in which a well-off, educated father was threatening to abandon his daughter if she did not abide by each and every command of his! Allah has entrusted parents with the responsibility of children. Therefore, shrugging off such a responsibility is a heinous crime that must be addressed by stricter laws and greater awareness.

Conclusion
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone.

Children are blessings endowed by Allah. Children symbolize the love and dreams that one shares with one’s spouse.

Fear God and treat your children fairly.”[6]

References:
[1] Retrieved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_neglect
[2] Retrieved: http://www.childhelp.org/pages/statistics
[3] Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim.
[4] Retrieved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_abandonment
[5] Retrieved: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osaka_child_abandonment_case
[6] Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim.

I'd love to hear your views on this article. Please tell me in the comments section below :)

Feb 26, 2012

Post Religious America


by Jenn Fawzy

In an era where I pads and touch screen phones are the latest craze, it is astounding to see how people cannot believe that all of these gadgets were merely concepts about 11 years ago. Technology has made it possible to find friends and relatives that we fall out of touch with, obtain employment in exotic lands, and play games. With all these great technological advancements that our society has made, do we ever stop to think of how it has changed our culture?

While technology and science definitely have their place in our world, how many people place its value and importance over that of the importance of God? The West has become a beacon of light for this particular issue as religion has taken the back seat to the New Age of Reason. People only want to have tangible facts and evidence and no longer have faith in something that they cannot see.

America is a secular nation, which is to say that the government does not have an official religion for its citizens to uphold. It gives the freedom of religion to each individual and not to the society. As noble and fair as that may sound, it has dire opposite effects. The majority of Americans are Christians, even in name if not in actual practice. Islam is the fastest growing religion to date in the United States with people converting to Islam as well as Muslim immigration to the United States. Of course this is a good thing for those who believe in Islam and practices it, but it can also be challenging.

Atheism is also rising. Americans have begun to defy their Christian heritage and look for answers outside of the realm of God. They are looking for solutions to problems that Christianity cannot seem to accurately explain. They say that religious books are antiquated and no longer address the needs of a modern society. Religion is a cult and adult make-believe for a primitive peoples and it simply cannot be relied upon. This is a huge problem for Muslims and Christians alike.

Imagine living in a faithless, hopeless world. Envision giving credit to Darwin for his philosophical ideas that we are just animals that happened to evolve out of primordial soup, and we have no higher purpose. Think of being forced to believe that humans have nothing to look forward to in the Afterlife, and we die it is just a curtain call. Personally, I will not accept a society like that. Darwin, after all is just a man himself.

Science is a tool for explanation, but not explanation itself. For each scientific discovery that is made, we uncover a new question that science is unable to solve. God has given us science as a tool to understand Him. It gives us a depth of understanding for the natural world around us and to constantly remind us that as things exist, they do not exist all on their own. Someone put them there.

The Law of Biogenesis states that living things originate only from other living things. As many skeptics will simply say that we did come from Apes which are living, and say that all life came from primordial soup, which is alive, they never ask who Manufactured the soup? It certainly was not Campbell’s. Someone had to create the soup, and that someone is God. An Almighty, All Merciful God. He alone takes credit for the creation of the Universe, not an animal.

For some reason though, Western culture has forgotten God. Some Christians remember Him only on Sunday morning, or in the event of a financial crisis. Many Muslims have lost their tradition of actually living by the rules of Islam and making the Lord their personal priority. Too many of us have conformed to secular society and embraced it with open arms only to embrace the Shaytaan in the guise of modernity.

There was a period of time not that long ago when prayer was allowed in public schools in America. Schools did not have shootings in this era, either. For many, this will just be like reading a passage in history books, but for those old enough to remember those days, it is a heartbreaking reminder of how just a few changed the lives of many.

I say to the readers, renew your mind daily with prayer. Give your charity and your time to the needy. Help those you are able to help. Set yourself steadfast against sinful conduct. Lastly, I am not saying to put away all your gadgets and stop studying science. Strike a balance with the society, just as all the Prophets before us did. Just know in your heart that God does exist, and one day, we will in fact meet him, we just do not know when. If we all manage to do this, we will not live in a world that is post religion, we will live in a better one.

Peace be upon all of you, and I wish you the highest faith.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please comment below and let me know! :)

Feb 25, 2012

Homeschooling: Ideas On How To Promote Writing And Learning About The Prophets


by Holly Garza

We have been reading this book and now that she is starting to write I have her write simple words down like Isa, dua and Maryam. This helps her to practice her writing as well as keep some of the information since she is still quite young. (five years old)

Not only was he a great person who believed in Allah but there are many lessons to be derived from knowing his life as well as many things you can teach children out of one book.

This could be expanded and made as in-depth of a study as you need it for an older child or made as simple as possible for a younger child. We will be re visiting this InshaAllah in the future once she is reading with comprehension and writing as I really would love for her to expand on reading comprehension, writing capabilities and knowing the Prophets’ lives as she gets older InshaAllah.

For now I had her do simple “lessons” out of this lesson plan. Some of our activities were me questioning her about the story (every 2 paragraphs) eg. what was the Prophet’s name?
  • “Writing” the name Isa (Jesus in Spanish, pronounced Jaysus … like a soft zeus) with molding clay
  • painting his name
  • writing his name
  • drawing and painting pictures about the story
  • creating a poster board with word, magazine and drawing cut outs on it and posting it up *This reinforces hand-eye coordination as well as cutting, gluing, pasting and is something fun for children to do. This also provides a visual reminder of what they are learning or have learned every time they walk past it*
For older children you can have them write parts, names or ideas in the “story” as you read to them.
  • Have them read the book
  • Have them do a word hunt on the words in the book.
  • Make a handmade memory game with your child of Islamic terminology, names, and events in the story
  • Play the memory game with your child
  • Make a spelling words list of the terms in the book
  • Have your child do a spelling quiz on the words
  • Have your child do a book report on the prophet/book/subject
Can you add more ideas to this list? Comments in the comments section below! :)

Feb 24, 2012

5 Lessons from Surah Al- Yusuf

By Umm Amin

Do you make dua and wonder if your prayers will ever be answered? Is there something you are striving for yet it remains out of reach? When you make steps toward being a better Muslim, do you feel like even those around you that love you and care about you are jealous of your good efforts? Do you feel like you are going through trials and tests again and again? Are others mocking you when you attempt to do something that pleases Allah? You are not alone. And rest assured, others have struggled to overcome these same challenges. There are numerous lessons in the Qur’an that can serve as an inspiration to persist in the face of adversity. Let’s reflect upon five lessons gained by reading Surat ul Yusuf.

LESSON1 : SOMETHING MISERABLE IS BETTER THAN DISOBEYING ALLAH 

Prophet Yusuf alayhi salaam had already suffered a series of tests and trials, yet he remained obedient to Allah. His brothers had abandoned him in the well, then he was found and sold as a slave at the market. Despite being a loyal servant to the king, Yusuf alayhi salaam was defamed and imprisoned. At the zenith of this crisis when everything seemed bleak, the wife of the King threatened to imprison Yusuf alayhi salaam unless he would give in to her attempts at seduction. Yusuf alayhi salaam’s response was recorded in the Qur’aan, My lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if you do not avert me from my plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant. (Al Yusuf 12 : 33)

Yusuf alayhi salam chose to live in the dark, dreary dungeon in a life of shackles over disobedience to Allah. Clearly, even if you encounter dismal surroundings and misery, Allah’s pleasure is greater and longer lasting. You will triumph if you obey Allah!


LESSON 2: DON’T BE JEALOUS 

Jealousy divides communities, breaks up families, and splits up friendships. Prophet Yaqoob alayhi salam said, O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers or they will contrive against you a plan. Indeed Satan, to man, is a manifest enemy. (Surah Al Yusuf 12 : 5)

They were brothers by blood, but Yusuf’s brothers would not have been pleased by his vision of prophethood. Even those close to you – friends and family – might not be thrilled about blessings you have received or steps you take to live a life that is pleasing to Allah. It is best to keep your dreams quiet and only share them with trustworthy supporters until these aspirations are a flourishing reality.

Yusuf’s brothers believed Yaqoob alayhi salaam loved Yusuf alayhi salaam more than them. Their jealousy boiled up out of control. These brothers became an irrational gang, and they plotted to get rid of Yusuf alayhi salaam by abandoning him in the well. One lie was woven into a web of lies, and the brothers informed their father that Yusuf alayhi salam had been devoured by a wolf (Mubarakburi, 2003; Sahih International, 1997)! Jealousy even touched the prophets, so we need to be sure to stamp out jealousy in our communities. As Muslims we should be sincerely happy when we see others being blessed by Allah. When we see people excelling in religion or gaining success we should say Masha’Allah or Tabarak Allah.


LESSON 3: NEVER GIVE UP HOPE IN ALLAH 

Prophet Yaqoob alayhi salam never gave up the hope of finding his son. When Yusuf alayhi salam’s brothers came back to tell him that their brother was stolen and remained behind, Yaqoob alayhi salaam was still sad about his loss of Yusuf alayhi salaam. He went blind over suppression of his grief, and complained only to Allah. Despite the intense grief he felt and the previous reports of Yusuf alayhi salaam being consumed by a wolf, Yaqoob alayhi salaam did not give up hope (Mubarakpuri, 2003: Sahih International, 1997). He instructed his sons to continue to search for Yusuf alayhi salaam and his brother saying,

O my sons, go and find out about Josepha and his brother and despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people. (Al Yusuf 2:87)

Imagine, Prophet Yaqoob alayhi salaam had not seen his son since childhood, so many years had passed that Prophet Yusuf alayhi salaam was now a king of Egypt. Despite the passing of all these years, Prophet Yaqoob alayhi salaam still firmly held onto the hope that Allah would answer his prayers and reunite him with his son. Many of us have trouble being patient for a few hours or a couple of days, let alone years or decades! Alhamdulillah, Yaqoob alayhi salaam never gave up, and Allah answered his dua, relieving him of the sorrow he felt.

LESSON 4: PATIENCE IS BEAUTIFUL, SO BE PATIENT ALL THE TIME 

We should always be patient. If we have patience in hardship, continuously counting our blessings, we will truly be victorious in both hardship and ease. Can you count how many times Yusuf alayhi salaam was patient? He was patient while awaiting the fulfillment of his dream. He was patient when his brothers abandoned him in the well. He was patient when he was sold as a slave. He was patient when the king’s wife accused him of seduction. Yusuf alayhi salam continued to be patient when he was put in jail. Even when his fellow inmate was released and forgot about him, Yusuf alayhi salaam continued to be patient! As the king of Egypt, Yusuf alayhi salaam continued to be patient with his brothers’ slander. He kept his cool when they tried to say that his brother Binyamin was stealing just as his brother (Yusuf) had done the same before him (Mubarakpuri, 2003; Sahih International, 1997)! Regardless of the time, situation, place, or scenario, Yusuf alayhi salaam remained patient.

LESSON 5: FORGIVE 

When Yusuf alayhi salaam finally confronts his brothers later in life, it is a beautiful lesson of forgiveness. After his brothers return with their father and Binyamin is accused of theft, they return to Yusuf alayhi salaam in a great predicament. His brothers are enduring hard times in which they have poor harvest and are in need. On the other hand Yusuf alayhi salaam has not only become the king of Egypt, but he has astutely saved provisions and prepared his community to survive the famine. Although Yusuf alayhi salaam has suffered many hardships on account of his brother’s jealous plotting, Yusuf alayhi salaam is strong and holds the upper hand. Instead of treating them with harshness or rebuking them to endure starvation, Yusuf alayhi saaam utters very lovely words,

No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful. (Al Yusuf 12:92)

Instead of being bitter and angry or taking vengeance, Yusuf alayhi salaam was strong enough to choose forgiveness! With all his power as a leader, Yusuf alayhi salaam preferred the sweetness of forgiveness.

Although this brief reflection touches upon a few lessons of Surat ul Yusuf, take a few minutes to reflect a bit more. Stop and read over this chapter of the Qur’aan. Take a few moments to close your eyes and imagine implementing the lessons above. How can you bravely continue to be obedient to Allah? Is there a way you can support someone and help stamp out jealousy among friends or family? What steps would help you augment your hope that Allah will answer your prayers? In hard times, what reminders will prompt you to persevere in patience? Can you find it in your heart to forgive someone who has wronged you? What other lessons can you learn from Surat Al Yusuf?

References
Mubarakpuri, S. (2003). Tafsir Ibn Kathir: (Abridged) Volume 5. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:
Maktaba Dar-us-Salam.
Sahih International. (1997). The Qur’aan: An Authentic, Accurate, and Clear English
Translation. Saudi Arabia: Abulqasim Publishing House.

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

Feb 23, 2012

Presumptions of Piety

By Sabeen Mansoori 




Bismillah

“… Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light…” 


To journey through the pages of the Quran is to pass through doors illuminated by the light of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala. Gradually each verse becomes a new threshold to be discovered and explored and each word a minute cosmos that invites us to enlightenment. Imperceptibly the words transform the reader from within and, if Allah wills, the guidance of the Quran fills the heart with light. It is that blessed heart that can perceive that the whole Universe is filled with the radiance of Allah and testifies to His Oneness and is bowed in eternal submission. By the time one reaches Sura Nur in Juz 18, a spotlight seems to turn upon the reader of the Quran who is being interrogated by its words. The question being asked is: “If everything is so clear how come you are still disobedient to the commands of Allah? What is your excuse?”

“Is there disease in their hearts? Or have they doubted? Or do they fear that Allah will be unjust to them, or His Messenger? Rather, it is they who are the wrongdoers.” 


These questions were addressed to the hypocrites in Madinah who would only seek the counsel of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam when they felt that he would decide in their favor. This shopping for fatwas is a very dangerous trend that is fashionable to this day. Allah subhaana wa ta'aala warned us against being too smug in our presumptions of piety and the Sahabah who had earned the favor of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala still feared that they might fall into hypocrisy. We should therefore humbly assume that these questions are addressed to us as well.

1. “Is there disease in their hearts?” Hypocrisy is a strange affliction of the heart. Al-Hasan al-Basri said about the disease of hypocrisy: “Only a believer is afraid and only a hypocrite feels secure (from it.)” (Bukhari) Pride aggravates this sickness and humility is the antidote for it. Therefore we should carefully examine our response when a command of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala reaches us. Do we always say, “We hear and we obey” or, are our hearts constricted and we turn away when something in the Quran and the Sunnah is not to our liking. Are we displaying symptoms of the disease of hypocrisy that has reached epidemic levels in this Ummat.

2. “Or have they doubted?” Is there doubt that the words that roll off so flippantly from our tongues once echoed in the cave of Hira. Are we unsure that these are the Words of the Creator of the heavens and the earth or do we feel that, God forbid, the Messenger "sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam" is not to be trusted and has not conveyed the message to us? An unspoken accusation that his worst enemies never dared to make and we find Muslims casually dismissing the hadith of Rasool Allah "sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam" even though Allah subhaana wa ta'aala constantly commands us to obey Allah and obey the Messenger.

3. “Or do they fear that Allah will be unjust to them, or His Messenger?” Has the incessant bombardment of islamophobic propaganda from the media convinced us what we are afraid to admit even to ourselves: we feel the rulings for hijab, the impermissibility of taking interest and the extraordinary respect for parents are unnecessarily harsh and archaic? Basically our heart says, “It’s not really fair, so I don’t have to do it.” If the rulings are oppressive than are we ascribing oppression to the one who sent those rulings? Allah subhaana wa ta'aala turns the tables on those who seek to put out the light of Islam with their words and says, “Rather, it is they who are the wrongdoers.”

This perfect religion, the Way of submission and peace, that Allah subhaana wa ta'aala has granted to us in His infinite mercy needs none to defend it. Our adherence to its commands or our betrayal of them will not detract from its perfection. Allah subhaana wa ta'aala said,

“…This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion…” 


If the Creator considers it perfect and I find myself struggling to accept and implement it, than it must be the imperfection of my understanding and the weakness of my intention that needs to be corrected.

We pray that Allah subhaana wa ta'aala grant us the guidance of his nur (light) as we struggle to find the straight path and may he protect us from the fate of the hypocrites. When the light of Islam reached them and they did not obey, they were punished for their stubborn disobedience by being deprived of guidance.

“Their example is that of one who kindled a fire, but when it illuminated what was around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness [so] they could not see.” 


May the light of His guidance illuminate our lives, our relationships, our graves and our journey over the Siraat, inshaAllah.

References: 
http://quran.com
Signs of a Hypocrite: Khutbah by Nouman Ali Khan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0kJNtekprY
Quote of Al-Hasan al-Basri from Bukhari http://www.sunnipath.com/library/Hadith/H0002P0002.aspx

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

Feb 22, 2012

Our Little Ummah: Rights of Children in Islam (Part 1)


by Amatullah Aminah

Bismillah

The beauty of this deen lies in the enormous efforts it takes in establishing justice and how it is vented out even at the most diminutive of levels. One of the best ways of implying justice is assigning every element its rights and taking extensive steps in making sure they are not violated. Allah has His rights over the creation, The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam has rights over the ummah, parents, neighbours, teachers, relatives, society as a whole...all have rights due upon each other and so do our children- The future of our ummah!

While researching for this article I talked to a couple of people, as a new mother I needed the information as much for myself, as for this article. A friend who gives parenting lessons satirically mentioned how parents should require licence to have babies. Really? Funny? Stop and think and it will lend a deeper insight to this joke. Giving birth to a baby, feeding and clothing him does not exactly counts as bringing him up, there is a lot more which often stays neglected. Right of children upon their parents are far more than that and since they are in no position to demand them, mostly out of ignorance, parents don’t bother recognising them responsibly. Fear Allah and the day when we will be held accountable for our smallest sins. Educate yourself, probe deeper, don’t stop learning.

A child’s rights over his parents come even before he is born, and this one is of paramount importance, which by any means should not be taken lightly:

Rights before Birth

· Choosing a righteous wife

A righteous wife spells a righteous mother. A woman who will be utmost vigilant in seeing that his children are raised up and taken care of according to the standards set by Allah and His prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Most men don’t even think that far, they hardly see a woman as a potential mother for their children. Albeit it is a huge responsibility upon a man to give serious thought to his coming generations; to a generation of Islam.

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her religious commitment. Marry the one who is religiously committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may you prosper).” ( al-Bukhaari)

I would like to point out that prosperity here is not referring to wealth in monetary terms; it is suggesting something far more valuable than that. It is referring to a life and time which would be liable to earn Allah’s pleasure in this world and the hereafter. It is also referring to our children-those who are bred in Islamic fashion, those who would love and respect their parents, contribute significantly to the society, stand up for truth and justice and after the parent’s death be sadqa-e-jaariyah. All that undoubtedly relies upon their most basic education which lies in the hands of a woman!

Moreover, Allah’s Apostle, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: “Upon death, man’s deeds will (definitely) stop except for three deeds, namely: a continuous charitable fund, endowment or goodwill; knowledge left for people to benefit from; and pious righteous and God-fearing child who continuously pray Allah, the Almighty, for the soul of his parents. “ (Muslim)

Rights upon the birth

· Fulfilling the sunnah of tahneek

Al-Nawawi said: “The scholars are agreed that it is mustahabb to do tahneek with dates for the child when he is born; if that is not possible then to use some similar kind of sweet. The dates should be chewed until they become soft enough to be swallowed, then the child’s mouth should be opened and a little of the dates put in his mouth

 It was narrated that Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The son of Abu Talhah was sick. Abu Talhah went out and the child died, and when Abu Talhah returned he said, “What happened to my son?” Umm Sulaym (his wife) said, ‘He is quieter than he was.” Then she brought him his dinner and he ate, then he had marital relations with her, and when he finished she said, “They buried the child.” The following morning, Abu Talhah went to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and told him what had happened. He said, “Did you have marital relations last night?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “O Allaah, bless them.” She later gave birth to a boy. Abu Talhah said to me, “Keep him until I bring him to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).” He brought him to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and I sent some dates with him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) took him and said, “Is there anything with him?” They said, “Yes, some dates.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) took some and chewed it, and then he took some from his mouth and put it in the child’s mouth (tahneek), and named him ‘Abd-Allaah.

· Giving him a good name.

Giving desirable name to your child is also a part of his rights.

It was narrated from Naafi’ that Ibn ‘Umar said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The most beloved of your names to Allaah are ‘Abd-Allaah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan.

There are names which are forbidden, there are names which are undesirable, and then there are names which are desirable. Parents should place more importance on the meaning of the name rather than how it sounds. I have seen parents giving their children flashy ‘unique’ names, while they remain oblivious to its meaning. It is important that a child be given a good name which clearly states his lineage as well. I am posting here a link to forbidden names in islam and the naming system to be followed.

· Aqeeqah

It was narrated that ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) slaughtered a sheep as the ‘aqeeqah for al-Hasan, and he said, “O Faatimah, shave his head and give the weight of his hair in silver in charity.” So she weighed it and its weight was a dirham or part of a dirham. (al-Tirmidh)

Aqeeqah is every child’s right irrespective of his gender. In some cultures and societies we witness gross differentiation between a boy and a girl, a girl unfortunately does not qualify for an aqeeqah as a boy does. Treating a girl and a boy unequally has been frowned upon by the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, it is strictly discouraged. In all fairness children have a right to be treated equally.

These are one time rights, they are dispensed at a given time and occasion. The second part of this series promises to shed light on those rights of our children which are perpetual in nature. We will be discussing rights of a whole lifetime and their challenges. Come back to Habibi Halaqas for more...

Feb 21, 2012

Our Connection With The Earth


by Umm Yacoubi

Bismillah

Environmental conservation, such as “being green” and “caring for the earth,” have become such cliché phrases that they may not mean much to us. We may think of environmental issues as being the concern of big business and politicians, a problem to be solved by scientists in faraway labs. We become busy with our lives, going to work, cooking, cleaning, going to school, shopping, caring for our children, etc. Who has time to worry about the environment? However we need to be worried. Many issues are causing severe damage to the earth. Environmental issues impact our and our families’ health and the lives of generations to come. It is the duty of a Muslim to care for the earth. Being green is not a new concept for us , it is part of our tradition. The Noble Quran warns us to take care of our actions upon the earth. Also, our beloved prophet Mohammed sal allah aleyhi wasallam advised us in hadith to care for the environment, over1400 years ago.

What is our personal connection to the earth? We live on it, we eat from the plants and animals that grow on it, and it has a climate that allows us to live. But have we considered that we were created from it?

Allah (swt) has told us that we are made from the earth: “And certainly did we create man from an extract of clay” (Surah Al-Muminun 23:12)

Clay is a chemically reactive soil made of very fine particles of weathered ground rock and organic material (decayed plants and animals). Clay is earth, SubhanAllah.

The earth is always constant in our lives. Whatever the climate or terrain- under water or over glaciers wherever we go,we will find our feet planted upon the earth and when we look up we are surrounded by the awesome sky and vast universe. Alhamdulillah, it is our life spring, life as we know it cannot exist without it. The earth is a constant source of comfort, beauty and sustenance. It is so essential to our existence that we may take it for granted.

However since the earth is a blessing from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

It is Allah who made for you the earth a place of settlement and the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord; then blessed is Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Surah Ghafir 40:64)

We must understand that with this great blessing there is also great responsibility. Yes, Allah has given us the right to use the earth to sustain ourselves, but not the right to waste and destroy his blessing.

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? - whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not." (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:30)

Even though the angels only praise and glorify Allah, the exalted. Allah placed us, humans in authority of the earth, so clearly our treatment of the earth is a test for us.

We have been given guidance from the prophet Mohammed sallalahu aleihi wa sallam on how we can fulfill our duty. One such way is illustrated in the following hadith as related by Muslim:

Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) visited Umm Mubashshir al-Ansariya at her orchard of date-palms and said to her: Who has planted these trees of dates-a Muslim or a non-Muslim? She said: A Muslim, of course, whereupon he said: Never a Muslim plants, or cultivates a land, and it out of that men eat, or the animals eat, or anything else eats, but that becomes charity on his (planter’s) behalf. (Sahih Muslim)[i]

Also, this simple act of planting a tree helps to stop the global climate change by reducing atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels.[ii]

We are made from the earth and we are only passing through this life upon it, truly our time here is short. As we pass through we have to realize that it is arrogant to take part in the destruction of the Earth, Allah’s great creation.

Allah (swt) tells of the type of person who brings harm to the earth: “There is the type of man whose speech about this world's life May dazzle thee, and he calls Allah to witness about what is in his heart; yet is he the most contentious of enemies. When he turns his back, His aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah loveth not mischief”. (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:204-205)

We may think that we do not have a part in the destruction of the earth or that our impact is very small. Yet, consider that the average person in the US creates 1130 [iii]pounds of trash every year. There are 6,984,749,946[iv]people in the world; multiply the pounds of garbage by the number of people in the world and the numbers are staggering! Even if you cut the number of people in half or quartered it millions of pounds of garbage is created every year! This garbage goes to landfills and sits there slowly poisoning the earth. The mix of toxic chemicals, corrosive plastics and other garbage causes poisonous gasses to escape into the air, these gasses have been linked to destruction of the Ozone layer. The toxic mix also creates deadly garbage sludge that seeps in to our oceans and rivers.

Other ways we humans cause destruction to the earth:
  • Over development : The building of bigger homes and strip malls, without the natural resources to sustain the communities, creates a loss of natural habitat, leaving wild animals nowhere to go.
  • Clear-cutting : Whole areas of Forests often ancient are chopped down to house herds of animals used in fast food or to create new space for houses and malls. Chopping down trees also reduces an important source for carbon dioxide absorption and emits a multitude of new dangerous greenhouse gases[v].
  • Over fishing : Overfishing our oceans has led to a massive decrease in plankton and smaller fish that sustain larger fish and sea mammals permanently altering marine ecosystems[vi].
  • Spraying of pesticides on crops : Pesticides cause cancer, miscarriages and poison animals and water sources[vii].
The Earth is an amana we should not let greed for worldly success cause us to break the trust with Allah.

It is a heavy responsibility and I urge you to consider your life and the impact you have upon the earth. Remember that the earth is a trust from Allah, who has given us authority over the plants and animals of the earth. But with this authority comes a great responsibility that should not be taken lightly. It is similar to being a mother or father, we have a responsibility over our children, yet they do not belong to us and are a trust unto us, we are responsible for what happens to them in this life. As we are also responsible for what happens to the earth. We must take care not to cause harm to the Earth.

Some simple ways to “be green” and to begin “to care for the earth” are:
  • Learn the natural history of the region you live in, then help to enact laws to protect it.
  • Recycle garbage and purchase recyclable containers/products.
  • Raise our families to respect and not harm animals.
  • Teach our children not to take more than they need.
  • Walk or ride your bike to work or school, carpool.
  • Make better decisions about the food we buy based on knowing where our food comes from and the way that it is produced.
  • Plant trees and flowers.
The earth is old and vast and as we were molded from the earth our physical bodies will return to it, our remains will turn to dust, providing nutrients for the life that comes after we are gone. Our time here is short ,we must find the balance with what we take from the earth and what we give back to it. Treat the earth with reverence as an act of Ibadah to Allah. If we do not become mindful of what we do in this earth, we may destroy it for future generations, and we will have to answer to Allah for the destruction we caused in it. Our Earth is a beautiful reminder of Allah’s mercy and power. Let’s be grateful!

References:
[i]http://www.hadithsahihmuslim.com/land/excellence-of-planting-of-tress-and-tilling-of-landsahih-hadith-muslim.html
[ii]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_planting
[iii]http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_home.html
[iv]http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html
[v]http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/forests/clearcutting_and_climate_change/
[vi]http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/overfishing/
[vii]http://earthjustice.org/our_work/campaigns/pesticides-in-the-air-kids-at-risk?gclid=CPKEubjGra0CFaQbQgodiwFQnw

Feb 20, 2012

The Many Faces Of Patience


by Miriam Islam

Bismillah

Do people think that they will be left alone because they say “we believe, and will not be tested” (Surah Al-Ankabut 29:2)

What do you understand from this verse in relation to your everyday lives? Imagine it’s another typical day, you’ve prayed, you’ve stayed up, now it’s time to start the day. You woke the kids up, ranted at them and managed to get them ready. Their breakfasts made, lunches made (Husband’s included!) and finally sent them to school.

You come home and sigh. Your day has just begun, should you do the breakfast dishes first or the vacuuming? Should you go up and tidy the bedrooms or mop the bathroom floor? Should you put a machine load in or should you sort out yesterday’s laundry? Will you have time to put the dinner on, pray, eat or should you do the shopping first?

So many questions, so many endless chores. They may seem trivial, but for many women they are very real scenarios that they have to deal with day in day out. It can become frustrating, it can become annoying, it can become exhausting. But there’s no escaping it. Wouldn’t it be so nice to have an easy comfortable life with no chores to constantly think about? Before you answer that question read the cases below and then ask yourself would you exchange your tiring chores for a life like theirs?
I buried my five year old son today, he cried for a banana the day before he passed away. His favorite fruit was bananas, he loved it as a baby, mashed up with milk. I haven’t been able to find even a rotten banana for over a month because it has nearly been a month since we last ate. The famine has badly affected all our crops and supplies have run dry. My husband went to the next village for food and aid, but by the time he returned my son had died.
And certainly We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones)” (Surah Al-Baqara 2:155)
Last month I saw my husband being shot. Straight in the head. I saw him fall and the blood pouring out. All he was trying to do was save our home from being bulldozed down. They suddenly stormed into our house, shouting: “get out”. My husband lunged at one in protest and the Israeli soldiers just shot him point blank. They calmly carried on as if they hadn’t just shattered my world. My daughter went into shock and had to be hospitalized. My son wakes up every night crying for his dad. I can’t even cry. I don’t know how to grieve but the pain and uncertainty is unbearable. Yet I am not the only Palestinian woman who has lost her home and husband within seconds.
“Allah swt said: “I have no reward other than Paradise for my believing servant who is patient when I take away one of his beloved from among his companions of the world” (Bukhari)
It all started with yellow eyes and constantly being sick. The weight loss and exhaustion came next “We think its Gallstones causing problems, we can easily remove them” they said. The “gallstones” turned out to be a tumor. “It’s advanced liver cancer, there’s nothing we can do”they said. I have been given only a year left to live. My daughter thinks I will be holding her hand when she starts her first day at school, my son wonders if I will let him join the junior football team next year. My baby wants me to hold her steady when she takes her first steps. I wonder if I will see any of it. My husband wonders how he will cope when I am no longer here. 
You will have a double reward for being sick and your sins will be annulled as the leaves of a tree fall down” (Imam Malik Muwatta and Bukhari)
Today my husband put an iron to my arm when I asked him for some money. My children haven’t drunk milk for three days; I only wanted to buy one carton of milk so I asked him for some money. Yesterday he punched me in the stomach for asking him what time he would come home. The day before he stamped on my son for getting in his way. My children go to bed every night bruised and hungry. I go to bed injured and heartbroken. What can I do? I speak very little English and have no friends or family. He has threatened to kill the children if I say one word. I can only pray and hope that one day things will change and he will love us.
Those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:58)
The men laugh and ask who will save you now? I weep whilst I hear yet another sister is being tortured and brutally raped. It has been the same ever since I was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib, the nemesis that the world has forgotten about. I don’t know what my crime is, but I have been chained by the double standards of the world that criminalise the innocent and protect the criminals. Yesterday I witnessed a new sister banging her head on the wall continuously till she died. She had just suffered a very horrific rape and attack. She could no longer bear this life. The men laugh and we plead; where is the Muslim Ummah of Prophet (saw), who will help us?
And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men women and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help." (Surah An-Nisa 4: 75)
She was threatened; she was tortured until one day her persecutor got into such a fit of rage that he got out his sharp spear and drove it deep into her pelvis. She died instantly. Summayh bint Khayyat; one of the first to accept Islam and the first to die for it. Abu Jahl personally persecuted her. She and her family were made to lie on the hot desert floor and roast in the sun with metal armor on. Their crime? They testified and refused to give up their belief that “There is no God except Allah and Prophet (saw) was his slave and messenger.
For if they come to know you, they will stone you to death or abuse and harm you or turn you back to their religion…” (Surah Al-Kahf 18: 20)

So would you exchange your life of chores for theirs? Nobody would wish it upon himself or herself. They are terrible situations where the women and families are going through indescribable pain. So where does our relatively easier lives fit in with their hardship? PATIENCE IS THE CONNECTION.

Beautiful patience is needed in every single one of the situations in order to overcome the pain of it. The women’s’ pain is covered in patience that Allah has granted as a coping mechanism. They are extreme situations which require higher levels of patience, yet Allah chose to test their limits because Allah knew their capabilities. Through their immense patience Allah wanted them to attain a higher status in the hereafter as PATIENCE holds its own special place in Jannah.

Allah never burdens a believer beyond what they can bear, yet it isn’t enough to say we believe without being tested on the strength of the statement. We don’t realise that every single day, we are being tested and we are exercising patience. How? By continuously doing the same deed over and over again without complaining. Praying every day-on time. Maintaining good relations with family and friends-every day. Making a conscious effort to be good with our husbands every day. Holding our anger and tongue in check-every day. These actions all require patience.

When we have a comfortable, mildly stressful life we are less thankful and conscious of Allah’s favors. It is easier to call upon Allah when we are in difficult situations as our eemaan levels rises. But in our everyday lives our eeman and consistency in doing good deeds is tested. Did you do your Salah willingly on time? Did you read the Quran every day? Did you feed a needy or sick person every day?

Patience in not disobeying Allah is just as hard. Our consciousness to stay away from haraam is tested. Did you really not answer your mum back when she annoyed you? Did you really refuse to backbite every single time you could? Did you really not look at that non-mahram attractive person more than necessary?

It is much easier to commit a sin, or not pray regularly when we are happy and untroubled. That is why patience in constantly obeying Allah, despite our desires, is the hardest to maintain. The plight of those women must never be forgotten, but we don’t need to have been locked up or lost someone to exercise patience. We need to be grateful that we are not in such situations and express our gratitude by constantly remembering Allah at all times.

Feb 19, 2012

Leave Some For Me

by Muazza Essop



Bismillah

So the day started out as usual.

Usual human day-to-day thoughts; aspirations for the tasks I desired to achieve, worries, doubts, dishes!, what to cook, look for a job, business ideas, stress at what I haven’t achieved thus far in life, gratitude for getting this far in life .....blah blah blah.

I’ve taken to walking in the mornings with my mum, or when we get around to it during the day, due to unforeseen circumstances. This morning the water pressure was low, something that most people are used to in this area, due to the influx of businesses and offices springing up as well as an increase in apartments being built, and migration of human souls (and pigeons) employed in the area.

No problem, continue on. Get ready, Armed with running shoes and house keys, we travel light on the road, we proceed on our usual route.

I love being out in the open air. It really beats the gym. Spacious, green, the sound of birds and water gushing down its steady path. I do however not enjoy the lack of respect some pedestrians show with their callous disregard of waste they lay on the roadside. I mean, the roadside is communally used, right?

You’ll be walking along, enjoying the smell of the earth, when boom! you’re eyes are struck with a litter box of beer bottles, half eaten soil -covered chocolates and sweets (who doesn’t eat the entire bar- I mean one should get fined just for not enjoying the whole thing), and amongst other things some really rare finds which you would not think to see – logic defies litter.

Today though, something was unusual. There was a new sound in town this lovely overcast morning.

The roar that met us just across the road was a powerful gush of coolness that permeated the air. Almost like a continuous explosion, the burst pipe emitted the pressurised water it had so discretely been carrying not to long before.

The strength of this God-given blessing is a fantastic sight to see, until it hits you like a blind fly that hey- this precious resource is being wasted. Lots of it. And it’s not nourishing the ground either. It’s travelling down this tar paved path, ducking occasionally down drains but due to its speed, racing against its metallic counterparts, covering more ground than human legs can keep up with. Watching it is like driving by an accident... it’s almost morbidly fascinating as you involuntarily glance at the disaster, then feel slightly sick at the realisation.

I try to recycle you see, which makes one slightly more conscious of the earth, and its preciousness. Think about the people who don’t get to use it, the benefit it could have had, the nourishment to both land and body. And the fact that the news keeps telling us about how this world is running out--- panic panic panic!!!!! Seriously—we might run out!!!!!! – doesn’t lend to calmness.

So along the walk we go, a few complaints are uttered within and without, until the last leg of the journey. Then the anticipation of a cool milkshake-like berry smoothie drowns out any discomfort. You know- go to your happy place.

Yum. That goes down well.

So Alhamdulillah, for some beautiful reason we decide to go for a massage. I must say, it had been a while and I was really looking forward to it. These welcomed little pleasures in life really do serve to lighten, especially amidst the daily stress of activities.

We go to this massage therapist we both like, so we each wait for the other , then decide to stop at this quaint little eccentric cupcake coffee shop- we usually get straight back to the daily routine after the treatment. We hang out- we have another smoothie, unusual for one to follow another in a day- and proceed back. All this while a lesson brews, welling up and about to burst.

Traffic!!! Yuck. Oh man. Bearable though because relaxation had so majorly kicked in.

We’re finally on the home stretch. And would you believe, it begins to seriously rain. Like it means gentle business. And then it struck me.

There’s more rain now covering a wider area than what I had seen wasted..

And ALLAH owns it all.

It made sense. It made sense how easy it is for its Creator to provide, because what He possesses is unlimited resource.

The world could scream and yell, tension and panic could spread, but ultimately everything has a Source. One Source. The Source of life as we know it and the Source of the world and its contents.

I’m not supporting depleting resources. I believe we need to look after what we have. Or work on realising that we need to endeavour together to savour and protect what we are blessed with. Reducing our carbon footprint, which includes:

· Recycling (less energy is required to produce recycled glass than glass from raw material)
· Reducing our energy consumption at home, by switching plugs off when appliances are not being used(especially the TV and geysers)
· Consuming less water by not leaving the tap running, or decreasing flow when bathing or washing hands

are just some of the actions Muslims and non-Muslims alike should strive to incorporate into daily activities, like breathing. These actions invite goodness into our lives.

I’m just saying that whether it be wealth, happiness, discontent, material and immaterial, God Controls it all. And He is Bountiful. And Giving.

We could destroy all the worlds’ resources. But Hope will always be available.

That a wealth of water of massive proportions could be wasted and you won’t be able to stop it. But even then, it could rain from the sky in amounts that supersede the wastage. That restores hope and comfort, and balance, and faith in the knowledge, that with a bit of patience, it all comes back in magnificent proportions from its Creator, Allah, the One. The Source. The Kind, the Bountiful. The King. The Giver. The Supporter. The Friend. The Merciful. The Help. The Glorious.

The Possessor of everything and the Sustainer.

And He will not leave you in need of anyone for He is the Possessor of everyone. And everything.

SO learn Who He is. Work on finding your love for Him. And work on trusting Him. For whoever puts their trust in Allah will never be disappointed.

He is most Bountiful, the Light, and the Creator of Love.

And He Loves you.

Never fear .The Abundant is here.

Feb 18, 2012

Home Schooling Tip 3: History Through Literature

by Juli Herman

History is one subject that can induce immediate drowsiness just at its mention. No surprise there!

Not when it’s presented as dry facts devoid of a more personal and human approach. This can change when history is approached via reading historical fiction pertaining to that era or event.

What I have been doing thus far, after realizing how disconnected and dry it is to learn history from textbooks, is to pick an era of American history for example, that we’re going to learn about. This idea actually came to me from the book United States History Through Children’s Literature by Wanda J. Miller. The list of historical fiction related to a certain era is listed in the book, but I went and looked up more fiction, checked them out of the library, and read them before using them with my kids.

Right now, we are studying the Jim Crow era, so I read aloud to them The Land by Mildred D. Taylor, and from there, we read non-fiction books related to that era namely Life Under Jim Crow Laws by Charles George. By tying the facts in the non-fiction book to what the characters underwent in The Land, history comes alive and more interesting. Instead of prattling off dry historical facts, you can mention a character from a book and depict the historical facts as experienced by that character. Put some ‘life’ into your history lessons by using these historical fictions, from which you can also assign literature and writing assignments such as book reviews, journal entries, research writing among many others.

Feb 17, 2012

The Friend


By Aasiya Maryam

Bismillah

Do you have a Best Friend or someone who knows you best? A person whose company you enjoy the most. Someone you love spending time with. They are with you through thick and thin. They understand you better than your family. They lend you a ear when you are down and you share everything about your life with them.

A person we are so close to, that we start depending on them for everything. When they are with us life seems good, pain seems light… and without them everything feels incomplete. We believe that they are going to be with us forever, always by our side! But… Nothing lasts forever, does it? At some point they are pulled apart from us, for whatever reason that may be, and we are left feeling miserable like never before.

Along my journey in this world, I’ve had a few best friends too. No, not all of them are still with me. However short or long, it is through them that my creator thought me the lessons of life, so, alhumdulillah for their presence in my life. These were the people who meant everything to me! Everything! But soon the time came for them to leave and they left; everyone had their own reasons for it.

I would gather the broken pieces of me, hide my tears and start again. Every time promising myself that I’ll never ever get close to anyone but eventually I would end up in the same cycle.

But, that was until I befriended HIM.

I had known Him all my life. He had seen me when I smiled and had known the reason behind every frown of mine. He had seen me when I had a good laugh and would quietly watch over me when I cried a million tears complaining about my life. He was always there for me. He understood me and loved me; He was everything a best friend could be, I wonder how was it then that I never noticed Him?!

When He would gift me with something that I always wanted I had failed to thank Him but yet I had the audacity to question Him and blame him every time I lost something.

Eventually at one point I recognized how important He was to me, alhumdulillah. I understood He loved me and always will. When I had finally realized His essence in my life, all I had to do was recognize my fault and apologize to Him.

Yes, He is the One. The Loving ( Al-Wadud)... The Guardian (Al-Muhaymin)…The Protecting Friend (Al- Waliyy) - Allah subhaana wa ta'aala.

Allahu Akbar!

Allah, the Exalted, tells us in the Quran –

Allah is the Protecting Friend of those who have faith: from the depth of darkness He will lead them forth into light...” (2:257)

Our entire life is spent longing for people of this dunya, who can never love us and understand us the way this Friend of ours can; not because someone is good or bad but because they do not know us the way He knows us. They do not know and never will know every single detail of our life; but He does! He knows what we go through every second of our life; that’s why He understands us better than anyone ever can or ever will! He loves us like no one else in this world. If we were to put together the love everyone in this dunya has for us, we would still not be able to equate it to the love Allah has for us. SubhanAllah!

I believe that the dunya has blinded us. Why else would we seek comfort from anyone other than Him, when we know the only place we can find comfort is with Allah?

It’s weird how we can get so wrapped up in this life and the people around us that we begin to forget He exists. When something good happens to us, we have a reason to party but no time to send thanks to Him, astaghfirullah! Really, how hard can it be for us to say ‘alhumdulillah’ or pray 2 rakat nafl prayers?! Yet when things go wrong and we are left alone we never think twice before questioning Him. We run behind people in hope of a better life in this world (and trust me we will never find that from them), even though all we have to do is turn to Him with a sincere heart!

The Prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, related to us that Allah says:

I am as My servant thinks of Me. I am with him when he remembers Me. If he mentions Me within himself, I mention him within Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in a better assembly. If he comes near to Me a hand span, I come near to him the distance of a cubit. If he comes near to Me the distance of a cubit, I come near to him the distance of two outspread arms. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6856) and Sahîh Muslim (4832)]

So, starting from today, let’s work on our relationship with Him.

All of us who are blessed - let’s take out a few minutes every day to thank Allah, subhaana wa ta'aala!

All of us who feel we do not have anyone to share our pain with - Why not try sharing it with Him? He is always there to listen to us!

All of us who are in need of help – Let’s lift our hands up in dua and ask Him, He is more than happy when we turn to Him for help!

And finally all those who feel all alone in this world and are in need of a friend - Befriend Allah subhaana wa ta'aala and believe me, you’ll never regret it, inshaAllah!