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Jul 14, 2014

Dear God

By Wordsmith


Bismillah

Dear God,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

And it is not easy. At all.

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

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

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

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

Keep me loyal to You.

AMEEN.

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


Jul 11, 2014

Health Food Myths Busted

By M

Bismillah

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

The Adjustment

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

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

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

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

Know what is good and what is not

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

Reassess the following food in your diet:

1 .Gra –No-la

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

2. Dried Fr‘oo’t

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

3. Fruit Juice?

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

4. Got (Skim) Milk?

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

5. Flavoured Yoghurt

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jul 9, 2014

Dealing with Motherhood

by Umm Halimah

Bismillah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 7, 2014

5 Steps for Giving More Effective Dawah

by Sabina Giado

Bismillah

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

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

1. Check yourself first

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

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

2. Build on similarities, not on differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

  فَذَکِّرۡ اِنَّمَاۤ اَنۡتَ مُذَکِّرٌ

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


 لَسۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ بِمُصَیۡطِرٍ

You are not over them a controller. 


(Surat-al-Ghashiya, 21-22) 

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

We should adopt a similar focus inshaAllah.

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

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

5. Do not expect immediate results

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

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

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

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


Jul 4, 2014

The Muslim Youth and Halal Entertainment

by Amina Edota

Bismillah

Modern Challenges

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

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

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

Reminders

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

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

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

Halal Fun

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

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

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

Simple Entertainment Ideas

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

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

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

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


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


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