Do You Remember Him?

Image do you remember himBy Annita Sani

It is not surprising that while juggling responsibilities and meeting deadlines many of us feel that we have insufficient time and energy to increase our worship of Allah (swt). Pause and think about it for a moment. With the exception of completing the five daily prayers (which is challenging for many of us), which other acts of worship do you engage in on a daily basis? The stress and urgency of providing for physical sustenance takes priority over activities for spiritual development. Before you know it, years have passed and you still have not made the time investment to increase your Eeman.

Even now, you probably are not interested in reading an article that adds another activity to your “things to do” list. You need not worry; the aim of this article is to remind you, and myself, of the importance and benefits of Dhikr.

Definition of Dhikr

It may be defined as: All words of praise and glory to Allah (swt) extolling His Perfect Attributes of Power and Majesty, Beauty and Sublimeness, whether one utters them by tongue or says them silently in one’s heart.

Islamic scholars consider Dhikr, or remembrance of Allah (swt), to be a continuous form of worship that may be performed anytime and anywhere and when done consistently has numerous benefits. There are different acts of Dhikr, which includes, but is not limited to, acts such as recitation of the Quran, making Dua, performing Hajj, fasting during Ramadan, glorifying and praising Allah (swt), and observing and reflecting upon Allah’s (swt) signs.

Benefits of Dhikr

The benefits and rewards for those who consistently engage in Dhikr are numerous and are described in the Quran and Ahadeeth. They include:

  • Emotional stability and peace that result from feeling closer to Allah (swt),
  • Contentment of the heart and feelings of satisfaction when we become more aware of all that Allah (swt) has provided for us,
  • Success in our endeavours and freedom from poverty, as trust and dependence on Him for physical sustenance increases,
  • Repelling of Satan,
  • Erasing our sins and saving us from grief on the Day of Judgement.

About Dhikr in the Quran

  • “Remember Me and I will remember you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:152)
  • “Those who believe, and whose hearts find rest in remembrance of Allah (swt). Indeed, in remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)
  • “Remember Allah (swt) much perhaps you may achieve success.” (Al-Jumuah 62:10)

Impact of Dhikr on our lives

It is reported that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “The difference between the one who makes Dhikr and the one who doesn’t make Dhikr is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Bukhari)

Are you interested in receiving only the bounty in this life or are you interested in having success in this life and in the life of the Hereafter? The answer seems obvious. However, Allah (swt) tells us that some of us will choose only success in this life and forsake any success in the life of the Hereafter.

Allah (swt) the Exalted says: “But of mankind there are some who say: ‘Our Lord! Give us (Your Bounties) in this world!’ and for such there will be no portion in the Hereafter.” (Al-Baqarah 2:200)

Prophet Muhammad (saw) reminds us of the sad state of affairs and life consequences of those who seek the wealth of this world only, and have no concern about their life in the Hereafter: “Sad is the one who is a slave of the dinar (coin) and the slave of the dirham (coin) and that of the fine cloth (velvet) and plush. Sad and set back he is. If a thorn pierces him, nobody will pull it out for him.” (Bukhari)

On the other end of the spectrum, there are rare individuals who do not seek any bounties in this life and only seek pleasures in the Hereafter. Of them, Allah (swt) the Exalted says: “And of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of kindness to (His) slaves.” (Al-Baqarah 2:207)

It seems that most of us are interested in both the pleasures of this world and of the Hereafter. Allah (swt) says: “And of them are some who say: ‘Our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire!’ For them there will be allotted a share for what they have earned. And Allah is Swift at reckoning.” (Al-Baqarah 2:201-202)

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (sa) said that Allah (swt) said: “O son of Adam, Be devoted to my worship, and I shall fill your heart with contentment and shall remove your poverty; but if you do not do so, I shall fill your hands with the concerns of this world and shall not keep away your poverty.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Verbal Dhikr

Try as much as possible to say the following phrases in conversation throughout the day: Subhan’Allah, Alhumdulillah, Allahu Akbar, Insha’Allah, and Masha’Allah when you are praising something, and always say Bismillah before you start anything. If this is a new experience for you, then try one expression at a time until it comes natural for you. But always try your best to incorporate these phases into your everyday conversation.

Many of us shy away from using these phrases when we speak to non-Muslims because we fear that they will not understand us or we are concerned about what they think of us. Please remember that Dhikr is for your benefit and will increase your Eeman. Moreover, it is important to educate others about the meaning of what you are saying. You may be surprised by their reaction of appreciation and they may begin to share some of their experiences with you.

If you are still shy, then remember that these expressions can also be said silently or in the heart anytime throughout the day. So, next time you are driving to or from work, turn off the radio and Dhikr silently or aloud. Sit with your family and take turns counting while one person says the expression aloud and the other family members repeat the expression silently.

Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “He who recites after every prayer:

Subhan’Allah (Glory be to Allah) thirty three times; Alhumdulillah (praise be to Allah) thirty three times; Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) thirty three times; and completes the figure of hundred with the recitation of La Ilaha Illallahu Wahdahu La Sharika Lahu, Lahul-Mulku Wa Lahul-Hamdu, Wa Huwa Ala Kulli Shayin Qadir. Meaning: There is no true god except Allah. He is one and He has no partner with Him. His is the sovereignty and His is the praise, and he is Omnipotent, well have all of his sins pardoned even if they may be as large as the foam on the surface of the sea.” (Muslim)

Observing and Reflecting upon Allah’s (swt) Signs is also Dhikr

Observing and reflecting on the creation of the earth and all of its creatures is another form of Dhikr that you can easily perform anytime and anywhere. Tafakkur or deep reflection on a subject is considered a form of Dhikr, which when performed consistently, will Insha’Allah increase your awareness and appreciation of the mercy and numerous gifts provided to us by Allah (swt).

In the Quran, Allah (swt) provides us with guidance regarding His many signs or topics for reflection. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “What! Are you the more difficult to create or the heavens (above) (Allah) has constructed it; on high He raised its canopy, and He has given it order and perfection. Its night does He endow with darkness and its splendour does He bring out (with light). And the earth moreover, has He extended (to a wide expense); He draws out there from its moisture and its pasture; and the mountains has He firmly fixed; for use and convenience to you and your cattle.” (An-Naziat 79:27-33)

“Do they not see that it is Allah whose praises all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each ones knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise. And Allah knows well all that they do.” (An-Nur 24:41)

Allah also tells us to reflect deeply about our bodies and how they function without any effort from us and to express gratitude to Him for our bodies.

“It is He Who has created you (and made you grow), and made for you the faculties of hearing, seeing, feeling and understanding. But little thanks do you show.” (Al-Mulk 67:23)

Regarding the miracle of the creation of the human body, Allah says: “O man! What has deluded you in respect of your Noble Lord? He Who created you and formed you and proportioned you and assembled you in whatever way He willed.” (Al-Infitar 82:6-8)

Most of us reflect on the functioning of our bodies when we are sick. At that time, we become keenly aware of the miracle of our bodies. However, as soon as we are no longer ill, we take our bodily functions for granted again. Try to express gratitude to Allah (swt) for your body on a regular basis for it is truly a blessing to have a fully functioning body. To begin to appreciate the miracle of the human body more, start by reflecting on the functioning of your body at the time you are using those bodily functions. For example, as you are eating lunch, slow down, and think about the miracle of digestion, which starts in the mouth, and simply say in your heart or aloud, Alhumdulillah.

If you are not too impressed with the act of digestion as it occurs in your body, then consider for a moment the many people who are dependent on tube feedings because they cannot perform oral feedings. This will, Insha’Allah, help you feel more grateful to Allah (swt) for something as simple as eating, and encourage you to express gratefulness more often.

Why should you remember Him?

Be mindful that what ever your occupation may be due to household obligations, career pursuits, social commitments or anything else, you still owe it to Him! Do you know why?

  1. Firstly He gave you the energy to handle so much and yet do more.
  2. Secondly, He equipped you with the most sophisticated faculties to acquire your ambitions.
  3. Thirdly, had it not been His mercy you could have never realized your dream. Whether it is passing your exam, getting that promotion, having a baby, enjoying with friends, the power supply comes from Him to light up our lives!
  4. Lastly and most importantly, you and I may forget to remember Him and thank Him, but He never forgets to feed us, make our heart beat, grant us love of friends and family and bestow upon us endless blessings we cannot even comprehend.

You may feel inadequate and too small before the Majesty of Allah (swt), but it is your love and fear of Him that draws you nearer to Him. So make place for Allah (swt) in your hearts and your lives!

Malik Ibn Anas

Image imam MalikAbu Abdullah Malik Ibn Anas, the Shaikh of Islam, proof of the community, Imam of the abode emigration, knowledgeable scholar of Madinah (as predicted by the Prophet Muhammad [sa]) was born in Madinah in the year 714 CE, while his ancestral home was in Yemen.

Born in a well to do family Malik did not need to work. However, he was highly fascinated with the study of Islam, and ended up devoting his entire life to the study of Fiqh. He received his education in the most important seat of Islamic learning, Madinah. He also became one of the four major Mujtahid imams whose school filled North Africa, Al-Andalus, much of Egypt and some of Ash-Sham, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Khurasan. Hence, Malik Ibn Anas was a Muslim legist who played an important role in formulating early Islamic legal doctrines.

One of the great achievements of Malik is a book Al-Muwatta (The Approved). This book was formed of sound narrations of the Prophet (sa) from the people of Hijaz together with the sayings of the companions, the followers, and those after them. He composed it in a course of forty years, having started with ten thousand narrations until he reduced them to their present number of fewer than two thousand. It was hailed by Ash-Shafi as the soundest book on earth after the Quran, nearest book on the earth after the Quran and the most beneficial book on earth after the Quran, according to four separate narrations. Malik said: “I showed my book to seventy jurists of Madinah, and every single one of them approved me for it, so I named it ‘The Approved’.”

Imam Malik is the connection of the entire Islamic community to the knowledge of the Sunnah as the scholars of the Prophet’s (sa) city, Madinah, preserved it. Like all scholars of Islam, Malik was famous for his piety and integrity. When the Governor of Madinah demanded and forced people to take the oath of allegiance to Khalifah Al-Mansoor, Imam Malik stood up courageously and was prepared to suffer for his convictions. He issued a Fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under coercion and based his opinion on the Hadeeth narrated by Aisha (rta) “The divorce of the coerced does not take effect”. (Abu Dawood) This resulted in many people finding courage to express their opposition.

Malik had such veneration for the Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) that he never narrated anything or gave a Fatwa unless in a state of ritual purity. Abi Uways said: “I asked my uncle about something. He made me sit, made ablution, sat on the couch, and said: La Hawla Wa La Quwwata Illa Billah. He did not give a Fatwa until he said it first. I heard Malik being asked forty-eight questions, to thirty-two of which he replied: ‘I do not know.’”

He was not only a great Muhaddith (Traditionist scholar of Hadeeth), but also a jurist who founded a Madhhab, or school of jurisprudence, which is named after him: the Maliki School of Islamic Jurisprudence. He gave lectures in law and religion in the Masjid of the Prophet (sa). People came from all over the Islamic world to learn from him and he attracted a considerable number of students. His followers came to be known as Malikis. He himself never left Madinah, and spent his whole life there in the cause of Islamic knowledge.

Imam Malik died in the year (179 AH) 796 CE at Madinah and is buried in the famous Al-Baqee cemetery in Madinah.

Know Your Creator

Esm-Allah-00“The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on Him by them, but shun those who deviate regarding His names for they will be punished for what they do” (Al.Araaf 7: 180)

Dr. Sadaf Shiekh and Umm Saad attempt to describe the Majesty of the Creator

A Hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta) states: “Allah has ninety-nine names, i.e., one hundred minus one, and whoever believes in their meanings and acts accordingly, will enter Paradise. And Allah is Witr (one) and He loves Witr (odd numbers).” (Bukhari)

Principles followed regarding the Names of Allah (swt)

Al-Qurtubi’s opinion about the Names of Allah (swt)

This famous Islamic scholar has divided the names into four categories on the basis of their inferences:

a. Those which refer to Allah’s (swt) essence e.g. Ar-Rahman, Al-Jalalah.

b. Those which refer to Allah’s (swt) characteristics inseparable from His essence e.g. As-Sami, Al-Aleem.

c. Those which refer to an act attributed to Him e.g. Al-Khaliq, Ar-Razzaq.

d. Those which refer to the negation of something from Him e.g. Al-Quddoos, Al-Ala.

Calling on Allah (swt) is an Ibadah (worship). This should be done according to the Sunnah e.g. Allah (swt) has a name called As-Salam (The one free from defects). After the prayers, Prophet Muhammad (sa) would say:

“Oh Allah you are As-Salam and from you is all peace, blessed are You, Oh Possessor of Majesty and Honour.” (Muslim)

Ibn Al-Qayyim’s opinion about the Names of Allah (swt)

“The reasons which cause Mahabbah (love) of Allah (swt) to develop, are ten out of which the fifth one is: ‘Contemplating and deliberating over the Names and Attributes of Allah’.”

As for the last part of the ayah: “But shun those who deviate regarding His names for they will be punished for what they did,” scholars have many explanations. In general it means one should act according to the names, understand their meaning and believe in them.

Ibn Battal’s opinion about the Names of Allah (swt)

a. Those suitable for following should be adapted.

b. Those restricted to Allah (swt) should be avoided and confirmed humbly to Allah (swt) alone.

c. Those containing promise should produce hope.

d. Those containing warning should produce fear.

His Foremost Name ‘Allah (swt)’

Allah (swt) is Al-Ism Al-Azam: It is The Greatest Name, which contains the divine and beautiful attributes, and is the sign of the essence and the cause of all existence. Allah (swt) does not resemble, in any way, any of His creation. Allah (swt) is only Allah’s (swt) name. Nothing else can in any way assume this name nor share it

“Do you know anyone who is His namesake?” (Maryam 19:65)

Allah and His Attributes: In several ayahs where Allah (swt) has mentioned His attributes, He has started of by calling Himself Allah (swt) and then went on to mention His attributes. e.g Ayat Al-Kursi (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:255) or in (Hashr 22:23). He begins with “He is Allah…” and then goes on to mention His attributes.

Allah (swt) is the most appropriate term: No other term can be more suitable than ‘Allah (swt)’ to describe The Creator and the Sustainer. The title Allah (swt) is complete, and any other name will be a poor substitute. It is the ideal name for God. All other titles, including Rabb, are attributes or names of God.

Each object in the universe manifests some power of Allah (swt): His Joy or His Anger, His Love or His Magnificence flow through these objects. That is why, when we look at this world we see beauty, grandeur, sublimity, strength, the power of joy or destruction manifested in it. Accordingly, we are attracted or repelled by things and happenings.

Allah (swt) wants to be worshipped: Allah (swt) does not desire anything from His creation except that He is worshipped. But Allah (swt) cannot be worshipped unless one learns to know Him, and He cannot be known except if He is remembered. Allah (swt) Himself has made this road easy.

“Verily, I am Allah! La Ilaha Illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-As-Salat) for My Remembrance.” (Ta-Ha 20: 14)

Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Sense of Humour

Image Prophet sa humourOne of the foremost qualities that endear a person to us is his or her sense of humour. Humour in good taste is appealing to everyone especially in our stressful lives today. Hundreds of years ago the significance of light-heartedness and laughter was no less. The embodiment of an ideal Muslim’s personality, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw), also displayed a pleasant and dignified sense of humour. He joined in jokes and smiled and laughed; he joked with his Companions and enjoyed the company of children. Let us look through some Ahadeeth pertaining to the Holy Prophet’s (sa) unique sense of humour:

The Nughayr

The Holy Prophet (sa) often spent time in the company of children, playing with them and gently laughing with them. Anas Bin Malik (rta) related that, “The Prophet (sa) used to play with a younger brother of mine called Abu Umayr, who had a small bird as a pet. One day he saw the child looking sad, so he asked, “Why do I see Abu Umayr looking sad?” The Sahabah told him, “The nughayr (a small bird, like a sparrow) which he used to play with has died, O Messenger of Allah (sa).” The Prophet (sa) began to gently joke with the child, saying, “O Abu Umayr, what happened to the Nughayr?” (In Arabic, this is a play on word, because Abu Umayr’s name rhymes with that of the bird’s name). (Reported in Hayat Al-Sahabah, 3/149)

The Sinner

Narrated Abu Hurairah (rta): “A man came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘I am ruined!’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Why?’ He said: “I had intimate relations with my wife while I was fasting (in the month of Ramadan).’ The Prophet (sa) said to him: ‘Manumit a slave (as expiation).’ He replied: ‘I cannot afford that.’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Then fast for two consecutive months.’ He said:’ I cannot.’ The Prophet (sa) said: Then feed sixty poor persons.’ He said: ‘I have nothing to do that.’ In the meantime, a basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet (sa). He said: ‘Where is the questioner?’ The man said: ‘I am here.’ The Prophet (sa) said (to him): ‘Give this (basket of dates) in charity (as expiation).’ He said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Shall I give it to poorer people than us? By Him who sent you with the truth, there is no family between the two mountains (of Al-Madinah) poorer than us.’ The Prophet (sa) smiled till his premolar teeth became visible. He than said: ‘Then you take it.’ (Bukhari)

The Revenge

At the time of Battle of Badr, The Prophet (sa) drew up his army and passed in front of each man to give them good heart and to straighten the ranks, bearing an arrow in his hand. “Stand in line, O Sawad,” he said to one of the helpers who was too far forward, and he gave him a slight prick in the belly with his arrow. “O Messenger of Allah, you have hurt me,” said Sawad, “and God has sent you with truth and justice, so give me my requital.” “Take it,” said the Prophet, laying bare his own belly and handing him the arrow whereupon Sawad stooped and imprinted a kiss where it was due to place the point of the shaft. “What made you do this?” said the Prophet (sa). And he answered, “O Messenger of God, we are now faced with what you see, and I desired that at my last moment with you, if so it may be, my skin should touch your skin.” And the Prophet (sa) prayed for him and blessed him.

The Old Woman

An old woman came to the Prophet (sa) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah (swt) that I will enter Paradise.” He said jokingly, “O Mother of So-and-so, no old women will enter Paradise.” The old woman went away crying, so the Prophet (sa) said: “Tell her that she will not enter Paradise as an old woman, for Allah (swt) says: We have created (their companions) of special creation, and made them virgin-pure (and undefiled)” (Al-Waqiah 56:35-36). (At-Tirmidhi)

The Sahabah saw nothing wrong with joking or having fun, as they saw the Prophet (sa), who was their teacher, occasionally doing so. In Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Bukhari reports from Bakr Ibn Abdullah who said: “The companions of the Prophet (sa) used to throw melon-rinds at one another, but when the matter was serious, they were the only true men.”

The Slave

The Holy Prophet (sa) also used to enjoy the Sahabah’s sense of humour, which made him often laugh. Once, Abu Bakr (rta) went to do business in Basra, and with him were Nuayman (rta) and Suwaybit Ibn Harmalah (rta), both of whom had been present at Battle of Badr. Suwaybit (rta) was in charge of food on the journey, and Nuayman (rta) said to him: “Feed me!” Suwaybit (rta) said: “Not until Abu Bakr comes.” Nuayman (rta) was a fun-loving man with a sense of humour, so he went to some people who had brought livestock with them, and said: “Will you buy a sturdy Arab slave from me?” They said: “Yes.” He said: “He has a big mouth, and he may tell you that he is a free man. If that means that you do not want to take him, then forget the matter, and do not cause trouble for me with him.” They said: “No problem, we will buy him.” So they bought him for ten young she-camels. Nuayman (rta) brought the animals back, and told the people: “There he is!” Suwaybit (rta) said: “I am a free man!” They said: “He has already told us all about you,” and put a rope around his neck and led him away. Then Abu Bakr came, and was told what had happened. He and his companions went and returned the animals and took Suwaybit (rta) back. They told the Prophet (sa) what had happened, and he and his Sahabah would laugh about the story for a year afterwards. (Reported by Imam Ahmed from Umm Salamah)

The Bedouin’s camel

On another incident, a Bedouin came to the Prophet (sa). He entered the mosque and left his camel in the courtyard. Some of his Companions said to Nuayman Ibn Amr Al-Ansari (rta), who was known as Al-Nuayman (rta): “If you slaughter it, we will eat it, because we want to have some meat, and the Messenger of Allah (sa) will pay for it.” So Al-Nuayman (rta) slaughtered it. When the Bedouin came out and saw his saddle, he shouted: “They have slaughtered my camel, O Muhammad!” The Prophet (sa) came out and asked: “Who did this?” They said: “Al-Nuayman.” So he went looking for him, and found him at the home of Dubah Bint Al-Zubayr Ibn Abdul-Muttalib (rta), where he had hidden in a ditch and covered himself with palm branches and leaves. A man pointed to where he was and said: loudly: “I have not seen him, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (sa) brought him out of the ditch, and his face was dirty from where the leaves had fallen on him. The Prophet (sa) asked him: “Why did you do that?” Al-Nuayman (rta) said: “The ones who told you where I was, O Messenger of Allah, are the same ones who told me to do it.” The Prophet (sa) began wiping his face and laughing, then he paid the price of the slaughtered camel. (Reported by Hayat Al-Sahabah, 3/154-155)

Islam is not austere or gray. It appeals directly to our senses and our human nature withholding a balance between when to be serious and when to lighten up. As Muslims we are also commanded never to hurt or harm anyone in our quest to have fun and a good time. Conversely, Islam wants its followers to have light heartedness and a sense of humour, which make a person good-natured and likeable and will enable him to win people’s hearts.

Educational Research Institute (ERI)

Image ERIEducational Research Institute (ERI) was formed by a group of individuals in 1995. Since its inception it has been striving to bring about an effective change in the educational system through its various services. ERI’s efforts are now slowly trickling into our bi-polar educational system in Pakistan through an integrated curriculum, teacher training programs and consultancy services for schools. To get a first hand view of this organization, I approached several of its members.

Mrs. Safoora Naeem, Principal Usman Public School System and Deputy Director of ERI

How far do you think there is a need for an institute like ERI in the educational system of Pakistan?

There is a tremendous need for developing our own curriculum and books. All the books, which come from abroad, are based on statistics and data collected in a totally different environment. We don’t have any data or statistics available catering exclusively to the Pakistani market. So there is a dire need for this kind of research work. Realizing all these aspects of education, ERI was founded, and ever since we started we have been quite successful in all these areas.

What has been the people’s response to this institute generally?

The people’s response is quite good; especially those who are more inclined towards Islam and realize the need of Islamic teachings in the curriculum and teachers’ development. These people are quite impressed by our services. But apart from them, even other people visit us, so the response has been, overall, tremendous.

What problems did you encounter, if any, in the initial stages of running ERI?

When any institute like this starts, the initial problems are usually manpower and funding. We still face these two major problems because most of the people can understand lots of other works, which are beneficial for the society, but they do not understand the need and benefits of educational work. And it is not easy to explain to them either.

What ambitions do you have for ERI in the future?

At ERI, we are quite ambitious and are looking forward to opening our own teachers’ training college, where we will provide a proper degree or certificate to the teachers. The government does provide this service in the form of the B.Ed and C.T. degrees and various kinds of training too. In reality trained teachers usually complain that when they join the schools, they do not get the opportunity or tools to practice what they are taught. On the other hand, some teachers just assume that whatever they are studying is just going to remain as knowledge and not going to be put into practice. So we lose all the effect of that kind of training. At ERI we are aiming at opening a college where we will offer B.Ed with a difference; where we can promote the skills in the teacher to an extent where she goes into the classroom and then makes a difference.

Mrs. Razia Shamsuddin, Principal of Saba High School and Deputy Director of ERI

What exactly do you try to communicate through the books of your institute?

We feel that we don’t need another English textbook; there are plenty in the market, which deal with appropriate tasks and skills. But what we find is that they do not carry the concepts we want to teach our children. So the ERI books are teaching concepts plus all the other necessary skills.

Is your scope of operation confined to Pakistan or have you marketed your products abroad as well?

As far as I know, there is a school in Jeddah, which is using these books. Last year, when we went over to the ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) conference, we gave a short presentation to them. They were quite impressed with the kind of work going on in Pakistan. They requested that our Islamiat books should be translated into English. We are currently working on it to come up with a consistent piece of translation.

ERI has a consultancy service for new schools. Can you elaborate on the features of that consultancy service?

Consultancy includes setting up of the whole school, i.e. classrooms and soft board material. Consultancy continues for six months. It includes selection of teachers and a principal; all the documentation that a school is supposed to have is provided; selection of students; plus teacher training program. Also, there is a training program for principals. Teachers and principals can visit our schools as well.

How can rest of the brothers and sisters support you in your mission?

We need a lot of helping hands in the form of experienced teachers with an Islamic background who want to serve children through their experience. We would like them to come over and do whatever small work they can, either editing or writing or translating the Islamiat books, either at ERI or from home. Since we are an NGO, and ERI does not sell books, all the expenditure has to be met through donations. We would be very grateful to people who can donate either their money or time.

I put the same question to Mrs. Safoora Naeem and she added that, “We would really appreciate it if the people who are well-versed in computers volunteer so we can take some help from them.”

Dr. Nasreen Ahsan, Deputy Director for Curriculum at ERI.

You introduced the concept of integrated curriculum. Can you elaborate on that?

It basically means to integrate science, social studies, social sciences, religious teachings, mathematics and languages into one subject so that students don’t have to go through separate things. They go through one whole curriculum only. And this is best elaborated in all the pre-primary level schools where you have this kind of curriculum. But when we talk of integrated curriculum we mean that we take all the six disciplines according to our own ideological basis. Our concept of integrated curriculum is that you integrate all of your religious teachings into all the six disciplines.

The concept of integrated curriculum obviously led to the need for having your own personalized curriculum. How did you go about it? How did you decide the priority of subjects?

When we wanted our personalized curriculum we had to do everything from scratch: research, proofread and compile. We didn’t have any material, so we had to create our own. We started by writing books for the Montessori level. Then we compiled them and tested them out in the classrooms practically. And as it was put into practice in the classroom, many problems came into our notice so we revised the curriculum accordingly.

It’s about 10 years since this curriculum was put in the classroom and taking this as a basis, we started to work on the pre-primary books. We have completed that and now we are working on the primary and secondary books. We have only done English and Islamiat. We still have a lot of work to do in Social Studies and Science.

ERI is currently in the process of launching its own website. Once that happens, you can volunteer for this organization from your home using the online form to register as members or volunteers. Right now, for additional information or to volunteer, you can request their brochures from:

ERI Head Office

Address: B-223 Block I North Nazimabad Karachi 74700

Phone: 021-6624151

Fax Number: (021)-6626236

Email Address: eri@cyber.net.pk

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Life and its Worth

image life and its worthA friend once told me that the most certain thing in the world to be believed in … is death. It is as palpable as life, but more dominating, more capturing than life itself. From that point onwards one cannot sustain a thought process that considers death a mere neutralizer of life. From that point onwards thought processes focus on death as a pivot and deeds as neutralizers. Therefore let me suppose that the very next moment I live is my last, and that I might not get to complete this article, and that death not only finishes my earthly pilgrimage but also manages to make me immortal.

Most of the aforesaid statement sounds acceptable. Most of it … except the last little bit: death, bestowing immortality. Although it sounds far beyond possible, human history is filled with examples to suffice the above-mentioned phenomenon. Men have proven their lives to be worthy of death only because of the immortality it gives. Martyrs, freedom fighters, soldiers and rulers, all live in deeds, not in years.

If death takes me this very moment, I will be dead before the 20th year of my life. The time I have spent may not be enough to evoke revolutions or change the world. But it is enough to impact, to affect and penetrate many lives around me. Subsequently the lament I would want at my funeral is not to be “… and so young!” I would want it to be, “Well lived”. Come death this minute taking me during a cause worth fighting for, my age is not going to be the crux of it all. It was not the crux for Rashid Minhas. It was not the crux for Keats. Nor was it in the case of the thousands of youngsters dying in Kashmir and Palestine every day. They have not measured their lives in years.

Holding on to life as a treasure is quite justified, I agree. But each moment can only be worth living if we understand that the number of our birthdays have not given us our sagacity or our magnitude. Our deeds have.

If we spend every minute of our lives as if they are precious, as if they can impart some good one way or the other, the number of years we live will cease to be of any consequence. Each moment will be an eternity lived.

I believe in death – as soundly as I believe in goodness. I believe in the exalted chance of life Allah (swt) has given to me. I believe in the extraordinary potential of a human to make one moment a lifetime. Therefore, I believe in the measure of deeds for a human. Hundred years lived, as weasel cannot weigh a grain. Yet the single-day life of the lion will have the ounces of glory. A life without purpose, a life without passion and dedication will certainly be measured in years. It is the lowest measure of human achievement. But a life with a dedication to improve, to help and to hope is a life that sets a standard for all those around us. It creates immortality. Those who choose to tread this path have listened to the call of the righteous.

Months and More

Image months and moreSurprising, as it may seem, the Islamic era did not start with the victories of Islamic wars. It did not initiate with the life or death of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) either. Nor did it commence with the revelation of the Quran in the cave called ‘Hira’.

It started with the Hijrah, the migration of the Prophet (sa) from Makkah to Madinah. This event was not just a migration. It stood, and stands even today, for a sacrifice for the cause of truth and for the preservation of the Revelation and for the preservation of a way of life and Sunnah. Allah (swt) wanted to teach man that struggle between truth and evil is eternal. The Islamic year reminds Muslims every year not of the pomp and glory of Islam, but of its sacrifice. It prepares them to do the same till the end of the world when our Creator will resurrect all on the Day of Judgement, Insha’Allah!

Here, the significance of the current three Islamic months has been briefly described:

Safar – 2nd month of the Islamic calendar

Meaning

Safar is referred to as ‘empty’: In those days, after the lifting of the ban on fighting in Muharram, everyone would proceed to the battlefield leaving his or her house empty and deserted.

It is also referred to as ‘yellow’: At the time the months were being named, Safar fell during autumn and the leaves of the trees were yellow.

Modern day incorrect beliefs

Many people have erroneous beliefs regarding this month i.e., it is a month of misfortune and calamities:

A Nikah performed in Safar will not be successful. It might be surprising to know that the Prophet’s (sa) daughter Fatimah (rta) got married to Ali (rta) in Safar, 2 AH.

Any important venture, business etc. started in Safar is ill fated and will bring bad luck.

To regard any day as a holiday when it is not decreed so.

The teachings of Allah (swt) and His beloved Prophet (sa) gives us clear guidelines on such incorrect beliefs.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “No kind of calamity can occur, except by the will of Allah.” (At-Taghabun 64:11)

In Saheeh Muslim and Bukhari, we find Ahadeeth condemning erroneous beliefs and superstitions in Safar, or indeed in any other month, which were prevalent in the days of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance).

Rabi Al Awwal – 3rd month of the Islamic calendar

Meaning

Rabi means ‘spring’. At the time the months were being named, spring was being heralded, hence, this month was named Rabi Al Awwal.

Significance

The Holy Prophet (sa) was born in Rabi Al Awwal, in the city of Makkah, in the year 570 CE. He died at the age of 63 in Madinah in Rabi Al Awwal in the year 11 AH.

Modern day innovated celebrations

Islamic history holds no valid record of the exact birth date of Prophet Muhammad (sa). Allah’s Messenger (sa) never celebrated his birthday. Secondly his companions (Sahabahs) and their next generation (Tabaeen) didn’t do so either.

Furthermore, we have two festivities only, which are Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha with their relevant spiritual significance. Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi is a recent addition to celebrations.

Rabi Ath Thani – 4th month of the Islamic calendar

Meaning

At the time the months were being named, this month fell as spring was ending hence; it was named to denote this.

Significance

The Shariah does not specify any Ibadat (worship) explicitly for this month. However, as per the Sunnah of our Holy Prophet (sa), we should try to fast on the Ayam-e-Bidh i.e. 13th, 14th and 15th (middle days) of this month, as we should for every month. The Prophet (sa) also used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, when the record of our deeds is presented before Allah (swt).

The Glue Story

EPSON DSC pictureI have often wondered about people who change the world. What was so special about them? Why wasn’t everyone Aisha (rta) or Khalid Bin Walid (rta)? The only person I felt could answer my question was my Nanjaani (grandmother).

She looked at me in that quizzical expression so typical to her, from behind nose glasses. “Where do you come up with such questions?” Then without waiting for an answer she started: “You need to think about what drives them, what their passions are and what they have to give up for their achievements?” She often did that, she asked rhetorical questions, and then answered them with more questions.

Ammi, as we all used to call her, recently passed away. I had not met her in three years and I missed her, there was this terrible ache in my heart, till I wrote this. To me her passing meant a sudden loss of Chunni Munnu stories, the loss of delectable chutneys made from unimaginable items, the loss of my voice of reason, my source of questions and most importantly the loss of an era from my past.

I remember calling her from my dorm room in Detroit asking: “Ammi, when you were young, what were your dreams?” I had a history project to trace my family tree, to translate dreams into the architecture of the city. I have never heard such oblivion in a person’s voice and laughter as when Ammi recounted her childhood, the games they played, the food they ate, the books they read, and her dream.

Her dream was quiet ordinary; in fact it was truly simple. To lead a good life as a Muslim woman, wife and mother in post-Partition India, to educate her nine children so they had the faculty of reason and the power of Islam behind them in everything they attempted. I was stunned, I needed something exciting for my project and here all she wanted to be was a wife and mother! My eighteen-year old mind never realized that this was the greatest ambition any person could aspire to achieve. Now that I am thirty-something, a wife and mother I understand fully what she meant.

Ammi, all those years ago, defined me. My ability to distinguish right from wrong, my judgement of priorities in life and most of all my sense of humour. I remember one time I called her when I was three months pregnant, and started complaining about it. Her only reply was: “Honey, when you go through nine pregnancies, and thirty-six months of nausea give me a call.”

She called us her legacy; we her grandchildren are spread all over the earth. We range from architect to physician to PhDs and Insha’Allah much more. We are parents, friends and above all what she wanted. People identifying with Islam and not being swallowed up by the Generation-X hype.

It was just recently that I realized that old people are really ‘glue’. They are the ones who hold the family, the traditions and the stories that define you and your faith together. In fact they are essential to your beliefs and to the faith in your self. We must not only have faith, but also realize that faith in our innermost beings. Ammi stressed that, “…The chief objects of our Faith are Allah (swt), His Messenger, and His Revelations. To all these we must give a home in our hearts.” (An-Nisa 4:136)

I am really not sure how to remember her or how to forget her, how not to cry at odd moments. Moments when I see an old lady crossing the street, moments when my son smiles, moments when I am alone with my thoughts of this world and the Hereafter, just moments, that is all that remains. And Ammi’s faith in her legacy. I pray to Allah (swt) to grant her Paradise and that we are given a chance to fulfil her dreams, Insha’Allah!

Dates – The Candy That Grows On Trees

Image datesDr. Sadaf Sheikh explores the medical and spiritual healing preserved in dates

There are many edible palm fruits and the most widely found and favoured are dates. Dates were cultivated in ancient lands, from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 6000 B.C. Then, as now, dates were a staple for the natives of those dry regions. Much later, Arabs spread dates around northern Africa which are classified according to their fleshiness:

  • Soft dates (Barhee, Halawy, Khadrawy, Medjool)
  • Semidry dates (Dayri, Deglet Noor, Zahidi)
  • Dry dates (Thoory)

Dates are rich in natural fibres and therefore, help against many ailments. They also surpass other fruits in the sheer variety of their constituents. They are the most wholesome food among fruits because of their hot and moist substance. Eating dates in the morning on an empty stomach kills intestinal worms and other parasites, for dates have an antidotal potency, which inhibits their growth.

The Prophet (sa) likened a good Muslim to the date palm, saying: “Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall.” (Bukhari)

Dates were the food that Allah (swt) provided for Maryam (as) when she felt labour pains, and after she gave birth to Isa (as) under the palm tree. The great worth of dates is also indicated in a famous and beautiful passage of the Quran, (Maryam, 25:6): “Shake the trunk of the palm tree, and it will drop ripe dates on you, so eat, drink, and comfort your eyes with what Allah gave you.”

Experiments have also shown that dates contain some stimulants, which strengthen the muscles of the uterus in the last months of pregnancy. This helps the dilation of the uterus at the time of delivery and reduces post-natal bleeding. Dieticians consider dates the best food for breast-feeding mothers. This is because they contain elements that assist in alleviating depression and enrich the breast milk with the nutrients needed to make the child healthy and resistant to disease.

Regarding the Messenger of Allah (sa) breaking his fast with fresh dates, dried dates, or even water, there is, of course, a subtle reason. Since dates, particularly if they are moist, travel faster to the liver and are converted more quickly than other nutrients, the liver accepts their contents more readily and hastens their distribution to the rest of the body, which is thirsting for energy. Another factor making dates the ideal food is their digestibility. Within half an hour of eating them, the tired body regains new vigour. The reason for this is that low blood sugar is the main cause of hunger, not an empty stomach as is often assumed. When the body absorbs the nutritional essence of a few dates the sensation of hunger is abated. It would seem that taking dates after fasting helps one avoid overeating.

A serving of dates contains about 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. 

Aisha (rta) used to prescribe dates to those suffering with giddiness. It is now well known that low blood sugar and low blood pressure are among the causes of giddiness. She was also reported to have used dates combined with cucumber to treat her over-slim condition. She said: “They fed me with every type of food to gain weight, yet I did not put on any. Then they added cucumber and fresh date to my diet and that did it.”

As dates are rich in calcium, they contribute to healthy bones. For this reason it is recommended that children and older adults, especially women, eat plenty of dates to strengthen their bones. Dates are also important in maintaining good vision and are effective in guarding against night-blindness. In the early years of Islam, dates were served as food for Muslim soldiers as they stimulate muscles and give energy for physical exercise. They also help heal stomach ulcers. Modern medicine has shown that eating dates prevents abdominal cancer.

There are said to be at least eight hundred uses of the date. It is used as a fresh or a dry fruit with excellent storage properties, and is commonly used in the confectionery trade. One possible industry that is currently unexploited is the use of dates for crude sugar.

People often ask: “Do all these dates really taste different?” The answer is a resounding: “Yes!” Each variety of date not only has its own distinctive taste, but also its own distinctive texture, sweetness and size. When properly stored, dates keep exceedingly well. Stored in airtight containers and kept in the refrigerator, dates will stay moist and delicious for as long as 30 days. Dates can also be kept frozen for up to a year with no loss of taste or quality.

Nutritional Facts

A serving of five or six average dates contain about 20 calories each and are a good source of fibre, potassium, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates, without the sodium or fat found in other snacks. A serving of dates helps fulfil the “2 to 4 servings of fruit and vegetables a day” guideline of the USDA’s “Food Pyramid”.

Fibre

A serving of dates provides approximately 14% of the USDA Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of fibre, which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Potassium

Eating dates and drinking water is an ideal, natural way to replenish the body’s need for potassium. One serving of dates contains about 240 milligrams of potassium, or 7% of the RDA, of this essential nutrient.

An interesting scientific medical study, published in the British Medical Journal (No. 6993, 10 June 1995), proved the benefit of giving a new-born child sugar to reduce the feeling of pain during procedures, like heel pricking for a blood sample, or circumcision. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Dates contain a variety of B-complex vitamins. They contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid. Dates also contain 2.2% protein, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2 ad nicotinic acid (which fights against Pellagra); they also have traces of minerals needed for the body such as potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, manganese and copper.

Carbohydrates

A serving of dates contains about 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. The carbohydrates found in dates, include about 3 grams of dietary fibre and about 3 grams of naturally occurring sugars, such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Dates have about 1430 calories per pound and for that reason are not recommended for anyone on a diet.

They are variously classified as food, drink, fruits, sweets, nutrients, and medicine. Cured dates are called ‘Ajwah’ in Arabic. Aisha (rta) related the saying of Allah’s Messenger (sa), “Ajwah date is an excellent remedy.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Dates are also among the fruits of Paradise, as noted in the Hadeeth: “Ajwah is from Paradise and contains an antidote against poison.” (At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (sa) said: “He who eats seven Ajwah dates (the dates which he sow himself) every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.” (Bukhari)

Dates and date palms have been mentioned in the Quran 20 times, thus showing their importance. The Prophet (sa) likened a good Muslim to the date palm, saying: “Among trees, there is a tree like a Muslim. Its leaves do not fall.” (Bukhari)

It is also a custom among Muslim parents to put a piece of well-chewed date (or other available sweet fruit) in the mouth of a newborn baby. An interesting scientific medical study, published in the British Medical Journal (No. 6993, 10 June 1995), proved the benefit of giving a new-born child sugar to reduce the feeling of pain during procedures, like heel pricking for a blood sample, or circumcision. This reduced the crying time, compared to babies who got water. Also, their heart rate returned to normal more quickly.

Finally, we hope that Muslim medical scientists and researchers will take this new discovery on board; and that many more Islamic ideas and practices needing investigative research and scientific study will get the attention they deserve, Insha’Allah.

Surfing The Web!

Image surfing the netStatistics shared by eMarketer revealed that: “75% of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and/or services.”

Surprised? Well, as parents we ought to be more informed and prepared rather than shocked, if we need to protect our children from those paedophiles seeking access to children. As Michelle Nasir puts it: “When it comes to the ‘wild, wild, web’, there is no off-limits and nothing is too sick or twisted.”

The PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunications) has moved to block 1,000 pornographic sites. However, this is still a limited defensive measure. It is a painful fact that an alarming 60% of the estimated one million internet users in Pakistan visit pornographic sites. Adults and kids are equally a victim to the unscrupulous porn industry that is fuelled by billions of dollars. Thousands of internet cafes have sprung up in major cities and in remote areas. Youngsters spend hours surfing pornographic sites for as little as 15 rupees ($0.35) an hour.

Below are just a few successful strategies that are facilitating the pornography industry:

Pornographic cartoons – who do you think these are aimed at?

Misspelled domain names – anybody can make a typo.

Cyber Squatting – Pornographers often buy up commonly used domains with legitimate sounding names, which many people would assume are decent websites, but, in fact, are not.

Advertisements – often with photos, used on websites, which may not be pornographic, but are looking to do anything to make profits.

Unsolicited e-mails – by giving out personal information that is sold to people for a profit. This enables them to send e-mails offering products/services you have not requested.

Now we no longer need to visit an adult site. They come to us via junk mail. All we need to do is click on the mouse and there it is. And we thought checking mail was so innocent.

The question is: What needs to be done? Should we prevent ourselves, and our children from using the internet? Not really. The web is not all bad when used supervised and correctly. It can be an extremely powerful tool for education. Having said that, like any tool, we must approach it carefully, following all the rules, and understanding how it functions. Some helpful tips for parents and internet users in general, are:

  • Most importantly, if you own a computer – learn to use it. This will develop a sharing relationship with your kids.
  • Place your computer in an open room, so anyone walking by can monitor what is being worked on.
  • Anyone who surfs the web, uses chat rooms, receives and sends e-mail should be monitored. Make it obvious you are monitoring their online activities.
  • Make the rules crystal clear, they cannot delete any e-mails without your checking them. If you cannot read it, they should not be receiving it.
  • The kids should not be allowed to use the computer at odd hours of the day, when you are not around.
  • One of the most important steps to take would be to educate our youth, to lead by example, and to revive and adhere to our Islamic moral principles.

We must not accept lewdness as part of ‘being tolerant’, but raise a voice to end it. The government needs the help of the ISPs, the Internet café owners and the citizens. Make sure everyone in our homes is constantly reminded of Islamic morals and recognizes the evil that is porn. With a little effort on our part, the Internet can be a wonderful tool to explore the world Allah (swt) has created.

The Creator and Our Kids

Image creator and kidsLove and recognition of Allah (swt) is not a cap that can be picked up from any store and worn on our heads. It needs to be grown gradually with care, wisdom and knowledge. It starts with the inception of life and not after one turns fifty, and heads towards the prayer mat. What our kids need is the right start in the right direction. Here is how we can achieve this goal:

Pre-birth relations

Allah (swt) breathes a soul into the unborn child in the fourth month of its conception in the mother’s womb. Allah (swt) states: “It is He Who fashioned you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no deity except Him, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Al-Imran 3:6)

By the seventh month the foetus is able to respond to stimuli including pain, light and sound. By the end of the eighth month, it has undergone tremendous brain development and is now capable of seeing and hearing.

Besides nurturing a bond with her unborn child the mother may help her child develop ties with its Creator too.

The mother can recite the Quran aloud, or play an audiotape. This will provide solace to her, and also familiarize her baby with the Divine Revelation.

Much of the anxiety of a pregnant woman departs by praying to Allah (swt) for her own, and her unborn child’s health and safety.

The parents can give their child a head start by indulging themselves in simple good deeds.

Most significantly, the parents will have prepared a home environment, to welcome the baby, where everyone thinks and talks about Allah (swt).

Relations at birth:

Once the baby is born, as parents, we must thank Allah (swt) for the blessing bestowed upon us. The child is now admitted as the newest member of the Muslim Ummah by following Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Sunnah, which is not obligatory but comes highly recommended. This includes the following rituals:

Adhan should be called out in the newborn’s ear. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “If one has a baby and makes the Adhan in its right ear and the Iqamah in its left ear, Satan will not disturb the child, Allah willing.” (Bayhaqi)

Tahneek refers to softening a date by any ordinary means and rubbing a small amount in the baby’s mouth.

Tasmiyah means naming a child. The Prophet (sa) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your father’s names, so give yourself good names.” (Abu Dawood)

Aqeeqah means to slaughter a sheep or other animal to celebrate birth of a child.

Relations in the first two years

A man came to Malik Ibn Nabiy asking for advice about his daughter’s education. Malik asked him: “How old is she?” The man replied: “One month.” Malik said: “You missed the train.” This statement may seem an exaggeration, but a child’s learning starts from the time it comes to this world. Our baby swiftly learns to cry for attention, food, a nappy change, and more. Parents can do much during these formative years:

The parents can continue reading the Quran, or playing an audiotape of it for the baby at least once or twice a day.

Parents become very upset when their child disturbs their prayer. The Prophet (sa) use to offer his prayers even while carrying his grandchildren in his arms.

Parents can set out a separate prayer mat and allow the kid to imitate them in prayers, as children love to emulate grownups.

Whenever the toddler does something deserving praise, he should always be told how Allah (swt) must be happy with him and will reward him, Insha’Allah.

As parents, we should not invoke fear of the Creator into children’s hearts by telling them how they will be punished for bad behaviour. The Prophet (sa) said: “There are three (kinds of people) whose actions are not recorded: a sleeper until he awakens, a boy (referring to children) until he reaches puberty, and a lunatic until he comes to reason.” (Abu Dawood)

Relations in the first five years

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No child is born except on the Fitrah (of connectedness to Allah (swt)), as the animal gives birth to a perfect offspring. Do you find it mutilated? Then his parents Judaize or Christianize or Magianize him.” (Bukhari)

Norma Tarazi a writer, explains: “Being born in Fitrah does not mean being perfect. Our Fitrah prepares us to receive the guidance of Allah (swt) and to search for it, but we need that knowledge from outside ourselves in order to live in the best way.” The provider of this knowledge is the parent. Ibn Al-Qayyim rightly observes: “If you consider the causes of bad behaviour in children, you will, in general, find that the parents are the main cause.” Parents can play a positive role by following these steps:

It is best to teach children the Quran at an early age, since their minds are razor sharp and can pick new things easily and steadily.

Kids love bedtime stories, so this is an opportunity to narrate real life accounts of our prophets and their companions.

Parents can teach kids short Duas for different occasions, which help the child remember Allah (swt) at frequent intervals like, before eating, sleeping etc

We can inculcate gratitude in the child by helping him understand how the good food, toys, games, love, and everything in life comes from Allah (swt).

Whenever the child errs, parents may explain to him that he can mend ways by sincerely repenting to Allah (swt), and resolving to do better next time.

Relations in the first ten years

The companions of the Prophet (sa) took this great duty of child education at heart. They harshly reprimanded those who gave more attention to the grownups than to the children. Amr Ibn Al-As (rta) saw a group of men sitting next to the Kabah. They ordered the children to keep away from their gathering. He told them: “Do not do that! Let them join you and be near you, and give them guidance. They may be young today, but they will be adults tomorrow.” Parents can gear their kids’ energies in the right direction by doing much:

Once the kid is mature, we can explain him the purpose of our existence. Our mission to do good and stay away from evil. Once we return to Allah (swt), we will be judged for our deeds and accordingly rewarded for them.

We must teach the meaning of the Quran in any language of preference. We can only expect our kids to benefit from this knowledge if they are able to understand it and not by having just read it like a parrot.

The parents can invite their children to observe the wonderful creations of Allah (swt) and how the Quran defined them hundreds of years ago even before they were discovered scientifically.

As parents we must build our child’s trust in the Creator (swt). The kid must believe that it is Allah (swt) who can help him in any situation; He is watching him, and listening to him everywhere.

Assessing the prevalent scenario around us, Mounir Ibrahim a prolific writer comments: “Our children are indeed the future trustees of the Muslim Ummah. The importance of education should be even more emphasized in these times when falsehood is so widespread. If the parents do not rescue their children with a strong Islamic education, the children will melt in the pot and may join the ranks of those who wage war against Allah (swt) and the believers.”

The Islamic Finance and Banking System

Image finance“O believers, fear Allah and give up what is due to you from the interest (usury), if you are true believers. If you do not do so, then take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger. But, if you repent, then you can have your principal. Neither should you commit injustice nor should you be subjected to it.” (Al-Baqarah 2:278-279)

Riba in the Bible

One would perhaps be a little surprised to learn that the commandment regarding the prohibition of usury (Riba) also occurs in the Bible.

“Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent upon usury.” (Deuteronomy 23:19)

Key aspects of Islamic Finance

Islamic finance is popularly understood as that mode of banking, in which interest or Riba is forbidden. Although this aspect forms the crux of Islamic finance, there are also various other principles, according to the Shariah, that form the basis of an Islamic banking system which are:

Making money from money is not permissible: One of the assumptions on which all theories of interest are based is that money is a commodity. It is therefore argued that money can be bought and sold; bought in the form of deposits and sold in the form of loans. This is just as if a merchant can sell his commodity for a higher price than his cost, he can also sell his money for a higher price than its face value. Islamic principles, however, do not accept this assumption. Islamic financial institutions must trade in “real” assets or services. Money and commodity have different characteristics and therefore, they are treated differently.

Gharar (Uncertainty) is prohibited: Under this prohibition any transaction entered into should be free from uncertainty and speculation. Contracting parties should have perfect knowledge of the counter values intended to be exchanged as a result of their transactions. Thus, options, futures, and derivatives are considered un-Islamic and so are forward foreign exchange transactions because rates are determined by interest differentials.

Maisir (speculation or gambling) is not allowed: Transactions undertaken for purely speculative purposes are not allowed. Trading or investment transactions, which involve the risk of incurring losses as well as earning profits, do not fall under the definition of Maisir.

Investments should only support Halal activities: The Shariah does not permit Muslims to invest in any business or activity that involves the production of items or pursuit of activities that are considered to be Haram, or impermissible.

Role of a bank in the Islamic context

The functions of Islamic financial institutions can be divided into two parts: the safeguarding of deposits and the partnership of financial institutions with shareholders and depositors in profit-making ventures. Demand deposit facilities (called Amanah or Qard-Hasan deposits) are similar to safekeeping and transferable deposit functions performed in standard conventional banking. The Amanah or Qard-Hasan deposits pay no return and the financial institution is obligated to preserve the nominal value of the deposit.

The partnership activities of Islamic financial institutions have mixed features that include conventional bank intermediation, mutual funds or limited partnerships. To a large extent, Islamic financial institutions act as conventional intermediaries by issuing deposit-like instruments to the public in order to raise funds to finance commercial activities. The investments, many of which are negotiable and are known as “investment deposit certificates”, have properties similar to those of shares in a company or a mutual fund.

A Place for Pets

Image petsWhat type of animals can we own?

There are many types of animals that we can own, for example, cats are considered to be preferred pets. The Prophet (sa) liked cats a lot, and sometimes made Wudu from the same bowl from which a cat drank. He said: “It is not unclean; it is one of those who go round among you.” (Muslim)

Owning a dog however is a different matter and there are many rules and restrictions to owning a dog. Angel Gabriel (as) does not enter the house where a dog is, and so in order for angels to enter our home we must keep them free of dogs. The Prophet (sa) said: “He who keeps a dog other than that meant for watching the herd or for hunting loses every day out of his deeds equal to two Qirat.”(Bukhari)

Lessons for kids

Owning a pet gives us a prime opportunity to teach our children not only about responsibility, but also how to care for something other than themselves.

We can also teach our children not to be cruel to animals. The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah, the Blessed and Exalted is kind and loves kindness…” (Bukhari)

Children who are taught nurturing and compassionate behaviour are more likely to become kind and just adults too.

To buy or not to buy pets?

The Prophet (sa) has prohibited us from buying and selling certain types of animals. Horses are permissible to buy and sell; however cats and dogs are forbidden. In addition, the Prophet (sa) forbade the breeding of dogs.

Don’t go to extremes or be neglectful

In some western countries people buy gifts for their pets and take them to salons.

We should not go to extremes while caring for the pets. Allah (swt) has forbidden us to waste our money.

Similarly, we are also instructed not to become miserly. Allah (swt) states: “And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).” (Al-Furqan 25:67)

We should also not neglect the pets we own. We should give them proper shelter and food and adequate area to roam about. Keeping any animal tied or chained for long periods is inhumane and unnatural.

With regard to animal health care, all cats and dogs must have rabies shots, etc. It is a step like any other preventive measure that should not be neglected. Choosing not to provide pets with the proper protection from a dangerous disease would be irresponsible behaviour towards the animal and the surrounding community.

How should we treat our pets?

In Islam, even before we sacrifice an animal, we are to provide it with a drink of water, and ensure that the knife we slaughter it with is as sharp as possible so not to cause the animal unnecessary pain.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Once while a Prophet among the Prophets was taking rest underneath a tree, an ant bit him. He therefore, ordered that his luggage be taken away from underneath that tree and then ordered that the dwelling place of the ants should be set on fire. Allah (swt) sent him a revelation: ‘Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to burn a single ant (that bit you)?’”(Bukhari)

The punishment for mistreatment of Allah’s (swt) living creatures could be the ultimate price as in the case of the old woman that was sent to the hellfire for neglecting to feed a cat or allowing it to acquire necessary sustenance for itself. (Muslim)

It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children by example, to treat animals with kindness and respect. Insha’Allah, we will raise Muslims whose deeds are rewarded for kind treatment, rather then those whose mistreatment will be punished.

A Fresh Look For Your Child’s Room

Image kids room

Alhumdulillah, the Muslim Ummah does not seem to suffer from the decaying illness of low or even negative birth rates. Islam not only highly encourages the natural growth of population, but also promises abundant blessings to parents for raising their children in a good manner.

If you are among the blessed parents who have one, two or may be a house-full of kids, then at one time or another, you have faced the question of decorating a room for your children. If you have not got started on it yet, here are a few helpful tips that will effectively, and without much expense, refresh the look of the living space for your children.

1) Toddlers and pre-schoolers will surely appreciate a large white or black board that would satisfy their “artistic need” to write on the walls, without actually doing it. Make sure to hang the board at an easy-to-access level and adjust it when necessary, as your child grows taller.

2) School-going children can utilize the same white or black boards for working on their homework and displaying their school related projects. If the board is not large enough, do not hesitate to put up the projects on the walls directly. Nothing helps to remember the lessons more effectively than repeatedly seeing the material in front of your eyes.

3) Decorative shelving can add a pleasant touch to an empty wall. Since most kids love colourful things, let your children select the colours for the shelves and involve them also in the painting process. Depending on the age of your children, the shelves can display soft toys, dolls, cars, books, awards, etc. If you and your children feel ready for it, you can extend the painting project to the other pieces of furniture in the room!

4) Encourage your children to create their own personal wall-calendars. Give them a helping hand in arranging the number part of the calendars correctly and marking down all the important dates they need to remember throughout the year: Islamic holidays, starting / ending of school sessions, dates of exams, etc. The opposite opening of each month can feature a selection of your child’s best artworks.

5) Walls and doors can also serve for displaying the Arabic alphabets, Duas, Surahs from the Quran, names of Allah (swt), and other Islamic texts, depending on the age and the learning level of your children. Posters containing Islamic landmarks can help to familiarize your children with these important sites. Work with your children on creating project posters that would highlight the Sunnah related to the Islamic festivals as well as their daily activities. Encourage your children to write out all the texts in their own handwriting – this will make memorizing easier.

6) A colourful area-rug will brighten up almost any part of the room, where it will be placed, be it near the bed, at the door or by the study table.

7) If siblings are sharing a room, create a private corner for each of your children, where they can retreat for reading or quiet playtime. Once again, a small area rug would be perfect here, along with some large pillows for a relaxing setting. A toy box or a floor-based bookshelf at an easy-to-access distance will add a more personal touch to your child’s corner.

Do remember, however, to keep yourself away from “surprising” your children by arranging their room in their absence. Although children are under your roof and care, their privacy, preferences, and personal belongings should be respected. Also, do not get carried away in unnecessary and expensive extravagances – kids’ tastes change pretty rapidly, therefore, the room setting should be flexible enough to accommodate those changes.

Finding the Best Friend

Image best friendA wide ocean, stretching for miles lay before me. Far away there was a wooden ship, floating away on the dark-coloured sea. The sun had set taking almost all the light of the world away as if a lantern had just blown out. My friends had deserted me for superficial and shallow whims and fancies of life.

I stood up, my hands in my pockets and looked towards the sky with sadness as if I were looking for guidance. It was dark all around and I could barely make out the shapes of the objects around me.

Suddenly, I saw an old woman sitting on a white bench. Her face was calm and the silver in her hair reflected wisdom. Just as I was about to turn back, she caught my sight and smiled gently. Unsure of myself I smiled back faintly. With a gesture of her hand she called me over. Hesitating to approach a complete stranger, I slowly moved towards her and took a seat at a careful distance. She smiled with a twinkle in her eyes, “Isn’t it a beautiful evening?” Trying to match her enthusiasm, I nodded gently, “Yes.” Eyeing me cautiously she inquired, “My child … why do you look so sad?” I tried to force a smile, “Oh no, no, I was just strolling about on my own.”

She looked into my face with her large brown eyes, closed the book in her lap and carried on gently, “Dear child, I do not know you or for that matter whatever it is that is bothering you, but I also have a grandchild just your age. She lives far away and we usually talk to each other through letters on the computer!” I smiled, “Oh you mean over the e-mail?” She chirped, “Yeah, that’s our postman! And you know whenever she is unhappy or lonely she always writes to me. And I always give her the same advice, ‘Talk to your best friend and He will not only understand but also guide you!’“

I looked at her quizzically, “Who is her best friend?” She boomed with delight, “Why Allah, of course!” Following my confused look she went on, ”You see, many times in life there is hardly anything anyone can do for you but there is always something Allah (swt) can do for you if you call out to Him. Then He sends you help and guidance through other people and sources. Let’s say … just now you may have bumped into me so that I can guide you. But in reality Allah (swt) worked it out for you, you see?”

It all started to sink in suddenly. She continued, “Never give up. Allah is Great and Most Merciful. Never hope to find perfect friends in your life either. Allah is the only ‘best friend’, as you call it. He says so in the Quran: ‘And you cannot escape from Allah in the earth, and besides Allah you have neither any Wali (guardian or a protector) nor any helper.’ (Shura 42:31)

Then she stood up, bade me goodbye and left. After a little while, I, too, came out of my thoughts and moved on towards the edge of the ocean. I could still see the wooden ship moving away. But now I felt much better. There was light everywhere, even though the sun was not present.

All of a sudden I realized that Allah (swt) has chosen me over so many to find my way, and win now and forever. Allah (swt) will certainly choose my friends for me so that I can stay guided and help others stumbling on the way. I would want no other replacement for this priceless relation with my Creator. Dear Allah (swt), thank you for being my Best Friend!

Zayd Ibn Thabit – The Preserver of the Holy Quran!

Image Zayd ibn ThabitAs the Muslims prepared for Badr, a youth, not yet thirteen, walked up to the Prophet (sa), and said: “I dedicate myself to you, Messenger of Allah (sa). Permit me to be with you and to fight the enemies of Allah under your banner.” The noble Prophet (sa) commended him for his courage but refused to enlist him because he was still too young.

The youth, Zayd Ibn Thabit (rta), walked away dejected. Then his alert mind turned to the field of knowledge and in particular of memorizing the Quran. His mother, An-Nawar Bint Malik (rta), spoke to some men of the Ansar about the youth’s desire and they in turn broached the matter with the Prophet (sa).

The Prophet (sa) listened to Zayd (rta) reciting some Surahs that he had memorized. His recitation was clear and beautiful and his stops and pauses indicated clearly that he understood well what he recited. The Prophet (sa) was pleased. The Prophet (sa) then set him a task that required intelligence, skill and persistence.

“Zayd, learn the writing of the Jews for me,” instructed the Prophet (sa). Zayd (rta) set about learning Hebrew. He became proficient in the language and wrote it for the Prophet (sa) when he wanted to communicate with the Jews. Then the Prophet (sa) instructed him to learn Syriac, and this he did. Zayd (rta) thus came to perform the important function of an interpreter for the Prophet (sa) in his dealings with non-Arabic speaking people.

When the Prophet (sa) felt confident of Zayd’s faithfulness in carrying out tasks, he entrusted him with the weighty responsibility of recording the Divine Revelation.

When any part of the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (sa), he often sent for Zayd (rta) and instructed him to bring the writing materials, “the parchment, the ink-pot and the scapula”, and write the revelation.

Zayd was not the only one who acted as a scribe for the Prophet (sa). One source has listed forty-eight persons who used to write for him. Zayd was very prominent among them. He not only wrote, but during the Prophet’s (sa) time, he collected portions of the Quran that were written down by others and arranged these under the supervision of the Prophet (sa).

So, he became well versed in Shariah at an early age. After the wars of apostasy and the Battle of Yamamah a large number of those who had committed the Quran to memory perished. Umar (rta) convinced the Khalifah Abu Bakr (rta) that unless the Quran was collected in one manuscript, a large part of it was in danger of being lost. Abu Bakr (rta) summoned Zayd Ibn Thabit (rtam) and asked him to “… Look for (all parts of) the Quran and collect it in one manuscript.” (Bukhari)

Zayd (rta) became immediately aware of the weighty responsibility. He later said: “By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains from its place, it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Quran.” (Bukhari)

Zayd (rta) finally accepted the task. He was careful that not a single error was committed. When he had completed his task, he left the prepared Suhuf (sheets) with Abu Bakr (rta).

During the time of Uthman (rta), by which time Islam had spread far and wide, differences in reading the Quran became obvious. Uthman (rta) obtained the manuscript of the Quran from Hafsah (rta) and again summoned the leading authority, Zayd Ibn Thabit (rta), and some other competent companions to make accurate copies of it.

Zayd (rta) and his assistants wrote many copies. One of these Uthman (rta) sent to every Muslim province with the order that all other Quranic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt in order to eliminate any variations.

Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) once addressed the Muslims and said: “O people, whoever wants to ask about the Quran, let him go to Zayd Ibn Thabit.”