The Doors to Mercy

doors of mercy

  1. The Quran. Allah (swt) has termed the Quran as Rahmah (mercy) in about twenty places in His Book. It is the consoler of hearts that accompanies us throughout the journey and will be there when everyone will forsake us. It is the only key to eternal success. Therefore, let us make a sincere effort this month to befriend the Quran. Go beyond the speedy recital and read with deep understanding, deducing lessons for a lifetime. Set achievable goals from one Ramadan to the next for the recitation and understanding of the Quran. If you learn the word by word translation of three Ayahs daily along with their Tafseer, you will cover the first six parts by the next Ramadan.
  2. Muhammad (sa) – mercy for mankind. His words, commandments, and even the smallest of his Sunnahs, bring about tranquility and ease for those who abide by them. Allah (swt) says: “And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) that you may obtain mercy.” (Ale-Imran 3:132) The most effective way of connecting with the Prophet (sa) is to start reading a book of Seerah in the month of Ramadan. You can also select a number of Sunnahs and try your best to follow them throughout the blessed month.
  3. Striving for the cause of Islam. Playing or watching cricket matches, watching movies, reading novels, and sleeping: these are the much-loved time killing tools we employ in Ramadan. Jihad (or struggle) is one of the most rewarding acts in the sight of Allah (swt) and a definite source of His mercy. Allah (swt) says: “Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s religion) and have striven hard in the way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s mercy.” (Al-Baqarah 2:218) Think of what you have done to uphold the name of Allah (swt) in your home and community. What portion of your health, wealth, time, and capabilities are you using for Allah’s (swt) sake?
  4. Asking for forgiveness. Prophet Salih (as) said to his people: “Why seek you not the forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?” (An-Namal 27:46) Believers are advised to ask for forgiveness in the last hours of the night. Wake up ten minutes earlier for Suhoor, pray two Rakahs, and invoke Allah (swt) for mercy and forgiveness. Keep your tongue occupied with the Duas of forgiveness throughout Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights. Indeed, we have an example in the Prophet (sa), who used to make Astaghfar more than a hundred times every day.
  5. Ihsan and Taqwa. Beautify your acts of worship with Ihsan. Instead of worshipping in a habitually rushed manner, make an effort to adorn your prayer with attentiveness, your fast with staying away from sins, and all your actions with sincerity. Want a double portion of mercy? Taqwa will get you there! Allah (swt) says: “Fear Allah and believe in His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)); He will give you a double portion of His Mercy.” (Al-Hadid 57:28) Taqwa is to tame the galloping heart, stop wherever Allah (swt) wants you to stop, and race forward wherever He wants you to – all of that comes with practice and Duas!

The Fiqh of Love

fiqh of love

It is human nature to love. But what is true love? What does it imply? Is it just about boy-meets-girl and their fairytale happily-ever-after that the media, novels, movies, magazines, commercials, and billboards of today project? Is ‘that’ love or is love something far deeper, and more meaningful, noble, and pure?

Love – A Forbidden Word?

Views on love in the Muslim community range from the extremely liberal (‘love is good and everything prior to marriage is okay’) to the strictly conservative (‘love is a big no-no’). At times, it is even perceived to be a forbidden topic. The blame lies with us that such an innate emotion as love is so misunderstood by us. We need to learn how beautifully Islam has taught us all about love.

The Love We Know

The dictionary explains the word ‘love’ as follows: a strong positive regard or affection; a feeling of intense affection, without restrictions. However, our notions about love today are largely based on what is shown by the media: two individuals falling madly in love with each other. The world is perfect as long as they are together. They will never fight or have any differences. In the movie world, it is the society that is against them, and the couple will go to any length (really, ‘any’ length) to be with each other.

Fairytales, with which our minds are fed from a very tender age, cause even more harm. Prince Charming comes and takes the poor, oppressed protagonist far, far away. The way the female protagonists are always portrayed as flawlessly beautiful leads us to believe that love is all about appearance and outward appeal. We need to get real.

Love-101

Love seems to be the only issue that matters these days. There is an over-emphasis on the portrayal of love as something associated with singing romantic songs, and depicting scenes of how true love conquers all. Is this kind of love “ultimately fulfilling” and the only thing to strive for?

Many of us know that real love does not work this way. Yet tantalizing images affect our hopes for romance, which may cause disappointment in the long run. Our thinking is shaped by what we are exposed to. As a result, our life begins to echo the stories we see on the screen.

Divine Perspective of Love

“Love is neither disapproved of by religion, nor prohibited by the law. For every heart is in Allah’s (swt) hands.” (Ibn Hazm)

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” (Ar-Rum 30:21)

Over time, the word ‘love’ has gained a negative connotation. People relate it to many things that it should not be associated with. Hence, they feel shy or embarrassed when the topic comes up. The reality, however, is that the word ‘love’ is often used in the Quran and the Sunnah to describe love for our parents, for our brothers and sisters in Islam, and of course, for our spouses. Thus, love is not something to be ashamed of.

Regarding his wife Khadijah (rta), the Prophet (sa) once said: “Verily, I was filled with love for her.” (Muslim)

The love our Prophet (sa) had for his wives in general, and Khadijah (rtaf) and Aisha (rtaf) in particular, illustrates how love makes relationships beautiful. There is a lot to learn from the life of the Prophet (sa)!

Is Loving Someone a Sin?

Love brings stability and security when dealt with correctly. At the same time, we can never have full control over love, and it cannot remain hidden either. This poses the dilemma of how to address being in love.

Having the feeling of love in the heart is not a sin. Sinning occurs when a person decides to act upon that love in a Haram way, such as talking continually to the person he or she loves, dating, and engaging in fornication. Even staring at the other person can be Haram!

Love Someone? Get Married!

Marriage is the only happily-ever-after for two people in this Dunya and the next. The Prophet (sa) said: “There is nothing better for two who love one another than marriage.” (Ibn Majah)

What can be better for us than what the Prophet of Allah (sa) has liked for us? If you like someone, send the proposal for Nikah. Islam is modern enough to endorse a father asking a suitable man’s hand for his daughter. Umar (rtam) asked first Abu Bakr (rtam) and later Usman (rtam) to marry his daughter, Hafsa (rtaf). Islam even permits an older lady to send a proposal for a younger, pious man as in the case of Khadijah (rtaf) and Muhammad (sa). Don’t wait for your career to settle or for your degree to be in your pocket. There will always be a new achievement to attain. Why not do all that with a righteous spouse by your side?

Our Friends

“A man follows the religion of his friend, so each of you should consider whom he befriends.” (Abu Dawood)

Can there be a better example of how our friends influence us than this Hadeeth? Mutaqqi (Allah-fearing) friends can make our Jannah, while the damage an evil friend can inflict needs no elaboration. Our friends shape our thinking. So choose your friends wisely!

The Surroundings

We are a part of what we see. Psychological studies go at length to prove how explicitly our environment determines our behaviour. For example, a person, who is not used to the open mixing of opposite genders, will be taken aback at the way girls and guys often hang out together at educational institutions. Repeated exposure to such situations will make that person accustomed to it. Sadly, the movies we watch, the books we read, and the places we frequent are making us more and more accustomed to lewdness.

It All Starts with a Thought

Hence, what we have to control foremost is what we think about. Not paying attention to what crosses your mind is asking for trouble because every action begins with a wandering thought. The thought results in action if we do not stop it there and then. Repeated action becomes a habit, and a habit may become an addiction. Thus, we may end up facing many trials which could have been avoided with some self control.

To keep the matters of the heart in check, the following are essential:

  1. If you like someone, marry him or her. Don’t just let it hang there.
  2. If you cannot marry, fast.
  3. Cover the Awrah, as ordained by the Shariah.
  4. Do Dhikr, as it drives away all evil thoughts.
  5. Avoid free mixing of opposite genders and seclusion (Khalwah) with non-Mahrams.
  6. Guard your senses.
  7. Look for good companions.

May Allah (swt) guide us to the right path and make us among the Muttaqeen. Ameen.

A brief transcription of a workshop conducted by Sister Binte Mobin, organized by Youth Talk, Karachi. Transcribed by Maham Irfan.

 

Fun & Learn Teaching Aids

 

Living in the West, we all worry about how to teach our children facts about Islam that kids in Muslim countries learn just by being in the right environment. My 6-year-old daughter started memorizing Juz Amma, and when she got to Surah Al-Fajr, I realized I did not know the order of Surahs beyond that point. If I did not know, how could I teach my kids, especially when we always stress that teaching by example is the best?

Having a few years of teaching experience, I decided to utilize all the study aids I had used as an English teacher and even design my own ‘fun & learn’ system. Following are a few ideas. For maximum benefit, you should do these together with your kids. When I used to teach, I realized that the questions students asked and the ingenious solutions to problems they came up with were better than anything I could have imagined. Let your kids teach you.

  1. Mnemonic. This is an aid that helps you memorize something. To memorize the names of the first 10 Surahs, we came up with this story:

At the party, Isra opened the door. It smelled like someone was cooking beef (cow) Biryani; Uncle Imran’s family invited us in. The women were supposed to be served first from a buffet set on the table. The aroma was so awesome, everyone rushed like cattle from downstairs, upstairs, and all heights, behaving like they were distributing spoils of war. Nanijan made them all stop and do Tawbah for behaving in such a manner. We recited prophet Yunus’s Dua.

All you have to do is make up stories with your children. You can use five to ten names in a story. Type them out and read them often, so you and your children can memorize the names.

  1. Graphic Organizers. These come in several categories and are used for pictorial representation of a concept. For example, you can use a tree form to teach kids the Prophet’s (sa) family members. Attached is one that I found on the net (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_tree_of_Muhammad/), but you can design one with your kids for better information retention. It could be in the shape of a tree, a flower, etc.
  1. Lap Books. Basically, these are a handy reference for the child that she herself creates with all the information at her fingertips. They are amazing and there are templates available on the net. All you have to do is download and work on them with your kids. We did one about Akhlaq. The templates are available to download from: http://imanshomeschool.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/a-z-of-akhlaq-lapbook/.

LearnAids1

  1. Student Teachers. Have siblings or friends’ kids teach a class, and you will be amazed at the result. I did this by assigning different topics to groups of students; they would make a presentation and a worksheet for ‘recall activity’. Following are some that my son, Bilal, made about animals in the Quran for his 6-year-old sister.

LearnAids2

There was a matching sheet of English and Arabic names of animals. The second was a word search from a free website http://www.superkids.com/aweb/tools/words/search/.

  1. Choose a topic and list down all the words that come to mind. Then use these to explain and discuss the topic. We use a cool tool (wordle.net) to brainstorm. Following is our Wordle on Islamic heritage. It was not too fancy, but through discussion we added more words that we had missed like science, discovery, etc.

LearnAids3

There are other sites that offer mind mapping and wikis. Your family fun is just a Google away. Whatever you do and however you choose to teach and learn with your kids, make it fun, involve the entire family and use technology (the latest techniques in teaching and the computer/iPad).