Be my Guest

Jan 11- Be my Guest

By Tooba Asim

“Oh no! Not again,” I sighed, as I glanced at the clock and went ahead to check the main door. Sure enough, it was my next door neighbour. It was three in the afternoon, and no one else was brave enough to venture out of their homes in this sweltering heat. She was always an exception. Today was different, as my mother was visiting us as well. “Why the sigh? She’s your guest, and guests are a blessing from Allah (swt),” was my mom’s immediate response to my behaviour.

Guests indeed are among Allah’s (swt) blessings, but we can see from the Prophet’s (sa) example that there is a certain etiquette of visitation, which one must follow in order to fulfill the Sunnah. In our society, there are plenty of people like my neighbour, who make their hosts wary of guests instead of welcoming them.

The Prophet (sa) said: “A man visited a brother in another town. Allah (swt) sent an angel to lie in wait for him along his way. When he came upon the angel, he asked him: ‘Where are you going?’ He answered: ‘I am going to visit a brother of mine in this town?’ The angel asked further: ‘Is there any favour that you want to get from him?’ The man said: ‘No, it is only that I love him for Allah’s (swt) sake.’ The angel then said: ‘I am a messenger of Allah to you (to tell you) that Allah (swt) loves you, as you love your brother for His sake.” (Muslim)

The aforementioned Hadeeth makes it clear that visiting somebody for Allah’s (swt) sake alone and not for some personal reason is what Allah (swt) wants from us.

Keeping in mind the importance that Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) have placed on visiting, we should certainly take some time out of our busy schedules for our family, neighbours and friends. This, however, should be done keeping in mind some important reminders.

Choose a suitable time…

…and day. Don’t pay a late night visit to someone, who is known to go to bed early or has school-going children. Don’t visit at mealtimes, unless you have been invited by your hosts.

Call before you go

It is better to give your hosts time to tidy up their place and be prepared. Also, it will save you time and unnecessary hassle, if your hosts are not at home or have other plans.

Do not grumble

If your hosts could not be contacted earlier and you had to return home, do not complain.

Take a gift

This does not have to be very extravagant or formal. You can take a home-cooked dish, a small box of biscuits or anything thoughtful that is likely to cheer up your hosts or their children.

Don’t stay too long

Respect the fact that your hosts might also have other commitments. If you’re visiting someone who’s staying at your host’s place, be extra careful.

Avoid indulging in gossip

Don’t pry about people’s lives. Everyone is entitled to privacy. Ask about their well-being, without being nosy.

Visit the sick

Visit the sick to help their attendants with some chores. This relieve them for a while and earn you Allah’s (swt) pleasure.

Appreciate

It is good manners to appreciate the effort your hosts put in for you, no matter how big or small. Anas Ibn Malik (rtam) narrated: “The Prophet (sa) visited some of the Anaar in their house and ate some food there. When he wanted to leave, he ordered that a place be prepared for him where he could pray. He then prayed there and supplicated for his hosts.” (Bukhari)

Good etiquettes go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships. A smile here and a kind word there are sure shot recipes for winning hearts.

The invocation of a guest for his host, as taught by Prophet Muhammad (sa):

“O Allah, bless them in what You have provided for them, and forgive them and have mercy on them.” (Muslim)

Joint Family in Islam: Challenges and Solutions

Jan 11 - Joint Family in Islam

A joint family system is an extended clan comprising multiple hierarchical tiers of relatives with their respective spouses and children. They live under one roof, eat meals together and try to get along.

It is the elderly, who mostly prefer this system, because it alleviates their insecurities regarding age, loneliness and being excluded from their adult children’s lives.

The question of prime importance is: what does Islam say about the joint family? By the joint family we mean married children and their elderly parents living together in one house, usually with their bedrooms opening on to a common area and a shared kitchen.

Three issues that are of core importance in Islam to the traditional joint family situation, but are severely undermined by them, need to be pointed out along with scholarly views, Insha’Allah.

“The In-Law is Death”

Whilst most women endeavor to cover themselves from visitors, they dress and interact before some non-Mahram residents of the house, such as male servants or brothers-in-law, as they would before Mahrams. This practice is in complete defiance of the commands of Islam, which is evident from the Hadeeth below.

It was reported from Uqbah Ibn Aamir that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Beware of entering upon women.” A man from among the Ansar said: “O Messenger of Allah, what about the brother-in-law?” He said: “The brother-in-law is death.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

From this Hadeeth, it is clear that a married Muslim woman must observe full Hijab in the presence of her husband’s male relatives, except his father, sons from another wife or grandfathers. Included foremost in this Hijab are her husband’s brothers.

Death or its causes are something no one would take lightly. Yet, we carelessly disregard this aspect of Islam.

Etiquette of Privacy from Blood Relations Ordained in the Quran

“O you who believe! Let your legal slaves and slave-girls, and those among you who have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence) on three occasions; (i) before Fajr (morning) prayer, and (ii) while you put off your clothes for the noonday (rest), and (iii) after the Isha (late-night) prayer. (These) three times are of privacy for you, other than these times there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending (helping) you each other. Thus Allah makes clear the Ayat (the Verses of this Quran, showing proofs for the legal aspects of permission for visits, etc.) to you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (An-Nur 24:58)

In the aforementioned verse of the Quran, Allah (swt) commands even young children of a Muslim couple to be prevented from entering upon them in their bedrooms without prior permission, during three times – before Fajr, after Dhuhr (during siesta) and after Isha.

Contrast this to how most young Muslim couples live in a single bedroom along with their children in most joint family households. Even nocturnal conjugal relations occur in the same room, whilst children are asleep in close proximity. This cultural practice needs to be strongly condemned, because it is in clear disobedience to the Quranic injunctions.

The Right to Private Accommodation

All Islamic scholars are in unanimous agreement that married Muslim women are entitled to private accommodation in Islam, which preserves their privacy from their husbands’ relatives.

Sheikh Salih Al-Munajjid states: “Whatever meets her needs is sufficient, such as a room in good condition with a kitchen and bathroom – unless the wife has stipulated larger accommodation in her marriage contract. He (her husband) does not have the right to make her eat with any of her in-laws. The kind of accommodation provided must be commensurate with what the husband is able to provide and be suitable according to local custom (urf) and the social level of the wife.”

However, he goes on to explain, “If he is able to provide (his wife) with accommodation that is completely separate from his family, that will be better (for her). But if his parents are elderly and need him, and they have no one else to serve them, and the only way he can serve them is by living with them, then he has to do that.” (Islam-QA.com)

It is better, therefore, to live in separate accommodation that allows the son to be physically near his parents and other relatives. An example of this could be two houses in the same compound or apartments that are one above the other, or at a walking distance from each other. Please note that a wife should practice patience, if she has to give up her right due to her husband’s financial constraints.

Cultural Influence

Our culture strongly supports a joint family. It expects sons to dwell with their elderly parents in their homes and financially support them, even if the latter are well-off. This belief that the elderly should be cared for by a son and his wife is inherently faulty, because it assumes that everyone has sons. What about couples with no children or those with only daughters, or the elderly who are single? Who will take care of them?

In Islam, a son and daughter are equally obliged, both financially and physically, to support aged, needy parents. No discrimination exists on this Fiqh issue, except that a daughter’s husband has more rights on her than her parents. If he allows, she may have her parents dwell in her own home to take care of them. There is nothing wrong with that.

The Ideal Living Scenario

Living as nuclear families at considerable distances from each other, physically and emotionally, is not the ideal picture for Muslim families, unless dire necessity dictates it. Our Prophet (sa) and his companions provided separate living quarters for their wives. In his last days of sickness, the Prophet (sa) was taken care of by his wives and friends, not his offspring.

There are many advantages of living near relatives, e.g., young mothers can have accessible babysitting and the sick elderly have someone nearby to provide care. Company is nearby, and this alleviates loneliness and depression. Children grow up more sociable, if they consistently meet relatives of different ages. The strict discipline of young parents, when balanced with indulgent pampering of grandparents, does wonders for a child’s self-confidence.

On the downside, living together under one roof facilitates considerable control, interference and subtle manipulation of the younger ones by the elders. Grandchildren can challenge their parents’ authority by simply throwing a tantrum before grandparents. In the worst cases, the joint family thwarts practicing Muslims’ application of Deen in their family lives; even regarding Islamic commands that are obligatory.

Dr. Hina, a lecturer and mother of a 6-year-old son has been living in a joint family since her marriage, whilst pursuing her career. She says: “The joint family has numerous advantages, such as having the house clean and the food cooked when you come home; having someone to baby-sit your child if you have to study or work long hours, and no loneliness because people are around. The disadvantages are that you are constantly told what to do and how to do it; you cannot bring up your child without others interfering, or manage your space the way you want to. Despite full efforts at observing Hijab, accidental slips keep occurring before a brother-in-law. Also, sisters-in-law visit their parents too often, causing sour relationships.”

Practical Life

Because of the soaring prices of property and rent nowadays, young newlyweds have to live in a joint family after marriage, even among non-Mahram men, despite the difficulty of maintaining Hijab. Such a scenario requires a high dose Taqwah (Allah consciousness), e.g., lowering the gaze, draping a large chador, knocking before entering rooms, avoiding mixing freely, using door locks when required and abstaining from eavesdropping or asking prying questions.

If parents want all their married sons to live under one roof, they should renovate the house in such a manner that everyone can observe the limits of Allah (swt). It does not cost much to construct two extra rooms with a kitchenette. The problem lies in giving preference to culture and familial tradition over obeying commands of religion.

Sheikh Salih advises a Muslim wife whose in-laws restrict her movement: “You should understand that your husband’s parents may make things difficult for you, because they think that you have taken away the one who is most dear to them. Therefore, you should handle this matter wisely and not be the cause of arguments or division between your husband and his parents. Rather, you should try to help your husband obey and honour his parents, and you will find the effects of that, Insha’Allah, in your own children [i.e., they will honour you in turn].” (Islam-QA.com)

Such wise words need no more explanation.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

Jan 11 - Seven habits families

‘Love’ is a Verb

A man once complained: “I am really worried about my marriage. My wife and I don’t have the same feelings for each other that we used to have. I guess we just don’t love each other any more. What can I do?”

His friend replied: “Love her.”

The man answered: “I told you, the feeling just isn’t there anymore.”

“My friend, love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is a fruit of that verb. So love her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?”

Develop habit # 1: Be proactive. Be the first one to bring about a positive change in a relationship or situation.

I am a hardworking man!

I came home from work one day, and my three-year-old son Brenton met me at the door. He beamed with pride: “Dad, I am a hardworking man!”

I later found out that while my wife was downstairs, Brenton had emptied a jug of water from the fridge on the floor. My wife initially thought of yelling and spanking him. However, she controlled her anger and asked patiently: “Brenton, what were you trying to do?”

Brenton informed his mother that he was trying to help her out by washing the dishes and he had tried to take water from the fridge because he could not reach the sink.

My wife gently explained to him that he could call her for help and she would bring him a chair to stand on and do the dishes in the sink. Now, they could clean up the mess together. Brenton thought that was a fantastic idea and helped his mom mop up the wet floor.

It took her about ten minutes to clean up the mess. Had she been reactive, it would still have taken her ten minutes to clean up the mess. But that evening my son would have met me with the expression: “Daddy, I am a bad boy!”

Develop habit # 2: Begin with the end in mind. Develop a family mission statement. It means a combined, unified expression from all family members of what the family is all about, what family members want to do and be, and the principles that will guide the family, Insha’Allah.

The wrong wall

A man in his late fifties was in line for the presidency of his company. However, he was not sure if he really was happy with it.

“I missed the childhood of my kids. When I couldn’t provide them with my time, I bought them off by giving them things, but the real bonding never took place. Today, my grown-up married kids feel that enormous loss,” he confessed.

“Now, I am really excited about a family project we have thought out together. I call it building the three-generation home that I am having constructed right on the beach. This is more important for me.

Notice, how for many years, ‘family’ was not this man’s first priority. But he eventually realized that his professional role is temporary. When he retires, the company will go on. But his role in the family will never end. He will never be replaced.

Develop habit # 3: Put first things first. Prioritize your family in today’s turbulent world.

Every time you win, I lose

A father shared an incident about his two sons, aged twelve and ten, who frequently squabbled. This was negatively impacting the whole family atmosphere. During a much-awaited vacation, heated arguments and conflicts arose again.

The father made both his sons face each other. The older son spoke up addressing the younger one: “I hate this vacation, and I want to go home just to get away from you.”

The younger boy, feeling hurt, blinked away sudden tears. With his head hung low, he asked quietly: “Why?

The older retorted with certainty: “Because you annoy me by your remarks, and I don’t want to be around you.

The younger one sighed: “I just do that because every time we play a game, you always win.

“Well, sure I win,” the older boy quickly replied. “I’m better than you.”

With that the little boy could hardly speak. Then from the depths of his heart he said: “Yeah, but every time you win, I lose. And I just can’t stand to lose all the time. So I annoy you… I don’t want you to go home. I like being with you. But I don’t want to lose all the time.”

These tearful words reached the heart of the older brother and his tone softened a bit: “Okay, okay, I won’t go home. But will you, please, stop saying the stupid things you say and do?”

“Okay,” nodded the younger boy. “And will you, please, stop feeling that you always have to win?”

That candid heart-to-heart saved the vacation. It didn’t make things perfect but it made them tolerable. The older boy never forgot his little brother’s words: “I just can’t stand to lose all the time.” The father, who was observing the two silently, surely never did.

Develop habit # 4: Think ’win-win’. Have shared expectations and commitments regarding desired results and guidelines. Remember, no one likes to lose, especially in close family relationships. But we typically approach situations with a win-lose mindset, without even realizing it hurts our loved ones.

Frigidaire only!

Stephen Covey and his wife Sandra, in spite of a stable and great marital relationship, almost always disagreed over the choice of electrical appliances for their home. Sandra would insist on buying the Frigidaire brand, regardless of how tight their budget was. Stephen would feel that this was illogical and irrational.

One day, when they had to decide what appliance to buy, Sandra opened up: “As a young girl, I saw my father support our family under great financial pressure… He was a high school history teacher and coach for years. But to make both ends meet, he went into the appliance business… One of the main brands that his store carried was Frigidaire.”

“At night, when he came home exhausted from work, he would lie down on a couch. I would rub his feet and sing to him. This was a time we both enjoyed for many years. It

was special, because during these moments, my father would talk about his worries and concerns. He also greatly appreciated Frigidaire.”

“…During a serious economic downturn, when he faced crucial financial difficulties, the only thing that enabled him to stay in business was that Frigidaire financed his inventory.”

It dawned on Stephen then that Frigidaire was not just an appliance to Sandra. It was a balm for her painful memories of the past that she had shared with her father. Naturally, she felt a deep loyalty towards it, as it had saved her family in troubling times. Stephen had never tried to understand that. He hugged her quietly and felt his own tears. The choice was made. It would be Frigidaire only!

Develop habit # 5: Seek first to understand… then to be understood. Make it safe for others to talk and share their concerns with you naturally and spontaneously. Listen and empathize, because one of the deepest hungers of the human heart is to be understood.

My daughter is not like me

A woman shared that when she was eleven years old, her parents gifted her a beautiful edition of a great classic. She read through it lovingly, and when she turned to the last page, she wept. She had literally lived through it. Carefully, she preserved it and passed it to her daughter Cathy as a treasured heritage and imagined her to appreciate it as much as she had. After struggling with two chapters, Cathy put it on her shelf, where the book sat forlorn for months. The mother was deeply disappointed.

She would confide in her husband that she was overwhelmed by Cathy’s bubbly nature, endless sense of humour, zest for life and an over-all happy state of mind. The mother’s unspoken disapproval was communicated to the daughter occasionally in different ways. This hurt the child’s feelings, too.

One morning, when the mother was glancing through her old photographs, she saw one of her own and her sister’s linking hands together. She thought of all the great times they had spent together. Yet, they were so different. Then, suddenly, as if a bolt of lightening hit her, she realized that it wasn’t essential to be alike to be good friends at all. All that was needed was to appreciate the differences, put them in good use and celebrate them eventually! How could she impose her personality on her daughter? It would be cruel to expect her to become a carbon copy of herself. What about her individuality?

This reawakening saved their relationship. From that day onwards, she began to see her daughter in a new light. Their relationship took on a whole new dimension of richness and joy.

Develop habit # 6: Synergize. The term ‘synergy’ means that the result of two or more people produces together more than the sum of what they could produce separately (one plus one equals three or more). Differences are part of a greater whole. Learn to put them together and search for new solutions.

You stopped to rest every hour!

A man wanted to cut down a tree. He sawed through its huge, thick tree trunk. He kept at it all day long. When he was half way through, he paused for a minute to catch his breath.

He looked up and saw another person a few yards away, who had also been sawing a tree. He couldn’t believe his eyes! That person had sawed almost completely through the tree trunk! He had started at about the same time the first person and his tree was about the same size as the first man’s, but the second man stopped to rest every hour or so, while the first man kept going.

The first man asked incredulously: “How in the world have you gotten so much more done than I have? You didn’t even work non-stop like I did! In fact, you stopped to rest every hour.” The second man smiled and replied: “Yes, you saw me stop every hour to rest, but what you didn’t see was that every time I rested, I also sharpened the saw!”

Develop habit # 7: Sharpen the saw. We and our relationships both need maintenance. If we neglect them, they begin to deteriorate. To achieve that, we should refresh and re-energize ourselves. We can pray together, discuss the inspiring lives of our prophets, organize health and exercise schedules, plan family outings and fun time, etc.

Why People Cut Ties

Jan 11 - Why people cut tiesBy Umm Abdullah

Saeed, a self-made businessman, says: “What my brothers did deserves that I never speak to them again. After all, I’m not the Prophet (sa) – I don’t have unlimited patience.” For various reasons, he has completely boycotted his brothers and sisters for more than ten years, to the extent of refusing to talk to them, visiting them or letting his family meet them. He believes that what he has done is Islamically correct. His sons follow the same line of thought and action.

His son Rehan, a young husband and father, believes: “Staying away from my father’s side of the family is the only way to stay at peace.”

Such scenarios are becoming fairly common in every other family these days, although Islam places great importance on maintaining close ties with relatives and warns of severe punishment for those who sever them. Recall the story of Abu Sufyan and Heraclius, when he sent for him and said: “What does he (the Prophet) enjoin upon you?” Abu Sufyan said: “He enjoins us to pray, give charity, be chaste and uphold family ties.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So why do people break off relationships? There could be a number of reasons for this:

Lack of awareness

Many people don’t know that Allah (swt) has not given us a choice, as far as maintaining of blood ties is concerned. There is a lack of awareness about just how important relatives are in Islam, what rights they have upon us and the punishment for those who sever these ties.

Expecting too much

We take it for granted that our relatives owe us a lot and are more aware of our rights upon them than our responsibility towards them.

Failing to forgive and forget

Perhaps the greatest factor for failing relationships is the failure to forgive and forget. We give ourselves all the benefits of doubt and give no allowance to others.

Current trends in society

Over the past years, the nuclear family has emerged and close-knit extended families are slowly becoming a thing of the past. People would rather unwind on weekends with friends than extended families. Family commitments have become chores that are fulfilled as a burden or abandoned altogether. The practice of elders resolving family disputes is also becoming extinct.

The blame game

It is always more convenient to place the entire blame for an incident at someone else’s door. We fail to realize that each one of us is responsible for our actions and that we always have a choice in a situation – to react positively or negatively.

Doing good for the wrong reasons

When we act kindly, our instant mistake is that we start expecting good in return from the same person. What that actually means is that we did not correct our intention – of doing good only for Allah’s (swt) sake, expecting return only from Him (swt), not our relatives. Repelling bad treatment with good is what is actually required.

The Messenger (sa) said: “The one, who maintains a relationship with his relatives only because they maintain a relationship with him, is not truly upholding the ties of kinship. The one, who truly upholds those ties, is the one who does so even if they break off the relationship.” (Bukhari, 5645)

“I’m not a hypocrite. I can’t be nice to someone I don’t like”

There is a difference between hypocrisy and courtesy. When we are meeting someone nicely but with an ill intention of causing harm to that person, it is called hypocrisy. But if we are being courteous to someone for the sake of Allah (swt), in spite of disliking certain traits in them, then we are actually earning Allah’s (swt) pleasure for our added effort and patience.

Taking the easy way out

When a problem occurs, the instant reaction is to break off and run. Escaping from uncomfortable situations and relationships is always easier than facing problems and resolving issues. However, Islam does not endorse living as a hermit in isolation, but rather living a life of struggle, in the midst of humans with contrasting temperaments and bearing their trials with patience and self control.

Scholars state that even under extreme circumstances, such as when the relatives are disbelievers or sinners, a Muslim is not allowed to cut off relations with them completely. After trying his best to advise and guide them towards the right path and making Duas for their guidance, if they persist in sin and are affecting his own Iman, then he is allowed to minimize interaction with them. So he can talk on the phone, instead of visiting, or shorten his visits or send an occasional gift, but maintain some form of contact nevertheless.

Raising Confident Kids

Jan 11 - Raising confident kids

By Laila Brence and Maryam Asif

Every parent wishes to see their children grow into independent and confident adults, capable of handling their own life. In pursuit of this, many parents tend to fall into the trap of over-parenting, which, just like any other ‘over’, is not a desirable phenomenon. If you find yourself accompanying your grown-up children to job interviews to negotiate their salaries, it’s certain you’ve slipped into one of these ‘overs’. But how and where do we draw the line between getting involved in our children’s life, yet not accused of over-helping them which might result in the opposite of what we had in mind? The following ten suggestions will guide you towards developing your children’s confidence and self-esteem.

1. Believe in your children and show it

Let your children know they are lovable individuals. Show affection to your children – that extra amount of love will not spoil them but instead boost their confidence. If, however, you constantly show lack of trust in your children’s abilities and skills, the development of their self esteem will be hindered.

2. Give praise and positive feedback

Your children measure their worth and achievements by what you think of them. “Well done! That was hard and you managed it!” is music to young ears. Respect their struggles. Reassure them that it’s alright to make mistakes, and that it’s all part of growing up and learning about the world around them. Permitting your children to make decisions (even if wrong ones at times) helps them develop good judgmental skills.

When your children do something you told them not to and end up hurting themselves, refrain from statements such as: “See, I told you not to do it! Now, take care of it yourself!” Likewise, do not constantly threaten them with terrible consequences and punishments for not obeying you – that too can hurt their self-esteem.

3. Practice active listening

Listen carefully, repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you understand and give positive prompts to encourage your children to continue. Even if your child needs to tell you something when you’re extremely busy, do not multi-task – give them your undivided attention. Dismissing your children’s ideas and suggestions without hearing them out can hurt their self-esteem.

4. Acknowledge your children’s feelings and help them express them verbally

This is something every child needs immensely. Imagine a situation when your children end up fighting with the kids of your guests over toys. At this point, it’s important to address children’s emotions and help them articulate them. They might be feeling insecure, angry or helpless – acknowledge these feelings. This is not the time for a lecture on values and morals, as they are too occupied with their emotions, and your lecture will only aggravate their anger.

5. Criticize behaviour, not your child

This is a very easy trap to fall into. Too much criticism tells your children they are bad people. If such criticism continues over a long period of time, it can heavily damage your child’s self esteem. Be clear that it’s an action you’re angry about or it’s a behaviour you don’t like. Avoid such over-generalizations as: “You’re such a dirty kid! You never clean your room!” It may be that your children usually do clean their rooms, but on that particular day they didn’t, and you were in a bad mood anyway.

6. Focus on your children’s successes

Swimming, arts and crafts, cricket, technology, literature or social life – whatever they succeed in. It may be that they are good at swimming but not at academics. Acknowledge their success, instead of saying:

“Swimming won’t get you anywhere. If you do not do well at studies, you will never succeed.” If you acknowledge their strengths, it may be that in the future they will be motivated to work on their weak points as well.

7. Respect your children’s interests, even if they seem boring to you

Take a genuine interest in your children’s friends and what’s happening at school, and comment to show you’re listening. This will not only strengthen your communication but also give your children the message that you care about their life and interests.

8. Accept any fears or insecurities your children express as genuine

Even if they seem trivial to you, don’t just brush them aside. If your child says: “I’m useless in math,” say: “You’re obviously finding math a struggle – how can I help you?” Instead of passing such sarcastic remarks as: “With all that TV you watch, what else do you expect?” Treat issues independently, without connecting unrelated consequences to actions.

9. Encourage your children’s independence

Encourage them to take chances and try new things. Succeeding at new things gives a huge boost to confidence. Even if they will make mistakes by trying out new things, it will be a great opportunity for them to learn.

10. Laugh with your children – never at them

We all know that there are times when words can hurt more than actions. Don’t humiliate your children for their mistakes or misfortunes – if you won’t be on their side, then who will? Likewise, it is important to keep a sense of humour when difficulties arise, as it works wonders and helps your children focus on the truly significant matters in life.

Children have an innate capability to cope with the pressures and demands of the environment they are a part of. However, we cannot assume that they will learn to cope on their own. Parents should become the facilitators, who provide their children with the means to use this inner strength that they naturally posses. Simply treat your kids the way you yourself want to be treated and you can be sure to steer clear of all the ‘overs’.

The material presented in this article is based on a workshop titled “Raising Confident Kids” facilitated by Madeha Masood at ERDC (Educational Resource Development Centre).

The Art of Paper-Making

Jan 11 - The Art of paper-making

By Saulat Pervez

Muslims transformed the Chinese art of papermaking into a major industry as early as the eighth century!

Muslims learned the secret of papermaking from Chinese prisoners captured during the battle of Talas in 751 A.D. Before long, paper began to be manufactured in Samarkand, the very first Muslim hub of papermaking. By 793 A.D., there were many paper mills in Baghdad; as with all other major developments in the Muslim world, paper production soon spread to Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and Spain. From a Chinese art, paper was thus transformed into a major industry by the Muslims.

This was a revolutionary development, because the existing alternatives to paper were papyrus, which was fragile, and parchment, which was expensive; paper, on the other hand, was relatively cheap because it was made out of cotton – and Muslims made its manufacturing more efficient through the use of water-powered mills. This mass availability of paper enabled Muslims to commit vast amounts of translations and original research to paper; as a result, libraries and bookstores thrived and became a common sight in Baghdad and other Muslim cities.

For example, by the thirteenth century, Baghdad had thirty-six libraries and a 100 book dealers, some of whom were also publishers. The concept of a library catalog dates back to this period – books in these libraries were organized under specific genres and categories. Besides these, many nobles and merchants had private collections of books.

“We hear of a private library in Baghdad, as early as the ninth century, which required a hundred and twenty camels to move it from one place to another. Another scholar of Baghdad refused to accept a position elsewhere, because it would take four hundred camels to transport his books; the catalogue of this private library filled ten volumes. This is the more astonishing, when it is realized that the library of the king of France in 1300 had only about four hundred titles,” writes Frederick Artz in his book “The Mind of the Middle Ages”.

Furthermore, James Burke notes of Cordoba in Muslim Spain: “Paper, a material still unknown to the west, was everywhere. There were bookshops and more than seventy libraries.”

In fact, this was the case because the very first paper mill in medieval Europe was established as late as 1268 A.D. in Italy and appeared in other major countries, such as Germany and France, centuries later.

Islam in Chicago

Jan 11 - Islam in Chicago

By Kiran Ansari

When I moved to Chicago just three weeks after I got married, I really didn’t know what to expect. Having always lived in such predominantly Muslim cities as Dubai and Karachi, I was looking forward to beginning a new chapter in my life but wasn’t quite sure how to start from scratch.

I wasn’t sure about a lot of things at first. I had never filled petrol in a car, never cleaned a bathroom and never made Khatti Daal (lentils). However, I was sure of one thing – I was not going to be just one more ingredient in a melting pot of nationalities that simmered together to become one sauce. I didn’t want to be called Karen, even though that was so much more convenient than having to spell out (sometimes twice) K-I-R-A-N. I was going to be a productive part of American society; however, instead of mixing into a melting pot, I wanted to be a part of a salad bowl of sorts – where each ingredient’s own flavour, colour and texture has its own place.

I was lucky to have arrived in a metropolitan city like Chicago, where there are Masajid and Halal meat stores in practically every town. It is not hard to find good Islamic schools and great chicken Tikkas, too. There are close to 400,000 Muslims in the greater Chicago area alone. Approximately a quarter of them are indigenous African-American Muslims. The next two of the largest ethnic groups include 20% Arab and 20% from South Asia. The remaining is a beautiful blend of Bosnian, Turkish, West African and increasingly white reverts to Islam. The result is that women may wear differently-styled Hijabs, and men may speak different languages, but when the Adhan is called, Allahu Akbar, each person sheds their ethnic differences and stands shoulder to shoulder in front of the One God.

Chicago has made a name for itself in the American Muslim landscape. The architect of the world-famous Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) was a Muslim. Seven of the five hundred most influential Muslims in the world call Chicago home. The Chicago Muslim community is highly educated, affluent, civically engaged and socially responsible. Loosely translated, there are always at least four community events taking place every weekend. There is an array of volunteer opportunities. Youth paint Masjid classrooms, have Qiyam around a bonfire in Ramadan and pick up trash in the park. Women attend Quran circles, befriend newly-arrived refugees, attend girl scouts meetings and participate in breast cancer awareness marathons. Men volunteer to direct traffic in Masajid parking lots when they are jam-packed for Jumuah, even though they have to rush back to work. Chicago Muslims do not hesitate to let their elected representatives know how they feel about such national issues as the New York Islamic Centre or international ones as the crisis in Gaza.

There are more than two hundred places to pray Jumuah in Chicagoland. From multi-million dollar mega Masajid to small storefront prayer spaces, where people overflow on to the sidewalk due to space constraints, you can perform Salah in a different Masjid every day of the month and still not be done.

I believe I have become a stronger Muslim, since I moved to the United States. I bake cookies for my neighbours on Eid, and I read stories about Ramadan in my children’s classrooms. Like many other Muslim-Americans, I feel I am on an auto-Dawah mode. Every action of mine can be taken as representative of my Ummah. If I am rude to the cab driver, he may feel all women in Hijab are condescending. If the cashier forgets to charge me for milk, I remind her, so that she knows Muslims will not be comfortable to go home with something they haven’t paid for. Yes, it is hard work, but I feel this is one way of dispelling myths about our Deen.

My husband and I became American citizens early this year and while I know some readers may disagree, I am at peace being a Muslim and a Pakistani-American. I don’t think this tri-fold identity is at odds with one other. I can dress how I choose, pray where I please and eat what I like. I can file a lawsuit, if I believe I am discriminated against.

Looking back, I didn’t know Chicago would provide me with so many opportunities to give back to the community. I have definitely learned a lot – and I’m not just referring to the Khatti Daal.

Kiran Ansari is the editor of the “Chicago Crescent” (www.chicagocrescent.com ), a monthly Muslim newspaper.

The Difference between Deen and Madhab

Jan 11 - Difference bw Deen and Madhab

By Dr. Israr Ahmad

The words Deen and Madhab are entirely different from each other with regard to their underlying concepts. Although in our part of the world we generally refer to Islam as Madhab (religion), yet what is interesting indeed is the fact that the word Madhab has never once been used in the entire treasury of the Quranic text and Ahadeeth literature! Instead, the word that has almost always been used for Islam in the original sources is Deen.

The fundamental difference between the two terms must be understood. Madhab, or religion, is a term used for a set of beliefs and rituals of worship. On the other hand, Deen refers to an entire way of life that pervades all aspects of life. In other words, as compared to Madhab, Deen is a far more comprehensive, all-encompassing reality. With this backdrop, it will perhaps not be entirely correct to say that Islam is not a Madhab (religion), because all of the elements of a Madhab are certainly part and parcel of Islam – it includes the articles of belief, spirituality, and the etiquettes of worship (Salah, Saum, Zakah and Hajj). Hence, it would be more accurate to say that Islam is not merely a Madhab, but an entire code of life (Deen). It not only offers whatever constitutes religion, but is endowed with the elements of a complete way of life. Hence, Islam is, essentially, Deen.

In this context, it must also be understood that while several religions can co-exist at a time in a particular region of the world, there can only be a single Deen (way of life). It is not possible, for instance, for capitalism and communism to coexist in a country at the same time. Only one will be dominant and prevail over others. Similarly, monarchy and democracy cannot simultaneously be established in a country. A system can either be based on the law of Allah (swt), or it will be against the law of Allah (swt). There cannot be two parallel systems, although there can be several religions co-existing at a time in a certain place. The only exception can be made in the case of a single dominant system ascendant above all, subservient to which, all shrunken up and sidelined, may exist other systems. Allama Iqbal said: “In a state of enslavement, it is reduced to a single, small droplet / The very same life which, when freed, becomes a ceaseless, shoreless torrent!”

When Deen is subjugated, it is reduced to mere religion. At the high point of Islamic history, Islam was the single dominant system, under which existed Christianity, Judaism, Magianism and other creeds as religions. They were given this allowance on the clearly laid out condition to pay a nominal tax (Jizya) and accept their subservience to the ascendant system, as said in Surah At-Taubah: “Fight… until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (At-Taubah 9:29)

The law of the land shall be Allah’s (swt), and the dominant system will be Islam, but as far as personal law and private life was concerned, they were free to live according to their own beliefs and practices. However, during the period of the decline and downfall of the Islamic state, the situation was entirely reversed. It will not be wrong to say that in the Indian subcontinent, the dominant system of life belonged to the British. Hence, Islam in the subcontinent was reduced to mere religion – Muslims could pray as they wished, and the British never objected to that; they could declare the call for prayer from the mosques, and they could marry and inherit according to their religious laws, but the state law had to be none other than British, according to the dictates of the British Crown, without interference from the local people. This is exactly what Iqbal expressed in his verse: “Since the Mullah (cleric) in India is allowed to prostrate in prayer / He foolishly thinks it implies his freedom.”

In other words, Islam was not free, but had shrivelled up and been reduced to the level of a mere religion among many.

Deen is essentially that which dominates and pervades. If it is subjugated, it will no longer remain Deen, but will be reduced to Madhab. Its true character will be distorted. If studied from this angle, it becomes clear that no matter how great a system, if it is presented merely as a vision and idea, or presented in the form of a written treatise, it can at best be an idealistic utopia, but can never truly be a criterion, a standard, or a benchmark. It can become a decisive criterion for the whole of mankind to judge and live by only when it is brought into practice, established and fully implemented.

Translated and transcribed for “Hiba” by Maryam Sakeenah.

War in Monotheistic Religions – Judaism

Jan 11 - War in Monotheistic religions

By Laila Brence

Throughout history, many wars have been waged with religion being their stated cause and peace as their desired outcome. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the historically and theologically related monotheistic religions, are all dedicated to love and benevolence and yet, all three, at some points of history have developed concepts of war. Let us delve

into the history of Judaism in search of the origins of war in this religion, as defined by Karen Armstrong, a renowned writer of modern religion.

In her attempt to identify the origins of war in Judaism, Armstrong looks back at the very beginnings of Judaism – the time of Prophet Ibrahim (as). In about 1850 B.C.E., he left his home in Ur of the Chaldees to set out on a journey to the land of Canaan, the modern Israel. Allah (swt) commanded Ibrahim (as) to enter into a special covenant with Him, in return for what He would bless him – his descendants would become a great people and would be given the land of Canaan.

Among the first words that Allah (swt) spoke to Ibrahim (as) were: “To your descendants I will give this land.” (Genesis, 12:7) Armstrong maintains that this revelation has served as the basis for numerous wars fought by the Jews in order to make this promise come true. Also today many Jews see this Promised Land as essential to the integrity of Judaism.

In about 1700 B.C.E., the descendants of Ibrahim (as) migrated to Egypt. By 1250, their position there deteriorated to such an extent that they became slaves. At that point, Allah (swt) intervened and commanded prophet Musa (as) to save his people. Through a series of miracles granted by Allah (swt), Musa (as) forced the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and then led them towards the Promised Land of Canaan. However, instead of going directly to Canaan, the Jews lived for forty years as nomads in the Sinai Peninsula. In these forty years, they learned to depend on Allah (swt) for all their needs, including their daily provision of food. But, most importantly, during this time, on Mount Sinai, Allah (swt) gave to Musa (as) the Ten Commandments, which became the basis of the Torah.

One of the Ten Commandments given to Musa (as) was: “Thou shalt not kill.” However, points out Armstrong, as Jews got ready to enter the Promised Land, Allah (swt) told them that they would have to engage in a ruthless war of extermination. Although Jews believed that the land of Canaan was theirs, it was not empty – there were other people living there, who had made it their home. Canaanites were in the way of the divine plan; they were enemies of the new Jewish self. Thus, according to Armstrong, the normal human rights the Jews were commanded to observe did not apply to the Canaanites, who had become the enemies of Allah (swt). Canaanites had to be exterminated. “I shall exterminate these,” Allah (swt) told his people, “they must not live in your country.” (Exodus, 23:23, 33)

Since the order of conquest came directly from Allah (swt), we can assume that this was the first holy war ever fought. In Jewish holy war, says Armstrong, there was no peaceful coexistence, mutual respect or peace treaties – their enemies were to be fought to death. When Jews had to establish themselves in the Promised Land, the ordinary morality did not apply.

Since Musa (as) died before reaching the Promised Land, it was Joshua (or Yoosha (as)), who in about 1200 B.C.E., led the Israelites into Canaan and established them there by means of a long and ruthless military campaign. He acted according to Allah’s (swt) command (Deuteronomy, 7:1-6) – the conquered areas were put under a ban, which meant total destruction and extermination:

“When Israel finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open ground and where they had followed them into the wilderness, and when all to a man had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and slaughtered all its people. The number of those that fell that day, men and women together, was twelve thousand, all people of Ai. (…) Then Joshua burned Ai, making it a ruin for evermore, a desolate place even to this day.” (Joshua, 8:24, 25, 28)

This holy war for conquering the Promised Land continued for two hundred years, until the time of King David (Dawood (as)). His conquest of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem (around 1000 B.C.E.) departed from the practice of his predecessors – he did not massacre the Jebusites. According to Armstrong, it seemed that he wanted to make them his personal followers, since their survival totally depended on him. It was King David, who made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom and the centre of Judaism. As history would evolve, Jerusalem would gain special significance for Christians and Muslims.

Since the time of early history of Judaism, rabbis, the Jewish religious teachers, have defined three types of permissible wars:

1)       Obligatory wars: these are commanded by Allah (swt). This category includes such wars as the biblical conquest of the Canaanites.

2)       Defensive wars: if Jewish people are attacked, it is obligatory upon them to defend themselves. This category includes also pre-emptive strikes, which means attacking the enemy who is about to attack you.

3)       Optional wars: these are undertaken for a good reason in cases when no other form of negotiation is possible.

Distinct rules of warfare have also been developed. According to Jewish tradition, before declaring a war or starting a battle, attempts have to be made for negotiating peace. Non-combatants are not to be killed intentionally and should be given the chance to leave the area, before the battle starts. However, if non-combatants intentionally stay in the area of war, then they lose the previously-mentioned protection and can be killed.

Today, Jews often find themselves in a tight situation regarding the ethics of warfare. They are required to find the balance between the need to wage a war and the obligation to value the human life. Since the modern political situation is very complicated, there is a great debate today among the Jews, as to how apply the warfare principles defined in Torah to the current situations.

Being Proactive

Jan 11 - Being Proactive

How can family members be proactive?

There are two types of people in the world: proactive and reactive. Proactive individuals make choices based on values, whereas reactive people make their choices on impulse, as animals do.

To understand the difference between the two, you can imagine a bottle of water and a can of soda. What happens when you shake a bottle of water? Nothing. It simply remains cool, composed and in control. But what happens when you shake a can of soda? It pops! It lets out fizz, bubbles, sound, etc. It goes out of control.

If you want to be proactive, embrace the following immediately:

1. Be kind

In relationships, the little things are the big things. Such sincerely spoken words as ‘thank you’, ‘please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘you go first’ and ‘may I help you’ contribute towards a pleasant atmosphere. Helping family members with small chores when they are least expecting them goes a long way towards building relationships of trust and unconditional love.

2. Apologize

For most of us, our sense of security is based on our image, our position or on being right. Apologizing means draining all the juice from our ego. But remember – even if our temper surfaces only one hundredth of 1% of the time, it will affect the quality of our entire life, if we do not take responsibility for it and apologize.

3. Be loyal to the absent

Always talk about others, as if they were present. Imagine if our loved ones overhear us making disloyal comments about them, how hurt they would be, and how ashamed we would be. Never lend your ear to gossips; soon, the conversation will loose its spice and shift to other interesting subjects.

4. Forgive

You will always remain a victim, until you forgive. Once you have done that, you will open the channels through which trust and unconditional love can flow. You cleanse your own heart and give others a chance to change.

5. Never presume

Most of us impose our plans on others without taking their convenience into consideration. For instance, if you know that your elder sister has to submit a really important assignment on a Monday, you should be considerate and NOT invite your friends over on the weekend and expect her to entertain them. Ask such questions as: “Is this alright with you?” before planning anything that affects the rest of your family members.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 6

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Principle-Centred – The Real Thing

In the past issues, we have discussed numerous centres that have time and again failed. One wonders whether there is a centre that actually works. Yes there is! It is being principle-centered. I know it sounds boring, but here is another way of looking at it.

We are all aware of the effects of gravity. Throw a ball up and it comes down. It’s a natural law or principle. This is one of the many principles that rule the physical world. Also, there are other principles that govern the human world.

What are principles?

  • Principles aren’t religious.
  • They aren’t Pakistani or Somali.
  • They aren’t mine or yours.
  • They aren’t up for discussion.
  • They apply equally to everyone – rich or poor, king or peasant, male or female.
  • They can’t be bought or sold.
  • If you live by them, you will excel.
  • If you break them, you will fail.

A few examples of principles are: love, honesty, service, respect, gratitude, hard work, loyalty, responsibility, integrity, justice and moderation. If anyone knows our Prophet (sa) well, he would think that Sean Covey was actually describing the Prophet’s (sa) way of life.

Consider just one of the examples of the aforementioned principles, like hard work. The principle of hard work never fails. As long as you have paid the price by investing time and effort into something, you will eventually succeed. Someone might whiz past you without putting any or much effort but, in the long run, as they say: “you can fool someone all the time but you can’t fool everyone all the time”. At some stage in life, incompetent people, who might have acquired status or recognition wrongfully, are exposed. This is mainly because they are neither trained nor experienced to deal with the challenges required for a particular job.

A very apt example could be of politicians. Someone, who has studied commerce, is handed over a ministry of science and technology. How will he fare? It could be anyone’s guess. However, if someone has studied and excelled in his/her field of education by hard work, he/she is likely to meet the challenges posed by his/her career, because he/she has paid the price to excel in that particular field.

Principles Never Fail

It takes faith to live by principles. In today’s age of rampant evil and quick fix solutions, one might feel like a sucker watching others get ahead in life by manipulation and corruption. What we don’t see is the doomed end of such people who break away from principles.

Cecil B. DeMille, the director of movie “The Ten Commandments”, stated: “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.”

You will see that it eventually catches up to every wrong-doer, and the faker ultimately pays a penalty for breaking principles. How many liars and frauds do you know, who have earned anyone’s love, respect and friendship? And what kind of a life are they leading, in spite of having wealth and success? A guilty conscience seldom lets anyone live in peace.

What can principles do for you? According to Sean Covey, the benefits of principles are:

  • They will never talk behind your back.
  • They will never desert you.
  • They don’t suffer career-ending injuries.
  • They don’t have favourites based on gender, wealth or looks.

“A principle-centered life is simply the most stable, immovable, unshakable foundation you can build upon, and we all need one of those.”

Decide today to make principles your life-centre or paradigm. Whenever you land in a fix, ask yourself which principle will fit the key-hole? If you are feeling worn out and beaten up, maybe you need to apply the principle of balance. If you find people suspecting you, maybe it is the principle of honesty that will resolve the issue. In the following story by Walter MacPeek, we find the principle of loyalty being the driving force:

‘Two brothers, who were French soldiers in the same company, fought against the Germans. One of them was shot, while the other escaped. The one who was sound requested his commanding officer to go back and get his wounded brother. The officer politely explained that his brother was probably dead and that there was no point risking his own life.

After much pleading, the soldier was granted permission to bring back his wounded brother. When he did bring him back safely, he died just then. The commander said: ‘I told you that you were going to get nothing out of this. Your brother just died anyway.’ The soldier replied: ‘No sir, you are wrong. I got what I wanted. When I went back for him and picked him up in my arms, he said: ‘I knew you would come back for me.’ I did what was expected of me.’

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues, we will find out what each of the seven habits are connected and what powers these habits have. Be on the look-out.

What are habits?

Take them, train them, and be firm with them;

Your habits will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with them and they will destroy you.

So form them wisely!

A Potential Spouse’s Tough Exam

01-01In January, 2001, while I was going towards Paris from the airport, I was thinking about the Muslim community in this city. I was particularly wondering, how parents raise their children. I asked my friend Aamir Aqaad: “How do parents ensure that their children stay connected to Deen in this environment?”

Aamir has been a resident of Paris for two decades. He came here from Syria to study and then opened a publishing house of Islamic books. He mulled over my question and then replied:

“A very interesting incident happened a few days ago, which might answer your question. One of my relatives has been a resident of Paris for many years. He was working but was still unmarried. One day, he asked me if I could recommend anyone for marriage.

I knew a Moroccan family and spoke to them on my friend’s behalf. It seemed like a very compatible match. The girl was in her early twenties, educated and intelligent. Her parents liked the guy, but said that they would reach a decision after consulting their daughter. Finally, it was decided that both of them should see each other in person and have a brief meeting.

A railway station was selected as the venue. My wife and I, along with the girl’s parents, sat at some distance from the potential couple to give them some privacy while keeping them under observation. I saw that the girl took out some papers from her purse and handed them over to the potential suitor.

I was astounded. I had no idea that in this day and age, there were girls who were so in love with their Deen.

I was quite astonished and asked the girl’s mother what her daughter was doing. The mother replied that her daughter had prepared a questionnaire to quiz her potential spouse about his personal life. In the light of his answers, she would decide whether or not to say yes to his proposal.

Most of the questions had been prepared in French, a language in which my friend was not so fluent. He called me over to help him translate the questionnaire. The questionnaire spanned over three pages. The first page consisted of questions regarding personal life – name, father’s name, address, height, weight, educational qualifications, occupation, status of house (rent or own), salary, work hours, etc.

When we moved on to the second page, the questions were: What is the nature of your relationship with Islam and your Deen? Are you regular with your Salah? How much time do you dedicate to your Deen? How much of the Quran have you memorized? How often do you recite the Quran? Which books of Ahadeeth have you read? How many Ahadeeth have you memorized? Write one page on “Rights of Spouses.” Which book of Seerah are you currently reading? Which Halaqah (study circle) do you attend? Who’s the scholar leading this Halaqah? Which books have you studied in this circle?

I was astounded. I had no idea that in this day and age, there were girls who were so in love with their Deen.

The questions went on: Do you want children? Would you like sons or daughters? What will you name your first child? What kind of qualities would you like your wife to possess?

The entire questionnaire was designed, so as to get a complete picture of the kind of person my friend was. My friend filled out this questionnaire to the best of his efforts. Unfortunately, the girl was not too impressed with the answers and declined the proposal. She told her parents that an individual, who was not sincere with his Rabb (swt), can never be sincere with his wife.”

After hearing this, I was thinking of all the problems that girls face in their marital life. If only they quiz their potential spouse about his level of Deen beforehand, they could easily avoid the problems which come afterwards.

Adapted from “Sunehri Kirnain”, published by Darussalam. Translated for “Hiba” by Hafsa Ahsan.

The Perfect Recipe – From a Husband’s Perspective

Jan 11 - The perfect recipe

By Hafsa Ahsan

When I wrote “The Perfect Recipe” (published in the January 2010 issue of “Hiba”), I realized belatedly that all of the successful ingredients of marriage were mentioned only by the wives. There was no discussion of any husbands or their perspectives. Consequently, I received an email saying: “Your article on married life provided many useful tips, which can easily be followed by wives to maintain bliss in their lives and in the lives of their spouses. However, I was wondering, if a survey could be done to find out what our male counterparts think could be the perfect ingredients of a blissful married life.”

This email spurred me to life, and I sent out the same questionnaire to discover what the husbands rate to be the most successful ingredients of a happy and successful marriage.

Arsalan Siddiqui, a training consultant, said: “Based on my own experience, I would say that the paramount issue (if the marriage is an arranged one) is trying to understand each other. But this can be tricky, as we are so used to being pampered by our respective families prior to our weddings. And when two people come together, they sometimes do not know how to behave and what to expect from each other. Individual space can be an issue, but that depends on your understanding of your partner. In-laws can be an issue, too. Also money matters play a crucial role in how partners enjoy their lives.”

An IT professional Adeel Masood named three ‘inabilities’ which, in his opinion, characterize the top three issues faced by couples after marriage: inability to cope with the fact that the other person also has his own weaknesses, inability to live within means and inability to respect the spouse’s relatives. His ingredients for a successful marriage were “trust, respect and love, with trust and respect being more important than love.”

“Things like likes and dislikes or getting adjusted with my commitment to work are main issues,” said Adnan Ali, an engineer. “Being a husband, I am on the stage where I have to listen to both parties (wife and mother). I try my best to be neutral and usually don’t act like a messenger between them. I have already clarified that both parties should try and deal with their issues themselves.”

So how does then conflict arise? And what is the best way of dealing with that conflict?

“I would say (the main source of conflict is) family politics, especially if you are not fully aware of the background of your spouse’s family,” said Arsalan Siddiqui. “But any conflict can be solved by giving space to each other and understanding the values and feelings of your spouse.”

“To deal with conflicts, first, you have to have the ability to deal with your anger for the time being, till your spouse has done his/her catharsis. Thereafter, talk out the issue rationally. If nothing works, send for the mediators,” said Adeel Masood.

“Being friends with your spouse usually is the best way out of everything,” said Adnan Ali. “But a husband has the additional responsibility of being neutral in every way. For those who are sandwiched between their wives and mothers, my advice is: let each party understand each other’s point of view, because a husband has already spent more time with his parents, but now spends more time with his wife; hence, he is sometimes the only one who understands what she or they actually mean about something.”

At the end of the day, it seems that husbands think more about practical issues, such as money management, when it comes to marriage. At the same time, they are also concerned about how to balance out their roles between their parents and their wives. That said, even they place emphasis on trust and respect, and in that aspect, their concerns match those of the ladies.

Mothers of Believers

Jan 11 - Mothers of Believers

For most it is a much-awaited, exciting development; for others, an unexpected, pleasant surprise; for some, a disconcerting event that takes time to accept. Whatever the case, being in the family way is a significant turn of events. It is the onset of one of the greatest responsibilities Allah (swt) can entrust us with – that of bearing and raising a person according to His (swt) pleasure.

Most Muslim mothers are not fortunate enough to realize what a pivotal task they have on their hands. Modern research has revealed that everything a mother-to-be feels, thinks about and believes in affects her baby, who starts hearing and recognizing her voice from the fourth month of pregnancy. Pregnant women are thus advised to stay positive, calm and happy during the gestation period for the healthy development of the baby.

So what can you, as an expectant mother, do in order to bear a pious Muslim baby with a sound heart: a baby connected to Allah (swt) from pre-birth?

Quran recitation

If your own Tajweed is commendable, recite the entire Quran aloud throughout your pregnancy (especially after the fourth month). If that’s not possible, play the recitation of a Qari on a cassette-player near your belly, listening to it attentively yourself. This will bless both you and your baby, acquainting the latter with Allah’s (swt) words as soon as it begins to hear it and tranquilizing you in your expectant state.

Positive thinking

Satan’s ultimate aim is to make us ungrateful for Allah’s (swt) blessings. During pregnancy, a woman has many fears and apprehensions. Coupled with physical sickness, she is prone to depression and negative thinking. That’s why our Prophet (saw) said: “A woman who dies during pregnancy is a martyr.” (Abu Dawood) Count your blessings, reminding yourself that you have been blessed by Allah (swt).

Dhikrof Allah (swt)

Engage in Dhikr as much as possible. Capitalize on your nine-month state of uninterrupted purity by offering supererogatory prayers besides obligatory prayers. If Ramadan falls during pregnancy, try fasting before giving up without an effort. Fasting is worship; it can be good for both you and your baby. Furthermore, join a Quran class to be engaged in Allah’s (swt) remembrance regularly.

The best nutrition

Breastfeeding is difficult to master, but when learned it is the best Sadaqah you can give your baby. While nursing, try to be with ablution, read the Quran or a beneficial book, do Dhikr, or listen to Quranic recitation. Just relax and don’t fret about the pending household chores or the weight that you have not shed off.

Shun useless activities

Whether during pregnancy or the initial nursing months, avoid pastimes such as gossiping, frequenting markets, watching dramas and films, reading fiction or listening to music. This time, when your baby is physically bound to you, will never return. Use it to build his/her foundation of piety.

Practice Sunnahs

When your toddler starts to speak her first words and eat a varied diet, inculcate Sunnahs into daily actions: always feed her with the right hand and only when she’s sitting; say ‘Bismillah’, ‘Alhumdulillah’, and all Duas aloud (such as on leaving the house or using the washroom). Put her clothes or shoes on right side first.

Tranquil environment

While your infant lies playing, put up Allah’s (swt) names in the room or on a mobile overhead. Play Quranic recitation nearby; do this right up to the toddler stage. A home sans television is the ideal home for a Muslim baby; realistically speaking, however, when the television is on, keep your baby in some other room of the house, where she can play undisturbed. Avoid taking your baby to noisy gatherings.

Intellectual training

Babies deserve better stimuli for intellectual development than cartoons and musical nursery rhymes. Talk to them about Allah (swt), visit the park or seaside and give them mind-stimulating games that use numbers, alphabets and illustrations. Provide age-appropriate building blocks, Lego, markers, crayons, paper and computers. Seek the company of righteous people, frequenting circles of religious study and intellectual discussion, taking your baby with you.

If we work hard on our babies today, we can expect our Ummah to be righteous tomorrow.

The Honour of Raising Daughters

Jan 11 - The honour of Raising daughters

By Ruhie Jamshaid

The birth of a child heralds hope and cheer in the life of a family. Needless to say, a child is a special gift from Allah (swt), and not everyone has the blessing of being a parent.

Ironically, while we understand the blessings of having a child, many amongst us tend to down-play the birth of a daughter. If distribution of Mithais (sweetmeats) and the resonance of ‘Mubaraks’ (congratulations) is seen and heard at the birth of a boy-child, the same excitement is often doused at the birth of a girl-child in most South Asian societies. Many still believe that only a male child can carry on the family name and be the flag-bearer of a legacy. Interestingly, our own Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) legacy was carried on by his daughter, Fatimah (rta) at a time when male offspring were considered to be a source of strength for the clan.

It is exclusively Allah (swt), Who decides whether one has sons or daughters, or both or none. Yet, as believers in the decree of Allah (swt), we must question our rather placid attitudes towards the birth of a girl. Why is it that we possess such differing reactions to the birth of a boy as opposed to a girl?

“Indeed, Allah has set a measure for all things.” (At-Talaq 65:3)

In His infinite wisdom, Allah (swt) has a plan for all of us, as we reside in His vast universe. He, the All-Knowing, knows what good therein lies for each one of us.

Therefore, when we are blessed with a girl-child, there is great benefit in it. In fact, the status of girls is often emphasized in Islam.

“Whoever has three daughters or sisters, or two daughters or two sisters, and lives along with them in a good manner, and has patience with them, and fears Allah with regard to them will enter Paradise.” (Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi and others)

Bringing up a girl-child to become a righteous Muslimah is a great honour and a doorway to Jannah. When we endow our daughters with a sound education, solid morals and thorough knowledge of their Deen, they become a force to reckon with. Strong, educated Muslim women will strengthen the future generations, because a mother is the main character-builder and groomer of her children.

The character of a Muslim girl must be honed holistically. Often, two extremes dominate – either we focus on grooming our daughters to become homebound individuals or motivate them to take on a career-orientated path in life. Taking either of these extreme paths can be hazardous. We must not forget that Islam has clearly segregated gender roles: women are to be the main home managers, while men are ordained to work externally to provide for their families. There is always wisdom in Allah’s (swt) decrees, and we must adhere to the rules.

Even though a woman’s main job is to manage the home, she is also often reminded to benefit society at large.

Abu Hurairah (rta) relates that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Whoever removes one of the hardships of a believing soul, Allah will remove from him one of the distresses on the Hereafter. Whoever solves someone else’s problem, Allah will make things easy for him in this world and the Hereafter… Allah is ever assisting His servant, as long as that servant is helping his brother.” (Muslim)

Hence, we must also mould our daughters to learn a skill or to gain knowledge, with which she would be able to add value to the Muslim Ummah. An intelligent and academically inclined Muslimah may choose to become a gynecologist, so as to provide the option of a female woman’s health physician. Some others may choose to teach, so as to dissipate knowledge to our fellow Muslims. We must remember that Aisha (rta), one of the mothers of the believers, was a scholar and had the privilege of reporting an enormous number of Ahadeeth based on the knowledge imparted to her by the Prophet (sa) himself. The Muslim Ummah is humbly indebted to her for her sincere service.

A woman is a brick that builds and strengthens the Muslim Ummah. To be blessed with a daughter is an honour we are bestowed upon by Allah (swt). We must strive to bring her up to be an exemplary Muslimah, for there is Allah’s (swt) great pleasure in doing so.

The Storm

Jan 11 - The storm

By Abdul Malik Al-Qasim

These were the most exciting days of my life; the countdown to my wedding. Everything had been prepared a week earlier than the wedding date. I was now engrossed in blissful dreams. I started spending some quiet time at my new home, envisioning my life there with my wife.

One day, as I was having tea and reading a newspaper at my new home, I came across an article, which highly recommended a full medical examination for those, who were about to get married. I decided to give it a try.

The first step was inevitably a blood test to ascertain that everything was alright. I gave my blood and then went back to collect the results three days later. I was quite sure that this whole exercise had been a waste of time. I was beginning to wonder what had possessed me to undergo the medical examination, when I realized that the doctor was looking at me gravely. He said: “You have blood cancer.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Shock and denial was written all over my face. “Don’t fear anything, it’s just a suspicion,” said the doctor. “We’ll just repeat this test.” I couldn’t move. The doctor helped me stand, but I collapsed and started breathing heavily, unsure whether I was still alive.

The doctor examined me and tried to assure me that everything depended on the results of the second test. But I was no longer listening. I was overwhelmed with misery and worry. As I was driving my car home, I stopped at the side of road and closed my eyes. I thought about myself, my family and… her. What will I tell her? If the tests confirmed my ailment, should I tell her or stay silent? Sooner or later, I would have to decide, whether there should be a wedding or not. Inevitably, I couldn’t sleep that night.

In the morning, I headed towards the lab and gave another blood sample. Maybe it was all a mistake, I thought. But a nagging feeling told me there was something terribly wrong.

The next three days were the longest in my life. I cared about nothing but the results of the test. Those I met said: “Your face has changed. Is this a face of a groom? It looks like you are over-anxious about your wedding. Are you scared? It’s going to be ok!”

They all seemed in a world utterly different from mine. I cancelled my visits and appointments. I even ceased buying what remained of the furniture for my new home. I didn’t want to see anyone. Whenever I saw my mother, I would think of the tears she would shed at my funeral. Whenever I saw my father, I would grieve.

On the third day, I had calmed down and made some crucial decisions. If I have blood cancer, I will disclose it to my fiancé and call off the wedding.

I reached the clinic well before time. Finally, the results arrived and I was summoned by the doctor. He opened the envelope and started to read. I had started to shiver, as if it was freezing winter. Yet, I sweated profusely and tried to catch my breath. The doctor finished reading, looked up and congratulated me. I was stunned and requested him to read the report again. It was all a mistake. I was alright! The wedding could go ahead as planned!

I came out exhilarated, greeting everyone I met. I went home quickly. Winter was still inside me and the sweat on my forehead was very obvious. Reaching my family’s home, I hugged and kissed my mother. She noticed my exhaustion and joy and curiously asked: “What’s the matter with you, son?”

I handed them the envelope that explained everything. “You didn’t tell us anything,” mocked my brother.

I smiled…

Man is weak but is a proud tyrant.

A small virus, a microscopic organism can knock him down.

He fears death but does nothing for it.

Gets very happy at his health and well-being

But never gets benefit out of it.

Time goes on and he is subjected to several trials, but…

He always in the end… dies.

But you, my dear,

You are sent back to life.

Every morning, when you are up from bed,

You are sent back to life.

But someday you are to die, too.

Here, look! There is still time.

Therefore, go and do something for it,

Before it’s too late.

Translated for “Hiba” by Tasneem Rajab