Handy Hajj Tips for Ladies

Handy Hajj Tips for Ladies

Compiled by Aliya Khan and Ruhaifa Samir

Congratulations to those, who have made intention to go for Hajj this year. You are embarking on a monumental and life altering journey. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your pilgrimage!

What to do before Hajj

  1. Start an exercise routine. Walking is ideal to get you in shape for the rituals of Hajj.
  2. Read books to learn about Hajj.
  3. Learn the Talbia and favourite supplications.
  4. Don’t just promise to do Duas for other people – better write them down; also make a list of your own Duas as well.
  5. Practise silence.
  6. Reflect. Think about the permanent changes you want to see in your life post-Hajj. Make it part of your Niyyah.
  7. Pray for an easy and Mabroor (accepted) Hajj.
  8. Make cards according to the days of Hajj, listing Duas and rituals to be done that day.

What to take with you

Besides the usual, here are some tips for things that will add convenience to your Hajj, Insha’Allah:

  1. Get Abayas with pockets.
  2. Bring with you scissors, so your Mahram can cut your hair after Hajj.
  3. Carry with you a spray bottle (for Wudu), a small bag that can be used for Sutra, some clean dirt for Tayammum and a Quran with translation.
  4. Arrange a sim for your phone. Keep your phone, some money and contact numbers of your group/organizer in your Abaya pocket at all times.
  5. Know your hotel and room number. Wear the identification tag your Hajj group gives you at all times!
  6. Keep a little notebook for write down the lessons learnt during Hajj.

What to do during Hajj

  1. Don’t keep calling home every day. Concentrate more on your Hajj.
  2. Try your best to pray Tahajjud every day.
  3. Don’t commit sin by trying to do the Mustahab, such as pushing through men to kiss the Black Stone.
  4. Decide on a favourite Dhikr or Dua, so you can concentrate on it, whenever you feel distracted.
  5. Walk patiently and calmly during Tawaf. Don’t get angry, when others push you. It is advisable to expect a bit of chaos; try focusing on your learned Duas.

How to behave during Hajj

  1. Stay calm during Hajj.
  2. Don’t talk much.
  3. Don’t concern yourself with other people’s issues and help them only if they seek your help.
  4. All the Hujjaj are Allah’s (swt) guests. Be afraid of doing anything to upset anyone. In case if anyone annoys you consciously or unconsciously, forgive and forget!
  5. Lower your expectations as in presence of thousands of Hujjaj it is natural to have little troubles.
  6. Don’t lose your temper at the organizers, in case you are unhappy with the arrangements.
  7. Be prepared for hardships and don’t keep running towards comfort.
  8. Keep yourself open to whatever comes your way, good or bad. Embrace it as your contribution in the way of Allah (swt).

What to do after Hajj

  1. Do self evaluation after Hajj; a Mabroor Hajj must change you permanently and make you more obedient to Allah (swt).
  2. Use learning from the Hajj to plan for your remaining life.
  3. After coming back, don’t tell long stories of your Ibadah and Taqwa to others, as it may be counted as act of self-praising (vanity).
  4. After returning or on your flight back, write down what you learnt from the Hajj experience.
  5. Some people come back with stories of dirty bathrooms at Mina and the hardships they faced. Others come back with brighter hearts and enlightened souls. Be one of the latter.

Your Hajj will be quite a journey. You will learn from it only if you are ready and willing to ‘receive’. Pray to Allah (swt) to make this Hajj a means of bringing you closer to Him. May Allah (swt) accept your Hajj. Ameen.

Top Five Things to Pack for Hajj

Top five things to pack for hajj

1) Clothing and Toiletries

Pack in one extra set of Ihram, comfortable clothing for the number of days you are travelling, a shawl or sweater (for any unexpected chilliness at night), socks and undergarments. Take along two pairs of inexpensive slippers and a drawstring bag to carry them when entering the mosque. Men can keep a cap to cover their heads, when they are not in the state of Ihram.

Pack in soap, shampoo, deodorant as well as a non-fragrance soap and travel soap dish to use when in state of Ihram. Keep small scissors, a nails cutter, a disposable razor, a set of towels and a small packet of detergent to wash your clothes.

2) Accessories

Keep a money belt or vest with pockets to keep money hidden. Also, keep sunglasses, –+prescription/reading spectacles, and a spectacle-holding string to secure your glasses. Remember to wear plastic name tags for identification (especially important, if you have small children with you).

Also pack a light prayer rug, an alarm clock, your mobile and it’s charger, an umbrella, a flashlight for when you go to Muzdalifah, a flask or water bottle, three sandwich sized zip-lock bags or drawstring cloth bags for pebbles that you collect from Muzdalifah and a medium sized handbag for everyday use to hold glasses, medicines, Quran, prayer rug, etc.

3) Medicines

Illnesses are easy to catch, when there are three million people coming from around the world! Pack in one course of broad spectrum Antibiotics, pain-killers, cough syrup, band-aids, pain-relief ointments as well as any special medication you need for conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Remember to keep a prescription written by the doctor for the medicines you are carrying.

4) Documents and Finances

Double-check that you have with you the originals and photocopies of your passports and tickets in separate suitcases. Take along the confirmation letters from hotels and travel documents. Keep a sufficient amount of money in US dollars and Saudi Riyals. It may be a good idea to keep in extra photos, envelopes, a writing pad and a pen as well.

5) Taqwa!

And last but not least, do not forget what Allah (swt) has said: “And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa (piety, righteousness).” (Al-Baqarah 2:197) You are making Hajj for the sake of Allah (swt) and for the forgiveness of your sins. Make sure you make the most of it! Pack in a copy of the Quran and other reading material, such as invocations (Dua) cards and Hajj guides.

Pray to Allah (swt) to make it easy for you, before you embark on this incredible journey. In case you do forget something, Makkah has been hosting pilgrims for over 1400 years and most things will be available. Remember, you are a guest of Allah (swt) and He will take care of you!

Changing the World at Seventeen

Changing the world at 17

It was 619 AD, when in the garden of Taif, the Prophet (sa), nursing his fresh wounds, prayed to his Lord. Nine years later, the entire Taif embraced Islam. And this is where our story begins.

Muhammad Ibn Qasim was seventeen, when he conquered Sindh. His sword struck the very heart of such false practices as idol worship, which prevailed in that era. He conquered not just a piece of land but an entire people living on the banks of the Indus River. It was his courage and persistent acts of goodness that caused his death – he was imprisoned, tortured and martyred.

He was born in Taif in 695 AD. Growing up in the care of his mother, he soon became a great asset to his uncle Muhammad Ibn Yusuf, the governor of Yemen. His judgement, potential and skills surpassed many experienced officers, thus, he was made the governor of Persia.

Interestingly, the Muslim rule he began was not for such worldly purposes as gaining land, power, or simply for satisfying the awe-inspiring leader inside him. He invaded Sindh for a truly humanitarian act.

In 712 AD, some Arab Muslim families were returning in a merchant ship to their homes to Iraq, including widows and orphans. The ship was intercepted at a Sindh port by some Hindu pirates, who looted the vessel and took the passengers as captives. These were men of Raja Dahir, the ruler of Sindh at the time. Qasim’s uncle wrote to Dahir, demanding the release of the prisoners and the due punishment of the pirates. As expected of a cruel ruler, Dahir refused point-blank. This prompted Muhammad Ibn Yusuf to dispatch his seventeen-year-old nephew to do what was required.

Qasim, of course, took the responsibility seriously. Displaying outstanding courage, he crushed Dahir’s troops. The people of Sindh rejoiced at Qasim’s entry. The cruel reign had ended, because Qasim was a promising ruler of commendable character, efficient administration, and a window into the Islamic system of law and justice, which was so fair and sufficient that it inspired the Hindus. He won both their lands and hearts.

There are two versions of his death. The first and most agreed upon account revisits his preparation for the attack on Rajasthan. Qasim’s father-in-law passed away, and the new governor took revenge against the family of the old governor. The new Khalifa Suleman called upon Qasim and made him captive. This imprisonment led Qasim to an early death. He was twenty, then.

Even his death could not diminish the magnitude of what he had done for the future generations. In 712 AD, conquering the area from its Hindu rulers, he extended Muslim rule to the Indus Valley. Just like Alexander the Great before him, he travelled endlessly and subdued the whole of what is now Pakistan – from Karachi to Kashmir within a matter of three years. He managed to do that with a small force of only around six thousand Syrian tribesmen. Allah (swt) was with him every step of the way.

Muhammad Ibn Qasim is a true inspiration for the leaders of all times. To this day, historians believe that had he lived longer, he would have brought the entire South Asian region into the folds of the Islamic empire.

Learning to Lead

Learning to Lead

In the Light of the Quran and the Sunnah

By Binte Aqueel, Hina Jamal, J. Samia Mair and Sadaf Farooqi

While Muslims often complain about having a crisis of leadership, paradoxically, there seems to be no dearth of self-proclaimed leaders – people, who think they have everything required to lead the community and are ready to fight for it.

Today, countries, groups, organisations and Masajid have become mired in an ugly struggle for power. Often, a person stands up to fill an essential leadership void in the community, considering himself/herself best fit for the role. Campaigning, electioneering and lobbying are often followed by dirty politics, mudslinging and rivalry. Soon, all those involved in the noble bid to provide a good leadership seem to have lost their goal somewhere in the fight for power. All that matters now is their or their party’s winning at any cost.

Sounds familiar? Sadly, this is the dilemma many countries and organisations face. The quest for good leadership often brings out greed and lust for power not only in country politics but also in the college and work life groups. Everyone wants a leadership position, and they are prepared to go to any lengths to acquire it.

Seeking Leadership

Interestingly, Islam discourages the practice of seeking leadership. In Islam, leadership is an Amanah (trust) and a huge responsibility. The early Muslims used to cry, when they were given a position of authority, out of fear of not being able to discharge it properly.

The Prophet (sa) is reported to have said that anyone, who seeks leadership, is not fit to assume it. Once, two men entered upon the Prophet (sa). One of them said: “O, Allah’s Apostle! Appoint me as governor,” and so did the second. The Prophet (sa) said: “We do not assign the authority of ruling to those who ask for it, nor to those who are keen to have it.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “You people will be keen to have the authority of ruling, which will be a thing of regret for you on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) advised Abdur Rahman Ibn Samurah (rta): “Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand, you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking for it, then you will be helped (by Allah) in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then do what is better and make expiation for your oath.” (Bukhari)

This is not to say, however, that taking up a leadership role is wrong or discouraged. Indeed, the Prophet (sa) encouraged his followers to take up a responsibility, when it was entrusted to them. He said: “Whoever is given responsibility of some matter of the Muslims but withdraws himself, while they are in dire need and poverty, Allah will withdraw Himself from him, while he is in dire need and poverty on the Day of Requital.” (Abu Dawood)

It is discouraged to seek a leadership position out of greed and desire for power. Actions are based on intentions, and we must not doubt anyone’s intentions.

Empowerment and Delegation

Life is an ongoing cycle of events, one of which is that all leaders are eventually replaced. For such transitions to be as smooth as possible, a leader should prepare his subordinates to be able to efficiently take on leadership roles in the future, which bring added responsibilities, require the ability to make critical decisions, and need excellent interpersonal skills to win over hearts of people.

Some leaders tend to follow autocratic and dictatorial leadership styles, thinking that these cast greater awe over a workforce and thus attain better performance.

Clearly, this methodology is in clear contradiction to the style of leadership of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who was an exemplary leader. He was humble, mild-mannered, friendly, approachable and easy to talk to. Moreover, he empowered his close companions to be capable enough to carry on his mission after his demise.

I would like to elaborate on his style of ‘Empowerment and Delegation’ in the light of Ahadeeth regarding the appointment of Muadh Bin Jabal (rta) as the governor of Yemen.

Ibn Abbas has narrated: “The Prophet sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Invite the people to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and I am Allah’s Apostle, and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night (in twenty-four hours), and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakat from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to their poor.’” (Bukhari)

According to another narration: “When Allah’s Messenger (sa) sent Muadh to Yemen, he went out with him whilst Muadh (rta) rode his riding beast and Allah’s Messenger walked beside him giving instructions. When he finished, he said: ‘Perhaps, Muadh, you may not meet me after this year, but perhaps, you may pass this Masjid of mine and my grave.’ Muadh wept from grief over the departure of Allah’s Messenger. The Prophet then turned facing Madinah and said: ‘Those nearest to me are the pious, whoever they are and whenever they are.’” (Mishkat)

These Ahadeeth make the following points clear:

  1. When a delegation is going off on a long journey, the leader should personally see them off.
  2. The leader should give simple, concise and role-related instructions to the delegate during their final meeting, as reminders of what work lies ahead for the delegate and its importance.
  3. The leader is humble, i.e., he does not mind walking or standing at a lower level than his delegate.
  4. The leader must be honest, when expressing his emotions to his subordinate.
  5. The leader should console his subordinate, when the latter is expressing grief.
  6. There should be love and compassion between a leader and his subordinates, especially in careers related to Dawah and religious instruction.

We can see how perfectly our Prophet (sa) combined the delegation of a leadership role to a subordinate with human compassion, empowering a future leader while simultaneously expressing his love and humility as a leader. He was, perhaps, the only man in history, who brought about the greatest of change in mankind in the shortest time period.

Best Religious Leaders – Close to People

Have you ever tried to contact a qualified, respected Islamic scholar or religious authority figure for some personal issue? These scholars have busy schedules of delivering talks and lectures in institutions and homes, travelling abroad often for conferences and, hence, are often hard to reach. When the common man endeavours to get in touch with them, more often than not, it is an uphill task involving numerous phone calls and/or unanswered emails. Private counsel with them is elusive – no more than a fleeting Salam or handshake following their Dars, before they hurriedly whiz off to their next engagement.

We must remember that a religious leader is a human being just like us. He or she needs time to rest, relax, leisurely hang out with family, sleep, attend to personal errands, read, study, respond to correspondence, plan itineraries and meet relatives. If they were to give private counsel to anyone, who wants to talk to them at any time during the day, they would be constantly pre-empted. Moreover, idleness and over-socialization is common in our culture. People tend to linger to chat about useless topics long after having discussed the required issue. If a religious leader were to give in to every lay-person’s demands on their time, it would not be long before they would not be able to continue their Dawah work.

It is, therefore, all about maintaining a critical balance between work and human compassion. Could it be that religious organizations’ leaders today have allowed themselves to become so overburdened with commitments, that they do not have time for even genuine requests for a sympathetic ear? Is this not against the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa)?

I find this food for thought. Why do our leaders move around with entourages and employ assistants for trivial personal tasks such as ironing clothes, whereas the best leaders of our Ummah, who had to juggle many more balls in the air, such as planning battle strategies, meeting foreign dignitaries and catering to multiple spouses/children, never hired personal assistants?

The proof of the Sahabas’ humility is the way they’d roam the streets at night alone, in their positions as Ameer-ul-Mumineen, to see what was going on at ground level. Prophet Muhammad (sa) never sat at a level higher than his company, except to ascend the pulpit for a sermon. His clothes made him indistinguishable from his companions to a newcomer, who set eyes on him for the first time.

Is this not something worth pondering over?

Here are a few tips that might restore the Sunnah of compassion for laymen for our leaders:

  1. Gain knowledge of the Prophet’s (sa) life and how he handled situations.
  2. Cut down on commitments, so that you have a few days a week with nothing on the agenda.
  3. Spend time with your family – every day.
  4. Play and converse with children randomly.


Our Prophet (sa) and those of his companions, who later became leaders, were always accessible to the common man, even poor old women or slaves, who stopped them in their tracks with personal complains. Let us endeavour to emulate their example, when and if we ever occupy a leadership role in our lives, because they were the best of our Ummah.

Leaders in the Business World

The unfortunate situation arising in the United States – and I suspect in other non-Muslim populated countries as well – is that when given the choice between conducting a transaction with a business run by a Muslim and a business run by a non-Muslim, many Muslims (and others) choose the non-Muslim business. And even when there may not be a choice – such as a Halal food store – it is only out of necessity that Muslims frequent it. Why are Muslim-run businesses not always the first choice? In one word-leadership.

A good leader runs a business that has courteous, hard working employees, quality products and services and satisfied customers. The leader sets the tone for those underneath him or her. If the leader is hardworking, ethical and fair and expects the same from the employees, the business will have a good reputation. If the leader does not demonstrate these qualities, or if the leader does have them, but does not require the same of employees, the business will not.

There is no excuse for a Muslim not to be a good leader in business. The Quran and Sunnah give ample guidance on what constitutes a good leader. And unlike many other systems of belief, Islam sets forth what is ethical, responsible and Islamically acceptable in the business context. For example, a multitude of Ahadeeth provides guidance on this issue, including these few:

“The merchants will be raised up on the day of resurrection as evildoers, except those who fear God, are honest and speak the truth.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi and Baihaqi)

“God show mercy to a man, who is kindly when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim.” (Bukhari)

“If anyone sells a defective article without drawing attention to it, he will remain under God’s anger.” (Ibn Majah)

“If anyone keeps goods till the price rises, he is a sinner.” (Muslim)

More generally, as Muslims we are expected to exhibit excellence in everything we do -“Allah has made excellence obligatory for everything.” (Muslim) Our businesses should set forth the paradigm of business practices. Business schools should teach case studies on Muslim-run businesses to their students. Our business leaders should be highly sought after for advice. Indeed, Allah (swt) tells us that we set the example for others: “Thus, We have made you a just nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:143)

The sad reality is that many of us, in the business context and elsewhere, do not rise near to the level of conduct that Allah (swt) expects from us. Even worse, many of us do not even try. And by not doing so, we miss a great opportunity for Dawah – something that is incumbent upon all of us.

Despite some popular misconceptions, Islam was spread by Muslims, who followed the Sunnah and the guidance of Allah (swt) – those, who showed what it truly means to be human. Their exemplary and just conduct as merchants in the market-place set forth a brilliant example for the non-Muslims of the time. In a world so preoccupied with international commerce and making money, business affords us an incredible opportunity not only to better ourselves but to pass the Message onto others.

May Allah (swt) guide the Muslim community and its leaders towards what is right, Ameen.

The Art of Saying NO


Art of saying 'No'Have you ever been in a situation, where you agreed to do something for no other reason but simply because you could not say ‘no’? So you agreed to do something, because you did not have emotional courage to refuse doing something or opposing something. But once you were in that position, because you did not agree to it with conviction and happiness, you ended up back-biting that person and thus burning away your good deeds!

This has happened to a lot of us. Imagine situations like someone telling you that they want to come over, and you end up saying ‘yes’, although that time was very inconvenient to you. Recall the day, when someone called you on your cell and you could not say upright that you were busy, and ended up lying and cooking up a story. Remember, when someone asked you for a money loan, and you did not want to give it, but ended up giving it, and doing so much Gheebat of that person that all the reward Allah (swt) had promised you, when you give loan to someone, was wasted away.

The situation becomes even graver, when you are in a leadership position. As a leader, you are not just responsible for yourself, but also the household, theJamaat or the organization you are a leader of. Situations like telling a colleague at work, who is also a friend, that he cannot be given a certain project or raise. Telling your children, as a parent, that a certain thing is not allowed. Or as a worker in Deen, telling a subordinate that even though you appreciate their suggestion for a different strategy of Dawah, it cannot be implemented.

Sometimes people in leadership positions over-commit and bite off more than they can chew, without considering their time limits. They say ‘yes’ to everyone and end up not respecting their commitments. This, again, adds to one’s sins. The challenge is in learning to understand your boundaries, so that you don’t get burnt out and, more importantly, so that you can honour the commitments you’ve already made to serve as a leader.

Sooner or later, a time comes in your life, when you realize that life is more than a popularity contest. You may be a people-pleaser, but you must be an effective leader. As leaders, and that is the central role of the Muslim Ummah as a whole, at times we have to say ‘no’ at the risk of getting on the wrong side of people, simply because we must uphold Adland justice at all times.

Since a leader needs to be firm yet humble, we are ordered to have consultations before deciding a matter. But while the opinions and suggestions of others should be taken into account, it is not a must to act upon them. Allah, the Most Exalted, says in His Glorious Book: “And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh­-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults), and ask (Allah’s) Forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-Imran 3:159)

See an example of this from the Sunnah of our beloved Rasoolallah (sa). When the Masjid-e-Nabawi was completed, the need arose for regular Jamaah. Rasoolallah (sa) asked the Sahabas to formulate some method of getting the Muslims together for Salah. The Ashab-as-Suffah volunteered to round up the Muslims for Salah, but this was time consuming and not effective. Other suggestions that came forth were: the beating of drums; the ringing of the bell like the Christians; the light of fire like the Zoroastrians; blowing of the horn like the Jews. Rasoolallah (sa) rejected all these suggestions and Bilal Ibn Rabah (rta) was asked to call out Assalaatu-Jaamiah for the time being.

In the second year of Hijrat, when the numbers in the Muslim rank were increasing, the need was felt for a more effective manner, in which to call the Muslims for prayer. One day, Abdullah Ibn Zaid (rta) in his dream heard an angel instructing him on the wordings of the Adhan (the call to prayer). He related his experience to Rasoolallah (sa), who in turn asked Bilal Ibn Rabah (rta) to learn the words and call the Adhan. When Hazrat Umar (rta) heard the Adhan, he rushed up to Rasoolallah (sa) and reported that he had also heard the same Adhan in his dream.
Thus, Bilal (rta) became the first Muadhin (caller to prayer) in Islam.

This is a classic example of how Rasoolallah (sa) used Hikmah (wisdom) in substituting the suggestion of one companion with that of others, without humiliating or jeering at anyone.

If you are a leader, people will not be offended by your rejecting their opinion, if an overall climate of trust and sincerity is present in the team. Also, the trust of the subordinates in their leader depends on the general Ikhlaq and relationship of the leader with them. The unbiased and impartial behaviour of a leader makes this easier.

Wise ones have said that out of Amr bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkir (enjoining good and forbidding evil) it is the latter that is tougher, because it involves negating the other person’s opinion.

When Abu Bakr (rta) was chosen as the Khalifah, and Usamah (rta) was awaiting orders from him, a group from the Ansar suggested that the expedition should be postponed until a later time. They sent Umar (rta) to talk to Abu Bakr (rta) to ask him to appoint a commander who is older than Usamah (rta). But as soon as he heard what Umar (rta) had to say, Abu Bakr (rta) got up, took him by his beard and said: “May your mother lose you, o Ibn Al-Khattab! Rasoolallah (sa) has appointed him and you want me to take him down? By Allah, I will never do it!” Gentle as Abu Bakr (rta) was by nature, he said ‘no’ as a leader, when it was needed.

Learning to say ‘no’ is a very powerful tool. Saying ‘no’ to certain engagements, people and choices, which take away from your goals to succeed, is very important. Think of ‘no’ as a friend protecting you from wasting time and energy. Be firm – not defensive or overly apologetic – and polite. This gives the signal that you are sympathetic, but will not easily change your mind, if pressured. If you decide to tell the person you’ll get back to them, be matter-of-fact and not too promising. If you lead people to believe you’ll likely say ‘yes’ later, they’ll be more disappointed with a later ‘no’.

The delicate balance is learning to say ‘no’ in a non-offensive, polite manner, while keeping the reigns of your good Ikhlaq in your hand and not degrading or hurting anyone.

“Yes, we can!”

Yes We Can

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barrack Obama was criticized for the simplicity of his message: “Yes, we can.” I feel that this is the best and the simplest message a leader can transmit for training and developing an effective and efficient team.

In order for a team to be valuable and competent, we need to analyze the role of the leader, and how a leader guides or coaches the team. We need look no further than Surah Kahf and the example of Dhul Qarnain. Ayaat 83 – 98 of this Surah clearly demonstrate, how a leader should behave for inculcating the following in the team:

  • trust,
  • keenness to achieve results,
  • discipline,
  • effective communication,
  • clear work objectives,
  • ongoing learning.

Let’s analyze these objectives one Ayah at a time.

When Allah (swt) says: “Verily, we established Him in the earth, and we gave Him the means of everything” (Al-Kahf 18:84),it clearly indicates that a person is chosen for leadership, he cannot nominate himself for it. A team must trust that their leader has not forcibly or deceptively gained the position. The second part of the Ayah brings to light that a leader must have the appropriate abilities and knowledge required to lead a team successfully. He must have the ‘means’ and the ‘know how’. The foremost aspect of training team is to make them believe that you have the proficiency to lead them forward.

With words “so he followed a way”, Ayah 85 denotes that a leader must be a guide. He must set a direction for his team to follow. A team keen to achieve results must be given a specific goal and also shown a path to follow for achieving that goal. Training the team to follow this path by default implies that the leader must not only follow that path as well, but must be at the forefront, leading the team down that path.

Ayahs 87 – 88 tell us that a leader must maintain discipline in his ranks: “He said: ‘As for Him (a disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah) who does wrong, we shall punish him; and then He will be brought back unto his Lord; who will punish Him with a terrible torment (Hell). But as for him who believes (in Allah’s Oneness) and works righteousness, He shall have the best reward, (Paradise), and we (Dhul-Qarnain) shall speak unto Him mild words (as instructions).”

For a team to complete their job and do it successfully, a leader must train his team to be disciplined, giving out rewards where appropriate and handing out punishments/reprimands when required. This also includes handing out assignments in a just and fair manner, so no member of a team feels overburdened. Honing the capabilities of each member is an essential part of training a group: utilizing each member’s abilities in the appropriate area and providing the members with the opportunity to explore all the aspects of the task at hand. In order to do this, the leader must be ready to accept minor failures by the team members as part of the learning process.

Ayah 93 brings our attention to the fact that a team is comprised of individuals with varying intellectual levels, expertise and skills: “When He reached between two mountains, He found, before (near) them (those two mountains), a people who scarcely understood a word.” When training the team, the leader must establish effective communication among the team members. The leader must provide guidelines/instructions, so that the entire team establishes a common language among themselves, in order to proceed with the task effectively. The leader must train the team and help them acquire the tools, confidence, language skills, etc., required for communicating with people.

Next, let’s look at Ayahs 94 – 95: “They said: ‘O Dhul-Qarnain! Verily! Yajooj and Majooj (Gog and Magog) are doing great mischief in the land. Shall we then pay you a tribute in order that you might erect a barrier between us and them?’ He said: ‘That (wealth, authority and power) in which my Lord had established me is better (than your tribute), so help me with strength (of men), I will erect between you and them a barrier.’” A leader must set an unfailing example for his subordinates: bribery/corruption is not acceptable. Only legal compensation is allowed. For a team to function, spiritual training is an essential part.

Last, let’s look at Ayah 96: “‘Give me pieces (blocks) of iron,’ then, when he had filled up the gap between the two mountain-cliffs, he said: ‘Blow,’ till when he had made it (red as) fire, he said: ‘Bring me molten copper to pour over it.’” A leader must be well versed in the use of latest technology, and then instruct his team in the use of it. In addition, the team must have ongoing professional training, so they are abreast with current and emerging trends in their field.

“The building of this barrier was the truest example of, in the history of man, of compassion and cooperation, between a nation of great wealth and a weak nation…” (commentary of Surah Kahf, Ali Abdur Rasheed), in other words, this models how a leader should behave and by setting an example, train his team to do the same.

Amazing! Allah (swt) has given us the perfect training model, if we only chose to follow it. Yes, we can!

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

What comes to our mind, when we think of an effective leader: a dynamic and diligent individual who has solutions to every problem; a person, who is courageous and capable enough to take his team to new heights of self-discovery; maybe someone, who is an epitome of self-motivation and high principles?

Anyone, who is entrusted with the responsibility to lead, should possess the eight discernible characteristics of principle-centered leaders. If we wish to excel in our role as a leader, we need to develop the following fundamental principles:

1. They learn continually

Our beloved Prophet (sa) continued to receive revelations till the very last days of his life. His entire life was founded on personal learning and divine guidance. Similarly, it is Sunnah to expand one’s competence and ability to do things. Effective leaders read, seek training, and listen to others. They are curious and eager to develop new skills. They are humble enough to learn something valuable from every person they meet. Most of their learning is self-initiated.

2. They are service-oriented

Remember the time of Masjid-e-Nabawi’s construction, and how the noble companions worked industriously? But rather than just delegating tasks and dispensing orders, who carried heavy rocks right by their side? Who led by example and experienced the same hardship, assuring his team that he was there with them every step of the way? Our beloved Messenger (sa), of course.

The next characteristic tells us the same. If we strive to become principle-centred leaders, we must see life as a mission, not as a career that will begin at the age of twenty-five and end at sixty. An effective leader has nurturing sources within him that prepares him for service. Every morning, he puts on the harness of service, thinking of others.

As leaders, we must have a load to carry. If we only attempt to have an intellectual or moral exercise, we will never develop a sense of responsibility, service, or contribution towards our people.

3. They radiate positive energy

Smile, it’s a Sunnah! It is also a Sadaqah! Principle-centered people have cheerful and pleasant countenances and an optimistic attitude. Their spirit is hopeful and believing.

It is important for one to be aware of his energy; he must understand how to radiate and direct it. When the situation becomes confusing or contentious, a principle-centred leader strives to be a peacemaker and a harmonizer, to undo or reverse destructive energy.

4. They believe in other people

Principle-centred leaders are aware of human weaknesses. Hence, they don’t over-react to negative behaviours. They neither feel vulnerable upon discovering another person’s human weakness nor build up stress within them. They understand that behavior and potential are two different things and believe in the unforeseen potential of all people. Remember Prophet’s (sa) belief in people like Umar (rta), who were initially bitter enemies of Islam? But it was the Messenger’s (sa) belief in Umar (rta) that carved him into the leader, who later conquered that time’s super powers of Rome and Persia.

These leaders also feel grateful for their blessings and compassionately forgive and forget offences. They do not label, pre-judge, stereotype or categorize anyone.

5. They lead balanced lives

Principle-centred leaders are not extremists. They don’t immediately divide everything into either good or bad. They think in terms of priorities and hierarchies, have the power to sense similarities and differences in each situation and the courage to condemn the bad and champion the good. Their actions and attitudes are proportionate to the situation – they are moderate and wise.

They don’t condemn themselves for every mistake. They learn from errors and march on. They live sensibly in the present, carefully plan the future and flexibly adapt to change. For them, success is on the far side of failure. The only real failure is the experience not learned from.

Such leaders read the best literature. They are active socially with many friends and a few confidantes. They share intellectual interests. Physically they are active people as per their age limits. They have a healthy sense of humour; they laugh at themselves and not at others.

They do not intimidate others and are genuinely happy for others’ successes. They are well aware of their own worth; hence, they do not need any manipulative measures for success.

All of the above were modeled by our beloved prophet Muhammad (sa), which makes them absolutely doable and possible!

6. They see life as an adventure

Principle-centred leaders savour life. They do not depend upon the safety of their homes or comfort zones. Their real asset lies in their ability to initiate things, be resourceful, exercise will-power, exhibit courage, march on with stamina and their native intelligence.

They are prepared to rediscover people each time they meet them – they are able to do that by listening, asking questions and involving themselves. They do not label others according to their past successes or failures. A very important quality that they possess is that of flexibility, which enables them to adapt to virtually any situation.

They do not see anyone larger than life. They do not feel an urge to be in awe of the rich, the influential or the famous. They are secure about themselves. They don’t stereotype and categorize people to give them a sense of predictability and certainty.

7. They are synergistic

Synergy is defined as a state, in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. For instance, two and two make four, but when principle-centred people are synergistic, they create more than four – maybe five or six.

Such people are agents of change. They are able to improve almost any situation they land in. They are productive and creative in ways no one ever thinks of, because they work as smart as they work hard.

When it comes to team initiatives, they delegate work, as they believe in other’s strengths and capacities. They build on their strengths and strive to complement their weaknesses with the strengths of others. They do not feel threatened by their team members, if they happen to excel in some particular area; hence, they do not need to supervise them all the time.

When they negotiate or communicate with their team in any adversarial situation, they always remember to separate the people from the problem. They can focus on the other person’s areas of concern, rather than fight for positions. Gradually, others discover their sincerity, stop holding back and give all they have got. Together, they arrive at a synergistic solution.

They have the courage to work with different kind of team members. Take the example of Prophet’s (sa) companions: Suhaib (rta) from Rome, Bilal (rta) from Habsha, Salman (rta) from Persia and Umar (rta) from Arabia. They had very little in common in terms of ethnic backgrounds and social status. Yet, by celebrating those differences and applying them as strengths, our beloved Messenger (sa) was able to create incredible results. He was able to create synergy!

8. They work on self-renewal

Principle-centred leaders practice regularly and consistently the four dimensions of the human personality: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

They exercise to improve their physical capacity. They exercise their minds by reading purposeful material, solving creative problems, writing and reflecting upon their surroundings. Emotionally, they make an effort to be patient with others, listen to them, offer genuine empathy, love unconditionally, and accept responsibility for their own lives, decisions and reactions.

Spiritually, they focus on prayer, study the scripture, fast and offer charity. They are connected to the Lord on a twenty-four hours basis.

Initially, including these four activities into our schedule take time, but, eventually, their wholesome impact will begin to save our time.

The Progressive Faith

Progressive Faith

At a time, when Western Europe was, quite literally, plunged in darkness, tenth century Muslim Spain had paved roads with street lighting and running water.

Disease in Christendom during the Middle Ages was viewed as a punishment from God. Muslims, on the other hand, believed in the inherent goodness of people and studied disease in a matter-of-fact manner, resulting in the early removal of cataracts, invention of surgical instruments and the differentiation between small pox and measles.

When the vast majority of Europe thought the earth was flat, Muslims were busy calculating the earth’s diameter and circumference and were venturing to show, how lunar and solar eclipses take place.

Reading such comparisons, a Muslim naturally feels awed and proud at the same time. However, one must wonder, what enabled Muslims to be so far ahead of their contemporaries? The answer lies in the most fundamental elements of Islam.

Islam has a long-standing tradition of scholarship. The very first verses revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sa) enjoined him to read and informed him that God taught man everything that he never knew before. At another place, Allah (swt) exhorts the believers to ask Him: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Ta-Ha 20:114)

The Prophet (sa) himself is known to extol the benefits of knowledge and wisdom. For example, he once said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.” (Baihaqi) Additionally, he has stated: “He who goes forth in search of knowledge is in the way of Allah (swt) till he returns.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Along with the thirst for knowledge, the use of reasoning is another vital tool for any Muslim. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah (always, in prayer) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying): ‘Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory be to You! (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” (Al-Imran 3:190-191)

Hence, the seeds for an intellectual tradition were sowed from the very beginning. The Quran specified with clarity that God’s universe was not random, a mere chance, but was created with wisdom and purpose. This led Muslims to look upon the entire world as a research field, which further spurred numerous mathematical, scientific and geographical discoveries.

Islam is more than just a religion. Being a ‘way of life’, our ancestors did not confine it to the mosque, making it apparent in everyday activities of people. Muslims refined astronomy as a science, in order to offer their five daily prayers at accurate times, to predict when the crescent moon will appear, to find the direction to Makkah for prayers; in the process, and to achieve these aims, they perfected the astrolabe.

Furthermore, Islam is a universal religion – not for a few chosen people or tribes but for all people and for all times. With this collective and inclusive outlook, Muslims began to gather any and every scholarly work they could lay their hands on – be it Greek, Persian, or Indian – as the Islamic Empire grew. Then, they commenced the scrupulous task of translation and, afterwards, busied themselves in its study. With study came reformation of ideas, theories and methodologies. Hence, the Muslims enhanced scientific approaches, which enabled them to take the work of their predecessors to new heights – unlike the rest of Europe at the time, which was steeped in squalor and stagnation.

In the process, Muslims were able to achieve a magnificent balance between their worldly needs and spiritual beliefs. Indeed, today, we need to return to our basics, instead of loosing ourselves in religious nit-picking and divisiveness, which also plagued Christendom during the Medieval Ages. Once we truly internalize Islam into every aspect of our lives as a living, breathing phenomenon, then we can, perhaps, aspire towards faith-based progress again! Insha’Allah.

Working with the Media

Working with media

When you see some form of injustice around you, it becomes part of your duty as the caliph of Allah (swt) to do something about it. It is easy to sit back and complain that Muslims are painted with an unfair brush in the Western media. It is harder – but more effective – to do something about it. Regardless of your education background, work experience, language barriers or other responsibilities, each and every one of you can (and should) make an effort, so that you can at least be counted among those, who are trying to make a difference.

Working with the media is a powerful way to make a difference, because if you are successful, you can touch the lives of hundreds and thousands of people in a very cost and time-efficient manner. And now with the Internet, you are no longer limited to your local town or even country. You can try to get your message to people in all far flung corners of the globe by the power you have been blessed with.

Start with Dua

If you want to dispel the myths and misinformation about Islam and Muslims by writing about your Deen in the media, then make your intentions pure.

Letters to the Editor

You need not have a degree in journalism or extensive writing experience to write a letter to the editor. Just remember to be concise and polite, and even if your letter is not published, be assured that someone did read it. Just bringing the point across that there are Muslims in their readership base is the first step you should aim for. Therefore, you should write to the editor or a particular writer of a story that piqued your interest with both positive and negative feedback.

Unfortunately, we are all motivated to complain, when some media outlet talks negatively about Muslims. We gather friends and family, forward emails and sign petitions like there is no tomorrow. While that is important, establishing a relationship with the media for positive feedback is a great place to start. Everyone likes to be complimented.

Know the Process

Nothing frustrates an editor more than the writer not knowing anything about the publication she or he is interested in. Pick up a few issues of the newspaper or magazine or read through online archives to get a feel for the publication. Find out, how they accept articles. Find out, if they prefer email or snail mail, what sections of the publication they accept freelance work for, what word count stories do they usually assign first-timers, and what topics have their already covered?

After doing this research, plan out your article and send a brief outline to the editor. Do not follow up almost immediately as editors are inundated with a lot of queries every day. Follow up politely after two weeks to see, if they have made a decision. Do not be disheartened, if they choose not to show interest in your story.

Choose an Angle

The best way to stand out in a sea of queries is to choose an angle. Instead of just pitching “Ramadan”, I had more success in pitching “Ramadan: Why do Muslim Children Fast?”, “Ramadan in the Workplace” and “Fasting in all Faiths”.

Do Not Give Up

There will be rejection, so be prepared for it. However, do not give up. Polish your writing skills and attend workshops. Offer to volunteer for local papers, so that you learn the ropes. Make a website and start a free blog, so that you have a permanent place to store all your thoughts.

Even though getting published does boost your confidence, never let it go to your head. Constantly evaluate your intentions for getting into this field and praise Allah (swt) for giving you the opportunity to serve Him with your pen. Use your words wisely and continue your mission to change hearts, one reader at a time.

Don’t Get Caught Dead Without Islam – Part 1

Dont get caught without Islam

Why do we fear death? Why do we fear something, which we have not tried out? Normally, we fear fire, because we have been burnt by it. We fear only something we have experienced, and from that experience we understand its dangers and harms. So why it is that we fear death, since none of us has experienced it or have come back and spoken about it?

We suppose that the reason for our fear is, perhaps, partly instinctual. This is something, which is shared by all the Allah’s (swt) creatures. They all have a natural desire to survive. But beyond that we, who remain above Allah’s (swt) other creatures, have an intellectual ability to go beyond our instincts.

If our intelligence serves us right, we should not fear something which is unavoidable – death – which comes to everyone. We know without a doubt that we cannot take this world with us. We will leave everything behind – all the things we have gathered: the house, car, wife, children, friends and everything else. If we are certain about this reality, then our intellect should also indicate that we cannot become too attached to this world.

However, we choose to fear death and love this world. This is one of the signs of our times, which Prophet Muhammad (sa) predicted would happen to Muslims. In the Prophet’s (sa) time, his companions were not afraid of death. And that is why they defeated people around them, who were far greater in number and stronger than them in might.

A renowned publication called “The Companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa)” written, compiled and translated by Abdul Wahid and published in England is worth mentioning here. It is critical for us to read these stories, because they give us the feeling about the lives of the early generation of Muslims, their understanding of Islam, and how it transformed them in their time.

Fourteen hundred years ago, our beloved Prophet (sa) had spoken of a time, when the world would partake in the destruction of the Muslim Ummah. What happens, when you put a plate of food down before a group of animals? They all rush to the plate, and every one sticks his mouth in the plate for gobbling up the food. He (sa) gave this metaphor to explain that the plate of food represented the Muslims of the future. The companions questioned him, bewildered – will this happen, because Muslims will be few in numbers in the future? He replied: “No. Their number will be many.” We always hear that one third or one fourth of the population of the earth is Muslim – that comes to nearly one billion Muslims.

The Prophet (sa) continued: “They (Muslims) will be many, but they will be like bubbles, like the foam produced by the flood. The flood comes through and takes things away, churns them up and, hence, bubbles are created on the surface of the flood, having no strength, very weak, useless and that is what all Muslims will be like.” He went on to explain why.

They will be useless, because they will have a deep and strong love for life and fear of death. The fear of death will penetrate into their hearts so deeply that they would do anything to stay alive and to collect the trinkets of this world. Because of that, other nations will destroy them. This state will not change, until Muslims once again realize the reality of this life and return to the essence of the faith of Islam.

The meaning of the religion is not for people to come to the Masjid to pray, while in reality they are not praying. You see them playing with their head guards, checking their watches, leaning on one foot and switching to the other foot, cracking their knuckles and engaging in all kinds of other distractions during prayer except praying. It is as if prayer is just a ritual their parents do and, thus, they are doing it, too.

What is the purpose of praying? Are we doing Allah (swt) a favour? Does Allah (swt) need our prayers? Are we praying, because we need to pray? And if we need to pray, why do we need to pray? These are the realities, which we have to grasp in order to become meaningful Muslims. And when Islam becomes a way of life, it will ensure that we will loose the fear of death. Only then we will be able to become Muslims, who are the source of guidance for this world. We will become an example of righteousness, upholders of the law, which should govern the lives of mankind.

But the reality is that we, today, fear death, because we don’t know, what comes after it. We don’t know, what we are going to find, when we die. It is unknown; though Allah (swt) has told us in great detail what we will find, following our demise. He has explained to us about the angel, which comes to takes a person’s soul, about the whole process of being in the state of grave, about resurrection and the judgment, about crossing over the bridge (Saraat) and going either to Paradise or Hell, about what is in Paradise and what is in Hell. In spite of all this being unknown, through revelations Allah (swt) has explained it to us vividly. Because our faith has not gone beyond the state of meaningless rituals, we remain in darkness.

It is a reality that the societies, which have gone to the Moon, etc., are the same societies destroying the various creatures and vegetation, the atmosphere and themselves, too. We find the rate of murders, suicides, AIDS, diseases, etc., rising higher every year. Technological advancement does not provide stability to society, as ultimately the stability comes from faith. It is spiritually based. This is one of the things, which amazed some Westerners and caused them to become Muslims. They came across Muslims, who, under the worst circumstances, seemed to have a spiritual calmness and ability to deal with their situation, in spite of the severity of the calamity. This serenity was a result of their firm faith in Islam as a way of life. Western society cannot explain how it can be that some people seek death. Those early empires, which came across Muslim regions, could not understand it then, and society cannot understand it today either.

Transcribed for Hiba by Nazir-uddin Qureshy

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Final Part

7 habits

In the previous issue we discussed your personal bank account (PBA) of deeds and how three different types of small deposits can eventually enrich you in the long run. Now we will discuss the remaining three ways of meaningful deposits to build your (PBA). Similarly an opposite action would end up in withdrawal from your (PBA).

PBA Deposits

  • Keep promises made to yourself
  • Initiate little acts of kindness for others
  • Handle yourself gently
  • Be honest with yourself and others
  • Renew yourself
  • Let your talents bloom

PBA Withdrawals

  • Break personal promises
  • Be a loner and keep to yourself
  • Beat yourself up
  • Be dishonest with yourself and others
  • Wear yourself out
  • Neglect your talents

Be honest with yourself and others

Honesty begins with self. When ever we lie or cheat it makes us unsure of ourselves. It casts a heavy shadow on our heart and is an immediate withdrawal from our (PBA). As they say you can’t do wrong and feel right.

Have you been fake or dishonest with your parents, friends or at work? We know that we all have a tendency to impress others even if we have to act phony. Next time be yourself and you will feel a lot more wholesome. It takes strength and courage to be honest with yourself as well as others.

Sean Covey shares a story of a teenager called Jeff. Jeff was smarter in mathematics than his other friends. He came up with an idea to start charging them for every test he helped them cheat on. Initially, he felt great making money and helping his friends get good grades. Later, he realized he hadn’t really been helping them at all. If they didn’t learn now, it would just get tougher down the road for them. So he quit his game and took a brave stand by being honest with himself and his friends. It was hard but it was the right choice, which served everyone’s best interests.

Honesty may not be a trend anymore. You will find people get ahead in life by cheating and lying. But remember – every act of honesty is a deposit into your (PBA) and will build strength eventually, because your heart will be pure.

You may begin by not exaggerating or embellishing your point of views. Or next time when your parents ask you to tell them about something, just factually narrate the complete story without misleading them or deliberately leaving out some information.

Renew yourself

We all think that only medicines and magazine subscriptions expire. Wrong! As human beings, we also sometimes feel low and need a place of refuge to re-energize our mind, body and soul. If we do not learn to relax and renew ourselves occasionally, we tend to lose the zest for life.

How you can do it depends on your daily routine. Some people like to relax by writing in a journal, painting, playing a sport, going to the gym, etc. Some like to retreat to a quiet place for some quiet thinking in their homes, such as in their bedrooms, terrace or the basement. Some like to head outdoors to a favourite spot, such as a park, garden, river-side, etc.

I know a teenager, who used to keep hitting his tennis ball on a particular wall to relieve tension and after half an hour of playing ball, he felt de-stressed and renewed.

Of course, if you can build a habit of listening to a soothing Qirat by one of your favourite Qaris, it works like watering a wilted flower. When done, you’re in full bloom!

So next time you end up in an argument with your parents or friends or are simply worried about something try to slip in to your favourite place of refuge and re-collect your thoughts and emotions. Once you have renewed yourself, you will feel much better, Insha’Allah. And that will work as a deposit in your (PBA)!

Decide on a fun activity and do it today. If you feel lethargic go out for a walk or run.

Let your talents bloom

Allah (swt) has gifted talents to every single human being on this Earth. Even people with certain disorders such as Dyslexia or Autism are greatly gifted and intelligent. The key is to tap into your talents and draw on the best. Try figuring out what pleases you most and what skill you are inspired to polish?

And if you haven’t figured out fantastic ways to make deposits into your (PBA) yet, try to find special interest and then develop it. Nothing is more rewarding. And we don’t need to be stereo-typical and traditional about it. Why just think of being a writer or an athlete? You can be good at anything and carve a niche for yourself.

Talents come in different packages. They are all about self-expression. One can be a great collector of leaves, exhibit leadership skills, be a patient listener to others, write backwards, etc. Don’t ever think that it sounds silly or small. People, who have believed in their ideas and pursued their dreams, are the ones who have ever achieved anything. Most importantly they found joy and an identity for themselves. Stuff they did or made equally benefited others, too.

Make a list of talents you want to develop this year and how to achieve them. Secondly, list the name of people you admire the most for their talents and maybe try finding out how they got there!

Being a Proactive Parent!

Being a Proactive parent

Have you ever felt that you didn’t handle a parenting challenge in the best manner? Or that though you are trying to raise your children correctly, you are frustrated with the results – or lack of them? Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Unfortunately, for this job, there are no degrees, and the baby doesn’t come with an instruction manual! We all try to do our best for our children, but often get caught in a cycle of reactive parenting. A situation comes up and we react, without realizing it’s repercussions in the long run! Taking a moment to step out to look at the long-term picture is a great way to get some perspective and to help head our family in the right direction.

Reactive Parenting!

  1. Nagging, begging, bribing and threats. Most parents are guilty of using one of these reactive methods. They either nag their children, until they do what they’re asked. Some parents bribe their children: “If you go to school without crying, I’ll let you watch TV, when you get home.” Others resort to begging: “Will you do this for me? Please?” And, of course, the empty threats: “If you don’t clean up your room, I’ll throw all your toys away!” Saying such things and then not following through, teaches children not to take their parents seriously. With such methods, we almost force our children to tune us out, a phenomenon known as ‘parent deafness’!
  2. Giving in. Most parents set up rules but cave in, when their children insist. If you say: “No snacking before lunch.” mean it! If you, however, let your child eat a piece of chocolate, you lose all credibility with your child.
  3. Unclear expectations. Be clear about what you want from your children. Instead of asking them to ‘behave’, it might be a good idea to specify, what you mean: “Say Salam, when you go to Ayesha’s house” or “Share your toys, when Muhammad comes over.”
  4. Being inconsistent consistently. Children don’t know what to expect of their moms and dads! At times, they can get away with being super-hyper, while at other times, they are scolded for making noise. Make clear rules and be consistent. Control the situation, rather than let it control you.
  5. Lying. Parents don’t realize the small lies they tell their children. Hiding a toy and saying: “Oh, the birdy took it away,” is lying. Be the person you want your children to be. As Robert Fulghum says: “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
  6. Hitting. Some parents resort to hitting their children in a last desperate attempt to discipline them. What parents forget is that the only thing the child will remember from the incident is the hitting itself and not why he was spanked!

Being Proactive!

Being a proactive parent means that you think about what you want for your children in the long run and take every parenting moment that comes to help them towards that goal. Safaa Minhas, who recently conducted a workshop “Parenting: Proactive vs. Reactive” at “Hiba” office suggests the following ways, in which you can respond proactively to your child, Insha’Allah:

  1. Working together. Work together with your child. Make rules and routines. Decide consequences. Let your child decide, how he should be punished, if he misbehaves. Become a team, and you will see a remarkable difference in the child’s cooperation.
  2. Being prepared. The most important thing about proactive parenting is being prepared for every situation. If you know your child gets cranky when visiting friends or relatives, keep some of his favourite toys along. Also, talk to your child beforehand to help his transition to any change or event.
  3. Positive statements. Keep the blame and accusations out of your tone. If your child knocks down and breaks a vase, instead of saying: “See, I told you not to run around,” use such positive statements as: “Why do you think the vase broke?” “Should we run around in the sitting room?” The aim is to make the child realize his mistake, so it doesn’t happen again, not to prove you were right.
  4. Good compromises. Where giving in is a bad idea, sometimes parents do need to compromise. If your child makes a valid point, agree to change the rules.
  5. Show empathy. Understand your children and relate to them. Not acknowledging their feelings leads to frustration and anger in children. For example, if your child exhibits rivalry towards his younger sibling, show empathy. “I know he takes your things, and I know it’s annoying. But it’s only because he loves you and wants to be like you.”
  6. Use your imagination and humour. Parenthood should be a fun and joyful journey! Use your humour to help you deal with some situations, instead of flying off the handle! If your child fusses at bedtime and never gets to bed in time, use your imagination. Make her the mummy and have her put her fussy teddy to bed!
  7. 5-3-1 GO! Parents expect immediate obedience from their children and get angry, when the children don’t drop everything at once. Give children the time to adjust. Shouting: “We’re leaving in five minutes!” and then dragging a screaming child to the car is not a solution. Count your child down. Remind again in three minutes, then one minute and finally make it clear that it’s time to GO!
  8. Ask helpful questions: Try to understand, why your child misbehaves, when he does. Uncover the problem and then make him understand that misbehaving is not the solution.
  9. Saying sorry. Learn to say sorry. Everybody makes mistakes, and when you make a mistake, set an example by apologizing and owning up.
  10. Punishment vs. discipline. “Discipline expresses a parent’s boundaries with the emotional volume turned down,” says Sharon Silver, founder of Proactive Parenting. Chalk out consequences, rather than punishments, to help your child realize his mistake.

Three golden tips for raising our little Mumins in today’s world!

  1. Always think long-term! Instead of reacting impulsively, be proactive – use a situation in your favour by guiding your children to learn a lesson from it.
  2. Don’t give freedoms that you know will eventually have to be taken away. With exposure to TV, the Internet and assimilation of western culture, we need to inculcate the Islamic spirit early on. If you say: “She’s too young right now and it’s okay for her to wear such clothes,” then be prepared for a rough transition.
  3. Last but not least, make Dua for your children! Pray to Allah (swt) to make them leaders of the Muslim Ummah and to help us in our quest of being better parents!

The material presented in this article is based on a parenting workshop facilitated by Safaa Minhas at “Hiba” Magazine’s office.

Dealing with Innovators

Dealing with Innovators

Three men – Abu Bakr, Abu Bakr Al-Admi and their friend – went for Hajj together. After they had performed all the rites of Hajj, they decided to visit Madinah.

One day, in Madinah, the friend came to Abu Bakr and said: “There is a blind man in the mosque of the Prophet (sa). He is narrating fabricated incidents and weak Ahadeeth to a large audience. We really should go and stop him from doing so, as he is misleading the public.”

Abu Bakr pondered for a while and then replied: “I really do not think that people will listen to us and disregard the more interesting details that the blind man has to tell them. After all, this is not Baghdad. We are well-known there and so is our credibility. Here, we are merely travelers. No one knows us, and if we try and argue with him, no one would support us. We will have to think of another way to handle this.”

Suddenly, an idea occurred to him. He realized that Abu Bakr Al-Admi recites the Quran beautifully. All three of them went to the mosque of the Prophet (sa). There, Abu Bakr Al-Admi was requested to start reciting the Quran in a loud voice.

When he began to recite, people automatically began to gather around him. Attracted by his voice and Qirat, the people attending the blind man’s study circle also got up and came here instead. Soon, there was no one around the blind man.

He sighed and asked his assistant to lead him home, saying: “Blessings are taken away in a second.”

This story contains an important lesson for all of us in these times. Instead of fighting over our differences, it is always a good idea to think of more creative and peaceful ways to resolve those differences, such that the right prevails over the wrong.

Adapted (with permission) from Sunehray Huroof published by Darussalam. Translated for “Hiba” by Hafsa Ahsan.

Multitasking and the Sunnah

Multitasking and Sunnah

By Maryam Sakeenah

You have to be a multitasker, or you’re old fashioned. It is just so normal nowadays to have a conversation while SMSing a friend, listen to a song while typing an email, update your Facebook status while looking up a reference on Google, watch the television, while having dinner with family. This just goes to show the magnitude of the transformation the technological revolution has brought about in our social and personal lives. Multitasking is the way of life.

While the modern lifestyle almost dictates multitasking, is it really an efficient way to get things done and get them done well? Much has been written about it and concerns voiced about multitasking taking its toll on human relationships, work efficiency and quality, time management, mental concentration and human behaviour.

What in the old-fashioned eighties would be considered rude manners, disrespect, attention deficit or disinterest is now the way to go about things. In a comedy show, Jerry Seinfeld explains his reasons for not possessing a Blackberry Smartphone: “Blackberry people… their pupils do not focus. They’re not really there. They hold the Blackberry in their hands all the time, because this is what it commands them to do. And they listen to what you are saying and compare it to what is on the Blackberry, and which one is really more interesting…”

It is interesting to note that the term multitasking is derived from computer multitasking. It is a basic computer function. But while machines are built to multitask, can we apply it to human lives as well? The modern way of life demands just that, but it is common observation that it leads to attention deficit, poor time management and poor efficiency. Psychological studies have disclosed that people show severe interference, when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time, if both tasks require selecting and producing action. Many suggest that the human brain can only perform one task at a time. (“Is Multitasking a Myth?” BBC News, August 20, 2010). Researchers examined, how multitasking affects academic success, and found that students who engaged in more multitasking reported more problems with their academic work. (Junco, R. & Cotten, ‘Perceived Academic Effects of Instant Messaging Use.’)

Inability to manage time is a frequent complaint one gets to hear so often. We are by far busier today than ever before, we have more things to do today than ever before, our lives are faster and our tasks speedier than ever before, but we get to accomplish little, if not nothing. Multitasking achieves little. With our uninsightful and rather thoughtless embrace of technology, the Barakah has fled from our lives, as we race against time and breathlessly chase deadlines, doing nothing to the heart’s content. We remain perpetual underachievers, perpetually dissatisfied.

As Muslims, the inspiration and guidance always comes from the life of the Prophet (sa). While we all know that the Prophet (sa) possessed a multi-dimensional personality and lived out many roles that inspire all sorts of people, he also did justice to each of these roles, lived each aspect perfectly well, and accomplished all of his diverse range of duties remarkably. Whether it be his family life, his political life, his social sphere or his spiritual life, Muhammad (sa) did it all to perfection. So then, dispensing so many tasks altogether, fulfilling so many of his duties that his position demanded, did the Prophet (sa) multitask?

Here are some insights from his life that give us clarity in this regard. For one, the Prophet (sa) was a beloved husband and spent quality time with his wives and children. To his friends, he was a mentor and a loveable companion. As a military strategist and soldier, a jurist and lawmaker, a head of state, leader and statesman, a teacher and guide, the Prophet (sa) was the paragon par excellence. Ayesha (rta) narrates: “The Messenger of Allah talked to us and we talked to him. However, he was as if he had not recognized us, when it was time for prayer, and he turned to Allah with his all existence.” This shows that the Prophet (sa) would give his best to each task, one at a time. While at home, he would be fully involved in domestic affairs, spending time with the people of his household, listening to them, talking to them and attending to their needs. And when it was time for other duties, such as the duty of prayer to his Lord, he would stop everything else and turn towards his Lord (swt) with heart and soul, with complete submission and thorough involvement. This is also why he managed family matters exceedingly well, and all his wives loved his noble companionship thoroughly.

It is also interesting to note the Prophet’s (sa) manners of conversing with others. It is said he would speak little, but with gravity, precision, balance and wisdom. More than that, he was an intent listener and would listen to others patiently with complete attention till they had finished. In fact, when spoken to, he would turn himself with full involvement and interest towards the speaker, making him feel thoroughly understood and given importance. It worked wonders in gluing together a closely knit and firmly bonded community of companions, disciples, associates and devotees, who later became integral to the spread of the Islamic mission.

In matters of the state or of military planning, the Prophet (sa) applied himself fully and achieved astounding results. The fact that the Prophet (sa) is universally acknowledged by all as, perhaps, the most successful figure in human history, must make us analyze his approach and methods with some seriousness. The way of the Prophet (sa) was clearly what may be called ‘uni-tasking’ – taking one thing at a time, performing it to the best of his ability till its conclusion without interruption, distraction or interference. It is only when one allows oneself to be possessed by a single idea and executes it to its successful end does one become an achiever with a deep sense of satisfaction. This deep contentment for having attained your target, after successfully finishing a task you devoted yourself wholly to, is an unparalleled feeling that is the privilege of the Sunnah-abiding Muslim to relish. Muslims are essentially uni-taskers.

Use the Right Flavour

Use the Right Flavour

There are things which people unanimously love and appreciate; there are things which they collectively dislike. However, there are other things over which people differ; some find them appreciative while others think them as cumbersome. For example, everyone loves to be smiled at and hates to be frowned at; yet, only some appreciate jokes while others do not. Some people may prefer socializing while others would rather be left alone. Some love to talk excessively while others prefer silence. People usually feel comfortable with those who have the same nature as their own self; so why not be pleasing to people of all natures?

Hence, if someone knows that his father prefers silence to excessive talk, then let him deal with his father accordingly, in order to gain his love. If a wife knows that her husband loves jokes, then let her joke with him. If she discovers the opposite, then she should avoid joking with him. The same can be said about a man dealing with his colleagues, neighbours and brothers. Do not think for a moment that people are all of the same nature, for they differ and come in many varieties.

I recall that a righteous old lady, who happens to be the mother of a friend of mine, would praise one of her sons lavishly. She should always be happy, whenever he visited or conversed with her. Even though her other sons and daughters were also kind to her, her heart was attached to this one son in particular. I would wonder about this, so one day I asked my friend why. He replied: “The problem is that my brothers do not comprehend my mother’s nature. They become too cumbersome for her to bear, whenever they sit with her.”

I asked, jokingly: “So your highness was the only one able to discover her nature?”

He laughed and said: “Yes! Allow me to tell you the secret. My mother is like any other aged woman, who loves to talk about womanly issues, such as who got married or divorced, how many sons so-and-so has, which of them is the eldest, what is the name of her first child and so on. I consider all this frivolous, but she loves chatting about it. She feels that the information she shares with me is priceless, as it cannot be found in any book, audio or website. She feels that she is relating unique information to me and is delighted to do so! Whenever I sit with her, I instigate such conversations, and she becomes elated and continues to speak ceaselessly. My brothers talk about issues that do not interest her, and so she feels bored in their company and longs to be in mine! That is all there is to it.”

Yes, if you realize the nature of the one you are conversing with, what he likes and dislikes, you will be able to capture his heart. Whoever looks at the way the Prophet (sa) dealt with people would realize that he would deal with everyone in accordance with their personality.

Adapted (with permission) from “Enjoy Your Life” published by Darussalam. Compiled for Hiba by Bisma Ishtiaq.

Mission Statement for Two

Mission Statement for Two

All couples begin their journey with the sacred ceremony of Nikah. Regretfully, since most of us are non-Arabic speaking individuals, it is considered more of a religious ritual meant for the Imam to conduct. It is critically imperative to understand Allah’s (swt) expectations of the couple about to tie the knot. As they move beyond, they also must invest time in preparing a mission statement for themselves to be content and contributing partners.

Why do we need a mission statement?

The point is to bear the end in mind. With this intention multitude organizations form and frame their mission statements. It not only assures productivity and success for high performance organizations but also the satisfaction and happiness of the people, who work in it.

Stephen Covey states: “Even though families don’t have the kind of mission statement so critical to organizational success, yet family is the most important, fundamental organization in the world. It is the literal building block of the society. No civilization has ever survived its break up. No other institution can fulfill its essential purpose.”

What happens, if we don’t have a mission statement?

To many spouses, creation of a mission statement seems like a dreaded or redundant job. The reason, why it is critically needed in any given marriage, is because no two people are completely alike. There are always differences. And if the couples do not take the time to explore these differences and create a sense of shared vision, then these differences can eventually drive them apart.

We will try to understand the gravity of the situation by considering two people called Asif and Shehla. Asif comes from a very supportive family. When Asif was in college, if he had said to his mother: “Today I lost my badminton semi-final,” his mother might have responded: “Oh Asif! Inna lillahi wa inna illehi rajioon. You must be really disappointed. I am really proud of your effort and love you!” If Asif had said: “Oh, another thing, I scored the highest in my statistics exam.” His mother might have replied: “Subhan’Allah! I am so happy for you. I am proud of you and love you.” Asif’s success or failure made no difference. His parents were unconditionally affectionate, proud and caring.

Shehla, conversely, belongs to a family that is not supportive. Her parents are generally disinterested, unaffectionate and conditional in their love. If Shehla had said to her mother: “Today I lost my badminton semi-final” Her mother would have replied: “Well so what happened? Didn’t I tell you to exercise and practice more? Your brother was a badminton college champion. He also exercised and practised a lot more than you. What am I going to tell your father?” But if Shehla had said: “Mom, I scored the highest marks in my statistics exam!” Her mother would have replied: “Oh great! I’m really proud of you. I can’t wait to tell your father.”

Observe how these two individuals have had totally different nurturing experiences. One has learned to love unconditionally, while the other seems to love conditionally. Their families meet and propose an arranged marriage. Asif and Shehla both approve of the proposal and Nikah is performed. They both fall in love with each other. But within a few months of living with each other, the tenderness, sensitivity and intimacy of the relationship is challenged.

Asif expects Shehla to be expressive about her love. He also complains that Shehla expects him to be perfect all the time, otherwise she is very upset with him. Since he comes from a very positive family, he also doesn’t feel the need to discuss reasons for issues at length and is in the habit of brushing stuff under the carpet, as if all is hunky dory.

Shehla, on the other hand, assumes that since she cooks, cleans and looks after Asif’s family, she doesn’t need to validate her love for Asif continuously. She also feels that Asif is too casual about his shortfalls and should work harder to perfect himself. She claims that occasional yelling, accusing and fighting is all part of conflict resolution so what is the big deal about it?

See how these two individuals, due to their own childhood experiences and learning, have completely opposite ways of recognizing and addressing problems. If they both do not come to resolve these differences their relationship will deteriorate further. The attraction will turn into accommodation, then to toleration and finally to hostility.

The crux of it all is that mostly the problems that people face in their marriages is due to conflicting role expectations and by conflicting problem-solving strategies.

How will you make one?

Giving into our customs, the newly wed couple is seldom given a chance to be alone for quiet thinking and planning for their life ahead. Not at least until the umpteenth family dinner is over. And generally by then the first baby is already on the way. So many couples feel way too overwhelmed by the pace of the rapid changes taking place one after the other.

Nikah is a beautiful relationship any man and woman can enjoy. It is indeed a responsibility, too. The couples should plan and try to get a grip of things, before they impulsively start happening, as they can frustrate the partners.

Ideally speaking, the couple should take some time off together to be alone after the wedding ceremony is over. It could just be for a few days or a few hours a day. They may choose a relaxing place. (It doesn’t have to be the Swiss Alps but any place of retreat their pocket permits.)

They can envision together, what they realistically want their relationship to be like after five, ten or twenty years down the road.

What should it contain essentially?

Basic guidelines can be sought from the Quran and Sunnah. Following critical questions need to be answered and documented as early as possible in any marriage:

  1. What kind of marriage partners shall we be?
  2. How are we going to treat each other?
  3. How shall we resolve our differences?
  4. How shall we manage our finances?
  5. What kind of parents shall we be?
  6. What principles we shall teach our children to help them become responsible and caring individuals?
  7. How shall we help develop the potential talent of each child?
  8. What kind of discipline shall we use for our children?
  9. What roles (earning, financial management, housekeeping, etc.) will each one of us have?
  10. How shall we best relate to each other’s families?
  11. What traditions shall we continue that we shall bring from our respective families?
  12. What new traditions shall we want to create in our new family?
  13. How shall we give back to our family?

What are the cautions to look out for while writing a mission statement?

  1. Don’t announce it. It should be remembered, that the final product must represent all that is in both spouses mind and heart. Only then they will own it up.
  2. Don’t rush it. They are pivotal issues and need a deep interaction hence they should not be rushed simply to quickly whip up a mission statement.
  3. Don’t ignore it. Writing a mission statement is only the beginning. The richest fruits will be born, when it is lived on a day to day basis. The statement must be put up some place prominent, reflected upon and used as a compass for direction in marital life.

What if you never made one and have been married for some time now?

It’s never too late. If you and your spouse realize, what has been missing in making your marriage more successful and comfortable, prepare a mission statement now. May Allah (swt) be your guide. Ameen.

Adapted from “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families” by Stephen Covey.