Reaping the Rewards of Ramadan

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Annually, Ramadan gives us the greatest discount to stock up Hasanat for our Akhirah account. The rate is exceedingly profitable, so it is important to consider the best ways of using this opportunity for everyone in the family, especially the head of the household.

Time Management

Proper time management is the key in order to avail limited time offers. A daily schedule helps stay focused on what is important. Wasting valuable time by sleeping away the hours should be curtailed. Rather, sleep should be kept to the minimum. Watching TV should be limited to only those broadcasts that are truly beneficial, like live Taraweeh broadcasts from the Haramain. Similarly, ensure that all Eid shopping is out of the way prior to Ramadan, so that the entire family can utilize the last ten days for worship in the best possible manner.

Worship

Time should be reserved for personal and collective worship, throughout the day. This includes the daily Adhkar, Quran recitation, Qiyam, congregational prayers, Taraweeh, etc. As the head of household, encourage your family to participate in worship. Take the younger ones with you for the prayers, especially Taraweeh. Even if they do not participate fully, just being in the Masjid and seeing worshippers pray together in the special Ramadan atmosphere leaves a lasting impact on their young hearts and minds.

Learning

Learning is another beneficial activity that one should establish both at an individual as well as a family level. Personally, one can use Ramadan to memorize a portion of the Quran or understand its meaning, or study some Ahadeeth daily. The family can also learn together. Last Ramadan, while walking to and from the Masjid, my son, who was six, memorized some Surahs of Juz Amma just by repeating after me. Older kids can be asked to research the background of these Surahs and report back to the family when the family is together, for example, while driving, sharing meals or sitting down for a family study circle. The younger ones can be asked to draw and colour whatever they have heard.

Sharing

Ramadan is also a time for sharing, whether it is food, clothes, wealth or knowledge. Some may disagree, but I have found that rather than arrange Iftar parties throughout the month for the rich, where people participate in food orgies and end up missing Taraweeh prayers, it is better to supply food to the less privileged members of society, for example, the needy, students, bachelors, orphans or travelers. Taking your kids with you for daily rounds of food distribution engenders a love of giving and an appreciation of the blessings they have in their lives. Projects can also be developed through Zakat money, which many Muslims choose to pay during this blessed month.

Simplicity

To free up time for all of the above activities, both for us and for our families, it is important to keep food shopping, preparation, presentation and consumption to a minimum. A simple meal can suffice daily for Iftar as well as Suhoor. Husbands can help by doing groceries quickly using a shopping list at a less crowded time of the day and not picking faults in food presented to them. They can go for a simple Iftar of dates and water and have dinner after Magrib prayers. This will ensure that the ladies of the house get sufficient chances to reap the benefits of these days and do not have to spend extra time in the kitchen.

Sons, husbands and fathers play a big role in helping to maximize the benefits of Ramadan for themselves and their families. A family, which is led properly to utilize Ramadan time for worship, learning and charity, can hope to achieve the real spiritual goals of this month, Insha’Allah.

Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives (Part 3)

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Verse 4

“Verily! Those who call you from behind the dwellings, most of them have no sense.”

This verse was revealed for the Bedouins. Understand that the life of the Bedouins in the desert is very rough and very harsh. They came to the Prophet (sa) to understand some matters of the religion. At the time, the Prophet (sa) was inside his private chambers. Instead of exhibiting patience, they started to call him out from outside. This verse is admonishing them for their impatience. Note it gives no excuse for their behaviour. It simply says that they “have no sense”. As Muslims, we are obliged to behave responsibly and conduct ourselves as individuals who use their intellect, not as those who have no sense.

Verse 5

“And if they had patience till you could come out to them, it would have been better for them. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

One can imagine that the Bedouins, for whom the previous verse was revealed, must have felt terrible that a verse came directly to admonish them. Allah (swt) is comforting them here. He mentions that He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. If the aforementioned acts of impatience were done out of ignorance, He will forgive. However, now that the warning and the solution is clear, one must not fall prey to impatience. The solution is to repent for previous behaviour and reform one’s ways to ensure one is patient and respectful towards the Prophet (sa).

Verse 6

“O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.”

Consider whom this verse is addressing: “O you who believe” or the believers. Essentially, this means that the instructions that follow are for the believers. Whoever follows these commands will be considered as a believer. Question is: Believe in what? Answer: Believe in Allah (swt) and believe in the commands He has given.

Let’s analyze the verse in more detail. “…a rebellious evil person…” – who is he? The Arabic word is ‘Fasiq’. Literally, Fasiq is derived from the word Fisq, which refers to a date, whose skin is peeling off. It essentially refers to a person, who has deviated from the right path. People can be guilty of either major Fisq or minor Fisq. Those, who engage in the latter, are still considered to be believers. However, those, who do major Fisq, are not considered to be Muslims, because they have crossed all the limits set by Islam. A Fasiq can exercise Fisq in terms of behaviour (calling out to the Prophet [sa] from outside his chambers) or in terms of religion.

Now what happens if someone comes to you and brings you some news? You have to:

  • Analyze the person, who has brought the news;
  • Analyze the content of the news.

People usually go to extremes in following the two-pronged approach. They either refuse to accept any news from the disbelievers, or they accept it without question. True believers take the middle approach. If the person bringing the news is not a believer, verify it and if needed, discard it without giving it a second thought.

If a believer brings some news to you, again, you have to analyze the content. What is this news about? If the person is telling you about someone committing adultery, you immediately discard the news. This is because of the condition that whoever accuses one of adultery has to bring four witnesses, and if this testimony proves to be false, the person bringing the news will be lashed 80 times. Moreover, this individual’s testimony will not be accepted ever again and he will be termed as a Fasiq.

The word used for news in the verse is Naba. Naba refers to major news that has a great impact. Such is the impact of the news that it can affect one’s hearts and one’s relations with others. This is why verification of this news is extremely important, before acting upon it. If one acts upon the news without verification, one falls in the category of being judgemental. One’s attitude towards the other person starts changing. This takes root, until the two people concerned part ways totally.

What are the specific types of news that you do need to verify?

  • News that concerns you directly. If something does not concern you, it doesn’t bother or affect you. Hence, you can easily dismiss it.
  • News that affects you. This type of news creates doubt in your heart about someone close to you. You have to verify that this news is true, before you act upon it. Consider an example: your friend tells you she saw your husband with a lady at a mall at 11:00 pm. When your husband comes home, you will, of course, ask him about it. Suppose he replies he has no idea what you are talking about. He has arrived straight home from a long meeting. You accept this and leave the rest to Allah (swt). Maybe your friend saw someone else. Maybe she did this on purpose to create a rift in your house.

Note: You have to verify with a clean heart and clear intention. What would happen if, in the above example, you start accusing your husband the minute he sets foot inside the house, without giving him a chance to explain? What if you would start checking his cell phone, when he is not around? If you do this, then it simply indicates that you totally believe what your friend said. Since you believe without verifying, Allah (swt) will make your doubts seem as reality. Remember that incorrect ways of verification lead to more doubts. Your heart should not take any sides without verification.

The wisdom behind verification is to ensure you do not end up harming anyone emotionally, out of ignorance. Harming emotionally means backbiting, giving a cold shoulder, discussing negatively with others, etc. You don’t know the true story because you heard only one side and believed it whole-heartedly. Remember that every story has two sides. If you never heard the other side, it means you judged the person whose news was communicated to you, while that poor person has no idea what is being spread about him or her. What if you would later find out that the news was false? Remorse and regret would naturally follow.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) warned us about the punishments for those, who bring news and create rift/enmity between people. It is reported from Hudhaifah (rtam) that news reached him (the Prophet (sa)) that a certain man used to tell tales. Upon this, Hudhaifah (rtam) remarked: “I heard Allah’s Messenger (sa) saying: ‘The tale-bearer shall not enter Paradise.’” (Muslim)

Don’t make it your job to spread people’s news. Refrain from gossiping. Vain talk about people creates enmity and hatred. Some people do this in relation to scholars. They ask one Sheikh about a matter, and then they go to another and ask the same question. Then they quote the first Sheikh to the second one and thus create differences between them.

A very important aspect of spreading information is forwarding emails. Do you verify the content of emails before forwarding them? Are you especially careful with anecdotes and incidents from Islamic history that are written without any references? This is how this verse applies today, when there are Blackberries and Iphones in almost every hand.

Another key point is that you yourself have to be careful. Don’t put yourself in a situation, in which others get a chance to judge you. Consider the following Hadeeth:

Narrated by Ali bin Al-Husain (rtam): Safiya (rtaf), the wife of the Prophet (sa), told me that she went to Allah’s Apostle (sa) to visit him in the Masjid, while he was in Itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. She had a talk with him for a while. Then she got up in order to return home. The Prophet (sa) accompanied her. When they reached the gate of the Masjid, opposite the door of Umm Salamah (rtaf), two Ansari men were passing by and they greeted Allah’s Apostle (sa). He told them: “Do not run away!” And said: “She is (my wife) Safiya bint Huyai.” Both of them said: “Subhan’Allah! (How dare we think of any evil), O Allah’s Apostle?” And they felt it. The Prophet (sa) said (to them): “Satan reaches everywhere in the human body, as blood reaches in it (everywhere in one’s body). I was afraid lest Satan might insert an evil thought in your minds.” (Bukhari)

As we can gauge from the aforementioned Hadeeth, it is better to clarify before you are questioned.

Taming your Tricky Toddler

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  1. You are in the middle of composing an email on a tricky subject to a difficult family member. Your toddler bounces up to you with cries of ‘Mommy, mommy!’ What is your most likely reaction?
    1. Cry out: “Will you let me do ANY work?”
    2. Ignore and keep typing.
    3. Sigh loudly, clench your fists, stop typing and say: “Yes?”
    4. Sigh inwardly, stop typing and attend to the toddler.
    5. Toddler is unlikely to come as you made sure he or she was fast asleep before you tackled this particular email.
  1. You are preparing some snacks for guests who dropped by unexpectedly. Your toddler clings to your legs, demanding attention. What would be your strategy to deal with this?
    1. Tell him or her to get out of the kitchen and bug the guests instead.
    2. Ignore him or her completely.
    3. Say irritably: “Wait till uncle and aunty leave, and I will deal with you”
    4. Give him or her some pots, pans and spoons and allow him or her to play with them.
    5. If guests come unexpectedly, you never bother to prepare fresh snacks; you are likely to serve them something that doen’t need much effort.
  1. Your toddler just threw an object at the maid. How would you react?
    1. Stand on his or her head until he or she apologizes to the maid.
    2. Tell the maid to ignore it completely; if she reacts, he/she will do it more.
    3. Pick up the object and apologize to the maid (when the toddler is out of sight).
    4. Give your toddler a time-out, and then talk to him gently but seriously about how it hurts when we throw things at others and that we can try not doing it again.
    5. Your toddler would never throw anything at anyone because he/she is taught that one only throws balls.

Score Yourself

  1. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d. 4 e. 5
  2. 3 b. 2 c. 1 d. 4 e. 5
  3. 5 b. 2 c. 1 d. 4 e. 3

Your Report

13-15: Excellent. You definitely realize that your schedule needs to follow the toddler. It is also good to note you do not make allowances for others which disturb your toddler. That said, do realize that unexpected and unplanned events happen, and one must be prepared to deal with them.

9-12: Fairly good. At times, you are able to distract your toddler from negative behaviour, but do remember to use time-outs sparingly and at the end, have a chat with the child about acceptable and non-desirable behaviour.

8-5: Good. You mostly employ a strategy to ignore your toddler’s negative behaviour. At times, it is the best technique. However, you need to know when you need to step in and be firm.

4 and below: Oh dear! You seem to be caught up in reactive parenting. Categorize your child’s behaviour into “I can ignore it” and “I can distract him/her”. These two strategies work wonders. Remember toddlers repeat their parents’ oft-used sentences when they start speaking – be positive and inculcate positivity.

Ramadan and Eid Treats

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Masoor Dal Pakoras

  • Masoor lentil (Dal) 1 cup
  • Onions 2 (finely chopped)
  • Green chillies 3-4 (finely cut)
  • Coriander leaves A few (cut)
  • Red chilli powder and salt To taste

Method

  • Wash and soak lentils for an hour.
  • Drain the water and grind the lentils in the blender.
  • Add salt and red chillies (as required).
  • Then, add onions, green chillies and a few coriander leaves. Mix well.
  • Heat oil in a pan.
  • Put spoonfuls into the pan, and fry until they are brown and crispy.
  • Drain on paper towel and serve warm.

Yummy Kulfi

  • Condensed milk 1 tin
  • Evaporated milk 1 tin
  • Cream 16 oz
  • Elaichi powder ½ tsp
  • Pistachios 1 oz

Method

  • Blend the milk.
  • Add the cream.
  • Then add pistachios and Elaichi powder.
  • Put in moulds and freeze.

Slowing Down the Propellers

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Mr. Zafar, a concerned father of a three-year-old, has arrived at his office, completely distressed. His daughter was not admitted into a prestigious preschool. His wife has already filed a complaint at the institution where the toddler underwent a six-month-long programme supposed to prepare her for the pre-school admission test.

Mr. Hassan, Mr. Zafar’s colleague, has other worries on his mind. His teenage son is bluntly refusing to work with the chemistry teacher, whom they have hired for tutoring him in late evenings. He is also not interested in Mr. Hassan’s proposed extra-curricular activities, which would look so good on his resume for college application.

Although the scenarios of Mr. Zafar and Mr. Hassan are to be taken with a good dose of humour, many parents nowadays find themselves in similar situations, micromanaging and over-analyzing the lives of their children. The recent decades have witnessed the rise of a distinct style of parenting, which has come to be known as ‘helicopter parenting’ – paying extremely close attention to experiences and problems of children, particularly at educational institutions, or, in other words, hovering over their heads much like helicopters. It is believed that some of the factors contributing to the rise of helicopter parenting are the increased academic competition, the exposure of child abduction stories in the media and the highly competitive environment of the global economy.

While a healthy parental concern about children is a positive phenomenon, over-parenting can result in such unwelcomed developments as lack of problem-solving skills and self-esteem in children. Some children might become so dependent on parents that they would require ‘helicoptering’ well into their college and beyond, while others might simply rebel against the tight grip of their parents, as they get older.

What are helicopter parents like? Here are some key characteristics:

  • Obsession with their children’s education, safety and extracurricular activities;
  • Over programming the lives of their children, allowing them no free time for playing and exploring on their own;
  • Inability to tolerate that their children might have painful or negative experiences;
  • Conviction that their children can be happy only by proceeding through their lives smoothly, and that it is the duty of parents to facilitate it.

As well-meaning parents, we all have the innate wish to protect and provide for our children. However, at some point, we should ask ourselves whether we are doing too much for them. Here are some healthy ways of slowing down the propellers and avoiding the trap of over-parenting:

  • Let your children deal with their own problems. Often, in an attempt to save children from negative experiences, parents swoop in and fix the problems kids are facing. By dealing with their own problems, children become stronger. Making poor decisions and learning from natural consequences will help them make right decisions in future.
  • Do not overprotect your children. While parents should provide a reasonably safety environment for their children, overprotecting can prove to be counterproductive. Knees will get scratched and the cricket game will have only one winning team. Life holds many valuable lessons to be learned.
  • Let your children take risks – within reason. Kids are able to handle more than we think. If the situation at hand has acceptable risk level, let your kids face it head on; however, stand by and be ready to jump in if the potential damage exceeds the lesson to be learned.
  • Talk it through. Leave the fix-it practice; instead, teach your children to address problems themselves. Coach them on peer relationship problems or academic issues and allow your kids to mature by experiencing the full range of emotions.
  • Encourage your children to try. No amazing adventures or great discoveries have happened without some anxiety and fear in the background. When your children face something scary, put a positive smile on your face and encourage them to try it, instead of empathizing and allowing them to back out of it.

Slowing down the propellers and giving the children space might not be easy. Today’s society loves high achievers and believes in pressure-cooking success. It’s time for human parents to get back to the basics and learn confidence from the instincts of mama-bird, who knows just the right time to kick the babies out of the nest.

Abu Qasim ibn al-Zahrawi – Muslim Scientist and Thinker

General-Surgery

Abu Qasim ibn al-Zahrawi, also known in West as Abulcasis, was born in the town of al-Zahra, close to Cordoba, Spain, in 993 CE. His ancestors were Ansar Arabs, who settled in Spain in the 8th century. He lived most of his life in Cordoba, where he received his education. As he finished his education, he started teaching and practicing medicine. With his surgical skills, he became the physician of Caliph al-Hakim II in Cordoba. He died there in 1064 CE. The street where he lived is named after him (Calle Abulcasis), and his house has been preserved by the Spanish government in his honour.

Al-Zahrawi is considered to be the father of modern surgery. As a physician and surgeon, he also had an interest in chemistry and cosmetology. His 30-volume encyclopaedia of medical practices (“Kitab al-Tasrif”) is considered to be his greatest contribution in the field of medicine and surgery. The encyclopaedia included a large section on surgery and covered also such medical topics as orthopaedics, pharmacology, ophthalmology, nutrition, dentistry and childbirth.

Al-Zahrawi emphasized the importance of a good doctor-patient relationship and took great care to ensure the safety of his patients and win their trust irrespective of their social status. His clinical methods showed foresight and promoted close observation of patients. He warned against dubious practices adopted by some physicians for purposes of material gain and warned against deviation from medical ethics. He also cautioned against quacks, who claimed surgical skills they did not possess. His treatise contains many original observations of great interest in the field of medicine. He has given great importance to the causes and symptoms of diseases.

There is no doubt that al-Zahrawi was a rare genius in the field of medicine. His treatise was translated into Latin in the 12th century and became the standard book in the universities of Europe for the next 500 years. His book was the primary source of surgical knowledge for the European physicians and, thus, had a huge influence on their practice of surgery. Pietro Argallata, a 15th century European surgeon, says about him: “Without doubt, he was the chief of all surgeons.” Jaques Delechamps, another 16th century French surgeon, made extensive use of his treatise in his elaborate commentary, confirming the tremendous contributions of al-Zahrawi in the field of surgery.

Writer’s email: Aslamsyed1@yahoo.com

 

Resolve in Ramadan to Set Smart Goals

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“Ramadan is the month for which all other months pass. It is the season of budding. In Ramadan, Taqwa can no longer remain hidden in the seed – the fleshy sheaths of your heart. The sun is on you and what is to become of you finds its moment, its moment in the sun. Do you have what it takes to reap lasting gains from it?” (Hassan Haidi)

Opportunities are seldom labelled. Ramadan is one. It is an opportunity to:

  • Profoundly think about the purpose of your existence.
  • Understand the part you need to play in the bigger picture.
  • Work upon the areas that you have been neglecting.
  • Nourish the soul and in the process, strengthen it.
  • Resolve personal improvement and communal change for the next eleven months.
  • Charge yourself with passion and enthusiasm for gearing towards a crisp and clear goal.
  • Chalk a strategy to carry out the above.
  • Befriend Allah (swt) and prepare to meet Him ultimately.

“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

Attaining Taqwa itself has a higher purpose.

“Say: ‘Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things?’” (Al-Anam 6:164)

“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favours), La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)…” (Ghafir 40:3)

“…Allah will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return.” (Shura 42:15)

Ramadan is not about losing weight. It is not about mindless starving and uncontrollable feasting, or about shopping and endless planning for the Eid-ul-Fitr. It is indeed the best time to renew intentions and to set resolutions for the remaining year. Yes, for Muslims it is not January or Muharram but the blessed month of Ramadan that is divinely designed to help them achieve specific goals. Today’s scientific research proves that it takes thirty days of constant practice to break a bad habit and instill a new desired one. How Merciful and loving is our Lord towards the sinners to bestow them with Ramadan as a golden opportunity to turn a new leaf and be rewarded for it, Alhumdulillah.

Abdullah Khan shares: “It is customary among people to set new year resolutions. However, the majority of people lose their newfound resolve within just a few months. This is mainly because few of us know how to set goals for our self-promises. Even less have an action plan to achieve it.”

In order to grow closer to the Lord of the worlds, you have to push yourself to rise to a level of performance beyond the comfort spheres of faith you have already achieved. This requires a SMART goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

  1. Specific

When you have a vague or unclear goal, it has little chances of being accomplished. Narrowing it down to an exact target that needs to be achieved doubles your chances of attaining it. You must work out the 6 ‘Ws’ when setting your goal. For instance, if the task at hand is to establish the Sunnah prayer along with the Fard prayer (which you are already offering), the following should be answered:

  • Who is involved? (You: a Muslim, who is firstly a servant of Allah (swt).)
  • What do you want to accomplish? (You want to establish your Sunnah prayer on a regular basis.)
  • When do you want to achieve it? (During Ramadan and carry it forward after the month ends.)
  • Where do you want to attain it? (At home, at college, at your work place, etc.)
  • Why do you want to achieve it? (It has uncountable rewards and benefits in this life and the hereafter.)
  1. Measurable

Abdullah Khan offers: “Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals.” You may chalk out the following questions for yourself

  • How much? (The number of Rakahs of Sunnah I will begin with, for example, 2 or 4 in Zuhr prayer.)
  • How many? (How many Sunnah Salahs will I begin with? Fajr and Maghrib as Sunnah Mukadah and then build on that, or all five Sunnah Salahs together?)
  • How will I know when it is accomplished? (Maybe you can prepare a chart that helps you mark the daily Sunnah Salahs performed, until you fall into the habit of praying without having to chart it.)
  1. Attainable

A far-away goal comes closer, if you plan your steps, prioritize and demonstrate determination to achieve it. The goal doesn’t shrink; you grow and expand to match what it takes to meet the expectations.

Shaitan, as usual, will intercept and try to weigh you down, reminding you of past sins and causing you to despond of Allah’s (swt) mercy. But Allah (swt) expedites the attainment of that servant’s spiritual goal, who exerts himself or herself spiritually. The Lord (swt) states in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “I am as my servant thinks I am. I am with him, when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than it. If he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Realistic

A realistic goal means an objective that you are both willing and capable of achieving. It does not mean something easy. Rather, it means something doable. Similarly, it also does not mean something that is next to impossible under present circumstances. For instance, one cannot set a goal to scale the mountain with no prior training or expertise; it spells failure to begin with. You are bound not to achieve your goal, as you do not possess the skills required to do it. Hence, the goal should be to train first. Similarly, goals set with half-heartedness and under coercion are highly unlikely to be attained, as your heart and soul are not into it.

Abdullah Khan advises: “One way of knowing if your goal is real is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Also, ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to achieve this goal.”

  1. Timely

When you bind your goals to a timeframe, it will give it a sense of urgency. “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah some day” will not work as well as “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah from the 1st of Shaban.”

This due date will serve as a motivation for you to get started and stay on track. It will also help you determine whether or not you have fulfilled your goal.

All super goals can be broken down into smaller and smarter goals, in order to aid with assessment. For example: From the 1st Shaban until the 7th, I will pray Sunnah Salah of Fajr. Once that is in place, I will begin from the 8th of Shaban to the 14th to pray Zuhr Sunnah Salah as well and so on. In time, I will be ready to offer all the Sunnah Salawat in the blessed month of Ramadan and carry it on, Insha’Allah.

A life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. A devout worshipper and believer is never ad hoc, mismanaged or unplanned. He realizes that the time he has been spared in this world is of very high value and about which he will be questioned. Recharge your Iman and set up SMART goals for yourself without further delay. Ramadan is the perfect time for change. And change begins with you.

Inspired from a series of articles titled “R is for Ramadhaan and resolution”, written by Abdullah Khan.

Raising Parents

Parents

Fathers and mothers are like shepherds. Their children are like their flocks.

Let us feel the seriousness of this Hadeeth narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar (rtam): Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people is a guardian and is responsible for them. A man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is a guardian of her husband’s house and children, and is responsible for them. A slave is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. All of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Bukhari)

Our pious predecessors made Deen the top priority of their lives. Teaching their children Deen and raising them as good Muslims was a topmost concern. Asma bint Abi Bakr (rtaf) is a shining example, raising a son like Abdullah bin Zubair (rtam). So is Umm Sulaim (rtaf), mother of Anas bin Malik (rtam). In the later years, we have the mother of Imam Shafai, who, despite being a widow, sacrificed a lot to make her son a scholar.

A child’s first years of life are critical, as during this time, he absorbs a great deal. His mind and memory are remarkable. How can we capitalize on these years, in order to teach them Deen and raise them as good Muslims? Here are some thoughts:

Be a Role Model

Children don’t listen to what we say. They listen to our every deed. They observe what we do. Be a role-model for them. Acquire the qualities you wish to see in them. Rid yourself of traits and habits that you do not want in your child. Following are some examples:

  • We want our children to be close to Allah (swt). Are we close to Allah (swt)? Do we think of Him often? What’s our first response when something pleasing happens? How do we react when something displeasing happens?
  • Do we model gentle, kind and tolerant behaviour for our kids? Do we keep losing our cool, yelling and hitting often? Then when the kids yell and hit, we become angry and tell them not to do so. If yelling and hitting are bad, how come they find us doing that?
  • If they spoil or spill something, do we lose our temper, or are we patient and forgiving? Our behaviour in these everyday incidents can teach lifelong lessons to our children about patience and forgiveness.
  • Do we tell them not to touch our things? Then when they do not share their things with siblings and others, do we get irritated and advise: “You should share. It’s good to share”?
  • Do we always speak the truth, even when it is difficult? A Mumin (believer) does not lie.
  • Every now and then, we make promises to our kids. When they ask for something, we say: “I’ll give you later, or I’ll take you there, or I’ll show you that.” Now, that’s a promise, and it needs to be kept. If we keep our word, we’ve taught our kids, without lecturing, the importance of keeping one’s word. But if we don’t, we’ve taught our kids that promises can be broken without a second thought.
  • When we make mistakes, are we humble and honest enough to accept them? Can we say sorry, without trying to justify the wrong behaviour?
  • What kind of a relationship do we have with our spouse? Is it based on mutual respect, care and understanding? When children see their father respecting and caring for their mother, and their mother being obedient and caring towards their father, they learn similar good behaviour. For Allah’s (swt) sake and then for our own and our children’s sake, we have to care for and value our spouses. If we have differences with them, we should discuss them privately.
  • Do we fulfill the rights of our relatives? Do we prefer friends over family? Do we have good relations with our parents, siblings and in-laws? What kind of an example are we setting for our children?
  • Do our kids see us caring about others, especially our Muslim brethren? Do they see us giving away our favourite things to others? From as early as two, we can talk to our kids about poor people and together select things for giving away. We can also place things and money in their hands to give to the needy.
  • Adults often tell their little ones: “Say Salam to aunty/uncle.” The Prophet’s (sa) way was different. He used to say Salam to kids. There is a Hadeeth in Sahih Bukhari narrated by Anas bin Malik (rtam) that he (Anas) passed by a group of boys and greeted them (said Salam) and said: “The Prophet (sa) used to do so.” Often, small kids feel shy to say Salam to adults. Following the Prophet’s (sa) way, we should not hesitate to offer Salam to our kids and other people’s kids. Insha’Allah, as they grow up, they will return this goodness to us.
  • How important is Salah to us? Seeing their parents praying on time five times a day would teach kids a better lesson than an hour-long talk on the importance of prayers. (This is not to say that talks don’t have value.)
  • Is learning the Deen a priority for us? Do our kids see us spending regular time with the Quran? Do we attend at least one weekly class to increase our faith and knowledge? Late Khurram Murad (Daee, thinker, writer, and Director-General of Islamic Foundation, Leicester, UK) was educated at home till the primary level. He dedicated his book “Way to the Quran” to his mother, saying: “At her knees, I learnt to read the Quran; upon her insistence that I must learn Arabic, I was sent to the school of Maulvi Sahib, who gave me the rudimentary knowledge, upon which I could build later; seeing her devotion to the Quran, reading it with understanding, for hours and hours, kindled a spark in my heart, which has continued to illumine my way; finally, through her example and silent but solid support, I found my way to a life of struggle in the way of Allah (swt).”

Children learn their real, lasting Islamic lessons by observing us. Our primary effort has to be focused upon practising Islam ourselves. If we succeed, then, Insha’Allah, the supplementary education (through books, talks, etc.) will be more effective.

Education and Tarbiyah

It’s amazing how children learn so much through everyday conversations, book-reading and story-telling. Here are specific things I did with my children, all below the age of seven then. The following is not to portray myself as an exemplary mother. I’m far from that and make mistakes every day:

  • I starting reciting Duas for different occasions right from the time they were born, for instance, I would say Salam to them when they woke up, and recite the Dua when waking up and going to sleep, when going to the toilet, when leaving the house and returning, when sitting in the car, during illness, when getting up from a gathering, when sneezing, when seeing someone in a hardship, when it rained and so on. Often, after saying the Dua, I would further say out loud its meaning in simple words. This way, they would pick the meanings and realize that all these (Arabic) words have a meaning. For example, when saying the meaning of the Dua for boarding a vehicle (Subhan alladhee Sakhkhara lana…), I would say: ”Allah (swt) is Paak (glorified), Who gave this car in our control; otherwise, we could not have controlled it, and to Allah (swt), we are going back.” I would break up the Duas for my son to repeat after me, for example, Al-hum-du-lillah, as it was difficult for him to say it in one go.
  • When they were babies (and also when they were older), I would recite the Quran to them. I didn’t fix a time or place for this. I would do so when putting them to sleep or while working in the kitchen, or when on the go. Children pick up a lot this way. My elder daughter could recite Surah Fatihah when she was 2 ½ but my son could not. Each child is different, and we should understand and respect that. When reciting the Quran, I would sometimes say its meaning in simple words. My daughter understood that these words have meanings, and often she would stop me during my recitation and ask what this or that word meant.
  • I would refer to the Quran or Ahadeeth, as the situation arose. For example, once we were outdoors. It was cloudy. My daughter asked when it would rain; I replied: “I don’t know. Only Allah (swt) knows. He has mentioned in the Quran five things that only He knows (rain being one of them; see Surah Luqman, verse 34)”. If the child yawned and didn’t cover the mouth, I would tell them to do so and mention the Hadeeth about it.
  • Learning the Deen must be a daily activity for Muslims. We read Islamic books and stories almost every day. If we want our children to follow the Prophet’s (sa) footsteps, then we must regularly tell them stories of the Prophet (sa), his companions and other prophets of Allah (swt). Children love stories, and these are the best stories. Avoid telling them nonsense stories because story-telling is not just for fun – it shapes their character.

When my son was a toddler, I told him the story of Prophet Yunus (as) in simple words, using actions (for instance, of the fish swallowing him). I’ve told him the ‘doggy’ story about a thirsty man who, after fulfilling his own thirst, gave the water also to a thirsty dog, for which Allah (swt) forgave his sins. My son loved this story and wanted to hear the ‘doggy’ story again and again. I would tell him about Prophet Musa’s (as) miracle. To explain this, I would take his hand, put it in his armpit, take it out and say that it would be shining. I’ve told him about Prophet Sulaiman (as) and the ants and about the Prophet’s (sa) grandson riding on his back when he was leading the prayer (and that the Prophet (sa) loved children).

Once, when I was telling my daughter about the Prophet’s (sa) stay in the cave of Thawr during the Hijrah, I showed her a picture of Mount Thawr. My son got curious. I showed him the picture and told him a little about it. There will be such spontaneous moments every day for children to learn something. I don’t tell them fairy tales which contain such incorrect ideas as Shirk, pre-marital friendship, magic, lies or plain stupidity.

Our Deen differentiates between beneficial and non-beneficial knowledge. The Prophet (sa) has taught us Duas for seeking beneficial knowledge and Duas for seeking Allah’s (swt) protection from non-beneficial knowledge. Through personal example and guidance, we have to encourage our children to seek beneficial knowledge, and not to waste time and pollute the minds with non-beneficial knowledge. By refraining from junk literature, we set a good example for our children.

  • We don’t have a T.V. We used to have a small TV set that was used sparingly for watching videos (Islamic or scientific). The harms of TV far, far outweigh its benefits, and given what Allah (swt) has said about alcohol and gambling’s sin exceeding their benefits, it’s best to say ‘bye bye’ to the TV set.
  • Children learn much more by asking questions, than by answering them. I take my children’s questions seriously. This often means stopping what I’m doing to answer them or to look up the answer. They feel satisfied and their curiosity stays alive and grows. Once, before going to sleep, my daughter asked me who a Shaheed (martyr) was. I told her what I knew and asked her to remind me in the morning to look up more. In the morning, we found a list of possible Shaheeds: one who drowns, dies under a wall-collapse, dies due to plague, etc.
  • From an early age (between the ages of 1 and 2), I informed them about the difference between our things and other people’s, for example, if they’d pick up an object belonging to someone else, I would tell them: “It’s not ours. We can’t use it without their permission.”
  • I would encourage them to make Dua (though I need to do more of this). We had kept food for birds on our window-sill. Sometimes, the birds would come and sometimes not. My toddler son liked them very much and felt upset when none would come. I would say: “Oh Allah! Please send birds for him. Ameen.” As time went by, he got used to this, and when no birds would come, he would say to me: “Ameen,” which was his way of asking me to make Dua.
  • I would try to link events to Allah (swt)’s Will and Qudrah. Once, when it rained, my son asked why, and I responded: “By Allah’s (swt) command.” I also told him about the water-cycle in simple words.
  • I would tell them: “Allah (swt) would be happy, if we do such-and-such”, instead of: “He will punish us if we don’t do it.” Don’t mention hell-fire excessively when they are small (say, under 7). Present Jannah in a way they understand and feel attracted to. I tell my kids that the toffees and chocolates in Jannah would be such that they won’t spoil our teeth, and that we could eat as much as we want. I tell them about the Bazar held every Friday in Jannah. I tell them that we will see Allah (swt) there.
  • I would attend Islamic classes (as a listener as well as a teacher). My kids would accompany me. While teaching the ladies, I would attend to the children’s needs, too (peeling an orange for them or nursing the baby). Somehow, adults in Islamic classes and Masajid often deal with children in a surprisingly harsh and cold way, which bears no resemblance to the Prophet’s (sa) way of dealing with them. Why don’t we consider this aspect of Sunnah as applicable to us? For shaping their Islamic character, it is important for Muslim children to attend these gatherings from a young age. In the Prophet’s (sa) time, children were a part of these gatherings and were not cut off from the lives of adults, as they are today. It would do the Ummah a lot of good, if Muslims studied and emulated the Prophet’s (sa) dealing with children. If children are welcomed in Islamic gatherings, they would turn out to be mature and better Muslims, and more loving towards their elders. Insha’Allah, we wouldn’t need to complain later that the youth is not interested in Islamic gatherings or the Masjid!

Parenting is hard work. We want this hard work to pay off in the Akhirah. Let raising our children as good Muslims be the focus of our parenting endeavours. Let pleasing Allah (swt) be the Niyyah in our journey. I pray Allah (swt) accepts the efforts Muslim families are making. Ameen.

The Prophet (sa) and his Daughters

Daughters

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad (sa)) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

“And We have sent you (O Muhammad (sa)) not but as a mercy for the Alamin (mankind, Jinns and all that exists)….” (Al-Anbiya 21:107)

Without doubt, one of the greatest gifts Allah (swt) has given to the believers is perfect guidance, which Muslims can follow with the assurance that it will not lead to a dead end. This guidance is the last revelation – the Noble Quran – and the way of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who practically showed us the religion of Allah Almighty (swt) and explained it in great detail, as is mentioned by Abu Zarrah (rtam): “When the Prophet of Allah left us, we had all the knowledge (even) about every bird which flies above us.”(Ibn Hibban)

One of the most important aspects of every person’s life is the relationship with one’s children. Let us see what our Prophet’s (sa) conduct was as a father.

According to one of the opinions, the Prophet (sa) had three sons: Al-Qasim, Abdullah (At-Tahir) and Ibrahim – and four daughters: Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthoom and Fatimah, whom he called Az-Zahra (the flower). The daughters outlived his sons and they were from his first wife, Khadijah (rtaf). It must also be mentioned that most reports about the Prophet’s (sa) relationship with his daughters date back to the Madinah period – the time, when all of them were of full age and already married. This is due to the fact that most knowledge about his private life came through his wives, all of which, except Khadijah (rtaf), he married either shortly before Hijrah or after it. Most reports came through Aisha (rtaf), who has narrated more than two thousand Ahadeeth, which constitute the fourth largest source from among the Sahabahs.

Pondering over the reason Allah (swt) gave to the Prophet (sa) so many daughters that outlived his sons, the scholars are of the opinion that it was so in order to show that he did not rely on his sons, as was a custom among the Arabs of the time, and in order to confront the Jahiliyah tradition of hating daughters.

The Prophet (sa) was overjoyed about the birth of his daughters, unlike the neglectful attitude Arabs had towards their daughters. This proved that there is no reason to worry about the birth of daughters, and that the Rizq of every person is with Allah (swt). The Rizq does not decrease because of the number of children or the birth of daughters. The Prophet (sa) also has said that a person who will raise two righteous daughters will stand next to him on the Day of Judgement. (Muslim)

All of the Prophet’s (sa) daughters were born before his prophethood; therefore, when the command of Allah (swt) came (“And warn your tribe (O Muhammad (sa)) of near kindred.” (Ash-Shuara 26:214)), the Prophet (sa) ascended the mount of Safa and called his tribe to Islam: “Oh, the people of Quraish, ransom yourselves – nothing else will help you in front of Allah (swt),” and also his daughters: “Oh, Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, ask me how much you wish of my money but it will not help you in front of Allah (swt).” (Bukhari) All of his daughters accepted Islam and later migrated to Madinah.

The Prophet (sa) did not delay the marriages of his daughters, choosing for them husbands who were known for their wisdom and sharp mind (like Abu al-As ibn al-Rabia, to whom he gave his eldest daughter Zaynab), or their Iman and shyness (like future Khalifah Uthman ibn Affan – a man in front of whom even angels felt shy and to whom he gave two of his daughters: Ruqayyah and after her death, Umm Kulthoom). After the death of his second daughter, the Prophet (sa) gave a brief description of this righteous man: “If I had a third daughter, I would give her to Uthman in marriage.” (Al-Asbahani)

He gave his youngest daughter Fatimah (rtaf) in marriage to Ali ibn Abu Talib (rtam), who stood at the forefront in almost all of the important battles of the Muslims. The Prophet (sa) respected his daughters and never forced husbands of his choice upon them. He always sought their opinion. After Ali (rtam) had asked for Fatimah’s (rtaf) hand in marriage, he informed her about it in a subtle way: “Ali mentioned you.” Fatimah’s shy silence was a sign of her acceptance, and they were married. (Ibn Sad)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) tried to help in solving the marital problems of his daughters and encouraged happiness and harmony among the spouses. One day, having come to visit his youngest daughter, the Prophet (sa) did not find Ali (rtam) there. When he found out that they had had a small marital argument, the Prophet (sa) went in search of him and found Ali (rtam) in the Masjid, where he was sleeping on the floor. Carefully clearing away the soil from Ali’s (rtam) face, he woke him up, in order to help the couple make up. (Bukhari)

When the Prophet (sa) saw the necklace of his deceased wife, Khadijah (rtaf), which was sent from Makkah by his daughter Zaynab as ransom for her husband, Abu al-As, who had not yet converted to Islam, he could not remain indifferent. He asked the permission of Muslims to release his daughter’s husband and let him go back to her to Makkah. He received their permission. (Abu Dawood)

When the Muslim army went out for their first decisive battle against the disbelievers of Makkah, the Prophet (sa) left Uthman ibn Affan (rtam) in Madinah with his daughter Ruqayyah (rtaf), who was ill at the time, thus showing by this action that caring for relatives is of utmost importance in any situation.

Yet, at the same time, he did not give his daughters any privileges, which would raise them above other Muslims. He said about his youngest daughter, who resembled him like no one else in the way she spoke and walked: “I swear by Allah, if Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, would steal, I would cut off her arm.” (Bukhari)

One day, the Prophet (sa) noticed Fatimah (rtaf) entering his home. Since there were guests in the Prophet’s (sa) home, she left straight away. The next day, he went to visit her, in order to inquire why she had come. Fatimah (rtaf) did not say anything, but Ali (rtam) explained that he had requested her to ask from him a servant. Due to the hard work, the skin on her hands had become very rough; due to sweeping the floor, her clothes were dirty. To this, the Prophet (sa) answered: “Oh Fatimah, fear Allah (swt) and fulfil your duties in front of your Lord by doing the household chores. But when you go to sleep, recite Subhan’Allah thirty-three times, Alhumdulillah thirty-three times and Allahu Akbar thirty-four times, together one hundred, and this will be better for you than having a servant in your home.” (Abu Dawood)

The Prophet (sa) did not try to gift the Dunya to his daughters. He always pointed to the importance of the Akhira, especially when there was a choice between the two. Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah has analyzed that the one who will recite the above mentioned Dhikr before sleeping will not be overcome by tiredness, because the Prophet (sa) presented it as a solution to this particular complaint. It should also be mentioned that the Prophet (sa) himself, being the best among people, never looked down upon household chores and always helped his wives. This was narrated by his youngest wife Aisha (rtaf), when she was asked about what the Prophet (sa) would do while he was at home: “He did house chores together with his family, but when the time for Salah arrived, he went to the Masjid.” (Bukhari)

May Allah (swt) help us appreciate and emulate the Prophet’s (sa) example and reap unaccountable benefits resulting from it. Ameen.

Character versus Personality

character-traits

In “The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking”, author Susan Cain writes: “We moved from what cultural historians call a culture of character to a culture of personality. During the culture of character, what was important was the good deeds that you performed when nobody was looking.” Prophet Muhammad (sa) symbolizes the culture of character, where he was only cognizant of the fact that he was answerable to Allah (swt) alone.

Today, our kids are personifications of the new ideal person. “…we suddenly had the rise of movies and movie stars. Movie stars, of course, were the embodiment of what it meant to be a charismatic figure. So, part of people’s [our kids’] fascination with these movie stars was for what they could learn from them…” (Susan Cain) They learn about being popular and getting ahead. Welcome to the culture of personality!

We wonder why our children are disobedient, do not listen, are rude towards others and give tart replies. The answer is obvious. It is the prevailing culture and model of success that has made them so. What can we do to counter it? After a survey of 8 to 15 year olds (boys and girls across 3 continents), we have compiled a practical guide.

  1. Be decisive: When you make a decision, stick to it. If something is off limits and not allowed, then under no amount of pleading or duress will it be permissible. Granted there are certain grey areas, but define those. For example, missing Salah is a straight ‘not to be done’. However, completing homework right now can be negotiable.
  2. Say it like you mean it: Kids of all ages have this uncanny sense of knowing, when you can be persuaded. They detect weakness in resolve and then move in with their innocent faces to plead till you relent. If something is non-negotiable, then mean it when you forbid it. Do not use “I’ll tell Abbu/Ammi” or “let your father/mother come and then we will see”, or any other such statements. You are the parent. You have the authority. Use it.
  3. The Rubric: A rubric is a tool used by teachers to assess a particular task given to students. Often, the students are given these criteria, so they know what areas they will be assessed in. Allah (swt) in His infinite mercy has given us such a tool; sadly, we rarely use it. Make a copy of the rubric below, personalize it and sit with your kids to decide, where each task falls and then hold them to it.
  Fard

(obligatory)

Mustahab

(recommended)

Mubah

(permitted – neither good nor bad)

Makruh (disliked but not forbidden) Haram (forbidden)
Parent’s expectations non- negotiable discussion Negotiable discussion but probably not allowed or limited access not allowed – non- negotiable
Parent’s Reaction thrilled pleased concerned dislike angry
Tasks Salah (all the time and on time) studying and homework email friends Facebook/social media/TV going to clubs/movies that have Haram content
  reciting Quran everyday helping siblings/ taking out the garbage cell phone usage going out to the mall with friends reading books that have Haram content

Be as specific as you can be. Try not to generalize – that way there is no room for a: “I wasn’t sure what that meant” reply, which has become oh so popular.

  1. Islam as a Deen, not only rituals: Prioritize and schedule your activities and day according to Islam. If you make Deen a part of daily life, so will your kids. This is, of course, common sense, but we, as parents, do digress and as a result give our kids mixed messages. The most common example is lying on the phone about being busy, etc. Kids are confused: lying in any form is a sin, so why is what the parent just did acceptable, but when she/he lies it is not? Be the role model, do not let others (movie stars/singers/sports personalities) usurp that spot.
  1. Be fair: A rule that applies to one child, by default also applies to the rest. For example, if you do not let one child snack between meals then you cannot allow the others either. For most rules, age/gender does not play a factor. Treat them equally, so they know they are loved equally.
  1. Be a friend: “Most parents want a mutually respectful and loving relationship with their children, (…) this means giving in to their harmless pleasures, saying yes to the little things, so when you do say no to things that are absolutely unacceptable, they trust that you are not trying to control them but are ‘raising’ them. Parents need to know that kids are hitting puberty earlier, but we do not let them become adults until much later in life. Psychologists tell us that the reward centers of the adolescent brain are much more active than those of either children or adults.” (MuslimMatters.org) So, let them have their absolute moment of joy, as long as it is permissible. Communicate with them, enjoy their exuberance. Do you remember how it felt to win?
  1. Responsibility and choices: Teach them that if they want choices, they will have to be responsible for the consequences. We do not teach them how to think critically. Let them make mistakes, nurture their hurt and teach them to become stronger after the fall. A mistake is not a failure – it is a learning situation.
  1. Be tech savvy: In the social media, super-connected world of today, parents really do themselves a disservice, when they do not educate themselves about gadgets and technology. Don’t give your child a smartphone, if you do not know how to use it yourself.” (Muslimmatters.org)
  1. Be informed: All kids are good; however, be vigilant. This is not a trust issue but a smart parenting move. Know who the friends/peer groups are. Check up on them unexpectedly. Have access to his/her phone, Facebook account, etc. Know what their daily routine is, ask them what they did that day. Communicate! Show them that you care enough to be there when needed.
  1. There is a connection between sensitivity and conscience. The more sensitive a person is, the more moral choices they will make. Guide your child to be sensitive to others’ needs and views, and not to criticize. The ‘cool’ of today is insensitivity. We need to cultivate kids, who think before they act/speak. To do this, programme yourself with this new line of action – your kids will follow.

Subhan’Allah, and may the odds be ever in your favour.

From Cradle to Grave

Cradle to GraveAyesha Khawaja interviews Ammatul-Mohsi, mother of Rohma (Dr. Israr Ahmed’s grandchild) who passed away after a brief battle with cancer.

As a child, Rohma was a sweet girl by nature, who never gave a hard time to her mother. Her mother, being a righteous person herself, was very conscious about the proper upbringing of her children. She always recited all of the Quranic and Masnoon Duas for them. At every important juncture, she did Istikhara, and for any problems, she got up for Tahajjud. For the girls, she switched schools from regular to Islamic, where they would not feel stigmatized for covering themselves.

From the age of ten, there was no question of ever leaving a prayer. The older siblings were also very vigilant about it. On and off, they would attend Islamic lectures with the family; in the car, they listened to Nasheeds and inspirational songs (without music).

Right after puberty, around the age of 12-and-a-half, Rohma began observing full Purdah with the Niqab. It came naturally to her; her mother, Khalas and her immediate cousins were all observing it. They did not watch movies at any point in their lives. Music was out of the question. Some Nasheeds, however, did have some sort of musical background, but even that was eliminated from their lives, as they gained greater understanding of the Deen.

Rohma’s father was extremely particular about Rizq-e-Halal. Even though he owns a huge business, he never took any bank loans. He was meticulous about the rights of others. Although he was a very busy man, Rohma’s mother made sure the family had meals together. He led by example rather than by preaching. The kids could see that their father was an upright man, truthful in his dealings, generous to the core, unpretentious and ever upholding the ties of kinship.

Ammatul Mohsi (Rohma’s mother) has a lot of Haya (modesty). She could not bring herself to utter a word like ‘Jhoot’ (falsehood). According to her, if ever a child did say anything that was incorrect, she would say it was ‘wrong’ and not ‘Jhoot’, because she really disliked the word. In her daily utterances, she would avoid words that had any connotation of immodesty or immorality in it, to the extent that she would not even mention words like ‘potty’.

Rohma’s mother also made sure that the children shared their life experiences with her and did not keep any secrets. In this way, she gently and skillfully guided them, as tests came along.

In Rohma’s own words, her life changed and her heart melted completely, when she did the one year Quran and Hadeeth course from Dr. Israr Ahmed’s Quran Academy after her higher secondary education. She said what she gained from there was far superior to what she had acquired from home.

Rohma’s Khala chose her to be the pious bride for her Hafiz son. Rohma’s deep blush was the only indication of her acceptance. Her bashfulness was such that she used to go deep red, if someone mentioned her fiancé’s name.

After the course, she graduated from Tooba College (the Islamic college opened by Dr. Israr Ahmed) and was married in a simple Nikah ceremony at the Quran Academy’s Masjid. There was no Mehndi, no Barat and no reception afterwards – just the beautiful Khutbah of Nikah at the Masjid, followed by Rukhsati. The Valima was the only dinner that graced this marriage.

It is worth mentioning here that there was a huge chasm between the worldly standards of the two households. Rohma belonged to a very well-off family and lived in a grand place with all the comforts of modern living. The bridegroom’s house, however, was no comparison and far removed from what she was used to. Years later, she had confided in her mother that initially, she had felt this sharp difference. However, her husband Mohsin’s piety and Taqwa had more than made up for lack of material comforts.

When the news of Rohma’s death was conveyed to her mother, the first word that escaped her lips was ‘Alhumdulillah’ and then “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Elaihi Rajeeoon”. She told me that she had asked so much for Sabr from Allah (swt) that the only time tears poured down her cheeks were during Salah in Fajr or some other Salah.

Just the night before I interviewed her, she invoked Allah (swt) long and hard, beseeching Him to show her how to be steadfast in patience. In an instantaneous response to her Dua, Allah (swt) the Most High, showed her Rohma in her dream, looking breathtakingly pretty in a beautiful party dress that her mother had made for her, when she was a little girl. In the dream, she hugged her tight and kissed her and when she woke, an indescribable peace enveloped her.

When Rohma was ill, she had spoken to her sister about a dream, in which she said she was choosing a bride for her husband from a choice of three. It so happened that there were actually three girls that they considered one after the other for Mohsin and then settled for one, who seemed most suitable. Her daughters are, by the grace of God, being taken care of physically, emotionally and spiritually. After all, is Allah (swt) not the Best to help? And how Excellent a Patron and how Incomparable the Provider!

Readers are encouraged to read more about Rohma in Hiba’s January, 2013, issue (“Legacy of a Mominah”).

Interview with Mrs. Azmat Irfan (Mother of Three Sons)

What are some tips for positive parenting?

  1. Set your priorities. Your kids matter more than career, parties and social gatherings.
  2. Be patient and polite with your kids. At the age they are in, learning is a gradual process.
  3. Don’t punish them before giving them a warning. Punishments hurt both parties.
  4. Don’t punish when you are angry. You run the risk of overdoing it.
  5. No physical punishment before 10 years of age, if it is resorted to at all in the first place.
  6. Whenever you call them, do so with love and affection. Use words like “Mera Beta (my son) or Meri Shehzadi (my princess).” No matter how old your child is, he/she will always like it.
  7. Express your love, embrace them frequently. A bond between a child and a parent is the strongest in the world, but even that needs reinforcement.
  8. When they disobey their parents, they may be ignored if the offense is not severe. However, if they disobey Allah (swt), they should be reprimanded.

Beyond Ramadan: Sustaining the Spirit of Worship

Beyond Ramadan

Ramadan is not just thirty days of one year. We should look at it as life itself. When we are young, we are absorbing information and trying to understand the reality around us. In mid-life, we have matured enough to comprehend what life is about. In the later years of our life, we begin to apply what we had learnt.

We can measure our fast on the same scale and determine if, beyond Ramadan, we have matured as a believer or are on a downturn. We might have started the month enthusiastically, but our spiritual drive weakened towards the end. In such a case, we need to go back to the heart and soul of Ramadan. As the Prophet (sa) said: “Truly, in the body, there is a morsel of flesh which, if it is whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly, it is the heart.” (Bukhari)

This is true for everything. If the core is not lived and grasped, the benefit doesn’t come. For our worship to transform into action, thoughts and sound deeds, it is critical to understand the essence of Ramadan. While we are fasting, there is a spiritual connection between us and Allah (swt). This God-consciousness is called Taqwa. Ramadan is the month to develop Taqwa.

Reciting the Quran

Recitation of the Quran during Ramadan aims at the development of Taqwa, which is the highest point of Islam. Once Jibreel (as) asked the Prophet (sa): “What is Ihsan?” The Prophet (sa) responded: “It is to worship Allah, as (though) we see Him, or as (though) He sees us.” (Bukhari) This is the pinnacle that Allah (swt) wants us to reach.

Our Senses

Our fast should involve every atom of our body through the cooperation of all senses. When we look, we exercise caution that our sight doesn’t wander at forbidden scenes, magazines, movies, etc. And if we happen to cast an accidental look, we must immediately look away, rather than engage with it and displease Allah (swt).

Our Speech

In matters of speech that involve the tongue, a fasting believer is advised to refrain from cursing, abusing, lying, arguing or backbiting. If others coax him into it, he should simply inform them: “I am fasting,” as per a renowned Hadeeth. This means that we will not partake in any sinful conversation, which can dent our spirit of fast and hijack our Taqwa. It is advisable to stay silent unless we have something constructive to utter. Likewise, we should not lend our ears to others, as we may become the means for spreading their gossip and slander. In order to keep the above resolutions alive, it is imperative to intend to do so, either the night before the fast or at Suhoor before Fajr. This intent will ensure that our fast doesn’t become a ritual exercise or daily breakfast.

Giving Charity

Another Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) that builds Taqwa is giving charity. He was known to be the most generous of all, but when Ramadan arrived, he was like a gentle gale of generosity, bringing relief to anyone it touched. Open charity in the form of Zakah is a Fard (obligation) but secret charity (Sadaqah) is highly recommended. These are priceless deeds, especially when the receiver of the endowment doesn’t even know where the aid is coming from.

Qiyam-ul-Lail

Believers should perform Qiyam-ul-Lail from day one of Ramadan. We need to reinstitute this in our life and if possible, re-establish it in our communities. It is worth striving for.

Salah

The Prophet (sa) encouraged people to pray with presence of mind. Perform each prayer as if it were your last one. How does a worshipper pray if he is told that he will be bidding farewell to this world afterwards? Will he pray the way he usually does? No. He will be conscious of his every movement. Once, Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated to Bilal (rtam): “O Bilal! Call the Iqamah for the Salah, so that we may find comfort in it (prayer).” (Abu Dawood)

Wudu

Prayer begins with Wudu, which is a process of purification. We should perform every Wudu as if it is our last, focusing on the spiritual elements of ablution. When we wash our limbs, we should believe that our sins are being washed away with every drop of water that falls off our body. As the believer moves from one Wudu to the next and from one prayer to the next, his awareness of Allah (swt) grows stronger, and brings him closer to His pleasure. In the absence of this soul, Ramadan becomes merely thirst and starvation for the person and nothing more.

Istighfar (Repentance)

Making Istighfar is crucial. In between our Sujoods in the prayers, we say: “Rabbigh-firli.” It is an ideal moment to seek forgiveness, but instead, many of us simply sit, prostrate and jump back up again without extracting any benefit from those prostrations.

Pondering over what is beyond Ramadan and how its essence should translate into actions, we need to look at another dimension that governs our life as a whole. As the Prophet (sa) indicated, he was sent to us to perfect the highest level of moral traits. We need to evaluate what have we given up and how that translates into our own moral behaviour. We need to assess our relationship with Allah (swt), our relationship with others and our relationship with the world He submitted to us.

Interestingly, food and drink are critical to one’s existence and so is the need to procreate. Yet, during Ramadan, Allah (swt) restricts what is Halal and vital, in order to raise the will to give up Haram. When this will is strengthened, we become conscious of Allah (swt). In this righteousness, we achieve the purpose of our creation. In terms of existence, it is Paradise, turning the whole life to worship. Hence, fasting helps us to develop the goal we need to apply beyond Ramadan.

In order to keep the spirit of fasting alive, we are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal. For fasting thirty days of Ramadan, the reward is equal to a worship of three hundred days. For fasting the six days of Shawwal, we are rewarded for another sixty days of worship. These days combined complete a whole year in the lunar calendar.

Then, we are advised to fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th of each month. Likewise, fasting is advised on such significant days as Yaum Arafah and the 10th of Muharram. Sins of the entire year fall off sincere worshippers, while they fast.

The one who went through Ramadan but was not able to have his sins forgiven has suffered an unthinkable loss. We need to treat each Ramadan as a farewell Ramadan. What if we don’t experience this merciful month next year? If we were diagnosed with cancer, how would we live our life? Let us not wait for the doctor to come and tell us that! Just do the right thing now.

Let the focus on Allah (swt) translate into the rest of the year. Taqwa will make everything else in our life right. Allah (swt) will become our talking, hearing, seeing, walking, etc. Without this connection, we are misguided. The worst form of misguidance for us is to live for eating, drinking, procreating and dying.

We can bring Ramadan’s essence back to life if we have lost it, or introduce it to our life and start anew. Fasting is undoubtedly a firm barrier and a protective shield against greater satanic attacks. May Allah (swt) enable us to reap maximum benefits from Ramadan this year. Ameen!

Teaching Kids to Own the House

Own the House

Imagine going into the kitchen one afternoon to find that your daughter has already laid down the dining table! Or, you enter your son’s room and discover he has tidied it, without you having to nag him. At a time, when it’s difficult to get your children to fetch their own glass of water and place their books and bags in place, and when even picking up their chocolate wrapper is the maid’s duty, this sure is a farfetched thought. Or, is it really?

To raise self-sufficient and responsible children, with a sense of belonging to their home, parents must ensure their kids lend a hand with the housework. When kids do chores, they learn that life requires work; otherwise, they never learn to appreciate what others are doing for them. Studies show that kids who help around the house have better management skills and are more considerate and supportive. However, the question remains: how to motivate them?

Let us travel back in time and enter the home of our Prophet (sa) to witness his daily life. A man asked Aisha (rtaf): “What did the Prophet (sa) do at home?” Aisha (rtaf) replied: “He kept himself busy with housework. He patched his clothes, swept the house, milked the animals and bought supplies for the house from the market. If His shoes were torn, he mended them himself. He tied the rope to the water bucket. He secured the camel, fed it, and ground the flour with the slave.” (Bukhari)

Despite having the responsibility of prophethood, this is how the Prophet (sa) spent his time at home – doing things many of us look down upon. Living in the world of maids and servants, we assume that everything should be done by them. We tend to forget that even though all this was readily available for the Prophet (sa), he preferred to ‘own’ his house. Here are five handy tips for engaging your children in owning their house:

  1. Be the role models: Children watch you closely. They learn less from your verbal shots and more from your actions. If mother relies on servants for every odd task, children will learn the same. If father does not take any interest in housework, bringing in the grocery and tending to other needs, sons are sure to imitate him. In order to teach your children to own their house, you need to own it first!
  2. Teach the ‘theory’: Discuss with your children the examples of Muhammad (sa) and his companions. Impart Deen to them; teach them compassion; teach them the concept of Sadaqah (pouring from your vessel into the vessel of another), and teach them the virtue of helping parents and servants (helping with servants is more virtuous! Muhammad (sa) used to mill flour with the slave). Teach them the theory, guide to the practical, and watch them emerge as obedient, helpful kids, Insha’Allah!
  3. Delegate tasks: Assign age-appropriate tasks to each of your kids. Explain to them specifically what chores they have to do and what they should not expect their parents or servants to do. Keep your word about it. Encourage them, praise them and at times, even reward them. If they mess up, do not condemn their efforts. Give them chances to improve next time.
  4. Teamwork: Pick out a day, preferably over the weekend, when all family members work on different chores together, like washing the car, tidying up the cupboards and the like.
  5. Give the hired help a week off: Yes, if all else fails, simply tell the servants to take a week off. Resist all urges to pick up after the kids. This will surely give a strong message to them that they need to take responsibility for specific tasks around the house.

In the end, remember that children are children. You cannot expect them to work around readily all the time. However, when they grow up, they will be grateful to you, Insha’Allah!

Maryam (as): A Source of Inspiration for Single Women

Single Women

Marriage is an essential ritual of our Deen. However, for various reasons, many women remain unsuccessful in tying the knot. Consequently, they face social and physiological problems. These issues can be solved easily with guidance from the Quran. Surprisingly, one of the women mentioned by the Quran was not wedded; rather, she remained single all her life. She is Maryam (as), whose complete life is a source of inspiration.

Since men and women are created differently, their capabilities also vary. Maryam’s (as) mother might have thought of this when she gave birth to a girl, instead of a boy. Previously, she had vowed to give away her child in service to God. In her view, a male was more suitable for this purpose. The Quran records her bafflement in the following words: “Then when she delivered her [child Maryam (Mary)], she said: ‘O my Lord! I have given birth to a female child,’ – and Allah knew better what she brought forth, – ‘And the male is not like the female…’” (Aal-Imran 3:36)

Nonetheless, when there is firm faith in Allah (swt), women can achieve superior goals. Being a woman is not a weakness; rather, weakness is failure to recognize the abilities bestowed by Allah (swt) and to utilize them in a positive manner. In spite of being a female, Maryam (as) was readily accepted in the Temple of Sulaiman, where she was put under the care of Zakariya (Zachariya) (as). “…Every time he entered Al-Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: ‘O Maryam (Mary)! From where have you got this?’ She said: ‘This is from Allah.’ Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit.” (Aal-Imran 3:37)

Unmarried women generally have two kinds of fears: the fear of protection and the fear of being financially dependent. A believing woman must remain sure of the fact that Allah (swt) is Al-Hafeez (the Supreme Protector) and Ar-Razzaq (the Provider of Provisions). Obedience to Allah (swt) is the key to attaining peace of mind. Allah (swt) has His special ways of giving provision to His creation. Humans are only required to strive. It is Allah’s (swt) responsibility to grant them their sustenance.

The most crucial moment in Maryam’s (as) life was the birth of Isa (as). Maryam (as) was extremely pious as well as a staunch worshiper of Allah (swt). Conception of a child without marriage by such a pious lady was indeed a huge trial from Allah (swt); yet, she faced it with complete steadfastness and patience. Remaining single is a trial in itself. For dealing with this trial, firstly, a person must accept it as a decree from Allah (swt), and secondly, it must be faced with patience. Patience implies discarding all kinds of negativity from one’s life and moving ahead with a positive attitude.

The noble character of Maryam (as) is portrayed in Surah At-Tahrim: “And Maryam (Mary), the daughter of Imran, who safeguarded her chastity…” (At-Tahrim 66:12)

Humans have desires embedded in them. Thus, it is natural to look for ways to satisfy these desires. Nikah is the Halal way to satisfy sexual desires; however, there are some who are unable to get married. Allah (swt) has specifically highlighted this characteristic of Maryam (as), because it is the kind of behaviour that is required from bachelors/spinsters. Islam not only delivers commands but also helps in their implementation. According to Islamic teachings, a person should ward off erotic thoughts from one’s mind and should keep one’s sight and hearing safe from Haram and everything that can lead to Haram. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The Zina of the eyes is looking, the Zina of the ears is listening, the Zina of the tongue is speaking, the Zina of the hand is touching, and the Zina of the foot is walking. The heart wishes and longs, and the private part confirms that or denies it.” (Muslim)

Secondly, a person should fast as Prophet Muhammad (sa) instructed: “O young men! Whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, and whoever is not able to do that then let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” (Bukhari)

The latter part of the verse depicts more superior qualities of Maryam (as): “…and she testified to the truth of the Words of her Lord, and (also believed in) His Scriptures, and she was of the Qanitin (i.e. obedient to Allah).” (At-Tahrim 66:12)

Undiminished belief in the scriptures can be attained only by a thorough knowledge of them. This suggests that Maryam (as) strived hard to acquire knowledge. Single women usually don’t have many responsibilities; hence, they have a prime opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills. However, many women waste this precious time, and the resulting idleness becomes a cause for many physiological problems. Often, such women suffer from mental illnesses, which create difficulties for their families.

A general advice for every woman is to reflect upon and ponder over the noble character of Maryam (as). She is a source of guidance for success in both this world and the hereafter, as told explicitly by Prophet Muhammad (sa): “Many men reached the level of perfection, but no woman reached such a level except Maryam (as), the daughter of Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh.” (Bukhari)

A Meaningful Life

Meaningful Life

“If what we do today doesn’t impact this world a hundred years down the road, then it is simply a waste of time!” Suleman Ahmer, CEO “Timelenders”.

This rings true for parents, especially when we consider our parenting priorities and what we envision for our children. Are we simply feeding and schooling a child to become another ordinary but self-centered individual, who would depart from this world having contributed nothing to it? Or, are we moulding our kids into extraordinary individuals, who will impact the Ummah with such dynamism that its echo will sound hundred years from now?

How many of us even know what we want out of our own lives? Planning is a Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). Allah (swt) put in six days to meticulously create the heavens and the earth. What should be a meaningful life for us? Suleman Ahmer offers four key elements.

Strategic vision

There is no wrong or right definition of the word ‘vision’, as every person perceives it differently. However, it means ‘the picture of the future we want to see’. A long-term sound vision is a life which has clarity and correctness.

A parent might wish for his/her child to grow up to be a good Muslim. However, although correct, this vision is unclear. Do they want him/her to serve the Ummah, while pursuing religious education? The child may become a Khateeb (speaker), an Imam, a Mufakkir (thinker or scholar), or a Mufti (religious law expert), etc. Likewise, do the parents wish for him to become a doctor, a lawyer, an economist and serve Islam and Muslims in these spheres of life? We should try to balance out what we want for the lives of our children with what they want to become. If we want him to become an engineer, while he would prefer to be a writer, there would be a clash of visions the parents have and the child has. Parents should be facilitators, helping their children to move towards their own goals. It is also the responsibility of parents to train their children such that it makes them wish for worthy goals.

A clear vision helps parents prepare and train their children towards their ultimate goal. For instance, a father wanted his son to offer Dawah at an American island. He taught him Deeni (Islamic/religious) knowledge and Dunyawi (worldly) knowledge. Plus, he made him learn how to swim, in case his son ever needed to escape in order to save his or others’ lives.

With a clear vision, you will eliminate all time wasters from your kid’s life. You will not fall prey to popular trends of the society by shifting your kid’s goal and confusing and frustrating him, too.

Imam Abdullah Johini’s mother admired Imam Sudais for his melodious Qirat and his other religious accolades. It was the power of this vision that helped Johini’s mother to train and educate him to become an Imam at Masjid-ul-Haram for five years.

Importantly, one should not be afraid to think big. With consistent efforts and sincere prayers, much can be achieved. And if one falls short, he still learns and acquires something worthwhile on his way. The journey towards learning is never futile.

Strategic time management

This has been defined as our ability to prioritize our lives in the light of a long-term vision and then to drive these priorities with Azm (determination).

A farmer tills the ground and weeds out any extra growth that could hamper a thriving harvest. Similarly, in our lives, time wasters are like the weeds that eat away the good energy and food of plants. The plants then eventually wilt. Once we have a sound vision defined for our children, we should constantly check how their daily activities will take them closer to their vision.

As parents, we have to help children choose and utilize important time slots of the day for critical actions. For example, the time preceding Fajr is immensely productive for memorizing, focusing, and planning. If we waste it through sleeping, it is a grave loss for them. Similarly, early noon is suitable to meet people for discussions, negotiations, execution, etc. If they plop before the screen and kill hours, it is an irreparable loss for them.

We must also spend quality time with our children. That doesn’t mean lecturing them, tutoring them, serving them their meals and seeing to their other necessities. It simply means doing what the child wants us to do with him/her. It could mean playing cricket, having a chat or enjoying an ice cream cone.

Competence

This means the knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for our vision. For example, a vision to scale Mount Everest requires a minimum set of skills, for instance, development of a physically strong body and specific muscles, knowledge to read weather changes, and ability to brave harsh climatic conditions and survive accidents, among others.

Dreaming and wishing is only the first step. It must be followed by an honest assessment of self and circumstances. What are our strengths, weaknesses and our developmental opportunities? Hence, a humungous task is broken into small chunks initially and progress is monitored. This gradually builds competence and trains children for their future responsibilities and challenges.

Leadership

It is defined as the ability to share our vision with others and to inspire and facilitate others in pursuing the shared vision.

An excellent way to develop leadership skills among children is to make them in charge of chores at home. They can become care-takers for younger or dependent siblings or older grandparents.

A family had an autistic boy and a normal girl. The boy was approximately eight years older than his sister. Once the girl was around fifteen years of age, she was trained by her parents to look after her much older brother by giving him his daily medicines, helping him shower and change, serving him meals, taking him for walks, playing games with him, etc. This training helped her mature, think sensitively, plan ahead, execute with diligence and empower others, too. She eventually rose to become an entrepreneur for a small company. The training to assume the future role as a leader began at home.

As parents, we are the shepherds for our flock. No school, college, tutor, trends or strangers can decide for our children. We do. And it does require Taqwa (God consciousness). Our children are not gifts from Allah (swt). They are a trust (Amanah) handed over to parents for a specific time period, after which we will have to return them to our Lord (swt) and be accountable for their conduct. It is the most pivotal job we have been entrusted with in this world. It requires patience and sacrifice on our part.

Will we train and enable our children to live a meaningful life or are we just going to let them graze the meadows, while they are here in this world and be gone one day, long forgotten?

Adapted from a workshop conducted at “Fajr Academy”, Karachi.