Towards Effective Quran Classes

Apr 11- Towards effective Quran classes

By Umm Ibrahim

There are a multitude of Quran classes going on these days. If you are one of those who would like to initiate one among your social circle, here are five tips you might find handy:

Etiquette of Invitation

Whether you are inviting via telephone or in-person, do ensure that you simply clarify the date, day, time and venue – and leave it at that. Many a times, well-meaning ladies ask directly whether the invitee would come or not – and they do not take no for an answer. Understand that your invitee might need to make a few adjustments in terms of baby-sitting, care of elderly parents or parents-in-law etc. before she steps out. Your persistence will do nothing but put off your invitees. Of course, after one invitation, you can send a mass SMS on the eve of the event as a reminder.

Play space needed

There are many mothers who do not want to miss out on a good Quran class. Hence, they take along their kids with them – and plop them in front of the host’s television. It is a sorry sight to see mothers studying the Quran in one room and children watching television without any supervision in the other. Set up a small space in the same room or an adjacent one with toys, books and small snacks that can keep the young ones busy. This is an ideal time for one of the participants to narrate a story from the Quran to them as well.

One-dish, please

Ideally, Quran classes need not have a tea towards the end. However, if you would like to have a small, informal session over tea, try to make it a one-dish. It can take a very heavy toll on one’s budget to have tea parties with snacks every week. Request every invitee to bring along a small snack that will not create too much of a mess. If you are a participant, offer to help with the serving and the cleaning up.

Do not linger

Once the session is over, leave. Do not hang around, waiting for your host or the lady who has conducted the session to be free so that you may have a friendly chat with her or discuss some personal problem. Understand that she may have other commitments as well. If you do have something important to discuss individually, take some time from her and set up an appointment for a later date.

Realistic “home” work

Some Quran circles give homework – this is perfectly alright but this work must be along practical lines. If memorisation of a short Surah is being given as homework, then further reading from Seerah and Fiqh books must be designated for later weeks. Also, do not be too rigid about the homework – it is understandable that some will be able to do it, and others will not. Making it a true “classroom” scenario will only be counter-productive.

The 7 habits of highly effective teenagers – Part 7

Apr 11 - 7 habits

The Man/Woman in the Mirror

Sounds like the title of a novel, doesn’t it? Well here’s what it means:

Sean Covey states: “Before you’ll ever win in the public arena of life, you must first win private battles with yourself. All change begins with you.”

He shares an interesting incident from his life. Sean wanted to be a quarterback footballer. He had been playing in high school and accordingly chose a university that could help him realize his dreams.

Once Sean stepped on the field, he didn’t do as well as he wanted to, and his coach was not pleased with his performance. He was clearly told that if he didn’t improve, he would be removed from the team.

He had to make a hard decision: either to quit football or triple his efforts and commitment. Over the next few weeks, Sean waged a war inside his head, coming face to face with his fears and self-doubts. He soon understood that he was scared of competing, being in the limelight and, perhaps, of trying and failing. That was holding him back from giving his best. In other words it was like: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Sean decided to brace himself for his one supreme effort: to stretch his full capacity and stand his full stature. He stopped holding back and gave his best. He didn’t know if he would be the number one, but at least he would have done his very best.

Once he made up his mind and set his heart to it, he managed to change a lot. He began to show improvements, and his coach noticed it. He led his team to victory at a national football event. It didn’t happen in a day but over weeks.

This in no way means that he stopped being scared or wasn’t nervous before the final game. Everyone congratulated him for his victory. Sean knew that he hadn’t won on the football field that day. He had triumphed several months back, when he decided to look his fears in the eye. Back then, there was no applause or reward at the victory he had achieved in the privacy of his mind. He believed in Siedah Garret and Glen Ballard’s statements: “I’m starting with the man/woman in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Inside Out

Have you ever met anyone who has graduated from university before being enrolled in the kindergarten? If you have, I would like to meet that person, too!

Generally speaking, we crawl before we learn to walk. We master arithmetic before we learn algebra. We fix OURSELVES before we fix others. If you want to change your life, the point to begin at is yourself and not your parents, teachers, friends, fiancé, etc.

You have absolute control over your thoughts, actions and feelings. But you cannot control the others with the same power. This is also termed as Tazkiya-e-Nafs or self accountability, ownership and taking responsibility. Heavy stuff, huh?

A bishop once wrote the following about learning from his life:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world;

As I grew older and wiser, I realized the world would not change.

And I decided to shorten my sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable.

As I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change only my family, those closest to me, but, alas, they would have none of it.

And now here I lie on my death bed and realize (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself first, then by example I might have influenced my family, and with their encouragement and support, I might have bettered my country, and who knows – I might have changed the world.”

You can almost taste the regret and helplessness this poor man feels. It’s fortunate for you that you are still young and eager. Allah (swt) has still given you a chance. Leap forward and embrace the change. Change is always inside out – not outside in. Remember, it begins with you!

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues, we will talk about what we have termed as one’s ‘personal bank account’, from where the first three habits of highly effective teenagers stem from. They are all about personal victory and manageable tips to build self-confidence. Be on the lookout!

Cheating Muslim Spouses: a Sad State of ‘Affairs’

Apr 11 - Cheating muslim spouses

In the complicated fabric of human relationships, many myths abound. Realities are either distorted or brushed under the carpet to present a delusive, picture-perfect ‘mirage’ of happiness.

One of the negative trends mostly ‘brushed under the carpet’ in Pakistan are extra-marital affairs, commonly known in international media as ‘cheating’. I can identify at least half a dozen such cases, some that have gone as far as Zina (adultery). Some of them resulted in broken homes damaged beyond repair, and a sad reminder of how a marriage can be ruined due to the mistake of one or both partners.

Saima*, a happily married and well-off mother discovered her husband having an affair with her maid. Her entire world came crashing down. After a volatile confrontation, her husband begged forgiveness and vowed to mend his ways. However, just six months later, she discovered him texting women on his cell phone. Once again, he asked for forgiveness. With divorce out of the picture for the sake of her children, she continues to live obediently with her husband, but a broken heart filled with disgust and hatred for him. Outwardly, she remains the ‘picture perfect’ urban housewife, complimented for her well-maintained youthful looks and elegant sense of style.

Mahira had a fling with her husband’s best friend, who visited her house often; both of them had children at that time. She decided to end her marriage to be with him, but he could not leave his family for her. Since her divorce, she has been living with her ageing mother. Her adult children are married and leading their own lives.

Uzma’s husband admitted to his long distance affair with a single Muslim woman over the Internet. He had married Uzma after a romantic relationship and they had three children. She also took care of his elderly widowed father, who resided with them. Her husband admitted to have visited his girlfriend on a foreign ‘business’ trip. Now, he wants to marry his girlfriend and bring her into their current home; however, Uzma has told him that if he does, she will leave. Divorce, on the other hand, is out of the question to safeguard their children’s future.

There are many such cases of distressed, heartbroken, married women, who have ‘the other woman’ in their lives. Sadly, the reverse is also true: Muslim men catch their wives cheating on them primarily through Internet and cell phone. Instant communication has become extremely easy in real time. This has exacerbated the problem of casual flings, as the recent media hype surrounding the personal life of a world-class golfer has proved.

Young, married Muslims of today are enthusiastically adding their ex-college friends, including ‘old flames’, to their Facebook, Twitter and Google IM lists. They peer too easily into each other’s intimate lives through candid pictures and frank status updates. Carelessness in these online relationships welcomes Shaitan, the enemy of our faith and good deeds, to wreak havoc in our marital relationships.

The husband-wife relationship is an extremely close one sealed in Allah’s (swt) name – and a very fragile one, too. It is the prime target of Shaitan, because it forms the building block of the future Muslim generation.

It is very important to realize that some basic Islamic rulings regarding the restrictions on inter-gender relationships and communication exist for the benefit of our own faith, as well as, of course, for protecting the sanctity of our families’ close bonds.

Observing the Islamic restrictions of not conversing too freely with members of the other gender, either in person or online, is a necessary step in protecting the love between husband and wife. Similarly, socializing in mixed gatherings should be curtailed, as all Islamic scholars are unanimous in their opinion that mixed gatherings open the door to Fitnah (temptation). What can then be said about the current trend of young married couples attending drink-and-dance parties at hotels and private homes of friends in their social circle? We ask Allah (swt) to protect us.

Furthermore, care must be taken in employing servants, who roam around freely in our homes. Leaving young maids clad in provocative clothing alone in the home with one’s husband or son is a risk that many housewives naively take. Similarly, many Muslim men have no qualms about allowing non-Mahrams, from personal car drivers to their brothers and cousins, to enter upon their wives in their absence.

I can empathize with the heart-rending emotional state of any person, who has a cheating spouse. Briefly, the advice I can give them is:

  1. Seek help from Allah (swt) through extra prayers and sincere Duas. Join a Quran class to soothe your anguished heart and troubled soul.
  2. Do not make a hasty decision; rather, persevere with patience as much as you can.
  3. Assess your feelings about the situation honestly and unburden yourself only on someone trustworthy, who can keep secrets. Remember, matters like these cause gossip to spread like wildfire. Do not divulge intimate details to anyone.
  4. Talk to your spouse without being confrontational. Tell him/her how you feel. Request him/her to end the affair and repent to Allah (swt).
  5. Have hope – couples have successfully overcome such marital blows and moved on, falling back in love. It is not impossible to repair a marriage that is hit by an affair.
  6. Try to forgive for the sake of Allah (swt); really, it is possible! Not to mention, very liberating.
  7. Strive to think positively and avoid company of people with negative thinking. Consciously keep in mind the positive qualities in your spouse.
  8. Divorce should only be the very last option. If you really feel you cannot continue and want a separation, first talk to your elders / trusted scholars. Consider your financial conditions, especially if you a female. Children are, of course, a major consideration, too. Finally, do an Istikhara and supplicate. Insha’Allah, you will reach the right decision.

Muslims should always remember that sincere repentance (Tawbah) wipes out sins from the book of deeds. A repentant person is as if he never sinned at all. If Allah (swt) can forgive someone, who gives up a sin and changes for the better, why shouldn’t we?

*Names of individuals have been altered to protect their identity.

Teens, Texts and Technology

Apr 11 -Teen, texts and technology

When I was growing up – in the Stone Age – we did not have email or Facebook; cell phones were few and far between. My mother did not even allow a cordless phone at home lest her children spend more time than necessary chatting idly with friends.

Fast forward twenty years from then, and teenagers today have their own cell phone with unlimited texting and web surfing. While there are some advantages to being in touch with young adults via technology, the prospects are scary.

A Pew study in 2004 revealed that 18 percent of 12-year olds have a cell phone. In 2009, the number shot up to 58 percent. The scary part is that with unlimited texts in many family plans these days, our sons and daughters can be tapping their way into trouble. What may be hard to say face-to-face is easier said via text. Being available to respond 24/7 can result in rushed responses that are not well thought-out and can be misinterpreted.

The irony is that while the price of Roti, Kapra and Makan in Pakistan is rising steadily every year, the price for SMS messages, cell phone cards and high speed internet is falling. While this is a feather in the cap for our telecommunications industry, it is also opening the door for a lot of Fitnah.

The new Bluetooth technology is even scarier. It can allow people to exchange photos, videos and text messages with complete strangers – within a range of about 15 yards. With upcoming software, a teenage boy sitting across the table at a restaurant will not even need to have your daughters phone number, he can still text her if he thinks she looks cute in her purple outfit.

A report in the New York Times revealed that 15 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and17 had received inappropriate photos on their phone. So what is a parent to do? A parent cannot blame technology or completely deprive their child from gadgets that have become the norm today – but a parent can set limits and bridge communication gaps. In 2010, a parent cannot afford to say, “I’m not good with computers.” Even if they trust their children and are genuinely not interested in Facebook or Twitter, they need to get on the bandwagon even if they can’t check them daily; at least their children know that they can.

With so many aunties and uncles on Facebook these days, I am positive teenagers have some parallel social site we will find out about soon. When it comes to technology, our children will always be a step ahead of us. Many teens have two Facebook profiles; one where they can add their parents and another where they can be themselves with their friends.

In 2020, when my children become teens, I shudder to think what is in store for us. I firmly believe that in addition to faith in the Almighty and dua to keep children in good company, parents need to make conscious decisions to limit screen time from a young age. Once children enjoy volunteering, sport, art and reading from a young age, they will hopefully continue having a variety of extracurricular screen-free activities when they are older.

Wandering aimlessly on the World Wide Web can take impressionable minds to weird places with even weirder pop-up ads and too-good-to-be-true virus-infested offers. Another key element in limiting technology usage is that parents need to practice what they preach. If a mother does not allow her daughter to use her cell excessively but is herself glued to her iPhone apps, then she should know that hypocrisy will come to haunt her.

I love Facebook too as it is a great way to keep in touch with my friends and family overseas. However, I am appalled at some teenager profiles. In the relationship category, some fourteen year olds have selected “Whatever I can get” and have pictures that are not reflective of the good families that they come from. The worst part is not posting photos but the comments that go back and forth on these teen pages. “OMG…you’re hot…”, “LOL, lmao, you are hotter.” “No, I insist that you look gr8”

Not only have spellings gone down the drain, privacy and modesty is quickly following suit. As parents, we cannot just throw our hands up in the air in despair – we can make a difference if we try.

Some ways to monitor the technology explosion in your home

1)      Children should know that cell phone and Internet privileges need to be earned and can be revoked.

2)      Make sure your teens do not add strangers to their Instant Messaging or Facebook profiles.

3)      Sign up your children for cell phone plans with limited minutes for emergency calls and texts.

4)      Sign up for free Internet activity monitoring such as www.norton.com/onlinefamily

5)      Do not allow cell phones and computers in bedrooms. Cell phones should be charged next to computers in a central place in the home.

6)      Teach your child never to disclose personal information like his address or school online.

7)      Teenagers – and even younger children- will always be a step ahead with technology. Befriend them so you do not have to spy on them. You might not have the time to sit and go through all the texts, calls and websites your child peruses but just the fact that you can check should hopefully deter them from any misuse.

Did you know?

  • 5 million new users join Facebook every week
  • 10 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every hour
  • The average American teenager sends and receives 2,272 texts a month; that is 80 messages DAILY!
  • 90 percent of kids 12-17 said they do not report an incident of cyber bullying to parents.

Source: Journal of School Health, Nielsen and NPD group