By Uzma Jawed – Student of the Quran
“And (there will be) Houris (fair females) with wide, lovely eyes (as wives for the pious) like unto preserved pearls.” (Al-Waqiah 22-23)
When we look around us, huge billboards, movie posters, commercials on TV, and ads in magazines and on the Internet are not portraying our Muslim women as icons of modesty and Haya. In fact, indecency has become so common that it endanger our Iman.
I interviewed a number of people from different walks of life and here is what they had to say:
Sabah Yaseen, student of Arabic
When we create such ads, we are publicly defying our Islamic beliefs and values. We should try talking to the people who are involved. For instance, approach their marketing department and voice our opinions directly to them. Boycotting and not buying their products may not help, as the people who don’t believe in the way they are marketing their products are a minority.
Sara Naveed, student of Quran
Ads can be good, without being vulgar and going against our cultural Islamic values. Companies like Juanid Jamshed, Five Star and Icon are highly successful without defying Allah’s (swt) commands.
Tasneem Riaz, mother
I feel angry when I see Muslim women exposed in such a manner. The best way to speak up against this is by visiting their various outlets and informing them that what they are doing is wrong.
There was once a very pious man named Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. On his deathbed, he requested that the man who leads his funeral prayer has the following traits:
- His Tahajjud prayers had never been forsaken.
- He attended every prayer in the Masjid on time.
- He never missed his Asr Salah.
- He never looked at a non-Mahram woman.
Muslim king, Shamsuddin Altamash, reluctantly came forward and announced that he had such traits. He didn’t want to announce his good deeds but he wanted the man to be able to have his funeral as per his request.
While this incident was being related, one friend commented that in those days, there were no billboards with such obscene ads and hence, people could protect themselves from seeing non-Mahrams!
In addition, she quoted the verse of Surah An-Nur: “Verily, those who like that (the crime of) illegal sexual intercourse should be propagated among those who believe, they will have a painful torment in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you know not.” (An-Nur 24:19)
Dr. Zubeidah Channah, a practicing dentist and a teacher of the Quran
She believes that Fahishah can be curtailed by propagating the Quran. It is the ultimate solution. Creating awareness of the ill-effects of Fahishah in educational institutions, Masajid and in the print and visual media could be effective. People need to realize that the repercussions of such billboards are not limited only to one’s dress code – it also impacts one’s speech, character and how we choose to live.
A practical tip she suggests is that people need to be motivated enough to finance means that would be a substitute to the ones propagating it. For example, one can finance billboards that propagate the message of truth. Moreover for the silent bystander, an alternative ‘trend’ which is easily accessible could be the solution.
Muslim Awareness Programme (MAP) is attempting to educate the masses about the Islamic value system through billboards. Learn more about them here: http://www.facebook.com/muslimawarenessprogram and http://www.map.net.pk
By Dr. Farhat Hashmi
Islamic scholar, teacher and founder of “Al-Huda International”
Women are an important part of the Muslim Ummah, without whom the noblest of goals could not be achieved. Throughout history, they have played significant roles in shaping the future of the upcoming generation. The woman of today needs to know what she has been carved out for; she also needs to learn more about her role models and understand her true status.
Every creation of Allah has a purpose, and complements one another. Allah (swt) first created Adam (as) and then He created Hawwa to give him company and support. Allah (swt) created her from Adam’s ribs. The fact that she was created from his side signifies that they shared companionship. If she had come from his skull bone, she would have had a dominating role. If she would have come from his foot bone, she would have been subservient. She is neither a subordinate nor a dominating controller. Her role is that of a companion, a friend, a supporter and a helper. The very creation of woman defines her role; yet, in the present era, she demands equality and want to assume the same responsibilities that have been given to a man. This has created conflict in today’s world.
The Role of a Muslim Woman
Being a Muslim means that we agree with Allah’s (swt) creation plan and submit to His will. Men and women were created, so that they may fulfil each other’s needs; hence, a natural attraction was kept between both. A woman holds a lot of importance in a man’s life. She is a supportive partner, helping him in discharging his duties as a vicegerent on earth. The role of a woman can be better understood in the light of the examples of the women discussed below.
Prophet Noah’s (as) Wife
She was indifferent to her husband and was not a helpful partner. They were not like-minded and shared different ideologies and beliefs. Prophet Noah (as) was a very patient man – he preached for 950 years and tried to call his nation towards Islam. However, his own wife did not accept Islam.
Ultimately, Prophet Noah’s (as) nation, including his wife, had to face the wrath of their Creator, and they all perished. This brief narration holds valuable lesson for the women of today. It illumes the disparity between two individuals. It is not necessary for a pious man to get married to a righteous wife or vice versa. In this life, sometimes we get what we desire and sometimes, we do not. Women should have positive expectations from Allah (swt) and should not create an ideal in their minds. They should help and support whoever is destined to be their life partner, even if he or she is not their ideal.
Mostly after marriage, people complain that they and their spouses are not of the same mental frequency. The thinking pattern of a man and a woman can never be the same because of the biological differences that are all part of Allah’s (swt) creation plan. We have to work hand in hand, keeping in mind these differences, just like Prophet Noah (as), who did not part with his wife and continued his relationship with her until Allah (swt) decreed doom for her.
Prophet Moosa’s (as) mother is yet another glaring example of strength, resolve and complete submission to Allah (swt). Allah (swt) commanded her to place her child in a basket and put it in a river. For a mother to abandon her child is one of the most difficult things to do. Think of her emotions. It was Allah (swt), Who placed the inspiration in her heart and protected her child from harm.
Moosa’s sister followed the flowing basket that was carrying her baby brother. This sheds light on the role of a woman as a sister. She loves, cares for and protects her younger siblings. When Moosa (as) grew up, he had to leave for Madiyan, where he was blessed with a place to stay, food to eat and a good companion. Then he was guided back to Egypt after ten years and commissioned to save his nation.
Where does the story of Moosa (as) begin? Who is the foundation of this story? His mother and the sacrifice she made. If she had not done so, the Pharaoh would not have reached to his rightful end.
Women should put their complete trust in Allah (swt) and hope for the best. Always think positive and wait patiently. Allah (swt) is Merciful and always plans the best for His faithful servants.
Maryam – Umm-e-Isa
Prophet Isa’s (as) mother and his maternal grandmother (wife of Imran) signify a woman’s strength, courage and love for Allah (swt). When Maryam was born, her mother presented her for the service of God, which led to the miraculous birth of prophet Isa (as). Maryam was also a single parent. Can we imagine the impact of women as single parents and how they achieved the remarkable goals, without the aid of any male life partner?
Women in the Life of our Beloved Prophet Mohammad (sa)
Amna – Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) mother: She was another excellent example of single parenting. She raised our Prophet (sa) but did not live long and soon passed away.
Khadijah (rtaf): She was the first woman to accept Islam, an amazing partner with a very strong and supportive role. Time, money, self – she devoted all in the way of Allah (swt). She was a very successful business entrepreneur of her time, and she sacrificed all for her husband’s mission. She donated every penny she owned but never once did she complain. Instead, she was always caring and encouraged out beloved Prophet (sa) at each and every step, raising his children well, too. During the years of the siege, the richest business woman of Makkah had to eat dried leaves, but she did not complain.
Fatimah (rtaf): Daughter of the Prophet (sa) and mother of Hasan (rtam) and Hussain (rtam). Her role is that of a loving daughter, wife and a responsible mother. She spent most of her time at home doing house chores and focusing on her children. She bore all hardships with patience and was given the status of the leader of women in Paradise.
Aisha (rtaf): She was a very intelligent woman, excelling in the field of medicine, literature, poetry, mathematics, laws of inheritance and much more. She had a versatile personality, encompassing multi-dimensional knowledge.
Once, someone asked her how she knew so much about medicine? She replied that all the delegations that used to come to the Prophet (sa) from all around the world, talked about the medical cures from their religion, and she gathered her knowledge from them. This proves that a woman should always strive to gain knowledge. It is very important for a woman to be educated, as she bears the responsibility of raising future generations.
There were hundreds of orphans under the care of Aisha (rtaf), and she looked after them diligently. Aisha (rtaf) preached Islam to men and women alike for forty-eight years. She was also an eloquent speaker.
Umm-e-Atiya (rtaf): She was a brave woman, who participated in six battles along with her husband and fought bravely. It requires a lot of courage to leave one’s home for fighting in the battlefield. Umm-e-Atiya (rtaf) proved that women can do anything for the cause of Islam.
Umm-e-Haram bint-e-Milhan (rtaf): Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa) used to rest in her house often at midday. One day, he sat up from his nap and started to smile. Umm-e-Haram (rtaf) asked him, if he saw something in his dream, and he replied he saw some of the people from his Ummah, crossing the ocean to do Jihad. They appeared like kings wearing shining crowns. She asked the Prophet (sa) to pray for her to be with those men and attain martyrdom. The Prophet (sa) prayed for her. Her grave is still present near the shores of Cyprus, where she fell off her horse and died a martyr, while crossing the ocean with the Muslim army.
We all need to consider the contributions we make to this world. We should analyze what we are planning to give to this humanity. Do we recognize our role? Are we working in any way to perform it in the best possible manner?
Women can contribute immensely, while retaining their natural femininity, without assuming the role of men. They can make their mark and play an important role in the society by fulfilling their duties as a mothers, sisters and wives. If they are helpful, trustworthy companions to their husband, they can move mountains and give worthy and pious individuals to the Muslim Ummah.
Do not waste your time and abilities on self-pity, being bitter all the time and thinking negatively. Allah (swt) has a plan for you. Once we willingly accept the role Allah (swt) has carved out for us, we can work productively achieving our goals and accelerate in the right direction.
Transcribed for Hiba by Umm-e-Ibrahim, Mustafa and Muhammad
The daughter of a friend of mine, a stunning green-eyed 27-year-old, died on the 2nd of Ramadan. My sons were in the Masjid, attending the translation and Taraweeh session of her brother-in-law. They told me later that when he reached the Ayahs 156-7 of Surah Al-Baqarah: “Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return. They are those, on whom are the Salawat (i.e., blessings, etc.) (i.e., who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones” – at that precise moment, he received a text message stating that his sister-in-law had breathed her last.
Rohma, the grandchild of Dr. Israr Ahmed, had felt pangs of a stomach ache just a month earlier and had a persistent cough. A CT scan revealed lymphoma that was ravaging her entire body. After two failed attempts, the doctors decided to operate upon her yet again to do a biopsy for obtaining a detailed picture, so they could immediately start chemotherapy.
She dropped her three princesses – four-and-a-half year old Maryam, two-and-a-half year old Hajra and nine month old baby Safia – at her mother’s house and went with her husband and mother-in-law (who was also her Khala) to the hospital. Khala advised her to pray Zuhr and Asr together, because they weren’t sure how long the procedure would last. Rohma prayed with such humility and presence that even the nurses couldn’t help being moved. Before they wheeled her away, she said the Kalimah, proclaiming the oneness of Allah (swt) and testifying to the apostleship of Muhammad (saw).
Her condition began to worsen after the surgery – she had to be put on the ventilator.
Her mother and Khala kept a constant vigil by her side, reciting the Quran to her seemingly lifeless form. She was heavily sedated and no movement was detected in her body. However, one day, as her mother read Surah Rahman to her, tears started rolling off Rohma’s eyes. Her lips started moving soundlessly in perfect synchronization with the revealed words. Even though tubes protruded from her nose and mouth, she finished the Surah in a silent yet powerful confirmation of her faith. After ten days on the life support, the soul left her body for its eternal abode.
“(It will be said to the pious): ‘O (you) the one in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord, Well-pleased (yourself) and well-pleasing onto Him! Enter you, then, among My honoured slaves, and enter you My Paradise!’” (Al-Fajr 89: 27-30)
Rohma was one of those young people, for whom it can rightly be hoped that they would deserve the honour of being under the shade of Allah’s (swt) grandiose and imperial throne, Insha’Allah, for she, according to a Hadeeth that promises this prize, was raised in complete submission to the will and decree of the Designer of the heavens and the earth. At an age, when teenage girls engage themselves in frivolous activities, she was gaining the understanding of the Deen of Allah (swt). After her marriage to Hafiz Mohsin Mahmood, it seemed like they were made for each other, each excelling the other in virtue and piety. Her husband gave her the impetus to memorize the Word of Allah (swt), and she took to it with a passion and love characteristic of her righteous soul.
She devoted herself completely to being a model wife and ultimate teacher and loving mentor to her little girls. The couple used to spend time listening to each others’ Quran recitation and utilized their time wisely for serving their Master. In contrast to children, who are brought up in a mindless consumption of junk TV, Maryam was being fed the epitome of supreme achievement, the Noble Quran – she knows 16 Surahs by heart and that shows on her intelligent face and in her sparkling eyes. Besides being a fulltime mother, wife and daughter-in-law, Rohma was also assisting her mother in conducting Quran classes, teaching translation, Tafseer and Tajweed.
Although her father is an affluent man, she had no desire for the glint and glamour of this world and hardly ever went to the bazaar. Her unswerving focus was the good pleasure of Allah (swt) and the life of the Hereafter, for which she strove with every ounce of her energy. She had an intense desire for martyrdom, which she confided to her sister just before leaving for the hospital. She knew that the one, who died of a disease related to the stomach, was considered to be a martyr.
Rohma knew the cancer had spread and that she was dying. When people worried about her small girls, she asked them in return if Allah (swt) was not enough for her children and would He not suffice for them?
During Rohma’s brief illness, she saw dreams that held the promise of honour and eternal bliss. She met her deceased grandmother (who was a very righteous woman) in one such vision, wherein she showed her two gardens, one belonging to her and the other to Rohma. She also escorted her to the place, where flowers grew in both their respective Jannahs. After one of her biopsies, she related a near death experience to her grief stricken mother. She said that when her heart had stopped, she had seen five stars of piercing brightness and experienced such an intense feeling of ecstasy that she didn’t want to return to the mundane world. The next thing she saw was doctors bending over her body in their desperate attempt to resuscitate her. This vision was the last thing that she spoke about.
Last Ramadan, this virtuous soul was extremely fortunate to have found the Night of Glory. As she sat in her darkened room doing Ibadah, she saw a radiant light that did not belong to this world, and then her right hand and heart became very heavy, as if angels were greeting her with a warm handshake. Out of her humility and modesty, she did not reveal it to anyone, except her mother – this incident became known only after her death.
The woman, who gave birth to this admirable young lady, Rohma’s kind-hearted mother, is comforted by the fact that she has indeed, Insha‘Allah, fulfilled the purpose of life, which is to please our Lord, the Most High. At Rohma’s funeral, she sat with a saddened face and sinking heart, but there was no wailing and no complaints. Her only utterance was what is pleasing to Allah (swt): “Inna lillahi wa Inna Elaihi Rajioon.”
I still remember the first time I saw Rohma at the occasion of Eid prayer in Bagh-e-Jinnah. “O my God,” I said to myself, “she’s so ravishingly pretty.” That was how Rohma was – beautiful inside and out. May Allah (swt) grant her an elevated rank in Paradise with all her loved ones, Ameen.
Rohma’s small daughters, who were so looking forward to their mother’s return from the hospital, now daily ask their Nano and Dado such heart rending questions as: “Is my mother never coming back? Did my mother die? I also want to die. When will I die?” But at other times, they are consoled by the fact that now they have two mothers: Dado Ammi and Nano Ammi. I pray that these precious girls be granted the good of this world and the next and that their loss is compensated in a way, which cannot be comprehended by us, mortals, Ameen.
By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist
“Educate a woman, educate a nation” is a line often repeated, but educated women are a sight seldom seen. Stories of oppression and abuse, on the other hand, are in abundance. But there’s still light somewhere at the end of the tunnel, a hint of a silver lining in our otherwise dark cloud. The Pakistani woman is rising to face the challenges.
Academics, medicine, technology, politics, sports or arts – we have names to be proud of in all. The following are accounts of two such women, who faced the odds bravely and are now a source of pride.
Sughra Solangi – A Journey of Courage
After being divorced at a young age, Sughra Solangi, mother of two, geared up to face the challenges and started with pursuing her dream of being educated. After passing her matriculation exams, she applied for a teaching job which she got. From then on, her journey started. Yet, she realized that the villagers were not willing to send their daughters to school. Sughra started a door-to-door campaign in order to persuade them otherwise. She started collecting funds and giving interest-free loans to help those in need of financial assistance.
Within a year, she had around her a small but a very strong group of women and thus started realizing her dream of getting the girl-child educated. She named her group Marvi Rural Development Organization. Through this organization, she wanted to help the harassed women facing hardships in the patriarchal set-up of our society. Women were denied their right to education and girls were married off at very tender ages, with their lives unjustly dictated by their husbands. Women were also being wrongly murdered under the label of Karo Kari (a cultural practice). Such were the miserable conditions of women in Sughra’s village, from which she wanted to liberate them.
Sughra succeeded in getting the attention of donors towards the ailing conditions of these poor women. Soon, help began pouring in, and Sughra’s little group of women expanded into a bigger, stronger organization working for the betterment of the rural women of Sindh.
In 2011, Sughra Solangi got the prestigious U.S. Secretary of State’s “International Women of Courage” award, which was presented to her by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, this is not the end of her story. Sughra wishes for all women of Pakistan to start facing the challenges and to start speaking up for themselves.
Jamila Khatoon – The Courageous Ms. Oil
A Rickshaw driver, a motor mechanic and a hawker combined in one superwoman – this is Jamila Khatoon for you. Her journey, however, has been anything but easy.
Jamila was married off to a man double her age. Six months into their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She contacted the local labour house to help her with their household expenses. She started receiving Rs. 2000 a month to fulfill all her household needs and get treatment for her husband. This was when she put her foot down and ventured out into the man’s world. She decided to take matters in her own hands and began frequenting her husband’s oil supply shop. After her husband’s death, she completely took over his business.
Being a woman, she met a lot of resistance in the form of people refusing to work with her. Instead of giving up, this brave woman took all the matters in her hands, including the motor mechanic’s job. Fighting with people, circumstances and the society, Jamila Khatoon continued with a persistence rarely seen in a woman.
Soon she started venturing to the newspaper market along with her job as a motor mechanic. People started mocking her and calling her a ‘Ladka (lad) without a moustache’. Life went on for Jamila, and she became a newspaper hawker. But this was not enough for her. Later, defying the general norm, she started taking Rickshaw driving lessons. Jamila Khatoon is now a proud Rickshaw driver, a newspaper hawker and a motor mechanic.
Braving her way through the pitch black night, Jamila is confident of the beautiful bright morning waiting for her.
Sughra Solangi and Jamila Khatoon are just two examples of countless such women trying to face the odds in a man’s world.
A final word
In the absence of a truly Islamic and Shariah-compliant state, the lesser-privileged Pakistani women are left to their own devices, especially when male relatives, who could have assumed responsibility for them, do not step forward. Even if some men do take the initiative, they do not aid these women with dignity and honour. In such a case, women have only two options: they can either accept the injustices of the society silently until death comes to relieve them, or they can fight back to attain an honourable status (which is their right to begin with).
It hurts us deeply to see how Dr. Afia Siddiqui is being tortured at the hands of the foreigners, and today, we raise our voices in her support, for her freedom. What about the dark injustices happening on our own soil? Do we have the license to pass verdicts against anyone and assign them to inhuman treatment? Do we not fear Allah (swt)? Or, is it simply that whatever happens in our own backyard is just not worth giving any attention to?
The cries of the oppressed do reach Allah (swt) sooner than anything else. Ignorance is not bliss. Our Zakat and Sadaqat should be used to rehabilitate destitute Muslim families especially headed by women or comprising females only. They need to be empowered and educated with honour by providing long-range solutions instead of quick fixes. Tarbiyah and character-building should also be a part of this programme so they can raise contributing citizens in the society rather than those who resort to a depressed mindset.
Is there a way out? There always is. Mary Pipher in her bestseller, “The Shelter of Each Other”, shared the story of a couple caught up in a hectic lifestyle. Both husband and wife worked long hours to meet their financial needs. They realized that they hardly had time for personal interests, each other, or their three-year-old twins. They were guilty as sin to know that the daycare providers had seen their children walk the first steps and heard their first sounds. They were now reporting behavioural problems in the twins. The couple had essentially fallen out of love, as they were operating as machines run on a schedule.
The wife felt even more anguished for her unfulfilled desire to help her mother, who had cancer. But what was she to do? She couldn’t make time for herself due to her demanding career. They seemed trapped in what appeared to be an impossible situation.
They headed for counselling and set their mind to fix the problem. They made some vital changes to their family life, which created dramatic differences. The husband talked to his employers that he would no longer be able to work on Saturdays. The wife eventually quit her job to stay home with the boys. They invited the wife’s mother to move in with them, pooling their resources. Now, the children had the loving company of their grandmother, and the grandmother was cared for by her own daughter.
But this togetherness didn’t come by a wave of a magic wand. They all agreed to make personal sacrifices, realizing what they were giving up was lesser in value than what they would eventually gain. They cut back in many areas – stopped eating out and quit buying things except for essentials. The husband carpooled to work. The wife didn’t behave like a victim of circumstances, who was forced to surrender her career.
This family understood clearly that either they could have more time with each other or more money – not both. They chose time over money. This choice made a profound difference in the quality of their personal and family life. They were happier, more fulfilled, less stressful, less guilty and more in love.
The point is that there is always an option. You may simplify your lifestyle, consider cutting back, changing jobs, shifting from full-time to part-time work, work closer to home to cut commuting time, create a virtual office in your home, etc. But you need to be honest with yourself, first and foremost. Why exactly do I work? Is it really a financial need or is it that I enjoy the independence? Does it help me earn a more sound reputation in society and family or does it fulfill my craving to pursue my career? Only if you look yourself honestly in the eye and understand the deep reason for your work motives will you be able to prioritize. What weighs more for me: my family or my career?
Steven Covey said: “The bottom line is that there is no need to be held hostage by these lies, if family is really your top priority. And making the family priority will push you into creative exploration of possible alternatives.”
In order to prioritize our values in life we need to understand that parenthood is a unique role. It is about nurturing the potential of a special human being entrusted to our care. There is no substitute for the relationship between a child and a parent. When mothers wish to head for the career world, anyone with a positive attitude and caring disposition appears to them as their substitute for their kid. However, competence and character are a difficult combination to find in caretakers. Urie Bronfenbrenner, a child development expert, puts it aptly: “You can’t pay someone to do for a child what a parent will do for free.”
A working mother should also know that if she doesn’t have time to teach her children, society will. And all will have to live with the results. It is said that when the infrastructure shifts, everything else rumbles. If only we study the changes that have occurred in the four dimensions of society – popular culture, laws, economy and technology – over the past fifty years or so, our findings will put everything into perspective. Following is a brief analysis:
Un-monitored children spend most of their time today either eating or watching TV. They have increasing access to videos, music, movies; hence, they view pornography, illicit sex and violence. Working moms have to beat the clock, so the tone at home is not relaxed, and family members seldom get any meaningful time to bond or share.
Hochschild writes: “In this new model of family-and-work life, a tired parent flees a world of unresolved quarrels and unwashed laundry for the reliable orderliness, harmony and managed cheer of work.” At work, a mother receives affirmation, prestige, instant results and compensation. If she decides to stay home, she will be making a pro-active choice that can only come from the heart and results will appear in many years, Insha’Allah.
Popular culture has impacted the political will and resulting laws, too. Once, the institution of marriage was held as a vow of two individuals not only to each other but to the society as well. Today, marriage is no longer a covenant or a commitment. It simply is a contract between two consenting adults. If this contract is found to be inconvenient, unnecessary or an obstacle in one’s road to desires, it can be annulled without considering the family at all.
This depreciation of the sanctity and solemnity of marriage has unleashed an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin and loneliness. And the present day laws do very little to prevent this disaster. In fact, feminist movements and others fan the disintegration more. Deviations from Deen and sheer ignorance think it right for couples to divorce each other.
Cost of the average home has increased, inflation has spiraled, and dream life-styles have emerged. Consequently, homes have nuclear families of parents and children. Intergenerational and extended families are viewed as a source of interference.
Since economic responsibility has been reducing from intergenerational to just nuclear families, it has given rise to a culture of freedom and independence. Escape from responsibility and accountability is available everywhere. Families and individuals are increasingly becoming isolated.
Steven Covey observes: “Changes in technology have accelerated the impact of changes in every other dimension. It provides unfiltered access to highly impactful visual images, supports saturated advertisement, puts us into materialistic overload, causes a revolution in expectations.” Mass media literally drives the culture in your home.
Having said that, a child, whose mother stays at home and resents it, is worse off than if she goes to work. The benefit comes only if the mother understands completely that she is fulfilling a sacred stewardship in life by rearing her children. Nothing on the list of values outweighs her role as a nation builder, and Paradise can be hers just by being a loving and responsible parent. Otherwise, she might just hear herself scream and whine before her children, making them guilty of being a hurdle in the happiness of their mother’s life. Her children would soon start wishing that she goes to work, so that there is peace at home.
It is a great tragedy for a woman to not realize that if today she neglects her professional, developmental and social interests, they can still be pursued tomorrow. However, if she does not invest herself in her kids at their young age, she herself will eventually be the one to reap the whirlwind. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: “For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” Will this regretful mother be able to turn back the clock?
By Maria Haqqani – Freelance writer and engineering student
Imagine yourself to be standing in the middle of a garbage dump. The stench is overpowering. Now, imagine somebody pouring a bottle of perfume all over you. Will you smell great? No, you will still stink; well, maybe in a weird sort of way. Such is the example of a person surrounded by foul friends, as expressed by our Prophet (sa):
“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, you will buy some from him or at least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) has said: “A bad friend is worse than a snake. A bad friend is worse than Satan.” Why is that so? Let’s think rationally. Satan can only entice a human to do wrong. He will come and whisper in your ear to commit a particular sin and make it all the more appealing to you. But a bad friend will call you up, show you the wrong path, and take you along with himself to tread upon that path. Satan may make you think that drinking is the ‘in’ thing, but a bad friend will not only offer to pick and take you to the bar but also pester you to have a glass of wine.
“And (remember) the Day when the Zalim (wrong-doer, oppressor, polytheist, etc.) will bite at his hands, he will say: ‘Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)). Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so as a friend! He indeed led me astray from the Reminder (this Quran) after it had come to me. And Shaitan (Satan) is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need.’” (Al-Furqan 25:27-29)
“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (At-Taubah 9:119)
The Deen of Islam is Yusr (easy). In the aforementioned verse, Allah (swt) does not say “be like the truest ones” or “follow the truest ones”. He merely says to associate with them – as a result, their qualities will definitely rub off on us. The same way the bad company will lead us to sin, good company will have the opposite effect and bring us closer to Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) said: “Solitude is better than being in bad company, and good company is better than solitude.” (Baihaqi) This Hadeeth stresses the importance of good company. Perhaps the biggest advantage of having the company of people close to Deen is illustrated by the following Hadeeth-e-Qudsi;
“Where are those who loved one another for My Glory? Today I will shade them under My shade, on the Day when there is no shade but Mine.” (Muslim)
The First Story: Only Between Allah (swt) and You
Maham, a third year Madrassah student and a pupil at a private university, related the following story:
The journey through classical Islamic learning is highly stimulating – not only does it bring you closer to Allah (swt) and transform your lifestyle, but it also makes your ideas and plans venture into a realm you’d never have possibly imagined. During my second year of studies, I began contemplating the Purdah, meaning the Niqab. Surah Al-Ahzab and Surah An-Nur are two Surahs that, if they hit home, make a woman strive for Allah’s (swt) love and do whatever He has commanded a woman to do. The fire to take this step was kindled, but, as usual, Satan got up to his tricks again and attacked me with inhibitions. “How will I explain to my parents that I want to don the Niqab? They’ll think I’ve gone crazy! How will my friends react? They’ll call me an extremist! I shall never fit into their group again! I’ll be an outcast! This is going to be so hard!
I decided to discuss this issue with one of my classmates, who had been blessed enough to have taken this step already. After lending a very patient ear to my effusions, she replied: “Honestly, Maham, you’ll hate it.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Yes, you will,” she ‘reassured’ me, eyeing my startled expression. “After donning the Niqab, you’re just not the same person anymore. You cannot fit into your crowd, your college mates will mock you and you cannot dress up. At times, I just feel like ripping it off and being the ‘old me’ again.”
I was speechless. Here I was, asking my friend for some encouragement, when I was in a state of mental turmoil, whilst all she could offer was excuses for me to drop the idea altogether? But, she leaned closer and continued, her eyes shining: “You know what keeps me going? The sole fact that when I step outdoors, I know that whether I’m happy or sad, whether I have a smile playing upon my lips or whether my face depicts anxiety, it is only my Allah (swt) Who can see. It’s mine and Allah’s (swt) little secret. That is what makes the Niqab so special. Oh, and you know another thing that’s so cool? I can see everyone, but nobody can see me. A Niqabi gets the spiritual edge, the edge in Dunya and in the Akhirah.” She smiled a smile that reflected pure satisfaction and contentment.
I suddenly realised I had tears in my eyes. The beauty of the idea and the sincerity with which Lubaina had uttered this statement touched my heart. Next time I stepped out of the house, a three inch cloth covered my face and barred most of my face from view, shielding me from recognition. My friends stared at me in wonder, as though a stranger had stepped into their midst. I smiled. I knew my secret was safe.”
The Second Story: The Power of Ya-Sin
Zareen, a third year Madrassah student studying at a private college, had a very interesting story to share:
When my best friend visited Pakistan from London during her university holidays, we would sleep over at each other’s place quite frequently. It was a Ramadan night, when she was over at my house. I had been reciting Surah Ya-Sin. I put aside my Quran, with the page open at Surah Ya-Sin, and started talking to her. Her inquisitive nature possessed her, and she asked me what I had been doing. I told her I’d been memorising Surah Ya-Sin.
“Why?” she asked.
“The Prophet (sa) said that Surah Ya-Sin is the heart of the Quran. Hence, I believe that if the ‘Heart of the Quran’ is inside a person’s heart, how can Allah (swt) burn that person and his heart in hell?”
The thought attracted Hooria. “So even if a person is a sinner, but he’s learnt the Surah, he won’t be put into the fire?” was her innocent question.
“Yes, that is what I personally believe,” I replied. “There is a Hadeeth, which implies that one only gets from Allah (swt) whatever he expects to get from Him. I expect this from my Allah (swt) and hence hope for the best.”
Hooria thought this over. “Okay,” she said finally. “I want to learn it, too. Let’s keep each other in check and set a target for every day.”
Excited, I agreed. This was indeed great news. Hooria was not very regular in her prayer; in fact, it was only in Ramadan that she would pray once or twice a day and very rarely the rest of the year, if at all. We kept a check on each other and progressed well into the Surah by the time she returned to the UK.
One day, we were talking to each other and she asked me: “If you give up something in your life, I’ll do something for you, whatever you ask.” I agreed.
After she’d told me what she wanted me to give up, I seized the opportunity and said to her, “Now, it’s my turn – you have to give up eating Haram food and switch entirely to Halal.” She agreed. Now, she began to be more conscious of what she was eating and consequently more conscious of Allah (swt). Soon she grew accustomed to eating Halal.
We kept up this process of doing things for each other. Next, I asked her to begin praying the Jumuah prayer. She agreed. This tiny step awakened her spiritual self. She began offering one prayer a day and that increased to praying five times a day!
When she visited Pakistan next, Hooria said to me: “You know, Zareen, when I came to Karachi this time, it was a different me. My heart was at peace. I was happy internally. Even in one Namaz, whatever I ask Allah (swt), He gives it to me. You always told me to ask Him for Him. I never knew Him. But now I’m getting to know Him a bit more. You know what? I didn’t miss a single prayer yesterday!”
I still marvel at how Allah (swt) helps people, who take a step towards Him. Hooria was most enthusiastic about her Ibadah. Her day was no longer complete without reciting Surah Ya-Sin. She’d feel something was terribly amiss, if she didn’t. She asked me questions and found out about the Chasht and Ishraq prayers and would offer them regularly. I told her that the Asr prayer is actually four Sunnahs and four Fard, although the Sunnahs are not compulsory. But her enthusiasm knew no bounds. Since then, it’s been eight Rakats for her in each Asr prayer. If I would leave my two Nafil in Maghrib, saying that I’m too exhausted, she’d blackmail me and say: “How would you feel, if Allah (swt) said to you that He’s too exhausted to put you in Jannah?”
“Instead of going from zero to ten, Hooria stepped from zero to a ninety-nine, Masha’Allah. She may not have started covering, but when I donned the Niqab, she was my best support,” finished Zareen.
Overview, Verses 1-8:
This Surah was revealed to the best generation of Muslims. Imagine the Sahabah – they were the best of the people with a high level of faith. Yet this Surah was revealed obligating a change in their behaviour. Their hearts were inclined towards Allah (swt) with a high level of faith and certainty. However, they still harboured negative feelings towards each other. Jealousy, malice, hatred, and backbiting were still present. These issues in the society needed to be reformed. A way of living was needed now – which was sent by Allah (swt).
The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sa) were focused to reform the Sahabah’s hearts. But now Allah was reforming their جهنم = ways. You can figure out the جهنم of an organization, school, university or organization from their students/employees – The way they interact with each other, The way they behave, their discipline, interaction, empathy towards others.
Surah Hujurat talks more about Taqwa (guarding oneself from Allah’s (swt) anger) and building faith. It also offers lessons of leadership in this Surah. Each person is a leader (at home also). The Sahabah did not lead the world/people by their sword or money – they led by their manners. Islam spread to Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries through Muslim traders. Amazingly, they did not know the local languages but were still able to spread Islam through their manners and behaviours.
“O you who believe! Do not put (yourselves) forward before Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah. Verily! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Al-Hujurat 49:1)
This is a gentle address from Allah (swt) to the believers. If a person is a believer – انعطا و انعمس .Whatever Allah says (commands) and the person submits and obeys then he is a Muslim. Someone doing contrary (not submitting and obeying) indicates a low faith. Don’t – ةيهانلا لا forward or precede “Between the hand” = a phrase that means don’t put before or put forward – it doesn’t literally mean between two hands.
What did Allah (swt) forbid the believers? Don’t put anyone or anything before Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa). Before Allah (swt) mentions how to reform our manners with the people, He mentions how our manners with Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) should be like. That’s the most important manner we need to have. The other conditions follow in a proper sequence.
We the verses of the Quran personally – each verse is for each person. Don’t follow the saying, “Please don’t take it personally.” Sometimes, we say this to people when stating something general. However, our behavior with the Quran has to be the opposite! We have to take each verse personally as if Allah is directly addressing each one of us, in order to reform us and to make us better in life and worthy of Paradise.
Nothing, nothing, nothing comes before Allah (swt) and his Messenger (saw)!
Sometimes people ask for opinions in Islam. That’s not acceptable. We cannot question or ask for opinions or comments on the rules and commands of Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa).We cannot have conferences or discussions regarding doctrines of Islam. Some people debate on topics of Islam, like mix gathering, and then say: Ok, Allah (swt) said this and the Messenger (sa) said this: What’s your opinion? That is not acceptable! This means we need to go behind and follow Prophet Muhammad (sa) very closely. A believer’s sole goal is to attain the pleasure of Allah (swt) and tread المستقيم صراط
We need to be conscious of Allah (swt) (ىوقت) in the following circumstances in life: While doing obligations and while abstaining from sins. Worship without love of Allah (swt) is just an exercise or duty; the heart remains detached from it. Worship should be out of love for Allah (swt) hoping for reward from Allah (swt) and fearing Allah’s (swt) punishment.
We must remember that this Surah was revealed to people who had a very high level of faith still the Shaitan could affect them. He could incite them to believe that they had a lot of knowledge, thus making them arrogant and proud like Iblees himself. Firmness or staying steadfast upon guidance is more difficult than the guidance itself! After having guidance, if you elevate yourself, and make yourself high and proud – that’s a disaster! When you know Allah (swt) is the All-Hearer, you will not put anyone before Allah. You know Allah hears everything. All-Knower: Allah (swt) also knows everything in your heart, even when you are saying something and meaning something different. This means your inside and your outside both have to be the same!
We cannot pinpoint anyone. “I know she is saying something but in her heart is something else.” This is only for Allah (swt). Only He is the All-Knower – not any human! No one can deceive Allah (swt). Consider the impact of both these names together
“I will focus on what I say and what is in my heart at the same time.”
“And there is no sin on you if you make a hint of betrothal or conceal it in yourself, Allah knows that you will remember them…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:35)
“O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he () calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allah comes in between a person and his heart (i.e. He prevents an evil person to decide anything). And verily to Him you shall (all) be gathered.” (Al-Anfal, 8:24)
You need to respond to Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) whatever they invite you/command you to do. It will make you alive! If you put anyone else’s words in front of you – they will not give you life! Opposite of life is death or destruction. You need to know that Allah (swt) will stand between you and your heart. You need to be careful. Allah (swt) standing between you and your heart means that you don’t/won’t even have control over your heart!
This Surah, will help us do the makeover that comes from the inside, and also shows on the outside, through our actions
Adapted from a workshop conducted by sister Eman of Al-Huda Sisters, Dubai.
By Sheikh Omar Suleiman
Member, ICNA Shariah Council and Instructor, Al Maghrib Institute, Canada
Throughout your life, as you try to find out who you are, you lose sight of what you were meant to be. Should you pursue this or that?
In order to attain success, Islam recommends that we analyze ourselves with critical eyes, as the tendency to live in status quo leads to hypocrisy. We learn from the times of the Prophet (sa) that the hardest prayers for hypocrites were those of Fajr and Isha. Fourteen hundred years ago, they did not have bright chandeliers in the Masajid. Neither did they have well-lit roads. The worshippers heading for Fajr and Isha Salah did so purely for the love of Allah (swt). There was no opportunity to display their faith in public. Naturally, the hypocrites lagged behind, as it did not serve their purpose of recognition before the society.
The Sahabahs were engaged in a life-long process of finding out who they truly were. It is advised to have a certain level of uncertainty about yourself, in order to engage in self-criticism and improvement. Medical experts would agree that the worst patient to deal with is someone who finds nothing wrong with him. The truly righteous is the one who thinks he is not pious.
When Aisha (rtaf) was asked about hypocrites, she described them as those who think of themselves as pious. The ones who come to the conclusion that they are not hypocrites are indeed hypocrites. All one hundred and twenty Sahabahs of the Prophet (sa) feared falling into hypocrisy, even though tales of their unparalleled Iman (faith) are penned in history.
What saves you from turning into a hypocrite then? The answer is in Surah Ash-Shams. Allah (swt) swears by His countless creations in this chapter of the Quran for all to arrive at the process of Tazkiya (purification of the soul). He clearly states that He is the One Who has set our Nafs (soul) right. We have been instilled with the sense of right (Taqwa) and wrong (Fujoor). Allah (swt) has also announced the means to succeed in the Quran. It is to remain busy with your own purification of the soul.
Allah (swt) places the burden of Tazkiya on you. Nafs is the Hijab (veil) between you and Allah (swt). The more you improve your Nafs, the more you will experience Allah’s (swt) Qurb (nearness). This is the first step to Tazkiya.
The second step is to recognize that purification is not possible without Allah’s (swt) help which comes in the form of Fitnahs (trials). Allah (swt) asks: do they think they will be left alone without tests? For every pain, you are rewarded by Allah (swt).
A supreme example of how Fitnah elevates you is in a story of a young man in Syria. He had never bowed before Allah (swt). The soldiers of Bashar-ul-Asad (ruler of Syria) were coercing everyone to prostrate before the picture of Bashar-ul-Asad. Those who refused were mercilessly beaten up. This particular man refused to perform Sajdah before the ruler’s picture, because he didn’t wish to make his very first Sajdah before Allah’s (swt) creation – Sajdah was Allah’s (swt) right alone. Hence, he was beaten to death, making his first and last Sajdah to Allah (swt) alone. What could have been a doomed end due to Kufr and Shirk transformed into an opportunity to enter Jannah. Allah (swt) presented this man with that chance, and he wisely took it.
The next step is Tarbiyah. It means to raise the Nafs. You need to question yourself: “Who am I?” Why can’t I come close to Allah (swt)?” “Why don’t I enjoy Salah?” Some people blame Allah (swt) for their misfortunes, while others blame the environment. They never take responsibility for their own errors and misguidance. They lose hope of Allah’s (swt) mercy and fall into despair.
History proves how people, who were born out of the fold of Islam, travelled far and wide and raised the level of their faith. Bilal Habshi, Sulaiman Farsi, Najashi – they were all people who questioned the purpose of their lives and were thus led to guidance by Allah (swt).Whereas Abu Hakm, the Prophet’s (sa) own uncle, became Abu Jahl (father of ignorance) in spite of experiencing Islam in Makkah. Abdullah bin Ubay, in spite of praying in the Prophet’s (sa) congregation in Madinah, became the leader of the hypocrites.
It was the genius of the Prophet (sa) that he looked at each companion’s strengths and offered them opportunities to develop and utilize them for the benefit of Islam.
Abu Jahl and Omar bin Khattab (rtam) both had exceptional leadership qualities. The Prophet (sa) prayed to Allah (swt) to strengthen Islam by granting one of them to him. Hence Omar’s (rtam) qualities were spent for Islam, while Abu Jahl fought against Islam.
The point is to nurture the gifts Allah (swt) has given you – for example, reputation, wealth, eloquence, etc., – and use them for Allah’s (swt) Deen and the benefit of the mankind.
We either own Nafs Lawama, a soul which is constantly distracted by people, or we own Nafs Mutamainna, a soul that is at peace with Allah (swt).
To accomplish the above, you might need to push out of the way things that come between you and Allah (swt). Surround yourself with people of Allah (swt) and take their Naseehah (advice).
Remember, the difference between a punishment and a trial is your attitude towards it. If during hardships you remain calm, exhibit Sabr and Shukr, Allah (swt) will reward you. Conversely, if during trails you become bitter and disobey further, you will be punished. Just remind yourself in times of tribulations that on the Day of Judgement, people burdened with sins would wish they had scissors to cut their skin to part with them and envy the ones who underwent the trials of the world patiently only to be elevated in the Akhirah. And the believers will not even remember their sufferings at the sight of Jannah – a satisfying end to a journey of self-discovery, indeed.
Based on a lecture-shop organized by “LiveDeen”. Transcribed for “Hiba” by Rana Rais Khan.
It is a non-profit project with an up-to-the-minute concept of lectureshops, a combination of workshops and live lectures of international speakers broad casted via hi-technology video conferencing tools. Their main aim is to bridge the gap between the English-speaking strata of the society and Deen.
Ameer LiveDeen: Nouman Idrees Sheikh (0300-863-7735)
By Umm Ibrahim – Freelance writer
It is sad but true that most of the times, sisters with young children, who do not have the advantage of a large, supportive, extended family or who are not social enough to have a huge network of friends, end up facing their toughest times alone or with the bare minimum support of their parents. These tough times include post-marriage troubles, pregnancy, child-birth, illness, conflicts with husbands, or death of a close family member and the like.
Do YOU want to be among those who offer selfless support to the sisters in the family/ neighbourhood / community? Here are the top five tips which should help you embark upon this journey:
- Take the initiative
Don’t wait to be asked. In this day and age, because almost everyone in the city has a self-centred lifestyle, people usually do not ask others for any help. If you are sincere, just think proactively and do what you think is most needed at the moment.
“My cousin passed away suddenly in Ramadan, and the news came in the afternoon,” details Lubna, a graphics’ designer. “We reached there and as Iftar time approached, we saw a couple of neighbours coming in with Iftar boxes for all the people who had gathered. We were very touched by this thoughtful gesture!”
- Send over meals
While preparing meals, increase the portion size and send some over to the sisters in your neighbourhood, especially those who have small children, who are facing financial difficulty, or who work long hours. You cannot imagine the amount of Sadaqah you will gain for this seemingly small and insignificant gesture.
- Grocery time
When setting out for the weekly or monthly grocery, make sure to ask your neighbourhood sisters, if they need anything. Keep asking, even if the say ‘no’ (out of courtesy) week after week.
“It took me four years of asking before my own mother began to ask me to bring over certain grocery items,” confesses Sarah, a home-maker. “I expect it would take others longer.”
- Lend an ear or offer positive counsel
Sometimes, sisters just need an attentive ear to pour out their woes. Take some time out during the day to make courtesy phone calls. You can also go over for a few minutes, if the sisters are in the same neighbourhood. Helping a distressed sister seek out solutions or count her blessings can change her negative perceptions about her own life. Word of caution: This should not be done with the aim to gain material for gossip, and ultimately, resolve nothing.
- Offer to babysit
This is easier said than done, especially if toddlers are concerned. However, if you do have children in the same age group, do offer to babysit. If the neighbourhood children feel comfortable in your house, it will be easier for their mother to drop them while going for a quick shopping trip, visiting the doctor or for other urgent errands. You may even take yours as well as others’ kids to the park to keep them from messing up the home.
By Maria Elahi – Freelance writer
Confident Mother Syndrome is a rapidly spreading behavioural problem in today’s mothers, especially in our society. This phenomenon is repressing the morals of our children and youth; it is also making today’s kids unruly, uncouth and generally disrespectful towards their elders. Not only that, it is also one of the chief causes of destroying harmonious relationships amongst neighbours and relatives.
What is Confident Mother Syndrome (CMS)?
CMS is the perception of mother(s) that their child or children can do no wrong: “My son? No, my son cannot do this… I know him.” Mothers are confident that their children cannot possibly cause the kind of mayhem of which they are accused.
As a result of this perception, a mother develops a mental block that prevents her from accepting any negative behaviour reported about her child. She defends her child ardently no matter what trouble he has caused. She even invents excuses for his negative behaviour.
It has also been observed that this problem seems to intensify in mothers as and when they have more and more children. The chief cause of this phenomenon is that a mother generally becomes more inattentive and neglectful of her younger offspring, once she finds out that her older kids have turned out to be just fine (well-mannered and responsible human beings). In other words, she becomes overconfident in the Tarbiyah (upbringing) that she has provided and loses focus towards the younger ones.
- Love – the possessive sort that makes a mother biased.
- Overconfidence as far as Tarbiyah (upbringing) is concerned.
- Self-perception: “Since I am good, my blood cannot be bad.”
- Reactive attitude and a tendency to blame others, if things go wrong, instead of taking responsibility for it.
- Criticism against her child or children is viewed as a personal attack.
- A combination of all of the above.
- Blind trust can turn your child into a perpetual liar. He will know that his mother is going to defend him or her no matter what. This would give him a false sense of security.
- Would encourage him instead of preventing him from making trouble.
- May develop attitude problems: cultivate arrogance, impudence and macho behaviour, which may turn him into a bully.
- May corrupt his morals: make him rude, outspoken and disrespectful towards elders.
- A children’s tussle has the potential to turn into a full-fledged adult brawl.
- Be fair: investigate the issue before taking sides. The Quran says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you).” (An-Nisa 4:135)
- The real trouble-maker must be reprimanded and admonished to prevent him from making more trouble in the future. Use scolding, punishment, positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement (whatever seems appropriate under the circumstances).
- Keep monitoring and counselling your child. Remember – the morals taught by mother remain with the child till his death. Motherhood is the first institution; make your institution the best.
- Allow others (elders) to gently counsel him, if they see him doing something wrong – a stitch in time saves nine.
- Be open to advice, criticism and opinions regarding your child – after all, who is going to benefit in the end?
- Teach and encourage your child to apologize when he is wrong – it wins heart, heals emotional wounds and earns respect.
- Make yourself his best friend – let him communicate to you all he went through. This way you can tell him where he was right, where he was wrong and what he should have done under the circumstances.
Disclaimer: CMS is not a psychological term; it is the writer’s observation, which has been confirmed and reinforced by an informal survey.
By Zohaira Munir
Student of the Quran, and a Passionate Gardener
Every year, I put aside my savings for the flower show. For me, the flower show is an array of beautiful warm colours, indicating a strong presence of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) is indeed beautiful and colourful flowers are His reflections. It is bliss to stroll around, with parents bargaining over different pots of plants, and people from every walk of life enjoying the nature’s marvel. I, holding my son’s hand, accompanied by my maid, enjoy the show as well.
My son Usman is an autistic child. Let me briefly tell you about Autism. Autism is a disorder of neural development, characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.
As every year, Usman also visited the flower show with me, and we enjoyed a lot initially. Like others, we visited the stalls of every participant and also bought some plants. During the course, I became so absorbed that I did not realize it was too much for my son to take in. He was tired and kept asking when we would go back. I kept stalling, until my maid exclaimed, “Baji, where is Usman?” My heart sank as Usman was not at the stall. I searched every corner, and got an announcement made, but alas, he was nowhere to be found. I burst into tears and my maid also started to cry. As the two of us madly searched for Usman, I suddenly remembered the verse of Quran: “And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah” (Al-Araf 7:180)
I recited the beautiful names of Allah (swt) with tears in my eyes.
I still vividly remember that I recited the names with firm faith that Allah (swt) is my Wali (Helper) and He will help me. I continuously recited His names with all my heart and soul. An hour passed by and Maghrib Adhan was called. Rabia, my maid, suggested: “Baji, why don’t we check outside in the parking area?” I agreed and we went outside. To our utter surprise, Usman was standing outside beside his own Suzuki Cultus, waiting for me. Alhumdulillah, my autistic boy showed sheer intelligence and out of so many cars, he recognized his own. I embraced him and realized that Allah (swt) is no doubt Al-Hafeez (the Preserver) and the Supreme Protector of His creatures.
From that moment to date, I have learnt one lesson: “Never give up hope, because He is always with us, testing our faith and giving assurance. He will not let the benediction go unheard, if called devotedly.”
Muslim ibn Sabeeh Koofi narrated the following incident from his father:
A handsome, young Arab (whose name is unknown) and Mugheerah ibn Shubah (rtam), a companion of Prophet Muhammad (sa), sent a proposal of marriage almost simultaneously to a woman. She gave a similar reply to both of them: “You have proposed to me, but I cannot answer any of you, unless I meet you and talk to you. If you really want to marry me, come to me at such-and-such time so that I can reach a conclusion.”
Both men arrived at the stipulated time. The lady requested them to take a seat in a place from where she could observe them and hear their conversation. They had no idea, however, that she was over-hearing them.
Mugheerah (rtam) felt rather envious of the young man, who was obviously well-groomed, attractive and eloquent. He was beginning to realize that he didn’t stand a chance against such a formidable candidate, as the lady would obviously prefer the young man as her husband. He asked him: “You are quite good-looking and well-spoken. Do you have any other positive qualities?” The young man brightened up and replied proudly: “Yes, I possess such-and-such qualities, too…”
He went on praising himself and his personality for a while. Then, there was silence. Mugheerah (rtam) asked him: “How responsible and accountable are you in (personal) financial matters?”
He answered: “I am very, very particular about finances. I track each and every penny meticulously.”
“I do things a little differently,” explained Mugheerah (rtam). “I keep a certain amount of money in a designated place in my house. My family members are free to spend from it as they like. I don’t expect them to account for their expenses incurred using that money. I find out they need more only when that amount has finished.”
The lady was listening closely to the conversation. When she heard Mugheerah’s (rtam) way of handling his finances, she declared: “By Allah! I think this man deserves the most to be my husband! I don’t want to marry the young Arab who, I am sure, is going to be after me to account for every single penny that I spend.”
The woman then married Mugheerah ibn Shubah (rtam).
Adapted (with permission) from “Sunehri Kirnain” published by “Darussalam”. Translated and compiled for “Hiba” by Umm Ibrahim.
By Dr. Israr Ahmed
Scholar, teacher and founder of ‘Tanzeem-e-Islami’
Marital relationship is a sacred bond that should be respected and upheld during the highs and the lows of life. However, divorce is a glaring reality as well. In the wake of the rising instances of divorce, it is imperative to be aware of the conditions that govern this important issue.
It is ironic that in the present era, when vast communication channels facilitate discussion of every topic under the sun and encourage people to resolve issues through dialogue, a candid discourse on divorce is still considered to be a taboo.
There are plenty of reasons for not discussing this issue. The main reason, however, why people prefer to keep mum about divorce is because they fail to understand the Quran, despite reciting it often. Hence, they are not clear about the terms and the conditions that surround this important issue.
The subject of divorce, along with its method and its principles, has been discussed in detail in Surah Al-Baqarah of the Noble Quran. Divorce, if given in a proper manner as prescribed by Islam, does not sever all ties with the spouse in one go. It is mentioned in verse 229 of Surah Al-Baqarah that a window of reconciliation remains open even if divorce is given twice. This is known as Talaq-e-Rajaee. For Talaq-e-Rajaee to be enforced, it is imperative that divorce is given once during the woman’s condition of purity. In such a scenario, the period of Iddat is three Quroo (that is, the beginning or the end of the 3rd menstrual cycle).
Divorce given once
If divorce is given once, the marriage does not break. During her Iddat, a woman can live in her husband’s house with respect, so that physical relationship can be re-established between them, if they desire it and thus, they can reconcile. If the husband does so during Iddat, the wife cannot refuse and there is no need to renew the Nikah.
In verse 229 of Surah Al-Baqarah, it is also mentioned that a man can either retain his wife on reasonable terms or release her with kindness. During Talaq-e-Rajaee, if the husband does not reconcile during the period of Iddat, it becomes Talaq-e-Baenaa. This marks the separation of the husband and wife, and the Nikah breaks. Now, the husband’s right to reconcile ends, and if he wants to stay with his wife, he will have to remarry her with another Nikah. If after giving divorce once, the husband reconciles or remarries the wife and then at some other instance, he divorces her the second time, the entire process of divorce mentioned above is repeated. In a nutshell, the husband can reconcile during the period of Iddat and if he does not do so but decides only after Iddat that he wants to stay with his wife, he will have to renew his Nikah with her.
Divorce given thrice
If the husband divorces his wife the third time, after reconciliation or renewing the Nikah twice, then this is called Mughallaz. In verse 230 of Surah Al-Baqarah it is mentioned that if the husband divorces his wife the third time, then she is not lawful for him thereafter, until she has married another person. Giving divorce thrice ends the husband’s right to reconcile. The woman will have to leave the husband’s house, as she is no longer Halal for him. The period of Iddat in this final divorce is also three Quroo.
In verse 231 of Surah Al-Baqarah, it is mentioned that the verses of Allah (swt) should not be treated with disrespect. Hence, the rules mentioned therein should be strictly followed.
Giving Talaq thrice at once is called Talaq-e-Biddat. This type of divorce is highly disliked in Islam.
The woman, who has been divorced thrice, has the freedom to marry anyone she desires. If after her Iddat, the woman remarries, and her new husband divorces her or she becomes a widow, she can remarry her former husband, if she wills. This is known as Halala. It is not allowed in Islam to plan Halala or do it on purpose. The Prophet (sa) has cursed those who do Halala intentionally, and has declared such a Nikah as being contrived.
Separation between a husband and wife also occurs due to Khula. It is the woman’s right to obtain separation from her husband, if she so desires; however, in such a scenario she will have to return her Meher and go to a court of law. Even if the husband does not want separation, the court will order him to divorce her, because she does not want to stay with him. If the husband does not give a divorce, the court will nullify the Nikah.
The period of Iddat after the Khula is one Quroo (that is one menstrual cycle). However, according to a majority of jurists, in a Khula, if Talaq has been given by the husband, the period of Iddat should be three Quroo. In the instance of Khula, the husband does not have the right to reconcile during the period of Iddat. Nor after the period of Iddat they can renew their Nikah. Khula marks the final divorce.
As mentioned in the Quran and the Sunnah, it is better to give a divorce once only during the woman’s period of purity. The wisdom in this method is that there is room for reconciliation between the husband and wife within the period of Iddat. Even if the period of Iddat passes, the possibility of another Nikah with mutual agreement remains. Marital relationship holds a lot of importance in Islam, as a couple lays the foundations of an Islamic family unit and ensures sound and knowledgeable future Muslim generations. If divorce is given thrice, the husband loses his right to reconcile and they cannot have Nikah without Halala, the family unit breaks and the future generations suffer.
Based on a lecture on divorce as defined in Surah Al-Baqarah. Transcribed for Hiba by Dur-e-Sameen Zafar Khan.
Allah (swt) chose Hajar or Hajirah (her name comes as Hagar in the Bible) – wife of Ibrahim (as) and mother of Ismail (as) – to be remembered for all times to come. Her “Sunnah” is an integral part of an obligatory pillar of Islam – the Hajj. Why? Because, she was who she was: wife of Ibrahim (as) and mum of Ismail (as)?
No. She was chosen because of her faith and her complete trust in Allah (swt).
The top five lessons we can learn from this incredible lady’s example are:
- Tawakkul in Allah (swt) – complete trust in Allah (swt)
Tawakkul doesn’t come better than this.
Forget what trials you may have passed through (or are going through right now) and think of being abandoned by your husband, father of your baby, while you’re still breastfeeding. He leaves you with your child in the scorching heat of an uninhabited part of the desert, with you looking on while he walks away silently.
Part of Hajar probably wanted to run after him, grab onto him and beg him not to leave them there. But when he nods that this is from Allah (swt) what does she say? “If Allah has asked you to leave us here, then He will not abandon us.”
A majority of us acknowledge at an intellectual level that, yes, God is there. But do we know that we can trust Him? Do we realize that He will catch us when we fall?
Allah (swt) says: “Whoever puts his trust in Allah; He will be enough for him.” (At-Talaq 65:3)
Hajar (as) has given us the explanation of this verse.
- Deep faith in Allah (swt)
This kind of trust can only rise from a deep-rooted faith in Allah (swt). We need to examine our Aqeedah (faith) and ask ourselves: Who is it that we think we believe in? What is our concept of Allah (swt)? Do we believe in a ‘Creator God’ only, Who doesn’t have much to do with our day-to-day living?
Faith in Allah (swt) means believing firmly in His existence, His Lordship and Divinity, and in His names and attributes. We must not take our Aqeedah lightly, as it is the foundation of all our actions. We must believe in Allah (swt) the way He wants us to believe and the way Rasoolullah (sa) believed, without following self-created whimsical ideas. Deviation in faith is the root of such serious problems as Kufr, Shirk (attributing partners to Allah) and Nifaq (hypocrisy).
We must also remember that faith is not merely a lip service: I say ‘La ilaha Illa Allah’, and that is it? Faith not confirmed by actions is hollow – it is like a car with no fuel, which won’t get you anywhere!
- Trust Allah (swt) but tie your camel
Did Hajar just sit and cry and pray to Allah (swt) for miraculous sustenance? No, she didn’t. Rather, she ran back and forth with whatever energy was left in her body, still continuing to breastfeed her baby intermittently, searching for civilization with hope and belief in Allah (swt) and His mercy.
This is very important to understand because we often think that reliance on Allah (swt) means doing nothing. Sahl ibn Abdullah Al-Tustari has said: “Tawakkul upon Allah (swt) was the state of the Prophet (sa) – how he was – and taking the means was his Sunnah – was his way in life.”
Reliance upon Allah (swt) is how you have to be, and taking the means is what you have to do.
One day, Rasoolullah (sa) noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin: “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered: “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet (sa) then said: “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah.” (At-Tirmidhi)
- Patience during times of trials
We see Hajar being patient not only about Allah’s (swt) decree of being left with a suckling baby in a desolate wilderness – we see her patience also towards her husband. He does not give her any explanation; he does not utter even a single word – but she is not losing her cool or going ballistic. Subhan’Allah, amazing patience!
We don’t know if Ibrahim (as) returned to Hajar to continue spousal relations with her; however, he did later return to visit their son and to complete his duty to Allah (swt) as a prophet and a messenger.
Patience is the key to Tawakkul. According to scholars, patience is a core virtue of a believer. We need to understand what it really means. A simple definition given by scholars is: to hold ourselves firm in what we are supposed to do and hold ourselves firm in staying away from what we are supposed to leave.
Patience has many aspects to it and is sometimes given different names, depending on what it relates to: for example, if related to trials, it is referred to as Sabr; if related to steadfastness in danger, it is called courage; if related to remaining resolute on proper conduct when others provoke you, it is called Hilm (forbearance); if related to acting in a good manner when you could be firm or hard with someone, it is called clemency.
We have to bear each trial with patience, and the more tests we pass, the greater patience we would need for the upcoming tests. No difficulty will last forever, and no two tests will be the same.
5. There is Khayr (good) in every trial for a believer
Rasoolullah (sa) has said: “How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything, and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allah, and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently, and that is better for him.” (Muslim)
Let’s reflect upon the moment when Hajar was running between the two hills.
Her heart must have been broken; she must have been crying due to the pain of seeing her son dying in front of her eyes. She was a believing and a righteous woman, and Allah (swt) was testing her; He was hiding from her something of the future. Imagine Hajar is resurrected and gets the chance to see what Muslims from all over the world are doing today at the time of Hajj.
Rasoolullah (sa), while talking of Hajar going up and down Safa and Marwa, said: “And that is why we go between Safa and Marwa.” So we are following the footsteps of Hajar.
If Hajar knew that a time will come, when people would come in millions from all corners of the world to follow her footsteps, she would have gone through this, between Safa and Marwa, with a big smile on her face. This is a gift from Allah (swt) for Hajar in this world. We cannot even imagine what He has saved for her in the Hereafter!
This is a lesson for us, too. As believers, when we go through some trials and tribulations, let’s remember that Hajar went through the same. Allah (swt) provided her with something better; something Allah (swt) was hiding from her. Let’s have patience and be successful in such trials and tribulations.
When you feel deserted and alone with no one to talk to, there is Allah (swt) and there is the story of Hajar to remember for taking you through those bleak moments. Hajar – the woman of complete faith in Allah (swt) and His mercy. Hajar – a great reminder.
Allah (swt) says: “And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose: verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion.” (At-Talaq 65:3)
Once, Stephen Covey travelled to Chicago for a business presentation. The same night, his fourteen-year-old daughter was to act in a side role in a school play. He knew that Colleen was not in the lead and realized that probably she will never be. But that night was her night. He was guilty of not being there, when the audience would cheer for her. He could have arranged his schedule to be there, but somehow Colleen’s play had gotten lost in the pressures of his work demands.
Stephen called up his daughter to wish her well. He realized that as a parent it was important for him to be there for praising and affirming his child, even though he could not attend the event.
It’s not enough just to claim that “family” is important. You need to show your commitment by actions. In his words: “One of the worst feelings in the world is when you realise that the “first things” in your life – including your family – are getting pushed into second or third place, even further down the list. And it becomes even worse, when you realise what’s happening as a result.” Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.
The question then arises: if family is what we can die for, why does it get subordinated to other values, work, friends or private hobbies? Why don’t we give our primary attention and focus to what matters most to us?
Imagine, in an average American home, a child spends seven hours daily watching TV and five minutes with dad. Unbelievable! But Pakistan is not too far behind. I still remember that a friend of mine always used to joke about her husband’s late arrival from work. “One day, when he will ask me after arriving late at night as usual: ‘Where are the girls (referring to his daughters)?’ I will tell him: ‘Oh! Don’t you know? They were married off, while you were busy in a board meeting.’”
She always laughed out loud, but I could feel her underlying pain – the pain of being left alone to head the family and fulfil the role of a father and a mother, while her husband thought that his family needed more of his money than his time and presence. The standard of living was being raised, while the quality of relations was being dropped.
Also, people seldom forget their miserably lonely childhood. If their parents have abandoned them for some other mission in life, these kids carry the bitterness all the way, until they express it in some form or the other.
In May 1997, U.S. News and World Report published a hard-hitting article entitled “Lies Parents Tell Themselves About Why They Work”. Today, we have a similar case in Pakistan and many other countries. Here are some of the lies mentioned in the report:
- We need the extra money. (But research shows that better off individuals are nearly as likely to say that they are working for ‘basic necessities’, as those who live close to the poverty line.)
- Daycare is perfectly good. (Cases of physical and emotional abuse of minor children have never been this high in the country.)
- Inflexible companies are the key problem. (Many people willingly spend more time at the office. Homes have become an efficiently run joyless workplace, while the actual workplace with empowerment and team work is more like family.)
- Careers cannot be sacrificed. (This is a new breed of women, who have been raised like men. Their family is negotiable but their careers are not; hence, their kids are raised by others for them.)
- Role reversal. (Men don’t mind their wives stepping out and supporting them earn the desired lifestyle.)
Many fathers slave it all day with very noble intentions for their families. But as it is said – bad judgements cannot replace noble intentions. If you are not present at the helm of affairs, someone else will look after your familial needs. Something always fills a vacuum. Children do not just need to be fed, clothed and schooled – they are humans with sentiments, dreams and fears. If they do not have reliable and understanding parents to turn to, they will turn to something else. It will be friends, gadgets, gizmos or pastimes. These children will not judge or question the sincerity of others – they will simply go with the flow to be accepted, because of an emotional starvation at home.
How can we, as heads of our respective family, address these critical issues? Surely we can’t quit our jobs and nest with the rest at home. What we need today is a more dynamic set of solutions for facing the new challenges of leading a family. We need to support, advise, use our judgement, and offer our experience, our strength and our decisiveness to them. This requires us to offer our quality time to the family constantly and consistently.
Stephen Covey suggests: “In a family, order means that the family is prioritised and that some kind of structure is in place to make that priority happen. The creation of a family mission statement provides the foundational structure for the inside-out approach to family living. Additionally, there are two major organising structures or processes that will help you put the family first in a meaningful way in your daily life: a weekly ‘family time’ and one-on-one bonding times.”
The main purpose of ‘family time’ or ‘family night’ (whatever you prefer to call it) is to have one time during the week that is focused on being a family. This facilitates you to meet four of your needs: spiritual (to plan), mental (to teach), physical (to solve problems) and social (to have fun).
In one-on-ones, you allow the other person to have his or her interests and goals expressed or worked on. The one-on-ones are where most of the real work of the family is done. This is where the most significant teaching, the most profound sharing and the deepest bonding take place.
May Allah (swt) guide us to become responsible and dexterous craftsmen, who mould the souls and lives of their families, and most importantly, help us to remember that if we don’t, someone else will – and everybody will have to live with the results.