Reconnecting with Ramadan

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Planning for RamadanO Ramadan, my friend, you are here. I sense peace and happiness as we re-connect again. I remember last year begging Allah to allow me to meet you in the coming year.

You are the month in which the Quran was sent down as a guide to mankind. Your spiritual aspects of Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer), reading the Quran, fasting, helping the poor by paying Zakat-ul-Fitr, and inviting others to break their fasts together soothes our hearts, develops compassion, and creates a spiritual atmosphere. We seek Laylat-ul-Qadr (Night of Decree) in your last ten odd nights.

When you come, we fast during the day. Fasting means abstinence from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn till sunset. Many consider fasting to be an act of hardship but the truth is it teaches patience and perseverance, and it germinates a feeling of moral accomplishment. Certain individuals are exempted from fasting – they include the sick and the travellers. They can make up the days after Ramadan. Allah says in the Quran:

“[Observing Saum (fasts)] for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know.” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)

Fasting is an act of obedience and submission to the Almighty Allah; its foundation is based upon love to gain His pleasure. This is why fasting enhances feelings of inner peace, optimism, and contentment. Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said:

“Allah, the Exalted and Majestic, said: Every act of the son of Adam is for him, except fasting. It is (exclusively) meant for Me and I (alone) will reward it. Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting. By Him, in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, the breath of the observer of fast is sweeter to Allah on the Day of Judgement than the fragrance of musk. The one who fasts has two (occasions) of joy, one when he breaks the fast he is glad with the breaking of (the fast) and one when he meets his Lord he is glad with his fast.” (Muslim)

Fasting ‘shelters’ us from sins. The one who is fasting says: I am fasting – and becomes one of the righteous. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said:

“Fasting is a shield; when one of you is fasting, he should neither behave in an obscene manner nor foolishly. If a man fights or abuses him, he should say: I am fasting, I am fasting.” (Abu Dawood)

O Ramadan, my friend whilst you are here, I pray to Allah (swt) to enable us to make the most of it.

Top Five Ways to Maintain a Strong Connection with Allah (swt)

asking allahIf the hustle and bustle of this life is weakening our connection with Allah (swt) or if we are disconnected from Him (swt) and feeling frustrated, then we need to engage ourselves in His worship. “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28) Connection with Allah (swt) is as important for us as water is important for the plants. Allah’s (swt) remembrance and worship nourishes our faith and keeps us on straight path. Here are some top ways to foster a strong connection with our Rabb (swt).

1. Salah with Presence of Mind

  • Try to plan the Salah. We need to plan our meeting with Allah (swt) – just the way we plan our worldly meetings.
  • Every night before sleeping, build a strong and sincere intention to perform an excellent Salah the next day.
  • Every morning, the first thought should be the thought of performing each Salah on time. Presence of mind comes when we understand the meanings of the words we recite daily in our Salah. While reciting Surah al-Fatihah, ponder over the meanings. Just think about it: you are praising the Lord of the lords. You are talking to the king of the worlds.
  • Try to memorize new Surahs. Start with short ones.
  • Supplicate after Adhan. Try to answer the Adhan and supplicate to Allah (swt) for solace.
  • Avoid distractions.
  • Decide which Surahs you are going to recite. Pray Salah calmly and consciously.

2. Reciting and Understanding the Quran

  • Recite the Quran with understanding; read its translation and Tafseer.
  • Act upon the Quran.
  • Share the knowledge with your family and friends.
  • Open the Quran and know what Allah (swt) is telling us. Read about Him, the author of the best book of the world. Read about the Author Who is in love with the readers.
  • Personalize your Quran, where you can highlight your favourite verses and Duas.
  • If you don’t understand Arabic, get a Quran with translation. Make sure that your children have their personal Quran.

3. Supplication

  • Seek Allah (swt) through supplication. Converse with him. Praise him. Talk to him about every small and big thing. Cry before him. Tell him about how much you need him. The one who cries before Allah (swt) does not need to cry before anyone else.
  • Make Allah (swt) your best friend. No friend in the world can be as loyal as Allah (swt) is. He loves His creation seventy times more than a mother loves her child. He is closer to you than your jugular vein.
  • Keep Allah (swt) in your mind, every second. Talk to him in your heart, every moment. Allah (swt) even hears the whispers. Remember! Allah’s (swt) love is the most guaranteed love.

4. Repentance

Allah (swt) loves those who repent. Let’s be in the list of those whom Allah (swt) loves. Let’s please the Creator with the act that He loves the most. Allah (swt) waits for us to repent.  Let’s put off the burden of our sins. Repent repeatedly each day. Don’t let the sins accumulate. Every sin puts a black dot on the heart, and we need to wash our heart constantly.

5. Gratitude to Allah

Take a pen and a paper and start writing down Allah’s (swt) blessings. We would surely have a never-ending list. Keep adding things to the list every day. Every breath is His blessing. How much ungratefulness we show when we complain to Allah (swt), disregarding all the blessings that He has bestowed upon us. We need to be grateful to Him for the smallest things that He has given us. His greatest blessing is that He has chosen us to be Muslims. Be grateful to Him for the guidance that He has given us.

May Allah (swt) enable us to maintain a strong connection with Him always. Ameen

[Part 2] Parenting by the Horns

bull_by_the_horns_9518Based on an Islamic Online University Webinar

When children crib and cry we can tackle them in the following steps:

Step 1: Conflict

Every tantrum starts with a conflict. The moment the conflict appears in front of you, how you deal with the conflict shows what kind of connection you have and the result that you will get.

In life we get a lot of conflicts. How do you deal with those conflicts? Do you panic when a conflict comes? Or are you more relaxed when a conflict comes? In psychology, we call it either you ‘flight or fight’. Hopefully with children we don’t have to do either of the two. We have to reason between the two; we’ll not fight and not run away from them; rather, we’ll face the conflict.

One of the most important rules in parenting is that children do not hear, they see. You can tell a child hundred times do not do this, do not speak on the mobile late, and do not chat late but if they see you calling someone late at night, they see you doing the same thing; hence, they will not obey you.

One of the most important rules in parenting is that children do not hear, they see.

Once there was a huge earthquake in Japan and as the earthquake spread people started starving. Grocery stores closed down and there was a shortage of food. There was one juice dispenser company with different kind of juices. It was dispensing one juice at a time. There was a big queue at that juice company headquarters for everybody to take a juice. There was an American manager in this Japanese firm and he also was in the juice queue. Every Japanese could have taken more than once juice on their turn but they took one juice and went back to end of line to take another one, just so that everyone gets an equal opportunity. This manager was tired and hungry. When his turn came, he got four juices immediately and he went home. Nobody said a word to the manager. A few days later, word spread that the manager was not a man of integrity. He could not lead a team, because the people did not accept a leader like him.

Are we the kind of leaders as that manager was? Or are we like the people who are waiting in the queue to show our children? It is not talk the talk, it is walk the talk.

Conflict usually happens when we say something but we do not implement it. This is one lesson that Luqman Hakeem gave to his son: “And do not turn your cheek (in contempt) toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah (swt) does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (Luqman 31:18) He is admonishing his son; do not turn away from people and do not walk in arrogance. How you walk shows what kind of a person you are.

Where are our manners? Abdullah ibn Mubarak said twelve hundred years back that today the Ummah needs more Akhlaq than Ilm. What would he have said if he was alive today?

Where are our manners? Abdullah ibn Mubarak said twelve hundred years back that today the Ummah needs more Akhlaq than Ilm. What would he have said if he was alive today? It is our Akhlaq that the children are watching. It’s the way you are driving, not the lessons that you give while you are driving. While I was living in Dubai, a Sheikh once said that Islam will spread faster if we drive a little nicer. Children are noticing the way you flash lights and honk people from behind. Don’t ever think that they are not noticing.

Are you a Tiger Mom?

A tiger mom is someone who is very clear or strict with the child’s upbringing. She wants him to succeed all the time. She wants him to always achieve first position. She wants him to take part in the painting competition, the debate competition, become a Hafidh of Quran – in short, she wants him to be the best at everything. She expects everything from one child – which is why we say please have more children! If you have any of the traits of a tiger mom, please reflect your position. Our children are not trophies. “Oh you know my child knows Surah Fajr or Surah Naba.” Please don’t treat your child like a trophy in front of others; just let them be what they are. This method is not bad all the time, but we don’t want them to be performing monkeys.

The opposite of a tiger mom is a helicopter parent, who is always hovering over a child. You choose their clothes, you choose their toys etc. A tiger mom lets the child take responsibility. We do not want to become roaring, growling tiger moms and make our home an emotional jail, as a child would put it. There needs to be a balance between the two.

There is a great parenting tip in how Muhammad (sa) dealt with young Sahabah. He was not their father but far greater than a father. When the treaty of Hudaibiyah was about to be signed with Suhail bin Amr, Abu Jandal (rta) came running in chains. He escaped from Makkah somehow, from the jail and torture and came running to the best refuge. Now this was the greatest test that a leader can have.

Abu Jandal’s hands were tied. He was still crying, “Please save me. Will you leave me alone?”

Suhail (also the father of Abu Jandal) said: “He is the first example we’ll take and I’ll take him back with me.”

The Prophet (sa) said: “But the treaty has not been signed yet.”

Suhail refused saying: “We’ve agreed to the terms.”

All the Sahabah were looking at him. The Prophet (sa) told him we’ve now negotiated and you’ll have to go back.

Such a difficult decision it was! This is walk the talk. It had a lesson not only for Abu Jandal or the Sahabah but even for the Mushrikeen. Do you not believe in a man who’s keeping his word even for a companion? Did Abu Jandal’s Iman increase or decrease? It only increased. If your children see that their father stands up for principles, they’ll only love you more.

Step 2: Connection

Now that you’ve resolved the conflict, how do you go back and make a connection with your child? In the next verse, after the arrogant part, Luqman Hakeem tells how to make a connection. “And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” (Luqman 31:19)

Please don’t treat your child like a trophy in front of others; just let them be what they are. This method is not bad all the time, but we don’t want them to be performing monkeys.

Please follow the middle path and whenever you see a conflict happening; do not be arrogant. Let’s become a parent of the middle path. The child cannot go out and buy everyday everything that he wants; yet it’s not that none of his demands are fulfilled.

Luqman did not say that your voice is like a donkey. He is not pointing to the child directly. When you shout, children get scared. For example, we say, “You are lazy.” That’s a big thing to say. Instead make Dua that your child is protected from it. Who gave you the right to say so? Our language is not like that of Luqman. He truly was Hakeem.

Dolphin Dad

Fathers need to spend time with their children. A Dolphin dad is a father who is helpful; he is a father who is playful and wants to raise happy children. These are the fathers we are looking for.

Fathers are directly involved in character building. They should use the correct language. The first words that Luqman Hakeem used were “Ya Bunayya: O my Son!” Address them in the best manner.

When you tell your children how beautiful their names are, they feel good.  We give them such good names but do we ever tell them what their names mean?

Do not raise your voice. Do not compare your child to a stupid donkey, etc. Become a dolphin dad and not a complaining dad.

At the end of the day, our mission as parents is as follows:

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell)…” (At-Tahrim 66:6)