Slowing Down the Propellers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have You Written Your Will Yet?

Reasons for Preparing an Islamic Will

In the Quran, the Islamic will (Wasiyah) is discussed soon after addressing the law of Qisas. It shows the wisdom of the non-chronological order of the Quran. Can you infer why the will was discussed right after Qisas?

What happens when someone passes away? In the midst of mourning and distress, the issues of inheritance come up. As sordid as the thought is, it is something that many families witness. The burial might yet be awaited, but arguments over wealth and property have already started.

In Surah Al-Baqarah verse 180 Allah (swt) says: “It is prescribed for you, when death approaches any of you, if he leaves wealth, that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable manners. (This is) a duty upon Al-Muttaqun.”

Allah (swt) abhors Fasad (mischief). He wants us to live in mutual agreement, where no one’s rights are usurped and matters are dealt fairly. Therefore, in the verse, Allah (swt) says: “It is prescribed for you.” He stresses the prescription by calling it a ‘duty’ upon the Muslims.

While this verse was later abrogated and replaced with the verses of inheritance, the duty to leave a will for non-heirs still remains. Two-thirds of our inheritance will be distributed as per the terms stated in Surah An-Nisa; we have absolutely no control over who gets what. But for the remaining one-third, we have a choice. This is a favour of Allah (swt) that we must acknowledge.

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Dunya Versus Akhirah – Who’s the Winner?

00 cover

In the story of the blind men and the elephant, each of them was touching different features of the animal and had a different description for what an elephant looked like. Similarly, we humans may have various perceptions about life, based on our knowledge and experiences. However, our knowledge is too limited to grasp the entire concept of life. Our only source for knowing the ultimate truth is the revelation sent by our All-Knowing Creator (swt).

In the Quran, Allah (swt) has repeatedly reminded us about the true nature of this world and the next, so that we may live and act accordingly. Allah (swt) describes the life of this world as ‘deceiving enjoyment’, ‘fleeting pleasure’, ‘play and amusement’, and ‘temporary abode’. Whereas the hereafter is ‘better, eternal, and lasting’.

Allah (swt) mentions in the Quran: “Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.” (Al-Hadeed 57:20)

He says in another Ayah: “…Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the hereafter? But little is the enjoyment of the life of this world as compared with the hereafter.” (At-Tawbah 9:38)

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The Ashab-e-Kahf For Today’s Youth

Ashab e Kahf

Transcribed for hiba by Asma Imran

I would like to highlight some lessons from the story of the Ashab-e-Kahf (People of the Cave) which I feel are significantly missing in Muslim discourse especially those related to our youth.

Withdrawal from Mainstream Culture

The first thing I want to talk about is the cultural onslaught. The People of the Cave drew themselves away from the dominant culture when they observed that it was overwhelmingly evil. Actually, a verdict was passed against them according to which they were to be executed as a result of their faith; so they pulled themselves out.

One of the most important lessons to draw from this is that until our lives are in danger, we have to engage with the society. As Muslims, we cannot have the attitude that we are not going to mingle in the society because everything outside is a Fitnah from which we have to protect and shelter ourselves, and the only way we are going to preserve our faith is by totally shutting ourselves out from the outside world. This means that we’ve already accepted defeat. It says that everybody else is attacking us, and we’ve got to save ourselves by pulling back and staying strong within our fort.

However, the entire idea of Islam and the imagery that Allah (swt) presents of Islam is that of truth being hurled against falsehood. Allah (swt) gives the image of truth being like a weapon and falsehood being the victim and running away. Thus, the truth is attacking falsehood, and falsehood is on the run. So who’s on the offense and who’s on the defence? Who’s actually questioning the wrong happening in our society and engaging with it and saying: “We are here to change things?” That’s the truth. And who’s actually supposed to go into hiding? That’s supposed to be falsehood.

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Face it or Fake it

face it or fake it

People don’t fret too much about the amount of fabric covering their bodies. But they do worry sick about the make-up that conceals their face.

The billion dollar industry of cosmetics and dermatology products rests on the self-consciousness of women in particular but men are fast catching up as well. What are the common tag lines?

  • “Enhance your beauty.” (If I am beautiful, why do I need to enhance it?)
  • “Look naturally beautiful.” (So you mean to say I am ugly otherwise?)
  • “Feel confident.” (My confidence is wired to your shampoo and lipstick? Heaven help me!)

But the problem is that the standards of the world keep changing. Light is in, dark is out. Ultra-thin is in, normal thin is out. Wavy is in, straight is out. Phew! It’s impossible to catch up, let alone enjoy the moment.

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A Meaningful Life – Is it Really an Option?

1 meaningful life“A time will come when your life will flash in front of you. Make sure it is worth watching.” For a man, this might happen thrice. Once, when he is ripening in age and occasionally going down the memory lane. Secondly, when he is on the death bed, and his entire past reels before his eyes. Lastly, it will be on the day of standing, when he will account for his worldly life before his Lord (swt). Fifty thousand years of standing and waiting will turn a child into an old man.

How many of us even think about this amidst the frenzy of undertaken tasks or, conversely, when having nothing to do? Quite amusingly, we find people ranging from those for whom twenty-four hours are not enough, as they are madly dashing from one finished business to the next unfinished one, to those who have ample time at hand to waste and still the day is not done. Both categories have one trait in common. They will stand before Allah (swt) and account for every second they spent.

It all begins with the need to lead a meaningful life. What is it? A meaningful life is a life with purpose. Suleman Ahmer of “Timelenders” explains that it has the following four elements:

  1. Vision
  2. Time management
  3. Leadership
  4. Additional required competencies

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Important or Urgent – The Forked Road

2 important or urgentShould I finish my report first or take care of my emails at the office? Should I attend to my sick mother-in-law or go to my child’s parent-teacher meeting? Is it more urgent to do the laundry or to cook the lunch? Life tosses at us choices to be made round the clock, and we find ourselves continuously deciding what to do. Some of us prioritize in terms of value, while others arrange items to do in terms of time. Nevertheless, all of us would benefit from learning what we need to do first, what we need to do next, and what we do not need to do at all.

It is helpful to understand that most of our daily prioritization springs to action from our discretionary mental routines (DMRs). We develop our DMRs over a lifetime, depending upon our education and experiences. Hence, our choices are automatic, unless we consciously reflect before coming to a decision. For instance, you may know three people who either live with you or work with you. One day you notice that all three make the same mistake, and you decide to help them out by offering sincere advice.

You approach ‘A’ and correct him gently. He not only listens to you carefully but also seriously assesses his mistake, and eventually thanks you for helping him grow. Next, you offer the same piece of advice to ‘B’. He immediately becomes defensive, and starts explaining himself, without listening to you. At the end, he thanks you ceremoniously, and you feel highly uncomfortable following this incident. Lastly, you talk to ‘C’, who blows up in your face. He reacts bitterly to your counsel, and you regret bringing it to his attention to begin with.

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But Why Arrive on Time?

3 why arrive on timeSome people do not give any importance to arriving on time. And we are not referring only to Pakistani weddings (we will address that later)! It applies to any event, be it a business meeting, an appointment, a casual get-together, or a formal dinner. It is a principle for such individuals to walk in late, regardless of the inconvenience caused to their host, friend, or business associate. They disregard it with the flick of a fly.

Such individuals offer three common arguments to defend their practice:

  1. What will happen if I arrive early or on time, and everyone else is late? What will I do with my spare time? I will be wasting it anyway! So I cautiously delay my arrival to save my own time.
  2. What is the big deal if I was detained and have arrived late? It’s not the end of the world. Everyone is alive and kicking. Why does everybody have to make such a hue and cry about being punctual all the time?
  3. I am worthy of being waited for. Of course, all dignitaries and luminaries never make timely arrivals to grace any occasion. If the best showman will arrive on time, perform and then leave, how will concerts last until the wee hours of the morning?

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Planning Ahead to Save Time

4 planning ahead to save timeAyesha was running late. She had set her alarm for 7:00 am, and actually gotten up without pressing the snooze button even once. She had estimated that she needed around half an hour for breakfast and for getting ready, and would be at the convention centre (half an hour’s drive away) by 8:00 am sharp, where she was volunteering at a seminar that day.

However, things did not go as she had planned. She hadn’t ironed her Abaya the night before. She still had a few things to put in her bag. And making and eating breakfast took longer than she had imagined. When she finally set out of the house, it was 7:45 am. Traffic signals, a bottleneck at one intersection, and a flat tyre on the way delayed her further. When she finally reached her destination, it was almost 8:45 am.

One can say that Ayesha planned ahead of time but still managed to get her timings wrong. How?

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Processed Food: Fad or Fitnah?

processed foodGo to any supermarket and you will see shelves upon shelves of ready-to-cook meals, canned food, ready-to-use fried onions, frozen vegetables and the like – all tempting you to save your time and try them out. At the same time, you might have heard that processed food is totally unhealthy, and you should avoid it as much as possible. So what should you do?

It is important to remember that virtually everything we eat is processed in some way or the other. Peeling, cutting, mashing, cooking, baking or frying is all referred to as food processing. All cooked food is, therefore, processed food. It doesn’t mean that all processed food is bad food. There is a huge difference between mechanical processing, which may be essential for making food eatable (such as peeling the bananas), heat processing that changes the texture and may change the nutritional value, but at the same time makes food more tasty and easily digestible, and chemical processing that is largely used by the industrial food manufacturers and which can turn good, natural ingredients into nutritionally worthless or even harmful products. Such chemically processed products are most commonly referred to as processed foods and must be avoided.

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Food: My Fuel for Faith

food and faithIs there a deeper meaning to our meals? Does the food we eat along with how, where, and when we eat make a difference to our health, family, and faith? We, as Muslims, must consider that any choice we make, no matter how mundane, has implications for our faith. Food, which is seemingly innocent and a blessing of Allah (swt), has a vital role to play in who we are. This article looks at food choices through the filter of Islam and Seerah. We will talk about how consumption of different types of food has an impact on our behaviour, and investigate whether or not food quality and quantity dictates our thoughts, behaviour, and actions. As the old adage goes: “You are what you eat.” We will also discuss what Shifa and Tayyab food is.

Avoiding Extremes

Before we go on, let’s ponder over what it means to eat as a Muslim. Eating is a part of worship for us as food is a blessing granted by Allah (swt). We supplicate to Allah (swt) to bless our food, and we eat only after we have recited His name. We must be cognizant of how our food reaches us, the people who are involved in it, and how its production fulfills Allah’s (swt) command for us. Allah (swt) tells us in verse 31 of Surah Al-Araf: “O Children of Adam! Take Your adornment (by wearing Your clean clothes), while praying and going round (the Tawaf of) the Kabah, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance).”

So where do our eating habits fall, according to the above Ayah?

  1. Necessity
  2. Satiety
  3. Excess

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim mentions two extremes regarding food.

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Manna Salwa – Simple Choices vs Variety Gourmet

manna salwa“And we shaded you with clouds and sent down on you Al-Manna and the quail, (saying): ‘Eat of the good lawful things We have provided for you,’ (but they rebelled). And they did not wrong Us, but they wronged themselves.” (Al-Baqarah 2:57)

“And remember when you said: ‘O Musa! We cannot endure one kind of food. So invoke your Lord for us to bring forth for us of what the earth grows, its herbs, its cucumbers, its Fum (wheat or garlic), its lentils and its onions.’ He said: ‘Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower? Go you down to any town and you shall find what you want!’ And they were covered with humiliation and misery, and they drew on themselves the Wrath of Allah…” (Al-Baqarah 2:61)

I especially remember the children of Israel on the days when I have to venture into the kitchen to cook a decent meal, racing against time and juggling the multitude of roles assigned to me as a working mother. I try to imagine what it must have been like to be served the convenient and pristine cuisine by none other but the King of the Worlds Allah (swt) as His Mercy and divine hospitality. Tafsir Ibn-e-Kathir mentions that Mujahid said: “Al-Manna was a kind of sweet gum, and As-Salwa, a kind of bird (i.e., quail).” This food descended from the Paradise, and was collected by the children of Israel effortlessly.

Someone among them brainstormed the idea of ‘variety is the spice of life’, turned up their nose against the Lord’s superior bounties, and demanded from Musa (as) to arrange inferior food grown on the planet.

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Well-Fed or Welfare?

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Why do we eat what we eat? For most of history this question has been quite simple; we eat to survive. But in the context of material abundance, when food is plentiful and easily accessible, this question becomes quite different. What do we feel like eating? Whether it’s our choice of breakfast cereal or the spread at a buffet lunch, there is always a multitude of choices to satisfy our present craving. Most of us make these choices based on our personal taste but when we’re at the supermarket, we’re looking for the best value for money. This fuels the current global market for food; choice, taste, and price. But what’s missing from this equation?

First we have to look at how industrialization has changed the way we produce, package, and distribute food. Small family farms have been replaced by massive agri-businesses. Farm production has shifted to mono crops with global market value. Industrial fertilizers and pesticides have increased crop yields but pollute water, destroy wildlife, and deplete the soil of natural minerals. Meat is industrially produced in increasingly large quantities, creating a huge demand for fodder. Convenience foods laden with chemicals are produced in factories and distributed all over the world. As food becomes plentiful, for some, it comes with a huge price tag for all.

We might consider these changes to be something we have little control over, and therefore, have no accountability for; but a closer look at the problem reveals that we are not only accountable but even responsible. Every time we put something into our shopping cart, we are participating in this unsustainable system. We need to rethink our decisions about food by inserting the question of welfare into the equation – regarding our health, our planet, and every living thing on it.

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Partner in Paradise


You are standing in front of a showcase admiring a crystal vase. You decide that you want to take a closer look. You pick it up and start examining it from every angle, admiring it even more now that you can see its intricate design. Someone calls you from behind. Startled and distracted, you drop the vase. It falls on the floor and breaks into a million pieces. Who or what will you hold as chiefly responsible for this?

  1. Yourself: you should have been more careful.
  2. The person who called you: after all, he or she startled you.
  3. The shelf on which the vase was placed before you picked it up.

While (a) and (b) might sound plausible, the third scenario is completely illogical. Why would you possibly blame the shelf of the showcase when it had nothing to do with the situation at hand?

Keep this analogy in mind and reflect over the Muslim marriages around you. We hear success stories as well as sad ones. In the case of the latter, at times, you find people ascribing blame to a number of factors which at times are not even related to the situation at hand.

Following are eight practical steps to take once you receive a proposal for yourself or for someone in your family who is under your guardianship. It is important to remember that problems in a marriage can stem from a deficiency in any of these steps.

Step 0: Take the Elimination Test.

  1. Prepare a list of qualities you do not appreciate and would never want in your spouse, for instance, greed, pomp, flirtatious behaviour with non-Mahrams, laziness, habitual and casual lying, etc.
  2. Prepare a list of professions that you would not want your future spouse to be in, for example, banking, modelling, etc.
  3. Prepare a final list of any specific thing that you cannot agree to, for instance, a working wife (for men), or a husband who travels extensively or lives abroad (for women).
  4. When preparing the aforementioned lists, do ensure that you include only those few things that are absolutely non-negotiable for you.
  5. Let your parents know that apart from the suitors who have any of the characteristics in your list, you would be happy to marry a suitor of their choice.

Step 1: Investigate.

  1. Conduct a thorough investigation, even if you think you know the family well. At times, people say: “We have known them for years; we know exactly how they are.” This is a delusion. Just because you know one or two members of the family doesn’t mean you know all of them.
  2. Investigate through the subordinates. Interestingly, a lot of families conduct an investigation using only the references that are given by the proposing family. You should aim to acquire a balanced opinion by asking those who are ‘under’ the family, so to speak. This might include the prospective groom’s subordinates at the workplace, who, by the way, would know a lot more about the temperament and conflict resolution strategies of their ‘boss’ than his friends and cousins.
  3. Profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. nowadays reveal a lot about the suitor’s likes, dislikes, values, and mannerisms. It may also tell you things you would not find through a formal investigation.
  4. Always schedule a one-on-one interview. Fathers may interview prospective grooms while mothers may interview prospective brides. In our culture, unfortunately, it is usually the girl who bears the brunt of answering daunting questions related to her physical features and housekeeping skills. Interviews with boys are minimal and are usually held in the presence of their parents, who answer on his behalf.

Step 2: Ask the right questions.

  1. Avoid extensive and irrelevant questions related to educational qualifications, career plans, and so on.
  2. Always word your questions using the principle of Hikmah (wisdom). You might put off the family if you conduct too many ‘rapid-fire’ rounds.
  3. Relationship of the suitor with Allah (swt) helps determine his or her priorities. Is he/she moderate in worship and does he/she want to grow in the practice of Deen? Is he/she rigid and has a one-track mind that can be stifling for the spouse later on? Is he/she a cultural Muslim, and careless about following Islam?
  4. You may inquire about the suitor’s salary and workplace timings but it is more important to find out what kind of spending habits he has, and how he strikes a balance between his home and workplace.

Step 3: Be practical.

  1. It is said that one should avoid marrying girls into households that are financially at a lower level than their own. This is because such girls may have adjustment problems later on. Likewise, it is said that when marrying boys, girls from equal or lower financial background should be preferred, as they would have fewer adjustment problems.
  2. Girls coming from small families should avoid getting married into large families living in a joint family system. This puts unnecessary strain on any marriage.
  3. While investigating and selecting, families (parents of the suitors) as well as the boy and the girl, must try to match their personal behaviour and value system. Habits can be altered or adjusted to. For example, a man may be a practicing Muslim but he may not be very good with handling finances. Even if he means well, he just doesn’t have the ability or skill to do so. A girl may be a practicing Muslimah but have average housekeeping skills. In such circumstances, the families must analyze what can be adapted to, and what cannot be compromised, before making their decision.

Step 4: Be cool-minded.

  1. At times, families are ‘dazzled’ by the proposals they receive. “We never thought they would consider our son/daughter.” They get so overwhelmed that they totally ignore steps 1-3 and rush into agreeing. “This is such a distinguished family. If we won’t accept the proposal now, we might lose the opportunity. They won’t wait forever.”
  2. Keep your cool in all such circumstances. This might seem to be the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’, but you still need to investigate and be practical.

Step 5: This is not the very last proposal to be received.

  1. At times, when a family (usually of girls) is desperate, it says ‘yes’ to the very first proposal that comes. There have been plenty of cases where parents rushed into a decision and deeply regretted it later.
  2. Have Tawakkul (reliance) on Allah (swt). He is the best of planners and He has created mates for each of his creation.
  3. Don’t treat a proposal as if it is the very last one that you will ever receive. Conduct an investigation, and be practical and cool-minded at the same time.

Step 6: Parents should obtain consent from the girl and the boy.

  1. At times, parents get so excited at the prospect of getting their children married that they conduct almost all the steps without bothering to ask their son/daughter if he or she is even interested in the proposal. This results in quite a few problems later on.
  2. As soon as you contemplate marriage for your son or daughter, the first question to ask them is whether or not they are already interested in someone and want you to initiate a proposal. With co-educational institutes and plenty of mixed-gender opportunities, this is not as far-fetched an idea as it may sound.
  3. If your son or daughter informs you that he/she is indeed interested in proposing to someone, don’t let that be a blow to your ego. Never contemplate emotional blackmailing of your son or daughter in order to steer them into an unwanted marriage.

Step 7: Salat ul-Istikhara and its interpretation.

  1. When you have conducted all the steps and are satisfied with the outcome, you may pray Salat ul-Istikhara. At times, parents keep praying Salat ul-Istikhara during the entire process, which is actually not a bad idea at all. This is because it ensures that if this proposal is not suitable for either of the parties, hurdles start appearing. These may include a negative aspect of the family that becomes apparent, an argument over a petty issue that escalates to a full-fledged dispute and so on.
  2. At times, either the children or the parents are so convinced that this proposal is right for them that they keep praying Salat ul-Istikhara and, at the same time, keep ignoring all the hurdles that keep coming up. It is imperative to trust Allah (swt)! If obstacles are coming in the way, then this union is not meant to be. Accept it and move on.

Step 8: Trust your sixth sense.

  1. It may happen that before or after you have prayed Salat ul-Istikhara, you get this gut feeling that this proposal is not right for you or your son/daughter. Don’t ignore such feelings. Keep praying to Allah (swt), and if this feeling persists, then it might be that this match isn’t right for you or your family after all.

Important Questions to Ask Your Prospective Spouse

  1. Why are you interested in getting married?
  2. How do you think getting married will bring you closer to Allah (swt)?
  3. What are your top three expectations from your spouse?
  4. What are your top three goals in life?
  5. What are your top three leisure time activities?
  6. To what extent does the practice of Deen feature in your lifestyle, apart from the five daily prayers?
  7. What are your top three pet peeves?
  8. How do you think disagreements should be resolved?
  9. If you wrong someone, do you apologize? How?
  10. What kind of a relationship do you have with your family members?
  11. When making important decisions, who do you consult and why?
  12. What is your vision for your future family?

To the prospective bride only

  1. How particular are you about observing Hijab?
  2. What are your plans after marriage: study, work, or stay-at-home?
  3. How will these plans change after having children?
  4. Are you in favour of leaving children with nannies or members of extended family, in order to pursue educational and/or work interests?
  5. Are you comfortable with home management skills?
  6. If your husband has to move abroad for work or study, will you be willing to migrate as well?
  7. Are you willing to live in a joint family setup if your husband cannot provide you with separate accommodation?

To the prospective husband only

  1. Are you particular about Hijab? Would you take care to ensure that your wife is not required to serve male guests of the house or attend mixed gatherings without Hijab?
  2. How will you handle conflicts between your spouse and your immediate family?
  3. If such conflicts increase, would you consider a separate portion or accommodation for your wife?
  4. Are you in favour of taking loans (credit-based or otherwise) to acquire such assets as house, car, etc.?
  5. Are you able to save a portion of your salary?
  6. Do you have a credit card?
  7. If you lose your current job, would you take one offered by a bank (or an institution that deals in Riba)?
  8. If your wife is the only child and required to take care of ailing parents, how will you handle this situation?
  9. How adept are you in basic household chores and would you be willing to take care of them in exceptional circumstances?
  10. Are you particular about home-cooked meals? Would you make an exception, if your wife is ill?

Positive Teaching


My parents emphasized the value of having good teachers all my life. Why? Because such individuals teach you what can’t be bought with money. They are the path to Jannah. They are on the path of the Rasool (sa). Can you put a price on Jannah? No.

These teachers consider each boy and girl in their care to be the one man and woman they will prepare for tomorrow’s Ummah. They work with a sense of responsibility and the intention to transform their students. This attitude makes such teachers phenomenal.

I went to a Catholic school. It was one of the best in academics but very shallow in terms of moral values.

Later, as an adult, I started to question what was lacking in the Tarbiyah offered by teachers today? After much deliberation, the answer came to me. With the amazing explosion of information that is easily accessible, cheap to use, and fast-paced, we no longer need teachers. What we need are Nasihoon and Murrabbis, who can direct children to what is truly important, and become the children’s coaches, guides and mentors.

When I travelled to Madinah University, I could not speak a sentence of Arabic, except such necessary words as Hammam (bath area), Taam (meal), etc. After spending two weeks in that place with my friend, I told him: “Brother, we are in the wrong place.” But then something truly fantastic happened. I came upon a man by the name of Abdul Kareem. He was a teacher with a smile. In two weeks, he made me dream in Arabic.

In Rajistan (India), a professor conducted an experiment in one of the poorest areas. He took some illiterate children who had never attended any school and had no exposure to computers. The professor assigned to them a project to discover how viruses and cells replicated and behaved. Next, he put up a computer screen for them to access the information. Through Skype, he also connected them to their old grandmother, who lived far away. She was a very encouraging person, whose job was to offer appreciation to the kids every day about their project for the next two months. Guess what? Those kids delivered. They found a way to learn.

A teacher does irreparable damage to a student with an attitude of negativity. Negativity not only destroys the children’s minds but also mars their creativity. Allah (swt) expects us to develop those in our care into Mumineen, the strong believers, the ones who have a purpose in life. Look at the Prophet (sa). The man was orphaned at a tender age, had no materialistic comforts in life, never received a formal education, and experienced harsh opposition from merciless enemies; yet, he smiled, he appreciated others, and he loved and cared for all. It was like hope and belief rising from ashes.

Read the Quran and observe how positive it is. Reflect over the story of Yusuf (as). When he was thrown into a dark well by his own brothers, Allah (swt) revealed to him that one day, he would be in a position to inform them of their wrongdoings. Hope was extended in the face of an adverse situation.

Similarly, Maryam (as) was despondent when she was enduring labour pains as a single and unwed mother. Allah’s (swt) angel again advised her to eat from the branch of Nakhlah (soft and sweet dates), as sugar causes comfort to the body and reduces pain.

Musa’s (as) mother was commanded by Allah (swt) to place him in a basket and set him afloat on the river Nile; it was the worst nightmare for her as a mother to part with her baby. But it was Allah (swt), Who promised her that He would reunite them again. And so it was.

Once, a Sahabi was drunk. As per the Shariah, Muhammad (sa) ordered eighty lashes for him. Later, he was brought to the Prophet (sa) again on the same charge. One of the men present cursed him. The Prophet (sa) corrected his attitude immediately, stating: “Do not swear at him, for he loves Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa).” (Bukhari)

At the time of the battle of Khandaq, a trench was dug around Madinah as a military strategy. The work came to a halt at the last boulder that would just not break. Far away, rising dust caused by galloping horsemen indicated the approach of the disbelievers’ army. This could easily have been a time of panic and tension. But how does Allah’s Messenger (sa) react? He took the pick axe and called out: “Rome is yours. Allahu Akbar!” The first blow broke the boulder smaller, and a light shone from it. “Sham is yours, Allahu Akbar!” The second blow broke it further down, and another light escaped from the rock. “Persia is yours, Allahu Akbar!” The third blow crumbled the rock to pieces and another light shone through.

The Prophet (sa) faced all the tests positively. The question is: how positive are we as educators and parents? Most of us were raised with negativity. We need to unlearn a lot of that to be able to deal positively with our own children. A shepherd cannot blame the sheep for being eaten. Similarly, a happy team is a winning team.

In any organization, the leader is not just there to enjoy privileges and blow his own trumpet. He will have to own not only the success of each team member but also their failures. This is how “Mercy Mission” works. A very apt example is of an economic crisis in the corporate world faced by Ford. The CEO of Ford called a one-day meeting of all important employees and spent the whole day discussing nothing but the company’s vision, their dreams, and how they had once wanted to achieve them so badly. This was the turning point for the company. The belief to do the impossible breathed a new life into them. The leader looked in the eyes of negativity and said to it: “We’re not giving up.”

There are two ways to build a ship: you can either tell your team how to build it and supervise them down to the finest detail, or you can share with them the beauty of the ocean, inspire them to sail to explore the Khalq (creation) of Allah (swt) and then wait and see what the team builds.

Sen Sui said: “The legacy of a leader is the number of leaders he creates.” Today, we do not need managers to control anymore. We need leaders to inspire. Likewise, we do not need teachers who dictate, but Murrabis that guide and give hope to their children to do their best. The attitude of arrogance will have to go. As teachers, we must realize that there is no one particular way to solve a problem. There are multiple ways to get to the solution.

The people of tomorrow are in school today. Unlock their minds and do not restrict them. If we build schools and lose the spirit, what is the gain? Education should be 20% teacher-led and 80% student-led. We need to teach them to empower themselves. Fear doesn’t achieve the results that love and belief do. Educators and parents will have to make a conscious decision about how they will impact the children under their care. This might mean we need to re-learn how to teach.

May Allah (swt) grant our children the Taufiq to discover something truly amazing and new for the benefit of other people. Ameen!

Based on a workshop hosted by Fajr Academy, Karachi. Adapted by Rana Rais Khan.


Finding Fatimah


The world has known many Fatimahs, the most famous and revered one in the Muslim Ummah being Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (sa), whom we meet in the books of Seerah.

Recently, I came across one more exemplary Fatimah, who was born to a Tunisian businessman in the year 800 AD. Fatimah bint Mohammad al-Fihri is known as the founder of the oldest university in the world.

Along with her sister, Maryam, Fatimah al-Fihri left her city of birth in order to help their father expand his business. Rather like today, changing homes back in the ninth century was no easy task. But the bustling city of Fes soon became a friend to the family as the two sisters helped Mohammad al-Fihri settle in Morocco.

Their newfound happiness did not last for as long as they may have hoped. Mohammad al-Fihri passed away, leaving the girls without any close family member. However, he left for the girls a respectable amount of money in his will, a clear message that he trusted his daughters to build for themselves a place in this world. Fatimah and Maryam had previously lived comfortably and money matters were mostly left to the discretion of their father. After his death, however, the sisters took bold yet noble decisions about what to do with the money that was now theirs.

Living in the cultural and spiritual centre of ninth century Morocco, Fatimah was deeply inspired by the study of art, religion, history, and architectural design. She gravitated towards this vibrant community and the values it upheld, to which she was no longer a stranger. For the al-Fihri sisters, nothing could reduce the pain of losing their father better than giving back to their community. Hence, they decided to invest in the society around them. The money they had inherited was used to lay the foundations of what were initially two Masajid: Al-Andalus and Al-Qarawiyyin. The constructions of both were supervised by Maryam and Fatimah respectively.

In 869 AD, Fatimah decided it was time to expand the mosque into a Madrassah, which went on to be recognized as a state university in 1963. In his book “Madrasah and University in the Middle Ages”, George Makdisi writes: “…back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.”

During the course of Islamic history, Al-Qarawiyyin became more than a university that housed a Masjid; it soon began housing the greatest minds of the European Middle Ages. Many notable scholars of the time either studied or taught at Al-Qarawiyyin, including Ibn Khaldun, Leo Africanus, and Ibn al-Arabi. The university gained fame among the scholars from all over the world, such as Maimonides (Ibn Maimun) and Muhammad al-Idris, a cartographer, whose maps were widely used during the Renaissance, especially in European quests to explore uncharted lands.

The university expanded very rapidly. With additional construction done in the twelfth century, Al-Qarawiyyin came to be regarded as the largest mosque in North Africa. That was the time when the Masjid gained its current structure, which can now accommodate around twenty-two thousand worshippers.

In a brutal attempt to massacre Muslim civilization during the Spanish Inquisition, many Muslims and scholars were expelled from Spain. They found a refuge in Fes, where they shared their wisdom and their cultural insights about arts and sciences. While the Spanish Inquisition of the thirteenth century was a dark and difficult time for Muslim scholars, al-Fihri’s institution became a much-needed symbol of hope for the devastated Muslim academia.

In his book “Islamic Education in Europe” (2009), Ednan Aslan writes how the Muslim community “maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge.” This resulted in the centres becoming “places where teachers and students of that time would meet” and “where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates.” He writes that in the ninth century, it is not to be taken as a coincidence that the establishment of the Qarawiyyin University in Fes was followed by Az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. Aslan writes: “The university model, which in the West was widespread starting only from the twelfth century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period.”

Before her death in 880 AD, Fatimah al-Fihri was titled Umme Banin, the Mother of the Children. She was remembered to have stood true to her oath to keep fasting till the construction of the Masjid was completed. She prayed in the Masjid for the first time as an act of gratitude to Allah (swt). The city of Kairouan was no longer a stranger to the two sisters, Fatimah and Maryam, both of whom had made wise and important choices in their youth.

As a Muslimah, the world I live in asks me to stop looking into the past; however, it is there that I find hope for the future. Perhaps there is a Fatimah al-Fihri out there reading my words. If she is, we must help her in her quest to create a space, where learning takes place for all the seekers of knowledge.