Top Five Things to Pack for Hajj

Top five things to pack for hajj

1) Clothing and Toiletries

Pack in one extra set of Ihram, comfortable clothing for the number of days you are travelling, a shawl or sweater (for any unexpected chilliness at night), socks and undergarments. Take along two pairs of inexpensive slippers and a drawstring bag to carry them when entering the mosque. Men can keep a cap to cover their heads, when they are not in the state of Ihram.

Pack in soap, shampoo, deodorant as well as a non-fragrance soap and travel soap dish to use when in state of Ihram. Keep small scissors, a nails cutter, a disposable razor, a set of towels and a small packet of detergent to wash your clothes.

2) Accessories

Keep a money belt or vest with pockets to keep money hidden. Also, keep sunglasses, –+prescription/reading spectacles, and a spectacle-holding string to secure your glasses. Remember to wear plastic name tags for identification (especially important, if you have small children with you).

Also pack a light prayer rug, an alarm clock, your mobile and it’s charger, an umbrella, a flashlight for when you go to Muzdalifah, a flask or water bottle, three sandwich sized zip-lock bags or drawstring cloth bags for pebbles that you collect from Muzdalifah and a medium sized handbag for everyday use to hold glasses, medicines, Quran, prayer rug, etc.

3) Medicines

Illnesses are easy to catch, when there are three million people coming from around the world! Pack in one course of broad spectrum Antibiotics, pain-killers, cough syrup, band-aids, pain-relief ointments as well as any special medication you need for conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension. Remember to keep a prescription written by the doctor for the medicines you are carrying.

4) Documents and Finances

Double-check that you have with you the originals and photocopies of your passports and tickets in separate suitcases. Take along the confirmation letters from hotels and travel documents. Keep a sufficient amount of money in US dollars and Saudi Riyals. It may be a good idea to keep in extra photos, envelopes, a writing pad and a pen as well.

5) Taqwa!

And last but not least, do not forget what Allah (swt) has said: “And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is At-Taqwa (piety, righteousness).” (Al-Baqarah 2:197) You are making Hajj for the sake of Allah (swt) and for the forgiveness of your sins. Make sure you make the most of it! Pack in a copy of the Quran and other reading material, such as invocations (Dua) cards and Hajj guides.

Pray to Allah (swt) to make it easy for you, before you embark on this incredible journey. In case you do forget something, Makkah has been hosting pilgrims for over 1400 years and most things will be available. Remember, you are a guest of Allah (swt) and He will take care of you!

Top Five Ways to Boost Your Iman

7 boost Iman(1) Recite and reflect upon the Quran. Scientific studies have proven that simply listening to Quranic recitations has a miraculous effect upon the hearts and bodies; it has the quality of healing the souls. It is suggested by religious scholars that whenever you are depressed or feel low, listen to the Quran as it has a significant impact upon your mood. You must be aware that Allah (swt) is speaking to you, and you must strive hard to understand His dialogue. This will help you soften your heart, raise your Iman, and bring tranquility within your soul.

(2) Perform Salah regularly. Another factor to increase one’s Iman is the offering of Salah regularly, and at its appointed timings. It is narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah (rtam) that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The similitude of five prayers is like an overflowing river passing by the gate of one of you in which he washes five times daily.” (Muslim) Apart from increasing our level of Iman, Salah gives us an opportunity to have an audience with the Rabb-ul-Alameen in which we can ask for His help and mercy. It is necessary that we engage in this ritual without accelerating our pace, and being aware of His presence.

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Losing it the Healthy Way

losing weightThe trendiest topic in town, which has been the subject of countless arguments and has been researched mercilessly, is weight loss. You only have to type the word “weight” in the Google search bar, and the first suggestion will be “weight loss”. All of us at some point in time may feel the need to lose excess weight. Speaking as a medical student, in this day and age, if you really want to avoid or improve chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular and hormonal diseases, you will have to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index).

Yes, we’ve all heard about “diet and exercise” playing a cardinal role in weight loss, but how do you actually achieve it? We diet for two weeks and then gain the lost weight right up! We go to the gym for a few days, see no change, and then drop the whole idea. Some people even follow aggressive diets that cause nutritional deficiencies; these manifest themselves in extremely irritating ways such as mouth ulcers, sore gums, joint pain, spots on the face, marks on nails, paleness of the skin and conjunctiva of eyes.

If you really want to lose weight and not regain it, you will have to follow a structured plan which does not threaten to compromise your health.

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Sacrifice – Leaving Something at the Cost of Another

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  1. Spend from what is beloved: Make a part of your routine to spend a portion of your wealth, even if it is a small one, for Allah (swt). “By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness), unless you spend (in Allah’s cause) of that which you love.” (Al-Imran 3:92) Cut down on one dress or the new mobile model and spend in charity or an Islamic book or the like. Take advantage of the time when spending is easier so that giving up when it is harder would not be as difficult.
  2. Volunteer: Engage in volunteer work that may help you attain the pleasure of Allah (swt). Volunteering demands time and effort and trains you to be committed to a cause without the expectation of material/monetary returns. It is the Sadaqah of your health and resources. Whatever capability you have, whether it is teaching, writing, graphic designing, etc., use your skills for the benefit of the Ummah.
  3. Productive habits: A Mumin is someone living a purposeful life – he does not merely drift wherever the tide takes him. Set some attainable weekly goals for yourself. How much time will I dedicate for learning the Quran and seeking Islamic knowledge? What Adhkar will I add to my daily routine? Take the pain to attain these small goals – part with a little sleep, a little procrastination, and some of your desires and, you will see that with time, giving up for Allah (swt) will become a habit.
  4. Prioritize your brothers/sisters: “None of you will believe unless you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (Bukhari, Muslim) This is a golden rule that can solve many problems in our individual and collective lives. If we love that no one rebukes us and talks ill about us, then we should love the same for our brothers/sisters. If we love that we have the best that money can buy, then we should also remember those who cannot even afford a meal a day. If we love safety, we should remember those having to live under constant bombardments. This love should not just be lip service – if it comes from the heart, it will enable you to act upon those feelings for the benefit of those in need. Rein in your Nafs by putting yourself in others’ shoes.
  5. Keep an eye on the prize: Hook yourself to the remembrance of the afterlife and the high price Allah (swt) is paying for all that you are sacrificing for His sake: Jannah, the everlasting (Tawbah 9:111). “A place in Paradise as small as the bow or lash of one of you is better than the entire world and whatever is in it.” (Bukhari)

The Doors to Mercy

doors of mercy

  1. The Quran. Allah (swt) has termed the Quran as Rahmah (mercy) in about twenty places in His Book. It is the consoler of hearts that accompanies us throughout the journey and will be there when everyone will forsake us. It is the only key to eternal success. Therefore, let us make a sincere effort this month to befriend the Quran. Go beyond the speedy recital and read with deep understanding, deducing lessons for a lifetime. Set achievable goals from one Ramadan to the next for the recitation and understanding of the Quran. If you learn the word by word translation of three Ayahs daily along with their Tafseer, you will cover the first six parts by the next Ramadan.
  2. Muhammad (sa) – mercy for mankind. His words, commandments, and even the smallest of his Sunnahs, bring about tranquility and ease for those who abide by them. Allah (swt) says: “And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) that you may obtain mercy.” (Ale-Imran 3:132) The most effective way of connecting with the Prophet (sa) is to start reading a book of Seerah in the month of Ramadan. You can also select a number of Sunnahs and try your best to follow them throughout the blessed month.
  3. Striving for the cause of Islam. Playing or watching cricket matches, watching movies, reading novels, and sleeping: these are the much-loved time killing tools we employ in Ramadan. Jihad (or struggle) is one of the most rewarding acts in the sight of Allah (swt) and a definite source of His mercy. Allah (swt) says: “Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s religion) and have striven hard in the way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s mercy.” (Al-Baqarah 2:218) Think of what you have done to uphold the name of Allah (swt) in your home and community. What portion of your health, wealth, time, and capabilities are you using for Allah’s (swt) sake?
  4. Asking for forgiveness. Prophet Salih (as) said to his people: “Why seek you not the forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?” (An-Namal 27:46) Believers are advised to ask for forgiveness in the last hours of the night. Wake up ten minutes earlier for Suhoor, pray two Rakahs, and invoke Allah (swt) for mercy and forgiveness. Keep your tongue occupied with the Duas of forgiveness throughout Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights. Indeed, we have an example in the Prophet (sa), who used to make Astaghfar more than a hundred times every day.
  5. Ihsan and Taqwa. Beautify your acts of worship with Ihsan. Instead of worshipping in a habitually rushed manner, make an effort to adorn your prayer with attentiveness, your fast with staying away from sins, and all your actions with sincerity. Want a double portion of mercy? Taqwa will get you there! Allah (swt) says: “Fear Allah and believe in His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)); He will give you a double portion of His Mercy.” (Al-Hadid 57:28) Taqwa is to tame the galloping heart, stop wherever Allah (swt) wants you to stop, and race forward wherever He wants you to – all of that comes with practice and Duas!

Staying away from Tit-for-Tat

tit for tat

Every one of us, at some point in life, may encounter enemies in the form of envious colleagues, disagreeable supervisors or unreasonable in-law relations. Our heart directs us to treat them the same way they treat us. However, what is the most appropriate way of dealing with such people according to our Deen?

  1. Be the Mohsin

Like always, the Quran holds our hand and guides us to the precise solution. Allah (swt) has said: “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better…” (Fussilat 41:34) The Arabic word used here is ‘Ahsan’ which is the superlative form of goodness. In the face of negative attitudes, Ihsan melts away hatred and cultivates love. For example, in an exchange of uncomfortable words, Ihsan would be to remain calm and instead, make sincere Dua. Your composure should not be out of powerlessness, so that you sit crying afterwards. It should be voluntary, for the sake of Allah (swt). Nonetheless, this is easier said than done and requires a great deal of forbearance, as stated in the aforementioned verse.

  1. Speak Good or Remain Silent

From the golden, (albeit difficult!) rules of life is to speak good or remain silent. The moment you start answering back, angels forsake you and Shaitan takes their place. Be smart and let the angels do your part in a quipping duel.

  1. Dua can work wonders!

Make earnest Dua for cordial relations and love to develop between you and your rival. Also, recite the Duas taught by Rasulullah (sa) regarding protection from the evil of adversaries. One is stated below. For more, refer to Hisnul Muslim or other Dua books.

“O Allah, we place You before them and we take refuge in You from their evil.”

اللّهُـمَّ إِنا نَجْـعَلُكَ في نُحـورِهِـم، وَنَعـوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شُرورِهـمْ

  1. Spread Smiles and Salam

Smile and Salam are the ice breakers that pave way for reconciliation. That is why it is prohibited for two believers to forsake Salam for more than three days. Muhammad (sa) has said: “It is not lawful for a Muslim to desert his brother beyond three nights, the one turning one way and the other turning to the other way when they meet; the better of the two is the one who is the first to greet the other.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Be cautious of the real enemy!

Remember! The feelings of animosity and hatred placed by Allah (swt) have a positive direction, too. They belong for you to exercise towards your actual enemies: Shaitan and the enemies of Allah (swt). Don’t exhaust them among your wrongful relatives and colleagues. Save up some for the real enemies. After all, Allah (swt) wants to see us Muslims as ‘severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.’ (Fath 48:29)

A wining situation is not when you defeat your opponent, shun them and quieten them. It is when you are able to overcome the traps of Shaitan and stay firm on the principles of truth, morality, sincerity and Ihsan.

Tackling Teenagehood

teenagers

Raising teenagers is a herculean task. Raising teenagers in the West is even more wrought with obstacles. Or so I thought, until I realized that I was approaching my duty with a wrong frame of mind. I read the following. It is a letter written by Ali (rtam) to his son. It exemplified my feelings and set me thinking about approaching parenting from a different angle. Ali (rtam) wrote:

“I found you a part of myself; rather, I found you my whole, so much that if anything befell you, it was as though it befell me, and if death came to you, it was as though it came to me. Consequently, your affairs meant to me as my own matters would mean to me. So I have written this piece of advice as an instrument of help…

Certainly, the heart of a young man is like an uncultivated land. It accepts whatever is strewn on it. So I hastened to mold you properly, before your heart hardens up and your mind gets occupied…”

My task was clear. This is what I need to do:

  1. What I should not do. I wasn’t supposed to stop my son from logging into Facebook, or from tweeting all afternoon, or from asking silly questions that made no sense. My actual task was to instill in him three things. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The best gift to children from parents is their correct training.” (Tirmidhi) Once these things became second nature, he would monitor himself, and my job would be done. We all forget that when we ourselves were teenagers, we used to have an insufferable attitude: “I can do whatever I want, because I’m an adult.”
  1. The meaning of Abd-Allah should be clear to your teenager. “The most beloved of your names to Allah are ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abdur-Rahman.” (Muslim) Iman is a wavering thing. Sometimes it is strong, while at other times it becomes weak. Do not be hard on your teenager; he will follow his peer group, which does not mean he is ‘bad’. It only means that he needs a direction. Give him an alternate. Make him think it is his choice.

I met a young high school girl at the Masjid. She always dressed decently and wore Hijab. It’s been a year since we met, and I have never seen her in skinny jeans, t-shirts or tight revealing clothes. I asked her what her parents did that made her so confident. She said they gave me a choice: either I practice Hijab correctly or I don’t do it at all. “What if you had chosen not to wear Hijab?” I asked. “Actually, I knew that Allah (swt) commands women to cover their beauty, so the choice was obeying Allah (swt) or disobeying Him.” I was stunned… so simple. Conclusion: instill in your teenager the love of Allah (swt), His Prophets (as) and His Taqwa. Your child will choose the correct path by himself.

  1. Teach your child the Quran. You would say that every parent does it. What’s so great about this piece of advice? Actually, teach your child the Quran, in terms of the stories and what they signify: the commandments, the recitation and memorization, the meaning and depth of the message, and the philosophy. This will elevate your child’s intellect. He will no longer accept anything at face value, unless he double checks and verifies it against the Quran and the Sunnah. It will inculcate in him Islamic morals, values and manners. Most importantly, your child will look beyond his daily routine and ponder over the reason for his existence, his real aim in life.
  1. Just don’t talk the talk, but walk the walk. The single most important factor is you as a role model. If you lie, your child will know it is acceptable. If you indulge in questionable behaviour, your child will find the door open. One day, my daughter started yelling at her younger sister for not wiping the toilet sink clean after herself. I asked her to calm down. She looked at me and said: “But Mama, you always use that tone.” I was taken aback! Now, we, as a family, have decided to get rid of our habit of yelling at each other. Accept your vices, as we are not perfect, and work on them with your kids. They will learn that life is about continuous striving to please Allah (swt).
  1. Pray for your children. Always, everywhere and in everything they do. We can only guide. Allah (swt) is the One, Who will accept their struggle.

The Five ‘Don’ts’ of Tarbiyah

Tarbiyah

First and foremost, we need to understand the perceptions of parents regarding Tarbiyah. Tarbiyah is a natural part of life in the safety of a family home. It’s not a rehabilitation centre procedure, where people go for treatment. Tarbiyah is about nurturing the best aspects of human nature and not about fixing a problem. Thus, Tarbiyah of children becomes a sacred and challenging yet enjoyable task. It does not become a ‘yelling issue’ or ‘I told you so about 1000 times’, or ‘stop doing that or else…’ sort of scenario.

We must remember that we live in an economic world. Major problems with teenagers arise because of freedom of choices, mass media and peer pressures. Lack of direction and guidance from parents and school add fuel to fire.

When we think of Tarbiyah, some of the ‘don’ts’ are as follows:

  1. Don’t lose communication with them! Don’t disconnect with your children in anger or frustration. Very often, parents lose communication with their children, whereas the children have hundreds of ways to communicate. Talk face to face in all cases. Keep in touch through SMS, emails or Facebook, if you have given them these facilities. This will help you to know their friends as well; however, avoid giving the impression that you are spying on them. Kids, especially teenagers, tend to resort to emotional blackmail by saying: “You don’t understand.”
  2. Don’t teach Islam in isolation. Children need solutions for their problems. Relate day to day events to Aqeedah and practical solutions. When your children claim that you don’t understand them, don’t argue over this statement; rather, take it as an opening statement for further dialogues. Don’t disassociate yourself from their lives. Take an interest in their activities, friends, likes and dislikes. Don’t disrespect their ideas, feelings and suggestions.
  3. Don’t despair when they have done something wrong. Even if your efforts seem to fail, don’t become unmotivated. Don’t condemn them. Disappointments are a part of parenting, and mistakes are a part of growing up. Don’t use excessive words in anger. Don’t use threats or physical force to get what you want or to express anger. Make Dua. It’s the greatest healer. Clarify what you don’t want them to do from a very early stage. For instance, when your child yells, demonstrate the desired tone.
  4. Don’t expect immediate compliance all the time. Give a time frame and stick to it, instead of nagging. Don’t compare your child with another sibling or other children. It is most humiliating for them. Don’t discuss your child’s behaviour with others, especially in front of them. Don’t forget to kiss your teenaged kids. They still want physical contact with you.
  5. Don’t say yes to such social evils as smoking, drugs, dating and outings in late nights. Teenagehood is an experimenting and experiencing age. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘let me do it only once’. Most parents believe their child is drug and dating proof. Sadly, it is a fact that a majority of our youth is involved in one thing or the other. This includes teenagers belonging to religious families as well.

We need to connect our children to the worldview, where all our actions emerge from our religion, with the sources being the Quran, the Sunnah and traditions of the Prophet’s (sa) companions. Our extremely rich Islamic culture and heritage should be practiced to gain success in all fields of life and then in the hereafter. Excellence, or Ihsan, in all aspects is so desirable that Allah (swt) Himself taught us the Dua: “O our Lord, give us the best in this world and the best in the Hereafter and protect us from Hellfire.”

Teaching Kids to Own the House

Own the House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultivating Friendship with your Spouse

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Any princess, who was swept up to the altar in the arms of her prince charming, can tell you that, a few months later, she’d gladly trade in the glittery clothes and tinkling laughter for a comfortable pair of pants and a good chuckle over a cup of coffee with her prince. Marriage is for the long haul, and like any journey, it is more fun when your travelling companion is a good friend.

Friendship in marriage must be developed and nurtured. Unfortunately, once the ethereal feeling of the honeymoon period ends, most couples take living together for granted. The following are top five “tried and tested” reminders of how to cultivate your relationship with your best friend – your spouse.

Companions on the Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem

We have been instructed: “O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones…” (At-Tahrim 66:6) Regrettably, many couples interpret this as fault finding and preaching to one another. A true friend desires to aid his companion grow as a person; husbands may arrange to oversee the children so that their wives could study the Quran or attend a class; similarly, a wife may ungrudgingly arrange the family schedule so that her spouse can spend time with beneficial brothers.

Buy mustard and Achar

Expect to have differences in opinion, tastes and even sleeping habits. Our Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated: “A believer must not hate (his wife) believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another.” (Muslim) Accept each other’s diversity and respect it. To put it simply: if he prefers mustard above your Achar, just serve both with dinner. To each their own.

Your spouse is not your extension

Best friends need not do everything together or account for every moment spent without each other; allow your spouse to chill with her friends or dedicate time to a project she values. Does his office work or other family obligations limit time spent with you? Focus upon the time you have together instead of the time you feel you are being cheated out of. Value the quality time that you spend with each other; don’t fret upon its quantity.

Surprise!

Giving a gift is just as much fun as receiving one, for Prophet Muhammad (sa) asserted: “Give gifts to one another, and you will love one another.” (Bukhari) So why wait for a ‘special’ occasion? Whether it is something wrapped up, a dinner for two, setting off with him to his favourite electronic store to get that gizmo he’s been raving about or taking the toddler outdoors so his exhausted mommy can get some sleep, a gift can be anything that is valued by your friend. Remember – rewards must be earned, but giving a gift is rewarding.

Love is saying you are sorry and meaning it

The term ‘sorry’ is much abused by couples: some don’t feel the need to say it, while others say it as a muscular reflex. The term ought to be valued and used to mean: “I apologize for my actions, which hurt you, and will try my utmost not to repeat them.” Use the term with sincerity and it will strengthen your relationship immensely, Insha’Allah.

Are you a happily-married couple? What tried-and-tested reminders would you like to share about cultivating friendship with spouse? Email us your suggestions at editor@hibamagazine.com.

Being Sisterly

sisterly

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.

Small Talk, Big Ideas!

small talk

By Umm Isam – Writer and Human Resource Trainer

Do you sometimes feel trapped in a gathering where you want nothing else than to escape the talk (read, vicious gossip, frivolous conversations, etc.) going on around you? Or, you pray earnestly for the topic of conversation to change or improve, as you have nothing constructive to contribute personally? Try this:

  1. Pull it out at the right time

We are all bombarded with text messages daily, which are read and deleted. These one-liners are sometimes funny, sometimes wise, and sometimes, worthy of being deleted immediately. Store the ones close to your heart either on your cell or in a small notebook to carry around. Avid readers of quotations or books can also add their favourites to this list. The next time you land in a party and the talk drifts and becomes boring, frivolous, shallow, hateful or simply unpleasant, you will have something worthwhile to share.

  1. Take along your favourite book/magazine

Sometimes, we are so pressed for time that it is simply impossible to note down anything. In such cases, it is best to simply grab and shove in your purse whatever you have been reading lately and loved it so much that you would want the world to know. Your effort to act proactively will grant you immense Sadaqah-e-Jariya, even if you never get a chance to read anything out of it. If you do, it would be extremely meaningful amidst gossips, complains or criticism. You might just be able to change the direction of the talk and generate some great dormant ideas from others, too.

  1. Listen to understand

Gatherings are not just about talking. They are about listening to others, too – a skill that is mainly lost today. Weddings are the perfect place for such counselling therapy. A typical Pakistani marriage reception generally eats up a good three to four hours of your time, if you are just a non VIP guest. These are apt opportunities to understand the root causes of what people say and why they feel the way they do in our society. As a writer, I have found this to be a pivotal chance to observe, listen without judgement and sometimes, simply be a therapist to someone who needed an ear to unload his or her miseries.

  1. Announce the agenda boldly or slip it in subtly

As soon as you arrive, tell your close ones that this will be a vegetarian’s chitchat (meaning no juicy back biting, slandering or suspicion). All others who are interested in consuming some meat should wait for the table to be laid out for dinner or lunch. If your companions cooperate, Alhumdulillah! But if they persistently keep on slaughtering everyone left, right and centre, try to cut your visit short, move out of that group, take another table, and make Dua to Allah (swt) for guidance.

  1. Revive the roots

Get-togethers serve great opportunities for soft Dawah. They need not be stern, unending sermons. They can comprise a fact-based incident from the Prophet’s (sa) life, a verse from the Quran, something you read to your child about a companion, or something you learnt at a workshop or while surfing the Internet. It need not be something that pertains to current celebrities, lifestyle or prevalent fashions. It can be anything that disconnects you from the crazy and mechanical life of today, and helps you travel back in time.

Top Five Ways to Prepare for Laylat-ul-Qadr

laylat ul-qadr

The Night of Power and Destiny – Laylat-ul-Qadr – is almost here. We all know that worship done in this night is better than that done in a thousand months! Can we think of any other night or day in our lives that could be more special than this one night? Yet, it is our birthdays and anniversaries, the hyped up mother’s and father’s days that take up all our attention and tireless planning! And here is Laylat-ul-Qadr, the perfection of all nights, and what is it that we do?

The righteous predecessors would prepare for the last nights of Ramadan and for Laylat-ul-Qadr. Here are the top five things we can also do in order to prepare for the Night of Destiny:

1. Clean up – on the outside

Take a Ghusl and make sure you are completely clean. According to Ibn Jareer, the righteous predecessors “used to prefer Ghusl every night of the last ten nights, and an-Nakha’i used to make Ghusl every night of the last ten nights. Some of them would make Ghusl and get perfumed on the nights when it was most hoped to be Laylat-ul-Qadr.”

2. Put on your best perfume

Perfume yourself! It is time to meet the Lord and the King of the Worlds in prayer – nothing should stop you from looking and smelling your best. Some of the righteous predecessors would even perfume the Masajid on the nights they hoped would be Laylat-ul-Qadr. We can even do this in our homes. (A note of caution for the ladies: If you are planning to go out to the Masjid or a congregation for Taraweeh, then do not perfume yourself. However, there is no reason you can’t look your best, while avoiding anything Haram.)

3. Take out your best dress

Tamim ad-Dari (rta) had a garment he had bought for 1000 dirhams, which he would only wear on the night which he hoped would be the Laylat-ul-Qadr. We don’t need to spend beyond our means to buy expensive clothes for this night, but if you have a dress you’ve been saving for a special occasion or a dress that you absolutely love, this is the night to wear it! Who has more right to your beauty than the very Creator, Who gave you this perfect form?

4. Clean up – on the inside too

Aisha (rta) asked the Prophet (sa): “O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?” He replied: “Say: ‘O Allah, You are the One, Who pardons greatly and loves to pardon, so pardon me.’” (Ahmad, Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

It’s time not only to be our cleanest and best on the outside, but also on the inside! Ask Allah’s (swt) forgiveness for all your wrongdoings – intentional or unintentional. Let go of all your grudges! Forgive those who have hurt you, and hope for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness in return!

5. Make the best of this blessed opportunity

It sounds almost unbelievable that one night could be equal to one thousand months! But this is Allah (swt), our Lord, promising us! He is giving us an unparalleled gift on this special night, and we should make the best of it. Spend this night in Qiyam (standing in prayer) and beg Him for forgiveness. Make a list of what you want in this world and the next and ask Him for everything this night.

Remember, Laylat-ul-Qadr is THE event of the year! Don’t miss it!

Colours of the Quran

Colours of the Quran

By Sadaf Farooqi

“Nay, indeed it (these Verses of this Quran) is an admonition, so whoever wills, let him pay attention to it.” (Abasa, 80:11-12)

It was during my teens that I picked up a translation of the Quran in my quest for identity. I wanted to know, why I was born, what Allah (swt) required of me in the form of duties and responsibilities, and how I should spend my life, in order to make Him (swt) pleased.

Since then, more than a decade on, this Glorious Book has filled up my life with the most beautiful and vibrant colours, making it resonate with spiritual fulfillment. Here are my top five tips which will help you feel as fulfilled through it.

  1. Recite it and read a translation/exegesis:

Reciting the Quran fills the heart with solace, the soul with peace and the house with blessings. It makes you feel close to Allah (swt) and alleviates grief. Daily recitation of the Quran, especially after Fajr prayer, is the best remedy for keeping oneself on the path of righteousness. Reading is one of the most fulfilling pastimes; one pursued zealously by millions. A good understanding of reality can be obtained, if the Quran is understood by reading its translation and Tafseer by an approved scholar.

  1. Memorize it:

Having Divine words ensconced in your heart enables you to stand in supererogatory prayers at night and feel especially close to Allah (swt), when He (swt) puts the right Surahs in your mind, granting you insight into the reality of the life of this world.

  1. Listen to it attentively:

One can listen to a tape of the Quran – its recitation or explanation by a scholar – whilst in the car or at home. Alternatively, attending a Quranic class is one of the best ways of reflecting upon it by listening to it intently. Any student of Islamic knowledge would testify to the feeling of enlightenment that is gained at a Quranic class.

  1. Act upon it:

The Quran is a book that was sent as a guidance for all mankind; it should be adhered to in the real life. Therefore, we should act upon its commands or, at the very least, intend to act upon them, when pursuing its knowledge.
From fulfilling covenants, taking loans, leaving behind inheritance, social etiquette and Dawah methodology to family ethics and executing criminal justice – the Quran guides us completely how to live life individually and in society.

  1. Teach it to others:

It sounds very fancy to say, “I teach the Quran”, but in reality, propagating the Quran can be as simple as inviting a few sisters over for tea and spending half an hour reading some Surahs. Everyone can then discuss, how to apply what they have learnt to their lives. The point is to open up the Quran for Dawah and reflect upon it on a regular basis. The benefits of teaching it to others outweigh those of reflecting upon it in seclusion. The bond that forms between Muslims on the basis of studying the Quran together is indescribable. It is sincere and unworldly love, solely for the sake of Allah; one that transcends petty motives for gains, and spans entire lifetimes.

The Quran has filled my life with vibrant colours, enriched my soul with its beneficial knowledge, and guided me to feel especially close to Allah (swt), my Creator. Wouldn’t you also want to do the same?

Making the Most of the First Ten Years

Making the Most of the First Ten Years

By Ambreen Salman – Writer, Translator, and Editor of a book on women health and hygiene matters

First Things to Teach

When your child starts to speak, the first thing s/he should be taught is Allah’s (swt) name. The Prophet (sa) said: “When your offspring starts speaking, teach him to recite La Illaha Illa Allah and never fear about his end. When the milk teeth are uprooted, order your child to observe prayers.” (Muslim)

It is the mother’s duty to inculcate with every drop of milk she feeds her baby the belief in one Allah (swt), devotion to the Prophet (sa) and love of the religion.

Avoid Fear

Avoid frightening your children. Fear instilled in the mind of children in the early years overshadows their mind and intellect for life and renders them incapable of achieving success in life. Make it a point not to shout at, reproach or rebuke children on trivial matters. Make an affectionate effort to train children to form good habits with devotion and good sense, instead of expressing annoyance at their mistakes. However, children should know that you will never conform to anything that is against the religion.

Affectionate Gestures

Always treat your children with affection and love. Keep them healthy by providing for their needs and requirements only by Halal means. Pat the heads of your children with tenderness, seat them in your lap, cuddle them and treat them with good humor. Do not rule over them as tyrants. Such an attitude stunts the growth of affectionate sentiments towards parents in the hearts of children, destroys their self-confidence and adversely affects the development of their inborn facilities.

Concentrate all your efforts on training and educating your children, so that such good virtues as honesty, piety, loyalty and love are harboured in them. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best gift that a father can bestow upon his son is to arrange good education and training for him.” (Mishkat)

Inculcating Prayer Habits

When children attain the age of seven years, teach them Salah and urge them to observe it regularly. Take them to the mosque with you to arouse their interest. If children neglect to observe prayers when they have reached the age of ten, administer suitable punishment through words and actions. Make it absolutely clear that you will not tolerate their evasion of performing prayers. Make it a habit to keep your children clean and neat. Keep their dress pure. However, avoid excessive adornment in dressing them up.

Accountability in Private

In order to maintain the dignity of your children, never point out their faults in public and strictly abstain from degrading or hurting their self-respect. Instead, praise them generously to boost their ego and morale. Make constant endeavor to encourage them and to foster self-confidence in them.

For inculcating in them the spirit of Islam, keep on narrating the stories of Prophets and the Sahabahs. The stories of their valour and bravery will definitely prove to be an inspiring model for them to look up to. Parents are also effective role models for their children. Your own life serves as a mute and permanent precept for your child. Children constantly learn and adopt lessons from the conduct of their parents.

Five Easy Habits to Pick up this Ramadan

July 11- 5 easy habits to pick up this ramadan

By Ruhaifa Samir

With Shaytan locked up for the month of Ramadan, we all find it easier to do good deeds compared to other months around the year. We all do extra Ibadah in the form of reciting the Quran, doing extra Nawafil, performing our prayers on time, etc.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed that amputees took, on average, twenty-one days to adjust to the loss of a limb. From further research, he established that people take twenty-one days to adjust to major life changes and form habits. We engage ourselves in productive activities throughout Ramadan for thirty days, by the end of which we perform extra Ibadah almost habitually! So why not consciously continue them, so that these habits last us not only during Ramadan but for our whole lives?

Here are some easy habits that you can pick up this Ramadan:

Block a slot for the Quran every day

Choose a time during the day, when you find it easiest to sit and recite the Quran and ponder over its meaning. For some, it might be before Fajr and for others, after Maghrib. Choose a time that best fits your schedule and block it for the Quran for the rest of the year.

Plan life around your Salah, not the other way round

Allah (swt) has promised great rewards for those who perform their Salah in their earliest times. Most of us get into the habit of praying Salah on time during Ramadan (especially Fajr and Maghrib). Continue the trend. Set your biological clock to Salah time and plan all other things you need to do around it!

Choose three to five goals every month

A Muslim must constantly strive to better himself. Choose three to five goals to achieve this Ramadan and for every subsequent month afterwards, so that by the time Ramadan rolls around again, you are a stronger, better Muslim. Use these goals to get rid of some of your bad habits, such as procrastination, anger, gossiping, etc.

Use the time before and after Fajr

We all diligently wake up for Fajr during Ramadan; in fact, some of us wake up with enough time to perform Tahajjud as well. By the end of Ramadan, our bodies are wired to wake up early. Don’t let Shaytan dissuade you from continuing this once he is set free at the end of Ramadan. Remember, Allah (swt) waits for us to invoke Him for our needs before Fajr; He has put great blessings and mercy in the time after it. Make it a habit to use this time wisely after Ramadan as well.

Continue fasting after Ramadan
Our bodies get used to fasting during Ramadan, and it gets easier as the month progresses. Don’t let go of this habit. The Prophet (sa) used to fast every Monday and Thursday, and on the 13th, 14th and 15th of every Islamic month. Other special fasts include those of the six days in Shawwal, 9th and 10th of Muharram, and on Yaum-e-Arafa (the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah). Remember, the gate of Ar-Rayyan in Jannah is reserved for those who fast.