The Dua that changed my World

dua(This was one of the entries received as part of the story writing competition 2014)

Making Duas was never important to me. I always used to think that since Allah (swt) knows what is in my heart, He will listen to me. Consequently, there was no conscious effort in my Salah or otherwise to make Dua during rain, or between Adhan and Iqamah, in prostration, after reciting Quran, after Fard Salah, on Friday, while travelling, before opening a fast or at the time of Tahajjud. However, my thinking and understanding of the Deen changed considerably after my new homecoming to Deen.

It was something magical and surreal. There was something divine about this change. It made me happy and satisfied. It completed me. It gave me an identity and put my aching heart, wandering mind and unrest soul at peace!

My life took 360 degrees turn four years ago. A lecture at a friend’s house, followed by a few lectures at Markaz Al-Huda in Sharjah, and my heart gradually attached to the Deen.

It happened immediately after I realised that I had been wasting my life. I had surrounded myself only with things that would drift me away from the Deen, rather than bring closer. This realization was painful but satisfying. It put me to shame, but I was grateful to Allah (swt) that He opened up my mind to this reality.

The next big challenge was to remain steadfast upon the change. Guess what helped me to continuously come closer to Allah (swt), seek His pleasure, and increase the knowledge of Deen? The Duas, of course! My favourite Dua at that time and even today is: “Ya Muqqalib Al-Quloobi, Thabbit Qalbi, ‘Alaa Deenik.” (“O, turner of the hearts, make my heart steadfast upon your Deen.”) (Muslim)

I learnt some very meaningful Duas and started reciting them regularly, Alhamdulillah. Each one of it sounds more beautiful and meaningful, since now I make a conscious effort of learning the meaning in English and reciting the Dua in Arabic. Slowly and gradually, my misconception of the fact that Duas are not answered faded away, as I saw, in front of my eyes, my Duas being answered, irrespective of the language… one by one, Alhamdulillah!

Just like many of my sisters and brothers in Islam must have discovered the power of Dua, I too am discovering and enjoying it. In fact, sometimes a Dua that I have asked for is answered beautifully, and it leaves me awe struck and amazed. Sometimes the Duas are answered as I have asked, while at other times my Duas are in fact replaced by something better than I could never have imagined. I have been experiencing the miraculous beauty of the bond between the Creator and His servant getting stronger, Subhan’Allah!

To think of any single Dua that was answered is difficult for me at this point in time, because like I said, Allah (swt) has been so Merciful, Masha’Allah, that when He guided me to His Deen, He made ways of bringing me closer to Him, day by day. The recent Dua that I made, was answered in a manner I could have never imagined – I will share with you this beautiful incident.

My seventy-three years old mother was sick in Pakistan. I had seen her in 2011, and in 2014 she fell really sick. I told my family back home that I was coming from Canada, because I wanted to meet her. This was in February, this year. I went and spent 12 days with her, Alhamdulillah. During this time, she recovered from her illness and seemed to recuperate day by day. What happened to her? Well, a mix of multiple problems. She had angina, breast cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, hernia, and in February she developed severe bronchitis, due to which she used to have breathing problems, as water would fill up in her lungs. To top it all, old age itself is a big problem. When I came back and saw her for the last time on the 8th of March, my heart was aching and my tears wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to come back to Canada, but I had to!

After coming here, I got busy with various chores. We were moving from Toronto to Mississauga. The kids were starting Hifz program here. Then I slipped from the stairs of my new house. There was too much on my plate at that time. I used to call mummy on Sundays and speak to her for a while. I used to make a lot of Dua for her health.

I remember vividly the Sunday before she passed away – I couldn’t call her, as we were going somewhere. In the car, while it was raining outside, and we were travelling to a relative’s house, I made a sincere Dua to Allah (swt). I begged him to relieve my mother of all the pain and never make her dependant on anyone. I prayed to Allah (swt) to ease her of all her sufferings and trials. I prayed for her to die peacefully, as a Shaheed, whenever her time came. I was deeply saddened by the fact that I wasn’t close to her and I couldn’t serve her or do anything for her, except make Dua.

That night in the bed and all the nights that followed, I repeated the same Dua. I didn’t want my mother to suffer any more, as I had always seen her sick. She had always been a fighter. The following Thursday, on the 12th of June, 2014, she passed away – peacefully – in her bed, Alhamdulillah!

I don’t know what to say. I wasn’t happy about the fact that I didn’t speak to her on the last Sunday that she was alive, but I was grateful to Allah (swt) that she died in her own bed, not in the hospital. She went away without giving trouble to any of my siblings. I sincerely hope and pray that she had recited the Kalimah, when she passed away. I beg all the readers of this insignificant note to recite this Dua for my mother with me:

“O Allah (swt), forgive and have mercy upon her, excuse her and pardon her, and make an honourable reception for her. Expand her entry and cleanse her with water, snow and ice, and purify her of sin, as a white robe is purified of filth. Exchange her home for a better home, and her family for a better family, and her spouse for a better spouse. Admit her into the Gardens, protect her from the punishment of the grave and the torment of the Fire.” Ameen. (Muslim)

Language That Can Either Build or Break Your Child

language for kids

Imagine that your teenaged son made it to the national cricket team. He was on cloud nine, of course. You felt proud of him and couldn’t stop singing praises. As he headed for his first practice session beaming with eagerness, everything changed unexpectedly. After the match, the coach called him aside to inform him that he was rejected due to inadequate performance.

Your son comes home and tells you the ill-fated incident. As a parent, you try to cope with the bad news. The following are seven typical responses that parents, teachers or adults usually adopt when addressing issues of children:

  1. Denial of feelings

“Oh, come on. You are fretting about nothing. It’s not the end of the world, just because you didn’t make it to the team. Forget about it. It’s not worth your time.”

  1. The philosophical response

“You see dear, that’s what life is all about. It’s never fair. But you have to face it bravely.”

  1. Advice

“You can’t let this failure hold you back! You must try for another team.”

  1. Questions

“Oh, honey, why do you think they dropped you? How did the other players perform? What will you do now?”

  1. Defense of the other person

“Well, the coach does have a tough job. He can only hire the best to create a winning team after all. Try to understand his point of view.”

  1. Pity

“Oh, my baby, after all the hard work you put yourself through, you just weren’t good enough. Imagine! When this news spreads, you will feel so embarrassed in front of your friends.”

  1. Amateur psychoanalysis

“Did you analyze the real reason for this failure? Maybe your heart was just not in it. I believe that on a subconscious level, you never wanted to play cricket, so you messed up deliberately.”

For a minute, try imagining that you were in your son’s shoes and it was your parent telling you any of the above. How would you have felt at that moment? Would any of the above responses console you? Most probably not.

As parents, we might wonder what is wrong with some of the above reactions. Undoubtedly, we mean well for our kids. However, often unknowingly and sometimes purposely, we start building walls around us, rather than bridging the gaps. And it is simply due to the language we speak.

In response to your above reactions, this is how your son might feel about you:

  1. When you deny his feelings, he would think: “Don’t tell me how to feel.”
  2. When you respond philosophically, he would think: “Don’t tell me what to do.”
  3. When you offer advice, he would think: “You will never understand.”
  4. When you begin to interrogate him, he would think: “You know what you can do with your questions!”
  5. When you pick sides, he would think: “You’re taking everybody’s side but mine.”
  6. When you sympathize with him, he would think: “I’m a loser.”
  7. When you take up the role of an amateur psychoanalyst, he would think: “That’s the last time I‘ll ever tell you anything.”

If not all this, then what? What else could you tell your son as a parent? Talk to him in French? No, it’s much simpler: just acknowledge your son’s distress. You could say: “This must have come as a shock and a big disappointment for you.” And let him respond further. If he does, fine. If he doesn’t, don’t pester. If some of us wish to talk about the pain, expecting the other person to listen and understand, then others might prefer to grieve in silence and solitude. A warm hug or holding the hand gently might work better than a speech or worse, a tirade.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish introduce the above strategy in their book “How to Talk so Kids Can Listen”. They explain what makes perfect sense: “There is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave. When kids feel right, they’ll behave right. How do we help them to feel right? By accepting their feelings!”

However, since we are products of the past, as parents, we keep repeating the same script that was read to us. The adults in our life were not sensitive enough about the words they chose for us, thus, naturally we are clueless about their impact on our children.

Consider the following situations, and common responses of parents versus creative ones. Notice, how each one of them produces unique feelings in kids.

No Common response Kid’s feelings Creative response
1. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “No it isn’t. It’s a classic and very interesting.”

Child: “I hate reading.”

Parent: “No you don’t. You’re a good reader.”

Child: “It has too many words!”

Parent: “Now you’re being silly. The words are all easy.”

Child: “It’s too hard.”

Parent: “You’re not even trying. You’re just being lazy.”

When a child’s feelings are denied, he can easily become discouraged. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “There’s something about it you don’t like.”

Child: “It’s boring. Who cares about Tom Sawyer?”

Parent: “Oh, the character doesn’t interest you.”

Child: “No, I liked the last story we read: the one about the horse and dog.”

Parent: “Sounds as if you prefer books about animals.”

Child: “Yeah… I guess. After I finish this, I’m going to get    another book about dogs.”

Parent: “Okay, I’ll help you look for one on our next trip to the library.”

2. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Again! Where was it?”

Child: “Right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “No wonder. I told you last time that your watch needs to be on your wrist not in your pocket.”

The child stares silently.

Parent: “You need to be more responsible about your belongings.”

Child: “I try to.”

Parent: “Well, try harder. Money doesn’t grow on trees that we can buy you a new watch every other day. You better be careful in future, young man.”

Child thinking to himself: “I am dumb and cannot be trusted.”

When a child is bombarded with criticism and advice, he finds it difficult to think about his problem or take responsibility for it. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Oh, no!”

Child: “I had it right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “Mmm…”

Child: “It must have fallen out in the bus maybe.”

Parent: “You think so?”

The child stares silently.

The parent consoles him by patting at the back. “So, what are you going to do?”

Child: “I’ll call the bus driver to check.”

Parent: “Seems like a good idea. What about next time?”

Child: “I’m not taking it off.”

Parent: “That will be very responsible of you.”

3. Parent: “Hurry up! Get changed!”

Child: “I am.”

Parent: “No, you’re not. You’re just sitting there. Let’s go! We are visiting Aunt Sakina today.”

Child: “I don’t feel good.”

Parent: “That’s what you always say, when we visit her. She is our relative.”

Child: “It’s too boring at her house.”

Parent: “It’s not boring for others. Now, get going or we’ll be late.”

Child: “I’m feeling sick.”

Parent: “Oh! Quit making excuses. How do you expect to learn social skills, if you remain cooped up in your room all day?”

It’s frustrating when a child refuses to respond to reasoning. Is there a better way to help children overcome their resistance to a task?

 

Parent: “We’re leaving in 15 minutes.”

Child: “I know but I just don’t feel good.”

Parent: “I’ll bet that you wish we were going anywhere but to Aunt Sakina’s.”

Child: “It was so boring last time at her house.”

Parent: “I remember there wasn’t anyone your age.”

Child: “I’ll be dozing off right in the middle of the party.”

Parent: “Wouldn’t it be great that Aunt Sakina actually threw a slumber party and you could just crawl into one of the beds there and drift off to sleep!”

Child: “Right mom! Well, I’d better change.”

4. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child. Parent: “Wait a minute, you two, that’s not nice! Samiya, give the pencil back to Ali this moment. And wait for your turn.”

 

It’s hard for children to change their behaviour, when their feelings are completely ignored. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child.

Parent: “Samiya, I can see how much you want to use the pencil. Right now it’s Ali’s turn to write. I’ll give it to you after five minutes. And your time starts now.”

If we want to free our children’s minds for thinking and learning, then we have to deal respectfully with their emotions. Most importantly, if we want our kids to be caring individuals, we have to deal with them in more caring ways. The point is you don’t teach swimming to a drowning person. With the right intentions, we generally opt for the wrong language and bad timing. As parents, we have to learn to handle them with dignity and acknowledge their feelings. Sermons and lectures make children more irresponsible.

Look how the Prophet (sa) dealt with people. He did so in few, crisp and clear words. Whether it was a teenager seeking permission to commit Zina or an infant urinating on the Prophet’s (sa) lap, or the rowdy youngsters of Taif pelting stones at him, the Prophet (sa) never verbally abused children. As parents, teachers and adults, we are answerable for using foul or inappropriate language, or belittling and demeaning the emotions of children.

Ask The Savvy Parent: Aggression in Toddlers

Dear Savvy Parent

My 2.5-year-old son is unable to express himself. He hits continuously till others respond and others think he’s a bully. All I want is to help him but how? How to stop him and what should I do to help him express himself with words, not actions?

When he’s not bothering others, give him lots of attention and praise so he eventually learns that negative behaviour will not work and will not get him any needed attention.

Dear parent

First off, he is not a bully. He is just 2.5 years old and is still learning. He’s not trying to be mean; rather, it sounds like attention-seeking behaviour. If this is the case (and you know best), one should not give any attention when he behaves this way. He seems to be doing it because he can’t get the attention he wants by behaving well; so he misbehaves to get attention. Children will get attention any way they can. They prefer positive attention, but if negative is the only way to get it, they will purposefully do perform actions to get that negative attention. The way to nip this in the bud is to give no attention when he misbehaves. He knows he is doing something wrong; use minimal words and remove him from the situation. When he’s not bothering others, give him lots of attention and praise so he eventually learns that negative behaviour will not work and will not get him any needed attention.

If you are in a public place, such as a park, you have to be more mindful and keep an extra eye on your son. Intervene if he starts to hit another child. Use language such as “Be gentle” and show him how. Sometimes children at a young age don’t mean to be aggressive; sometimes they touch out of love and because they are still learning to control their body it can be rough. So give him a chance to be gentle. If he is really being disruptive, redirect him away from that area of the park to some other area. If he has had several chances and is still not listening, then it’s time to let him know that if he cannot behave, you will take him home. Making sure you follow through with this.

If he is hitting without any reason, then you need to take him away from the child or children he is hurting and find something else for him to be busy with. 

As far as hitting or bothering other children, since they are also young, the adults (you in this case) need to intervene and may need to remove your son from this situation. First of all, try to identify why he is hitting. Did the other child do something? Did he hit him first? If this is the case, then you need to teach your son the appropriate language, such as “Please stop!”, “I don’t like that” and resolve the situation together.

If he is hitting without any reason, then you need to take him away from the child or children he is hurting and find something else for him to be busy with. Have a brief and calm conversation and let him know that this is not kind; if he hits someone again, you will remove him and he will not be able to play with the other children. Don’t elaborate any other reminders; when it happens, you can simply say, “You are hurting (name of child), so now you have to leave and do something else. Redirect him towards something else that he can be busy with. The next time after that, you don’t need any words. After a few times of doing this, he will learn that you are not giving him attention for this negative behaviour.

Yelling at your child will not resolve the issue. One has to be calm and level-headed. 

Remember to give him LOTS of positive attention when he’s not doing this. This way he learns that he gets attention ONLY when he’s behaving well. When he’s misbehaving, don’t say anything and don’t make eye contact because all of this is attention and the point is to NOT give attention in ANY FORM when he’s trying to seek it doing something inappropriate. Depending on the situation you either need to help resolve the conflict or redirect the behaviour. Be mindful of your reaction and tone as well. Children learn by example. Make sure you are using a calm manner to discipline your child. Yelling at your child will not resolve the issue. One has to be calm and level-headed. It is difficult, I know, but take a deep breath before you act and Insha’Allah, it will get easier to handle.

With regard to your son learning to express himself, he is still young and learning language. Teach him appropriate words and the correct language. Be a role model of positive language and help elicit the words from him. For example, short phrases like “Milk, please” “I don’t like that”, “No, thank you”, “I want ____”, “More, please” etc. Have him repeat after you before you do what he wants. Do this throughout his daily route; this way he will begin to pick up the language. Encourage him to use the language and reward him when he does. It is even more important to make sure he at least attempts to use his words, when upset.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy parenting!

The Savvy Parent

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Review: Get Fluent in Arabic

book1Being multilingual in today’s world is not only an asset but a necessity. The world has shrunk, bilingualism is commonplace, and as people scramble to gain an edge over others, adding a third or fourth language to one’s credentials is desirable.

Moniur Rohman’s book, “Get Fluent in Arabic” is basically a self-help motivational genre. He takes the reader along for his personal struggle in learning Arabic, with anecdotes and experiences that at times detract from the message. ‘Get Fluent…” is divided into four parts titled:-

  1. The Four Basic Skills
  2. How to Approach Learning Arabic
  3. Tools
  4. Going Abroad

In Part One, Rohman explains to the reader that there are two types of skills required when embarking on the language journey – Receptive and Productive Skills. The language student must train all four of these skills (reading, writing, listening & speaking) to attain fluency. He talks about the benefits of each skill. This is common knowledge to any person who has learned any language, even his mother tongue.

The book, in Part Two introduces the reader to popular language accusation methods used by teachers all over the world. He denounces the Grammar-Translation method and advocates the Direct Method, using language immersion – the author moves to Egypt to study Arabic. I like his tip about not knowing ‘difficult’ words in Arabic, so he uses simpler words to describe what he wants, still using Arabic. For example, if you want to say, “The car has four wheels.” However, do not know the word for wheels, say, “The car has four circles,” but do not under any circumstances switch to your first language.

The book gives valuable advice to a novice seeking to learn Arabic, and for seasoned veterans I like his list of resources and self-check milestones scattered throughout the book.

Part Three, talks about the various ways he tried, failed at and succeeded in. Mostly it is about his experience living and studying at an Institute in Egypt. Rohman mentions the difference between Fusha (classical) and Ammiyah (vernacular), but does not dwell on it. To understand Quran you need Fusha, but to carry on a conversation with a native speaker you use Ammiyah. This part is by far the most useful; I found his analysis of the various opportunities including pros and cons very practical and informative.

In my opinion, Part Four is really common sense and didn’t need to be in the book. It talks about the pitfalls of staying in a less developed country that anyone can just Google in this day and age.

The book gives valuable advice to a novice seeking to learn Arabic, and for seasoned veterans I like his list of resources and self-check milestones scattered throughout the book. I feel his personal incidents in the Introduction detract from the value of the book as resource for Arabic Learning. My favorite parts in the book were Rohman’s summaries at the end of each chapter in Part One, his website resource list and advice on Arabic books and dictionaries.

Mind your Language

Image mind your languageWords can make or break someone’s day. They could help a friendship grow, or they could end it. Words could bring us the blessings and favours of Allah (swt) or they could result in Allah’s (swt) anger. Words are our worst foes or best friends!

In the Quran, Allah (swt) commands us: “and speak good to people…” (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

Ahadeeth of the Prophet (sa) tell us that our tongue could either take us to heaven or land us in hell.

There are some things to bear in mind when conversing. Let us make a checklist.

  • Do I talk politely?
  • Do I smile as I talk?
  • Do I give attention to the person I am talking to, that is do I have eye contact or do I look away?
  • Do I refrain from abusive language, sarcasm and nasty remarks?
  • Do I avoid lying?
  • Do I realize that lying is one of the foremost signs of a hypocrite?
  • Do I guard secrets of my friends as an Amanah, or does my tongue give them away?
  • Do I yell and shout?
  • Is my voice calm, peaceful and soothing to listen to? Or is it monotonous, high-pitched, shrill and annoying?
  • Do I backbite? Do I realize that backbiting is a grievous sin in Allah’s (swt) eyes?
  • Do I make fun of others with my remarks?
  • Do I give genuine compliments and encouragement to others?
  • Is my accent artificial and an attempt to impress others?
  • Do I brag and boast?
  • Do I sound humble? Or do I sound arrogant?
  • Do I talk to others with empathy, understanding and affection?
  • Do I complain too much?
  • Am I impatient when others talk?
  • Do I cut into other people’s conversation with my words?
  • Do I impose my opinions on others?
  • Do I lie and make up jokes and exaggerate to be popular among my friends?
  • Do I love delving into juicy gossip and talking about scandals which I actually know nothing about?
  • Do I talk about things that are useless and don’t concern me at all?
  • Do I use my words to enjoin good and forbid evil?
  • Above all, do I use my power of speech to do Dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (swt) and recite the Quran?