Beyond Good Grades

Good_GradeI was astonished to hear what she had just said. My mind was spinning, as her words kept echoing in my ears.

‘My mother, she hit me with a belt; she was not happy with my grades.’

This was her reply to the inquiry I made about the marks near her elbow. A reply that till this day sends shivers down my spine.

We were in sixth grade at that time, and everyone knew we were inseparable. She was like my sister. And, being very fond of each other, we didn’t hide things from one another. But, that was the first time she confided in me about the horrific beatings she had to go through.  I clearly remember her warm, hazel eyes become teary as she explained everything.

It was the dream of her parents to see her as a successful doctor. And, to make it come true, they expected her to bring back home nothing less than outstanding grades, forgetting that slowly and gradually, she was becoming a slave to all that they desired.

Of course, parents have dreams for us; and at times, we have goals for ourselves. We are brought up amongst people who tell us that we need to become ‘something’ when we grow up. Grades, careers, schools and universities become fragments of our thoughts without which we feel incomplete. Surrounded by chaotic competition, we often forget the real purpose of our lives. Pre-occupied with temporary gains, we begin to lose precious days chasing after endless enticements that eventually lead nowhere. We become prisoners of our dreams and wishes; we feel trapped, suffocated and helpless when we fail to achieve what we wanted to. We feel afraid when life throws at us trials that our degrees didn’t train us for.

However, what we should have realized was- that the race for the best grades, reputable jobs and most expensive cars, was one that had no finish- line. We were deceived into believing that progress in material gains and promotions to higher ranks were the only ways to find happiness.

There will be no end to our desires, our wants, our plans and our dreams if we don’t limit them. At times, it is important to break away, to disconnect yourself from your surroundings, and remember that your story has already been written; you are merely on the journey to uncover it.

Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (ra) is reported to have said: “No amount of guilt can change the past; and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by Allah’s (swt) Decree. If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from it you cannot flee.”

He knows whether you will become an engineer or a doctor; He has written down how much it is that you will earn; He knows what is best for you, and it is He who we fail to turn to.

We may have a hundred plans for our lives; a thousand ways in which we have pictured our future. But, suddenly, our life takes an unexpected turn, and we reach a path we never even thought about, and that path is Allah’s (swt) plan for you.

And (remember) when the disbelievers plotted against you (O Muhammad (sa)) to imprison you, or to kill you, or to get you out (from your home, i.e. Makkah); they were plotting and Allah too was planning, and Allah is the Best of the planners.” (Al-Anfal 8:30)

[Infograph] 7 Ways to Be Productive This Ramadan

How can we reap the benefits of Ramadan in a productive manner? Qudsiyah Remtullah from shares a handy infograph, based on tips from

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

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

1. Salah with Presence of Mind

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

2. Reciting and Understanding the Quran

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

3. Supplication

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

4. Repentance

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

5. Gratitude to Allah

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

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

Appreciate Allah’s Blessings – Before They Are Taken Away

Small-paper-boats-in-water_1920x1200Losing your father when you are only three days old makes you feel devastated when you learn about it. Sounds like an emotional dialogue, isn’t it? However, some events in our life take place to make us strong which unfortunately some people fail to realize.

At the age of seventeen, when I was told by my grandmother that some people at my dad’s funeral named me as an unlucky child for the family- that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I felt so bad even my mother’s words were not enough to console me although she read inspiring Islamic stories to me and told me not to get worried over such things; she told me she loved me and I was a blessing for her.

I felt she was only uttering those words to make me feel better. I did not change my thinking and told some of my friends about this. I felt really embarrassed because I am an introvert. However, as it is said, “good friends are a blessing,” which was very true in my case. They helped me to think about the blessings which I had and forget about the past.

My mother has always strived hard to make me feel content for whatever I have and to be thankful to Allah (swt). But, I took really long to appreciate the countless blessings I have. Whining about not having a father and a lavish lifestyle did not end until I lost my grandmother at the age of twenty one.

That moment changed my thinking. Why did I fail to realize that when Allah (swt) takes something away from you, He compensates in some other way? Why did I fail to understand that Allah (swt) had blessed me with my grandmother, who had always been supportive and understanding? I felt so ashamed of myself, and began to realize that Allah (swt) is the best planner; and we are no one to term our lives as unfair. Life isn’t unfair and it can never be; we human beings term it as unfair which is not true. Allah (swt) loves us more than seventy mothers, so how can we even think that our mothers would do or plan something which is unfair?

Alhumdulillah for what I have! May Allah (swt) guide us all to the straight path. Ameen.

Quran is a Treasure – Preserve it in Your Heart

إن له لحلاوة.. و إن عليه لطلاوة.. و إن أعلاه لمثمر.. و إن أسفله لمغدق.. و إنه ليعلو و لا يعلي عليهQuran-550x412

[Indeed, it has sweetness and indeed it is adorned with beauty and charm. Surely, its first part is fruitful and its last part is abundant.

It conquers all speech and remains unconquered! It shatters and destroys all that has come before it!]

Those were the timeless words of Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah when he was asked by the Mushrikeen of Quraish to describe the speech of Allah (swt).

روى ابن ماجة وأحمد  عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ رضي الله عنه قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ( إِنَّ لِلَّهِ أَهْلِينَ مِنْ النَّاسِ ) قَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، مَنْ هُمْ ؟

(قال: أهل القرآن هم أهل الله و خاصته)

The Messenger of Allah (swt) said: “The people of the Quran are the people of Allah (swt) and His special servants.” (An-Nisa, Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim)

There are more than a billion Muslims in the world. Only a few million can read the Quran fluently. From those million, only a few people are destined to memorize the Quran. These are the people of Allah (swt) and His special servants!

This is a series of advice, incentives, methods and secrets to memorizing the Quran and becoming the best of the best, InshaAllah.

Advice #1: Sincere Intentions

The first step to fulfilling your goal of memorizing the Quran is sincerity. Ibn ‘Abbas (rta)  said: “Indeed, a person shall memorize according to his sincerity.” Meaning the sincerity of your intention will determine the strength and amount you memorize.

Actually, this is not just the first step. You need to refresh your intention at every step.

It is reported from Ali (rta) that Prophet (sa) said: “The one who shows off has three characteristics: He is lazy when by himself, he is lively and energetic when with others and he increases in his actions when he is praised and decreases in them when he is criticized.”

1- Dua, Dua, Dua – ask Allah (swt) to purify your heart from hypocrisy and boastfulness   and to protect you from the evils of your soul and its treachery.

2- Do not be deceived by praise. Nobody knows you better than you know your own self. If they praise, they only praise the blessings of Allah (swt) that they see on you; while you are the one who truly knows the reality of your heart and Allah (swt) knows you better than you know yourself. Remember, pride was Shaitan’s downfall.

Abu Bakr (rta) would make a prayer every time he would be praised:

اللهم اجعلني خيراً مما يظنون  ولا تؤاخذني بما يقولون واغفر لي ما لا يعلمون

“O Allah (swt), make me better than what they think and do not hold me accountable for what they say and forgive me for what they do not know.”

3- Beware of secret sins. “Nothing is more disgusting than a sinful reciter.”

4- Re-read and revise the Ahadeeth that talk about the punishment for the one who memorizes the Quran in order to be praised. Prophet (sa) said:

إن الله تبارك و تعالى إذا كان يوم القيامة ينزل إلى العباد ليقضي بينهم و كل أمة جاثية فأول من يدعى رجل جمع القرآن و رجل يقتل في سبيل الله و رجل كثير المال فيقول الله للقارئ: ألم أعلمك ما أنزلت على رسولي؟ قال: بلى يا رب. قال: فماذا عملت فيما علمت؟ قال: كنت أقوم به آناء الليل و آناء النهار. فيقول له: كذبت و تقول له الملائكة: كذبت. و يقول الله: بل أردت أن يقال أن فلاناً قارئ فقد قيل ذاك ثم أمر به فسحب على وجهه حتى ألقي في النار

“The first amongst mankind to be judged on the Day of Judgement is a man who studied knowledge and taught it and who used to recite the Quran. He will be brought and Allah (swt) will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them.

Allah (swt) will say: And what did you do about them? He will say: I studied knowledge and I taught it and I recited the Quran for Your sake. He will say: You have lied – rather, you learned knowledge to be called a scholar and you memorized to be called a recitor and so it was said and you got your reward from those whom you sought it from. Then he will be dragged by his face and thrown into the fire of Hell.”

5- Remember always that the one who memorizes the Quran to be praised and to show off has no reward for his efforts and he is indeed sinful.

In conclusion, the intention is a very important, yet overlooked and sometimes undermined step towards memorizing the Quran. It may not be the only step but it is the most difficult to control and maintain.

It is reported from Sahl bin Abdullah (ra)that Prophet (sa) said: “There is nothing which is tougher upon the soul than (achieving) sincerity of intention. How many times have I tried to remove the  love of praise from my heart except that it sprouted in a different colour (i.e. in a different form).

Advice #2: Correct Recitation

The second step in this spiritual journey is to learn the correct recitation and articulation of the Quran. The second condition (after a sincere intention) for any deed to be accepted by Allah (swt) is that it should done according to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (swt).  Someone who wants to memorize the Book of Allah (swt) must learn it from those who are knowledgeable; and it is never sufficient for him to rely on his own self.

This is one of the most amazingly unique aspects of the Quran – there has always been a one-on-one student-teacher interaction with regards to studying it. Jibrael (as) taught it to the Messenger of Allah (swt) who in turn taught it to his companions (rta)  and that’s how its reached us: pristine, complete, unchanged, unaltered and unadulterated.

There are various steps to learn the correct recitation of the Quran:

1- Use the same copy of the Quran – this will help you to get accustomed to the text, the number of verses per line and it’ll keep your comments and corrections organized (use a pencil and mark your mistakes!); use highlighters and sticky notes for help.

2- Find a teacher – somebody who is well-versed in Tajweed and can accurately point out your mistakes. It’s best to recite the Quran to a teacher before starting to memorize, so that he/she may correct any mispronunciation. Begin to learn the basic rules of Tajweed.

3- Repeat the verses – repeating the same page at least ten times will help you grasp a stronger hold of the difficult letters such as the Qaaf (القاف) and Raa’ (الراء). Bishr bin as-Sirri (ra) said, “Verily, each verse is like a date: the more you chew it, the more of its sweetness is released.” Abu Sulayman (ra) heard this and commented: “True. It is the case with one of you that if he begins one chapter of it, he wants to read it to the end.”

4- Use your senses – listening to an audio recitation of the Quran by a skilled reciter while reading the verses from your copy of the Quran is extremely beneficial.

5- Write it down – write down the verses that you find most difficult to recite; that will help you concentrate on each word separately and this has been the way of the students of knowledge.

Lastly, don’t give up! The Messenger of Allah (swt) said:

.عن عائشة عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قالمثل الذي يقرأ القرآن وهو حافظ له مع السفرة الكرام البررة ومثل الذي يقرأ وهو يتعاهده وهو عليه شديد فله أجران

“The example of the one who recites the Quran and is fluent in it is as if he is with the noble pious angels and the example of the one who recites the Quran and stammers in it has two rewards as it is difficult for him.”

Remember to renew your intention every single time you begin reciting so that you may relish the beauty of wandering in the gardens of the remembrance of Allah (swt).

‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (ra) said: “If our hearts were truly pure, we would never get enough of the Words of our Lord and I hate even if one day passes with me not looking into the Quran.”

Advice #3: Chalk Out a Plan

The third most important step is to have a plan. This means you must designate an assigned portion that you intend to memorize every day. Be warned, planning is the easiest part. You must have will power and a strong sense of purpose in order to stick to it.

Do not try to aim too high and keep the planning moderate. That way, if you have extra time and end up memorizing more than planned, you’ll feel more encouraged to move forward consistently Insha’Allah.

The Messenger (sa) said:

خذوا من الأعمال ما تطيقون فإن الله لا يمل حتى تملوا و أحب الأعمال إلى الله ما داوم عليه صاحبه و إن قل

“Take from the deeds how much you can bear because Allah (swt) does not tire (of rewarding you) until you tire (of doing the deed). The most beloved of deeds to Allah (swt) are those that are done consistently by a person, even if they are small.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The Salaf would say: “The one who does little consistently is better than the one who does a lot inconsistently.”

Follow these practical steps in order to lay out your plan and stick to it:

1- Learn about the way the Quran is divided.

  • 114 Surahs: each of the Surahs are of varying number of verses and the verses are varying in length.
  • 30 Juz’: each Juz’ is twenty to twenty one pages long
  • 60 Hizb: each Juz’ is divided into two almost equal subparts
  • You can decide to memorize according to the meaning and Tafseer of the verses, for example, Surah Yusuf has one primary topic, yet it can be divided according to the events that occurred: his dream and conversation with Yaqoob (as), being thrown into the well, the incident with the Aziz’s wife etc.
  • Additionally, scholars of the Quran have divided it this way:

i.            السبع الطوال– The Seven Long Surahs: this includes Surah Al Baqarah, Al-Imran, An- Nisa, Al-Maida, Al-Anam, Al-Araf and the seventh is either At-Taubah or Yunus.

ii.            المئون– The Hundreds: this includes almost all the Surahs that come after the previous seven and the number of verses in these Surahs reach approximately a hundred.

iii.            3-المثاني– The Repetitions: this includes all the Surahs that come after the previous and the number of verses in these Surahs reach approximately two hundred.

iv.            المفصل– The Separated Ones: this includes all the Surahs from Surah Al-Hujurat to Surah An-Nas

2- Decide which method of division is easiest for you to follow. Consider your daily routine. Make productive use of holidays, weekends and free time.

3- Start early! Prophet (sa) said:

اللهم بارك لأمتي في بكورها

“O Allah (swt)! Bless my Ummah in its early hours.” (Sahih Al Jami)

Therefore make use of the blessed hours before and after the Fajr Salah. This will also help you start the rest of your day with a sense of accomplishment.

4- Write it down everywhere! Draw out a neat little memorization plan for yourself and tick it as you go or if you are tech-savvy, use Microsoft Excel or Word.

5- Remember to include new memorization (parts you’ve memorized in the last few days), old memorization (parts you’ve memorized in the last month) and your new lesson (parts you memorized that day in particular). The new lesson you’ve memorized will stay in your short-term memory until you revise it consistently and transfer it to your long-term memory.

Finally, none of this will help you unless you have a strong determination to move forward. Do not burden yourself. Scholar of Fiqh and teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa (rta), Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman would say: “Learn three issues every day and do not increase it to anything else. Know that your heart is a part of your body and it is able to carry some things while unable to carry other things.”

6- Tea-time – If you are unable to move forward and feel stressed, give yourself a break. Relax and renew your intentions. I remember having a very fruitful month finishing one Juz’ every week and suddenly I found myself unable to memorize anything new. It would take me a whole hour to finish a page unlike the better days when I would memorize a page in thirty minutes. I made myself a revision plan and gave the memorization a break. After a few days, I had everything revised as planned, which encouraged me to get back on track, Alhamdulillah!

Remember that no matter how much you plan and organize, there will occasionally be setbacks. Do not despair; it is better to start afresh than to never get started at all!

[To be continued Insha Allah]