A well-prepared welcome to Ramadan

ramadanRamadan is just around the corner, and we are still busy in our day to day routine. Well, this article is for the “Rush- Hour personalities”; those who don’t find much time to spend on Ramadan preparation, or are lazy enough to do so. Either way, if you just start working from the first night of moon sighting, you will still be able to spend Ramadan in an effective sinless way. But firstly, we should know the significance of the first night.

Why is the first night of Ramadan important?

It is reported from Prophet (sa):“Surely Paradise is decorated the whole year for the Ramadan to come. When the first night of the Ramadan comes, a wind called “Musira” blows from the bottom of the skies. Leaves of the trees of Paradise, and the handles of Paradise doors, shake strongly; and therefore, such a nice sound is heard that listeners have never heard a more beautiful sound than that.Thus, the Hur of Paradise appear standing at the highest point of Paradise and say:“Is there anybody who wants to marry? Allah (swt) marries him.”Then Hur says: “O the keeper of Paradise! What night is tonight?”The keeper replies with respect: “Tonight is the first night of the month of Ramadan. The doors of Paradise were opened for those from the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (sa) who observed fasting.” (At Targheeb wa’t-arheeb)

In another Hadeeth of Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, the Prophet (sa) said: “When the first night of the month of Ramadan comes, the devils and rebellious Jinn are chained up; and the gates of Hell are closed, and not one gate of it is opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and not one gate of it is closed. And a caller cries out: ‘O seeker of good, proceed; O seeker of evil, desist. And Allah (swt) has those whom He frees from the Fire, and that happens every night.”

It is the first night where the preparation for Ramadan begins in the unseen world. Every one welcomes Ramadan. Hell is shut down and the doors of Paradise open up for the believers. The whole year before Ramadan, a believer is caught up in the tangled web of deception created by Shaytan, trying to fight his way out of it. But, he could not find time and strength to worship Allah (swt) as it should be done. The first night of Ramadan is indeed a glad tiding for the believers to revive their Iman. In the first night of Ramadan, Allah (swt) chains up the mischievous Jinn and devils to ease His servants, so that they can take complete advantage of this blessed month, and can proceed with their good deeds or worship uninterrupted.

What to do on first night of Ramadan?

1. Be grateful to Allah (swt)

The very first thing to do on this night is to thank Allah (swt) that He gave us life, and another chance to accumulate the blessings of this month. Considering the uncertainty of our lives, we should know that we might not live up to the next Ramadan. So if, Allah (swt) has chosen us to live through this Ramadan, then one should take complete advantage of this opportunity.

2. Sale on rewards- Make the most of it!

Second step is to chalk out a plan for the whole Ramadan. Plan will include the complete time table of Salah, Suhur, Aftar, Taraweeh, Quranic recitation, Nawafil (voluntarily prayers), Lailatul Qadr, Itekaf, Extra deeds (Dhikr, Tahajjud, Dua, charity, volunteer welfare work etc). Each and every minute of our day should be planned in order to avoid any time wastage or miss out the blessings of this month.

3. Avoid T.V. “The Viral”

Third step is very crucial, i.e. to lock away our usual entertainment gadgets. Television is the most common ‘Shaytan’ inhabiting our houses. Other cyber Shaytan along with television are the shield against the blessings of this month. One might say that there are several Islamic programs on T.V. regarding Ramadan, and they seem quite helpful; but trust me, they are of no use if Allah’s (swt) blessings are tossed away from your roof top. Hence, on the first night of Ramadan, shut away your television sets in your store rooms. Islamic lectures and Fiqh of fasting could either be listened in recording, or read in authentic Islamic books and magazines. If you must watch T.V. programs, or lectures regarding Ramadan, then do it all before the first night of the blessed month. And when the first night approaches, cut off all the distractions.

4. Motivate the children to do good deeds

Our fourth step includes motivating our children. First night can be the best opportunity to think through the plans of guiding and inciting the younger members of our family for Ramadan. The elders of the house should lead the younger members, and assist them in spending their time in worship and good deeds. Special attention should be given to children who have reached puberty, and it is their first month of fasting.

It might be a very hard experience for them- especially when Ramadan is in summer and the time duration of fasting has increased. Help them to recite Quran, engage them in positive activities and focus on Nawafil. If some particular child doesn’t have a habit of prayer prior to Ramadan, then help him/her in developing the habit of praying five times a day. Try not to push them hard for extra volunteer prayers, for that would scare them away even from obligatory prayers.

5. Charity is the best policy

Fifth step will be regarding Zakat and charity. As it is the month of blessings, we should try to give away as much charity as possible apart from Zakat. On the first night of Ramadan, sort out your clothes, shoes and other useful accessories that are extra than your usual need, and are in good condition, give them out in charity. Preparing Suhur and Aftar for others can also be the best charity.

6. Ramadan resolution for a big revolution

Sixth step can be very significant, where one can make a resolution, an oath to him/herself. It can either be a tiny thing or a much bigger promise depending on the stamina and level of Iman. That resolution can include the commencement of any virtue; letting go of any bad habit (sin), or taking up any good habit starting from this Ramadan till the rest of your life. One bad habit left, or one good habit added every Ramadan could lead to a revolution in one’s life. And if, every person of this Ummah starts practicing this, it can yield a much bigger result on a mass scale.

No Time to Waste

Photo credit: *USB* / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: *USB* / Foter / CC BY-SA

The Prophet (sa) said: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” This Hadeeth teaches us the importance of time and its right use. Every day is a precious gift to us by Allah (swt) and we should make the best use of it- remembering the ultimate goal of pleasing Allah (swt) and not letting a minute to be wasted. This is not to say that we should constantly work and pray, because Islam teaches us to find the right balance and we have the right to rest. Rather, wastefulness is giving time to things and activities that take us further from Allah (swt) and lower our Iman. And some of the most common time thieves nowadays are- watching TV and listening to popular music.

TV – the vital or the virus?

One might ask, “What is wrong with the TV? Why to vilify it, when it’s so common it has practically become part of our lives?” The TV box may be on constantly, and we would hardly give it any thought – just letting it become the not-so-silent background to our day-to-day activities. Yet, if we have young children at home, we should certainly give it more than a fleeting thought, as TV has a profound effect on shaping the mind and it is rarely a positive effect. Even though there are some worthy channels with some content of benefit; the TV in general is full of violence, inappropriate images of genders and gender relations, foul language and un-Islamic ideology.

Also, the TV is addictive, especially for small children who may throw tantrums the moment someone changes their favourite cartoon channel; its content is beyond our control and by watching TV we simply become passive consumers of the broadcast. Getting used to this passive reception also leads to laziness and makes the traditional ways of acquiring knowledge such as reading, seem tiresome and difficult.

Some people may think that if they give up on TV, they would miss out on latest news, newest dramas, everything people might be talking about. But the truth is just the opposite for we miss out on real life, meaningful activities and authentic human interaction, because we spent too much time watching the telly. And same goes for children. Yes, they might learn their phonics and counting quicker from the TV cartoons, but they will miss out on learning good habits and socialising with other family members and guests. Considering all these arguments, I decided that my family would be better off without the TV, but how to make the switch off painless for children (and everybody else)?

Watching TV easily becomes an addiction and breaking off the habit may be more difficult than just turning off the set. It might be a little easier for the grown-ups, once they realize that spending time in front of TV or listening to useless songs really diverts our mind from worthy activities and thoughts and lowers our productivity.

It’s never too late to change

When trying to make a change, it’s always a good idea to replace a bad habit with a good one. For example- if we are used to watching the TV in the afternoon to relax and rest, we might instead reach out for a book or go for a walk. If we get into the habit of listening to music while doing kitchen work or any other household chore, we could instead turn on the CD with the Quran recitation or get busy with Dhikr. Just keeping in mind, why we want to make a change should be enough to keep us motivated through the difficult early stages.

Yet, the children may not be so easily persuaded. It might be much harder for them to understand why watching cartoon is bad and in the first stages they might express lots of negative feelings or even throw tantrums about not being allowed to turn on the TV. It is our role as parents to make the transition easier for them, while at the same time remaining firm about our goals. And this might be actually the hardest part for us as parents, because children occupied with watching TV shows makes the parenting job easier; giving mums a break from watching over kids when they are very busy.

Be there for your child

Yet, we should remind ourselves that the easiest option is not always the best; and bringing up children as good Muslims is our most important job and we should primarily focus our efforts and time on the right education. Once we switch off the TV, the children will turn to us to find them something to do and keep them busy. Expecting this, we should try to find for them activities that would be not only more meaningful, but also more fun for the kids. It would be perfect if we could manage to occupy our children’s time in a way that would be more attractive to them than watching TV. And if we put a little effort, they might not even demand for cartoons at all, preferring instead to spend time playing and learning with their parents and other family members.

Children who spend lots of time watching TV often have no contact with books and see reading as a boring activity. But, we should try to instil the love of reading in our kids from the early age; and that’s why, it is a good idea to build a family library and share stories together every day. Little children love listening to the stories told by their parents and looking at the colourful illustrations in children’s books. Little elder children are often interested in activity books and stories about other children. There is a lot of choice of good literature for children at all ages, and it doesn’t have to be very expensive to build the right collection for them with so many shops with good quality second-hand books available.

Sometimes, we do have a lot of work and we cannot give children our full attention, but there are lots of activities to keep them busy and entertained other than watching TV. Doing crafts, painting and colouring are some of the things all the kids love. Otherwise, we might try to engage the elder children in our own activities, teaching them to help in the kitchen or with any other household work.

I believe that with Allah’s (swt) help, the right intention and a bit of determination, we can give up the unproductive activities and make better use of every minute of our time. Insha’Allah.

From the Pen of a Woman on the Other Side

closeup of fountain ink pen over white pages spiral notebookSome of you may be surprised by the kind of comments you get to hear, when people find out you’ve worked for television.

I’ve been working for television for about ten years. My first programme was when I was in class six, in which I recited a group of riddles in a children’s programme that aired on Pakistan Television. Back then it meant something to me, my friends and every child viewer. Maybe it was because there was no Nickelodeon, nor was there the overwhelming number of TV channels bamboozling the poor child. Or simply because watching TV was as much of a novelty then, as the latest version of play station is today.

I worked with Geo, ARY and FM 100 at a time, when debates about television being the greatest tool of Satan surfaced. Wars erupted among family, friends and teachers regarding the pros and cons. Those ‘pro-television’ thought nothing wrong with it whatsoever and saw it as a new feat of technology. People couldn’t travel on camels in today’s world now, could they? The ones against it argued from the stand point that pictures were prohibited in Islam, and that the West was using television as a medium to brainwash Muslims against the true and honest principles of Islam.

It was too much to bear at eighteen, when I was suffering from acute identity crises, worrying about what headgear would do to my permanent image and about brainwashing debates based on classical Aristotelian logic. But I did as much as I could. I turned down offers for music videos, dramas and soaps. I refused to let male make-up artists apply makeup before I went on-air. I refused to work with people, who did not have purely academic or knowledgeable programmes. Perhaps that is why I have somewhat stereotyped myself as a woman, who covers her head, and can only appear on Independence Day or Ramadan programmes, even though I have done a series on psychology (in which I am a post graduate student).

After watching constructive efforts of many authentic Islamic scholars, especially such as Dr. Zakir Naik, I have become confident. I have resolved the debate of right or wrong by coming to terms with a plain and simple logic of keeping it simple. Nudity, obscenity, profanity and useless programmes were out. Shows that spread awareness, appreciate

Islam and its wisdom, celebrate peace and good will, promote good and forbid all that is evil in the eyes of Islam, propagate a message that needs to spread faster in the world today than any other time, are agreed upon.

I have been stereotyped negatively so many times, in spite of the headgear and my strict policy on no-commercialism and no-pop-culture. It often makes me wonder, why we still have not resolved this issue, even though we all welcomed the famous singer, who gave up his pop career to recite Hamds and Duroods and appeared for Dawah on television channels.

Somehow I still find Pakistani society trapped in the question of what is good and what is bad. Once we grow out of this harassingly old dispute, may be we can move on to what is important and needed. It is not compromise; we cannot call science or media evil. It is what is inside that makes us Muslims.

So what do you think?

Is media good or bad?

The question is wrong altogether. Rather, we should say: “Media. What’s good in it? What’s not?”