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.

Let’s Chill

chill

Compiled by Umm Ibrahim – Freelance writer

The world of entertainment is indeed unlimited – it is so easy to get lost amidst the myriad of movies, music, gossip, celebrities and so on and on! Facebook pages have made one’s interaction with all-things entertainment extremely easy.

In order to better understand the arenas of entertainment today, and hunt down the solutions, Hiba Magazine got in touch with the following individuals:

1)      Mr. Tayyab Abid – CEO of Little Deeds; COO of Role Model Institute, and CEO of Tayyab Enterprises,

2)      Imam Jawad Ahmed – O’Level Islamiyat teacher at Generations school, Karachi and Head of Dawah Hotline in USA, called Why Islam (www.whyislam.org).

3)      Dr. Humaira Iqbal – Administration, Fajr Academy and Project Manager for MAP (Muslim Awareness Programme),

4)      Mr. Samir Feroze – CEO, yello.pk.

Following are some of the questions that we asked them, along with their response.

How can Muslims relax and enjoy their leisure hours, without falling into forbidden realms? List top three Halal avenues of entertainment that have worked for you/someone you know.

Tayyab Abid

  • Marriage and all the fun it legalizes.
  • Playing with kids.
  • Hanging out with the right crowd.
  • Eating out.

Imam Jawad Ahmed

They can do so by using their leisure time in fruitful activities, which are enriching and, at the same time, relaxing in nature. They should avoid everything that might break the boundaries set by Allah (swt). Top three would be:

1. Going to a park and enjoying the atmosphere there, or any rides that might be available.

2. Going to a bowling alley, where there is no music and no smoking.

3. Going to the seaside and enjoying the recreational activities such as ATV rides, camel or horse riding, etc.

Dr. Humaira Iqbal

Muslim can do the following:

1. Read good books. (There is a lack of love for books in the Ummah currently.)

2. Shop and buy presents for others, instead of indulging in one’s own desires.

3. Work on self-grooming.

4. Prepare homemade healthy food.

5. Venture on more nature-centred outings, for example, Port Grande, beach, hiking in Islamabad, crabbing in Karachi, etc.

6. Make an effort to socialize and move in the right circles.

7. Exercise regularly.

8. Take up gardening.

Top thee Halal avenues of entertainment that have worked for me or someone I know:

1. Eating out.

2. Speed boating and snorkelling.

3. Spas.

Samir Feroze

I believe Muslims can relax in the same way others can and do the same sort of activities. They just need to be careful of a few things while indulging in them. For example, if physical exercise is relaxing, one can play tennis or go to the gym. These activities would be more challenging if you live in a non-Muslim country, but assuming you are in a Muslim country, both should be reasonably ‘safe’ past times. Gyms can have music blaring, so you could take along an iPod and listen to some Quran, Nasheeds or lectures, etc. I personally do not do this, however, and just try to keep my focus off the music.

I believe playing video games which do not have objectionable content like car racing games, or angry birds, or some games on the wi-fi platform are relaxing and fun too.

Penetration of music is inevitable in our lives, whether we are in the supermarket or watching the news, etc. How can this be tackled?

Tayyab Abid

What can we do if we go to a place where there is music? Well, we can ask them to stop and emphasize that if you don’t, we might leave and not come again. Alhumdulillah, wherever I go, I do this. Alhumdulillah, 80% of the restaurants always listen to me and turn off the music. At the very least, they lower the volume. If they don’t listen, you can leave but before you do, fill out the feedback card with your complaint. Lastly, there are places in Karachi where there is no music (for instance, Snack Attack, Bovi Chic, Student’s Biryani, Biryani Centre, Mr. Burger’s certain outlets, etc.) or is turned off at your request.

Imam Jawad Ahmed

We can avoid in two ways: firstly, we move away from the place, where music is being played or ask them to turn it off. Secondly, we can put our index fingers or thumbs in our ears, where the music is being played, so that it doesn’t penetrate our ears, and at the same time, we try our best to get out of that area.

Dr. Humaira Iqbal

  • Recite Aoodhubillah.
  • Request restaurants to turn off the music.
  • Ask shopkeepers to switch off the music (especially if you are going to buy something).
  • Try going early in the morning, when most stores are empty and playing the Quran. I once gifted a CD of Qari Ghamdi to The Forum and they would play it for me in the mornings.
  • Avoid rush hours, because they always play music at such times.

Samir Feroze

Vote with your money by going to places which do not have music.

Editor’s suggestion: Try distributing a flyer on the position of music in Islam in these joints, and try to educate them. It is possible they are not aware of the admonitions regarding it.

Finally…

There you have it! There are plenty of solutions, if you want to have Halal fun! Entertainment is not restricted to television or radio! There are plenty of other avenues that can be explored as an individual or as a family! It’s all about being creative and exploring new options. And, of course, it is also about remembering that one’s Deen is not restricted to rituals. It features in everything, even entertainment.

The Ancient City of Aleppo

Aleppo

Compiled by Umm Ibrahim

Aleppo, also known as Halab, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It is said to have been inhabited as early as the 2nd millennium BC. Its location at the end of the Silk Road ensured it to be a strategic trading point, midway between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia. Hence, this Syrian city became known for its commercial and military proficiency.

Aleppo was ruled by a variety of rulers, including the Hittites, Assyrians, Akkadians, Greeks, Romans, Umayyads, Ayyubids, Mameluks and Ottomans. All the rulers left their own marks on the city. Aleppo became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516, when it had a population of around 50,000 inhabitants. Aleppo went on to become the Ottoman Empire’s third largest city after Constantinople and Cairo.

When the economy flourished as a result of trading activities, many European states rushed to open their consulates in the city during the 16th and the 17th centuries. This included the consulate of the Republic of Venice (1548), the consulate of France (1562), the consulate of England (1583) and the consulate of the Netherlands (1613).

However, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the declining silk production in Iran directly affected the trading activities in Aleppo. By mid-century, caravans were no longer bringing silk from Iran to Aleppo, and local Syrian production was insufficient for European demand. Hence, the European merchants left Aleppo, and the city went into an economic decline that was reversed in the mid-19th century, when locally produced cotton and tobacco became the chief commodities of interest to the Europeans.

The economy of Aleppo was also hit by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Coupled with political instability, this contributed to Aleppo’s decline and the rise of Damascus as a serious economic and political competitor with Aleppo.

In spite of this, Aleppo can boast some unique architectural features. According to UNESCO’s website: “Aleppo has exceptional universal value because it represents medieval Arab architectural styles that are rare and authentic in traditional human habitats. It constitutes typical testimony of the city’s cultural, social and technological development, representing continuous and prosperous commercial activity from the Mameluke period. It contains vestiges of Arab resistance against the Crusaders, but there is also the imprint of Byzantine, Roman and Greek occupation in the streets and in the plan of the city.”

The largest covered Souq (open air) market in the world is in Aleppo, with an approximate length of 13 km. Souq Al-Madina is an active trade centre for imported luxury goods, such as raw silk from Iran, spices and dyes from India and coffee from Damascus. Souq Al-Madina is also home to such local products as wool, agricultural produce and soap.

Aleppo hosted 177 Hammams (public baths) during the medieval period, until the Mongol invasion, when many vital structures in the city were destroyed. Nowadays, roughly 18 Hammams are operating in the old city. Apart from these, there are many Masajid, Madrassahs and other religious historical buildings, like the National Library of Aleppo, functioning since 1945, and the Citadel, a large fortress atop a huge, partially artificial mound rising 50 m above the city. It dates back to the first millennium BC.

Aleppo is currently the largest city in Syria. It won the “Islamic Capital of Culture 2006” award, and in recent times, has also witnessed a wave of successful restorations of its historic landmarks. The ancient city of Aleppo also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

The “Happening” City of Samarkand

samarkand

Samarkand is better known today as the second largest city of Uzbekistan. It is also a centre for Islamic scholarly studies.

Founded in 700 BC, Samarkand was one of the main centres of Iranian civilization from its early days. Although it was a Persian-speaking region, it was not strictly a part of Iran.

It was at the start of the 8th century CE that Samarkand came under Arab control. Under the Abbasid rule, the first ever paper mill in the Islamic world was found in Samarkand. This invention then spread to the rest of the Islamic world, and from there to Europe.

The Travels of Marco Polo, where Polo records his journey along the Silk Road, describes Samarkand as, “a very large and splendid city.”

In 1220 CE, the Mongols arrived. Genghis Khan and his troops pillaged the city completely. The town took many decades to recover from this and similar disasters.

In 1370 CE, Tamerlane decided to make Samarkand the capital of his empire, which extended from India to Turkey. During the next 35 years he built a new city and populated it with artisans and craftsmen from all the other places he had conquered. Tamerlane enjoyed a reputation as a patron of the arts and Samarkand grew to become the centre of the region of Transoxiana.

In 1420 CE, the great astronomer, Ulugh Beg, built a Madrasah in Samarkand, named the Ulugh Beg Madrasah. It became an important centre for astronomical study and only invited those scholars of whom he personally approved and whom he respected academically. At its peak, it had between 60 and 70 astronomers working there.

In 1424, Beg began building the observatory to support the astronomical study at the Madrasah. It was completed five years later in 1429. Beg assigned his assistant and scholar Ali Qushji to take charge of the Ulugh Beg Observatory which was called Samarkand Observatory at that time.

The observatory was destroyed in 1449 and was only re-discovered in 1908, by a Uzbek-Russian archaeologist from Samarkand named V. L. Vyatkin.

In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List.

Fast or Feast?

masalacuisine2banner

Before visiting any fast food outlet or restaurant, either for Suhoor or Iftar, ask yourself the following questions:

1)      What is my purpose of visiting? Am I going because of an important family occasion or is it simply a mixed gathering of my classmates that can easily be avoided?

2)      Will the venue comply with the sanctity of Ramadan? Will it be free of music, for instance? Will it ensure that the Dua for breaking the fast is recited, either over the speakers or through the television?

3)      What is the cost per head? It is Ramadan and each good deed will have multiple rewards. Do I think that this money could be given to a deserving individual or organization?

4)      Is the Iftar menu simple? Or does it contain twenty plus dishes, which will make me indulge, eat too much, delay my Maghrib prayers and make me too lethargic to perform the Taraweeh prayers properly?

5)      After having eaten out, will I remember that this is Ramadan and the whole point is to rise above food, instead of feasting at the end of the day?

6)      Ramadan is the time to train the soul. Will this feast fulfill the essential purpose of this month or further deteriorate the state of your soul?

7)      How many examples of lavish feasts have been cited from the life of our Prophet (sa) and his companions during the month of fasting?

Compiled by Umm Ibrahim and Umm Amal

Towards Effective Quran Classes

Apr 11- Towards effective Quran classes

By Umm Ibrahim

There are a multitude of Quran classes going on these days. If you are one of those who would like to initiate one among your social circle, here are five tips you might find handy:

Etiquette of Invitation

Whether you are inviting via telephone or in-person, do ensure that you simply clarify the date, day, time and venue – and leave it at that. Many a times, well-meaning ladies ask directly whether the invitee would come or not – and they do not take no for an answer. Understand that your invitee might need to make a few adjustments in terms of baby-sitting, care of elderly parents or parents-in-law etc. before she steps out. Your persistence will do nothing but put off your invitees. Of course, after one invitation, you can send a mass SMS on the eve of the event as a reminder.

Play space needed

There are many mothers who do not want to miss out on a good Quran class. Hence, they take along their kids with them – and plop them in front of the host’s television. It is a sorry sight to see mothers studying the Quran in one room and children watching television without any supervision in the other. Set up a small space in the same room or an adjacent one with toys, books and small snacks that can keep the young ones busy. This is an ideal time for one of the participants to narrate a story from the Quran to them as well.

One-dish, please

Ideally, Quran classes need not have a tea towards the end. However, if you would like to have a small, informal session over tea, try to make it a one-dish. It can take a very heavy toll on one’s budget to have tea parties with snacks every week. Request every invitee to bring along a small snack that will not create too much of a mess. If you are a participant, offer to help with the serving and the cleaning up.

Do not linger

Once the session is over, leave. Do not hang around, waiting for your host or the lady who has conducted the session to be free so that you may have a friendly chat with her or discuss some personal problem. Understand that she may have other commitments as well. If you do have something important to discuss individually, take some time from her and set up an appointment for a later date.

Realistic “home” work

Some Quran circles give homework – this is perfectly alright but this work must be along practical lines. If memorisation of a short Surah is being given as homework, then further reading from Seerah and Fiqh books must be designated for later weeks. Also, do not be too rigid about the homework – it is understandable that some will be able to do it, and others will not. Making it a true “classroom” scenario will only be counter-productive.

Let’s Enrage Him

Oct 10 - Let's enrage him

There was once a man in Arabia called Muan Ibn Zaida. He was very famous for his generosity as well as his mild temper. It was well-known amongst the Arabs that no one could provoke him.

One day, an Arab man claimed: “I will make Muan lose his temper.”

“Well,” said the people, “if you manage to do that, we will give you a hundred red camels.”

The Arab went to Muan. He walked in very rudely and without saying “Assalamu Alaikum” started to recite a few verses which meant, “Do you remember the time, when a goat’s skin was your dress and your shoes were made of camel skin?”

Muan did not mind the rude behaviour. He replied: “Of course, I have not forgotten that time.”

The Arab said: “Glory be to the One, Who gave you the power to rule and taught you how to sit on a bed.”

Muan said: “All praise is to Allah (swt) for that; not to you, my dear brother.”

The Arab said: “By Allah (swt), if you were supporting me, I could not survive one day. Also, I am not impressed with your rule, so I don’t offer you Salam.”

“My dear brother,” said Muan, “saying Salam is a Sunnah. If you obey it, you will receive blessings from Allah (swt). And if you do not say Salam, then you will be sinning.”

“I will leave the very land in which you are living, even if I have to walk all the way,” the Arab continued.

“If you stay here, you will only receive good treatment from us,” said Muan. “And if you leave, our Duas are with you.”

“Well then,” said the Arab. “I am definitely leaving. Arrange for my travel expenses.”

Muan asked his servant to give the Arab one thousand Dinars.

The Arab said: “This is too little. I expected much more from you.”

Muan asked his servant to give him another thousand Dinars.

Now, the Arab admitted his defeat and said: “May Allah (swt) grant you a long life, as your generosity is equivalent to a sea. You are the epitome of Ihsan. I have never met anyone like you before.”

Muan asked his servant to give him another thousand Dinars.

The Arab now explained: “I had heard you were mild tempered, so I came here just to test your patience. I am convinced that you are extremely generous and mild tempered. If your two qualities were distributed amongst every individual on this Earth, they would be enough for them.”

Muan gave the Arab another three thousand Dinars. The Arab thanked him and turned to leave. He was now crying.

Muan called him back and asked: “Why are you crying?”

“I am crying because even a man like you has to die one day,” he replied. “Losing one’s wealth and animals is not such a big deal. But when a generous man dies, quite a lot perishes with him, too.”

Adapted (with permission) from Sunehray Huroof published by Darussalam. Translated for “Hiba” by Hafsa Ahsan.