Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Final part of my notes from Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed's seminar

Bismillah...In the Name of Allah, The Most Loving, The Most Merciful 

The primary need of men is to feel respected and the primary need of women is to feel loved. Women are great at loving unconditionally but what makes men really happy is respecting them. Sometimes lot of women think that until the men shows love, they won't show respect. But the less respect women have, the more unloving the men become. It is a 'crazy cycle'. It is perpetual. What we need for a healthy conjugal relation is to have unconditional love and unconditional respect. The fastest way to dry up a marriage is to disrespect a man. Part of respect is not to change him. Unconditional respect means to putting up with normal human qualities, not abusive qualities.

Our faith teaches us that men are the protectors, the carers who must deal with mercy and justice. The more respectful you are towards your men, the more love you will get in return. Our beloved Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Sallam advised men to be kind to women, be loving and merciful towards them. And he taught women to be respectful towards their male family members and relatives. 

Someone asked how can women control their emotion and be respectful to the menfolk in their life. Ustadha said it is not an easy job but we must try our best. We should be regular in tazkiyah i.e purification of the soul. Only through the subjugation of our lower nafs we can become better human beings. We must remember that anger comes from our nafs and Satan. Part of tazkiyah is to have self-control. Women must ponder upon the effect of disrespecting men. When we disrespect our fathers, husbands, we are hurting them very deeply. Disrespecting them means attacking their manhood. It is a sign of emotional maturity for a woman to really understand the importance of respecting men. Without this important element, we can't achieve a healthy relation with our spouses. The problem with majority of women is regarding every single thing as a battle. Women must be intelligent to choose their battle. 

Someone in the audience reminded us the Hadith of our beloved which says that majority of the inhabitants of hell will be women. And the reason is the bad habit of complaining on a regular basis i.e lack of appreciation. Appreciation is very crucial in terms of showing respect to the spouse. For example, my spouse may forget to get something I have asked for. But instead of giving him an excuse, I tell him "You never remember to do the things I tell you." or "You are irresponsible!" Sadly lot of women sometimes disregard all the good things their spouse do for them. It is very easy for women to use terms like 'never' and 'always'. 

I am glad that she mentioned and explained this very important issue. So may times we see how women can be their own enemies. As a woman myself, I see so many injustice committed by women towards men and other women (which is another huge topic on its own). And unfortunately lot of time, by virtue of being a woman, we support the injustice. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala tells us in the Qur'an that we should be careful not to commit injustice even it involves us and family members. Very few women have perfected their faith. If we see the greatest women in Islam, all of them have been great because of their unique qualities as women of faith. They are special because of their strong relation with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. In terms of conjugal relation, let us study the life of lady Khadija RadiAllahu Anha and lady Fatima RadiaAllahu Anha. Study how they treated their beloved husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and male members of their family. There is a lot to learn from them in shaa Allah. To have an ever-lasting relation with our husbands, we must admit our weaknesses and faults first. And that's a great start. Because without acknowledging our faults, we can't fix our relationships. Ustadha Yasmin has highly recommended the book by John Gray "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus". This book is also recommended by sheikh Yasir Qadhi. The other book she has recommended is "Love and Respect: The love she most desires and the respect he desparately needs" by Emerson Eggerichs. 

Communication pattern

When in distress, women in general like to talk to express their feelings. And the talking helps women to feel better. But when men are in distress, they like to go their cave i.e they need time and space to recover. They need their quiet time. But the problem with women is out of love they chase the men to their cave and almost force them to share their feelings! When women are in distress and want to to just talk about it with their spouse, men being the one always thinking about 'solving the problem' tend not to be a good listener and end up commenting that she is irrational. But what the woman needs is just the validation of her feelings. She just wants to be listened. She is not necessarily looking for a solution. 

Someone asked about the concept of soul mate. She said that the concept of soul mate actually comes from our faith. Ibn Hajam Rahimallah quotes a Hadith where our beloved Rasulullah told us that we all human beings stood in front of our Creator Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala before the creation of this earth as souls and told Him that we will only worship Him. At that great gathering, the similar souls stood together. And on this earth , the similar minded people tend to hang out together hence we meet our soulmates, alhamdulillah. I loved the analogy , never thought like this. 

So how can we be good spouses...

First step is to change ourselves for the better in shaa Allah. And to do that we must follow the path of tazkiyya, purifying our hearts. But we must remember not to blame ourselves for everything. The healthy attitude is to think that I'm not perfect but I want to be better in shaa Allah. I must believe that my heart, my soul, my body is a trust from Allah so I can't let anyone abuse it. If you are in an abusive relationship, you must get out of it. Because Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala doesn't want us to be abused in any way. Sometimes people tend to suggest that we should just have sabr. But sabr i.e patience is not a passive state. It is about perseverance. It is about striving to fight, stop oppression. There were quite a lot of questions about abusive relationships. She said that there is an irrational fear of divorce. Divorce is given as a valid option by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala when relationships don't work. However, it is a taboo in the community to talk about divorce. We must remember that we Muslims are a people of Middle path. We are not like Catholics. Divorce is a halal option to get out from a relationship which is not working after every bit of efforts to save it. No one is saying that we should jump to divorce. It is the last option after everything else fails. 

There are four things that can completely destroy the marriage according to a research done by John Gottman: Constant criticism, contempt (instead of giving excuse thinking the spouse is just irresponsible), counterattack and stone walling i.e complete shut down and not engaging in conversation. She talked about a relationship experiment by John Gottman named "The love lab".

Why bad things happen to good people....someone asked. What we must believe is nothing is bad. Bad things never happen to good people. We tend to define good and bad based on our limited knowledge. Our definition of goo and bad is based on Dunya. So our context is also very limited. Anything that brings us closer to our Rabb is good. Whatever makes us go away from our Rabb is bad for us, no matter how "good" it may seem. Whatever situation we are in, we should always have patience and show gratitude. 

Having hardships in life is like getting a fast track to our Rabb. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala elevates His servants through giving them hardships, given the servants are patient and content with the hardship.
There are five different love languages; words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We all express our love to our spouses in different love languages. Women tend to love words of appreciation. That's why women appreciate cards and flowers with a personal message by their loved ones. As partners, we need to find our love languages. There is a good book on this issue named 'The five love languages' written by Dr.Gary Chapman.

Alhamdulillah I am glad I went to Ustadha Yasmin's day long seminar. I have learnt a lot alhamdulillah. I have also bought her CD where she talks about the prophets in the Qur'an. I try to listen to the CD with our kids so that we can discuss with them. I love the way she gives the examples. I hope to follow her suggestions. Alhamdulillah my three part notes are all available on this blog. I hope these posts are beneficial in shaa Allah for the people who could not attend the seminar. Please do keep us in your precious dua. Any mistake here in this blog is from me and anything of good and khair is from our Rabb Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. 

To learn more from her please visit visit her website http://www.yasminmogahed.com  and I will highly recommend her great book 'Reclaim your heart'.
I would like to thank Al-Buruj for doing this great seminar. I just hope that next time they do get a bigger place and provide proper space for salah. This is my fourth event with them. It gets quite crowded. I hope they will tackle this issue in a better way in future gatherings in shaa Allah. May Allah accept our efforts, ameen!

Part 2 of Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed seminar

You cannot enjoy something which you are dependent on. When we are starving emotionally , we are willing to put up with abusive relations. We will put up with anything. Because we are in a desperate situation. We won't survive without it. Ustadha gave us a good example. Imagine you haven't had food for few days and someone gives you a cheese cake. How would you eat it? Can you enjoy every bite of it or are you going to gobble it up as soon as possible because of hunger? Now imagine someone who just had a proper meal half an hour ago and you serve the cheesecake to her. She can enjoy the cheesecake , every bite of it as she is having it for pleasure not out of sheer hunger. Imagine giving a mouldy cheesecake to the very hungry person. Would he deny it? Of course not, because he is very hungry. What about the person who just had a proper meal? No doubt, she won't touch it. 

It is very dangerous to be in a state of desperation as your choice become very limited. You are willing to settle for anything. Never take your desperation to anyone but Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Only He is capable of helping us. When we desperately ask the other human beings (who are essentially beggars too) to help us, fix us, we are bound to suffer. We are poor and Allah is Al-Ghani the Rich. We are His slaves and in constant need of His help. We are completely dependant on Him. Why should we beg the beggars when Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is the One who loves to hear us beg and is capable of answering us. 

Someone in the audience asked about how to deal with parents who are so worried for their daughters that they try to force them to get married to people who are not really suitable as spouses. Ustadha told us, "Don't settle for mouldy cheesecake!" I am glad she said that. From my personal experience, I would say that don't lower your standard. Have patience and tawakkul. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala knows your situation. He has already created a mate for you. Make lots of dua. Beg Him with desperation. One of my favourite dua before getting married was “Rabbanaa hablanaa min azwaajinaa wa dhurriyyatina qurrata a’yun(iw), wa ‘j’alnaa li’l muttaqiina imaaman.” And who say: Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring, the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders for the Muttaquun (pious).” - (part of Qur’an Surah 25:74) I did that dua a lot while at hajj in 2006 specially during the day of Arafa'. I found my soulmate alhamdulillah just after a month I came back from pilgrimage. That dua is still one of my favourite as it is such a comprehensive dua alhamdulillah. What else can you ask for? So please don't settle for a mouldy cheesecake! You will get married when it is perfect for you. Allah is the best of planners.

Dua is essentially begging our Rabb. Just visualise how we raise our hands when we supplicate to Him. When we beg Allah, we are elevated. But when we beg His creation, we are humiliated. When we make dua saying Rabbana hablana min ajwazina ...hablana comes from the root word hiba which means gift. So we are asking Allah to gift us. Gift in essence is undeserved, unexpected. These gifts mention in this particular dua (spouses and children) are described as coolness of our eyes. But notice they are not mentioned as air for our lungs. Why? Because they are gifts, gifts are not deserved or expected. It's great to have them but without these gifts you can still survive. Alhamdulillah Allah gives us gifts through out our life. He decides what gifts to give us. Not all of us are gifted with same things. But we tend to look down on someone who may not be gifted like us. Sometimes we take credit for the gifts. If I have done well academically and I start to believe that it is due to my own hard work, I will be guilty of taking credit for something Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has gifted me with. We must be very careful of this mindset. It is arrogance, it is showing ungratefulness to our Lord. So don't take credit for Allah's gifts. Qarun did that by being arrogant and taking credit for all the wealth Allah gifted him with. His story is in the Qur'an. His wealth was swallowed by the earth as a punishment . So beware of taking credit for your education, career, spouse, children, wealth and so on. 

Sometimes due to arrogance, we start judging others. When someone's not married, we keep asking them why. When someone is married, we keep asking when are they going to become parents. Everyone's gifts and tests are unique. Just because someone's test is different than yours don't think you are better than them or you are worthy of your gifts. We are tried by our unique gifts. We must be grateful for them and try our best to use them to get closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. 

She mentioned a Hadith about a guy who came to to the prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam and asked him how can we gain Allah's love and the love of the people. He Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam said not to get attached to this earth , the Dunya and Allah will love you. And don't attach yourself to people, don't be in their need and people will love you. The more we run for peoples' love, approval, attention, validation, the more they will dislike you and will run away from you. The more you run after people, the more they will run from you. Remember, no body likes a beggar. 

Why do we like FaceBook so much? Because it gives us validation. We put our rants as status and we keep checking for notification to see how many people liked it. Search for that very important validation from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Fulfil the needs, love, self-worth, confidence by approaching Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. You cannot get respect by begging for it. Be firm and have confidence as a Muslim. When you are proud of who you are, only then people will respect you. When we are a minority in a non-Muslim country, we can't get their approval of us by begging to accept us. We can't just behave like the mainstream population, wearing our hijab as a fashion statement, singing, dancing with the tune of "happy song" , desperately begging them, urging them to like us, asking them to believe that there is no difference between us. Respect is never earned through mimicking others. 

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is Al-Wadud. He is the source of love. Why should we run to people for love, affection, validation when Allah is the only One who can provide us with what we want. Instead of running to people let us run to the Source. Allah is the source of love. We should never think that we love Allah first and because of that Allah loves us. He is the one Who loves us first and put that love and yearning for Him in our hearts. And that is why we love Him. The hadith below confirms this fact.

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel saying, 'Allah loves so and-so; O Gabriel! Love him.' Gabriel would love him and make an announcement amongst the inhabitants of the Heaven. 'Allah loves so-and-so, therefore you should love him also,' and so all the inhabitants of the Heaven would love him, and then he is granted the pleasure of the people on the earth." So Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is the source of love.

Building a strong foundation with our Rabb can enable us to serve others. If you build a solid roots just like a good tree , no matter what kind of storm comes, it will not break you. As a believer we need to have firm roots of relation with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, so that nothing can destroy you. Constant Remembrance of Allah, Zikr, Istighfar will help us to build that firm roots in shaa Allah.

Someone asked whether we are responsible for the quality of worship of our spouse and children. She said we must remember we are not responsible for results, but our efforts. Because Allah is the One who is in control of everything. Nuh Alaihis Salam (Noah) did his part , but guidance comes from Allah. Nuh Alaihis Salam has worked hard for 950 years but only handful of people become believers. His own son didn't listen to him. Our beloved last prophet Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam did his job for 23 years to invite people to Islam. The results are different for these two prophets. But they both are successful because of their efforts. If you as a parent or a child, doing your best in terms of efforts and still it is not working for you, it is not your fault. It doesn't mean Allah is not pleased with you. Do your best but never lose hope. Allah is aware of our situation. Results are in His control.

In search of good spouse....

Look for good character i.e akhlaq. Character is deeper than just looking at what sort of cloth someone wears. Just because someone wears a long beard and white thobe doesn't make him a religious guy. Just because someone wears a jilbab , abaya and niqab doesn't make her a pious woman. The true mark of Deen is in the character and action. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is the Gentle and loves gentleness. We can't afford to have arrogance. We should never look down on others. 

Spiritual but not religious...

Some people claim that they are very spiritual i.e they love Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala but they don't follow the rituals so they are not religious . Ustadha argued that the phrase is a contradiction to the claim of love. It is like a mother who claims she loves her child but don't want to express/show her love through feeding him, taking care of him. If you truly love Allah, then you need to express it (mawadda- expressed love) through following His last prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. If you really love someone, you always think about them. If you love Allah, obedience becomes a natural consequence. When He subhanahu wa ta'ala says jump, you say, how high? If we truly love Allah, our greatest fear will be to displease Him. We will be scared of getting disconnected from Him. 

Istikhara - a special dua to guide us the right path

Istikhara is a prayer to approach Allah to ask Him to guide us to the right direction. It has been highly ritualised. Now a days we tend to do istikhara the night before our wedding. However, it is essentially a dua. You acknowledge that you don't know and you ask Allah to show you the way. It is a perfect dua to ask for khair i.e goodness. When you are going through any sort of hardship, you should keep doing this beautiful prayer until Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala opens a door for you. 

Sometimes people think there will be some sort of dream after they did the prayer. But having a dream is not necessarily the result of doing the istikhara. There are three sources of dream: 
1. Ru'iya true dreams: Prophets' dreams are true dreams.
2. Dreams inspired by my own nafs which is more likely because of what I have been thinking through out the day.
3. Dreams by Satan 
Most f the time, it is impossible to figure out what sort of dream we had. 
After doing the istikhara, if things are working out quite smoothly, that means Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is guiding you to the best direction. 

To be continued in shaa Allah... 




Thursday, 20 November 2014

Yasmin Mogahed: The greatest quest: Steps towards an everlasting marriage

Bismillah... In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful , the Most Giving, the Most Loving


Alhamdulillah on Sunday 15th of November I went to the seminar done by Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed 'The greatest quest: Steps towards an everlasting marriage' in shaa Allah. I was really looking forward to her seminar. Couple of years ago, I started reading her writings. Alhamdulillah Couple of years ago, I went to her first talk in London at LMC organised by Al Buruj press, sponsored by Orphans in Need. Since then every year , I like to attend her events. Her book 'Reclaim your heart' is an excellent read mashAllah. I believe it is a must read mashAllah. 
Alhamdulillah as usual, her talk was full of wisdom. I did take a lot of notes . What I need to do now during this week is to reflect, discuss and plan what areas I need to improve in shaa Allah. I have been discussing some of the issues she touched upon with my better half alhamdulillah . As it was a seminar about relationship, it is very crucial to discuss with the spouse and work together to build a sound, healthy conjugal relation. Before I share my notes, I want you to know these notes are based on what I have understood from her talk. I don't want you to think that these are exactly what Ustadha Yasmin said. In order to truly learn from her , I will suggest you to follow her on YouTube and read her writings on her website. In terms of verses from the Qur'an, I have used the translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem's The Qur'an published by Oxford University Press which is a highly recommended English translation by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. 

So here are some of my notes: 

First of all, Ustadha Yasmin explained the famous, frequently quoted ayah in almost every wedding invitation cards, "And another of His signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquility: He ordained love and kindness between you. There truly are signs in this for those who reflect."Surah Ar-Rum The Byzantine : 21 

Here in this ayah, Allah is showing us a sign among the numerous signs in His vast creation. What is the purpose of a sign? The purpose of a sign is to direct us to our destination.  So marriage is one of the signs to our destination. This is not the sign but a sign among lot of other signs He has shown us. Our destination is be closer to our Rabb, our Lord, Allah subhanahu wa Ta'ala. Marriage is a path to that destination, but not the ultimate path to the destination. 

We live in a society where we are deluded in believing that we as women are not complete until we get married. People quote a particular Hadith to back this mentality, saying " Marriage is half of Deen i.e faith" But what we need to realise that men and women are individuals who have the potential to be complete only through worshiping Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala wholeheartedly. Maryam (Mary, mother of 'Eesa Alahis Salam) Alahis Salam is a great example of a complete woman. Was she married? Our beloved Rasulullah sallallahu alaihe wa Sallam informed us that Maryam Alaihis Salam is one of the women who perfected their faith. Popular media and culture give us this false impression that we are not complete until we get married. Sometimes we tend to think marriage is our ultimate destination. Just like the fairytales, where Sleeping beauty and Cinderella waiting eagerly for the charming princes to come to "save" them and complete them. But marriage is just a path among lot of other paths to our ultimate destination, which is to be closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala designed us with an emptiness which can be filled only through His remembrance. When we assign that purpose to our spouse, we are bound to feel disappointed. You have set him/ her up to failure. They will indeed feel like losers. And when we fail, we tend to shut down. We don't  feel like trying anymore. We are asking for too much from the spouse , assigning him/ her with superhuman job-description. So when the person continues to fail, he/ she eventually shuts down. And it is all due to having improper expectations. 

So what is the purpose of marriage? It is to help us to be better people and get closer to our Rabb, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Marriage is a training ground for our character . It is easy to learn the theoretical aspect of essential qualities such as patience, perseverance , honesty, trust but to act upon them, we must go through the training. And marriage gives us the golden opportunity to learn these crucial qualities to enable us to become better human beings. When you are a spouse, you learn to be patient, you try to control your lower nafs i.e your ego, learn to apologise. And that is why marriage is regarded as half of faith. 

We all have needs and our needs need to be fulfilled if we want us to be functioning properly and offer our service to others. Sometimes as women we make this big mistake of believing that our need doesn't matter. We give priority to the need of others, husband, children , parents, in-laws and so on. But we must have a balance. It is definitely not about me but at the same time, it is not like, my needs doesn't matter either. You gotta take care of yourself first and only then you can look after others in a better way. If you don't feel full and nourished from inside spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, you will eventually have burn out. 

We all have our needs , needs to be nourished spiritually, emotionally, physically. But these needs can never be fulfilled by the creations. Only by approaching Allah, our thirst can be quenched. Creations are by nature imperfect and in need of others. We as creations are by default the beggars. No one likes beggars but Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala loves to be begged. Our beloved taught us to ask Him even for shoe laces. The essence of worship is dua i.e supplication, request to Allah the All-mighty. 

When we are nourished and full from within with Allah's love, we can have a healthy and sound relation with our family and friends. Only then we can truly love our family without the unhealthy dependancy on them. We no longer have the need to ask them to fill us, fix us. As a person who is full from within, you can offer far more to the family. The essence of generosity comes from being full already from inside. You become capable of offering others because you are not in need of others fulfilling your needs. So how do we get to that state where we can be content from within and offer others our service ? In order to build a strong relation with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala we must follow these steps below on a daily basis :

1. Prayer: We must be diligent in praying our obligatory Salah five times a day and at the fixed time. Never miss a Salah. Sometimes people tend to pray all the Salah at the end of the day, some miss the fajr  prayer at dawn. She gave a powerful example . Imagine someone is suffering from cancer and her oncologist prescribed certain medicine to be taken at certain times through out the day. Does she miss taking the medicine? Does she take all of the doses in one go at the end of the day? Or does she says that I can't be bothered to take it on time as I am on Facebook now? To have a strong relation with our Rabb, we must take Salah very seriously. Salah is the oxygen of our soul. When we don't pray, our heart dies. The very life of our heart depends on Salah.

2. Building a strong relation with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala's Book, Al-Qur'an: Reading, studying, pondering over the Qur'an on a daily basis. Make a plan of how much you can read on a daily basis. And ponder upon the verses on a daily basis.

3. Daily adhkaar : Download an app which has morning and evening dua with the meaning. Make it a habit of reciting the sunnah dua after the fajr prayer for the morning and after the Asar prayer do the evening dua. 

So these are her three part prescription which she calls 'The Zikr challenge' unlike the silly ice bucket challenge of pouring ice on your head! So the Zikr challenge can help us to build a strong relation with Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in shaa Allah.

"People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide..." The Qur'an Women Al-Nisa 4:1 The essence of men and women is same, 'From you, for you', professor Abdel Haleem in his translation of the Qur'an says, 'From the same essence' Razi convincingly reached this conclusion based on comparison with many instances when 'min anfusikum' is used in the Qur'an.

He has blessed the married couple with sakinah , tranquility. When we examine traditional stories such as Romeo & Juliet , it is not tranquility that we find in their relation. It is more like torment and addiction. They were not at peace. Without each other's company , they couldn't survive. Death seemed like a great solution if they can't live with each other as they were addicted to each other. They become the ilah for each other, the object for worship. When we take any other ilah instead of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala , we become the slave of that object. We can't survive without the object. That's why we see people who literally live (worship) for their spouses, jobs, children etc, when something happens to them, they can't survive and commit suicide. Once Plato said, love is a serious mental illness. This sort of "love" popularly depicted by the popular culture is a serious mental illness. It is not healthy at all. 

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala tell us His Book that when we take an ilah with Allah, then we will be tormented in this life and in hereafter. We must remember that no one can fill the void created by our Rabb. Only through His worship, we can be truly happy and feel content. If I make my spouse, my children, my wealth the object of my worship, I will be indeed tormented because they are never meant to fill us from within. Yasmin gave a example of a car which needs gas/petrol to move. Imagine instead of using the right fuel, I pour orange juice in the engine. It is bound to break down. When our focus is not right and we end up filling us with the wrong fuel, as a result we break down but we question Allah why did He do that to us!?! 

So how do we detach ourselves? The essence of detachment is keeping things in our hands instead of in our hearts. She told us a beautiful story of imam Abu Hanifa Rahimallah. Once while he was teaching his students, someone came and informed him that his ship has drowned. He took a moment to think and then he carried on his lesson. After a while the person came back and told him, it was actually a mistake. His ship is okay and on its way. Once again he took a moment to think and he resumed his lesson. His students felt curious to know why he did that. Imam Abu Hanifa Rahimallah said, when he heard his ship has drowned he checked whether his heart was moved by the loss of his wealth and he found it unmoved. And when he heard the ship was okay, he checked again the state of his heart and it was unmoved subhanallah. This is called detachment. There were lot of very wealthy sahaba (companions of the beloved prophet) who were detached from their wealth. They gave without any hesitation. 

Just before the lunch break, sister Shazia Saleem the founder of ieat (who sponsored the event) did a brief talk about her inspiration, lady Khadija RadiAllahu Anha. She was a very wealthy business lady. She was known as the princess of Quraish in Makkah. She offered her hand for marriage to our beloved Mummad Sallallahu Alaihe wa Sallam. When the prophet said he can't provide for a wife, she said she is okay with it. On her wedding night she gave a huge bag of gold coins as gift to her husband to honour him sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. She was a great wife and she gave all her wealth to serve her beloved soulmate. When she died she didn't have a single coin in her name. Shazia said have we seen any wealthy person in this day and age who leave this earth without a single coin in their name. It is quite mind blowing to think what a great woman Khadija  RadiAllahu Anha was. No wonder she has been mentioned as one of the greatest women in Islam by our beloved prophet Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam . Her life story teaches us about detachment for Allah's sake.

"We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger and loss of property, lives and crops. But (prophet), give good news to those who are steadfast, those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, 'We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.' These will be given blessings and mercy from their Lord and it is they who are rightly guided." Surah Al-Baqara 2:155-157

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala teaches us in the Qur'an that we will face loss of loved ones, loss of wealth, loss of efforts during our short stay on this earth. Our body, intellect, beauty, parents, siblings, spouse, children and so on are all gifts from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. They are in essence gifts. They are gifts for a limited time. No one can claim that he/she deserves the gift. Gift is given as a token of love and care. And the gifts in Dunya can be taken back as the verse indicates. Yasmin gave us a example. If she gives someone a car for ten years and after ten years she wants it back, can that person say no to her ? The car never belonged to that person. It was always her car. We must treat the gifts given by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in the same manner. The gifts are a trust. When it is taken away, we are reminded to say Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihir rajeuun. Allah gives glad tidings to the patient ones. Imagine you lost one of your loved ones and someone congratulating you on your loss. Allah reminds us that we belong to Him. Everything we have does not belong to us. It always belongs to Him. The statement He taught us is not just a mere statement. It is an entire world view. 

When we believe wholeheartedly that everything we have doesn't belong to us then no matter what we lose, we will never question our Lord, "Why me?","How could you do this to me?" The response of a believer will be inna lillahi wa inna ilaihir rajeuun which reminds him/her that everything belongs to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and she/he should have her/his gifts in their hand not in their heart just like Imam Abu Hanifa Rahimallah. 

When we focus on the hereafter, the nature of our attachment changes. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reminds us in the Qur'an that this life is a place of play and amusement . When we are very young, we love playing. When we are pre-teens , we love to be entertained. "I'm bored!" is the most favourite statement of a pre-teen. When we are teenagers, we are obsessed with our look and appearance. We spent ages in front of the mirror. Just before going out with friends, finding a pimple seems like a disaster. Then when we are at college, university, proving that we are capable of achieving a good degree becomes very important. Then comes getting settled by finding a dream job, getting married , having children, having a great house, car , etc become very crucial. Our creator reminds us in His Book, that in this life we compete each other with wealth and children. They become our ultimate attachment but in essence these "attachments" will disappoint us because they are meant to pass away. Nothing in this world remains unchanged. And that's why Allah reminds us through the signs in His creations that we must attach ourselves to Him and His pleasure only. In hereafter, these obsession with self-image, family, career, wealth won't really help us. Only by having a pure heart which enables us to do good for His sake, we can enter the garden.

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in Surah Al-Kahf , "Tell them, too, what the life of this world is like: We send water down from the skies and the earth's vegetation absorbs it, but soon the plants turn to dry stubble scattered about by the wind: Allah has power over everything. Wealth and children are the attractions of this worldly life, but lasting good works have a better reward with your Lord and give better grounds for hope. On the day We make the mountains move away and you see the earth as an open plain, We shall gather all people together, leaving no one out. They will be lined up before your Lord: 'Now you have come to Us as We first created you, although you claimed We had not made any such appointment with you.' The record of their deeds will be laid open and you will see the guilty, dismayed at what they contain, saying,'Woe to us! What a record this is! It does not leave any deed, small or large, unaccounted for !' They will find everything they ever did laid in front of them: your Lord will not be unjust to anyone." The Qur'an 18:45-49 
To be continued In Shaa Allah...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Twins of faith event at London ExCel: A believer’s Ramadan

Twins of faith: Knowledge & Action
Bismillah. In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful

Alhamdulillah I was able to attend this beautiful event which took place on 15th of June at ExCel. A timely event to prepare for Ramadan Alhamdulillah! MashAllah it was packed with beautiful reminders from Sheikh Sajid Umar, Ustadh Yahya Ibrahim, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, Shaikh Alaa Elsayed, Sheikh Tawfique Chowdhury and there were nasheed performed by brother Omar Esa and beautiful artwork by Mohammad Ali Aerosol Arabic.

And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers. Adh-Dhariyat 51:55

Alhamdulillah I have learnt a lot and I am super-excited about Ramadan which is due in 3 or 4 days insha Allah. I hope to implement the lessons I have learnt through this event bi’idnillahi ta’ala. Lot of my goals for Ramadan is based on these reminders. I do take lots of notes ( I don’t want to miss out any gems shared by the brothers) and my blog is heavily based on my notes Alhamdulillah. It helps me a lot to solidify whatever I have learnt. Also, I love to share my notes as it can earn me much-needed rewards from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. So if you are reading my post/note right now, please make a sincere dua for me that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala accept my efforts as a sadaqa jaariya, inshAllah. And jazakallah khairan for reading this post :-)
If you benefit from this post, please do share the link so that others can benefit too.
So let us begin. Bismillah…

Sheikh Sajid Umar – Taqwa Time – a look at the aim of Ramadan. An explanation of Taqwa and an introduction to the importance of Ramadan

The objective of Ramadan is to gain Taqwa i.e God consciousness. Taqwa means to strive to stay away from whatever that distracts us from achieving consciousness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in every aspect of life. So how do we gain Taqwa?

We seek taqwa through prayers (obligatory and supererogatory), fasting, the study and recitation of the Qur’an etc. Sometimes we wonder why we still commit sins during and after Ramadan. It’s due to us fasting only with our body, instead of fasting with our hearts and minds. Taqwa can be achieved only through fasting with the presence of heart and mind. We are not just mere bodies. We are hearts and minds. The sign of a meaningful Ramadan is that we don’t commit the sins we used to commit before Ramadan.

Sheik Sajid gave example of footballers who prepare tirelessly for the world cup. Lot of them went to hot, humid countries to train for the games in Brazil. How much dedication do we have to do our best in Ramadan?

Lot of us don’t prepare and keep procrastinating till Ramadan arrives. Then first couple of days in Ramadan we try to get our body into Ramadan mode. Sheikh Abu Eesa Niamatullah in his last LP (Logical Progression) session before Ramadan said that this attitude towards Ramadan is not a very healthy attitude at all. It is just a sheer waste of precious Ramadan days. Ramadan is not the time to practise. Sha’ban is the month to train our body and mind to fast with outmost efforts. Our beloved companions of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihe wa sallam used to prepare six months ahead of Ramadan and after Ramadan for six months they used to pray (make dua) that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala accept their efforts in Ramadan.

So what does the training involve?

Start fasting now! If you haven’t fasted the beginning of Sha’ban then fasting after 15th of Sha’ban is not recommended. Also we are not recommended to fast last couple of days of Sha’baan.

Start recitation and the study of the Qur’an now!

Let us start all the goals we are planning to fulfil in Ramadan now so that when the sacred month arrives, we are ready to increase our deeds insha Allah. Or as the Imam Shuhaib Webb says, "Lets dive in!" My beloved ustadha Uzma says, Ramadan is not the time to START our good deeds, it’s the time to INCREASE our good deeds. 

Sheikh Sajid told us to make a pure, sincere intention to just please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. When we attend circles of knowledge (halaqa), we should make the same intention. Don’t even say that I want to seek knowledge that’s why I am attending halaqa. Just make an intention that we are doing it solely to please our Lord. Do everything to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

As a mother of three, I find life can be quite hectic and I am missing my spiritual me-time. I remember Ramadan before having kids which were easier to go for taraweeh in the mosque, listen to live talks, reciting the Qur’an, reading good books on faith. I miss those days but at the same time I believe I am entrusted by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to be a wife and a mother which are roles with great responsibilities. And if I don't fulfil my roles properly, I will be facing the consequence on the day of judgement. By looking after my precious family, I am worshiping my Lord. By having a sincere intention, I can change my daily chores into precious investment for the hereafter insha Allah. I must remember that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is aware of my situation. He knows my abilities and my weaknesses. So be positive and do whatever you can. Allah loves us and He is the Most Merciful. 

Ustadh Yahya Ibrahim – The believer’s brotherhood – The importance of true brotherhood in Islam. How Ramadan should bring the community together

Ustadh Ibrahim reminded us the deal we made with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We promised to utilize our life, wealth, and all the blessings to worship Him with Ihsaan. Whoever we deal with regardless of them being family, friends or a complete stranger, we must deal with Ihsaan which means always being conscious that Allah subahanahu wa ta’ala is watching us and do our best in serving others.

The concept of ummah is an integral part of our faith. The first step of brotherhood/sisterhood begins with family-hood. We must strive to be good children for our parents, good parents for our children, good spouses for our partners and so on. Family always comes first. As Ramadan approaching, brothers should not always have their iftar in the mosque or hang around during taraweeh and after taraweeh with friends while leaving their family at home. They should spend time with family and loved ones. The priority should be given to the family but there should be balance too.

Our beloved prophet sallallahu alaihe wa sallam was heavily involved in his community. However, he did spend a significant part of his life spending quality time as a husband, father and so on. He was a truly family man. Being good to family extends our lifespan and increases our provision. Ramadan is a great time to spend good, quality time with our loved ones. It’s also a great time to be part of the community. But we need to be careful that we don’t abuse people and their good nature. When prophet Muhammad Sallallhu alaihe wa sallam migrated to Madina, he paired the believers of Makkah (Muhajeroon) with the believers of Madina (Ansaar) according to their social status. The rich people were paired with rich people of Madina so in terms of lifestyle, understanding, they will be comfortable interacting and dealing with each other.

At the end of his session, he did a selfie with us :-) He always makes us laugh mashAllah. He said very soon we will witness jihadul qamar! The struggle/jihad of Moon sighting! We the "emotional Muslims" will get our weapon i.e keyboards ready to fight (i.e debate) to prove our point of view! The joke is funny but it is quite sad to witness the Moon fighting :-( May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala unite our hearts and enable us to compete with each other in doing good deeds, ameen!

Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan – Lessons from adh-Dhaariyat

Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan did two sessions. He told us not to compare us with others. There is no point comparing myself, a mother of three, all under 6, with a single sister who may have more time to do ibadah in the mosque. He said that sometimes hearing about giants of our faith such as Sayyidina Abu Bakr RadiaAllahu anhu, Sayyidina ‘Umar RadiaAllahu anhu can demoralise us instead of inspiring/motivating us to do good deeds. We may start thinking that they were amazing people and we can never be like them and we may even feel hopeless. As a result, we may not even want to do any good deed! He said we must remember that there were also thousand other companions who were striving with whatever abilities they had.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will reward you based on your intention and abilities. Remember having a sincere intention can make a very tiny deed very heavy in Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala’s eyes. And a huge deed can be nullified because of the wrong intention. So it all depends on INTENTION, a pure, sincere intention to please our Rabb, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Ustadh Nouman talked about the lessons from surah adh- Dhaariyat. This surah is the 51st chapter of the Qur’an. Here Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala mentions the wind.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

51:1.   By those [winds] scattering [dust], dispersing [it]
 52:2.   And those [clouds] carrying a load [of water]

The wind has a mission. It has a slow, steady pace. Wind directs the clouds with amazing dexterity.
Ustadh Nouman also talks about the beautiful sky.

51:47. And the heaven We constructed with strength and indeed, We are [its] expander.
51:48. And the earth We have spread out, and excellent is the preparer.

How many time we actually look at the sky pondering this amazing creation of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. In the Qur’an Allah asks us whether we can see any crack in the sky! The whole universe teaches us to have balance in every aspect of our lives. There is sign in everything. Are we really pondering over the signs i.e ayah of our Lord?

The earth is the cradle. Just like our mothers who hold us in their protected wombs, the earth holds our dead ones. When we look at the sky, it reminds us our purpose and when we look down to the earth, it reminds us our end. Sky and earth is each other’s complementary pair. Everything is created in pairs.

51:49. And of all things We have created two mates [i.e., counterparts]; perhaps you will remember.

Examples of pairs from the Qur’an: Musa Alaihes salam and Haroon Alaihes salam; Musa was very firm and Haroon was gentle so they complements each other, our body and soul, this life i.e Dunya and the next life i.e Akhira (Herafter). Our spouses are our complementary pairs. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala uses a very beautiful expression in this regard. We are each other’s garments/clothing. Just like our clothes cover us, give us warmth, beautifies us, protects us, our spouses do the same job for us, Alhamdulillah.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us that we human being have a tendency to rush everything. He is our Creator so He knows the best about us. The Qur’an is like a manual which helps us to learn about ourselves and how to run ourselves properly.

He talked about how to progress in spirituality. We are supposed to make slow, steady progress in our faith. Become a beginner. Don’t worry about not being at an advanced level. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is aware of our state. We must strive to do whatever we can and don’t stop. Keep striving for His sake.

He strongly recommends reflection of the Qur’an in Ramadan. Plan to spend certain amount of time on a regular basis to study a verse with tafseer. Try to understand what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala means by certain ayah of the Qur’an. And this is not some casual endeavour. It is a necessity as a Muslim to seriously reflect and ponder upon the verses i.e ayat of the Qur’an. Because, only through the serious, continuous reflection of this holy Book, we can have conviction in our faith. It will strengthen our hearts. We must make this Ramadan a month to unlock our hearts. If we want a thought-provoking, meaningful Ramadan, the Qur’an reflection is the key to it. By the end of Ramadan, we should be the thinkers insha Allah. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make the Qur’an the spring of our hearts, ameen! And enable us to live by its lessons, ameen!

51:50 So flee to Allah. Indeed, I am to you from Him a clear warner.

There are different verbs in Arabic to use for the meaning "to flee". The word used here isfafirruu which means to run in a way that you are trying to save yourself from a fast approaching beast! So fafirruu means running for dear life with the best of our abilities! Just imagine a deer running for its life from a fast approaching wolf! Does it just run casually without that much effort? Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala telling us in this beautiful ayah that we must run towards Him without any distraction and with the sole purpose to get close to Him. Our ultimate survival depends on this run towards Him. So are we prepared for this special kind of running? Let this Ramadan be the month where we do our best to fafirru ilallah!

Second/last session with Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan

He talked about how knowledge is becoming so specialised that we are becoming increasingly alienated from each other. Professionals of different fields are socialising and hanging with same groups of people and eventually getting sucked into their own special world. The more advanced we are becoming, the more disconnected we are from the people around us. He mentioned a brother whose Phd thesis is about the Qur’an being the only text which offers the kind of wisdom needed to unite the whole world. This world is becoming increasingly very fragmented and its very rare to see people being united.

He explained the meaning of arabic word "ayah" which is most of the time translated as verse of the Qur’an. However, the word Ayah has broader, multiple meanings. Every aspect of human life is a ayah or sign. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala keeps reminding us to look at the signs around us.

[And] who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency. So return [your] vision [to the sky]; do you see any breaks?
Then return [your] vision twice again. [Your] vision will return to you humbled while it is fatigued. Surah al-Mulk 67:3-4

How much we think and reflect about these verses? Do these verses affect us? Do they shake our hearts? By the end of Ramadan, we should be thinkers.
One of the meanings of ayah is the miraculous signs. It derives from the root letters which means to ask questions and shock us, to amaze us. We are supposed to be amazed by the ayah around us. Unlike Buddhism which tends to disconnect people from reality- the nature around us, Islam talks about engaging with reality and learning from the natural environment around us.

For a believer, everything carries a meaning. None of our experiences is a waste. Our entire experience as a human being has value. There is a reason behind every single incident in your life. The signs are there to lead you. When Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala talks about the people being deaf and blind in His Book, it’s the people who don’t take hid of the Qur’anic signs and the people who refused to see the signs around them. And that’s why they are described as deaf (not listening to the signs mentioned by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala in His Book) and blind (being oblivious of His amazing signs around us).

This Ramadan one of my main goals is to concentrate on the signs i.e. Ayah in the Qur’an and look and appreciate the signs around us so that I can gain taqwa i.e God consciousness ( the main purpose of Ramadan mentioned by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala)  in every aspect of my life, insha Allah. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala open our hearts to His signs and give us the ability to live our lives following the signs, ameen!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Cyber detox mode

Bismillah In the Name of Allah , the Most Merciful, the Most Loving

Assalamu alaikum dear readers and fellow bloggers, 

Couple of days ago, I uninstalled Facebook, Instagram from my phone. I lost count how many times I checked my phone as soon as there was any notifications! Instead of enjoying the moments with family, friends, I was obsessed with capturing photos and share on Facebook/Instagram. My eldest who is 6, complains that mum is too busy with her phone, laptop, ipad etc. Children are not naive. They are most of the time the first ones to spot the problems we adults go through. I realized I must listen to my son before it gets too addictive. 

My work as an editor requires lots of research on internet. Working from home gives me lots of flexibility but it has its shortcomings too. I don't have a break. While my husband can have a break after 6/7 pm during weekday, I am still working at midnight given I have to get the new issue online by the deadline. The magazine Aaila was born in 2010 alhamdulillah with the help of couple of dedicated and very talented sisters alhamdulillah. I treat Aaila as my fourth baby and can't imagine abandoning her. Alhamdulillah future is very promising for online magazines. My mission is to make Aaila a household brand. I hope that Muslims and non-Muslims around the world will benefit from the magazine bi'idnillahi ta'ala. 

Working for myself requires good management of time, great organisational skills, determination, lots of hard work. Ramadan is round the corner. InshAllah I am hoping to have a very productive Ramadan . I have been practicing to fast on a regular basis. First day was quite hard given my body was at shock, forced to starve for 18 hours. It triggers migraine. But alhamdulillah I am getting better at it. It's all about determination and practice. My beloved teacher says that Ramadan is a time when we INCREASE our good deeds instead of starting our good deeds. I believe the fast during the month of Rajab and Sha'baan helps to detox the body and get ready for Ramadan fasts. I also run twice a week for 30 minutes ( early morning). It does help to get the body feel fit alhamdulillah. If you can't run, at-least include brisk walks 15 minutes a day/every other day. And please try to avoid every sort of junk/fast food and stick to simple, healthy, fresh veg and fruits. Avoid carbohydrates and eat lots of fish, lentils, pulses and all sorts of good protein. Drink a LOT OF WATER.

Last week, I had a check up to see if I got diabetes, high cholesterol etc. I had gestational diabetes with my three pregnancies. I will be 35 this year inshAllah. I was expecting to hear that I have already developed type 2 diabetes, given both of parents have diabetes. Alhamdulillah I am still clear. I have even lost weight! I am 68 kilo now. My BMI is 24.9 which is healthy alhamdulillah. But my target is 58 kilo INSHALLAH. Given Ramadan due soon I hope I can get to my target quickly inshAllah.

So I am happy and content with my health but what about the well-being of my mind/soul? What am I doing to detox my most important part? We are what we read, watch, and think. I spend quite a lot of time on internet. I hope to detox my mind from over reliance on cyber world. To do so I have got rid of Facebook and Instagram from my phone as these two ARE the biggest time killers. It has been couple of days now. First two days were quite a shock to my mind, I must confess. My phone felt so useless and dull. My mind kept thinking about what notifications I have been "missing". Now I am feeling calmer. I am able to spend more quality time with family. I realized my poor husband and kids were the biggest victim to my over obsession with social media. My beautiful books were the victim too as they have been eagerly waiting in the shelves to be picked up and read with appreciation. I am also more aware of nature. When I am out and about with kids, I am enjoying the precious moments without getting distracted with the nagging thought of getting my phone out and capture the moments. The whole process of trying to capture every single moment just kills the joy of being there with loved ones. I have learnt the hard way but it's worth learning through experience. I am truly happy and content with this change in my life alhamdulillah. But let us see how long it lasts! I hope to carry on writing and blogging which is a passion of my life. I hope to share my experiance through writing inshAllah. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala enable us to use our precious but limited time to live our life to worship Him, ameen! After all, we are created to love and worship Him. That's the ultimate goal of our life.