Saturday, 29 August 2009

Ramadan as a mother

Alhamdulillah I was able to attend a lecture on the first day of Ramadan in East Ham. I love the ustadha (teacher) very much as she is very sincere and dedicated in dawah and that is why I try to attend her circle every week. May Allah (swt) reward her for sharing her knowledge with the ummah. There are quite a lot of things that I have learned through attending this particular one that insha-Allah, I hope to share with you all through this post.

At the beginning we had to go through a short brainstorming session to jot down some of the things we may find difficult as mothers during Ramadan. Not surprisingly, tiredness, lack of concentration, not being able to perform tarawih in the mosque, and the ‘what to cook’ dilemma were the frequent ones. One of the most common complaints was the feeling of not being able to do a lot during this great month.

Mashallah in response, the sister tried to explain our role as mothers and how we should tackle the issues. As mothers we are responsible for taking care of our children and husband. We are in charge of our family and they are dependant on us. We are doing khidma (service) to them! Allah (swt) has allocated us to do this great job. Our beloved Prophet (saw) has taught us that the best of us are the ones who take care of others. If we try to solve someone’s problem, Allah (swt) will relive us from our difficulties on the day of judgement. We need to change our perspective as mothers. We need to realize that our family is a blessing to us and through them we can earn Allah (swt)’s pleasure. We as mothers are not going to be asked whether we have completed the recitation of the Qur’an during this month but we will be asked how we treated our family.

Like us, women of Rasulullah (saw)’s age, once complained about their life and were told that all the work men do (e.g. performing prayer at the mosque, attending his sermons, participating in jihad) equals to the work Muslim women do at home! Subhanallah! Allah (swt) is rewarding us so much for what we are doing for our family. We are the Mujahida struggling to raise the future ummah, Insha-Allah!

However, it does not mean that we should not try to do other acts of worship during this month. We need to balance our life. Some of the tips the sister came up with are:

Preparation, preparation and preparation:
During the time of our beloved Prophet (saw), the companions used to prepare for Ramadan six months ahead. So preparation is very crucial to get the best out of Ramadan. Rasulullah (saw) used to increase his effort before Ramadan. We have to remember that we are supposed to increase our deeds during Ramadan, not just starting our acts of worship. Ramadan should be truly a month of increasing our effort to please Allah (swt)! Unfortunately, a lot of us tend to just start some deeds and stop it on Eid! May Allah (swt) save us from this sort of mentality and may he (swt) keep us motivated throughout our life and carry on doing good deeds. Allah (swt) loves the deeds which are small but frequent.

We need to gradually build up our ability to worship Allah (swt), so that by the end of Ramadan we can do more to get the benefit of last ten nights Insha-Allah. Nobody would like to miss the night of power, which is a night equal to almost 83 years! Rasulullah (saw) has rarely cursed anyone, but he did curse those Muslims who get the opportunity of having Ramadan but not benefiting from it in order to seek Allah (swt)’s forgiveness!

Meal planner: In terms of meal preparation, it’s better to have a meal planer so that we can plan our shopping list and cooking time accordingly. One of the sisters told us that it’s better to have a ten day meal planner as it makes life much easier and gives us peace of mind. It also saves us from wasting our precious pre-iftar time when our duas (supplication) are more likely to get accepted. Unfortunately during this time, sisters are more likely to be stuck in the kitchen preparing a feast! This month is supposed to be a month of moderation in everything. However, our eating habits portray the complete opposite. We as families need to evaluate this situation and change our eating habits. Unfortunately instead of losing weight as people might think you would do whilst fasting, we Muslims tend to gain weight! Our prophetic tradition teaches us to break our fast with simple food i.e. dates, milk, water, soup with meat and wheat, fruits and vegetables. For our own sake, we need to change our saturated fat and salt & sugar rich diets insha-Allah, as it will help us to do all the acts of worship easily insha-Allah.

Concentration (khushoo) in prayer:
In terms of creating concentration in prayer, the sister told us that the scholars have advised us to approach ablution (wudu) with khushoo. We need to keep in mind who we are standing before! As mothers we have to plan before prayer (salah) in terms of what our children may need, and how they can be kept occupied so that we can do our salah with full concentration. Children need to be taught to respect the prayer time. Personally, I have found giving them their own tiny prayer mat helps a lot as they feel involved in the salah. We also need to try standing in front of our Rabb with gratitude. Just imagine the many blessings He has (swt) bestowed on us! You really cannot count them all! Subhanallah!

Having the right intention:
Through having the pure intention of just to please Allah (swt), we can turn even the simplest acts into acts of worship. Everything we do can become a way to get closer to Allah (swt) if we have the right intention with the purer the intention, the higher the reward! For example, no matter how boring household chores may feel, we can remember the greater purpose behind why we are doing it them and we can turn them into ibadah. We are wives and mothers because Allah (swt) wants us to be. Our children are amanah (trust) to us. Through helping them we can help ourselves to gain Taqwa. According to Muslim scholars, Taqwa means to obey Allah (swt) hoping for His reward and mercy and avoiding sins hoping to be saved from His punishment. Allah (swt) has told us in the Qur’an that He ordered us to fast during Ramadan so that we can gain Taqwa. We need to make sure that we have Taqwa in every moment of our life insha-Allah.

In terms of difficulties in attending Tarawih as mothers, we can share our time with other mothers, offering to look after each others’ children in turn so that we all can get chance to pray Tarawih in jama’ah (congregation). From my own experience as the mother of two babies, I find it much more comfortable praying at home after 10:30 while my children are sleeping peacefully.

May Allah (swt) enable us to do our best in this holy month and grant us His pleasure and jannatul firdous, ameen.

Friday, 7 August 2009

In loving memory of my uncle

Our beloved uncle died last year (2008) shortly after Ramadan. He was in a state of fasting as it was the holy month of Sha’wal. When I got the news of this terrible loss, I felt very sad as he was one of the uncles who left a firm and lasting impression in my heart with his special personality. He had a very kind heart that loved everyone sincerely and used to trust everyone.
He was a devout Muslim who tried to practise this beautiful faith in every way possible. In this day and age, being a practising Muslim is very difficult and looked down upon. Despite all the difficulties he had to go through, he never showed any lack of enthusiasm in sincerely following his Deen. He was a man of principle.

Alhamdulillah we came to know uncle and his family while we were growing up in Iran. Our families used to socialise a lot together and there are plenty of wonderful memories I still cherish from my childhood, thanks to Allah subhana wa tawala. As far as I can remember, uncle was always very involved in raising his children with aunty. Unfortunately, most of the times mothers have to take sole responsibility of raising the children while fathers remain detached from this great responsibility. However, as a devout Muslim, uncle was always involved in bringing up their children with patience and integrity. I still remember how much effort and patience he used to have in feeding his beloved eldest son. He was also very active in raising his two wonderful daughters in an Islamic way. As a husband he was very caring and helpful to aunty. Even as an uncle to us he was very friendly as well as very approachable. He used to make us laugh by doing things in a funny way. We used to love being around him. During Eid, as Bangladeshi families in Iran, we used to organise Eid parties which us children used to look forward to these special events. Once just before Eid ul Adha, uncle took us to buy couple of sheep for Eid slaughtering. I still remember how hard it was to get hold of any sheep. Uncle and my father were constantly chasing the herd of sheep to get hold of one of them. When I try to visualize that moment, it always makes me smile. Sometimes in their house, uncle used to organise small events to inspire us to learn more about Islam. We used to recite the small surahs from the Qur’an. In the end, every one of us used to get lovely presents from uncle. At that time, as children we just felt happy without really realising that our beloved uncle was teaching us our faith through his unique way. Thanks to Allah subhana wa tawala, we are lucky to have such a wonderful childhood due to people like MohammadUllah uncle and other likeminded people around us who tried their best through their own life to teach us our beautiful religion. For me, uncle had a unique quality to engage children in Islamic activities without making the whole process boring, Mashallah. We need personalities like him who would provide us with a good example, who would not just preach but follow the faith in their own life too. That’s why we can see, Alhamdulillah uncle with aunty’s help has brought up their four children with a sense of Islamic values and ethos. They have grown up in an environment where they love and cherish their faith and try to practice it on a daily basis. For any parent this is a remarkable achievement. Our faith teaches us to respect our parents and pray for them when they go back to their Lord Allah subhana wa tawala. Only few things benefit a deceased and one of them is to leave behind pious offspring who would pray for their parents and continue to perform good deeds for them. I hope and pray that uncle’s sons and daughters do their best in this respect with aunty’s help, insha-Allah. I hope all of the children will live up to their beloved father’s expectations. May Allah subhana wa tawala grant our beloved uncle jannatul ferdous and protect his family and help them to lead a good prosperous life, ameen. May Allah swt grant every one of us the ability to lead a righteous life and have a good ending, ameen.

Uncle’s death reminds us again and again how short and uncertain our life is. However, the bitter fact is we tend to forget the reality of death. We are so obsessed with our day to day life that we forget to prepare for our life in hereafter which will surely never end. I would like to conclude with the wise saying of Ammar bin Yasir RAW: “Death is enough as a reminder, certainty is enough as wealth and performing acts of worship is sufficient as a job.”