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.