Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ask and Ask from Allah Alone - The Power of Dua

Why is it we begin something good with such enthusiasm and passion yet it dwindles away and we loose interest so quickly? How are we able to achieve the things we want? More importantly, how do we know what it is that is good for us when we are so confused?

One of the most difficult things that overpower us, well especially us women is our emotions clouding our judgement, our vision, our clarity and our goals. Whilst these emotions are natural it is shaytaan that whispers and directs our thoughts towards a negative outlook on life. We need Allah swt to help us. We need to ask him to protect us from Shaytaan always. Without Allah swt, no matter what steps we take, we can never achieve, we will never find clarity in thought and mind.

A few posts ago I wrote about my struggles at waking up to pray Fajr. I reflected on my problem not just to myself but openly to all readers but this time mostly to Allah swt. I saw a sign and an opportunity and seized it. I wrote for one of my favourite websites: Productive Muslim! Downloading and reviewing the app 'Never Miss Fajr' and coming to terms with my goal for this year has manifested into something so memorable mashaAllah. You can check out my article here: App Review - Never Miss Fajr

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I felt I just saw this Hadith Qudsi come to life in the last few weeks subhanAllah! I took that one step towards expressing my concern to Allah swt and Allah swt gave back so much. Not only do I now wake up for fajr salaah alhamdulillah, I start my day at fajr too by encouraging 40 plus other sisters to read the Qur'an daily (more on that soon!).

With sincerity and conviction ask and ask from Allah alone. The more you expect from Allah swt the more he will deliver inshaAllah. :)

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Beautiful Journey towards Motherhood.

-Dedicated to an anxious friend making her beautiful journey towards motherhood.

6 and a half months ago I was at a place in my life where I was feeling a lot of different things; the nerves, the unknown, the thought of labour pain, am I ready for motherhood and the alien looking fat feet - I was feeling alot of different things. It's sometimes difficult to explain and only someone who's been through this will truly understand. The final trimester in pregnancy is definitely the most nerve-wracking especially when it's your first pregnancy. Some days I'd keep myself busy in the home and forget about the day when I had to deliver, forget about the pains labour may bring. Some days I'd feel so nervous and worried and my dear husband would remind me of the story of Maryam [as] in the Qur'an. How alone she was, yet she trusted in her Lord. How worried she must have been at the thought of what her community may be thinking at her being pregnant and now with child where she claims no man had ever touched her, yet she trusted her Lord.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, "Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten." (19.23)
I used to read this verse and feel nervous that Maryam [as] was in so much pain. Because it is intense! But the response to her words by Jibreel would ease my nerves.
But he called her from below her, "Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. (19.24) 
This made be me believe with conviction that Allah would never place a burden on anyone who could not bare it. Allah knew Maryam [as] would bare this, in the same way I would and so have many millions of mothers everywhere.

I began to tell myself that being pregnant and having a baby is something so natural and as Allah tells us with every hardship there is ease. InshaAllah I remained confident and tried not to panic. My supportive family made my experience all the more easier, alhamdulillah.

Whilst the pangs of labour began quite slowly they certainly gave me a fright at the beginning, especially when you come to terms with the fact that the day has finally arrived. You are going to have a baby! I think there is a real blessing in the early stages of labour where the pain isn't as intense and comes about every hour. It allows you to overcome the shock of being in labour. Because I had attended a pain relief session both my husband and I were fully aware of what to expect if the situation changed. So I was mentally prepared there.

Really and truly for me the experience as a whole was something so beautiful. I saw before my eyes a real miracle from Allah, what greater sign could I need to be even more convinced that all praises are due to Allah. I knew at the time of intense pain I was on my own. Whilst I had all the support I needed in the labour room, it was really down to me to do this. But I needed Allah to help. With almost all the contractions, I prayed Allah would get me through this. I was no longer nervous or worried. In fact I developed a new feeling inside. I'm going to do this. I will do this. And by the will of Allah swt I did. It was the most fabulous feeling ever to have delivered a baby girl. And the strangest thing was I forgot the pains of labour. It is so natural!

I know my dear friend is thinking I've painted the most fairy tale picture of being in labour! But I guess 6 months later it still seems so surreal! It is of course a different experience for everyone. The key thing is I think is not to panic, remain positive and know you can do it! InshaAllah!

Yes there is pain, yes it hurts and yes it will feel never ending on the day but yes you will be able to cope and you will pull through inshaAllah. Trust in Allah swt to pull you through every difficult situation you are faced with. You will be rewarded with a real bundle of joy straight after all the hardship inshaAllah.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Operation: Fajr

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar...My eyes open. I see nothing but darkness. Stillness and silence engulfs my room. I hear the faint Arabic words from the adhaan clock situated in the upstairs landing. I'm smiling. Alhamdulillah I'm awake for fajr. The next thing I remember thinking is 'My bed is so warm. I'm just going to stay in the duvet listening to the rest of the beautiful call to prayer...' All of a sudden my thoughts are interrupted by the sounds of the baby's whimpering coming from the cot to the side of the room. As I open my eyes, my room is bright, full of the morning rays of light. I look up at my dainty pink clock. It's 8a.m. What a dissappointment - I missed my fajr prayer! :(

This feeling is by far one of the worst feelings to carry with you throughout the day. This struggle of mine hasn't always been around. In fact there was once a time I looked forward to fajr so much so that I could fight off shaytaan's whispers in the morning. I would look forward to reciting/memorising Qur'an in the time remaining just after the Morning Prayer before getting ready for my daily commute to work. Then life changed. I entered a new phase of my life - marriage and now motherhood - mashaAllah both are very beautiful aspects of life. But I was lifted out of my comfort zone as soon as I focussed and thought I had very much established prayer throughout my life. Allah swt felt I was ready for the next level. And the challenges to maintain the Morning Prayer on a regular basis began.

I missed the serenity of the morning in conversing with my Lord, the chirruping of the birds, that peace of mind and barakah in the early morning. Gone. 

But, as Muslims we don't give up this easy. We strive, we strive and we strive some more. Our tests are never ending in this life and its how we respond to these tests that determine whether we pass them or not. The story of Ibrahim's (as) test on sacrificing his son Ismaeel comes to mind. He did not fall into despair but trusted in his Lord as did Ismaeel who did not fear the thought of dying because all knowledge and power belonged to Allah. And the outcome of their test was so great that Ibrahim's many generations down the line perform the outcome/reward of his test during the time of the pilgrimage of Hajj (Eid ul Adha) whereby they now sacrifice an animal instead. May Allah be pleased with them both. 

Operation Fajr:
1. The first step I'd advise all struggling like I am is to make sincere dua constantly that the outcome of this test of yours is successful.
2. Step 2: With knowledge comes great responsibility (Yes, I took that from spiderman and rephrased to suit me) Watch this fabulous lecture by Mufti Ismail Menk on Simple Ways to Change Yourself. Once you are reminded you should remember by acting on that which you have been reminded of!
3. Download this highly intelligently thought out app called 'Never MissFajr' from your play store on your smart phone. (also available on iphone)
4. Sleep early, wake up early!
5. Never Give Up!

I pray Allah swt makes our tests easy on us and enables us to be constantly reminded to fulfill the obligatory acts of worship. Ameen

Monday, 9 December 2013

Satan's Ultimate Agenda for Humanity

Shame in Arabic is the word hayah which interestingly also means life. The most natural state of humans is to have shame or to be alive is to have shame. So really, if one does not have shame, they are not even fully alive. The subject of shame or bashfulness is mentioned a few times in the Qur'an. It’s opposite shamelessness or fahshaa on the other hand is a bigger subject in the Qur'an and mentioned in numerous places. 

You'll learn in schools especially in anthropology that naturally or originally human beings were animals. Animals obviously don't have clothing and animals therefore don't have shame. So according to this logic, originally when we were 'evolving' we did not have shame. Some may say we were taught shame culturally and that society imposed clothing on us. It is not the natural state of human beings to be fully clothed. Hence, those who dwell in nudist colonies see it as trying to 'get in touch with nature.'

In fact even the Quraysh of Arabia in pre-Islamic times, when they used to make tawaaf around the Ka'bah would say that clothing is unnatural. They would say Allah should be worshiped in the natural state and this was their logic behind doing tawaaf of the Ka'bah naked. They believed clothing was an impurity as it is man-made, it is contaminated with sin. The Qur'an's perspective is that our natural state is to be clothed and to have shame. That's the starting point of humanity from the very beginning as will be analysed in the creation of Adam and Eve.

A common misconception in Islam is that when the topic of shame or hayah is mentioned, many people think it is to do with women's clothing. In fact, 16 years had passed after the first revelation the Prophet pbuh received and then the verse of women's clothing was revealed. But fahshaa or shamelessness was talked about in the Qur'an before this.

The story of Adam is the best place to learn about shame. It begins by Allah saying:

And We have certainly established you upon the earth and made for you therein ways of livelihood. Little are you grateful. [7.10]
Adam and Eve were sent to the Earth not as a punishment as believed by some, but Allah settled them with a means of a good life here. Allah says in the ayat he gave them all kinds of means to live and enjoin in a good life here. There are glimpses of Jannah on this earth. Enjoyment comes when you get what you desire. When cravings are fulfilled then life is enjoyable. Allah reminds he has given us the means to fulfill our cravings and temptations yet we are still ungrateful. The story moves on and Allah says:
And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, "Prostrate to Adam"; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated. [ Allah ] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?" [Satan] said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay."[7, 11-12]

From the above we can clearly see that even Satan believes and knows Allah created him. His disbelief is his disobedience. Again I repeat, his disbelief is his disobedience. Satan doesn't need to get us to disbelieve to drag us with him into the hell-fire, that's not his purpose, he wants to get us to disobey Allah. And Allah responded to Satan and said 
Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased.[7,13] 
When you disobey Allah, you think you're greater than Allah. Then Allah casts out Satan. Satan asks Allah to give him time until Judgement Day and Allah gives it to him. Satan got into trouble with Allah because of us humans and now he wants to get back at us. He knows he's doomed to Hell and wants to drag as many humans down with him because he thinks we are the reason he had been humiliated in front of Allah. He wants to prove to Allah that humans weren't worthy of his prostration. Satan's plan is one of revenge. So he waits in ambush and whispers at the right moment in order to trap us into his evil plan. 
[Satan] said, "Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful [to You]."[7.14-15] 
His plan is to get to us in any way, when we are in good company or bad company he will continue to whisper and trap us. Thus, Allah says earlier in the ayahs, Allah has made the earth a place of livelihood, a place with a means of good living. All food and drink is permissible on this earth, with a few obvious exceptions [flesh of swine, dead meat, non-zabiha meat, alcohol etc]. Satan's plan is to lead the people away from all those that have been made halal for us on this earth and go after that which is haram in order to disobey our Lord, just to prove to Allah that we are ungrateful and we are not worthy of the status given to us humans by Allah. 
[Allah] said, "Get out of Paradise, reproached and expelled. Whoever follows you among them - I will surely fill Hell with you, all together."[7.16] 
This is a warning as Allah addresses us by saying he will fill Hell with you as in us!
"And "O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat from wherever you will but do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers."[7.17]
Satan felt humiliated. He wants to take revenge against humanity. He wants to get human beings humiliated. Satan did not need to be inside jannah to be heard, his waswasa (whispering) could be heard from inside of jannah. Satan whispered to them over and over again. 
"But Satan whispered to them to make apparent to them that which was concealed from them of their private parts. He said, "Your Lord did not forbid you this tree except that you become angels or become of the immortal."[7.18]
Satan whispered to both Adam and Eve. Allah tells us what Satan's ultimate agenda was. It wasn't that Satan wanted to make them eat from the forbidden tree, he wanted to make them expose to each other that which was covered of their private parts. In order words, his ultimate agenda was to have their clothes removed! Satan knew one of the consequences punishments of disobedience to Allah was humiliation. Because the first gift of jannah is the clothes of jannah, clothes will be removed, ugliness exposed and ultimate humiliation for human beings. 

Satan's ultimate agenda for humanity is to have us remove our clothes. That is our humiliation. 

[This post is a snippet from Nouman Ali Khan's Thematic Series on Bayyinah TV on Shame]

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Surah ar-Rahman - A Literary Appreciation [Ayat 4-9]

Allah continues informing us on what he taught us. After he taught the greatest revelation; the Qur'an and made the greatest creation; humans, he gave them the greatest gift. He taught them clear, accurate, well pronounced speech - ayat 4. Allah taught speech because Allah revealed speech itself. He taught Adam [as] the names of all things. So, we need to respect our speech. Surely the same tongue that is used for the Qur'an is not going to be used for such disrespective and foul language. This is certainly something to bear in mind the next time we open our mouths. Additionally, we have to respect languages, all languages are products of what was taught to Adam [as].

When the Prophet [saw] was preaching his message of the oneness of Allah swt, people of Makkah had thought he had lost his mind when he taught his message. "I'll believe it when I see it." became the Quraysh's stubborn response. This beginning of Surah ar-Rahman is a response to the Quraysh's response above. Human beings are able to make sound conclusions based on profound speech. To resort to the level of an animal who needs to see or feel a danger to escape a fire in a room for example is neglecting the greatest gift of language and intellect given to man. We don't need to see it to believe it when our speech allows us to process our thoughts into words, when we use the the gift of language to explain abstract phenomenon. Allah still responds to their stubbornness and mentions in ayat 5: the sun and the moon are in reckoning - they are about to be destroyed which is a sign of the end of times. We use the sun as day clock and the moon for our calendar. Someone who observes the sun and the moon has respect for their time.

Starry night in the Chilean desert
In ayat 6 Allah mentions the two beauties of the desert, by day, trees which are scare and by nightfall the vast amount of stars in the sky all in submission to Allah swt. Allah informs the Quraysh, you want to see it to believe it, well here is what you should be seeing. The creation of Allah are ayaat: signs - they can't be purposeless, they should lead to guidance. Abu Bakr Sideeq, a great companion of the Prophet [saw] already had imaan or faith, he believed in creation.

In ayaat 7-8, Allah says: And the heaven He has raised high, and He has set up the Balance. In order that you may not transgress (due) balance. Allah swt raised up the sky and laid down the scale, so you don't mess around with the balance. Whenever we wake up, we should look at the sky and see its balance, it should be a reminder for us to keep your life and work balanced. Allah continues further in ayat 9: And observe the weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient. A balanced life is our goal by keeping the balance with equity and making not the measure deficient. How did the Muslims in Makkah look different to the non-Muslims? It wasn't through the 5 prayers, hijab or hajj, these rules came later when they migrated to Medinah. But it was through justice. Today the biggest emphasis is on appearance - but keep things in proportion. You should be the best of people, after all we are Muslim. And the sky is enough to remind us of being just and balanced.

[This post was a write up of my notes from Nouman Ali Khan's Tafseer of Surah ar-Rahman]

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Surah ar-Rahman - A Literary Appreciation [Ayat 1-3]

Surah ar-Rahman is one of the most recognised and known surahs from the Qur’an because of it’s oft-repeated question ‘Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?’

This surah can be broken down into 5 parts in which it covers the following:
1.  The greatness of the Qur’an
2. A list of Allah’s favours
3. The consequences for the ungrateful (Judgement Day and Hellfire)
4. Jannah – The deluxe package
5. Jannah – The platinum package

This entire sequencing of surah ar-Rahman is then re-taught in reverse order in the following surah – surah Waaqi’ah. Upon reflection, this is Allah’s method of teaching. This is how Allah teaches us how to teach. Revision of these key components is re-taught straight away as we as humans are bound to forget.

We believe the Qur’an is the best form of communication. Why is Allah repeating this phrase over and over again? ‘Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?’
 Effective communication has 3 key components:
  1. You need content – you need to have something meaningful to say.
  2. Style – it’s how you say it
  3. Knowing your audience
This surah deals with the absolutely stubborn that repetition is the best form of communication here. The curriculum being that of the Qur’an was taught to Muhammad pbuh who then taught it to Quraysh over a period of 10 years in which the underlying message was to worship and believe in one God. Now the key element here was the Prophet pbuh’s teaching quality of patience and perseverance with the Quraysh, in which through endless surahs with different styles of teaching of the same message, the students still did not get the lesson!

The surah begins with the mention of Allah's attribute and title of the surah, ar-rahman. This is often translated as 'mercy.' However, the connotations of mercy usually imply sparing someone, thus used in a negative context. For example, a punishment was coming to you and you were spared or you begged for mercy. However, as we know in the Arabic language, all words have root words and in this case the root word of ar-rahman is 'rahim' referred to as the womb of a mother. The baby is enveloped around care and protection in the womb of its mother. The mother takes the pain of the baby so he/she does not feel a thing because the mother's feeling of love for her unborn baby motivates her. In the same way, Allah being ar-Rahman has enveloped us in his mercy, the love he has for his creation. The ayat itself is a call for reflection; how is Allah taking care of me with his love at this moment?

Whenever you recite an ayat of the Qur'an, change it into a dua or prayer. Think of the blessings Allah has given you. Of all the things, his greatest act of kindness is that he taught the Qur'an as this is the ayat that follows Allah's attribute of ar-Rahman. You are truly missing out on Allah's greatest gift to humanity if you don't study the Qur'an.

The Qur'an is the perfect curriculum but Muhammad [pbuh] had to be there to deliver that curriculum. You are never going to get more prestige than being taught by Allah swt. Allah is in fact the one who taught the Qur'an. We have a love-based relationship with Allah. In the second ayat, what Allah teaches is addressed but not who he teaches as the invitation is open to all. You should see the Qur'an as your journey to develop a relationship with Allah and develop a love for Allah swt. The Qur'an is best consumed with quality and not quantity. Memorise, memorise, memorise - at least we know we died trying as the Qur'an lies inside our hearts. The actual meaning of the Qur'an as it appears in the infinitive [masdar] form of recitation means to read or recite excessively. The Qur'an defines the word reading itself.

  You haven't properly started reading anything until you've read the Qur'an. 

In the 3rd ayat of surah ar-Rahman, Allah mentions creating us, the insaan, humans. First he taught us the Qur'an, then he created us second. The manual comes before the product and the gift of guidance as in the Qur'an is way more than Allah creating us.

[This post was a write up of my notes from Nouman Ali Khan's Tafseer of Surah ar-Rahman]

Friday, 4 January 2013

Have you weighed your Deeds lately? The degree of Accountability...

There are 3 types of Souls mentioned in the Qur’an:
  1. Soul prone to evil  - nafs al-amaara bisoo’ [Example from Surah Yusuf 12:22-28, when the Egyptian Minister’s wife tries to seduce Yusuf]
  1. Self-reproaching soul – nafs al-lawaama [Example from Surah Qiyamah 75:2 ‘Nay I swear by the accusing soul’ – The self-reproaching soul is one that blames when it does good as well as bad.
  1. Righteous soul – nafs al-mu’mainna [Example from Surah al-Fajr 89:27, the Righteous Soul is the soul at peace]
Ways to Cure the diseased Soul:
  1. Ignore it!
  2. Dislike it! – compare to the bounties of Allah give to you and how you are repaying Allah swt back.
  3. Be sceptic about your soul – How do you know that Allah has accepted my ibaadah
  4. Trick your soul – start off little by little and gradually increase your level of action. Ie Qiyaaml al layl, start by praying 2 raka’ each night, then once the habit is made of getting up, increase it to 4, gradually though.
‘So whoever does good equal to the weight of an atom [or small ant] shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom [or a small ant] shall see it.’ [surah az-zalzalah: 7-8]

The Right of Allah upon the servant in every act of obedience consists of six matters:
  1. Sincerity in the action [for the sake of Allah]
  2. Pure devotion to Allah in it
  3. Following and imitating the Messenger [pbuh] in it
  4. Seeing and observing excellence in it
  5. Seeing Allah’s Benevolence in it
  6. Seeing one’s shortcomings [in performing this action] after all this
*Remember if you fulfil Allah’s rights, He shall fulfil yours!

Your Enemy – firstly is the soul = the nafs, then the shaytaan who’s ultimate goal is for us to commit shirk! Allah mentions in the Qur’an 13 times, that the Shaytaan plays with the soul. He leads you astray by beautifying haram things for you, and promises you poverty and hardship, thus decreasing your trust in Allah swt. Allah is the provider, the sustainer! Do not follow the footsteps of Shaytaan...
Remember, the correct intention does not purify the wrong action, and the wrong intention corrupts the good action!!!!!

-          Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Call your souls to account before you are called to account and weigh your souls [ie your actions] before you are weighed for it will make the accountability easier for you tomorrow if you call your selves to account today.” [Ahmad]

Weigh your deeds; is it good enough to meet Allah swt with? If you were to die tomorrow, would your deeds be sufficient to meet your lord with, we need to do muhaasabah, other nations did not get this privilege, Allah is forever giving us chances to come back and repent to him. Weigh out your deeds, jot down your good and bad deeds, do some accountability, where do you lay? Ponder upon this before you sleep each night, if I don’t live to see tomorrow, have I repented for my bad deeds? Can I say my good deeds outweigh my bad ones?

“O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Alllah is All-Aware of what you do.” [al-Hashr: 18]