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30
Jun

4 weeks more to go…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Just one month left before the main event…

We should all ask ourselves:

1) Have we finished our pending fasts from last year?

2) Do we do dua to Allah to enable us to reach Ramadan and benefit from it?

3) Have we started to increase in our ibaadah (worship)?

4) Are we just daydreaming or do we really have goals which we are striving to attain this Ramadan?

5) Do we have a plan for pre-Ramadan (Shabaan), Ramadan and post-Ramadan (Shawwal) so that we can maintain out high levels of iman?

If we haven’t gotten started, we need to do so now.

It doesn’t matter if we have work, we still have to make time for this.

And for those who haven’t prepared much for Ramadan, I’d ask you to work backwards:

1) Write the 5-7 major goals that you want to achieve in Ramadan. [It helps to try to remember the things which messed up past Ramadans and then write the exact opposite thing.]

2) Write what you need to do in Shabaan to achieve them.

3) Start working!

For example, if one of your major goals is to understand the taraweeh prayers, then you need to be able to understand Quranic Arabic.

Impossible in a month? Well, no.

If you dedicate some time to do the Understand Quran courses and also follow this simple tip, you’ll get somewhere, insha-Allah.

What about if your goal is to get healthy by Ramadan?

Too late? Of course not.

Just change your diet (starting from right now!) and start walking. You should see a big improvement in your health in a month’s time, insha-Allah.

So, it’s not that difficult.

Remember: Just write everything down and start working.

Also, remember one more thing: If you get into action now, it will benefit you whether you reach Ramadan or not.

If you reach Ramadan, you will be prepared for it, insha-Allah. And if you die before Ramadan, you’ll die in a higher state of iman, insha-Allah. So, it will be a win-win situation.

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29
Jun

A Ramadan Planner designed to your specifications…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

“Ahaa, finally my perfect Ramadan planner!”

Wait.

Read the whole post before jumping to any conclusions…

So, let me start with my story.

I had been in search of the “perfect” planner, not for Ramadan but for the whole year. I had found many nice ones but they didn’t have everything that I wanted.

Each time I came across a nice time management program or an excellent paper planner, there was always the inevitable story of how the creator of the planner had been in search of the perfect planner and had then ended up designing their own planner – which of course was “perfect”, because it was designed to his/her own specifications.

Of course, these individuals then attempted to sell or share (for free) their “perfect” planners to others.

I guess I’m not the smartest person in the world because it took me years to finally put 2 and 2 together: If I wanted the “perfect” planner, I would have to design my own.

And that’s what I did, alhamdulillah.

Now, you might be saying “Oh so you’re going to share your perfect planner with us??”

Of course not. It’s my planner therefore it’s suited to MY specifications.

If you want a perfect planner, you need to make your own. It’s simple. Just open up an excel sheet and start working.

That’s what I did and now I have a nice, beautiful daily planner and a nice, beautiful monthly planner, both of them designed according to my tastes.

[What about my Ramadan planner, you ask? Well, I’m just going to take my daily planner and adjust it for Ramadan, insha-Allah.]

So, don’t sit and search for the perfect planner because you’re probably not going to find it.

Just design it yourself.

28
Jun

A Pictorial Summary of how most people seem to be spending Rajab and Shabaan…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Are they preparing for Ramadan, you ask?

Well, from what I’ve seen….no.

Most people seem to be busy with the following:

Now, I’m not asking anybody not to enjoy the summer break. However, I’ve noticed that many people are ignoring their Ramadan preparations.

Remember that an accepted Ramadan paves the way for us to get to Paradise, so we shouldn’t let the little holiday (“summer break”) get in the way of the bigger holiday – the one that will last forever.

“Verily, the Abrar (pious, who fear Allah and avoid evil), shall drink a cup (of wine) mixed with water from a spring in Paradise called Kaafur.”

“A spring where from the slaves of Allah will drink, causing it to gush forth abundantly.”

“They (are those who) fulfill (their) vows, and they fear a Day whose evil will be wide-spreading.”

“And they give food, in spite of their love for it (or for the love of Him), to Miskeen (poor), the orphan, and the captive,”

“(Saying): “We feed you seeking Allah’s Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.””

“”Verily, We fear from our Lord a Day, hard and distressful, that will make the faces look horrible (from extreme dislikeness to it).””

“So Allah saved them from the evil of that Day, and gave them Nadratan (a light of beauty) and joy.”

“And their recompense shall be Paradise, and silken garments, because they were patient.”

“Reclining therein on raised thrones, they will see there neither the excessive heat of the sun, nor the excessive bitter cold, (as in Paradise there is no sun and no moon).”

“And the shade thereof is close upon them, and the bunches of fruit thereof will hang low within their reach.”

“And amongst them will be passed round vessels of silver and cups of crystal,”

“Crystal-clear, made of silver. They will determine the measure thereof according to their wishes.”
“And they will be given to drink there a cup (of wine) mixed with Zanjabeel (ginger, etc.),”

“A spring there, called Salsabeel.”
“And round about them will (serve) boys of everlasting youth. If you see them, you would think them scattered pearls.”
“And when you look there (in Paradise), you will see a delight (that cannot be imagined), and a great dominion.”

“Their garments will be of fine green silk, and gold embroidery. They will be adorned with bracelets of silver, and their Lord will give them a pure drink.”
“(And it will be said to them): “Verily, this is a reward for you, and your endeavour has been accepted.””

[Surah Al-Insan (76) : 5-22]

May Allah make us from amongst the inhabitants of Paradise.

27
Jun

Countdown to Ramadan: Changing one habit a week – Habit No. 3

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[Okay, I have a question: How many of you are trying to follow these habits?]

Now, you might be thinking “Hey, she didn’t say ‘Choosing the third habit'”.

True, I didn’t because I chose it based upon the first two polls. This habit came in second both times.

And I mentioned it in yesterday’s post.

So what is the third habit?

Reciting at least one page of the Quran daily with the translation (for those who don’t understand Arabic).

Okay, let’s take this step by step:

1) Why is this not a habit in the lives of many Muslims?

If one reads the lives of the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) and his Companions (radiallahu anhum), we would find that they were attached to the Quran.

And this is something that most Muslims know so why don’t they attempt to be like this?

Well, if I had to guess, the following reasons might be amongst those that keep us away from the Quran:

a) The Shaytaan

You know, the devil is not dumb. He knows the powerful affect that the Quran has on a person so he tries his utmost to keep us away from it.

b) The lack of understanding leads to boredom.

Sad but true.

Most people don’t understand what they read which is why they really don’t want to read any further.

c) Difficulty in reciting the Quran.

Surprisingly this might be one of the main reasons why many eager beavers, who want to recite the Quran, don’t recite much – because they have great difficulty in doing so.

Spending 1 hour in trying to recite a few ayaat (verses) can be exhausting. However, remember that it is also highly rewarding.

d) Looking for inspiration in the wrong places.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’ve noticed that many people tend to seek out blog posts and inspirational lectures when they are depressed.

Just a question: Why is it that they don’t turn to the Quran? Is there anything more inspiring than the words of the Lord of the Worlds?

Also, listen to this short lecture that I linked to earlier.

e) Seeking advanced knowledge whilst leaving the basics.

I remember one of my teachers pointing out that the Quran was the foundation so we should make more of an effort to keep in touch with it.

I’ve seen many students who regularly attend Islamic classes but have not memorised more than Juz Amma.

Why is that? Why aren’t we focusing on the Quran, on it memorisation and on its explanation?

f) Not understanding one’s priorities.

It doesn’t matter how much work you have, you are still required to keep in touch with the Quran.

If one doesn’t regularly recite the Quran, one is considered to have deserted it.

2) What are the difficulties people face in reciting the Quran daily?

I mentioned two of the reasons above: lack of understanding and difficulty in recitation.

Another reason might be not dedicating a fixed time to reciting it. It doesn’t have to be an hour. You could start with 5-10 minutes and then work your way up from there.

3) What can one do in order to make this a habit?

Right, here are some tips:

a) Decide when and how much you’re going to recite and stick with it.

Do you want to do it after Fajr? Or before sleeping? Or after lunch?

[Note: It’s much easier to recite on an empty stomach.]

How much will you recite? Try to make it at least a page. If that’s too much, then at least half a page.

b) If you don’t understand Arabic, get a nice translation.

You could try to get a word to work translation as well.

Of course, this is just a temporary measure until you understand Arabic.

[Oh and you can also use a Quran journal whilst you read so that you can record your questions, thoughts, etc.]

c) If you can’t recite properly, get some tapes of a good reciter.

Or as I said yesterday, you could use http://tanzil.net as then there’s no need to buy any tapes or translation.

d) Do dua and stick to the rountine until it becomes a habit.

Try and try until you get there.

Let’s try this for two weeks, insha-Allah.

Do any of you have any tips? Feel free to share, insha-Allah.

PS. Has everyone gone for away for the summer holidays? Certainly looks like it…


26
Jun

The Rights of the Quran and some tips on how to fulfill them – Part 2

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[Here’s Part 1.]

An important point regarding reciting the Quran:

I’ve noticed that many people do not recite the Quran daily and they do not recite it in order.

What do I mean by “in order”? Well, one is supposed to recite the Quran from Al-Fatihah, then move on to Al-Baqarah and so on until one reaches Surah An-Naas (the last Surah).

After that, one returns to Al-Fatihah and starts all over again.

That’s what the Sahaabah (the Companions of the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam)) did. Some of them recited the whole Quran in a month, others completed it in a week and still others finished it in three days.

[Yes, that may sound impossible but it’s not.]

I asked a couple of sisters about how they recited the Quran and they said they just picked up the mushaf and recited the parts that they liked. Well, okay that’s fine but one should also attempt to recite from start to finish, even if that takes a year.

Also, it seems that some people have gotten confused about the fact that the Sahaabah used to study ten ayaat (verses) of the Quran at a time. Yes, they did but this was apart from their daily recitation.

Apart from reciting the Quran in order, one should sure to recite some of it daily even if you can only manage to recite a few verses. Don’t sleep without doing that, no matter how tired you are.

Just think about this: What if you were in bed and you realised that the gas stove was switched on or that you had left your car keys in your car (some people do that!)? Would you still go to sleep?

No! You’d jump out of bed and solve the problem.

So, if you’re in bed and you realise that you haven’t recited your daily portion of the Quran, then get up and do it. This way, you’ll make sure that it becomes a habit.

Oh and please remember to recite with tajweed. The whole point of learning how to recite properly is to….well, recite properly.

3) To understand it

In order to understand the Quran, one needs to understand Arabic.

I’ve put some tips up on my series on learning Arabic (here’s Part 5).

I should point out a few things here:

a) Even if you don’t understand Arabic, you can still understand the Quran to some degree by using a translation.

Try to use more than one so that you end up getting a more complete picture of the portion that you are reciting. The two most accurate translations are the Muhsin Khan one and the Saheeh international one. You could also use a word to word translation of the Quran.

[Yesterday, I heard of a story of an agnostic Jew who read 4 translations side by side and also used an Arabic dictionary along with it!]

For those of you who are struggling to recite and understand the Quran, you could use the following site:

http://tanzil.net – It has both audio and translation. You could play each ayah, then recite after it and then read the translation.

b) Translations are not enough.

You know, I’m in the process of listening to a rather wonderful lecture series by one of my teachers entitled “How can you understand the Quran?”

The sad news (for those that don’t understand Arabic) is that this series is in Arabic. [For those of you who can understand Arabic, you can download it here.]

Now, the purpose of me mentioning that was not to rub it in your faces, rather it was to make you ponder.

Why would ARABS need to know how to understand the Quran? Don’t they know Arabic?

Yes, they can understand the words but that does not necessitate that they understand the intended meaning of the ayaat (verses).

Unfortunately, many people think that they can study the Quran on their own by just understanding the meaning of the words. This is not correct.

Why not? Because when Allah revealed the Quran, He also sent a Prophet to explain His Book, so we need to refer back to him (salallahu alaihi wasallam) and his Companions (radiallahu anhum) in order to understand the meaning of the ayaat and the context in which they were revealed.

So, one needs a tafsir (explanation) to fully understand the Quran. And one is not enough. If you are able to read ten, then you should read ten. If you can read a hundred, then you should read a hundred. The Quran is a treasure. Reading just one tafsir is not going to give you the whole treasure.

Apart from the tafsir, one should also try to study the sciences of the Quran. These deal with the language of the Quran, the reasons for revelation of various ayaat, etc.

Insha-Allah, in the next part, I’ll mention some word-to-word websites and books, various tafsir books as well as some courses and books on the sciences of the Quran.

[And yes, I will only mention English resources…]

c) Don’t forget the whole point of learning all this stuff.

We’re not in a race to see who will read the most books. However, we are in a race to see who will have the highest iman and who will have the most amount of good deeds.

So, the point is not to finish as many tafsirs as possible. What is the point of studying the Quran then? The point of studying the Quran and its sciences is to ponder over its message.

The message? It’s tawheed (worshipping Allah alone). The whole Quran is just about that one topic. It introduces us to Allah, His Power, His Mercy, His Majesty and His other attributes* and it tells us what we need to do in order to get closer to Him. It also talks about what awaits those who follow His orders and what awaits those who don’t.

[*Remember that the Quran is the Speech of Allah and hence is one of His attributes as well.]

Unfortunately, many people today will talk about the Quran and discuss everything except tawheed. It’s sad but true.

So, we should not be like them. Rather, we should strive to remember the purpose of reciting the Quran whilst doing so.

To be continued…

25
Jun

What to do if your Ramadan preparation hasn’t been going well…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Bad Ramadan Prep so far? Here’s what you could do:

1) Don’t panic.

Look at the bright side: you still have over a month to repair the damage. A month is a long time.

2) Don’t give up.

That might sound weird but many people do tend to mentally give up on having a great Ramadan just because they weren’t well-prepared for it.

3) Don’t wait for the next Ramadan.

This one might also sound weird but I know that I used to go through this in the past.

The Ramadan Prep and the first few weeks of Ramadan would not be great so I would just imagine that next year’s Ramadan would be the Awesome Ramadan.

However, a few Ramadans ago, I had a dreadful first 2 weeks due to being ill. I spent most of the time sleeping.

Ironically, the last ten days of that Ramadan were probably my best ever. That made me realise that the way you end Ramadan is more important than the way you begin it.

So, even if your preparation is going bad, or if you aren’t doing well in the first 2-3 weeks of Ramadan, DO NOT GIVE UP.

Just keep going until Shawwal.

What if the entire Ramadan was dreadful?

Well, assuming you’re still alive at the end of it, could you please enlighten me as to what would stop you from having a great Shawwal? Allah is not just the Lord of Ramadan, but rather the Lord of the Worlds.

This might seem like an incredibly strange post. However, I thought it was necessary because I know that there might be people out there who would make the same mistake that I made years ago and give up because they couldn’t have their ideal Ramadan.

You know, we’ll never have that ideal Ramadan but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to get as close as we can to the dream.

24
Jun

Seriously Short Reminder No. 22: Drink lots of water…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Please, don’t even think about drinking less than eight glasses a day, especially if you live in a country where summer is40+ degrees.

Otherwise, you’re going to be fatigued (due to the dehydration). Some people might also contract UTI.

So, be a good girl/boy and drink lots of water*.

[*In the first few weeks, you might need to make sure that you are within running distance of a toilet.]

17
Jun

One way to get more time for ibaadah (worship) during Ramadan…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Which way, you ask?

Well, by finishing off any pending tasks before Ramadan comes.

For example, if you want to do spring cleaning, do NOT do it in Ramadan. Do it now.

If you want to shop for food or Eid clothes, do that in Shabaan, NOT in Ramadan.

If you have any work that has been pending for a long time, then do your best to finish it off BEFORE Ramadan. [That bit of advice was directed towards myself…]

What about if you have important stuff due in Ramadan?

For example, what if you’re taking a summer course and the exam is in Ramadan?

Well, why can’t you try to start studying before Ramadan so at least you’ll have to devote less time to studying in Ramadan?

So, how can you finish off all the pending work before Ramadan?

Simple:

1) Take a piece of paper (or better yet, your Ramadan journal)

2) Write down each and every possible current pending task that you can think of even if it’s “Need to get around to visiting Mother-in-law”.

3) Write down any work that you might have to do in Ramadan (i.e. stuff that cannot be fully completed before Ramadan) and try to see if you can finish any part of it off before Ramadan rolls around.

4) Start doing them.

5) Finish them off before Ramadan.

“What about all the the cooking? That’s what takes up most of my time! How can I do that before Ramadan?”

Actually, there is a way around this problem.

A sister I know, who works night shifts and long hours, cooks two weeks worth of food for her family, stores them in containers (and labels them) and then puts them in the freezer.

She does this because she has too much work and so cannot cook on a daily basis so this reduces her workload considerably.

Now, you might say that this is not very healthy. Yes, but if you heat the food properly, it won’t kill you. It’s better than junk food, isn’t it? And it’s just for a month anyway.

So, I think that this is something that the sisters can do before Ramadan: cook ahead of time. This way, they could get some relief from their cooking duties before Ramadan.

[Of course, this can only be done if all the family members are okay with it.]

Oh and to all those who complain about all those dishes that need to be washed: use plastic plates (assuming that your family does not freak out) for this month.

And no, it’s not a waste of money. You’ll be buying those plastic plates so that you have more time to worship Allah.

That’s a good bargain if you ask me…

16
Jun

5 things that we can (and should) do in Ramadan…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

I was thinking about the areas that we mess up in the most during this great month. What are the things that we could (and should) do that would help us improve our Ramadan?

Well:

1) We can (and should) sleep less.

Yes, yes, I know. You might say: “Hey most of us sleep less during this month!”

I beg to differ. I think that people snooze more in this month (or at least that’s what the people in this part of the world do) than they do outside of it.

This is NOT the month of “catching up on our sleep”.

2) We can (and should) stop wasting our time with useless activities, and instead focus on our ibaadah (worship).

Want to surf the Internet? Well, do it after Ramadan.

Part of the reason that we waste our time is that we have deceived ourselves into thinking that fasting is only achieved by staying hungry and as we are staying hungry, we are in a state of worship.

Well, no, there’s much more to fasting than just starving.

3) We can (and should) eat  healthy food.

Yes, we can. Really.

Just stand in front of the mirror and repeat it a hundred times. Mass repetition is known to help the brain accept an idea, no matter how impossible it sounds.

[Oh and we can (and should) eat less as well. That would really end many a woman’s kitchen nightmares….]

4) We can (and should) stop fighting with each other in the masjid.

Completely silly question: Is there any particular reason that we all single out Ramadan for masjid fights……..?

5) We can (and should) take it hour by hour and not think too far ahead.

One of the main reasons that many of us flunk in Ramadan is that we go all out in the first few days and then fizzle out early. Instead, we need to take things step by step.

Question to all of you (if you’re still around. Everyone seems to have disappeared?): What other things are there that we can (and should) do in order to have a great Ramadan?