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Posts from the ‘Productivity’ Category

18
Jul

A Pictorial Summary of what we REALLY need during Ramadan

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

What do we need, you ask?

Why do we need more energy?

Well, because everyone I know complains that they always feel:

We need energy to do all that ibaadah (worship), so how do we get it?

Well, that’s for tomorrow’s post, insha-Allah.

PS. The pictures are, as always, from Google Images, unless explicitly mentioned.

16
Jul

Ibaadah, Ibaadah and Ibaadah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[First, here’s yesterday’s post on what ibaadah is.]

I wrote the same word three times, you say?

Not really. Same word, different meaning.

1) Ibaadah

This is what one does when he sleepwalks through his prayers, focuses only on starving whilst fasting, goes through Hajj as though it were a bunch of rites, recites the Quran without understanding it or pondering over it.

So, his ibaadah becomes an aadaah (a habit).

He don’t get what he is supposed to get from them, which is worshipping Allah, fearing Him, hoping in His Mercy, etc.

2) Ibaadah

This is when one does the prayer properly and feels some khushoo (humility), fasting is not solely about starving, Hajj is performed as it should be, etc

However, this ibaadah is only confined to its time. The person does not turn his other acts into an ibaadah.

So, the one who does ibaadah has separated his life into two parts: ibaadah and non-ibaadah.

3) Ibaadah

The one who does this does all the acts as they were meant to be done (just like the person mentioned in the previous post).

However, this person goes one step further: he doesn’t limit ibaadah to prayers, fasting, etc, rather he strives to turn all his activities into ibaadah.

So, this person’s life revolves around ibaadah, because he knows that he was only created for this purpose.

“And I (Allah) did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me (Alone).” [Surah Adh-Dhariyaat (51) : 56]

Unlike the previous person, he also understand the true meaning of ibaadah: it is everything that Allah loves and is pleased with. So this person will even view giving candy to the neighbour’s kids as an ibaadah.

Who are these three people?

Well, many of the scholars have mentioned that there are three levels of Islam:

So you have: a) Muslim b) Mumin c) Muhsin

[Note: There are two meanings to the word “Muslim”. All three of these groups are Muslims i.e. they have submitted to Allah. When we use “Muslim” in the context of these three groups, we mean the lowest group.]

A Muslim is the one who has tawheed (worshipping Allah alone) in his heart but he falls short in fulfilling some obligatory duties and is thus sinful.

A Mumin is at a higher level than the Muslim. He has completed his tawheed and he does what he has to do i.e. he does not fall short.

A Muhsin is at a higher level than the Mumin. He has perfected his tawheed.

When Jibreel asked the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) what Al-Ihsan was, he replied:

” أن تعبد الله كأنك تراه . فإن لم تكن تراه ، فإنه يراك “

“That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you don’t see Him, He, verily, sees you.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 1]

[You may read the full hadeeth here. This hadeeth is called the Hadeeth of Jibreel and it’s my favourite hadeeth. I even taught an entire course on it.]

So, this is what a Muhsin does: he worships Allah as though he sees Him, which is why he does not differentiate between ibaadah and non-ibaadah, because to him everything is ibaadah.

Allah has mentioned all three categories in the Quran:

“Then we caused to inherit the Book those We have chosen of Our servants; and among them is he who wrongs himself, and among them is he who is moderate, and among them is he who is foremost in good deeds by permission of Allah . That [inheritance] is what is the great bounty.” [Surah Al-Faatir (35) : 32]

So what do we do: ibaadah, ibaadah or ibaadah?

Let’s try to make our lives about ibaadah, or at least ibaadah, but not ibaadah.

11
Jul

What are five things that you hope to achieve by the end of…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

…..Shawwal?

You thought I was going to say “Ramadan”, didn’t you?

Why did I say Shawwal? Well, because many of us stop functioning after Ramadan because we make the mistake of only thinking of the goals that we want to achieve by the end of this month.

And then our iman (faith) takes a dive in Shawwal.

So, in order to avoid that, I thought it might be better if we included Shabaan and Shawwal in the picture.

Okay, let’s take this step by step:

1) Think about what five goals you HAVE to achieve by the end of Shawwal.

– Why make goals? If you don’t, the days will pass you by with you getting absolutely nowhere.

– Why five? Well, more than that would make your head spin. [You could do more if you wish.]

– Please don’t reply to this post and tell me (and the rest of the world) what your goals are. I think too often we share our personal goals with the whole wide world. Sometimes, that can rob us of our sincerity.

– Think of the hereafter consequences of what would happen if you don’t achieve those goals.

2) Be sure to WRITE down the goals.

Please don’t use your iPad for this purpose.

Take a pen and paper and do it the old fashioned way. It feels so much better.

Trust me.

3) Please be precise when you write down the goals.

For example, don’t say “I wanna be a good Muslim.” You could say: I will memorise the last two juz of the Quran, for example. Or I will start dawah project X and set up a website for it.

4) Write down the steps that you need to take to get to those goals.

For example, if you want to memorise the last 2 juz of the Quran, you have about 80 days left so how many ayaat (verses) do you need to study per day?

Do you have a Quran teacher? If not, can you join a class?

What time of the day will you do your memorisation?

How much will you achieve by the end of Shabaan and by the end of Ramadan?

5) Start right away.

Many people just groan when I say these things to them and wail “Oh we’re too busy for this” or “We can’t be this organised.”

Just a question for these types of people: Have you achieved any of your goals in the past 3 years? If not, then don’t you think you need to change the way that you do things?

6) Look at this paper (the one where your goals are written) as much as you can.

You know, subhan Allah, I read this on a kaafir website and I was like “Huh?”

And then I realised that all my goals were on my dua list, and whenever I looked at my dua list, I would get REALLY motivated. So I realised that while we may know our goals, we sometimes tend to put them at the back of our mind.

Being reminded of them will motivate us to reach them.

7) Keep checking your progress.

You know, 5 and 7 are the toughest ones to do but they’re the ones that we HAVE to do.

8) Ask Allah for His help.

We can’t do anything without His help and guidance.

So what are we all waiting for? Let’s get started!

4
Jul

“Fasting doesn’t make you weak.”

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

Recently, I attended a dawah course.

The teacher was talking about the things that the daee (caller to Islam) needs to do in order to strengthen themselves for the great task ahead i.e. calling people to Islam.

He mentioned quite a few things including qiyam al-layl (the night prayer). [For those who don’t understand how that could help, please read the explanation of Surah Al-Muzzammil.]

One of the things that he also mentioned was fasting. And he said something that really struck me:

[I’m quoting from memory.]

“Fasting doesn’t make you weak. It gives you strength.”

That’s what many of us think, isn’t it? We think that fasting tires us out (which is probably why we are so unproductive in Ramadan).

However, as the brother, may Allah reward him greatly, pointed out, it doesn’t tire us out, it actually does the exact opposite.

One of the main acts of worship of the Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) and the Prophets (alaihimissalam) before him, and their companions (radiallahu anhum) was fasting.

Be honest: When you read their stories, do they seem like tired people or more like energizer bunnies*?

[*I hope you understand where I’m coming from. In our time, the energizer bunny is the epitome of the thing which just keeps going on and on.]

I get exhausted just reading their stories because…they were so active. They did more in one day than most of us do in a year.

There’s an ayah (verse) in the Quran that (for me) summarises why they were so full of life:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّـهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ

O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he (salallahu alaihi wasallam) calls you to that which will give you life.” [Surah Al-Anfal (8) : 24]

The commentators point out that the life means 1) the life of the heart and the soul and 2) the eternal life (i.e. Paradise).

Now, you might say: “Wait, I thought you were talking about physical energy? The ayah talks about spiritual energy.”

Well, I don’t think that there’s any contradicition because:

1) When we get re-energised spiritually, we also feel physically refreshed.

There were many times in my life when I went to a hifdh (Quran memorisation) class, or an Islamic lecture, completely exhausted. I was so tired at the beginning of the class.

By the end? I felt like a spring chicken. It’s amazing. Because I felt spiritually recharged, I also felt physically recharged.

I think that many of you would also have gone through similar situations.

2) If we answer Allah’s call i.e. apply the Shariah, we WILL be physically fit.

Why? Well, because it calls us to pay attention to our bodies and also because acts of worship like fasting and the night prayer (the two main acts of worship in Ramadan) are not just good for spiritual health, they are known to be good for physical health as well.

3) If we want to get the eternal life, we need to start working.

That alone is enough to turn one into an energizer bunny.

4) Good only results in more good.

If we obey Allah in one aspect, that will only result in more good. How can one fast (do something good) and expect that to lead to a bad thing (exhaustion)? No, that can’t be, because good only results in more good, so that exhaustion is not coming from the fasting.

So, if we understand these points, we’ll be able to understand how the earlier generations were so full of life.

Now, what am I trying to say?

Well, every Ramadan, we all complain how we are also so tired due to fasting in the morning and praying at night.

Those acts cannot be tiring us out because they are the ones giving us life and energy so there has to be something else draining our energy.

Perhaps it’s our negative attitude? Allah knows Better.

Either way, we need to change our perspective and approach both of these acts (and the whole Shariah in general) in a better manner.

Perhaps after we do that, we’ll see a different (and better) Ramadan this year, insha-Allah, hopefully one where we’ll all be full of life.

3
Jul

What is the one thing that…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

…YOU need to do in Shabaan in order to have a great Ramadan?

Now, you might say “Oh, there are so many things!”

Well, there might be but what is the most important thing?

For me, I’d say: I need to improve my health and fitness.

Once I do that, I’ll have more energy to do all the ibaadah (worship) that I want to do.

What about you?

Think hard, decide and then make sure you focus on that issue for the next month, insha-Allah.

The reason I said “one” thing is because many people might try to focus on many different things as they only have a month to go, and they might end up going nowhere.

Of course, if you want to focus on more than one thing, that’s fine, but prioritise them so that the most important thing is always done.

1
Jul

The upper and the lower limits…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

The upper and lower limits of what, you ask?

Of your iman (faith), of course.

[I know, I know. The title sounded sort of calculusish.]

Let me explain.

Generally, our days can be categorised as good days, bad days and so-so days.

Now, when people say “I had a really good day today”, they usually mean from a dunya (worldly) perspective.

However, we need to look at our days from the akhirah (hereafter) perspective.

So, for example, perhaps a person got married on Feb 1st 2011. She would call it a great day.

However, let’s assume that she didn’t pray all day. Was that a good day, iman-wise? No, it was a horrible day!

So, from the akhirah perspective, that was a very bad day.

Let me give you another example. Suppose a person lost his job on March 23rd 2010. However, when he heard the news, he was patient, did dua (supplication) and remained steadfast in his ibaadah (worship).

Was this a bad day? Dunya-wise, yes, because he is now unemployed. Akhirah-wise, no, because he remained patient in the face of a trial. And as the akhirah is what ultimately counts, this was a good day.

Of course, one should also understand that everyone has a different perspective on what makes a day great (iman-wise).

For some people, praying all 5 prayers (within their times) is a GREAT day. For others, a great day is praying the fard (obligatory) and the rawaatib (voluntary) prayers. Just praying the fard would be a “low iman” day for them.

So, everyone has an “upper limit” and they also have a “lower limit”. The upper limit would be the high iman days and the lower limit would be the low iman days.

So, what am I trying to say?

Okay, let’s take this step by step so as to makes things clearer:

[Such are the (very) few days where I actually miss teaching. It would have taken me 5 minutes to explain this on a whiteboard.]

1) Everyone should know what their upper and lower limits are.

What does “high iman” mean to you? What days are those? Are they fairly frequent or do they just occur in Ramadan?

What does “low iman” mean to you? What days are those? Are they fairly frequent and what type of incidents lead to these days occurring?

To summarise: We should all know what our high/low iman moments are what causes them.

Once we know what causes them, we can try to avoid what causes the low iman days and we can try to move towards what causes the high iman days.

2) The higher limits should get higher.

Let’s take Person A.

Let’s suppose that on Person A’s best (iman) days, he prays all five fard prayers. Now he needs to take it to another level. He needs to try to pray all the 12 rawaatib prayers as well.

So pretty soon, insha-Allah, he’ll be praying all the 12 rawaatib on his best days.

Therefore, the days that he doesn’t pray them will go from being “great” to “so-so”.

3) The lower limits should get higher too.

What?

Let me explain.

Let’s assume that on Person A’s worst days, he does not pray all five prayers. He needs to make sure that his iman never dips that low ever again.

So, he’ll try to make sure that he always pray 5 times a day NO MATTER WHAT.

So, his bad days will be…less bad. Sorry, I’m not sure how else to phrase that.

4) The difference between the good days and bad days should keep getting less.

Sometimes, our iman levels tend to look like this, and they shouldn’t.

They shouldn’t be bobbing up and down that way.

Yes, iman increases and decreases and it’s not going to be a straight line i.e. we will have days of high iman and other days of not-so-high iman.

However, I’ve seen people who pray ALL the prayers (fard, rawaatib, nawafil, tahajjud) on their high iman days.

And on their low iman days? They don’t pray AT ALL.

And that’s just ridiculous. It shouldn’t be that way at all. The difference should not be that huge.

5) A Pictorial Summary of the whole rambling post.

[Please be easy on me. I’m not an artist.]

[Oh and please ignore the fact that the lines are getting longer. That’s just my dreadful drawing skills.]

So, here are Person A’s initial days:

As you can see, his lower limit is…quite low. His upper limit is okay. However, there’s a large gap between the two.

Person A improves his best iman days and also improves his worst iman days (by making sure that it’s not as bad as before). So, both his upper and lower limits are higher:

So, the two lines are higher and are also closer together (meaning that there is less of a difference between his best and his worst days).

Now, suppose that Person A strives harder and tries to improve more, also making sure that his iman does not bob up and down to the degree that it used to:

So, the two lines are both higher and are much closer together.

Now, Person A strives EVEN more. He wants to get better. So now his upper and lower limits look like this:

As you can see, his high iman days are much better than before, as are his low iman days.

In fact, his current “low iman” days are much better than his previous “high iman” days!

Also, there isn’t as big a difference between his good days and his bad days, as there was before.

So, that’s basically what we need to do: strive hard so that we can improve the quality and quantity of our ibaadah and increase the level of our iman. We also need to more consistent.

[I really hope that the whole post made sense. In my defense, I tried. I even made a few nice diagrams.]

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.

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?