Making Gatherings Meaningful in Ramadan

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We are reminded all the time that Ramadan is a month like no other… and therefore, should not be treated like a normal month. It’s hours, minutes and seconds are precious… and yet, with Ramadan traditionally comes iftar invites, sehri gatherings, sports events and the like. And with that, potentially, the usual chit chat, time-passing and other things that are often not so fruitful.

So how can we marry the two? I have put together a list of ways we can change this gatherings into ibadah, Inshallah, if we do it right! Some are the usual ones, and hopefully some may be some new ideas for you 🙂

  • Clarify your niyyah

It is highly recommend to feed others during this month, and so inviting people over for Iftar is a great way to fulfil this. But whether you are inviting others, or going somewhere yourself, ensuring that your intention is to do it because it is an act that pleases Allah will hopefully bring blessings into your evening. Even if you go to play sports, clarifying your intention that you are doing it to keep your body healthy during this month, so that you can serve Allah in other ways, will allow you to transform that sport into worship.

  • Don’t overdo it

Now that your intention is sorted, it is important to remember that balance is important. Moderation is the way in Islam, and this is the same. There is no need to attend every event that is going on, or accept every invite. It is OK to be choosy and attend a select few which you think will be beneficial for you

  • Have a talk

Last night I attended a wonderful family gathering where we got together to celebrate the birthday of Imam Hasan (as), as well as enjoy some quality time together with cousins. The highlight of the evening was a short talk by a cousin, which was simple, practical and very effective. Adding meaning to a gathering by a short talk is a wonderful way to bless the occasion!

  • Share goals for the month

One lovely thing to do – especially closer to the beginning of the Holy month – is to identify and share at least one goal for yourself for Ramadan. We did this in a friend’s group one year, and found that hearing other’s goals not only inspired us but helped us clarify our own, and motivated us to see it through! To top it all off, the hostess gifted us a little notebook for penning down these goals and other reflections during the month, and had blessed it with a personalised message for each of us!

  • Share a hadith each

If you feel a talk is too formal, or perhaps no one attending can give a talk, then another great way to get everyone learning as well is to ask all coming to bring a hadith to share. When we did this at a gathering of friends recently, we found that the hadith that everyone chose to bring really inspiring and led to some great discussions!

Here is one of the hadith shared – very aptly 😉

  • Share any other info – a favourite verse, a favourite line of a dua, a new Quranic dua you want to learn, one thing they have learnt so far, etc!

In the same vein, why not branch out and give guests a little fun homework! So they can bring a favourite verse that they like, or their favourite line of dua, a new Quranic dua they want to learn to recite in their Qunoots, or even one thing they have learnt so far in the Holy month.

Somebody hosted a themed iftar last year – the theme was ‘His Love is in the Air’ 🙂 All the friends were actually asked to do all four of the suggestions above! Furthermore, they were asked to present it nicely, but were not told why. When everyone had eaten, they began sharing their four things and showing what they had put together. Once each person shared what they had chosen and why it was meaningful to them (which was beautiful in itself!), they picked a name out of a hat and in line with the verse, “You will not attain piety until you spend of what you love; and whatever thing you spend, Allah knows of it.” (3:92), they then were asked to gift their presentation of their favourite verse/dua etc, to that person whom they picked.

Then in line with Allah’s promise of giving us more when we give something, they each got a little something as a gift. The gifts were little things to do with the kitchen and home, such as a cake tin, worktop saver, etc, but each item had a small dua to go with it! So for example, with a tray, the message read: “A tray can hold so many things and requires a balancing act to carry! This Ramadan, may you put all of your prayers and problems on Allah’s tray and leave the balancing to Him!” and so on…

Alhamd it was a lovely evening filled with the remembrance of Allah in the most beautiful, personal way.

P.S. Here is the poster I got! It was so cleverly done, with pictures to symbolise each of the four things, and the text behind.

  • Discuss a good book

Last year we started a book club, and held our first sehri during the month of Ramadan. The book was secular, but had lots of links to Islam and as we all shared our thoughts and relevant hadith on the topic, it felt like a beautiful session with God at it’s center. Why not choose a book a month in advance, and set a date to discuss it during a gathering?

(P.S. This wasn’t the book we read for Ramadan, this came later… but you get the gist ;))

  • Hold an event for a greater cause

There is a group in our community who host a beautiful iftar every Ramadan, and it’s ultimate goal is to raise money for charity. We pay tickets to the event, and there are raffles sold with lots of people donating their services as prizes; lots of money is raised, and an evening of community building and fun is had in the process!

  • Top it all off with Sadaqah!

And lastly, a lovely way to top it all off is to encourage giving when people attend a gathering. For younger children, inviting them to bring in food to donate to a food bank, or new gifts to give to refugees or the sick, is a lovely way to incorporate charity into an event. For adults, having a sadaqah box present on the table alongside the food, and inviting people to donate to a cause is also a lovely idea.

Have you had any meaningful gatherings during Ramadan? Please do share!

Build bridges this Ramadhan

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Alhamd, had a chance to write for The Muslim Vibe 🙂 I really really believe in this – hope you will too!

“Islamophobia is rife. Sorry to start off with such a cliché, fear-mongering line but it is the unfortunate truth that in this day and age Muslims are very often getting a raw deal, and attacks on mosques and women wearing the hijab are happening all too often.

There is very little the common person can do to change the over-arching factors that fuel this. As much as I (and all of you) would like to tell ISIS and other terrorists to just STOP (to put it nicely), and the media to quit propagating their biased nonsense, chances are this is not going to happen. There are a few amazing individuals amongst us who have climbed up to places of influence, and whose articles and news clips reach far and wide, and for that we are grateful. But for the vast majority of us, that is unreachable. We tend to sign petitions, share articles on Facebook, and go to marches, but the undeniable truth is that at the end of the day, just as charity begins at home, so does sharing the true Islam. We need to work on a grass-roots level, and reach out to the people that see us and come in contact with us daily. We need to build bridges.

This gives me hope! We can do something instead of shaking our heads and wondering what next… in fact, we can do a lot. We can affect the hearts of minds of people like the Prophet did – by being the best example:

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad SAW) you have a good example to follow…”

Sura Al-Ahzab, Verse 21.

The great thing is, we can get the whole family involved! What better way to teach our children how to interact with the outside world, than role modelling it for them and encouraging them to join in.

Below are a few ideas that I’ve put together to encourage us to reach out at touch the people and community around us. These ideas are all centred around Ramadhan and Eid – Alhamdulillah, Ramadhan is featuring more and more in the media today, so why not capitalise on that and let people know the deeper meanings behind what we do and why. Indeed, what better month to reach out and connect with others than this one, when we are encouraged to do good and truly practise the high moral values of our beautiful faith? In fact, in Sura Baqarah, in verse 185 that was revealed about Ramadhan and the Quran, it says “guidance to mankind”; Nouman Ali Khan explains this perfectly – the fact that it says Naas, i.e. mankind in general, means we should share the blessings of this month with the non-Muslims around us, whether directly or indirectly!

It is my sincere hope and prayer that by doing this, even if we have softened the heart of just one person, it has been worthwhile. So come on ostriches, let’s get our heads out of the sand, reach out and start building those bridges! …”

1. Give out dates in school

This idea combines several objectives in one! To reach out to the teachers and admin of school and let them know about the month of Ramadan, as well as a little bit about why we break our fasts with dates. It also lets them know that the children may be fasting, and what to expect during this time – that they won’t be taking part in PE, for example. I find giving a plate or jar of dates so much prettier and fun than just a boring old note, don’t ya think?!

dates in school 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year, we also gave out date plates to other Muslim parents in the school – again, a great way to build bridges between us and other sects at a time when divide and rule seems to be prevalent and negativity is growing within the ummah itself.

By the way, if you’re like me and not very creative design-wise, there are SO many giveaways and freebies out on the internet for Ramadan Mubarak tags and labels – ideal for just downloading and printing off. Like this one. Here are some more examples of date jars and plates for inspiration also.

2. Share Ramadan

This is a great initiative that encourages people to literally ‘share’ Ramadan with others by inviting them to try fasting for a day and having them over for iftaar. I loved the concept when I heard of it, but wasn’t sure if I could try it out myself. Being a work-from-home mum, the only non-Muslims I come into contact with regularly and know quite well these days are school mums. With the long summer day fasts, I felt reluctant to ask them to fast knowing well that many of them work and have to deal with their kids, etc, and so decided not to try it. This all changed through a conversation with one of these mums at school! We were talking about Ramadan and fasting, and she said she had read about the health benefits of fasting and how it sounded great. That gave me the courage to reach out and put out feelers for this – and the response was overwhelmingly positive!

In the end I had four mums over for iftaar after a day of fasting and it ended up being one of the highlights of my month. We ate, we drank (juice, of course), we laughed, and we talk about Ramadan and fasting and much much more. Alhamdulillah, they, and others who couldn’t make it last time, are all willing to do it again this year. I had better start planning the menu!

If you’re interested, you can read more about my experience here.

iftar with non-muslims

 

3. Give charity – Smile 🙂

Okay so this one may sound cheesy, but it is SO important that we reach out to others through all forms of communication, including non-verbal. Charity is highly recommended in this month, and the Prophet said even a smile is charity, so there you go! Especially when we’re fasting in these long hot summer months, it is easy to be grumpy and not very forthcoming, but I always just keep this verse in mind about how the Prophet drew people to him, and to our faith:

“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon for them…”

Sura Ale-Imran, Verse 159.

Smiling is such a universal form of communication, you can do it everywhere and with anyone. When I moved here from the US some odd 14 years ago, I promised myself that I would bring some of the American friendliness to the streets of London. I have to admit, it’s been hard – especially when people don’t always smile back – but hey, at least I’ve done my part. I mean, if they are going to have judgments of me being a ‘towel-head’ or a ‘terrorist’ anyway, I might as well be a smiley one!

4. Give out Eid cards to the neighbours

For many years now, we have given our neighbours cards and a little something on Eid. At first, I used to include a little paragraph on what we did in the month, and why we celebrate Eid, but I figured that by now they know all that and so we just give them cards made especially for neighbours by Buzz Ideazz that have either a verse or hadith about neighbours in Islam now. Just something small to show what the true Islam says!

We go give these cards and gifts as a family, and it has enabled us to build such great relationships with them, Alhamdulillah. They look after our house when we’re on holiday, and reciprocate with presents for the children at Christmas time. The very first time we gave such a card to a neighbour, they came by the next day and gave us a card back, and thanked us for sharing our religion with them! My sister started doing this too, and has since been invited over for tea by her Jewish neighbours. Alhamdulillah – as I said at the beginning, one person/family at a time.

neighbour cards

Sometimes I hear people say, “I’m not going to do that, my neighbours are awful”… to that I would say that there is even MORE reason to reach out and give them cards. To receive love and goodness, we must give love and goodness. Isn’t our history full of that? Take the example of the lady who threw rubbish at the Prophet. He responded by visiting her when she was ill and asking after her, and she, overwhelmed with his goodness, became a Muslim. Enough said.

5. Why stop at the neighbours? Give out Eid cards to community institutions as well!

Another tradition we started a few years ago was honouring the institutions in the community that serve us. We go to drop off an Eid card and box of chocolates to the police station, fire station, doctor’s office, library, and even the postman! In the card and personally, we make sure to thank them for everything they do for us. Last year, we saw our card up in the library wall for ages after – another bridge built, Inshallah!

eid with police

 

6. Let your children give out Eid cards to their teachers and classmates.

And finally, let your children start reaching out from now too! My son always used to complain that his school had a little postbox at Christmas time, and all his friends were giving out cards to celebrate their festival, and why couldn’t he? So Buzz Ideazz created little Kidzz cards which they can now give out to their classmates and teacher for Eid! There is also a range of inter-faith Christmas cards for classes too, but that’s for another article ;).

Don’t forget, anything that goes to the children goes to their parents too, so in this way we are reaching out to many more people too. I have had parents approach me to say thank you for the card and wish me, but what I will never forget is how a (non-Muslim) friend of my son’s was so touched by the card that he went home and made a card for him in return. Even more poignant were the words he had written on the front – ‘Joyful! Wonderful! Spiritual! Family time! Present time!’ Eid summarised in a perfect few words indeed!

eid with friends 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s all for now, folks. It would be great to hear from you – if you have any more ideas to add to this list, I would love to hear it! Please comment below or drop me a line with all your ideas on buzzproductzz@gmail.com.

Until the next time, Inshallah – and in the meantime, have fun building those bridges!”

Here is the link to the main article.

Ramadan articles for us parents!

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And how about these great articles for us parents? From not ‘feeling’ Ramadhan and remembering what worship really means, to suggestions to use our time well, here is a round up of my favourite articles for US!

For parents who spend time doing Ramadan crafts with kids and decorate the house. Good job to you for putting in the efforts to make Ramadan kid-friendly and attractive.

For parents who don’t do Ramadan crafts or decorate the house. Good job to you too for sparing time for more Quran, conversations and prayer reflections with kids, which don’t need any photo uploads at all.

For parents who bring children to masjid for teraweeh. Good job for your courage and introducing the masjid to your children.

For parents who don’t go masjid but perform teraweeh at home. Good job for showing your children that teraweeh can also be done at home at your own time, and that reflection of Allah can be done anywhere.

For parents who encourage your children to fast all day. Good job to you for educating your children about the merits of fasting.

For parents whose children can’t fast all day, but only half or quarter days. Good job to you because you know it’s not wajib at their age, and you’ve shown your patience and compassion towards the kids’ growing physical needs.

For parents who continue with their usual kids’ outings, playdates, activities in Ramadan, good job to you for this effort to show that Ramadan does not mean life stops, but carry on as usual.

For parents who slow down in kids’ activities. Good job to you as you understand kids need rest while fasting. You too need a rest.

For parents who cook special food specially for Ramadan. Good job to you as your kids will remember Ramadan as special because of yummy and nutritious iftar. Serving your family earns great rewards from Allah.

For parents who cook the usual daily menu which you normally cook outside Ramadan, good job to you too. You don’t spend too much time in the kitchen and instead, spend more time to dzikir, read Quran and du’a for the family.

For parents who can perform charity and donate to masjid and guide your children to do the same, good job to you for showing that in Ramadan, we can be extra generous to earn His Blessings.

For parents who cannot give much to charity as you’re already struggling to pay your children’s medical bills, basic needs and bills. Good job to you too because your children learn that charity begins at home, for family first and that paying for your children’s basic needs is already a charitable act with great rewards from Allah.

Every family is different, unique and have different needs. Do not compare one family’s Ramadan experiences with another. Do not feel bad if you perceive the other family is “doing more”. What you see on social media is not the same as what Allah sees. Whatever we do, do it with the right intention to please Allah. May Allah ease our affairs, accept the good from us and forgive our sins in this blessed month.

 

 

Some thoughts on Laylatul Qadr for us mums...

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Sometimes, it can be quite hard to get the balance right in terms of ensuring our children realise the value of the nights and benefit from it, and our own personal responsibilities. So how can we ensure this balance is maintained?

  • One way is to prepare the necessary materials for them, but then to leave them to it! Here is what one mum said:

“The last two Laylatul Qadr nights have come and gone, and one thing I realised quite early on is that if our children are staying up (or trying to), they can take up quite a lot of our time… while I was trying to help them with all the little bits and bobs (as well as answer questions, get them comfortable, etc), I was also very conscious of the precious minutes ticking away.

So tonight I am going to dedicate a little time to them to get them started, but then I am going to leave them to it, whatever they choose to do. Because tonight is about me and my God. Inshallah they will have many years ahead of them to benefit from this awesome night, but right now they are not even baaligh yet and it is MY responsibility to pray for them tonight.

The balance between helping them and helping ourselves is hard, and may Allah give us the tawfeeq to get it right! May we utilise this night to the max, and may we feel the ‘Salaam’ coming down on us Inshallah.”

  • Here is an excellent resource for mums to prepare:

Share Ramadan - My experience...

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Alhamdulillah, I am SO grateful to be writing this post 🙂

So yesterday I had a chance to #shareramadan!

I loved the concept when i came across it but was hesitant to invite my busy mummy/working school mum friends to try the fast given the long, hot summer days (the majority of people on the fb page seem to be young men with no children to look after!). But then a random conversation with one of the mums steered on to fasting and how she’d actually be interested to try it… and that was that!

I made my niyyat and decided to take the plunge. I invited a few school mums that I was close to to have iftaar at my home, and Alhamd, they were all enthusiastic to do it! Some that couldn’t make it still said how they would have loved to have been able to try it, and one even mentioned that she herself had heard about the health benefits of fasting and was already thinking about it!

In the end four mums could do it – I sent them some tips, such as eating a night meal and what kind of slow-energy releasing foods to have, to drink lots the night before and taking naps if possible during the day. I also clarified that they should do however much they could – and that even if they didn’t fast but just joined me for dinner, that was fine too! I suggested different options, such as having a fluid only fast, or having breakfast and then starting…

Yesterday began, and as I checked in with them I learned that one mum (a mum of 4 children under the age of 6 might I add) had actually woken up at 2.30am to eat something – and not only that, her 6 year old daughter had woken with her and was fasting at school until lunch time! She had decided to throw her heart into it and do it properly and wasn’t even having any water. Another had had breakfast and then was starting, and the other two were having limited fluids.

A check in at pick-up found the ladies doing well…starting to feel it a bit but still alive and kicking! Actually one of the mums who was having liquids was positively glowing . A last check in close to iftaar time they were feeling it more, with one feeling a bit hot and clammy after a long nap, and the other feeling a quite cold! Our bodies react in different ways, don’t they?!

They arrived home at 9.15 and we chatted until the Azaan clock went off, They broke their fasts with a date, and I told them to make a prayer that was close to their hearts because that was the best time to do so… And then we ate! It was such a lovely evening, with lots of different conversation topics including the benefits of fasting, the whole sorry situation in the Middle East just now, what further studies they were undertaking and general getting to know each other a bit more, and of course – lots of school talk!

Alhamdulillah, it was a great experience for all of us. I was grateful to be able to share something so important to me and appreciated that they had ventured out of their comfort zone to try this not-at-all-easy task, and they were grateful that I had reached out and invited them into this part of my life, and that they had experienced and learnt something new and also for the meal, of course :).

It’s definitely a tradition I plan on keeping, Inshallah – and they are already up for it for next year!

P.S. I have asked them to pen their thoughts and experiences from the day and they will try and do so in a bit more detail, but here are some snippets of emails:

“Thanks for yesterday. It was really inspiring. So great of u to share all this.”
“Was an amazing experience.”

Ramadan: Becoming a World Cup winner - the Muslim way!

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The World Cup Final is today! As we prepare ourselves to watch this culmination of the last few weeks of matches, here are some thoughts to ponder upon by Nazmina Dhanji (penned by Shaheen Merali).

It is World Cup season at the moment; a special time which only comes once every four years. Everything has a season, if we look at it. Agriculture has its seasons, for example there is a certain time to weed, to prepare the soil to plant the seeds, to irrigate it and finally to reap the fruits and harvest it. Studies have seasons too – there is a time for learning, then a time for revising, a time for exam taking and then a time for rest. Likewise, our relationship with Allah has seasons. There is a time for centering ourselves and returning to Allah (Hajj), a time for irrigating our hearts with tears and learning from the sacrifices of our Aimma (Muharram), a time for putting our learning into action, and there is Ramadhan. What do you think this is a season for?

Allah tells us the purpose of the season of Ramadhan in the Quran: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become God-Conscious.” (2:183) The key word to look at here is ‘may’, or otherwise translated as ‘perhaps’. As with those who enter the football competition, there is no guarantee as to who will be successful!

Just like the goal of the World Cup is the trophy and title of winner at the end, so our goal in this month should be taqwa, God-Consciousness, and this should be lasting in us even after the month is over, just like the title holders are known as the World Cup winners forever.

Some may attain this goal, and some may not; but Allah’s doors and the opportunity to try is open to all. Will we make it past the qualifying round? It all depends on what we put in. The teams for this competition have dedicated full-time training to the cause, starting way before the actual competition. Did we start thinking and spiritually preparing before the month (and not just filling our freezers)?

Winning teams go in with the attitude that they WILL make it to the end – no winning team started off expecting to go out in the first round – they were in it for the win. They are fully committed to the game and love it with a passion – rough and filled with knocks and injuries as it may be. Likewise, the winners in the eyes of Allah are those that embrace this month of fasting with all it’s hardships – knowing that it will be well worth it in the end.

During the period of the competition they ensure they keep up with their intense training and exercises, not allowing anything to distract them; similarly, those who succeed in this month ensure they keep distractions to a minimum (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, social events, TV, etc) and keep up their Ibadah to a high level.

Unlike the World Cup winners though, who will only go home with a certain amount of money, a trophy and status for a while, the winners with Allah will be given from an unlimited and undefined bank – He is Al-Jawad and Al-Wahaab, He just keeps on increasing and giving. Not only that, but in Hadith-e-Qudsi Allah says “Al-Sawmu lee wa ana ujuzi’u bihi” which can be translated in two ways. It can mean “Fasting is for Me and its reward is with Me” or even better, “Fasting is for Me and I am its reward.” In essence, Allah is saying leave the reward to His discretion – we cannot even begin to put a price tag on it and it is proportionate to our efforts. What an amazing thing to work towards!

In the few weeks that remain of this fantastic season, let us remind ourselves of the goal and work towards that. Fasting is not the goal in itself, just like playing football for the sake of playing isn’t the ultimate goal. The goal is to win, and gain an awareness of God’s presence that ultimately affects our thoughts and actions for the better during this month and beyond.

May Allah give us the tawfeeq to win in this month, Inshallah!

Guest Post: Harmonizing Motherhood With Spirituality

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Ramadan is often a time when mothers, especially those with young children, feel at a loss and unable to maximise on the month. Nazmina Dhanji talks about this spiritual vacuum and how to still connect with Allah despite the challenges.

Motherhood is a role much emphasised in Islam, be it the respect due to mothers or the responsibility that comes with it or even just the gravity of the post itself. From a child’s point of view, the mother is their first deity – before they even know their Creator, she is the one who sustains them, clothes them, and ultimately connects them to Allah. It is only fitting therefore that we give just as much importance to a mother’s spirituality, in how to fuel her for such an important job of nurturing little human beings. In order to bring up righteous children, and remain motivated for her role as a mother, it is absolutely essential for her to maintain her spirituality and connection with Allah.

For nine months she ate the best Halal, home-cooked food. She read Qur’an day and night, recited lots of du’as and tasbihs, prayed a full nine months of salaat without breaks in between, remained positive and at peace and wonderment with her Maker that He had put this life inside her. She felt sick and tired but the thought of the rewards and perks in Jannah that lay reserved for a mother kept her going. Then suddenly – a spiritual vaccum! Along with her precious gift came sleepless nights, leaving her half-dead and just about able to pray Fajr, let alone the extra du’as or tasbih. Her Qur’an is reduced to short surahs read on her baby, and her frequenting of mosque is greatly diminished. No more time for Du’a e Kumayl or Du’a e Tawassul – she barely manages the wajib.

Everything has changed and yet her job is to remain on top of it all and ooze out positive energy for the sake of her child and her milk. It is very important to maintain those positive vibes since the emotions of a mother affect the child. The great scholar Ibn Arabi saw a direct correlation between his own relationship with Allah and his relationship with his children, saying: ‘I am kindest to my children when I am closest to Allah’. But how to achieve this closeness when she has the baby blues to contend with on top of her spiritual vacuum?

Allah, has given us great clues when He has bent the rules a little for women and excused them from certain things. Apart from the Wajib, he has made everything else Mustahab and secondary to looking after her children, nor is it necessary for her to earn her livelihood, nor attend Friday or congregational prayers outside of her home. This shows us that we are to derive strength and energy from the wajib acts themselves. Even if the bare minimum is all we can manage, then we must make it count by letting it be our very best. See that wajib salaat as a time-out, take deep breaths, and make the whole experience last, pour our hearts out to Allah in Sajda and gain strength for the next part of the day. As for the extra du’as, remember that they are Mustahab, and they are there to teach us how to ask Allah so that we may articulate our wants ourselves eventually. The best du’a is that which flows from the heart and onto the tongue. That is the very best way to maintain the closeness and dialogue with Allah – to speak to Him directly and ask Him for every little thing – the strength, the energy, the colic to stop, the milk to flow, the baby to sleep, the child to be righteous, etc…

There are also other clues scattered in the various ahadeeth that tell us of a mother’s reward for waking up in the middle of the night being like one who stays awake the whole night in vigil in Jihad, or the number of thawaab accorded for every drop of milk fed, or how our slate is wiped clean when we give birth, etc… All these clues point to the very poignant fact that Allah does not expect us to get closer to Him through the same means we used to pre-motherhood. Mothers are not expected to maintain the same type of spirituality that they achieved previously – sure we can listen to lectures online and have the du’as playing in the car, and recite Qur’an as we teach our children, but more importantly, He has promoted us to the status of motherhood and a different type of spirituality that comes with the territory. He has also given us the tools necessary to maintain that spirituality – our children. They are the new means by which we get closer to Him. Our job now is NOT to seek a way to perform ritual acts or pray in spite of our children, or to side-step them in an effort to reconnect with Allah. Rather we are to involve them and seek a way to Allah through them.

We know that when done with the intention of seeking the pleasure of Allah, every little act in their upbringing becomes an act of worship. However, the greatest thing a mother can do to fuel herself to bring up her children on the right path and for the growth of her own soul, is to be connected to Allah through her thoughts in the simple things in her day. Here are a few examples to illustrate this:

 -When she feels that intense feeling of love for her child inside her heart, she must connect it back to Allah and think about how much He must love us since He has created us

-When she hears her child calling out for her, or crying to be fed, or looking at her longingly asking for his toy, she melts at the sweetness of his call or the look in his eyes. For her to think at that moment how much Allah in turn must love to hear our voices asking Him for something with sincerity, and for her to then ask of Him in that very moment that she fulfils her child’s need would greatly boost her connection to Allah.

-When she sees her child trying to crawl, sit up unaided, hold a spoon, try to fit a piece of a puzzle, the urge is there to do it for him and intervene in the process. But she knows she must let him do it himself or she will stunt his growth like the man who snips the cocoon to help the butterfly in its struggle, only to stunt it and lead to its destruction. Again she must let all those moments remind her of Allah’s special love and care for us when He does not intervene, allowing us our space to make mistakes and grow, and fuelling us with the patience we will need later on as we mother them in their teens.

-When she experiences the amazing feeling of being needed by a little human being, she must again reflect back to how great Allah’s bounties are on us when He is absolutely needless of us, and we are so needy of Him. That is enough to fill her heart with gratitude to Him.

– When her child disobeys her, throws tantrums, is ungrateful, does the complete opposite of everything she has so lovingly taught him, she should let it be a reminder of how awful it must be for our Creator to have us disobey Him when He has fashioned us with His own hands and loves us seventy times more than we love our own children. He is the Master of the universe and these little creatures with no knowledge whatsoever dare to challenge His authority, wisdom and better judgment. We know it feels horrible to be disobeyed – let’s not do it to our Creator and Maker.

 This level of contemplation and connection to Allah is real life-changing spirituality that can come along as a by-product of motherhood. This is where a mother’s wisdom, her insight, and her status come from – only when she uses the gift of motherhood to get closer to Allah.

NOTE: This beautiful short video clip complements the article above perfectly!

Guest Post: Laylatul Qadr and the Olympics

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This post was written by Nazmina Dhanji at the time of the London Olympics, 2012. 

As I’ve sat these last few nights leading up to the 23rd night of Ramadhan, pondering on ‘Wa maa adraaka maa Laylatul Qadr’ – ‘and what in the world will possibly make you fathom what Laylatul Qadr is?’ – this rhettorical question leaves us all baffled, and yet it challenges us to ponder and to ask ourselves what it really signifies, what did our Prophet say about its significance, and what does it signify in our lives today.

These are just some of my own personal musings that have been going on in my head as I have been watching the Olympics, that I thought I’d pen down. As I watched Jessica Ennis go through all the trials of her heptathlon in her bid for Gold, and Mo Farah push himself to outrun his competitors in the 10000m, and Usain Bolt fly with such ease and jog the rest of the way, while the world watched on in this global arena, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between an olympic athlete striving to prove himself and us.

Jess Ennis and all such athletes describe their winning moment as the best night of their lives, the best moment ever felt, that their whole career and training and struggles have culminated into this one momentous day when they’ve put their heart and soul and focused all their energy thus far on this one point. They may have outdone their personal best at other points during the year, during their training, but this is one night when they have to prove it in front of millions of spectators. This is no longer the comfort of their own gym, but a global arena staged especially for them. They are guests in London, and the world’s eyes are on them. They must shine and impress these all-powerful, watchful judges. One step over the line in a long jump, and the red flag goes up…one foot outside the box on the trampoline and they’re penalised. Today, they cannot afford to slack, to make mistakes, to be careless. Their attitude is everything.

There are athletes who focus too much on their competitors, looking sideways as they run, but losing focus at the same time. There are others who are not fully confident of themselves to begin with, dwelling too much on their losses in Beijing and past failures, not trusting in the judges’ ability to overlook past faults, there are others still who simply cant push themselves past a certain threshold, and yet others who find any excuse to back out at the last minute. There are those who allow the pressure and length of the competition to get to them, or those who don’t pace themselves and run out of juice too soon, or those who do not admit their own shortcomings and weaknesses, but are hell-bent on blaming their competitors or the judges themselves for having misjudged! Then there are those who muster all their strength and courage together, who trust in the judge’s capable skills, and who do their absolute best. Their eyes are only one goal (gold), spurred on by their fans, and by the promise of a reward at the end. They know it is in their hands to make this the best night of their life, a night that will determine their future careers as top athletes or as advertisers for the best sporting brands.

This is exactly how we must be (in my humble opinion)…focused and striving with all our might on a night like this. This is actually the best night of our lives thus far…for there is absolutely no certainty that we will be alive to see next year’s Laylatul Qadr (‘ibadah marathon). All our years since buloogh culminate into this one night. Between last year (Beijing) and this year, a lot has happened, and we need to prove to the Judge that we are in our best form now. We prove to Him that we are serious competitors, focused, strong, willing to learn from past mistakes, and trusting in Him (our Coach, Manager, Judge, and biggest fan along with all the angels that pour into our arena to watch us perform on this night). However, we are not here to outdo each other, nor to look sideways at who’s doing what. Instead, we pull each other along, and pray for each other to succeed more than ourselves. And our goal is simply to prove to our Judge that we appreciate His favour, His grace, His kindness upon us, and to revel in the Glory of the Night, to worship Him alone, to focus all our energy on attaining that forgiveness and the ‘gold’, confident that He will bestow it on whoever reaches out for it, from His unlimited stock. Our performance tonight determines our year and our future ahead too.

Are we of those who simply can’t be bothered? Are we easily dejected and lacking in confidence, half-heartedly throwing our javelin? Will we out to outdo our first attempt (19th night) and 2nd attempt (21st night)? Are we of the callibre of the Asafa Powells of the athletic world who despite pulling a hamstring etc…still do their absolute best to finish? Or do we take any excuse to sit on the sidelines, happy to be substituted? Are we good sportsmen who wish the same for our teammates and fellow competitors, or do we try and trip them up on their way (God forbid)? Are we runners and athletes who have plenty of energy and plenty of drive but are running in the opposite direction? Do we know our goal? Are we completely focused on it? How doe we focus on it?

Personally it helps me a lot to remember certain facts about this night, that the point of this night is to gather myself together and FOCUS:

-The nights of the month of Ramadhan are the best of all the nights in the year (focal point) ‘Layaalihi afdal al-Layali’.

-Laylatul Qadr is the best night in the whole month (even more focused in)

-and the best night in our whole lives (khayrun min alfi shahr)…. So it is the crux of the crux of the crux. The mother of all nights. The greatest of nights in Allah’s eyes. Best of all nights in one’s life.

-And He chose this night to send down therein the greatest thing in existence – The Qur’an.

– Qur’an from qa-ra-‘a: to combine, to gather, to join. It combines all knowledge from the first to the last. Combination and sum total of all divine books. Furqan – distinguisher between truth and falsehood.The holiest book, that combines all knowledge past and present, all the divines books, that gathers within it all knowledge, all light, all guidance. Al-noor al-muhammadi – first of creation – al-qalam, or noon, or ‘aql. All of these are one and the same thing, which is the Word of Allah, the noor of Allah.

– And he sent it down to the noble heart of His chosen Prophet – the last of all prophets, the seal of all prophets, the sum of all prophets.

-Through great hoards of angels and the Rooh (focal point of angels)

So the secret of this night is in the JAM’ (gathering together) or FOCUSING. Everything is to do with that – to do with tawheed, using all our resources, all our talents, all our qualities, all our ‘ilm, all our energy and experiences and knowledge thus far to home in on our ultimate goal. We can connect with this night if we focus within ourselves, gather ourselves together; not if our attention is diverted and scattered to various things: business, desires, food, people, friends, grudges. It is to escape from diversity and multiplicity to one focal point and tawhid, in all our faculties; to decide what we want from here onwards, and to show the Judge, the ONE!

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