Monthly Archives: June 2018

Happiness – a state of mind or a milestone?

By Maha Amjad

Everyone is searching for happiness; but is happiness really a destination or a journey?

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Standing in front of the university crowd, all glammed up for the farewell, she was asked to give a word of advice. All her thoughts about prompting them to understand the word of God went out of her mind amidst the discussion about their search for happiness.

She stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “happiness should not be associated with events and moments, rather it should be a consistent way of life.” This stirred up another round of debate; an inconclusive one at that because all participants were still searching for happiness.

A few days later, she heard this verse of the Quran:

 وَإِذَا أَذَقْنَا النَّاسَ رَحْمَةً فَرِحُوا بِهَا ۖ وَإِنْ تُصِبْهُمْ سَيِّئَةٌ بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ إِذَا هُمْ يَقْنَطُونَ

And when We let the people taste mercy, they rejoice therein, but if evil afflicts them for what their hands have put forth, immediately they despair. (Sura Ar-Rum, Ayah 36) (Sahih International).

Allah SWT is describing the behaviour of the general populace. They usually swing between two extreme emotions. They are either rejoicing over the blessings that Allah SWT has bestowed on them or they become depressed over that which they don’t have. 

There is another set of people who are excluded from the addressees, they are the Mumineen; those who are grateful over their blessings and are patient over their hardships. They are rewarded for their patience (Sabr) and this makes them content and happy even during the difficult patches of their life.

This Ayah dispels all ambiguities surrounding the concept of happiness. As long as everything is going according to what man aspires for, he tends to be happy. But this does not always happen. Life is a test and we are tested through people and situations. And the moment someone states something against our liking, we tend to become unhappy. Similarly, if we had a blessing; the perfect job or the perfect relationship and according to the plan of nature it was taken away from us at its destined time, we become depressed. So how can we overcome this human weakness of associating happiness with material things and perfect situations?

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Ask yourself truthfully, when was the last time you were truly happy?
Was it the day you received your degree?
Or the day you got that specific award?
What happened next? Where did the bubble of happiness go?  

Yes, it was just that a bubble, a facade. That was not true happiness. Happiness is in fact not a destination to reach one day. It is a product of how we live our lives and what our actions make us feel.

Happiness stems from gratitude; the more we realise our own blessings, the more content we shall be. We need to look at what we have rather than focusing on that which we don’t have.  

Your happiness should not be based on what you do not have

This can be understood by the example of two families travelling on the same highway. They are both having fun within their own cars with their respective families. The moment the driver of one car starts racing with the other car, he/she forgets all the happiness they have, and the focal point of their drive became getting ahead of the other driver.

Imagine if the one of the drivers’ cars has a better engine and the other doesn’t.  He is neither going to be able to beat the other car and nor is he enjoying the journey. Isn’t that a complete loss of an opportunity to be happy on the car ride?

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Similar is our case when we compare our blessings with others, we lose focus from what we have. In either case we reach the destination that we were destined to reach but the quality of the journey  depends on the focus of the driver. The journey is analogous to life and the driver is you. 

وَمَن يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ
… whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself. (31:12).  

Dear reader, gratitude is the key to happiness. 

Another fact to realise is that wealth cannot buy happiness and peace (sakoon).  

A 2008 study concluded that how people spend their money may be as important for their happiness as how much money they earn – and that spending money on others might represent a more effective route to happiness than spending money on oneself. (1)

In this social experiment, 46 people were given either $20 or $5, some spent it on themselves and the rest spent it on people other than themselves. Those who spent the money on others felt happier at the end of the day. 

Happiness is, therefore, not the end-product of materialistic fulfilment; rather, it is the act of spreading joy among others which results in true happiness. Moreover, there are very simple things that we can practice that increase our happiness as well as that of others. A simple smile on our face or a quick ‘thank you’ can brighten someone else’s day. A pleasant tone, small acts of kindness, giving simple gifts are all tokens of spreading joy among our fellow humans and most of all, though they may seem like small things, they have the power to make us happy in this world and in the hereafter.   

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1. Elizabeth W. Dunn, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton, ‘Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness’ (2008).

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Ramadan Confession #2: I have this type of Ramadan guilt every year

By Fatima Asad

Many things change in your life when you become a mother.  (Wait! This is not just another mama post; I need to tell you when I truly felt this guilt for the first time.)  In fact, you meet another person in the mirror when you are blessed with motherhood.  It was the first Ramadan after becoming a mama- I wasn’t fasting since the two-month old demanded to suck out my entire essence (along with the breast milk).  If you’re a mama who has nursed, you know the seemingly eternal hours you possess to write to-do lists (without getting anything done, subhanAllah), read that book (yes, that book that you attempted to read during the last trimester), stare at the walls, questioning your interior designing judgement, or contemplating life- really going deep within the mind’s avenues.

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It was during one of these must-feed-the-little-human sessions that a realization struck my heart chords hard. It was an overwhelming feeling of guilt that shoved me to such an extent that I felt myself freeze, choke and gasp simultaneously.  I couldn’t breathe during those moments, and I wanted to cry, but there were no tears.  I really wanted the tears to flow out so I could rid myself of this overpowering force, but there were none.  That in itself was another terrifying realization: why am I not crying? Why can’t I cry? Has my heart hardened to such an extent? Then, as I gently laid the baby on the bed and kissed her chubby little cheeks, I couldn’t let go of this affection.  As I reached for her tiny fingers, tear drops pattered on her palm.  There they were.  This miracle would continue to awaken an array of emotions I never knew were possible in the future years.

The guilt was because of this: I sadly realized that I had not been the best representation of Islam in the past and to think that I may have been the cause of even a single person missing out on this astounding blessing of Ramadan jolted me to the bone.  Having lived in America all my life, it had been a constant tug of war between faith and culture.  Most of us will confidently claim that Islam doesn’t contradict culture, but do we really believe it? Have we lived by it? Islam does not contradict culture, but I, like countless others, failed to be educated about this until it was too late in many aspects.  I had spent most of my youth years unconsciously trying to become a follower, trying to impress people through fading trends and false doctrines.  This is because I failed to understand my own identity, allowing others to pick and choose how they defined me rather than holding the reins myself.

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This guilt comes back every year, stronger each time.  I should have done more, I could have done more, I should have learned about my deen earlier, I could have paved a smoother road for myself and others, I should have embraced the real me more…ultimately: I could have painted a better, more authentic picture of Islam if only I had known it myself.  Even though the guilt increases, so does the hope.  In fact, the hope is slowly but surely outgrowing the despair and that is what being a Muslim is all about.  It’s about accepting your mistakes and circumstances, pairing hope with determination, and moving forward.  The past is just that: the past.  Look back to learn not to turn into stone, eternally frozen with despair over what can never be alive again.

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Reflect and Refresh – Purify your soul and mind with the teachings of Qur’an

By Suha Mishal

The month of forgiveness and mercy is upon us.  

This Ramadan, while treating yourself to samosas and chaats, why not also treat your soul. Ramadan is the best time to treat your inner exhausted self to a deep cleanse. Does that seem hard? Worry not, you will find inspiration to do so in this Ayah: 

 “He has succeeded who purifies the soul, and he has failed who corrupts the soul.” (Quran, 91:9-10) 

This success ultimately means success in the hereafter. So, let’s remember in this Ramadan to:  

Pause. Reflect. Purify. Restart! 

I’ve had encounters with people with a lot of money, countless other blessings and everything they’d ever wish for, yet their hearts and souls are not at peace. They constantly are in a rush for something they don’t even know themselves. And what use is money if it cannot buy you the peace and contentment that you still, after having everything, long for?  In the Holy Qur’an, Allah Almighty says, 

“Their hearts relax at the remembrance of Allah” (Quran, 39:23). 

Our heart is not just a tissue mass that is pumping blood; it’s much more than that. It is the center of all our feelings, desires, and emotions. It is the inner self; it is that boss of us that tells us what do to. Purifying your heart with the remembrance of Allah (SWT) will automatically purify your soul and bring you inner peace.  

Listed below are some tips that are guaranteed to make an impact on your journey to purify yourself spiritually:  

1: Pause.  

Imagine driving at a fast speed nonstop, without any breaks without pause for a very long period of time? What will happen? 

Eventually you’ll end up exhausted, starved, and thirsty, both a danger to your own health as well that of others.  

That is exactly how we are living our lives nowadays. We have so much stuff on our plate already that we do not bother taking a pause in that high-speed drive to even notice the beautiful sceneries that have passed us by.  

Likewise, we are so caught up in our lives that we’re forgetting WHY  we are in this Dunya (this world) in the first place. 

One of my favorite verses that really steers me back every time I lose track is:  

فَأَيْنَ تَذْهَبُونَ
So where are you going?
[Qur’an: Chapter 81, Verse 26] 

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Qur’an has, like always, made things so easier for us. Allah has instructed us in the Qur’an and He Himself has created pauses that can rejuvenate our souls and our hearts:  

  • PAUSE IN DAY – 5 Daily Prayers   
  • PAUSE IN CONSUMPTION – Fasting in Ramadan 
  • PAUSE IN SPENDING – Zakat
  • PAUSE IN LIFETIME – Hajj 

Following these pauses carefully could be your shortcut to the purity of the soul and a source of peace for the heart.  

2: Reflect  

Look back on things when you pause; reflect on all the things that you’ve done this year.  

To make it easier for you, make a list. Jot down all the times you went wrong, and the times you went right. This will give you an insight of into yourself, and all that you need to improve. 

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I find that reflection is very essential to a healthy soul. It gives you an opportunity to count your blessings and rejoice in the favours that Allah (SWT) has granted us.   

(While you’re at it, why don’t you take some time and pray two nafl rakats as gratitude for Allah’s blessings upon you?)  

3: Purify:  

After you’ve made the list, think of the ways you need to improve. 

If you’ve hurt someone, think of how you can make them happy. Or if someone has hurt you, learn to forgive them. Forgiveness is one of the keys to purification. It allows you to let go of grudges or ill-feelings and start afresh.  

Butif someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with AllahCertainly, He does not love wrongdoers. (Surat Ash-Shura, 40) 

For all the sins and bad deeds that you’ve intentionally or unintentionally committed this year, you can always repent to Allah (SWT) for it is better to TURN to him before you RETURN to him. Indeed, Allah is Al-Ghaffur “The Oft-Forgiving” and the original source of forgiveness. 

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Allah has said in Qur’an:  

It may well be thatAllah will pardon them. Allah is Ever-Pardoning, Ever-Forgiving. (Surat An-Nisa, 99)

4: Restart 

Always remember, it’s only YOU who can make a change. You can set yourself on the right path. Once you know your mistakes from the past year, keep them in your mind and ensure you don’t repeat them.  

Avoid things that lead you into the things that don’t please Allah.  

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Start fresh with a clean slate and clear heart. You can maintain your purified state by:  

– make pledges with yourself to do good deeds.  

– keep small punishment if you break them  

– keep small incentives if you fulfill those pledges.  

– remember to reflect and purify throughout the year and not just in Ramadan. 

InshaAllah, if you follow the tips in this article, this Ramadan will prove to purify your heart and your soul, leaving you refreshed for a new step on your journey to please Allah (SWT).  

Taraweeh Optimization

By Nasser Ijaz Moghal

Ramadan is here and you want to make the best out of it. When you think of Ramadan nights you think of Taraweeh and Laylatul Qadr. They were MIA throughout the year but lo and behold they too come to pray taraweeh and then it’s like see you next year. The biggest regret that 90% of the Muslims have at the end of Ramadan is that they hear the Quran recited but can’t internalize the message. The Quran doesn’t touch them, it doesn’t soften their hearts. So, this Ramadan I am going to tell you what practical things you can do to make connect with the words of Allah on a deeper level.

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1. Purify your Intentions:

It is common knowledge that actions are based on intentions as per the hadeeth of Rasul Allah. We often focus on the what in our lives rather than the why. This Ramadan I want you to step back and reflect; Why am I going for taraweeh? Is it because just everyone’s doing it and it would be weird if I didn’t follow the crowd? Is it because my parents said I need to go? Is it because it’s a cultural thing? Is it because if I don’t go people will think less of me? Is it because after tarweeh I can socialize with friends?

Now here is what your intention should be this Ramadan: I want to listen to the words of Allah so that it softens my heart, changes my life, in order that I may please Allah.

Once the basis is strong the results will surely follow.

2. Dua

Undoubtedly, you’ve had a long day at college or work. You’ve been fasting in the hot weather. You are still digesting the pakoras and samosas of iftrari and you are sleep deprived. But you still wish to drawer closer to Allah through non-obligatory prayer; taraweeh. In such times supplicate to Allah to ease the hardship and allow you to focus on your Salah. Rather than be distracted by other thoughts. Then never give up as Allah will provide His help in ways you cannot imagine.

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3. Select the Masjid

There are Masjids out there where the Imam recites the Quran at lightning speed. The tarweeh is more of a workout rather than a soul touching activity. Go to a masjid where the Imam’s recitation touches your heart and makes you cry. The Imam has adequate speed such that you can hear the word properly. Furthermore, they have a Quran tafsir session where you can at least know what was recited. It’s very important that the conducive for understanding of the Quran as well because if there isn’t an AC, there are mosquito’s everywhere, the sound of the imam from the speakers is unclear, the masjid itself smells awful of sweat, chances are that you won’t be able to concentrate on your salah. Choose a masjid that is convenient for you and has at atmosphere to enable you to focus on your salah.

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4. Prepare

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It is essential that we make an effort to prepare for Taraweeh. What you should do is join a Daur-e-Quran course online or in person which should be in sync with your masjid. So at least during the Salah you can pick some Arabic words and get certain contexts that can better help you to understand. Furthermore, always take an afternoon nap otherwise you would be so sleepy during tarweeh you would be literally be dosing off in and out of Salah. Take a shower before you go for prayer. A cold shower is helpful in sharpening your senses. Don’t eat too much during iftari. Do you know what would happen to the Imam if he over ate during iftari and then attempted to pray taraweeh? He would vomit and die. And the person following the Imam is not better off either. Bring a bottle of water to the masjid. It is very important to keep hydrated as it prevents person from tiring too quickly. Don’t stick to one place during the entire tarweeh change places or move to another row after each 4 Rakaat to bring that freshness to your salah.

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5. Make it a family thing

There are certain acts of worship that a person needs to do on a personal level. However, make plans with the entire family to go for taraweeh. And then after tarweeh each person should share their experiences and motivate each other to improve themselves. So rather than going on iftar parties your rocking at the Masjid with your loved ones at tarweeh.  So, bring your fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters and all and enjoy together as one family.

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6. Drive Self Accountability

Make a calendar and set a daily target for yourself for taraweeh. For example, you plan and set the target that you will pray 20 Rakat on the 5th of Ramadan. If you meet this target, then right down on the calendar 20 and say I am Awesome MashaAllah and if you don’t then write the amount that you prayed for example 12 and say I will improve inshaAllah. Now you need to be a detective of your life and figure out what stopped you from achieving your goal and then take an action to prevent its re-occurrence. Maybe what stopped you from completing your target was that you felt sleepy and back tracing you realize that you normally sleep for an hour in the evening but today you only slept for 30min because you spent too much chatting with your friend on facebook. Red flag! Take an action to limit your facebook time in the evening and go to sleep for 1 hour. Remember the golden words of Umar bin Al Khattab:

“Hold yourself accountable before you are held accountable and weigh your deeds before they are weighed for you.”

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7. Never lose hope

Many people lose faith in themselves and think it’s too late for them to understand the Quran. That it’s something that should be left to scholars. They then resign themselves to a life of mediocrity where rather than becoming an educated Muslim they choose to become a cultural Muslim.  Allah inspires us with a passion to win:

Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (39:53)

8. Focus

Make a conscious effort during Taraweeh to focus on the words and listen to the Imam with all five senses. Make sense of the meaning and allow the what you learnt in tafsir to flow into your heart. If stray thoughts come your way, say Tawwuz and push them away. At first it will be a struggle to pull your attention back however with practice this can become easier. You need to totally immerse yourself in the moment, now. Forget about the past and forget about what you need to do next. And pray with the level of Ihsaan as if you are seeing Allah otherwise one should know that Allah sees them.

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Things are not perfect and often things don’t go as per plan and Allah is the best of planners. So even though you don’t see the results immediately but Allah knows your efforts and you will be rewarded inshaAllah based on your intentions and hard work. Understanding Quran and living it in our lives is not secluded to Ramadan; it’s a life long journey. Ramadan is here to facilitate but we need to carry the learnings forward.

How to manage Ibadah along with daily activities during the month of Ramadan

By Minahil Hasan

When we look around us, all we see is people who are endlessly busy; busy in their jobs, busy at school or even busy wasting their time. Time is now a commodity that people are constantly short of. More importantly, when we are so busy in our dunya, where do we find time for our Akhirah?

The blessed month of Ramadan has dawned upon us which is the month in which the Shaytaan is chained, the doors of forgiveness are opened, and the reward for every good deed is tenfold or more. In this month, Muslims try their utmost to perform as many good deeds as possible to gain the pleasure and forgiveness of Allah. Yet people still find it difficult to find time to do their ibadah.

The most important thing to do is to understand the FOCUS of our life. Is it to please Allah, gain his forgiveness and attain Jannah in the hereafter or is it some worldly aim? Having worldly focuses is not forbidden but the foremost focus should always remain gaining the pleasure of Allah. If your focus is clear, then no matter how busy your life gets, you will always manage to do your ibadah. But to make it easier for you, here are some practical tips:

The first thing to do is to keep the correct intention in mind while doing anything. For example, if you are cooking in Ramadan, think about how your efforts will result in an iftar for your family. If you entertain your younger siblings, have the intention of helping your parents, and even when you go to sleep, keep the intention that you are doing this so that you can wake up for Fajr refreshed. The reason for this is that keeping the correct intention can also be rewarded. So even if you are doing worldly things, you can still attain rewards from Allah (SWT).

Secondly, you should prioritize good deeds over others. For example, if you have school work to do, and you still haven’t read the Quran for the day, read the Quran first. You will be doing a good deed and completing a task which will make you feel more productive and motivated to do your school work.

You should make sure that you are never wasting time if you have an opportunity to do a good deed. If you feel like surfing the net, why not surf the net for interesting lectures by Islamic scholars or a Islamic documentary? If you want to read, why not read a biography of a notable Muslim or a book of Seerah? Repurposing your time this way will ensure that you remain connected to Allah (SWT).

You can also multitask so as to make the most of your time. Listening to the Quran or a lecture can be a soothing activity to do while you are cooking, cleaning, or doing something else.

In short, you have to correct your intentions, prioritize your good deeds and do your best to STOP wasting time. This life has been given to us by Allah (SWT) to first and foremost worship Him. To do so, we need to retain a connection with him, regardless of how hectic and busy our lives get.