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My Ramadan Diary: Those People Again!

My Ramadan Diary: Those People Again!

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By Umm Ibrahim

Ramadan has ended. Eid is here. Eid Mubarak! May Allah accept from us and you all!

Allah is the Greatest. There is no God but Him. And to Him belongs all Praise and Gratitude.

Many of us have been privileged to go through the entire Quran this month either on our own, in Taraweeh, or in a halaqah. When one reaches the end of the Quran, one is forced to think over the fact that the last Surah that Allah places in the Quran is an-Naas (Mankind). The last word of the Surah, and hence the Quran, is also an-Naas.

After you’ve gone through the entire Quran, with its perfect wisdom in its halal and haram, laws and stories, promises and threats, Allah reminds us at the end how vulnerable we remain to the whispers of those who whisper evil thoughts in our hearts. We are reminded that we desperately need to seek Allah’s protection from the devils from among the jinns and the humans (an-Naas).

The devils that had been chained have now been released. And yes, there are definitely devil’s agents from among the people, even among our own families and friends, those who detract us even after we have clearly seen the truth and decided to follow it. Their weapon is often words. And words hurt.

Consider some of these statements. Have they ever been hurled at you or uttered about you?

Are you trying to make fun of us?
You’ve fallen in plain error. This is absolutely wrong
You’re so foolish
You are just a liar. Allah doesn’t want us to do this.
Why don’t you just leave the city? After all, you’re so pure and holy
You’re going to be an outcast in society if you don’t return to our lifestyle.
This is all hocus-pocus and magic
You’re a loser if you follow these maulvis
Whatever proof you bring to us, we will never believe in you.
This is outdated stuff. It’s not for these times.
Your so-called religion has deceived you
That’s the way it’s always done in our family. Do you want to turn us away from it now?
You only want to be Mr. High-and-Mighty or Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes.
There is no evidence. You just forged it
Is your prayer teaching you to do all this?
Oh ya, you’re the only one with a brain?

All the above and much more was said to the Messengers. There is little or no chance that the people will say something hurtful to you that was not already said to the Messengers.

The Prophets were ridiculed and mocked by mobs. They were called misguided fools, big liars, magicians, soothsayers, and madmen. They were threatened that they would be given a painful punishment, stoned to death or exiled from the land. It didn’t stop at words. They were actually pelted with stones and thrown in pits of fire. Yet, it only made them stronger. It did not decrease them in their honour and prestige.

In comparison to all this, what the people will say to you is just child’s play.

Even then know that Allah knows it hurts.

“We do indeed know how thy heart is distressed at what they say.
But celebrate the praises of your Master, and be of those who prostrate themselves.
And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (death).” (Surah al-Hijr: 97-99)

See, He knows it hurts. He teaches you how to cope too.
And among the descriptions of the Jannah that He promises you, He often mentions this blessing to you:

Wherein they will hear no unsuitable speech. (Surah al-Ghashiya: 11)

Once again: Eid Mubarak! May Allah accept from us and you all!

Allah is the Greatest. There is no God but Him. And to Him belongs all Praise and Gratitude!

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My Ramadan Diary: What will the People Say?

My Ramadan Diary: What will the People Say?

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By Umm Ibrahim

“Log kia kahein gy?”

“Log kia kahein gy?” – this has probably killed more dreams and good intentions than any other thought.

As Ramadan softens our hearts and shakes our conscience, we dream of becoming better people, we make good, honest intentions, but often the fear of people stops us from forging ahead. We hesitate to step out of our comfort zone, fearing the reaction of people more than anything else. Be it a beard, a hijab, praying regularly, joining a Quran Class or saying no to gossip and music- change and the associated questions and remarks it invites from the people around us make us very uncomfortable.

Our brain and the whispers of the devil play odd tricks on us. We play out worst-case scenarios in our mind until we lose the courage to change anything in ourselves for the better, stifle the squeaky voice of our conscience and settle back into the status-quo.

One of three things happen

From experience, I can tell you this: when you recognize the hollowness of the discouraging voices in your head, when you trust Allah completely and purify your intention, and just take the plunge, one of these things happens:

1- Nothing. No one starts laughing hysterically and pointing at you when you enter the room. The unnecessary drama that you concocted in your head never really takes place. Someone might even compliment you or wish that they could be more like you. Your confidence sky-rockets.

2- You get snide remarks and cutting comments. But Allah sends tranquility upon you, and the remarks just seem to bounce off you. You feel they should hurt, but they just don’t. Allah has toughened your skin. You are genuinely able to smile and shrug it off.

3- You get those questions and comments from everyone, and you become the laughing-stock. And it hurts. It seems as if a hole has been seared right through your heart. You can feel hot tears of anger and humiliation welling inside you. But then when the people leave, and its just you and Him, you pour it all out in front of him. You cry and babble in front of Him, and His Mercy envelops you. This one sujood, this one dua’ makes you taste the sweetness of Eeman that you had never even dreamed of. Your heart tells you then that it’s okay, that it will be okay, that it was all worth it, and that it will all be worth it.

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Cure Fear With Fear

Fear is natural. One of the cures for fear is a more potent fear. Normally, you might squeal at the sight of a cockroach, but if you’re caught between a venomous snake and a cockroach, you won’t even notice the cockroach. You might be afraid of an injection, but if the other option is a major surgery, you’ll go for an injection anytime.

When you hear the devil whisper: “What will the people say?”, ask yourself, “What will Allah say?”, and the absurdity of fearing the people will become manifest on you. You will also realize the need to purify your intentions for Allah.

“Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him if you are believers.” (Surah at-Tawbah: ayah 13)

Dive In!

What are you waiting for? Sometimes you just have to take the plunge, even if it scares the living daylights out of you. If you want to learn to dive, you will have to dive in. You can dilly-dally and test the temperature of the pool with your big toe all you want, but in the end, you have to say ‘Bismillah’ and just jump in.  There’s the initial shock, the few gasping breaths you take, and then the blissful serenity of floating on your back, with the stars winking back at you. You will find other companions in the pool who will congratulate you and enthusiastically thump you on your back. The voices of the critics will fade in the background. And you will be left with the words of the Messenger (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) etched on your heart and echoing in your head:

“Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” (Muslim)

My Ramadan Diary: Friends!

My Ramadan Diary: Friends!

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By Umm Ibrahim

All things come to an end. So shall Ramadan in just a few days. One thing that we all fear, or should fear, is turning back on our heels after Ramadan, and nullifying whatever of good actions and habits we have maintained. Here is a golden tip to keep you keep steadfast after Ramadan: good friends! Yes, your friends can make or break you. We are informed in the Hadith that:

“A person is on the way of his close friend. Therefore, he should think very carefully whom he is making a friend with.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)

Many of the sins we fall in are because of the kind of friends we have. Backbiting, gossip, cursing, watching movies together, discussing rubbish literature etc. would not be possible if your friends were good, Allah-fearing people. Many of the sins would automatically be deleted from your life. They would be replaced by remembering Allah, racing in good deeds, giving good advice to each other. This is not a light matter as it affects the state of your heart and your nearness to Allah.

“Do not speak much without mentioning Allah, for too much speech without mentioning Allah hardens the heart, and the hard-hearted are the farthest of all people from Allah Most High.” (Tirmidhi)

Take a good, hard look at your friends today. Maybe you need to distance yourself from some of them. Maybe you need to look for other people to include in your circle of friends. Good friends, who uplift you spiritually, can make your life very beautiful.

Rasulullah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) said:

“The example of a good companion (friend) in comparison with a bad one is like that of one who sells musk and the blacksmith. From the first, you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell, while from the blacksmith you would either get burned or smell a bad scent.” (Bukhari)

A good friend, a perfume-seller is the one who meets you with a cheerful countenance,
the one with whom you can chill out without displeasing Allah,
the one who genuinely celebrates your happiness and victories,
the one who feels for you and consoles you on your sorrows and losses,
the one who reminds you of the wisdom behind trials you face,
the one who reminds you to be patient,
the one who makes you feel hopeful and grateful,
the one who uplifts you emotionally and spiritually,
the one who defends your honour and interests in your presence and absence,
the one who cares enough to notice and pinpoint your faults,
the one who does not shy away from scolding you when you need and deserve it,
the one who is so selfless that he prays for you in tahajjud while you have no idea,
the one who spends quality time with you, smiling, joking and relieving you of your cares and worries,
the one who flatly refuses to collaborate with you in any sinful matter and reminds you to fear Allah,
the one who inquires when he sees you falling short in good deeds,
the one who invites you to taraweeh and qiyaam rather than frivolous late-night iftar parties,
the one who is always coming up with plans for the two of you to advance spiritually.

Find that one. Find the person who is much better than you in his religion and character. Look for that bright-eyed, radiant-faced person in the halaqahs and masajid. Go talk to him/her, befriend him. You will find the response warm and welcoming inshaAllah. Stick to their company. Stay in touch and meet throughout the year. Come next Ramadan, and you might find that their colour has actually rubbed off on you!

And if you just can’t find that one, then be that one!

“Your friends are a reflection of yourself. Who your friends are is indicative of who you are or who you’ll become if you continue to be with them.” (Abdul Bary Yahya)

My Ramadan Diary: Getting on Your Nerves?

My Ramadan Diary: Getting on Your Nerves?

indexBy Umm Ibrahim

So, you casually resolved to maintain a smiling, cheerful countenance in Ramadan. Little did you know that something apparently so easy will also prove a tough nut to crack at times.

It’s actually quite uplifting, easy and fun to be cheerful with people who are good to you. But who wants to be cheerful around obnoxious people who take every opportunity to put you down and make you feel inferior? Their smirks, their snide comments and self-righteous attitudes can be as irksome as long nails screeching on a blackboard. This breed of people seem hell-bent to make your life miserable. They will doubt your intentions, discredit you for your good and highlight your mistakes. How can you be nice with them especially when you’re already fuzzy-brained because of hunger? How can you maintain a smiling countenance when you wish you could chew their heads off? In fact, why do such exasperating people even exist? Allah says:

“..We have made some of you as a trial for others: will you have patience? for Allah is One Who sees (all things).” (Surah al-Furqan, ayah 20)

Everyone has their share of ‘nuts’ in their lives. But you have it clearly spelled out in the ayah: 1)the reason 2)the cure (patience) and 3)the encouragement and satisfaction (that Allah is watching).

A believer is soft in the inside but sturdy on the outside. Don’t let people get to you and distract you from your destination: Jannah. Also know that your smile is precious- after all, it is a sadaqah and a Sunnah! Don’t lose it or your sleep over what Mr. X said and Ms. Y said.

Be good to others for the Pleasure of Allah. The not-so-good ones are there so that you can gauge and purify your intentions. So, have a mind of your own. And don’t just mirror what the other person does to you. Be better. Be the bigger person. Just like the sun shines on all and the rain falls on all- the good and the evil. The Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) gave us priceless advice:

“Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong. But (instead) accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong if they do evil.” (Tirmidhi)

Oh, and make sure that you are not the one proving to be a tough trial for others around you. How do you ensure that? Simple: Treat others exactly as you would love to be treated.

My Ramadan Diary: Break The Ice

My Ramadan Diary: Break The Ice

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By Umm Ibrahim

So, for 11 months, we did as we chose. We broke the promises we made last Ramadan. We undid all our efforts. We corrupted our hearts and polluted our minds. We put the dunya in front of us and chucked the akhirah behind. We forgot the allegiance we pledged to Allah. We started slacking off in our prayers. We let our tongues run loose. We brought our guard down. In short, we harmed ourselves more than our enemies could ever harm us!

Yet come Ramadan again, and overnight we want to transform back into pious worshippers. We want to savour the sweetness of Salah; we want to ponder over the Quran deeply; to make zikr with the tongue and the heart. However, we find that our hearts have hardened, our eyes have become dry, and the level of our faith has nose-dived. Some people might give up on themselves, and stop doing righteous actions altogether, thinking things like:

I don’t ‘feel’ anything in dua’ , why make dua?

I have no khushoo’ in tahajjud, might as well just sleep.

To those people, think about this: Can you afford to give up on yourself?

NO! Then, get up and get your act straight. Allah did not wrong you. You, and only you, wronged yourself.

We need to worry, and we need to strive very hard to cure ourselves. Here are five practical tips which can help us soften our hearts:

1- Make dua’ to Allah, for your heart is in between His Fingers. He can turn it as He wills. He can soften your heart just as he softened the hearts of countless others. It is He who softened the hearts of even the magicians when they saw the miracles of Musa ‘alaihis salam. Keep making dua’ relentlessly. Have conviction that it will be answered. Never ever give up on yourself. The Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to make dua’:

“O Allah, I seek refuge in You from knowledge which does not benefit, from a heart that does not entertain the fear (of Allah), from a soul that is not satisfied and the supplication that is not answered.” (Muslim)

2- Hearts are hardened because of persistent sins. Make istighfar a major part of your daily routine. Don’t just make it lip-service, but mean it from your heart. Remember your sins, small and big, hidden and open, and ask Allah to forgive you for them, and to erase the devastating effects they have had on your spiritual life.

3- Remember and think about the blessings of Allah, hidden and open, in your life. You are being showered in His Mercy and enveloped in His Protection day in and day out. This will help to develop His Love in your heart and will remove the sense of alienation and despair that may accompany the hardening of hearts.

“And if you would count the graces of Allah, never could you be able to count them. Truly! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah an-Nahl: 18)

4- Ponder over the Quran. Don’t just be concerned about rushing through a juz a day, counting the pages left and reaching the end. Read it as something which Allah addresses to you as a guidebook for your life and as a cure for your heart. The great sahabi and scholar Abdullah ibn Mas’ood said about the Quran:

“Stop at its wonders, move the hearts with it, and let not your concern be the end of the surah.”

Allah says:

“O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i.e. the Qur’an), and a healing for that in your breasts, – a guidance and a mercy for the believers.” (Surah Yunus: 57)

5- Remember death. Not as an abstract concept, but as a reality that will hit you any moment. Be like someone who expects to die very soon. Make every prayer as if it was your last. Make every dua’ as if it was your last. Fast every day and stand every night as if it was you last opportunity to salvage your eternal life. About visiting the graveyards, the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) said:

“… [such visits] soften the heart, bring tears to the eyes, and serve as a reminder of the Hereafter.” (Hakim)

And if you don’t change overnight, remember that the antidote will show its effect but you need to keep taking it regularly, slowly and steadily, just as you slowly poisoned your heart until it reached this stage.

My Ramadan Diary: What’s the time?

My Ramadan Diary: What’s the time?

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By Umm Ibrahim

Every year, Ramadan is either 696 hours or 720 hours. From the first Maghrib of the month to the last, that’s all it is. That’s all each one of us gets after waiting for a year. The real resource we have is time. Whatever good we can earn in this month, we have to earn in these limited hours.

Allah says about Ramadan:

Ayyamam Ma’doodaat– “A fixed number of days”

With our routines changing drastically in Ramadan, time management can become a problem for many people. Here are a few simple, tried and tested ways you can benefit from:

1- Make a timetable for yourself, where every hour of the day is accounted for. Don’t just drift in and out of the days and nights.

2- Take advantage of the hours after Fajr. Don’t sleep immediately after Fajr. Make abundant zikr and dua’, and read the Quran. If you feel sleepy, take a quick shower or go for a walk until your body becomes tuned to this routine.

“O Allah, bless my ummah in the mornings.’ [Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]

3- Take full advantage of other blessed times such as the hours before Iftar and Suhoor time, when duas are accepted. Make sure your heart is connected strongly to Allah during this time, even if your body has to be busy with eating and serving food.

4- Keep remembering Allah throughout the day, even while you are doing your chores or working in the kitchen. Whenever you forget, bring your focus back towards him. Allah says in the Quran:

“..And remember your Lord when you forget..” (Surah al-Kahf: 24)

5- Identify and leave off the time-wasters that are not benefiting you such as TV, long and pointless phone calls etc. Ramadan is the best time to kick them out of your life.

6- Regulate your Social Media usage. Be strict with yourself in this matter. There can be no doubt that this is Time-Waster and Distracter # 1 for today’s youth. Just fix an hour of the day where you are connected online, and you can relax as well as sift through all mails, updates, messages and other important matters. For some people, this might prove to be a tougher test than leaving off food and drink! But, sometimes to connect to Allah, you need to disconnect from the trivial and mundane.

7- Don’t ignore snippets of time. Little drops make an ocean. Even if you get 5 minutes to spare, you can easily read a page of the Quran or any beneficial book in it. Keep your Mushaf with you and stay in a state of wudu as much as possible. You can use your travelling time to listen to Quranic recitation or any beneficial audio series

8- When you feel lazy, remind yourself of the virtues of Ramadan, and remind yourself how little of it is left, and make the Prophetic dua’:

“O Allah! I seek refuge in You from sorrow and distress, and I seek refuge in You from disability and laziness.”

Timesaving

My Ramadan Diary: Hold Your Tongue!

My Ramadan Diary: Hold Your Tongue!

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We’re almost done with the 1st ashra of Ramadan. Just a couple of hours left now. The rest of Ramadan will also zoom by at the same speed, if not faster. It is a good idea to sit down and evaluate how we have been spending our days and nights, and what areas are we lacking in, so that we can start focus more on those areas. I have identified 4 areas where I need to redouble my energies and efforts: Controlling the Tongue, Duas, Time Management and Refraining from Social Media.

Controlling the Tongue is a particularly tough one. At night, when I sit down to analyze the day and mark a checklist of deeds, the scariest question in the checklist is often: Did I fast with my tongue? Yes, this is indeed a scary matter.

Sufyan bin Abdullah said: “O Messenger of Allah! What do you fear most about me?” He took hold of his own tongue and said: “This.”
[At-Tirmidhi].

It is easy to fast from food and drink, but it is difficult to fast from speech that displeases Allah. This includes lying, backbiting, slander, useless gossip, foul language, boasting and the list goes on. We are so used to letting words roll off our tongues without thinking and weighing that we don’t even realize when we slip and say horrendous things.

Rasulullah (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) said:

“A person utters a word thoughtlessly (i.e., without thinking about its being good or not) and, as a result of this, he will fall down into the fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and the west.” [Bukhari and Muslim].

Once you realize the need and importance to control your tongue, the foremost things needed are:

1- the sincere intention to do it and
2- the consciousness that Allah is watching.

Aren’t these the two things that stop you from taking even a sip of water in scorching Ramadan afternoons? Aren’t these the two things that stop you from taking even a single spoonful of scrumptious biryani despite the fact that your stomach is growling and your head is spinning with hunger?
Armed with the intention to fast and the consciousness that Allah is watching, you can refrain from halal, pure food even if you have the need and desire for it, and if everyone around is indulging in it.

Why can’t you then refrain from haram, impure speech? There is no shame in staying silent and holding your tongue for a while if you don’t have anything good to say.

The words that we utter are like seeds that we sow. They bear fruit; this fruit often causes regret in this world as well. As for the Hereafter, they can result in unbearable regret and irreparable loss. The pure and pious predecessors were very strict in accounting themselves for their speech. The sahabi Abdullah ibn Mas’ud is reported to have said:

“By Allah, besides Whom no God exists, nothing deserves a long prison sentence more than my tongue.”

What then of our tongues?

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