Tag Archives: 2018

Ramadan Confession #1: Why I don’t stop using social media in Ramadan

By Fatima Asad

“I can’t see the moon, Mommy!” A frustrated 6 year old tugged on my dress as she jumped up and down, eagerly trying to spy the Ramadan moon behind the infamous Beijing skyscrapers.

Ding. Ding. Ding.  As predictable as iftaar pakoras, my phone started celebrating the new moon before us.

“Oh, I have a feeling we will see the Ramadan moon soon enough, in sha Allah.” I replied as I reached for my phone. Sure enough, Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem (which by the way doesn’t make sense- ask an Arab speaker), and Happy Ramadan messages adorned the screen.  There were also those messages- you know, the “I bid you adieu for 30 days”, the “time to turn off for a month”, the “it’s time to detox the soul” messages.  I smiled, pondering over the familiar feeling of this dedicated decision of going cold turkey with social media, as I too had sent off similar messages (because, you know the world will miss my posts about my kids eating my lipstick or how I found a dead dragonfly).

Last year, I made a conscious decision to get more active on social media, especially during Ramadan.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Let me tell you why I don’t stop using social media in Ramadan.  In a nutshell, it’s because my browsing quality improves tremendously during this blessed month and becomes more disciplined (as is the target for all activities).  You see, fasting is about increasing one’s taqwa– love, fear and consciousness of Allah SWT. That continuous string of taqwa can only be achieved when we starve our nafs (desirous self) – not merely the bodies – of negative habits, seemingly perpetual poisonous cycles of bad choices.

The first few days of Ramadan are always the toughest for me, and I’m not talking about my coffee deprivation.  I split into two people and it’s as if I am hallucinating. I see my dark side, more visible than ever.  In fact, it’s as if Iblees (Satan) has been training this “me” for this precise moment- to do his dirty work in his absence.  On the other hand, I see my truest, more serene and sensible self, slowly but surely rising up from what seems to be a stance of hopelessness and fragility.  These first days are difficult, painful, exhausting- a struggle in which I can feel each sigh, cry and pull as if it were a million paper-cuts.  The worst part is the heavy fog being pushed down by my stubborn dark side over my eyes.  My mind is clogged and a feeling of despair and helplessness overtakes me.

Ramadan confession

What does that have to do with my social media use? Everything. I have witnessed firsthand how social media is a major tool- nay weapon for wielding out the dark sides of people.  It knows no limits of immodesty, disrespect, effortless arguing, and poisonous malice.  It’s oh so easy to slide into various degrees of wrong when swiping through a favourite app.  One thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re watching bloopers from Downton Abbey even though you actually sat down to write down the recipe for Shakshuka.

Yes, Downton Abbey may not be the most evil, immoral content in existence, but the point is that we have become techno zombies, allowing social media to lead and control us, rather than making conscious, deliberate and wise decisions ourselves.  Did I really need to waste another hour on the bloopers after watching the series? Of course not.  Even watching the series failed to help me achieve my higher purpose in life; in fact, it most certainly hurt it, no matter how respectable or innocent the content.

 

When this slip happens a few times, I still seemed to spring back; however, as it social media 3transforms into a habit, one that became a part of my being quite effortlessly, *that* is the point where the darkness within me feeds off the cycle.  This is the reason the struggle is a powerful one when the time comes to break away and remember my purpose.  After that initial struggle in Ramadan, I engage with social media with an acute, sharpened sense of consequence, realising that whatever I do will impact not only my future habits, but also my fast for that day.

The rules of engagement become refreshed and the content that I deemed acceptable or was apathetic towards now stings my eyes, ears and heart.  The energy still needs to be used, so I redirect it towards tools that will undoubtedly aid me in achieving the greatest goal: Jannatul Firdous (Paradise of Firdaws).  This takes the form of listening to lectures, audio books, motivational TED talks, brushing up on my basic Islamic knowledge, rekindling my bond with the Quran, and improving relationships.

I absolute love using social media during Ramadan- heck, I’m so thankful to be a part of halaqaat (circles of knowledge) and various tafseer circles from my afar apartment in China.  I get a sneak peak of what wonders technology and my positive choices can have all year around.  Today, I know countless around me who use social media as the measuring stick by which they measure their worth, impact and existence.

However, we need to remember that social media is just that: a tool which needs to be consciously used and controlled, not be the cause of misery, short-lived pleasures, addiction and losing one’s self.  Use this blessed month to make a positive social media change.  This is the time for new resolutions, closing past chapters, and giving yourself a fresh start- in fact, you are being gifted a fresh opening by the Creator, Himself.  Will you accept it with all your being or simply “like” and swipe left to see what if Prince Harry shaved for the royal wedding?

Say it with me: *I am stronger than my dark side and I am definitely worth more than a hashtag.*

Advertisements

The Best Version of Me

Naivity

I recall once while on the road with friends, someone mentioned it was almost Maghreb and she hadn’t completed her evening azkaar yet. Another friend sadly remarked how often she has been missing them lately.

I was shocked.
How could someone miss their daily azkaar (supplications)?!
That’s a believer’s essential! And here this ‘practising Muslimah’ is telling us she’s missed them often? I tried hard not to judge her, but man was that a struggle..

Fast forward a few years, and many veils of naivety later, I find myself applauding when I realise I managed to get almost all my morning and evening azkaar done on time for a single day. Not sure if I should laugh at my old self for thinking I could always be that regular in my ibadah, or mourn the fact that I am no more.

Or wait..I could dare aim to be ‘me’ again?

And just like that, of everything that I have ever planned for on ‘new years’ ‘new semesters’ and all those new beginnings, this year I have found the most inspirational one; being that best old version of me!
All of us miss and reminisce different phases of our lives; the cheerfulness of school days, the regular journaling during a certain summer break, baking something new every week, regular contact with family during a certain semester, daily recitation of a certain portion of Qur’an for a few years and whatnot! While life and times may change, we will always have it in us- if nothing else- to be what we strove so hard to be. It took us a lifetime each to achieve all that, how could we let it all just go? Let’s revive our own legacy, and not let our struggles and ambitions die again.

Remember, remember..

Verily, the reward of deeds performed depends on the last actions. (1) 

This year, I note down the habits and hobbies from my past that I feel were the best of me and work on making them a part of my life again.
Take a pleasant ride down your memory lane and pick your favourites too; your top 5 or random 10 and let’s resolve again to be the best versions of ourselves! 

joy this season's good vibes

Bonus guidelines for making your list and charting an action plan from the man best in habits and deeds, ﷺ:

“Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.” (2)

Wassalam!

References:
(1) Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Raqaa’iq (Book on Softening of the Hearts) no. 6493
(2) Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Raqaa’iq (Book on Softening of the Hearts) no. 6464

The Simplest Life Hack to Track Your Life

By Sara Ahmad

planner 2018

I learned something in 2017- the importance of tracking my life and my habits. Before I started doing this, I felt that time was flowing through my fingers and I was just standing there, unable to grasp it. I felt that I was declining spiritually, mentally and physically but had no way of determining at what pace and why. I wanted to take snapshots of my life at different times and analyse them. I started making complicated timetables to keep an hourly log of every single thing I was doing in a day. I thought it would help me see how productive or how lazy I was. Well, that didn’t turn out to be sustainable… I quit doing that in less than a week. Then I tried a daily journal, but again, it was hard to keep up with and it was hard to ‘measure’ my weekly and monthly progress from pages and pages of written information.

Just as 2017 started, I found a table calendar (the kind which has blank boxes for every day) which unintentionally evolved into one of the best tracking methods I have ever used. I started recording the habits which were most important to me. For example, I wanted to see how much of the Quran I recited in a month, so I chose a pink color and added ‘juz 1’ on the first day and then ‘juz 2’ the next day. If I did not recite, I left the box blank.  After a month, I looked at all the pink ink and was able to see how much I recited and also measure how many days I wasn’t able to recite and figure out if any patterns existed. I used different colours for other habits:

Purple- dawah activities

Green- exercise

Orange- money spent

Blue- times I hung out with my friends

Red- habits I wanted to get rid of but still ended up engaging in them

Black- general activities like studying, spending time with family etc.

I thought I would eventually stop using this method, but it’s so easy that I still haven’t! By the end of 2017, I had a clear idea about which areas I had made progress in and which I still need to work on. For 2018, I’ve been using the same method on a planner instead of a table calendar and it’s working just as well Alhumdulillah. I hope these ideas benefit you in some way and that you are able to look back at your week/month/year/decade and give yourself a reason to smile!

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَلْتَنظُرْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ لِغَدٍ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and let every soul look to what it has put forth for tomorrow – and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” (Surah Al Hashr:18)

 

 

The Muslim Mama’s Quick Guide to Goal Planning (without losing your sanity)

By Fatima Asad

If you’re like me, you despise seeing those tacky New Year’s resolution jokes on your newsfeed.  This one really irks my soul: “My New Year’s resolution is to follow through with my last year’s resolutions.”  Another one that sadly represents the majority of wishful go-getters is: “Thanks for not laughing at my absurdly unattainable New Year’s resolutions.”  It is not simply the cheesiness of these jokes that bothers me- but our apathetic attitude towards a chance to improve the quality of our lives.  Yes, December 31st is just a number and there’s no magic or daleel behind it but choose Ramadan or Muharram as your “New Year” if you please.  We as imperfect beings strongly desire a line – a start/finish line that will allow us to start afresh; however, it is only that- a desire.  Now, as a mother and wife, my plate of short-term and long-term planners is often overflowing and that liberating line is much needed to reorganise and get a new start.  

Let me throw in another cliche: “If you fail to plan, you have planned to fail.” This is the one quote that I can confirm from experience is very true.  The day that I have not planned is the day I get an inner panic attack either before or after breakfast.  Mothers are all too familiar with the overwhelming feeling of disorganisation and are pros at masking it with an air of “I know exactly what I’m doing.”  My to-do basket tends to pile up for days at a time, I am guilty of shoving clutter in the wrong closets, I miss my spa appointments regularly, I’ll let the kids have pyjama day (or week) when laundry needs to be done, and I’m definitely guilty of not straightening out the bed sheet before I spread the duvet elegantly on top.  Why am I divulging my secrets? Because I want the other moms out there to know that: Girls, it’s okay to not meet society’s standards every single day.  It really is!  We have too much going on to worry about which total stranger or judgemental relative we need to please today.  

Fear-Keeping-You-From-Planning-300x300

Believe it or not there’s a method to our clumsy madness as mothers.  We have far greater goals to focus on.  These goals don’t just include fitness or diet goals- that was the easy part.  As mothers, we have to make multiple planners for each new year: for me, for the kids, and for the husband (he can safely be kept under the children’s category).  It’s fun to plan a family trip or which new colour to paint the bedroom wall; however, as Muslim mothers, our goals for the year should reach far beyond those walls.  The purpose of setting goals is to improve the quality of our lives, as is pleasing to the Lord Almighty and to reach ihsaan (excellence) in all our actions and emotions.  Notice, there is a difference between excellence and perfection.  A chase for perfection will always end in failure- doing everything with ihsaan means I’ve given it my personal best.  

Apply now!_2

I won’t lie; each year, the burden of raising little humans gets heavier on my shoulders as I know I must set goals that are wholesome for not only my family but also for the future of our Ummah.  These goals include focusing on categories such as Islamic Studies, Quran Studies, homeschooling (did I mention I’m also the teacher?), diet and exercise, social activities and life skills.  

Here are some gentle reminders for my fellow Muslim mothers (and fathers) as they begin or revise their goal planning:

  • Focus on your ultimate goal of reaching Jannatul Firdous
  • Renew your intention (Why and for whom are you doing this?)
  • Begin everything with Bismillah (Yes, even as you wash the dishes) and it will turn the action into worship
  • Let go of perfection and aim for YOUR very best
  • Stop worrying about people’s opinions! Do what seems right for your family
  • You’re still an awesome mother if you don’t do every project on Pinterest
  • Stick to the sunnah- remember Islam makes your life easier!
  • Read/listen about the great women in Islam and how they focused on their families, personal lives and their deen
  • You need to have a contemporary role model who inspires you (public figure, fellow mother, coworker)
  • Choose friends that bring positive energy in your life and help you grow instead of judging you (If you can have her over without having to change the kids out of those pyjamas, she’s a keeper!)
  • Don’t go through goal planning and implementing alone! Have a strong network to talk to (husband, friend, relative)

Life was not meant to be lived perfectly, and this year will be no exception.  We will make mistakes- lots of them.  It’s important to make NEW mistakes and learn from the old, inshaAllah.  

happy-success-30

 

2018 – My Little Bit

Two weeks into 2018 already, yet I still keep coming across posts and images of how to make your 2018 better. “Fresh start”, most of them say. While browsing through such posts, I asked myself my plans for this year, “Do I want to make huge intricate plans for the whole year? Or shall I just let it be this time? Or I can do the usual and keep on planning quarterly?”

https://d2b8z560f8evaa.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/start-making-plans-for-2018-1200x600.jpg

While deep in thought, my mind went back to Youth Club’s annual meeting and the advice given to us, “be that person whose motto in life is chalo koi gal nai*”, based on the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad SAW: “Shall I not inform you of whom the Fire is unlawful and he is unlawful for the Fire? Every person who is near (to people), amicable, and easy (to deal with).'” [Jami-at-Tirmidhi, Book 37, Hadith 2676, Grade: Hasan] And that’s when I decided, if nothing else, I’ll try my best to be that person this year inshaAllah. 

I know it’s not as easy as it sounds but I also know the need of such people in our world is great. Allah SWT knew it’s not a small thing therefore He kept the reward so great, imagine being forbidden on that Big Fire! Isn’t it motivation enough?

It happens numerous times a day that during your dealings with others, you want to tell them off. Or even if you’re not in a position to do that, then at least show it by your expressions. The servants would annoy you by one thing or the another, the kids will make you angry, your parents will frustrate you, the colleagues will do it all wrong, the boss will scold you for no reason, your in-laws will be unhappy with you, the shopkeeper will give you the wrong product, the kid next door will break your favourite vase, your relatives will try to interfere in your life and your neighbour will throw the trash in front of your door. If you can live through all of that and not heat up at every instance mentioned, then that is indeed an achievement.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-idH6PVRLt5k/UcDgrSuq29I/AAAAAAAAEUs/_eCXfssK8Pk/s1600/It%27s-Okay1.jpg

It’s hard but not impossible when you keep the reward in mind (paste it on your bedroom cupboard, perhaps). There is already a lot of hate in this world, a lot of grief and depression. If you and I try to be that little agent of change, only by changing ourselves, only by being a bit more approachable and easy-going for the people around us, imagine the amount of love and peace we’d be able to spread through that. Think of that person in your life who you can go to with anything on your mind knowing they won’t blow up, that they’d be there, imagine if there were more of such people, this sad world would become a little happier. And if I can help spark that in 2018, then I will not consider my year wasted!

1044086_10201481531869563_275413225_n

*Meaning: it’s okay