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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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Ramadan Challenge: Gratitude to the One!

By Abdul Rehman Raza

The One who is most worthy of our gratitude, more than anyone else, is Allah, our Lord! But why should we be grateful to Him anyway?

The basic thing that separates humans from every other living thing is the ability to think and ponder. A rabbit would never sit under a tree, stare at the sky and think why is it blue, why are there clouds or how was it made? The purpose of this post is to make you use this very thinking ability of yours. Think about what? Think about the one who has given you this ability to think! Your Creator! Almighty Allah!

Take a break from life and THINK! The One who made you, made the world for you, made everything around you, gave you the ability to think and ponder, gave you faculties of seeing, hearing, gave you this gadget that you’re using right now to read this article, the ability to read and understand this, the food you eat every single day, the clothes you’re wearing… But this list would keep going on and never end!

Let’s do a short exercise: write down all the things that Allah has blessed you with, everything you can think of. Now think again, did you deserve all this? Could you really pay Allah for this? Obviously not! But Allah still blessed us with all of this and He doesn’t stop, His Mercy is continuously falling on us even at this very moment!

Now comes the golden question, if someone gives you a glass of water, you thank that person, right? Should we not be grateful to the One Who created us and who has given us so much and keeps on giving us every moment of our lives?

Indeed, we should be! In fact, being grateful to Allah is a very important part of our faith. Feeling grateful is one thing but there is a practical aspect to being grateful as well.

Being grateful actually means having gratitude in the heart, professing it through the tongue and showing it through actions.

Some points below can help you be grateful to Allah in a practical way:

‘Ibadah, Worship Allah Only

Be His righteous slave, offer your prayers regularly, fast, especially in the month of Ramadan, give in charity, remember Him regularly, read and understand His Book, do what He likes, follow the role model of Prophets (AS) especially our final Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Hope and Patience in Tough Times

Being grateful in good times is easy, the real test is when we face trials and hardships. A person who is truly grateful, does not become ungrateful even in hard times. He believes that Allah does everything for the person’s own good. Even in hard times, a believer finds something positive, he thanks Allah irrespective of good or bad times.

Be Good To Others

One of the best ways to be grateful to Allah is being good to others around us. Have mercy and love for your fellow human beings as well as other creatures of Allah. We should love others the same way we want others to love us and in order to acquire Allah’s love.

Mention Allah’s Blessing Upon You

Instead of complaining to people, we should tell them about how much has Allah blessed us and praise Him.

“But as for the favour of your Lord, mention [it].”, (Surah Duha, verse 11)

THE REWARD

This one verse from the Quran should be enough (though there are many other benefits not being mentioned for brevity’s sake):

“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]”, (Surah Ibrahim, verse 7.)

May Allah make us truly grateful to Him!

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Ramadan Challenge: It’s All Good!

By Fiza Khan

Today was one of those days when I really….I mean reallyyyy….felt drained out by fasting.
As I walked back home from the bus stop, in the peak heat of noon, all I could think of was, ‘Water. Water. Water.’

As I came closer to home, I heard myself saying ‘Alhamdulillah’ out loud.

‘For the heat?’ I asked myself.

‘No, no, for the means that await so close by! For being blessed to have the blessing, even if it was delayed for a time, and for being reminded of all His favours which I was failing to recognize!’

Today was one of those days when, as your throat stings with dryness, you plead to Allah for a drink at Hawd-e-Kauthar*, after which there will be no more thirst, ever. Ah, I thought, I love making this dua with sincerity each Ramadan, the kind of sincerity that doesn’t come otherwise.

As I cooled off, hours before iftaar, I wondered would I have ever thanked Him for this unnamed (2)simple yet immense blessing had it not been for the little difficulty I felt today? Would I have realized how needy I am for the deeds that will help me make my way to the Hawd-e-Kauthar on a day that will be immeasurably more hotter than today? Would I have thought twice about my responsibility towards those who don’t get access to water at a distance of a few miles from me, and then turned off the tap upon realization before I wanted to, because it wasn’t only mine to use excessively?

If Allah did not send us reminders to jolt us back into realization from straying into daily illusions of this worldly life, how would we ever save ourselves? What a kind Rabb that He places such benefit in every little difficulty, Ya Rahman!

The Kind Rabb who rewards even for as much as the prick of a thorn (Bukhari 5641), who multiplies each good deed between 10 to 700 (Bukhari 7062) and when you and I go without food and drink all day, He exceeds it beyond any given standard and says “fasting is for me and I shall reward for it” (Bukhari 1761). Yes, He knows the effort and the struggle that we go through!

What a pity that we waste these precious moments of rewards and reminder in jest and complaint!

Let’s take it up as a challenge this month, or week or even a single day to find the goodness in everything that comes our way!

Let’s not throw a tantrum next time a desired item is missing from the iftaar menu, for it may give us a chance to try something new!

Let’s not distract ourselves from the thoughts of hunger with videos and memes, but utilize those moments of weakness for heartfelt duas and gratitude for what we have all year round.

Let’s accept the weather for how it is, realizing that it is causing for our rewards of this month a much needed increase.

Let’s come up with better questions to ask each other this Ramadan than “Roza lag raha hai?” Let’s smile wide in the face of the one who asks us this and tell them “ji bohot acha lag raha hai, Alhamdolillah!” (P.S. If you can come up with a better reply, leave it for us too in the comments below!)

Let’s actively seek, when struck with hardship, the promised ease!


*Hawd-e-Kauthar: It is a great cistern – a tank for holding water – which will be set up in the place of gathering on the Day of Resurrection, to which the ummah of Muhammad ﷺ will come. The water of this cistern will come from the river of al-Kawthar which is in Paradise, hence it is called the Cistern of al-Kawthar.
“…Its water is whiter than milk and its scent is better than musk. Its drinking vessels are like the stars of the sky and whoever drinks from it will never thirst again.”
Read details here

Chapter 13: The Waning Dusk (series)

Chapter 13: The Waning Dusk (series)

gratitudeMyth: Whine for more

لَٮِٕن شَڪَرۡتُمۡ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمۡ‌ۖ  

This snippet is from one of the most beautiful verses of the Quran on gratitude from surah Ibrahim (v. 7). And I wrote just the Arabic text here for you guys to read it and comprehend it better when I expand on it. In Arabic, there are a lot of ways you can emphasize or stress upon a point. And using a shadd (or tashdeed) on a verb is one way of doing it.

Allah (swt) says, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you…”

Notice the form of verb for being grateful is shakartum— lightest form of the verb used and the word for the promise of being increased is la-azeedannakum— the most intense form with a shadd is chosen to drive the point home; meaning: if you are a little bit, just a tiny, teeny-weeny bit grateful– Allah will surely, most certainly, definitely increase you. And this is the eloquence of the Quran– it can contain so much in just one word. We miss out on these special effects when we limit ourselves to the translation.

And Allah used first-person singular narrative here “I will increase you…” and not “We will increase you…” as opposed to most places in the Quran where “We” is generally used. “I” has more powerful undertones than “We”. This hammers another dimension of intensity and emphasis to the promise that if you are a teensy bit grateful, Allah Himself WILL increase you (sadly, caps lock is as far as I can go to give the special effects).

Question being- increase you in what? You say Rabbi zidni ilmaa (O Allah, increase me in knowledge) and Allah says in places in the Quran wa-zaadat-hum imaanaa (their imaan increased)… so what’s going to be increased here? That’s the best part, Allah hasn’t put limits or mentioned anything in particular. You will be increased in anything imaginable.

When you’re fasting, it is undoubtedly the best time to be thankful for all that you have, instead of whining about how you don’t see your proposed menu on the table. You want more? Be grateful. It’s not a one-moment reflection where you say “Thank you”– it’s an attitude towards life. And of course, it’s the surest way to get blessings infinity times infinity pouring down on you.

And oh- there’s another fail-proof way you can go about it. Give charity. To your maids, workers on the streets, beggars by your car… at least in this month, don’t turn anyone away empty handed.

My Ramadan Diary: Forgive Me When I Whine

dua

By Umm Ibrahim

Hot days? Long fasts? Parched tongue? Droopy eyes? Aching legs?

This Ramadan, I will not whine! I absolutely refuse to complain. Not only will I not complain to Tom, Dick and Harry (or to Jamilah, Sakinah and Aneela) I will not even complain to myself! I feel too grateful to do that. I have been blessed with far more than what I could ever deserve or earn.

I’m grateful that Allah made me a human being, and not a monkey or a hen.

I’m grateful that He made me a Muslim, and not an atheist or a fire-worshipper.

I’m grateful that I’m alive and healthy.

And that He blessed me with yet another Ramadan- yet another opportunity.

And that He gave me the Glorious Quran.

And that I have family and friends.

In fact, I have everything I asked him for, and more! Much more.

I’m grateful for the Duas He accepted, and the ones He apparently did not (because He had better substitutes planned).

“And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them. Verily! Man is indeed an extreme wrong-doer, an extreme ingrate.” (Surah Ibrahim: 34)

And most of all, I’m thankful to Him that despite my all-year round sins, He allowed me to fast. He enabled me to open the Quran, and gave me the taufeeq to stand before Him, and put my face on the ground only for Him.

Yes, there is still hope for me. And you.

How can I complain while my heart is bursting with love and gratitude? This year, I will go the extra mile happily and willingly, inshaAllah. I will do it all with a smile, all for His sake, out of love for Him, and in anticipation of His Pleasure and Reward.

So, in conclusion: Alhamdolillah!

“Alhamdolillah fills the scales.” (Sahih Muslim)

To starve or not to starve- Ramadan 2014!

feed-your-soul

By Umme Aisha

It’s almost Ramadan! Just a few hours to go, inshaAllah.

This is the one time of the year where most Muslims readily sacrifice both food and the immediate gratification of their desires. It’s a month that when it leaves, it leaves us feeling sad and gloomy.

Despite it being the favorite month of every believer, a logical mind may wonder: Why does Allah want us to starve throughout the day? What good is our starving ourselves, for Him? In the Quran, Allah encourages people to consume His blessings:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ كُلُوا مِمَّا فِي الْأَرْضِ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ

O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy. [Quran; 2:168]

Especially since Allah addresses His believing slaves in particular and commands them to eat from His given Rizq (provision)and be thankful about it:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ

O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship. [Quran; 2:172]

There remains no doubt about the fact that Allah has created all these blessings for His slaves to consume and to take benefit from, and that He doesn’t need us to starve all day long, because Allah is free from all needs.

However, to answer the question of ‘why starve ourselves’ is that we, humans- being made of both physical bodies and souls- need to pay equal attention to the health of both these elements (i.e. the body and the soul). The month of Ramadan is to balance the nourishment of both elements of our existence.

To understand this, lets assume that you are the custodian of two little kids namely A and B, both having different kinds of needs and demands. If you feed A all day long, you might forget the other one which will result in the malnutrition of B. If you keep on nourishing A while forgetting the other child- one day you will end up starving kid ‘B’ to death at the expense of kid A.

This is what we do with our bodies and souls. While both of these two need equal nourishment and care, we are naturally more inclined towards our bodies because the needs of our physical bodies are easily advocated by our physical weaknesses. We rush to seek assistance for our physical health, whereas our souls do not reveal their needs this clearly and are thus left neglected.

To balance the needs of nourishing our souls Allah has blessed us with a beautiful month, in which our attention is all focused on worshipping Him, who Created us. By fasting we stop ourselves from fulfilling all of our physical needs- at the whims of our bodies- and work on the needs of the soul. We try to strengthen our relationship with our Creator, and become stronger in soul. This is one of the wisdoms we can discover behind the obligation of fasting in the month of Ramadan, a month when all of us work hard to get closer to Allah.

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 (The Ramadan Highway Code. Picture courtesy: Muslimness)

This is the same reason why we work harder to connect to the Qur’an in this month- more so than in any other time of the year- through recitation, reflection and taraweeh prayers. Feeding the right food to our souls is impossible without connecting to the words of Allah because just like our souls came from the heavens , so does their food (in the form of Allah’s Words).

May ALLAH help us to understand the wisdom behind refraining from eating in this month. May Allah make our month of Ramadan more than just a month of food; one in which we eat and plan extravagant iftar/suhur meals! May Allah help us get connected to Him through this month and may He accept our good deeds. Ameen.

12 Reasons I’m Excited About Ramadan

12 Reasons I’m Excited About Ramadan

By Umm Ibrahim

         1- The Honourable Mention

Ramadan is the only month mentioned in the Quran by its name. Reading through this verse at any time of the year brings to me a rush of beautiful memories, as well as anticipation for the next Ramadan.

“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting..” (Surah al-Baqarah: 185)

And when Ramadan does come, it feels like an old friend is visiting, with its customary warmth, laden with gifts and goodies!

Ramadan-Kareem

2- Enemy Locked Up

Enemy # 1, Shaytan, is locked up for one whole month. Of course, it feels good. So now I can free myself from one frontier and concentrate my energies on straightening up my own Nafs.

“When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

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3- Sinners, Rejoice!

As stated in the above hadith, the gates of Paradise are opened up, and the gates of Hellfire are closed. Allah, Exalted is He, saves people from Hellfire every single day!

“At every breaking of the fast, Allah has people whom He redeems.” (Ahmad, Saheeh at-Targheeb)

For sinners like myself, this is a moment to heave a sigh of relief, a time to renew my hope, rekindle my Iman and redouble my efforts.

Ramadan

4- Spiritual Recharge

Whatever my level of connection with the Quran throughout the year is, it always jumps up a few notches in Ramadan. This is true for most people, whether they never open the Quran at days at end, or whether they teach and study it daily.

Even the angel Jibrael used to meet the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) every night in Ramadan and study the Quran with him. (Bukhari, Muslim)

As the body is restrained from earthly foods, the soul is fed with its divine nourishment. One can feel it being satisfied and re-energized.

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5-Taraweeh

As females, we don’t go to the Masjid regularly throughout the year, but in Ramadan, we turn up at the houses of Allah every night. For me, listening to and soaking in the slow and melodious recitation (not the bullet-train speed recitation) is the perfect end to a blissfully tiring day. Making new friends at the Masjid is a bonus.

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6- Family Time

With smartphones invading every hour of our already busy lives, quality family time often takes a backseat. Often, everyone is taking their meals on-the-go. The family bonding and camaraderie that is re-sparked over Suhoor and Iftar is a great blessing.

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7- Food

I get to eat my favourite snacks every single day: Fruit Chaat, Chana Chaat, Dahi Bhalay. Every Day. I eat them for iftar and I eat them for dinner too. 😀 Yep, I’m definitely excited.

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8- The ‘Gratitude Rush’

The heavenly feeling of the first drops of ice-cold water on a parched tongue is indescribable. Ahhhh. The wave of gratitude that sweeps through your entire being teaches invaluable lessons about recognizing our Sustainer, and giving thanks to Him for all the blessings that we take for granted.

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9- Duas

I have a very long list of Duas. Allah loves that His slaves ask from Him. I love to ask from him. With Ramadan comes the opportunity to focus more on my Duas, and to intensify and upgrade them. In Surah al-Baqarah, right in the middle of verses about fasting, Allah puts in this beautiful verse:

“When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.” (Surah al-Baqarah: 186)

The Dua of the fasting person is very likely to be accepted, especially at the time of Iftar. Every day and night in Ramadan feels like an ‘all-you-can-ask’ offer.

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10- Da’wah

In this month, the hearts of Muslims are generally more inclined towards goodness, and more receptive towards sincere advice. For people like me who are passionate about Dawa’h, this is the season to strike gold. Why wouldn’t a seller of umbrellas be excited about a rainy spell!?

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11- The Most Amazing Night

In Ramadan comes the Night of The Year. The exciting search for Laylat ul Qadr in the last 10 nights is the highlight of the month year. May Allah enable us to strive in searching for this night, and to reap its benefits and rewards.

“In it (Ramadan) there is a night which is better than a thousand months, and whoever is deprived of its goodness is indeed deprived.” (an-Nasai, Ahmad, Sahih at-Targheeb)

“Whoever spends Laylat al-Qadr in prayer out of faith and in the hope of reward, will be forgiven his previous sins.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

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12- Eid 🙂

If it wasn’t for Ramadan, how would you and I get to celebrate Eid ul Fitr!?

Going to the Eid prayer is something I’ve always looked forward to. Henna smells lovely, glittery bangles look beautiful, and Eidi is EXCITING! Yes, even if I’m working and earning myself, the Rs. 1,000 that Dad gives as Eidi is still cherished.

Gratitude to AllahThe Prophet's Example

Anything you would like to add to this list? What makes you excited about Ramadan?

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