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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.

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Ramadan Challenge: Little Dua- Big Benefit

By Ahmarin Zahid

So you’re exhausted by what the world demands of you. Maybe you’re a teenager scrambling to prepare for your entry test, F.Sc exam or A-level exam; or a newlywed who has to cater to the needs of his/her new family; or a young parent who has to balance a new set of responsibilities. Maybe your nafs (self) gets in the way of productive usage of what free time you have. After all, you need time to unwind, right? You feel tired, burdened by the seemingly insurmountable distance between you and your worship.

Oh! If only there was an easier way!

What if I told you there was- As easy as the sudden flick of your hand as you brush aside your hair?  Or the quick glance you give the clock to read the time? Instant, effortless yet effective and full of barakah (blessings). Sprinkling your entire day (and by extension your life) with little dollops of noor (light). It’s as if Allah SWT knew of our burdens and tailor-made a solution for our weary souls.

Ready?  Here it is: “THE DAILY DUAS”

14123697-288-k302514Scientists say that the best way to incorporate a habit is to attach it to something that is routine. So by appointing a dua for each daily habit Allah (SWT) made our lives that much easier. Imagine something as trivial as changing your clothes can be made into worship by the utterance of a few words and a slight adjustment of intention.

And what better time to sow a new habit than during the blessed month of Ramadan?

Imagine waking up and the first words to leave your lips are:

الحَمْدُ لِلهِ الَّذِي أَحْيَانَا بَعْدَ مَا أَمَاتَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ

‘All praise be to Allah, who gave us life after killing us (sleep is a form of death) and to Him will we be raised and returned’ (Muslim 2711)

When you sleep you are cut from the world. Its comings and goings no longer concern you. You are helpless to protect yourself from any harm, neither could you go to your family’s aid if they need you. You are dead to the world unless Allah (SWT) allows your soul to return to your body.  Allah (SWT) does this for you every single day of your life without your even asking. So it’s only befitting we thank Him for His gift of a new life.

Next you stand in front of the mirror to get ready and you say:

 اَللَّهُمَّ كَمَا أَحْسَنْتَ خَلْقِي فَحَسِّنْ خُلُقِي

“O Allah, just as You have made my external features beautiful, make my character beautiful as well” (EDITOR’S NOTE: this dua can be said at any time, and not specifically when standing in front of the mirror) (Ahmad, Ibn Habban (1999))

In a single sentence Allah (SWT) reminds you that HE created you and you are as He intended- beautiful; as well as the fact that beautifying your character should be your main goal. And for that you make a quick dua before your day has even properly begun!

You say salam (Islamic greeting) to your family and leave the house for work, university or a religious class. As you exit the door you say:

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَلَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ

“In Allah’s Name I begin with, I place my (full) trust in Allah and there is no Might and Power except with Allah.” (Sunan Abi Dawood – da’eef/weak)

Now you consciously acknowledge that it is Allah (SWT) who manages your well being. Thus you are confident that your affairs are well handled by Allah.

Within the short period of 30-40 minutes you have remembered Allah, praised Him, and made dua to Him for your character and well-being. All by short duas that takes less than 1 minute total. As you expand your dua list and add more duas, the amount of reward you can earn is endless!

Ramadan is a month of change. Allah (SWT) has made it easier for us to inculcate new habits by chaining the devils. So sow the seed of dua now and reap its rewards for the rest of your life.

 

 

 

Ramadan Challenge: For the Muslim Ummah’s Pain!

By Sualeha Khan

Have you ever scrolled down your Facebook news-feed or a news app on your phone and found heart wrenching news about bombings, pellet guns and Muslims facing torture for their beliefs and their way of dressing, or pictures of injured young, helpless children and bleeding bodies on the floor in different parts of the world?

Unless you are living under a rock I am sure you have, and you must have felt the sadness and grief at least puncture your heart if not make you tear up.

If you have been through these emotional states of mind, you should be grateful to Allah Almighty for having blessed you with a soft heart. If after reading this, you wanted to have this feeling, don’t worry, you are almost there!

But it’s not just about getting sentimental; have you thought about what you can do for these people in trouble and whether you can even do something or not? YOU CAN. Yes, you can actually do something! You can make dua for them from the depth of your heart. The best time to do this is as soon as this grief overcomes you and your tear ducts go into production mode.

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I cannot speak for anybody else but I have tried it and making dua after 2 rak’ah of prayer might just be the best way to relieve your sadness. However, I am also familiar with the feeling of waking up the next day, seeing another one of these saddening posts and entirely losing faith in your prayers the day before. But hey, read the following hadith and make dua with the conviction that it will be accepted.

“Verily your Lord is generous and shy. If His servant raises his hands to Him (in supplication) He becomes shy to return them empty” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

Remember that Muslims all over the world need our prayers; don’t restrict them to those facing difficulties in Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, Kabul or Gaza. Making dua is a caring gesture- you pray for me and I for you! When someone says I’ll pray for you voluntarily, your heart melts and you feel that you are cared for and treasured. Imagine someone else feeling like this because of you.

Lastly, if all this was not motivation enough:

“The dua of a Muslim for his brother (in Islam) in his absence is readily accepted, an angel is appointed to his side, whenever he makes a beneficial dua for his brother the appointed angel says “Aameen and may you also be blessed with the same” [Sahih Muslim]

Ramadan Challenge: Pray For Them!

By Yasha Humayun

When we make dua we often fail to realize how powerful it is. You’re calling on to the One Who’s the Most Glorious (Al-Majeed) and The Responsive (Al-Mujeeb), what act can be more powerful and more beautiful than this?

Dua is the best gift you can ever give; it’s undoubtedly the only gift that benefits the one who receives it and the one who gifts it. What other gift can you think of that would fulfill this criteria? None!

I’ve often stumbled upon quotes that say that if you truly love someone, you pray and make dua for them and also that if you want to know who you really love, look at who you pray for in your duas. Undeniably, both of these ring true.

Often, by the grace of Allah, when we set out to help our loved ones, we are only able to do so much, for us humans are limited in our capabilities, in our influence over things. The time then is to call to the One who is Al-Muqtadir (The Powerful) and Al-Qaadir (The Able), the one whose power and control encompasses everything, and to say to Him, ‘Ya Allah, this person is in dire need of Your help, You’re the only One that ever helps us, You’re the only One that can help us, please be merciful to him and aid him.’

Often we do pray for our friends and relatives, but what about those loved ones who’ve left this world? They’re in as much need of our duas as those who are with us.

Once when I was sitting after prayer, I wondered, ‘Ya Allah, are there people who have died, passed away in a calamity, and no one knew they existed? Are there people on this Earth that have no one to make dua for them, no one to cry for them in sujood (prostrations), no one to ask for forgiveness for them?”

Make dua for them too, their book of deeds has closed and one can only pray for their  forgiveness. Especially, making dua for parents who’ve passed away is a very rewarding act.

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The Prophet  said: “When a person dies, all his deeds come to an end except three: sadaqah jaariyah (ongoing charity, e.g. a waqf or endowment), beneficial knowledge (which he has left behind), or a righteous child who will pray for him.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no 1376)

He  also said: “A man’s status will be raised in Paradise and he will ask, ‘How did I get here?’ He will be told, ‘By your son’s du’aa’s (prayers) for forgiveness for you.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no 3660; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1617)

The beauty of dua is that you can ask for anything, as long as it’s halal, and you can add as much people as you want to it. It’s best to add the entire Ummah. It’s one of the reasons why I absolutely love the dua of Ibrahim A.S, especially the second part of the dua, “O Lord, make me and my children steadfast in prayer, Our Lord accept the prayer. Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and the believers on the Day of Judgement.” (Surah Ibrahim 14:40-41)

Make a list of the individuals you want to pray for and what you want to pray for for them; it doesn’t strictly have to be a written one, it can be a mental list too. A list will allow you to be more specific.

This is the blessed month so make your duas for your loved ones today, make them right now. You never know, this could be the hour of acceptance of duas!

If you have true concern for your friends and relatives, if you make abundant and consistent dua for them, then with the Will of Allah, He will open doors of blessings and mercy for you, because He loves those who love His creation.

 

Ramadan Challenge: Your Smart Dua List!

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I started making dua lists some 13 years ago when I was struggling with my life and an Accountancy degree, my future was hazy, I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing – I apparently had no life goal except for qualifying as an Accountant – which I thought I was probably incapable of anyway. And other than that, I had the plethora of other teenager issues.

Since writing has always been my sanctuary, one day I just pulled out a journal and started writing my duas.

The entries were like a letter to Allah SWT, The duas were bullet points loosely based on the theory of SMART – (specific, measurable, Action-oriented, Results-oriented and Tangible).

For example, instead of asking a generic “guide me”, I would write, “O Allah help me study harder so that I could pass my tax exam this summer”.

13 years later almost all of my duas have been answered or are in the process of being answered. Literally! Big duas, tiny duas, stupid duas, funny duas – All. Of. Them. Answered. Alhamdulillah!

It seems surreal but I am telling a fact of my life. And ever since I encourage myself and my friends to write their duas.

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Importance of Writing Down Your Duas

Now you may ask why is writing important. Following are the reasons why I endorse writing:

1. Gives You FOCUS & Allows You to Ask Questions

Most of us living in today’s world are mindlessly sleepwalking through life. We do not know why we are doing what we are doing and the screens have numbed us so much that we have stopped questioning ourselves.

So, sitting down to write duas will revive our FOCUS, it will allow us to contemplate on our life and ask questions like what is actually significant and what is worthy enough to be asked from Allah.

2. Gives You Your Vision

Most of us in today’s world, do not have life goals and do not even think about life goals. We tend to  just live on a day-to-day basis without having a bigger picture of our life.

The list of our duas, once completed, will be a comprehensive vision of our life. It will tell us what we are looking for in life and what we value the most. And hence will empower us by defining the general direction of our life.

What Happens When You Write Duas?

Here are 6 amazing benefits that you will achieve when you write down your duas:

1. Written Duas Become a Road Map

Written duas are actually your written life goals, your dreams, your aspirations.

Now, since you have written them on paper you have the chance to expand them, add details to them and identify exactly what you want to achieve. Working on the list will make you realize that it is actually a road map of your life.

2. Written Duas are Tangible & Instil Belief of Acceptance

Written duas are now a tangible thing – and we humans are much more likely to believe in something tangible.

So naturally, the dua list will make us start believing in the duas, believing in the fact that they will become a reality. Now, belief is a very interesting thing, as Allah SWT says, ‘I am as my servant thinks/believes of me’. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 97, Hadith 13]

So the strength of belief of anything to happen is directly proportional to the chances of its occurrence, which means: the more your believe in something the more it is likely to happen (with the Will of Allah).

3. Written Duas Will Inspire Action

Once you trust your dua will be answered you will be inspired to start working towards it by devising ways and strategies, and putting effort in achieving the dua, hence doing your bit in tawakkul* upon Allah.

4. Written Duas (just like asking dua) Eradicate Worry

Writing your duas gives you a strange positive energy in knowing that you have handed over your load to the Supreme Power – and you feel the stress disappear. The feeling be like: “Okay Allah SWT take my burden and take care of it”.

5. Written Duas Relieve You of Your Mental Load

Since you have written down the duas, you don’t have to constantly recall them every time you have to pray. It will save you a lot of energy and mental load by freeing your mind to have to perpetually remember them.

6. Written Dua Lists Will Inspire Asking You For Them Often

By writing the duas and pasting the list at a place where you notice it often will also encourage you to spare a minute or two and ask the duas. Hence will make you insistent and remind you to repeat the duas which will also, inshaAllah increase the chances of its acceptance.

CHALLENGE:

Dear brothers & sisters, tonight – sit down. Take a piece of paper & pen and scribble away your duas. Such that – instead of worrying on the nights of Ramadan about “what” to ask, you can work & concentrate on “how” to ask the duas off your dua list.

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*Tawakkul: Tawakkul is an Islamic concept that means putting your trust in Allah (One God) after using the appropriate means to achieve your goal. 

My Ramadan Diary: All you could ask for!

My Ramadan Diary: All you could ask for!

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By Umm Ibrahim

“Verily your Lord is Generous and Shy. If His servant raises his hands to Him (in supplication) He becomes shy to return them empty” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

Two Ramadans back, someone advised me to make a Dua List for Ramadan. Always a fan of making lists, I sat down and began to casually list all the small and big things I wanted in the Dunya and Akhirah. I had thought the list would probably contain 15-20 things. But when the list was complete, it reached almost 200!

The list then stayed with me at the time of iftar and suhoor, and particularly in the last ten nights.

This year, I dug out my Dua List from last Ramadan and went through it. And it opened my eyes.

There were duas that He had accepted and I had totally forgotten about them! I had begged for stuff; He had granted it. But when I got it, I had turned away and conveniently forgotten to say as much as Thankyou. The gifts had distracted me from the Giver Himself.

Even more heartbreaking was the realization that I had asked for seemingly impossible things, (I still remember hesitating whether to include them in the list or not, because they did seem quite unlikely) yet He had subtly created the opportunities and circumstances for them to happen. I had then conveniently attributed it all to my own intelligence and abilities.

In the list, in my own handwriting, were also other duas which I had desperately asked for. He had NOT granted them. And today, in hindsight, I could see the absurdity of some of them, and the danger that lie in others. I could see the bigger picture, and that made me grateful that He cared enough to not let me play with fire even when I begged for it. How beautiful and true are the words of Ibn al-Qayyim:

“Had Allah lifted the veil for his slave and shown him how He handles his affairs for him,
and how Allah is more keen for the benefit of the slave than his own self,
his heart would have melted out of the love for Allah
and would have been torn to pieces out of thankfulness to Allah.
Therefore if the pains of this world tire you, do not grieve.
For it may be that Allah wishes to hear your voice by way of dua.
So pour out your desires in prostration
and forget about it and know;
that verily Allah does not forget it.”

Then there are also other duas that we make- duas about the akhirah. We will never know whether they have been accepted or not until the day we die and meet Him. So, we will keep asking Him; we will keep knocking at His Door and begging for His Mercy and Forgiveness, with our hearts between hope and fear.

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My Ramadan Diary: Forgive Me When I Whine

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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)

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