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Ramadan Challenge: The Dip!

By Nasser Ijaz Moghal

Contrary to popular belief this article is not about a new Ramadan chip-dip recipe. What I’m about to uncover is the basis of success for the entire Muslim Ummah!

Iman (faith) is not stagnant. Faith increases and decreases during certain times, conditions and as a result of certain actions. As Allah says in the Quran:

“The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely” (Surah Al-Anfaal 2)

This verse tells us that for a believer, his iman (faith) increases when Quran is recited to him. Although it’s very hard to judge the level of iman as a whole of the Muslim ummah but a good indicator is the number of Muslims showing up at taraweeh prayer. When Ramadan starts, you would see 5-7 rows filled in the Masjid and as soon as we cross the 5th of Ramadan, this number begins to dwindle to 2 or 3. This remains the case for most of Ramadan until we reach the 27th of Ramadan. The time when suddenly all these people start sprouting up from nowhere and you’re like: ‘Man! I never knew we had so many people in the neighbourhood!’ That is the night in which we reach 50 rows in the masjid for taraweeh prayer. As for the rest of the year, the masjid is only occupied for Jumu’ah (Friday prayer) and Eid. As a visual representation of this phenomenon check out the iman graph below:

graph 1

As an analogy, it’s like a marathon. There are many people at the beginning and end of it, but they are only the spectators. During the middle of the marathon, you see only a few people who are, in fact, the participants. Have we also become silent spectators and resigned ourselves to mediocrity rather than excellence in execution?

Allah says in the Quran: “and Allah loves those who do good with perfection.” (Surah Al-Maa’idah 93)

Just imagine! Allah loves those who do the most perfect and beautiful actions! We need to strive to bring actions to level of ihsaan (excellence) in our lives and not settle for less. We should bring forth actions of superior quality to Allah in both this life and the hereafter.

Ramadan is a boot camp for Muslims to prepare them for the challenges of the entire year. But when the boot camp fails to achieve the intended level of ihsaan then our entire year turns out to be bad. Therefore, we need to take a proactive approach to ensure that are faith is maintained throughout Ramadan so that we can survive the harsh winter that is to come. Ideally we should always have high iman throughout the year. Taking baby steps, we can aim for this milestone and then iterate to reach greater levels of iman in the Ummah.

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In this way you will have an overall high level of iman throughout Ramadan. Then through the year the iman will increase and will be further renewed in Ramadan once more.

So, this is all theory. What practical steps can we take to ensure to remove the Ramadan dip from our lives?

1. Iftaar Party Management

With the coming of Ramadan, there is a massive influx of Ramadan iftaar deals. Say no to all of them and safeguard your iman. ‘But what if I am invited by a friend to an iftaar party by a friend?’ Politely refuse and invite him/her to your place for Eid.

There is a catch though….How would you handle when your family invites you to an iftaar party? You could always politely refuse and they’ll sooner or later get to know that you don’t come. It would become your thing. Or you could play on the front foot and invite them to an iftaar at the masjid. This way no one can run away from Maghreb or taraweeh prayer.

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2. Portion Management

The worst thing that people do during iftaar is that they think they are a camel. A camel can store water in its body. So the person during iftaar fills himself with so much food and water that there isn’t even room left for him to breathe. Then what does such a person expect he will do after eating and drinking so much? Taraweeh prayer? More like bed, if not hospital! What do you think would happen to the Imam of the masjid if he ate so much during iftaar? He would literally throw up and die during taraweeh! So have small portions of food in a tea saucer. You can have more, but limit each helping that you take.

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3. Sleep Management

1/3rd of our entire life is spent sleeping! If we can manage this, indeed we can become successful individuals. As soon as you come back from taraweeh, go to sleep. Do not Facebook! Do not stay up late on your phone! Use the  time after Fajr for work and then once you come back from office or school/college/university, go to sleep for 1-2 hours so that you remain fresh for taraweeh!

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4. Soul Management

“Indeed, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace”. We may deprive our body of nourishment but we would truly die if we mal-nourish our souls by not even attempting to read or understand the speech of Allah, the Quran. This Ramadan is special because it is the month in which Quran was revealed. So the biggest association we should have with Ramadan is Quran rather than fasting and most definitely not feasting. This Ramadan make an active effort to renew your connection with the Quran by going through the tafseer (explanation) of the Quran and pondering over its meaning.

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5. Energy Management

Normally there is a great deal of effort placed on managing your time, but what good is time, when all the time you feel drained and exhausted? That’s where energy management comes to play. The higher the levels of stress, frustration and anger you feel will directly impact your energy levels leading to diminishing productivity. Therefore, whenever faced with a situation triggering your pressure points, always remain calm and say “Ana Saaim” (I am fasting). The dude might be shouting at your face but when you say this with a smile on your face, so what can he do possibly? Furthermore, when sad or stressed, remember the rewards that Allah has placed for the believers in Jannah and let a smile beautify your face. Choose to forgive and forget rather than fret.

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Have I missed out on anything? Make sure you comment and share any ideas that you might have on eliminating the “Ramadan Dip” from the lives of Muslims.

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Ramadan Challenge: The Art of Eating!

By Aleena Masood

As we all know, Ramadan is a month of blessings and is a good time to get rid of bad habits like lying, backbiting etc. However, most of us don’t realise that it is also the perfect opportunity to fix our eating habits and dietary patterns.

Eating a diet containing nutrient rich food rather than energy dense food is absolutely necessary.

“A diet that has less than the normal amount of food but is sufficiently balanced will keep you healthy and active for the duration of Ramadan,” a wise person once said.

Let’s go through some of the key elements of a balanced diet:

Dairy Products

Milk in itself is a complete diet with all the essential nutrients your body may be deficient in. Other products like lassi and yogurt are good alternatives which should be a part of our suhoor and iftaar meals.

Fruits and Vegetables

These are rich in minerals, vitamins, fibre and all the natural sugars which our bodies need. Eating a good portion of fruits and vegetables will ensure that you are not missing on any important element required by the body. Plus they are not heavy, and will keep your body feeling active throughout the day.

Water

Drink a minimum of 8-9 glasses in suhoor and iftaar to maintain your hydration status in the summer heat. However, do not gulp down all the water at once, you are not a camel! Drink sip by sip and divide the total intake throughout the night, like one glass of water at iftaar time, one after Maghrib prayer, one before dinner etc.

Healthier Cooking MethodsIMG_1701

Try to eat boiled, steamed or grilled foods and avoid fried items! Frying in fats and oils is not recommended as it decreases the nutritional content of food and increases thirst. Think twice about those mouth watering, yet devilish pakoras! A little creativity will make your non-fried food taste even better than the fried one. You just have to show some dedication! Once you develop your taste, it will work wonders for you in the long run.

Processed Foods

Ramadan can be your chance to make an effort to switch to more natural foods than artificial and processed ones. Ditch the pleasure of those one time fun time foods for your overall health and future’s comfort. Not only do they cause digestion problems but also make your stomach weak and cause various diseases. Natural foods cooked simply will not take too much of your time and provide with all the nutrition that you actually need. Search up some quick and tasty recipes.

Other Recommendations

• Eat slowly at iftaar time. This way, you will end up feeling satiated even though you haven’t consumed a great quantity of food

• Open your fast with dates and water, pray Maghrib and then eat the rest of your food. Dates are a wonder food and will provide you with lots of energy when taken in both suhoor and iftaar.

• Do not eat too much before Taraweeh prayer, not only will it make you drowsy but could also be a source of discomfort for others at the masjid!

However, with all this talk about food, don’t forget one important principle:

The focus shouldn’t be entirely on body weight, but rather on being mindful of how you fast and how you break your fast!

 

Of Iftaar Parties & Reunions

Of Iftaar Parties & Reunions

unnamedBy Niqabi Swag Girl

I checked my blinking phone to see whose text message it is: “Reunion of Class of 2013 of ABC department of XYZ University at ChinaTown this Sunday…”

Boy! They did it again!

Oh yes, come Ramadan and there’s a deluge of invitations of iftaar parties and reunions and meet-those-friends-that-you-did-not-meet-the-whole-year-so-you-can-have-some-juicy-gossip-that-will-last-a-year.

And why not? You’ve been busy in your studies and jobs and family commitments all these months, isn’t this the perfect time to relax and party especially since you have the perfect excuse of not being able to eat for so many hours and not being able to drink in this scorching heat? You DESERVE a treat after all this torture, right?

Food

Umm… Wait a sec! You think you DESERVE to lose all these precious moments that are here for only these few days in which you can multiply the reward of your good deeds enormously, get forgiveness for ALL your sins, cry in front of Allah and get your name removed from the inhabitants of hell-fire and have it written in those that will be in the highest Jannah, get the fate of your coming year all set with goodness and set your affairs of this world right? Really?

Come on! Don’t lower yourself this much, mate. Don’t lose on this time. Your parties and reunions can wait.

Ramadan is not the month of parties. It is the month of worship, it is the month of reconnecting with your Creator.

These days are supposed to be taken extremely seriously. We need a perspective shift. Rather than relaxing in these days, you can relax in the rest of the months of the year. If you don’t let your job or studies ride you like an animal and don’t run blindly after this dunya, it won’t matter in the end.

This month is like the rain falling down in a season of drought, with the people standing outside to collect the rainwater. Some have with them huge buckets, some have bowls, and some only have little cups. The bigger the utensil, the more rainwater they’ll be able to catch. This rain is like the rain of mercy and rewards in Ramadan, and your utensils are your good deeds. It’s your choice how much you want to strive to attain that mercy. Indeed that person would be extremely foolish who chooses to ignore the rain and die of thirst. And the one who refuses to be blessed by the droplets and puts up his umbrella of sins would be absolutely mad.

Rain falling

So don’t let that mercy miss you by wasting your time talking and partying at iftaar time.
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “At every breaking of the fast, Allaah has people whom He redeems.” [Ahmad (5/256)]
Who doesn’t want to ask Allah to set him free from the fire? Who doesn’t have loved ones that have died and does not want to make dua for them to be released from the fire?

Every moment is precious in this blessed month. Our pious predecessors used to stop studying all other subjects and open the Quran in the month of Ramadan. They used to ask Allah  six months before Ramadan to grant them long life so that they could reach Ramadan and they used to ask Allah six months after Ramadan to accept their fasting.

As for these last 10 days, do you know how our Prophet (ﷺ) used to spend them?

His wife, Aisha RA narrates, “With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet (ﷺ) used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work hard) and used to pray all the night, and used to keep his family awake for the prayers.” [Bukhari 2024]

Let’s gird up our loins and get going. May Allah save us from being of the following people,

“Once Angle Gabriel A.S supplicated, “Woe be upon him who got the Month of Ramadan (in a state of health & well being) but could not earn an expatiation of his sins”, Prophet of Allah (ﷺ) said “ameen”.” [Hakim]

The No-Food Days

The No-Food Days

unnamed By Niqabi Swag Girl 

The first day of Ramadan is always a whole new experience. You wake up in the morning and are about to tramp towards the kitchen when you realize it’s no-breakfast day. Oops! “Better get to work as there is nothing else to do”, you say to yourself. You start working and realize after 10 minutes that it’s no-snack day. Uh-oh! So you get back to work and then you keep remembering this after every few minutes and continue your work. By the time you realize it’s no-lunch day, you’re half done. And voila! You end up finishing your work miraculously without any food!

Wait! You think you finished even though you didn’t have any food? Nah! You finished because you didn’t have any food. Oh yes! Most of us in the Muslim world of Asia have food on our minds pretty much all day (maybe people of other continents have the same problem too, not sure). That is the No. 1 Undesirable desire that we find so hard to overcome. All our day is spent either dreaming about it, looking at drool-able food pictures, searching for delicious recipes or snacking. Women specially have to spend long hours in the kitchen. Eliminate all this and you end up with so much time on your hands. Allah SWT is our Creator and He knows this about us, hence the 30 day fasting.

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He says in the Quran,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous -” (Al-Baqarah 183)

The purpose of fasting cannot be achieved unless there is some space to fit in the taqwa. We spend the whole year chasing our desires, chasing this dunya. A bit of this and a bit of that. This is the time gifted to us to leave all those things aside and focus on our soul, on our hearts. We have so much time on our hands without food and specially these summer fasts are long, more time to spend time with the Quran. More time to make dua with nothing else on our minds. More time to pray nafal with the fard as it’s just prayer-break now, no lunch to go with it.

With the first grumble of my stomach, I say ‘alhamdulillah’ and smile. For all I know it might be rejoicing and whooping with joy for being able to breathe once instead of being dumped with food. We need to swap our complaining negative glasses with the grateful positive ones.

Be happy that you get to empty your tummy for a bit. It’s not a good thing to stuff yourself anyway.

As is mentioned in a hadith,

“The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels to keep him alive. If he must fill it, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink, and one-third for air.” (al-Tirmidhi –saheeh by al-Albaani)

However, this does not imply that you should always starve yourself, it’s just a reminder to eat moderately and focus on other things in life. Allah says, “eat and drink, but be not excessive”. (Al-A’raf 31)

Have a great Ramadan, folks! 😉

Chapter 28: The Waning Dusk (series)

Chapter 28: The Waning Dusk (series)

haramMyth: Let the “Haraam” game begin

O Prophet, why do you ban (on your self) something that Allah has made lawful for you, seeking to please your wives? And Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (66:1)

Though the story behind this verse is different, the gist is the same– declaring something haraam upon yourself when it might not be. People, in particular Facebook users, have a lot of time on their hands. There’s some sort of “this-brand-is-haraam campaign” going on over Facebook, usually flaunted by low-res, shoddily photoshopped images of widely-consumed products telling people to freeze chewing candies midway.

Breathe.

Before you are compelled by your moral obligation to hit ‘Share’ just because the picture has haraam written on it– stop. Just pause for a moment and do your own research. It does not befit an educated Muslim to fuel a rumor mill without verifying sensitive information before spreading panic and mass hysteria all over the place. It is the position of the scholars and relevant organisations to give their stamp of approval or disapproval. Run your info through them. When you are done with your background check, list your sources and cite your references if indeed something is haraam and not in common knowledge. Make your information easily verifiable and authentic with sound proofs instead of a hybrid between spam and baseless E-911 jargon.

That said, happy sharing. Stuff could be halal or haraam for all we know. But on principle– verify it before freaking out.

Chapter 6: The Waning Dusk (series)

Chapter 6: The Waning Dusk (series)

v_pakora

Myth: It’s Ramadan- Think Pakoras

There is something ostensibly odd about this verse:

“The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!” (05:75)

Another statement where Allah (swt) is making a point that Isa (as) and his mother were not supernatural beings or Gods but merely humans. One might wonder, if they are paying attention, why is food brought here as a demarcating line between godliness and being human?

Why FOOD of all the things?

It’s a no-brainer, and definitely not a brainer in Ramadan, that food is human super-weakness. And anyone foolish enough to think he can be one with the heavens by denying himself food, is only kidding himself– that does happen, but only when you starve yourself enough to go six feet under. Very uh- ungodly. So, the point here, and in numerous places in the Quran, is that it is only Allah (swt) Who is free from all weaknesses and whatever partners people associate with Him are just not qualified enough.

You’d be surprised to know that food has been given its due attention in the Quran and Sunnah. And as Muslims, we have been told our limits here as well as in other things. But here is what happens-

You stuff yourself at iftaar, before taraweeh, after taraweeh until you achieve that state of reverse nirvana where everything stills and you want to throw up. And with the amount of gluttony that goes on and the way we drop like dead weights before Isha’, you can give this a sinister tagline. Ramadan- revenge of the pakoras. Blame it on that fried dish.

And after a very uncomfortable taraweeh (or lack thereof) and after shoving down more leftovers just for the heck of it, you pass out on your bed till dawn. Apparently you ate enough to skip suhur, and the cycle repeats itself. See why food is THE ultimate weakness? Can’t tell if we are the ones eating food or if food is consuming us…

We skip meals when we are supposed to have them and it is our overeating tendency that leads to it which is blatantly obvious.

The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Take suhur as there is a blessing in it.” (Bukhari)

and

“The difference between our observance of fasting and that of the people of the Scriptures is the suhur.”  (Muslim)

Do yourself a favor- eat less, cook less, wake up early for a barakah-filled meal (and to feel less like a Jew) and you will not be plagued with hunger pangs throughout the day. Consequently, we will find ourselves eating the way Muslims should eat. Hopefully!

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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.

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