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Ramadan Challenge: Seeking Forgiveness

By Dr. Sonia Mohsin 

Have you ever been in a situation where you find yourself giving up, letting go and just forsaking the idea of worship, or being righteous, or thinking of Allah; just because there lies upon your shoulders a heavy burden of sins? How many times have you wondered that this is it? I am just not good enough? If like all other human beings, you too have ever been on that stage where you felt that there can never be a sinner greater than you – then congratulations! You have arrived at the gates of salvation – the door to istighfaar (seeking forgiveness).

This is Allah talking to you:

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)

And what can get better than the fact that the month of Ramadan is here! The month of seeking forgiveness! This was  the advice given by our beloved Prophet ﷺ in his sermon before Ramadan* :

“Do repent in this month to Allah for your sins, and supplicate with raised hands at the time of prayer as these are the best times, during which Allah Almighty looks at his servants with Mercy. Allah answers if they supplicate, responds if they call, grants if He is asked, and accepts if they entreat. O People! You have made your conscience the slave of your desires. Make it free by invoking Allah for forgiveness. Your back may break from the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate (sajdah) yourself before Allah, for long intervals, and make this load lighter.”

Let’s shed our excess baggage this Ramadan, because we are never too bad, never too impure, never too late to say those powerful words of repentance. Here are a few practical things that can be done to bring in istighfaar (seeking forgiveness) into our lives:

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It only takes a moment. Close your eyes and think of the sins that you did today. Do it right now and utter the word “astaghfirullah” with all your heart accompanied with the thought of each sin.

Find yourself some quite time each day when there is no one to disturb you. Evaluate yourself in that time. Repentance is your cleanser. Seek Allah’s forgiveness for all the things you think you should not have done and promise yourself never to do them again. It might be just words but if delivered with emotions & commitment, it can work wonders. Try it for yourself!

When repenting remember the three tenses – past, present and future. Past: regret the time you sinned in the past and feel the remorse. Present: abandon the sin immediately. Future: Promise to never do it again.

Do the 100 Istighfaar. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to say astaghfirullah 100 times each day! Even though he didn’t have any sins. Make it a regular part of your routine – while going or coming back from work/school, before or after any obligatory prayer, while driving or cooking. A scholar once told us that it only takes 1 minute to say it a 100 times! Can you believe that? So little effort to gain a clean & healthy soul for the entire day.

Cater to the big ones. There is always that one big sin that bogs us down the most. Either we did it in the past or find it hard to let go of in the present. Either ways, big things require big measures.  Arrange to offer the 2 rak’ah dedicated to that one big sin.

Cry your eyes out! It’s about time that something other than the sloppy soap operas and movies made us cry. It is time to shed our tears for our Lord. Prophet ﷺ said that the two eyes that shed tears for the fear of Allah will never be touched by the hellfire [al-Nasaa’i]. What more incentive do we need? When you think of your sins, think of the dominion of Allah Almighty. Think how small & insignificant you are as compared to the entire universe & galaxies that Allah owns, and yet you dared transgress? And although Allah could have crumbled you when the first time you faltered, yet He nurtured you, fed you, took care of you, why? Because of His Mercy. “When Allah created the universe, He decreed for Himself: ‘My Mercy prevails over My Wrath.’[Sunan Ibn Majah: 4436]

Remember to never leave a bad deed without an astaghfirullah attached with it. Repent as soon as possible. We don’t know how long we will live, do we?

Make “astaghfirullah” a regular part of speech replacing it with the often used, meaningless bad words that crowd our vocabulary. So next time your shoe breaks or your car has a flat tire, what come to you should be “astaghfirullah”, implying that all bad that comes my way is the result of my own bad deeds and hence I need to repent.

Challenge yourself this Ramadan to break free from the vicious cycle of sinning. Drop those sins before they engulf your life and drown you into neglect. Make that change and move forward because life is too short to waste it on remorse. With the power of repentance – not even the sky but Jannah is the limit. No sin is too big or too small to be forgiven by the Almighty. All you need to do is ask!

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*[It is reported in At-Tirmizi, An-Nisaa-i and in Mu’jam At-Tabaraani, upon the authority of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (ra) that Muhammad (ﷺ) said to his companions (during the last few days of Sha’baan)]

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Chapter 24: The Waning Dusk (series)

Chapter 24: The Waning Dusk (series)

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Myth: Allah is going to write me off.

Don’t confuse what people think of you with what Allah thinks of you.

We are usually one of the two types of sinners. We either take it all very lightly and shrug it off thinking no harm done; or we can’t forgive ourselves for the awful sins we have committed. And we sentence ourselves to misery assuming there’s no way we can face Allah after what we have done and said and the lines we crossed.

But Allah hasn’t given up on us. He never does.

Say (on My behalf), “O servants of Mine who have acted recklessly against their own selves, do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Surely, Allah will forgive all sins. Surely, He is the One who is the Most-Forgiving, the Very-Merciful. (39:53)

There’s hope even for the hypocrites who have been shunned into the lowest, deepest pit of Hellfire as Allah says in the Quran. But even there He makes an exception for those who turn back later. If there’s redemption for the potential bottom-most level dwellers of Hell, then there’s redemption for us too. There are people who only pray Friday to Friday. For some, it’s just Eid prayer that is left. Most of them only try to pray and fast in Ramadan. That’s all the doors they have.

Tonight is going to be another long one. Give Allah a chance and you’ll find Him waiting at the door you left open. Talk to Him. About anything and everything. His Mercy is greater than the monstrosity of our sins that we did deliberately, unintentionally or in full-blown rebellion. So long as you backtrack to His doorstep. What happens when you turn back? All of your sins will be forgiven. No conditions, no questions asked. Clean slate.

The month is closing out. The night will soon break into dawn. It’s about time we have that talk. Pour out the inner turmoil that you have held back over the years. You will realize that those tears were the only ones that were worth your distress.

Chapter 12: The Waning Dusk (series)

Chapter 12: The Waning Dusk (series)

Gratitude to AllahThe Prophet's Example

Myth: I doubt my sins will ever be forgiven

This one’s gonna be super-short.

You must have read those memes where they say life should have an Escape key so you could live on while keeping a finger on it. Or that you could just pull a Ctrl-Alt-Del to start all over…

While you may not be able to reboot yourself, but you can do something to that effect. What if I told you, you can Ctrl-Z out of your sins? Yep, you heard that right. You can undo your messes. That key-combo is one of our many favourites too. Life-saving actually. Blew up an entire report? Undo it back. When you can’t fathom how the heck something disappeared off the screen or why your work suddenly looks so warped, you hit Ctrl-Z frantically.

So– here’s the ultimate life-hack:

Surely, good deeds erase bad deeds. That is a reminder for the mindful. (11:114)

UNDO ftw! Right a wrong with a good deed. Not that you’ll need a “DIY 101 imaginative ways to do a good deed” self-help guide.

And that’s not it. In Ramadan, the reward for every good deed is increased from 10 to 700-fold or more. (Muslim) You don’t just get a clean slate, you’re also rewarded for it!

Moreover, this “Undo” feature is revolutionary. Often, you find yourself limited and can’t correct more than 10 blunders. But well, you’ve hit the jackpot with this one. You can wipe out unlimited mistakes in this limited time offer.

Ramadan is a month in which all past sins are forgiven for three reasons:

Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Whoever spends the nights of Ramadan in prayer out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven. (Bukhari and Muslim)

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

This sounds way better than Esc, don’t you think?

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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)

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!

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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.

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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.

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

Calm Down- Its Nothing!

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We will try to describe the average young Pakistani in today’s world. (This may apply to all youngsters around the world) + (This could apply to females but for the sake of this article, we will use ‘he’ as most of our interaction on the streets is with the guys!)

If you feel you can relate to this, then please read the article till the end.

Reflect upon this deeply. Remember, Allah knows us better than we know ourselves- and the first step to correcting ourselves is to realise where we’re going wrong!

We have observed that your average youngster will sin so much on a daily level, that we fear, it will come back to bite him later in his life and definitely in the hereafter. No matter how menial it may seem at the time, this is divinely guaranteed to happen.

“..And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”
Surat Az-Zalzalah (The Earthquake) – سورة الزلزلة 99.8

The moment you step outside your house, if you see a female dressed in bright clothing, you will crane your neck to see her better. You’ll want to see her face and the whole of her. Just a couple of seconds- that’s all, before you move on..

Is this you?

When your parents call you and ask you to do them a ‘favour’, for example, “Betaa, waapsi par thora sa doodh le anaa,” (Get some milk on the way home), you will  most probably mutter “ufff” or “oho” or wear a frown on your face. Don’t your parents realise that the shops are completely out of your way, and that you already have a lot on your mind?

Whilst you are walking towards your school or college, your friends who are in a car, drive up beside you offering a lift. You jump in. There is loud music blaring through the sound system. There are swear words in the song. There are detailed lyrics describing the body of a woman. You and your friends listen attentively and nod your heads in approval throughout the whole journey. You’re having a good time chilling, that’s all.

Does this happen to you?

Whilst playing cricket or football on the streets or on a pitch, a slightly mistaken decision takes place and for some reason, it boils your blood, gets you very angry and makes you lash out. Long before you know it you begin swearing at your opponents, followed by flying fists. You need to teach these kids a lesson. You need to teach them who’s boss.

Recently, you’ve gotten to know this girl from school or college/university. You started off with being ‘just friends’ a few months ago, but now strong feelings have developed. You exchange text messages all night long. You are secretly speaking to her on the phone, trying to keep your voice low, so that your parents do not hear you. You send her Facebook messages. You sometimes use whatsapp or viber. The nature of these messages, becomes increasingly ‘flirtatious’. What began as innocent compliments like ‘you have amazing eyes,’ have now been upgraded to ‘that top you were wearing earlier got my heart racing ‘ and so on and so forth…

Because we don’t consider most of the things above as ‘sins’, we increasingly justify our actions with excuses like:

 ‘That was only a 2-second lustful glance’,

or

‘I’m listening to music but not producing it’

or

‘I’m very close to a girl from college but at least I don’t have a physically intimate relationship with her’,

or

‘all I said was ‘uff’ to my parents, I’m not exactly swearing at them or abusing them physically’,

or

‘Ok I get angry during matches, but I’m not spilling blood and it’s not anger…it’s passion!’.

We all have a thousand excuses ready at a split second, don’t we?

Yes, indeed, you could argue all the above but think about it for a moment …are they not still SINS?!

And if you multiply these daily, weekly, monthly and for years, will they not add up? Don’t these so called small sins lead to major ones? Don’t they create a habit so bad, that it’s almost impossible to rid yourself of them?

The above were just a small fraction of potential sins that the average youth commit today; there are many many more that we tend to overlook.

After going through the list, do think about all the actions that you engage in daily. Maybe there are certain acts you commit, which you genuinely do not consider as a sin or a ‘Gunnah’, but which fall into the category. The only way you could identify if something is an error in the sight of your Creator is by seeking knowledge about that act, and by studying religion. Knowledge is truly the only way to dispel darkness.

To conclude, if you have realized that you have committed way too many sins and want to change but your mind keeps telling you that it is too late (and that you’ve gone too far) then do not worry. Satan, as man’s enemy,  is making you feel helpless and defeated. Take up the offer of repentance that Allah gives to you with open arms, regardless of what your mind tells you. Sincere tawbah (repentance) can help you inshaAllah. Take strength from the following powerful Hadith  gives great hope for all of us:

Allah, the Almighty, has said:

“O Son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins as great as the earth, and were you then to face Me ascribing no partners to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it!” (Hadith Qudsi)

Sincerely,the YC Street Dawah team.

The Book That Doesn’t Leave Out Anything

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By Jawwad Ahmed

Picture this: There is a book in your hand. When you first get hold of it, you wonder what it is about. It doesn’t have the usual ‘about this book’ part on the hardback cover, so you open it somewhere in the middle.

You read a few lines, and you gasp. You are astonished. You really didn’t think you’d read this.

Not now.

Not here.

You flip over a few pages and read a couple more lines.

You do this a third time, and then again – each time, your heart beat increases.

You scream out loud.

Suddenly, something clicks. You’ve figured out what’s happening.

‘…And they will say, “Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?” And they will find what they did present [before them]…’

[Quran; 18:49]

This is the Day of Judgment. And THIS is your book of deeds.

***

You open your book again and read about the time you sneaked a peek at a friend’s exam paper during the finals. Math paper, it says… A day in May. Sure the friend didn’t mind, but Allah had it recorded anyway.

A few days later, you were ogling a certain girl, again. A full 4 minutes and 37.06 seconds of just sitting there and staring. And you thought you could justify it as the ‘first glance’.

The day after that, you read on, you used a bit of filthy language mid conversation- for no apparent reason at all! You weren’t angry. You weren’t down. You only said it because you thought your friends would think you cool. Not the only time you’ve said those words. Not the only bad words you’ve ever said.

Truth is, you pretty much knew you were screwed when they gave you the book in your left hand. You tried to hide your left hand behind your back, pretending it wasn’t there- but the book found its way.

You pretty much knew you were messed up when you were forced out of your grave. Barefoot, naked and up-to-the-throat drenched in sweat thinking of just a handful of the big sins you could remember.

You had this flash-back of your entire life in the moments of your death. You were horrified at all the filth. You had this idea all along that life shouldn’t be the game you had been playing. You had planned on repenting…only some 25-30 years later. You weren’t ready for the car-accident. Death came unannounced, and you had Bryan Adams in your ears.

***

Safe in your bed with your laptop resting on your lap, this entire picture may appear to be a little extreme.

Isn’t the equation something like:

I am a Muslim + Allah is Al-Ghafoor and Al-Raheem = I go to Jannah

Really though? Is it actually  that simple?

What of Allah being Saree’-ul-Hisaab (the Swift Taker of accounts) and Shadeed-ul-‘Iqaab (Strict in punishment)? What of the accountability?

You think no one is taking notes of your ‘small’ sins?

Angels are recording every bit and every byte of what you do. There are backups, and more backups. This information cannot be corrupted, cannot be lost. Additionally, Allah knows too.

There will be recompense. There will be Accountability.

My request to you, dear reader: do your accountability now. Do it yourself. Do it before someone else does it for you.

Go through your life, and identify things…your sins, big and small. Repent. For stuff that you still do, try to stop – make a plan.

Remember: If you repent now, Allah WILL forgive you. He will wipe your sin-slate all clean, inshaAllah.

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