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Ramadan Challenge: Why Start With Bismillah?

By Fatima Asad

Do you take “Bismillah” for granted? You are not alone if you do. There are many types of Bismillahs that we say throughout the day.  The kind you say before eating or drinking.  Then there’s the kind you say before reading the Quran or at the start of wudu.  Then there’s the one you read with sincere passion at the beginning of the dreaded Chemistry exam.  Oh don’t forget the Bismillah that escapes your lips when you trip on your shoe laces.  Most of us can trace back the origin of our Bismillahs to a Qari sahab, a dedicated auntie at Sunday school or our kindergarten teacher who taught us “Before we eat, we must say Bismillah, Bismillah!” (Tune stuck in my head now)

If you do take most of your Bismillahs for granted, please don’t. Saying the blessed phrase has become second nature- like riding a bike.  However, we need to refresh its meaning and renew our commitment to it from time to time.

I, for one, am always greedy to turn a “normal” act of life into an act of worship.  This is the power of Bismillah.  It’s the wonder that turns any act you do into an act of worship.  But it doesn’t stop there.

When you consciously say “In the Name of Allah” you are forcing yourself to go through a quick self-check.  These are the few seconds in which you undergo an intention change.  What you might have been intending to do for another reason (such as making your mom happy), you just ultra-purified your intention by reminding yourself that everything I do is first for Allah, then for someone else i.e. mom.

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This is the beauty and power of Bismillah. It is a powerful spell. I use the word spell here on purpose because we all have in one point or another wished for a magic wand or Harry Potter-inspired spells that would make life simpler.  Well, we already have these ‘spells’ – for every occasion, actually- known as du’as.  Yes, I said it.  But please don’t get a wand or turn your black abaya into Hermoine’s witch robes and start waving the wand while reading the dua before drinking mango lassi, hoping the calories won’t attack the wrong places.  That would be sad. Not to mention utterly not Halal.

The reason I label these duas as “spells” is only to show you that they are powerful! We are instructed to read them for a reason.  That reason is to get that extra help from Allah SWT on a regular basis because we as humans are helpless without His aid- even when you don’t read these duas for various occasions, Allah SWT continues to help you.  Imagine the help we will get when we actually ask for it.

So back to Bismillah…Start reading it with high alert.  Make sure you turn as many seconds of your daily routine into worship as possible.  That includes waking up, sleeping, eating, taking a shower, going to school, doing chores, baking a cake for your best friend, wrapping Eid gifts, swimming, etc. Do you notice something with this list? I didn’t write things like stalking people on Facebook, chatting on Whatsapp non-stop, watching 3 hours of cricket, calling your girlfriend/boyfriend, visiting your best friend so you can complain about your other best friend, going to a hookah bar, etc.

That’s another power of Bismillah. If you can’t say it comfortably before a certain action you are about to do, it is a strong indication that it will not count as worship. In fact, your gut might confirm that the action is actually a sin.

So listen to your gut.  That’s Allah SWT sending you a red signal. Just say Bismillah before anything and everything you do.  Try it for 3 days and you will have undergone some serious self-evaluation without ever going to a therapist or writing in a journal.

 

Ramadan Challenge: It’s All About Intentions!

By Umm Ibrahim

Yesterday was not a good day. I had started the day with the intention of spending the whole day in worship – reading the Quran and nawafil (non-obligatory prayers) mostly. Yet, I was interrupted ever so often by a demanding husband, a cranky baby, relatives on the phone, never-ending chores and even the plumber! The day ended with me feeling cranky and upset because of all these distractions which had made me miserably fail in developing that connection with Allah that I had so ardently desired.

But today, it hit me that Allah is well-aware of my situation. Doesn’t He just want me to grow where he has planted me? Today, I decided to go with the flow and take the day as it comes but just to remember to do everything I do with the goal of pleasing Him. My goal today was not 20 nawafil or 3 juzz; it was simply to obtain the Pleasure of Allah.

So I sat down calmly to read the Quran and ponder over it to please Allah.

When my husband called me to iron his shirt, I closed the mushaf (Quran) without a frown, realizing that Allah is pleased with the woman who obeys her husband happily. I ironed his shirt with love and care to please Allah.

I resumed my recitation until the baby woke up. I bathed him and changed his diaper and fed him, all the while seeking to please Allah, realizing that this was a responsibility He had placed on me and I would be answerable for it.

Success

When my aunt called while I was busy in my post-Zuhr prayer tasbih (remembrance of Allah), I responded graciously. I sought Allah’s Pleasure in the act of maintaining the ties of kinship, and speaking nicely.

And when the baby woke up from his afternoon nap for the 3rd time, I groggily picked him up and rocked him to sleep. This child would not let me sleep today, it seemed. But my heart was filled with serenity instead of resentment as I sought the Pleasure of Allah in the simple act of loving my baby and being gentle to him. I rocked him to sleep while making dua for his future in this world and the hereafter.

In the evening, when I entered the kitchen, I was not angry for having to miss out on more recitation. Rather, as much as my heart yearned to be in solitude with the Quran, I focused on seeking Allah’s Pleasure by preparing food for my fasting family and feeding them.

At night, my husband had a severe migraine attack and I decided to skip taraweeh prayer in the masjid to be there for him. Though I love every moment of taraweeh prayer, the desire to do what I thought would please Allah more in this situation won.

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Finally, when I went to bed, I was seeking to be refreshed for suhoor (meal before dawn), all the while seeking the pleasure of Allah even in sleeping.

Today was a good day alhamdulillah. Today I learnt the difference between doing something just for yourself or other people and doing something purely for the sake of Allah, seeking His Pleasure.

I challenge you to try this out for yourself. Whatever you do today, whether it be a formal act of worship or a seemingly mundane chore, do it with the intention of pleasing Allah. Because without this intention, you risk all your deeds going to waste!

May Allah be pleased with us all.

Chapter 16: The Waning Dusk (series)

Chapter 16: The Waning Dusk (series)

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Myth: Counting your good deeds before the Judgment Day

That’s half of Ramadan gone. Calls for an official half-time evaluation which we should be doing every waking minute anyway. Here’s the question-

Say, “Shall We tell you about the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds?” (18:103)

When I first read this, my immediate response was: “Kaafir and Mushrik!” But the answer was quite humbling and made me count the skeletons in my closet.

This is something worth losing sleep over.

“Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds!” (18:104)

Imagine coming up with a mountain of good deeds on the Judgment Day and watch it amount to nothing. There are worldly motives behind everything that we do and sometimes behind religious activities too. You share something good on Facebook– you sit back and wait for likes to pour in. You work away on a blog post all night, hit ‘Publish’, spread it around and then you find yourself fixated on the stats. Number of visitors, likes, follows and reblogs… And the passion nosedives if your posts and statuses don’t receive as much attention as you would’ve liked.

It all boils down to intentions at the end of the day. There is an internal monologue I’m sure everyone’s familiar with when they’re trying to get their act together. Make sure pleasing Allah is set on default. In fact, unlike computers where your settings stay fixed, you have to keep changing your default settings.

Materialism is one of the dominant themes of Surah Al-Kahf, and is highlighted in these verses too. Whatever it is that you are exhausting yourself with in this life, if you keep Allah out of the equation, your good deeds will weigh naught. Imagine the work on your sleepless nights wasted to nothingness. There are times when your bones creak because of the stress. Because you’ve decided to go an extra mile volunteering for causes in your otherwise very busy life. It’s scary to think that it could all turn to dust– poof!

Honestly, when I look back at some of my things people might classify as good, I can’t come up with any that I think is preserved in its sincerest form. It’s like every good that you do is followed by a whine, or complaints, selfish motives, unnecessary broadcasting or you reminding somebody that you did them a favor. If you even imply as much– it’s gone. Kaput. Totaled.

When one of my Quran mentors passed away a couple of years back, I only prayed for her efforts be accepted. It would be terrifying to meet your Rabb with hollow deeds. To have struggled your entire life but draw a blank. And I’d rather people pray the same for me and everyone else. Because no matter how much you want your actions to be solely for Allah, they always get corrupted.

The truth is- we are more concerned about accumulating good deeds than about preserving them.

“A believer catches his intention changing forty times a day, but a hypocrite remains on the same intention for forty years.”

-Yasir Qadhi

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