Tag Archives: taqwa

Ramadan Confession #1: Why I don’t stop using social media in Ramadan

By Fatima Asad

“I can’t see the moon, Mommy!” A frustrated 6 year old tugged on my dress as she jumped up and down, eagerly trying to spy the Ramadan moon behind the infamous Beijing skyscrapers.

Ding. Ding. Ding.  As predictable as iftaar pakoras, my phone started celebrating the new moon before us.

“Oh, I have a feeling we will see the Ramadan moon soon enough, in sha Allah.” I replied as I reached for my phone. Sure enough, Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem (which by the way doesn’t make sense- ask an Arab speaker), and Happy Ramadan messages adorned the screen.  There were also those messages- you know, the “I bid you adieu for 30 days”, the “time to turn off for a month”, the “it’s time to detox the soul” messages.  I smiled, pondering over the familiar feeling of this dedicated decision of going cold turkey with social media, as I too had sent off similar messages (because, you know the world will miss my posts about my kids eating my lipstick or how I found a dead dragonfly).

Last year, I made a conscious decision to get more active on social media, especially during Ramadan.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Let me tell you why I don’t stop using social media in Ramadan.  In a nutshell, it’s because my browsing quality improves tremendously during this blessed month and becomes more disciplined (as is the target for all activities).  You see, fasting is about increasing one’s taqwa– love, fear and consciousness of Allah SWT. That continuous string of taqwa can only be achieved when we starve our nafs (desirous self) – not merely the bodies – of negative habits, seemingly perpetual poisonous cycles of bad choices.

The first few days of Ramadan are always the toughest for me, and I’m not talking about my coffee deprivation.  I split into two people and it’s as if I am hallucinating. I see my dark side, more visible than ever.  In fact, it’s as if Iblees (Satan) has been training this “me” for this precise moment- to do his dirty work in his absence.  On the other hand, I see my truest, more serene and sensible self, slowly but surely rising up from what seems to be a stance of hopelessness and fragility.  These first days are difficult, painful, exhausting- a struggle in which I can feel each sigh, cry and pull as if it were a million paper-cuts.  The worst part is the heavy fog being pushed down by my stubborn dark side over my eyes.  My mind is clogged and a feeling of despair and helplessness overtakes me.

Ramadan confession

What does that have to do with my social media use? Everything. I have witnessed firsthand how social media is a major tool- nay weapon for wielding out the dark sides of people.  It knows no limits of immodesty, disrespect, effortless arguing, and poisonous malice.  It’s oh so easy to slide into various degrees of wrong when swiping through a favourite app.  One thing leads to another and before you know it, you’re watching bloopers from Downton Abbey even though you actually sat down to write down the recipe for Shakshuka.

Yes, Downton Abbey may not be the most evil, immoral content in existence, but the point is that we have become techno zombies, allowing social media to lead and control us, rather than making conscious, deliberate and wise decisions ourselves.  Did I really need to waste another hour on the bloopers after watching the series? Of course not.  Even watching the series failed to help me achieve my higher purpose in life; in fact, it most certainly hurt it, no matter how respectable or innocent the content.

 

When this slip happens a few times, I still seemed to spring back; however, as it social media 3transforms into a habit, one that became a part of my being quite effortlessly, *that* is the point where the darkness within me feeds off the cycle.  This is the reason the struggle is a powerful one when the time comes to break away and remember my purpose.  After that initial struggle in Ramadan, I engage with social media with an acute, sharpened sense of consequence, realising that whatever I do will impact not only my future habits, but also my fast for that day.

The rules of engagement become refreshed and the content that I deemed acceptable or was apathetic towards now stings my eyes, ears and heart.  The energy still needs to be used, so I redirect it towards tools that will undoubtedly aid me in achieving the greatest goal: Jannatul Firdous (Paradise of Firdaws).  This takes the form of listening to lectures, audio books, motivational TED talks, brushing up on my basic Islamic knowledge, rekindling my bond with the Quran, and improving relationships.

I absolute love using social media during Ramadan- heck, I’m so thankful to be a part of halaqaat (circles of knowledge) and various tafseer circles from my afar apartment in China.  I get a sneak peak of what wonders technology and my positive choices can have all year around.  Today, I know countless around me who use social media as the measuring stick by which they measure their worth, impact and existence.

However, we need to remember that social media is just that: a tool which needs to be consciously used and controlled, not be the cause of misery, short-lived pleasures, addiction and losing one’s self.  Use this blessed month to make a positive social media change.  This is the time for new resolutions, closing past chapters, and giving yourself a fresh start- in fact, you are being gifted a fresh opening by the Creator, Himself.  Will you accept it with all your being or simply “like” and swipe left to see what if Prince Harry shaved for the royal wedding?

Say it with me: *I am stronger than my dark side and I am definitely worth more than a hashtag.*

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My Ramadan Diary: What will the People Say?

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By Umm Ibrahim

“Log kia kahein gy?”

“Log kia kahein gy?” – this has probably killed more dreams and good intentions than any other thought.

As Ramadan softens our hearts and shakes our conscience, we dream of becoming better people, we make good, honest intentions, but often the fear of people stops us from forging ahead. We hesitate to step out of our comfort zone, fearing the reaction of people more than anything else. Be it a beard, a hijab, praying regularly, joining a Quran Class or saying no to gossip and music- change and the associated questions and remarks it invites from the people around us make us very uncomfortable.

Our brain and the whispers of the devil play odd tricks on us. We play out worst-case scenarios in our mind until we lose the courage to change anything in ourselves for the better, stifle the squeaky voice of our conscience and settle back into the status-quo.

One of three things happen

From experience, I can tell you this: when you recognize the hollowness of the discouraging voices in your head, when you trust Allah completely and purify your intention, and just take the plunge, one of these things happens:

1- Nothing. No one starts laughing hysterically and pointing at you when you enter the room. The unnecessary drama that you concocted in your head never really takes place. Someone might even compliment you or wish that they could be more like you. Your confidence sky-rockets.

2- You get snide remarks and cutting comments. But Allah sends tranquility upon you, and the remarks just seem to bounce off you. You feel they should hurt, but they just don’t. Allah has toughened your skin. You are genuinely able to smile and shrug it off.

3- You get those questions and comments from everyone, and you become the laughing-stock. And it hurts. It seems as if a hole has been seared right through your heart. You can feel hot tears of anger and humiliation welling inside you. But then when the people leave, and its just you and Him, you pour it all out in front of him. You cry and babble in front of Him, and His Mercy envelops you. This one sujood, this one dua’ makes you taste the sweetness of Eeman that you had never even dreamed of. Your heart tells you then that it’s okay, that it will be okay, that it was all worth it, and that it will all be worth it.

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Cure Fear With Fear

Fear is natural. One of the cures for fear is a more potent fear. Normally, you might squeal at the sight of a cockroach, but if you’re caught between a venomous snake and a cockroach, you won’t even notice the cockroach. You might be afraid of an injection, but if the other option is a major surgery, you’ll go for an injection anytime.

When you hear the devil whisper: “What will the people say?”, ask yourself, “What will Allah say?”, and the absurdity of fearing the people will become manifest on you. You will also realize the need to purify your intentions for Allah.

“Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him if you are believers.” (Surah at-Tawbah: ayah 13)

Dive In!

What are you waiting for? Sometimes you just have to take the plunge, even if it scares the living daylights out of you. If you want to learn to dive, you will have to dive in. You can dilly-dally and test the temperature of the pool with your big toe all you want, but in the end, you have to say ‘Bismillah’ and just jump in.  There’s the initial shock, the few gasping breaths you take, and then the blissful serenity of floating on your back, with the stars winking back at you. You will find other companions in the pool who will congratulate you and enthusiastically thump you on your back. The voices of the critics will fade in the background. And you will be left with the words of the Messenger (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) etched on your heart and echoing in your head:

“Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” (Muslim)

Chapter 20: The Waning Dusk (series)

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Myth: Imaan is in the heart

Do people think that they will be left (at ease) only on their saying, “We believe” and will not be put to any test? (29:2)

There are a few surahs in the Quran that have a very powerful opening. No intro, down-to-the-point-bleeding kind of opening that either makes you shudder in exponential degrees or it cuts you open– a big gash on your soul exposing all your flaws and making you come to terms with your delusions.

Surah Al-‘Ankabut is one of them. Right after Alim Laam Meem, Allah (swt) dispels all wishful thinking (khush-fehmiyaan, as you like) that you haven’t secured a direct flight to Jannah yet. You’ll be weighed and measured, tried and tested on your theoretical imaan before you can even begin to get comfortable. Arabic word fa-ta-na literally means to burn gold until its impurities fall off. The verse was revealed when the early followers of Islam underwent inhumane torture just because they believed. And our tests don’t even come close to that. This in itself speaks volumes about our little imaan that we stash away “in the heart” instead of “wearing it on the sleeve”.

It is Allah’s sunnah to try each and everyone of us. And it is true– we will never ever truly taste the sweetness of faith unless we’ve been cooked and boiled to the point of dis-figuration in our crucible. And I say dis-figuration because it apparently looks that way. You will, in fact, acknowledge it to be one of the rewarding points in life when you’re through it. Try making that difficult, momentous decision that you know is right but your folks and peers consider  otherwise. And you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s always this one gigantic leap in all our lives that we hesitate to take. You evade it, sniffing out loopholes and groping for other ways around it– but you’ll probably never get there. Sometimes, that leap of faith is the only way. The one that you’re afraid to take.

If we look at our lives now, we probably haven’t gone through much. We don’t even have the capacity to survive Ramadan unscathed since there is no real resolve to change. “After Ramadan” is when we plan to do whatever it is that we cannot do in this month. Forget gold, we usually turn up like burnt biscuits.

Sacrifice, Sacrifice- Why bother?

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Did you hear-?

With the hundreds of popular ‘styles’ doing their rounds amongst us, be it in dress or living, the one quickly going out of fashion from our circles is the Sunnah style. We were to love him, Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alaihi wassalam, more than our family and sons, yet today we hardly know him…

I can vividly remember how it started last year. ’Eid ul-Adha was approaching, dividing people into three clear groups like always. The best of them know what the festival brings with it; however the other two are unaware of its demands upon us. It was to be so that I learnt of the latter from a very close standpoint.

Firstly, there are those who take animal sacrifice in its physical sense to epic proportions, however low they may be falling on the sincerity scale. They do not allow themselves to think of their pocket, nor do they consider other fard obligations that they are responsible for, before Allah asks them if they fulfilled the sunnah of animal sacrifice. The second group however, consists of the unfortunate who find this act unnecessary in and of itself. These are two miserable extremes.

It was October 2008, and northern Pakistan suffered a massive quake. When Zulhijjah came around, a friend suggested that we should be giving away this money to stabilise our brothers and sisters in plight; come next year, we can celebrate ‘Eid along with them. In view of the emergency situation in the country, the idea did have its merit. (Many scholars have declared the sacrifice to be a Sunnah Muakkadah (confirmed Sunnah), and not Fard (obligatory).)

Another year passed, and it was ‘Eid ul-Adha again. The same person was now found to declare, “This time I had to sacrifice because Mum was too insistent, but I have decided and my (older) sister too; next year onwards we’re going to just give away this money in charity…it is a Sunnah for us anyway”.

Do you realize what is wrong with the latter scenario? We have put the spirit of the act away in the dark recesses of our mind, never to be accessed again -let it rot there until we can find better things to replace it with. Allah’s sole purpose that we do sacrifice was not so we can help the needy eat meat. It is but a secondary aim, something which will come naturally to us insha Allah, if only we were to understand the primary purpose – that of laying down our lives for His sakes if need be; that of doing away with what we love for the greater Love, His; that of remembering the submission of Ibrahim AS and Isma’el AS to Allah’s will. Ibrahim AS was ready to give away his only son, and an obedient and excellent son at that, in Allah’s way, without a second glance! He was ready to do the deed himself – do we understand even an iota of the kind of submission and love that it entails?? Allah says in the Quran:

فَلَمَّا بَلَــغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يٰبُنَيَّ اِنِّىْٓ اَرٰى فِي الْمَنَامِ اَنِّىْٓ اَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرٰى ۭ قَالَ يٰٓاَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُــؤْمَرُ ۡ سَتَجِدُنِيْٓ اِنْ شَاۗءَ اللّٰهُ مِنَ الصّٰبِرِيْنَ    ١٠٢؁

And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.” (As-Saffaat: 102)

Soon after, Allah further elevates the status of Ibrahim AS: Indeed, he was of Our believing servants. (As-Saffaat: 111), and gives him glad tidings of a righteous son.

Considering the other extreme (that of exaggerated and ostentatious sacrifices), never does Allah promise that you exceed beyond measure in show and He shall relieve us of our obligations. The rights of Allah, and those of His creation- we are to fulfil both. He explains it beautifully in His Book:

لَنْ يَّنَالَ اللّٰهَ لُحُوْمُهَا وَلَا دِمَاۗؤُهَا وَلٰكِنْ يَّنَالُهُ التَّقْوٰي مِنْكُمْ  ۭ كَذٰلِكَ سَخَّرَهَا لَكُمْ لِتُكَبِّرُوا اللّٰهَ عَلٰي مَا هَدٰىكُمْ  ۭ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُحْسِنِيْنَ  37؀

Their meat will not reach Allah , nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good. (Al-Hajj: 37)

Piety or taqwa (God-consciousness) – can it ever allow man to forget about his blood relatives in need, a brother who requires financial help etc.? Let us pray for guidance that we may be able to perform the rites of worship with sincerity and hope, and that we may grow in love and submission to Him.

Ramadan Dip

By Nasser Ijaz Moghal

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There was this guy in a wheel chair who wanted to make a statement that even people in wheel chairs are capable. So he decided to enter into a marathon. He noticed something very interesting about the race that he was running. He noticed that there were many people at the beginning of the race and many people at the end of the race but all throughout the middle he was by himself. The only people present in the middle of the race are the participants. It has been my personal observation that the same wheel chair marathon happens in Ramadan. As soon as the moon is sighted people get all excited about Ramadan and flock to the Masjid and at the end particularly the 27th people come flocking back to the Masjid but somewhere in the middle of Ramadan people drop off. The ratio that I have devised for this is 5:2:4 ratio. Meaning there will be 5 rows in the Masjid at the beginning of Ramadan, 2 in the middle and 4 at the end. This phenomenon is the Ramadan Dip.

Now Ramadan is a training camp in which people can boost their Imaan at record levels and survive the rest of the coming year. It is essential that we find a way to overcome this Ramadan dip.

On the night before Ramadan I went to get a haircut. As my hair was being trimmed I thought wait this is a Dawah opportunity. So I started a conversation:

“What’s your name bhai?”

“Afaaq”

“Afaaq?”

“Yes,  Afaaq.”

“Afaaq bhai.  So…..what do you plan to do for this Ramadan?”

In a totally casual manner he answered

“Well…..keep fasts, pray 5 time Salaat in the Masjid but I will miss the Taraweeh prayer because of the job but no biggie. That’s all”

SubhanaAllah. He has something planned but then again we should be doing all these even if it weren’t Ramadan. What about Quran? Any plans for Quran? No! What about feeding people or sitting for Aitekaaf? No.

You know when your exams are near, some students quit their time wasters like watching series, net surfing, etc and really open the books and study. Then when they are done with the exams  tranquility and sweetness descends upon them and they truly feel freedom from all the hard work .Then again they are some to whom it doesn’t matter exams or no exams they are going to do whatever they want and so they don’t truly feel the sweetness of being free after exams. Such is the case with Ramadan those who work hard and take maximum benefit from Ramadan will truly enjoy Eid while those who were sleeping in Ramdan they will be sleeping on Eid too.

Have big intentions. Make a connection with Quran, ponder over its meaning, and memorize some Surahs. Go and feed people. I don’t mean have Iftaar parties. I mean take some good food to the Masjid and hand it out to people. Remember Ramadan is a month of feeding not eating. Don’t be fooled by all what you see on billboards; FAST and FEAST (McDonald’s Ramadan theme).

The only purpose of fasting is that you may adopt Taqwah. “What is Taqwah?” you may ask. Well…..look at it this way. Imagine there is a mouse and it comes out of its hole but as soon as it hears something in the distance it immediately scurries back into its hole. Then once again it comes out looking for food and again it runs back into the hole on hearing the slightest sound.  See? The Mouse is afraid and very cautious. Similarly the word Taqwah comes from the root letters Waqiya which means to take a shield and so Taqwah means to protect yourself from the punishment of Allah by following His commands and refraining from all those actions that bring about his wrath and displeasure. Some people do a lot of good in Ramadan but they don’t stop doing evil. Wallaahi this is not Taqwah. Both, committing of good and restraining yourself from evil is Taqwah.

I remember my most memorable Ramadan was not the one in which I went to the finest dining places for Iftaar or slept throughout the day but rather the one in which I read the Quran everyday understood it and when the Imaam recited the Quran in Taraweeh prayer it felt as if the Ayaat of Allah were being revealed on my heart.

How are you going to make this Ramadan memorable? So that at the end when it’s Eid you are like

“LOOK AT ME NOW! I MADE IT! I HAVE TAQWAH! ALLAH HU AKBAR”

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Arabic Vocabulary used:

Imaan: Faith

Wallaahi: By Allah (I swear by God)

Eid: Muslim festival celebrated at the end of Ramadan

Iftaar: Breaking of fast (includes variety of traditional meals)

Taraweeh: Optional prayer that Muslims offer at night in congregation