10 tips for surviving Disney World (for Muslims too)

With the Northern hemisphere Summer in full swing, many around the world will be heading to Disney World (Orlando) for what will be an amazing holiday – especially for the kids.

We were fortunate to visit last December, so here follows what I hope will be some helpful tips – especially for Muslim travellers. Continue reading

Don’t approach me

Being a lifelong introvert and hater of social situations, you could say that I’ve been fairly unapproachable for most of my life. In person, that is. The online world – which changes everything for an introvert – wasn’t really around … Continue reading

Under pressure

They say that pressure makes diamonds. And heat purifies gold. So too, difficulties and trials in this life, hopefully, produces a better person. Right now, I’m in a high pressure period. Financial pressures; work pressure; family pressure – with children’s … Continue reading

The Ramadan that never was (…or was it?)

What went wrong?

 

Day 25, and the month is almost up. What usually is a time of abundant inspiration – especially in terms of writing – has been quite the opposite for me this year. This is the first I’ve written, publically, in the whole month. Privately, it’s not been much better.

Spiritually, it’s also been pretty lean. There have been Some highs, many lows, and large chunks of mediocrity – making this the most unusual Ramadan in my own memory.

What went wrong?

The focus of my attention and energy, this year, has mostly been on my kids. The older one is almost 5 years old, with the younger nearly 1 year. My wife and I have a lot of help from others – alhamdullilah – but for most of my time at home, our energy goes to seeing to them, spending quality time with them, and doing all the things parents need to do for small children.

Perhaps it’s our own weakness and shortcoming that we can’t make most of our time with them spiritual. And that, when it comes to our own spirituality and striving in ibadah, we have to confine that to the hours they’re asleep (which, alhamdullilah, are not that few since we have long Winter nights in our part of the world).

It can be frustrating wanting to make extra salaah, wanting to read more Quran, even wanting to listen to / watch Islamic lectures – yet being curtailed by the sometimes never-ending demands of young kids who depend on you so much.

A different perspective

Now, so far, this may sound like a big list of complaints. And although it does sometimes get to that stage, I think I’ve come to a healthy perspective on all this:

While spirituality and striving in ‘formal’ worship (salaah, Quran, dua, etc) is critical in Ramadan, failing to excel in those areas doesn’t mean you’ve lost your month…if you’ve filled your time with other kinds of worship.

I’m no scholar, and my understanding is perhaps primitive as compared to the more learned amongst us, but the way I see it, Allah has given us kids as a gift and a responsibility. It’s our duty to take care of them, raise them, and do the best we can for them – just like our parents did for us.

So, maybe we didn’t get to read a few pages of Quran. But instead, we tended to a sick baby that needed frequent comforting and attention. Maybe we didn’t go for taraweeh many times, but instead we endured the long process of putting the kids to bed (actually, they put us to bed too 😉 … then ended up making Esha really late, and being too tired to do much else afterwards.

Maybe we didn’t FEEL spiritual, or feel a close connection to our Creator. But we felt LOVE and closeness from precious little beings that our Creator entrusted to us. And by fulfilling the trust He placed upon us, does that not make Him pleased with us? Does that not strengthen the bond we have with Him – even if we can’t really feel it in the constant mill of unspiritual-but-necessary activity?

That’s the way I see it, and I think – for parents with young kids – if you struggle to find spirituality in Ramadan, it’s an optimistic perspective that really needs to dominate your thoughts. There’s no room for despondency and depression in Ramadan.

Spirituality would be nice. Feelings of closeness to Allah would be awesome. But always remember:

WE DON’T WORSHIP FEELINGS. WE WORSHIP ALLAH.

Our obedience to Allah’s commands, staying away from His prohibitions, and striving in His cause – no matter what area of life it’s in – are all to please Him…for His sake.

We don’t do it just because we want to feel a certain way. If those feelings come, then alhamdullilah – we have been blessed with a gift from Allah. But if the feelings don’t come, we don’t get depressed…we simply keep striving and hope for it in future.

So if your kids are taking over your month, don’t let it get to you. There’s a bigger picture to look at. As long as you are taking care of them with the right intentions – that you’re doing it to please Allah, and wanting it to be considered an act of worship – then insha-Allah you are successful, even if you can’t feel it right now.

May Allah help all of us to see things positively, and strive in ALL our acts of worship – whether those be ‘traditional’, or the necessary, day-to-day activities that are just part of our lives as humans.

 Final notes

And no matter how difficult we perceive our circumstances to be, may we always remember those who face the most challenging of situations – like our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, children and elderly who are enduring the insanity of life in Gaza, Syria, Burma, and elsewhere at this very moment.

Eid mubarak to all; and please try to take forward the goodness from this month into the next 11 to follow. And what you feel for the people of Gaza (and elsewhere) right now, please remember that even when the bombs stop falling, and the media stops reporting on it, they will still be suffering. So keep them in your duas at all times, and support them as best you can all year round.

Image source

Ramadan 2011 with Mufti Ismail Menk

I hope everyone’s having an awesome Ramadan so far. Ramadan in South Africa usually means that our esteemed guest, Mufti Ismail Menk (from Zimbabwe) performs taraweeh in one of our cities – each night following the salaah with a talk based on some aspect of the Quran.

This year, he’s in Cape Town – at Zeenatul Islam (Muir Street – District Six), and the talks are about the stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them all).

Cape Town radio station Voice of the Cape is broadcasting the taraweeh and lectures this week; and I think Channel Islam International also broadcasts it every night (not sure though). For those who can’t pick up those stations, click on the links and they both have audio streaming via the Internet.

You can find the videos of these inspirational talks – updated regularly – on YouTube. And for those interested in downloading the talks, you can find days 1 to 5 at:

http://www.salaahtimes.co.za/download/

This site is updating it regularly, so they’ll hopefully keep adding more until the month is done. I’m aware that at least some of the audios on that site have a problem – with sound in one channel only. For an alternative, which might be better, try this link.

Note that Mufti Menk does allow his talks to be downloaded for free from the Internet – just as long as you don’t alter them. (And also don’t try to make a profit from them!)
For those who prefer / want rough transcripts of the talk, Du’aa a Day on Facebook is publishing daily / regular transcripts. And for those without Facebook (perhaps better to keep off it this month for some of us 😉 – Muslimah (Life)Style is posting the transcripts on their site.

For older lectures by him, visit www.muftimenk.co.za– which has the complete sets of most of his South African Ramadan talks for the last few years.

Feel free to pass this message on to anyone that’s interested. Many, many, South Africans benefit from these lessons each year – and even though we can listen to / see / read it at any time of the year; Ramadan is a time when our hearts are much more open and accepting of these beautiful advices – so take advantage of them now, while you’re in these blessed moments.

Four words of tremendous benefit

It’s amazing how much benefit and reward a person can get from just simple actions. For example, the following hadith (narrated in Muslim) tells of four simple words that – if recited three times – are more valuable than hours and hours of thikr.

Juwairiyah bint Al-Harith (May Allah be pleased with her) reported, the Mother of the Believers: The Prophet (PBUH) came out from my apartment in the morning as I was busy in performing the dawn prayer. He came back in the forenoon and found me sitting there. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Are you still in the same position as I left you.” I replied in the affirmative. Thereupon the Prophet  said, “I recited four words three times after I had left you. If these are to be weighed against all you have recited since morning, these will be heavier. These are:

  • Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, `adada khalqihi,
  • wa rida nafsihi,
  • wa zinatah `arshihi,
  • wa midada kalimatihi

  • Allah is free from imperfection and I begin with His praise,
    as many times as the number of His creatures,
  • in accordance with His Good Pleasure,
  • equal to the weight of His Throne
  • and equal to the ink that may be used in recording
    the words (for His Praise)].’

For a talk explaining more on this, listen to: “Levels of Submission” (19 minutes : Stream/Download) by Shaykh Hussain Abdul Sattar (Chicago).

For a downloadable version of this hadith – along with the Arabic and individual words, click here: Fourwords.doc.

Memorising and repeating little things like this – on a consistent basis – will, insha-Allah, be of immense, immense benefit to us not only in this life, but most importantly on the Day of Judgement.

Remember: the most beloved deed by Allah is the one that is consistent – even if it be small.

And please feel free to share this with others – so that you can benefit from having taught it to others.