Three years ago, I was preparing for the journey that would take me to the most serene place I’ve ever been. May Allah bless, guide and protect those who have been honoured with the invitation this year.
Posted by Yacoob on July 23, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by Yacoob on June 13, 2014
With each Ramadan, you (hopefully) feel a sense of hope. A renewal of imaan. Another chance to reset and delve deep into your inner being – your soul, your heart, and your relationship with your Creator. The culmination, for many, is Laylatul Qadr, wherein you have the ultimate opportunity to beg for anything your heart desires.
But all of this doesn’t just fall into place instantly. To hit the ground running, and make the most of Ramadan, you need to start prepping well in advance.
We’ve gone through an extended period of trial in our family recently; and that – along with my own weaknesses – has sapped me of enthusiasm and time to do even the basic groundwork which I consider an annual necessity.
But there’s still 2 weeks, insha-Allah. So I hope to get into gear and finally put down some goals and plans – even if they be haphazard and modest.
As for you, my dear reader, how has your runway to Ramadan been so far? Have you planned? What are your goals and schedules like?
Share your thoughts in the comments section, and insha-Allah you’ll inspire others (including me) to strive harder in the coming weeks.
Posted by Yacoob on May 26, 2014
In honour of tonight’s blessed occasion of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.’s miraculous night journey and ascension (Isra and Mi’raj), masjids worldwide will commemorate it by holding a special programme. Remember that there are no special acts of worship specified for this occasion – so take what benefit you can from those programmes, but don’t let yourself feel that this is a compulsory act of worship.
In addition to those, here are two enlightening resources which serve as an education and a reminder for us all.
Isra and Mi’raj: A talk by Shaykh Hussain Abdul Sattar (Chicago, USA) – 87 minutes (Right click and choose “Save As” to download MP3)
Courtesy of Islamographic.com
Note: This is a repost from 2013 – no new info added.
Posted by Yacoob on May 21, 2014
A little reminder from Mufti Ismail Menk: Download Ramadan around the corner (48:50 | 22.36 MB)
Posted by Yacoob on April 11, 2014
Posted by Yacoob on April 4, 2014
“Just as the most beautiful rainbows are born from rain, the most beautiful lessons are born from trials and pain.”
(Quote source unknown, but posted here.
Image is a painting which can be purchased here.)
Posted by Yacoob on March 3, 2014
In the Islamic calendar, two major events stand out: Ramadan and Hajj. Both of them are seasons of barakah, wherein the sense of community is high, and on a personal level, our good deeds can be multiplied exponentially.
In terms of timing, these seasons are close together – occurring in the 9th and 12th months of the lunar year. Outside of that, there’s an 8 month gap wherein it can be especially difficult to stay motivated and strive to better ourselves. It helps to be surrounded by good company, but even with that in place, the grind of day to day life can wear down even the best of us – weakening our resolve and making it easier for us to fall into bad habits (both spiritual and worldly).
Coming alive in the dead zone
At this moment, we find ourselves in the midst of that ‘dead zone’ – more than halfway between the last Hajj and the next Ramadan. In times of difficulty, it’s good to look for inspiration, and for the Muslim ummah, we need only look to the best generation among us: the sahabah (r.a.).
Their connection with Ramadan was so deep that it’s reported that they looked forward to it 6 months in advance, and once Ramadan was over, they’d spend the next 6 months asking Allah to accept the deeds they did in that month.
The work starts now
We may not have the same enthusiasm and level of commitment as our pious predecessors, but that’s no reason to be despondent. Each of us knows our own level of spirituality and connection to Allah, and with ample time left until next Ramadan arrives, we can slowly but surely start building ourselves up to the coming month. Early preparation will, insha-Allah, enable us to hit the month of Ramadan already on a spiritual high – which will better equip us to make the most of the amazing opportunities ahead.
To give you a practical roadmap to your Ramadan prep, check out the Ramadan early bird challenge. The series, which is built upon the foundation of gradual change, gives you a personal, step-by-step path to looking at your own life and improving – little by little.
Each instalment focuses on a particular area, and you can choose the one(s) you feel most pertinent to you, working at your own pace to identify your challenges, come up with viable solutions, and ultimately overcome your weaknesses in small but consistent steps. Also included are valuable resources – such as audio and video lectures – that can help you in your path to improvement.
So if you’d like to make the coming Ramadan your most productive one yet, give the series a try. Areas covered are:
May Allah fill the coming months with barakah, help us to take advantage of the time available to us, and bring us to the coming Ramadan in the highest state of eman and taqwa.
Posted by Yacoob on January 9, 2014
With poetic inspiration returning to me at the end of last year, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of the more creative posts on this blog over its history.
Since there’s nearly 7 years to cover, I’ve split the selection over more than one post – hoping to not pack too much in each time. This one covers almost 2 years: from 2006 to mid-2008:
Though the blog started back in June 2006, it took me more than 4 months to actually publish my first poem (A bird’s eye view) – an ode to my favourite hangout spot, which I’d often go to, to escape the rigours of everyday life. World-view was a rant against the consumerist, information-flooding tone of society, and that was followed by One year on – which reflects much of my perspective towards the youth – and their future – at the university I was working at during that period.
Reliance is – by far – my favourite piece ever, because it perfectly encapsulates the multi-year struggle I went through in my quest for love and marriage. I hope the message is timeless, and hope that it can continue to inspire all those single people that are still trying to find their other halves. The sequel, Dedication, came 5 months later – when I was on the verge of marriage – hence ending the most emotionally-difficult period of my life. Childhood also came in that period – a reflection on how innocence was corrupted, yet hope remains for the next generation.
Rise was inspired by my time watching sunrises from outside my home – a beautiful, peaceful habit that unfortunately has become a thing of the past. Rooftops was a pleasant surprise, coming to me in a few minutes I had to wait in the car for someone; while You suck! was in the same vein as World-view – in that it was a rant, though this time against the news industry.
The inspiration doesn’t come much anymore, but with this post, I just wanted to highlight what’s come to me in the past. Hopefully, by reading these pieces, it’ll inspire you to express yourself in whatever way is best for you (while also perhaps reminding me of the ability that was once so central in my life).
Feel free to give your feedback either in this post or in the individual pieces linked from here.
Posted by Yacoob on December 31, 2013
The last day of the year, in the heart of a South African summer.
I’m at work now (sadly), but this time of year brings back fleeting memories of childhood summers gone by:
Hours and hours in the back yard playing soccer and cricket;
Still more hours and hours on the tennis courts,
pushing ourselves to the limits in best-of-5-set matches –
always with the end reward being an ice cold cooldrink
plus chocolate treats to accompany.
Sunny Durban days are the enduring memory of my past life;
Those school holidays where responsibilities were non-existent,
and pleasures were all we lived for:
Movies, video games, staying up late,
Not a care in the world
until the looming dread of the new school year crept back into our thoughts.
Stationery and uniforms,
Haircuts and shining those shoes for the first day back…
Oh, the horrors of educational imprisonment –
early morning rising to get to school on time,
assemblies and new timetables,
finding out whose class we’d be in –
wishing to be with our friends,
who shared the struggle with us –
making the torturous daylight hours more bearable.
Science lessons and Maths tests
(the latter of which still haunts my dreams),
academic pressures and extra-curricular bothers…
School was never a ‘home away from home’ for me,
yet those years –
while stifling my freedom within the system –
gave rise to the foundations of adult life,
and provided the best memories.
as my own child approaches her first year of ‘back to school’,
I feel the dread for her;
I know the anxiety she’ll face over the years,
Yet somehow, some way
I’ll need to put a bright face on it all;
so that she can be more positive than I,
and enjoy her coming occupation in ways I never did.
For just as she’ll face the seemingly never-ending grind of school life –
year after year –
so too will these years be her platform for her future,
and her treasure chest of precious childhood memories.
School doesn’t last forever,
nor does childhood;
But while we’re young,
we live through both –
a microcosm of life,
good and bad – all mixed together.
So, my child,
appreciate both sides,
take it all in,
and then move on to the adulthood that awaits beyond these endless summers of youth.