slip-sliding away…..

Reminder – Isra and Mi’raj (for dummies)

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.

1. Lecture:

Isra and Mi’raj: A talk by Shaykh Hussain Abdul Sattar (Chicago, USA) – 87 minutes (Right click and choose “Save As” to download MP3)

2. Infographic:

Courtesy of

Infographic - Isra and mi'raj


Note: This is a repost from 2013 – no new info added.

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Ramadan around the corner

Posted by Yacoob on May 21, 2014



A little reminder from Mufti Ismail Menk: Download Ramadan around the corner (48:50 | 22.36 MB)

Image source

Posted in Ramadan preparation | Leave a Comment »

Rise up

Posted by Yacoob on April 11, 2014

All of these were taken minutes ago. Can you guess where this is?

Posted in Something to see | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Yacoob on April 4, 2014

Sabr (Arabic for patience and perseverance)

Sabr (Arabic for patience and perseverance)

“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 in Inspiration, Quotes | 4 Comments »

Guess who’s coming?

Posted by Yacoob on March 3, 2014

Masjid Al-Aqsa - seen through festive Ramadan lights (2009 - AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – seen through festive Ramadan lights (2009 – AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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 in Ramadan preparation | 1 Comment »

Let it flow (part 1)

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.

<Image source>

Posted in Meanderings | 2 Comments »

Summer Daze

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.

And now
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.

<Image source>

Posted in Meanderings | 2 Comments »

Second time around

Posted by Yacoob on November 14, 2013


Where this blog stands right now

If you’ve followed this blog for the last few years, you’ll notice that my focus – since late 2011 – has almost completely been on Hajj-related topics. This was a change from the blog’s first 5 years, wherein the content was a lot more varied. Obviously, the change in direction is a sign of the impact that Hajj had on me – hence most of my writing has focssed on documenting the journey (via the Hajj Chronicles series).

In all this time – and prior to it – my audience has changed, yet I hope the narrow focus hasn’t alienated readers that are looking for other content. And now that the chronicles are complete, insha-Allah this blog will once again go in many directions – some of which will probably remain Hajj-related.

New adventures

In Ramadan this year, I mentioned that my wife and I were expecting our second child. Alhamdullilah – our baby daughter is now 3 months old. I won’t share the birth story (like I did for our first child), but I would like to share some thoughts on these few months.

To be totally honest, our new daughter wasn’t the prettiest sight when she first came out. She was covered in disgusting birth liquid, and was obviously unhappy at being yanked out of the only world she’d ever known (the womb). Her first pictures from the delivery room aren’t ideal viewing, but, thankfully, that all changed once she was cleaned up and with us J.

We got to spend much more time with the baby this time (unlike the previous birth), so I held her for most of the half hour the medical team was sewing up my wife. I probably talked more to the baby than I talk to most grown ups I meet. And in those first (one-way) conversations, I hopefully set a precedent of talking her through the most important aspects of this world. I hope to always be there to guide her as she grow and learns – especially in the critical first 7 or so years of her life.

The days in hospital were somewhat stressful – not because of the baby (though she had her own issues at times), but because we had to manage our other daughter. She’s 4 years old, and I think seeing her mother weak in hospital was a really emotional experience for her. Alhamdullilah – we had all her grandparents to help look after her, but for the most part, she was my primary responsibility. She’s always been very clingy with her mother, and while there were a few days of separation, I needed to be the stable force in her life.

As for the baby’s name, we had one in mind since the beginning – though we weren’t totally set on it. But we had a late request and even other options that came to mind at the time, so it was confusing. Of course, the best route to take in such situations is to consult with Allah, so I made istikhara salaah, and the outcome was the same name we initially wanted. Like our first daughter’s name, it’s a strong name – one whereby the baby has an immensely lofty namesake who we hope will be her role model through life.

The work begins

Once we got home, the real challenges started. It’s an Indian tradition for the new mother to stay with her own mother in the first 40 days of the baby’s life. While we partly followed that last time around, this time, my wife didn’t want to at all. She wanted the stability of our own home – especially for our older daughter. That’s not to say that her mother wasn’t involved. On the contrary, she was extremely helpful in those early weeks, even staying over for one of the nights.

It was still Ramadan at this time – the blessed final ten nights; yet we didn’t have much time for spirituality. Between seeing to this tiny infant that needed so much time and energy, and our older daughter – who was having endless tantrums and really being difficult, it was a trying time to say the least.

We knew it would be hard for our older daughter to adjust to NOT being the centre of attention anymore. She’s always been very spoilt, so it must have been really tough to now be deprived of her parents’ attention. This was exacerbated by the attention the baby was getting from visitors, who up until then, would give her all the attention.


Alhamdullilah – after a few weeks, she eventually settled down. The hardship she faced was perhaps her first major character-building experience. It helped her to adjust – from being someone who was always so clingy with her mother, into a far more independent child that can cope better on her own or with others (though she still is clingy at times). The other blessing is that it was a period in which she and I spent a lot more time together, hence we bonded in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise done when her mother was the focus of her world.

As for the baby, we had an early health scare with her, but alhamdullilah, it turned out to be a minor issue that healed within a few weeks. She still has digestive issues though (i.e. reflux), but it’s not such a big deal compared to what sickness she could have had. That recurring lesson from Hajj came up again: to be thankful for what happened, because it could have been worse.

These last few weeks in particular have found me falling more and more in love with her. She’s an incredibly happy child -finding any excuse to show that sweet smile of hers. She’s growing nicely – alhamdullilah – starting to discover her own hands, and laughing more and more.

Her older sister has also taken to her, and is actually quite smothering at times (think of “Elmyra” from Tiny Toons).

On a personal level, the pace of life hasn’t gotten more hectic; but it’s just become more demanding. But even in that, alhamdullilah, there’s ease. People commonly tease new parents about the lack of sleep, but it hasn’t really been a big issue for me: our new baby is relatively settled in her sleep – getting up just once in the night (other than the nights where she’s uncomfortable and troubles a lot).

All in all, it’s been an interesting transition filled with many challenges but a lot of benefit. And as we go move on, I look forward to the many milestones that she’ll reach insha-Allah, and I hope that the baby’s first 2 years – before terrible twos – will be as amazing and joy-filled as her older sister’s were.

As for the older one, she’s still a handful, and can be immensely stubborn at times (with the latest big problem being a recurring refusal to eat)…but we hope to navigate those stormy waters too, and in the end, come out with a well-developed, balanced child that’ll teach us as much as we hope to teach her.

As always, your duas would be most welcome :) .

Posted in Meanderings, Milestones | 4 Comments »

More than just memories

Posted by Yacoob on October 16, 2013

Sunset on the day of Arafah 2013 (Pic by Muhammad Al Shareef)

Sunset on the day of Arafah 2013 (Pic by Muhammad Al Shareef)

Alhamdullilah – this year’s Hajj will be wrapping up very soon, and for those who didn’t get to go, I hope that the live media coverage has been a source of inspiration for not only the journey of Hajj, but also the intention to want to become better Muslims.

Every Hajji has their own unique story to tell of the days they were blessed to spend on this sacred journey. And despite the struggles and discomfort they may have faced, those who have been yearn to go back and do it again – particularly when this season comes around each year.

As I mentioned last year, one of the best ways to get that invitation again is to truly appreciate the experience you already had. If you’re grateful, insha-Allah Allah will give you more.

It’s always emotional for former Hajjis when we see, hear, and communicate with those who are there right now. We remember our own experiences – what we were doing on this particular day or night; what we felt; what we learned; and hopefully, we reflect on the plans we made back then, and see how faithfully we’ve managed to follow through on them – taking into account all the unexpected events that have come our way since that time.

And when it seems that we’ve strayed so far from those plans, and that ‘normal life’ has just buried our Hajj dreams under the dust of life, we’re blessed with this sacred season to remind us of those aspirations. We’re re-invigorated by the experiences of this year’s honoured guests of Allah. We feel it again. We want it again. And we make the intention that, insha-Allah, we will try again.

So my message to myself and all other former hujjaaj is a plea that we don’t waste these feelings. That we use the momentum of this season, take these emotions, and turn them into something practical that will benefit us on our mission to live the Hajj until we die.

Whether we had planned to make major changes in our lives or just aimed to be a little better, let us remember those goals we had when we were in our purest state after Arafah. And let us do what we can to inch forward towards those goals.

As the beautiful and encouraging hadith tells us, the most beloved deeds to Allah are those that are CONSISTENT – even if they be small.

So, let us renew our commitments and find something small – at the very least – that we can do; whether that’s the adoption of some new good deed, or the dropping of something bad / non-beneficial.

With sincere intentions, dedicate efforts, and the help of Allah, insha-Allah each passing year – each passing Hajj season – will see us getting better and better. And insha-Allah when we get another chance to go back for Hajj, our next ambitions and plans for life after Hajj will push us to even greater heights for our remaining years on this dunya.

May Allah grant all this year’s hujjaaj a Hajj maqbool and mabroor, and give them the towfique to live their Hajj until they die – despite the challenges they’ll face once they return to their normal environments and lives.

Posted in Hajj-related | Leave a Comment »

The great Eid debate

Posted by Yacoob on October 10, 2013

Eid is coming...

Eid is coming…

Picture courtesy of Saaleha

The days of Hajj are almost upon us, and since the moon wasn’t sighted in South Africa this past Saturday, it means that Dhul Hijjah officially started here on Monday. This contrasts with Makkah, where the month started a day earlier – on Sunday.

Every other month of the year, this difference isn’t much of a big deal (although for some, it matters in Ramadaan). However, for this time of year, it means that the South African Eid-ul-Adha will not be synced with Makkah’s Eid-ul-Adha.

Growing up in Durban, I don’t really remember there being much fuss over this. But here in Cape Town, it’s been a contentious issue for quite a while, apparently. When the local date doesn’t match Makkah’s date, we have some Muslims who celebrate with Makkah, while others celebrate a day later.

There seem to be sound arguments for both opinions, yet the tragedy in all of this is that it still divides the community. In what should be a time of unity and great blessings – given the significance of the Hajj underway in these days – there’s argument and division over which opinion is right.

For all the years I’ve lived in Cape Town, none of this really affected me. I just put it down to difference of opinion, and carried on – celebrating Eid on whatever day it was officially announced by the local authority (MJC).


However, this time around, it’s a little more concerning. The day of wuqoof – when the hujjaaj stand on Arafah – is one of the greatest days of the year (if not the greatest). And for those not on Hajj, it’s a highly recommended sunnah to fast that day (with the reward being the fast wiping out the sins of the previous year and the year to come).

This year, wuqoof is on Monday 14th October, insha-Allah. Thus, if you want to fast on the day of wuqoof, Monday is the day. Yet the announcement from the MJC is “Those wishing to fast on the day of Arafat, fasting takes place on the 9th of Thil Hijja, according to our local calendar, coinciding with the 15th of October.”

Following that logic, those wanting to fast on the day of Arafah will actually not be fasting on the day of Arafah! (Since the 15th of October is already Eid in Makkah.)

But as I see it, those who want to fast on the actual day of Arafah should do it when the hujjaaj are actually on Arafah – i.e. Monday 14th October.

What then, of the day of Eid?

If you fast on Monday, then Eid should be the next day – Tuesday.

So you’d be in that group which takes Eid with Makkah.

But I’ve also heard very sound advice that in cases of such disputes, the correct thing to do is to follow the consensus of the ulama / authorities of your country – i.e. take your Eid with the majority – the of the community.

And that makes sense not only on a societal level, but also lower down, on a family level. You can’t really choose to have Eid on your own – the day before – while your family is taking it with the community the next day. So, even if you disagree, for the purposes of social harmony, it’s better to stick with the majority.

Thus we have a situation of fasting on the day of Arafah, having a ‘normal’ day after that, and then having Eid the next day.

Some may call that inconsistent – saying that you either go with Makkah completely or go with your local ulama completely.

But really, when you face a situation like this, there’s no way to reconcile the 2 positions. It’s a compromise that has to be made in order to preserve both personal belief and social harmony.

Or do you see things differently? What’s your view on the 2 Eids issue? Does it happen in your community, and if so, how do you handle the issue of fasting the day of Arafah when your local calendar doesn’t match Makkah?

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


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