Remembrance

Remember the One
Who is always with you,
Who loves for you to ask of Him,
Who listens to your pleas,
Who guides your heart to that which is best for you. Continue reading

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Ramadan’s final push

It’s easy to let the last few days and nights of Ramadan fall by the wayside: the hard work is now over with, and it’s time to relax, put our feet up, and channel most of our energy into preparing our wardrobes and kitchens for Eid. But do we really want to do this? Continue reading

Back to the middle

A day like this is a milestone, as well as a stopping point. A time to think about what we’ve learnt so far this month. What we’ve intended to do, then what we’ve followed through on, and what we’ve lagged behind in. What unexpected goodness has come. How grateful we should be for the blessings we’ve felt so far – whether we perceive them to be great or small. Continue reading

Setting the bar

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.

And while I’ve been a big advocate of this for years now (see the Early Bird Challenge and Ramadan planner), this year, I’ve failed.

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.

Your Eid gift: The Hajj Chronicles e-book

Eid cupcakes

On behalf of myself and my family, I’d like to wish you and your loved ones Eid Mubarak – wherever you are in the world, and whichever day you celebrate(d) on. May this day be one of beautiful celebration, togetherness, and happiness – all within the boundaries of halaal, of course :). And may the spiritual gains from this Ramadan be ingrained into you so that you can take them forward into the coming months and at least maintain your spiritual levels, if not improve upon them as this blessed month fades into history.

The primary objective of fasting in Ramadan is to attain taqwa – sometimes translated as consciousness of Allah. The next big event in our Islamic calendar is Hajj, wherein the best provision for the journey is the very same taqwa.

So for those going on this blessed journey, Ramadan serves as a means of building up taqwa – which you’ll need to maintain and build even further as you near the biggest 5 days of your life – i.e. Hajj.

With this in mind, and as promised during Ramadan, I’ve compiled the entire Hajj Chronicles series (the 24 already online, plus the 6 to still come) into an e-book. You can download it here:

Hajj Chronicles e-book: PDF (3.7MB) | MS Word (3.4MB) (Right-click and choose ‘Save as’)

The e-book is provided absolutely free, for the purposes of promoting the Hajj and educating others about it. I encourage you to share it with those who are interested in the journey of Hajj.

Of course, the content is obviously copyrighted – so don’t steal my work ;). If you want to use parts of it for commercial purposes, please contact me to discuss it. Otherwise, you may use parts of it for your own personal or academic purposes, but reference it properly, and link back to this blog.

I hope you enjoy the book and benefit from it. And if you have any feedback or queries, feel free to email me.

Enjoy!

Yacoob

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Looking forward: Part 2 – Salah

(This article is also posted at www.ramadan.co.za)

Ramadan is a month in which many of strive in our worship; and we hope that these high standards will be carried over to the 11 months that follow. And, like a re-run that just won’t go away, each year, it’s very likely that we fail to live up to those standards – and end up falling back into bad habits and laziness.

As mentioned in part 1 of this series, if we want to stop this trend, we need to make a conscious, planned effort to beat the post-Ramadan slump we often fall into. And that planning starts right now (or, if you read part 1, hopefully it will have already started).

Recap: essential principles
Once again, always bear in mind the hadith that tells us:
‘The deeds most loved by Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)

The key concepts are:

  1. Being realistic: Don’t set such high standards – such intense expectations – which you know you won’t realistically be able to achieve. Take baby steps: set small, achievable goals; things that are realistic for you – given your spiritual level, physical condition, psychological state of being, and time constraints.
  2. Consistency: Don’t have one day of major, intense spiritual activity; and then follow that with a long period of nothing / very little. Do what you do consistently. Do not procrastinate, and do not be lazy. If you’ve set small, realistic goals – which you know you can achieve (albeit with at least some struggle), then you should be able to work consistently at it – every single day / period you’ve set for the activity’s frequency.

Challenge number 2: Salah
Hopefully, you’ve already planned how you’ll take part 1’s challenge – fasting – through to the rest of the year. The next challenge is one absolutely critical to your life as a Muslim: salah / namaaz / prayer (whatever you want to call it).

Salah is the pillar of the religion. If you uphold it, you’re well on your way to upholding your religion. But if you’re negligent or destroy it, then you have a lot to worry about. Especially since salah is the first thing you’ll be asked about on the Day of Judgement.

So ask yourself: am I striving to make my salah better this Ramadan? And if so, am I going to take that commitment forward after Ramadan?

Whatever your answers, if you want to improve your salah now, and carry that through after Ramadan, you’ll need to work at it.

Resources to help:
I recently came across a good, short e-book which covers this exact subject. The free, 45-page book is entitled “TASTE IT! How to Taste the True Beauty of Salah”, is compiled from a series of lectures in Kuwait in Ramadan 2008. It consists of short, easy to read chapters that aim to help you taste the sweetness of salah, and experience the true beauty and tranquility of our daily meetings with our Lord.

You can download the e-book here: “TASTE IT! How to Taste the True Beauty of Salah” (502Kb) (Right click and choose “Save as…” to download).

To set you up for this book, there are two short audio (MP3) lectures which can also be beneficial, insha-Allah. Both are by Chicago based scholar Hussein Abdul Sattar,

  1. “Focusing on our salah” (12 minutes) (Right click and choose “Save as…” to download).
    This talk basically talks about how important salah is, and encourages its listeners to really pay due attention to it. It’s a good reminder to us all, and is short enough to put across the message without being boring.
  2. “Putting Khushu’ Into Our Salah” (17 minutes) (Right click and choose “Save as…” to download).
    This talk is also very short and to the point. It deals with issues around khushoo (concentration in salah), and will hopefully help its listeners to understand the concept of khushoo better – so that they can try to improve this aspect of so important an act of worship.

Note that all these resources are free downloads– so don’t worry about violating copyright issues by downloading them. (And you can share them – but obviously don’t go and try to make a financial profit from them).

The way forward:

After reading and listening to these resources, start working on how you’ll improve the quality of your salah. Each person’s task list will be different, but some possible questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Is my salah acceptable in the eyes of Allah? Am I really devoting my entire heart, mind, and body to Him whenever I make salah?
  • If not, why is this the case? What distracts me? What do I think of during salah – and how often do these distractions get to me? What is the root cause of my problem?
  • How to I minimize and eventually eradicate these issues – so that I can eventually come to the level I want to be at in salah?
  • How can I break this goal into small, manageable pieces? (Remedies that I can slowly but surely introduce over time so that I can build towards being better in my salah.)
  • How can I consistently, systematically implement these pieces over the coming months, so that I’m improving in my salah each day / week – and not slipping back into bad habits?

This month, we spend more time on personal reflection. We give more attention to our acts of worship. We strive to be better, and we find that it is much easier to be better in this month – compared to the rest of the year.

So now, in these precious days and nights, let’s take the time to analyse our salah and look at where we can improve, how we can improve, and then put our plans into action. And remember to make dua for success in this endeavour; and to regularly renew your intention in this – so that Shaytaan doesn’t destroy it for you later on.