Beyond recitation…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

My search for knowledge over the years has emphasised the lack of appreciation many Muslims have for the Quran, particularly non Arabic speaking Muslims like myself. While I do believe the true beauty of the Quran lies in its original form, as people of Ihsan or perfection, we have a duty to look beyond the sheer majesty of the revelation.

So many of us have spent years learning, reciting and memorising the Quran without giving much thought to the message within. Despite the years I spent myself learning, reading, reciting and memorising the verses of the Quran, I found myself very detached from the meaning and translation of the text.

The recitation of the Quran is a major part of my life and my daily routine yet the idea of reading the translation of the very verses I enjoyed reciting was cumbersome. As my awareness of this grew, I searched for a copy of an English Quran and began reading from it. It may not flow as easily or sound as melodious but the Divine nature of the revelation is definitely not lost in translation.

IMG_2305

As a result of this new found appreciation for the Quran, it’s been years since I was able to read a novel or even consider any non-spiritual reading. I’ve found it to be very inspirational and indeed fulfilling.

Though the verses we read remain the same, our understanding of these verses can drastically change depending on circumstances, emotions and even social and political factors. This is when you truly understand the wisdom in the saying…

“If you want to talk to Allah, then pray Salaah. If you want Allah to talk to you, then read the Quran”

Advertisements

5 Tips to develop Khushoo in Salaah…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most merciful.

After attending  a course titled ‘Prayer makes Perfect’ in Brisbane this weekend, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the importance of Salaah and the need for perfection in our Prayer. The concept of Khushoo is one we often hear about in the context of Salaah and is something I have pondered over for a long time.

The best way to describe Khushoo is a state of serenity, humility and devotion. In Salaah this would mean a Prayer performed with true devotion and without any distraction with the aim of achieving a sense of calmness and tranquility. Easier said than done… here’s 5 tips that have helped me develop Khushoo in Salaah:

  1. Sit down before beginning your prayer – Clear your head and make your intention
  2. Understand what you are reciting – Familiarise yourself with the translation of the verses you commonly recite in Salaah. Avoid ritualistic recitation.
  3. Remove any distractions – Turn off the tv, leave your mobile phone a safe distance from your place of prayer, find a quiet place to pray.
  4. Remain seated after completing your Salaah, even for a few seconds to make Dhikr/Dua
  5. Make Dua for Khushoo in your Salaah – In His hand is your heart, why not ask Him to grant you Khushoo in Salaah.

Sometime the difference between Praying and Praying with Khushoo is simply a state of mind. Praying 5 times a day can easily become a ritual, perhaps even a chore, the challenge is maintaining the correct awareness and reminding ourselves of our purpose in this world.

May Allah grant us Khushoo in Salaah and in our lives.

 

“Successful indeed are the believers, those who offer their Salaah (prayers) with solemnity and full submissiveness.” [Quran, Al-Mu’minoon 23:1-2]

A perpetual Eid gift…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

A few months back I met an Arab shop owner who after asking me what my son’s name and age was, questioned whether he could recite Surah Al-Fatiha. I responded in the negative and asked that he make dua for him. I was concerned because he first asked about his age which implied that he expected a 3-year-old to have memorized the Surah already.
It got me thinking about the best way to introduce this to my son who’s only memorisation of Arabic thus far was basic Adhkar and the dua before going to bed. Surah Al-Fatiha seemed like a challenge in comparison.
I remembered how easy it was as a child, to memories the surah’s that were often repeated during Salaah so I decided to try the repetition theory. I started reciting aloud when he was in the car with me and then began reciting Al-Fatiha before reciting Quran each night when I was on bedtime duties.
I did some googling too but found most blogs and articles to be very generic and aimed at older kids. I found apps as well but I came across something on Facebook which inspired me to do it the old-fashioned way instead.
“Teach your children Surah Al-Fatiha before anyone else does. It be a part of their prayers for the rest of their lives and you will be rewarded In Sha Allah’ (via islamicrays)
One night, before doing our nightly Adhkar and bedtime story, I sat him on my lap and read from the Mus’haf using his finger to point down the page. After doing this for a few nights, he began reciting with me and we added this to our nightly routine, Alhamdulillah.
My wife continued this routine during Ramadan while I was at Taraweeh and by the Grace of Allah, while we prayed at the Musjid a few nights ago, I heard him recite the entire Surah from memory. SubhanAllah, I can not begin to describe the feeling… so I won’t.
I am proud to accept this as our Eid Gift from him this Ramadan, I pray that Allah guide him and allow us the reward from every single recitation In Sha Allah.
We’ve included Surah Ikhlas to our routine and during the last few nights of Ramadan my amazing wife also added Surah Al-Asr. I’m looking forward to revising these with him and also coming up with a few strategies that might aid other parents to do the same In Sha Allah.
Eid Mubarak!

Ramadan with my wife and kids… (Especially for my wife)

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

As much as we plan for Ramadan and despite the immense Barakah and Blessing in the month itself, our hectic lives and complicated lifestyles always make Ramadan a busy time in the household. With a toddler and a new born, this Ramadan was always going to be a challenge but as I reflect on the month passed, I think we did alright. This post is dedicated to the person who worked day and night to ensure the Ramadan Family Machine was well oiled and maintained.

From the pre Ramadan planning, meal planning and food preparations right up to the kids Ramadan activities, dealing with my hectic routine and taking care of the Eid Gifts… when you really think about it, Ramadan also serves as a reminder of the blessings we have throughout the year that we take for granted… the wives, the mothers, the facilitators of Ramadan.

This year, my wife (and fellow blogger) had the task of not only managing the entire household but also to create the ideal Ramadan environment for our children and in particular, our 3 & a half year old son. It required a valiant effort from the both of us but looking back right now, I believe it was well worth it and definitely well accomplished.

She cooked our food, made me oats for Suhoor every day, cared for the kids, I even saw her feeding both kids at the same time while I had my afternoon nap after work one day. ‘Super-Mum’ comes to mind when I think about it in retrospect. Cooking and cleaning aside, its the ‘Kids Ramadan’ that really impressed me, both as a husband and a father.

Even before Ramadan began, we had a Ramadan Advent Calendar on the wall detailing our ‘Ramadan Activities’ for each day. These included arts & craft, reciting Quran, learning Surah’s and even making binoculars for our Moon-sighting adventures. The activities may seem simple but the impact they had on our son was truly amazing.

The advent calendar gave him something to look forward to each day and the awareness of Ramadan encouraged him to help out around the house. The Ramadan consciousness instilled in him through these activities eventually gave him the courage to attempt fasting and also accompany me to Taraweeh at the Musjid.

I can not describe the joy of having a toddler insist on going to the mosque for Iftar and Taraweeh, I believe the Ramadan environment facilitated by my wife’s ingenious ideas played a big role in achieving this and for that I am grateful.

Despite not watching any tv for the entire month (Zaky Videos were the exception), the kids we entertained through-out the day and there was never a dull moment in the house, Alhamdulillah.

After reflecting  on the past month with my wife and kids, I am reminded of one of the teachings of Islam and this has given me a greater appreciation for the wisdom behind this teaching…

 The first right of the child over the father is to choose a righteous wife in order to be a righteous mother.

May Allah reward her and increase her! I pray that this Ramadan has been a fruitful month for everyone and that Allah shower his Mercy and Blessings on the Wives, Mothers and caretakers of this Ummah In Sha Allah.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, my blog is married to the the blog, Modest Munchies so check out some of my wife’s savvy tips and ideas for the kitchen and the family there.

Eid Mubarak!

Islamic Edutainment… My thoughts on ‘Zaky & Friends’

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

With Eid around the corner, I’ve noticed a number of ads for the Zaky & Friends Series of Videos and I thought I’d share my thoughts on these.

Zaky Range of Movies

I remember buying one of the ‘Zaky Movies’ for my little sister a few years ago. As a teenager (at the time), I didn’t care much about the movie itself but I thought it would be a nice gift for my baby sister. My sister was known for her endless questioning and so I was bombarded with questions about the movies which gave me some insight into how a child might absorb such stories.

Fast forward a few years and my little sis gave me these very movies for my son who was only a year old at the time but I decided to hang on to them and keep them safe for him. As he grew older and took a keener interest in the colours eminating from the tv screen, we began watching some of these movies with him and would often use them to keep him occupied while we were busy.

As first time parents we were concerned about some of the effects television and movies could have on our son and found comfort in re-running these movies from time to time as a little distraction for him. He watched the movies over and over for several months and eventually tired of them and asked us not to put any ‘Zaky Movies’ on for him. I must admit, at this point I had memorised the scripts and soundtracks of all the movies so I didn’t mind the change up.

By 2 years of age he had tasted the sweetness of television and started watching ABC for Kids. We were very mindful of his television habits and kept a close eye on the content. In my 12 weeks as a stay at home dad, I found a number of supposedly children’s television shows to be completely inappropriate for kids and with the help of my wife was able to filter through the tv guide and only allow him to watch a select few shows that we were comfortable with.

A few months passed by and though he was enjoying watching Sesame Street and one of my favourites, Fireman Sam, he began asking questions about some of the stories he had learnt in the Zaky videos. I was amazed at this since he hadn’t watched any of the movies in a while and you usually don’t expect a toddler to retain such information for such a long time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed our little conversations and to be honest, it was an amazing feeling as a parent.

His questions and curiosity got us back into the movies, I bought the entire set and for Eid that year, we got him the accessories and toys to go with the movies.

His favourite movie was Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) which I watched with him a few more times so I could correctly address his questions and concerns. It was only then that I realised the power of these movies and the extent of their impact on a child’s mind. The questions he was asking related to matters of Faith including the concept of God and Good vs Evil which can sometimes get tricky when you’re dealing with a toddler. By taking the time to answer hes questions, unbeknownst to us, we had given him what I believe is the best Madrassah lesson you could possibly give a 2 and a half year old kid.

While the concept of God, particularly as The Creator was something he was already familiar with, the movie gave him an understanding of God as The Care-taker, The Protector, The Loving and Powerful as evidenced in the story of Prophet Ibrahim. He grasped the idea of idol worship being contrary to God’s teachings which also gave him a foundation for the criteria of what is right and what is wrong. He was also able to understand the concept of Prophethood and related it back to God.

The incident of the Fire in the story of Prophet Ibrahim introduced him to the power of God over all things as well as the concept of miracles. He even acknowledged the existence of the Angels which was something I was slightly concerned about due to the complexities of the unseen world.

I didn’t realise that he had understood and absorbed so much of this story until a few months later when I began reading the series of kids books titled ‘Stories of the Prophets’ to him.While I had prepared myself for the questions that might have ensued, to my astonishment, he had a firm understanding of the core concepts which facilitated his understanding and appreciation of the stories of all the Prophets – This is when I truly appreciated and understood the value of these movies.

I’ve also seen kids watch some of these videos without benefitting at all from them so it’s important not to force it on to young kids and to ensure you have the time and patience to address their questions and concerns. Parents should be watching these videos with their kids so it becomes more than just entertainment. I believe this applies to all types of entertainment, if you’re comfortable exposing your kids to something, the least you can do is expose yourself to it so you know exactly what your child is being subjected to.

The Zaky and Friends brand has grown substantially over the last few years and as a Muslim Parent in Australia, I am proud of their success and grateful for their efforts. May Allah increase them, I look forward to many more videos In Sha Allah and I’m hoping my daughter also enjoys their works.

The DVD’s and merchandise are available on the One4Kids website as well as a number of other Online Stores. Click here for a preview of Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)

In the words of Merril J Fernando… ‘Do Try It’ 😉 – Your kids will thank you one day!

I hope many more kids can benefit from these videos In Sha Allah!

Assalaamu Alaikum!

Date thy neighbour…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

My wife and I have been planning to share some Sunnah inspired treats with the neighbours since we moved into our new neighbourhood a few months ago. Between unpacking and having a baby, we didn’t get down to doing it. Perhaps it was better to wait…

Caring for, sharing with and doing good unto neighbours is a big part of our tradition and also a great social obligation in Islam. There could be no better an opportunity to revive this Sunnah than the month of Ramadan… the month of sharing.

Some of the benefits of Dating your neighbours:

  • Most importantly it is a Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a form of charity – “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498
  • Emphasises the significance of both sharing and neighbourliness in Islam
  • Encourages kids to be generous and teaches good etiquette towards neighbours
  • Increased awareness of Islam and Ramadan in particular
  • It is a great form of Da’wah and propagation of our beautiful faith
  • A good ice-breaker for new neighbours or people new to your area
  • It can be a good Ramadan Activity if you get the kids involved
  • Facilitates better relations with neighbours

A simple act that could have lasting effects, not to mention the satisfaction and fulfilment from doing something good for the sake of Allah.

Sharing with Muslim neighbours is as easy as delivering a plate of goodies but with non-Muslim neighbours it’s important to share as much information as possible. Here is the note we sent out with our treats:

“Ramadan is a special month of the year for over 1.8 Billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, contemplation, discipline and devotion to God. As we fast and sacrifice food and drink during the daylight hours, we are reminded of those who are less fortunate than us and we are encouraged to be charitable. Ramadan is a month of giving and sharing… Dates are a big part of Ramadan and the Islamic tradition, we’d like to share this delicious and nutritious fruit with you today”.

My wife put together these Cream Cheese filled Date treats and a Free Printable Template which is available here. For more Ramadan treats, kids activities and your very own Ramadan Meal planner, check out Modest Munchies.

May the Blessings of Ramadan be with you.

Ramadan Prep… Clearing up the clutter once again!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Ramadan 2014 is fast approaching and with only a few weeks to go, it’s time to re-visit a few Lifestyle Optimisation Strategies. Clear up the clutter now so you can take advantage of every opportunity during the month of Ramadan.

  • Make up previous year’s missed fasts / Pay Fidyah, etc. depending on your circumstances
  • Take advantage of fasting during the month of Sha’ban
  • Recite Quran – if possible, complete your current recitation and begin a new one in the month of Ramadan
  • Get a good sleep cycle going so you can handle waking up for Suhoor/Sehri
  • Go easy on socialising and social media so you can avoid unnecessary talk/chat, etc – something I need to work on this In Sha Allah.
  • Limit the amount of Entertainment/Television/Gaming, etc
  • Plan your meals early – Ramadan is not just about food but since we need to eat and drink, plan your menu in advance and make all necessary preparations so you don’t waste time in the kitchen. My wife’s in charge of this department and I’m sure she’ll be sharing some of her Ramadan recipes on ModestMunchies.com
  • Shop now – get your shopping done early, stock up on groceries and your Eid clothes too so you’re not frequenting the shops when you can be benefiting from  the virtue of this auspicious month.
It’s been a year since the last Ramadan, take this opportunity to get back into the zone so you don’t waste valuable time trying to find your feet. Prepare early, prepare well and get ready for the month of Mercy.

Over the years I’ve observed how Ramadan preparation changes with our circumstances. Ramadan as a child with my family, then as a teenager, as a husband with my wife, as a new father, last year with a toddler, this year with my 4 month old daughter…Alhamdulillah.

Circumstances often change but the yearning for Allah’s mercy remains and continues to grow. This is also from the blessings of Ramadan.

May Allah extend our lives so we may witness the month of Ramadan In Sha Allah.