Appreciating the Qailulah…

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

Alhamdulillah, the Ramadan routine is slowly taking shape. As part of my Ramadan preparation this year I decided to put together a Ramadan Routine guideline to help me stay focused, maintain productivity and still benefit from this Blessed month. I’ve always found that there is more Barakah in time during the month of Ramadan but without a few guidelines, it’s easy to slack off and lose concentration on an empty stomach.

One of the things I came across was the idea of a mid-day nap to balance the lack of sleep and refresh the body to be able to perform Taraweeh & Qiyam-al-Layl. I’ve heard countless times that a short rest/nap during the day is a Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and I know many people who do it regularly. I’ve tried in the past but since my naps always went longer than they should, it messed up my sleep cycle and affected my productivity during the day so I gave it up.

Thought I’d re-visit the idea and incorporate it in to my Ramadan routine so I did some research. We often hear that certain things are a Sunnah of our Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and we are encouraged to emulate his actions. Performing the action is commendable but I believe in order to truly appreciate the wisdom, we must research and learn more about these Sunnah. If you do something because someone told you to, you might do it for a while and then forget about it. If you understand why you should be doing something and you appreciate the wisdom behind it, the action becomes yours and you are more likely to have conviction and sincerity in the things you do.

In Arabic, “Al qaylulah” means “the mid-day rest”, which can be a short nap or rest period. It was a practice of the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) as well as his companions.

“We used to offer the Jumuah Salaah with Nabi (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and then take the afternoon nap. (Al-Bukhari) 

Another Hadith mentions that the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم)  said, “Sleeping early in the day betrays ignorance, in the middle of the day is right, and at the end of the day is foolish.”(Fath Al-Bari, p.73).

There are a number of narrations that confirm the practice of the Qaylulah by the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and his companions. Something science has only recently discovered seems to have been mainstream in Islam 1400 years ago. I believe it’s important to learn these practices from our own history so we can appreciate the wisdom of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and the early Muslims and ensure that when we implement these actions, we do it for the right reasons, with the correct intentions. Sometimes all that separates a useless act from a righteous one is the intention.

So if you take a nap during the day to rejuvenate, do it as a Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم). Science only recently discovered the benefits of this Sunnah so as Muslim’s we can benefit from it physically and by making the right intentions, we can benefit spiritually as well InshaAllah.

Ishaaq ibn ‘Abd-Allah said: “Taking a nap is one of the deeds of good people. It revitalizes the heart and helps one to pray qiyaam al-layl.”

Based on my experience so far, it does exactly that. The Qaylulah has made it practical to stay awake from Suhoor and gain maximum productivity early in the day which allows for more time to spend reading Quran and seeking the pleasure of Allah. It is definitely the highlight of my Ramadan routine which I am hoping to perfect in the next 2 days In Sha Allah.

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Muslim Productivity…

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

During the past 12 months, I’ve spent some time re-thinking my productivity and optimisation strategies. My role as an Accountant/Business Consultant/Payroll Manager/Business Owner/Entrepreneur/Importer/Supplement Enthusiast has developed over the last 12 months so I needed a more comprehensive approach to time management and productivity. My previous methods were very effective but simple and were based on a simple To Do list & Calendar.

When you’re working in an office from 8 – 5 everyday, your priorities revolve around a single place of work and so ‘work’ and ‘home’ to do list sufficed. Having a single workspace makes it relatively easy to stay on top of things since most of your work takes place in that space. When my role changed last year I transitioned into a virtual office which meant many different tasks due at different times to be completed in different places relying on different people so my humble to-do list sufficed but left me overwhelmed at times.

I’ve always been a sucker for productivity, in fact I’ve sacrificed many hours of productivity in the past researching and experimenting with different strategies using various platforms to achieve better productivity and time management. The idea felt natural to me but there have been times in the past where I questioned whether my search for better productivity had been counter productive and as a Muslim I questioned if there was any Muslim-benefit in my obsession.

In my attempt to be a better Muslim, husband, father, son, and a better professional, I found the answer and reaffirmed my obsession. I realised over the years that in many ways, my ability to be a better person in every regard relied on how productive I was and how efficient I was. I had to change my perspective to give real meaning to productivity and find the ‘Muslim’ productivity I was looking for.

My productivity has now made me a better Muslim, husband, father, son and professional. Muslim productivity is about waking up early in the morning to read Quran and pray Fajr, it’s about working smarter and harder earlier in the day so you can afford to break for some mid-day rejuvenation and pray Dhur. The most important aspect of Muslim productivity is knowing when to stop and achieving something meaningful with the time you gain by being more efficient and more productive. It’s not about working all the time and it’s not simply about crossing things off a list. It’s about finding contentment and fulfilment in the things you do by adding a spiritual element to your approach.

What I found even more inspiring was that many of the strategies and approaches could be traced back to Islam and the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) which made my obsession even more fruitful. InshaAllah I will document these in detail in future posts under this new category of “Muslim Productivity’.

New Routine… Part 2

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

Almost 4 weeks into the second instalment of my wife’s practical experience program and 2 weeks left of my househusband duties. Despite my reluctance the first time around, it’s become second nature now with 10 weeks under my belt. To be honest, I am going to miss it when it’s over.

After successfully implementing a toddler friendly work routine I was able to work more productively and even found time to earn some brownie points by cooking dinner and taking care of the groceries. I can’t remember the last time I worked so efficiently and productively, I really hope I can maintain it going forward.

When you work smart and focus hard, you can achieve certain efficiencies but that’s not the end goal, the goal is to work smart enough to get what you need done and allow yourself time to unwind and do ‘other’ things. When the day’s work is done and the day is not over, that’s when you start having fun.

My office has been transformed into an awesome little playground, there are toy cars parked everywhere, a fuel station under my desk and car stickers on my filing cabinets… it’s awesome. We watched movies, played games, went shopping, cooked lunch and had some very interesting conversations. Became quite the pro at carting the kid everywhere I went, even managed my meetings and met all deadlines.

The best of my accomplishments though, was strengthening my spirituality and reviving old good habits. The last 4 weeks have allowed me to maximise my time and take advantage of so many things I’ve neglected and have been striving to achieve since my job description changed last year. Frequenting the mosque, setting aside time everyday to recite Quran, studying the meaning of the Quran and countless hours listening to inspirational speakers from across the globe has helped me find contentment in my productivity and a sense of peace.

My routine will change again soon Insha Allah but I’m hoping to continue on this path. If I was able to achieve so much with my current schedule, I must do even better with wife’s help during the day.

Insha Allah (God Willing)…

Time management… the right way!

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

The last few weeks, perhaps months, have been extremely busy and I often found myself searching for ways to maximise my time and increase productivity while maintaining an Islamic lifestyle.

When you’ve got a long to-do list and an ever-changing routine, you tend to get carried away and at times engrossed in whatever you’re doing. You might not read enough Quran in the morning, perhaps prayers are delayed or even neglected… Sometimes even the people around you might be distanced in an attempt to work harder, faster, better.

In my own experience I’ve found that it’s easy to put off the little things when your focus is purely productivity. The reason I emphasise the little things is because I believe it’s the little things that facilitate the larger, more significant issues. Here’s a small example: Its mid morning and you’re at work, whatever or wherever that is, as noon approaches, you’re faced with a choice, break your productive streak, take a break and stop by the Mosque for Dhur… or maintain your focus, stay in for lunch and get the job done early… what to do?

I must admit, at times I chose to stay focussed, maintained high productivity and got the job done. I didn’t sacrifice my prayer though, I prayed at work and fulfilled that too but what I did sacrifice was the opportunity to actually get away from work, visit the Mosque, pray in congregation and rejuvenate before another session of work. In hindsight, a bad call!

This afternoon I took another approach, I was at the warehouse and had a few errands to run. As 12:30 approached, I decided to drop what I was doing and head to the Mosque for Dhur… this is what I gained:

  1. Prayer in congregation
  2. A break from routine
  3. Mid-day rejuvenation
  4. Spiritual fulfilment
  5. Witnessing a Brother embrace Islam at the mosque
  6. Re-assessed my priorities for the afternoon; and
  7. Very importantly, came across this Hadith –

Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said, “Verily Allah says: O son of Adam, free yourself for my worship, I will (in turn) fill your chest with satisfaction and remove your poverty, and if you don’t, I will fill your hands with distraction and will not remove your poverty.” [Ahmad, Ibn Majah]

Mind Blown! I’ve been looking at it the wrong way, it’s not about productivity to get things done so you have time to worship Allah… It’s about taking the time to worship Allah and achieving efficiencies in doing so! Productivity is pointless without contentment…

Sometimes it’s easier said than done but I hope, Insha Allah, I am able to remember this and apply it going forward.

A blue Thursday

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

It’s 11:30 AM on a blue Thursday morning, as I lay in bed with my 21 month old son, I can’t help but remember what blue, rainy mornings were like in the office.

Rainy days on the coast made it difficult to get out of bed and were the cause of many off my ‘sick days’ at work. I used to look out the window and wish I could be at home in bed, maybe watch a movie or 2 or 3 😉

Now that I’m home, these memories make the experience even more enjoyable… If you actually remember them that is. It’s so easy to get stuck into a new routine, you sometimes just forget about your old ones and neglect to appreciate the change.

Make the best of your time and appreciate the little things that happen. By being aware of the things we wish for and sometimes ask for, we can reflect on our circumstances and actually see that our prayers have been answered. Sometimes we’re just too busy to acknowledge the blessings before our eyes.

Had an awesome blue Thursday and I’m grateful for the changes in my routine! Alhamdulillah!

Stolen time…

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

I was inspired by the following article titled “Shaytan called a worldwide convention”:

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In his opening address to his evil Jinns, he said, “We can’t keep the Believers from going to Masjids. We can’t keep them from reading their Qur`an and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience with Allah”. Once they gain that connection with Allah, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their Masjids; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can’t gain that relationship with Allah.

This is what I want you to do Jinns. Distract them from gaining hold of their Lord and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day! “How shall we do this?” shouted his Jinns. “Keep them busy in the non essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!” “Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-Qur`anic recitation constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Allah.” “Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so their husbands will believe that external beauty is what’s important, and they’ll become dissatisfied with their wives. That will fragment those families quickly!” “Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and unprepared for the coming week. Don’t let them go out in nature to reflect on Allah’s wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. Keep them busy, busy, and busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions. Go ahead, let them be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Allah.” “Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause. It will work! It will work!” It was quite a convention. The evil Jinns went eagerly to their assignments causing Believers everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

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If you’re chasing your tail from morning to evening, waking up early, working late, not sleeping enough, studying hard and pursuing all the luxuries of this world, how much time do you devote towards you Lord? Apart from the 5 daily prayers, (I’m assuming we all manage that much at least) are we able to spare a few minutes everyday to read Quran? 5 minutes a day to read a Hadith? 5 minutes at the end of each day to thank Allah for his bounties? 5 minutes each morning to pray for guidance? A few minutes after each prayer for the remembrance of our Lord?

Why don’t we have time? Why can’t we spare a few minutes of our lives to remember and thank our Lord? From a young age we are moulded to pursue this lifestyle. Go to school so you can study, go to uni so you can get a job, get a job so you can make money, make more money so you can afford the house, the car, the holidays, the gadgets… and once you’re in the system, it ain’t easy to unplug. We are all guilty of it, unfortunately the lifestyle many of us pursue is not conducive to our Islamic way of life, however I don’t believe they are completely incompatible.

As I mentioned in “The jar of life”- Sometimes the less important things in life can distract us, filling up our time and keeping us away from what really matters. If we get our priorities in order, we can fit everything in. The  key is to prioritize, do what’s most important and Insha Allah you will see Barakah in your time and Barakah in your life. As a Muslim, prioritize your faith, be punctual and sincere in your prayers, devote some time each day to your Lord. Spend time with your family and do charitable work, fulfil your religious obligations and seek knowledge in your Faith. Your career, no matter how important it may be, must come after your religion and family. You will find that if you are able to maintain this balance, your work, studies and other responsibilities will find a way to work around your faith and Insha Allah you will succeed in them too.

A few things I’ve learnt to aid in better time management and pursuing a more Islamic way of life:

  • wake up early and pray Fajr
  • read Quran, exercise, study, etc, early in the morning – (stay up after Fajr)
  • stay focussed and set targets
  • make notes and use a diary
  • work hardest in the first half of the day
  • take breaks and pray on time
  • eat regularly, eat healthy
  • take time out to de-stress
  • skip the music – listen to Islamic lectures or nasheeds
  • avoid unnecessary distractions (facebook, twitter, aimless surfing) – there’s a time and place for this!
  • remember Allah and reflect upon his bounties (even the small ones)
  • when doing for others, make a sincere intention – sometimes the only difference between a random act and a spiritual act is the intention
  • make time for your family
  • avoid gossip
  • thank Allah for his provisions
  • read a book (Quran, Hadith, Islamic Stories, etc.) No good deed will go unnoticed
  • avoid excessive tv, movies, gaming
  • pray on time and preferably at the Mosque
  • renew your faith by visiting the Mosque daily
  • if you watch tv, don’t let it be the last thing you do before bed
  • make a sincere intention to wake up for Fajr
  • sleep early

I ask Allah to guide us and allow us to pursue an Islamic way of life. Its harder to achieve this in today’s secular environment but if we are successful, the reward will be greater… Insha Allah!

Muhammad al-Shareef has an inspiring lecture on time management which is available for download at http://www.kalamullah.com/muhammad-alshareef.html

I leave you with a quote by Imam Anwar al-Awlaki… “be mindful of Allah and Allah will be mindful of you”.

The jar of life…

In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

I came across a story which I later found was documented in Stephen Convey’s book, First Things First.  In the story, a lecturer conducts an experiment using a glass jar, rocks, pebbles, sand and water. He begins to fill the jar with rocks until no more rocks would fit. The audience was convinced that the jar was now full. He then added a few pebbles to the jar which filled the gaps between the rocks. This time the audience agreed that the jar was probably not yet full. He then added some sand to the jar which filled the gaps between the rocks and the pebbles. When the audience agreed that the jar was still not full, he poured water into the jar which filled the gaps between the rocks, the pebbles and the sand. The audience was convinced that the jar was now full. Finally, the lecture explained that if we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them in later.

If you think of the jar as your life, what are the rocks in your life? Family? Love? Friends? Religion? What we must remember is that it is most important to include the lager stones in our lives, because if we don’t do so, we are likely to miss out on life altogether.  If we give priority to the smaller things in life (pebbles & sand), our lives will be filled up with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things in our lives that are most important to us.

The rocks in our lives should be our family & our faith. Pray and seek spiritual guidance, spend time with your family, take your wife out, play with your kids and make time for yourself. There will always be time to go to work and do your chores.

Sometimes the less important things in life can distract us, filling up our time and keeping us away from what really matters. If we get our priorities in order, we can fit everything in…

May Allah grant us the ability to identify the rocks in our lives and grant us Barakah in our time… Ameen.