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!

Ramadan is here!

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

After all the preparation and anticipation, despite not seeing the moon myself tonight, Ramadan 2013/1434 has arrived. It’s an amazing experience we are blessed with each year and I am so grateful for this opportunity again this year. The Ramadan preparation, the sighting of the moon and the welcoming of this Blessed month brings with it a sense of unity and belonging for Muslims all over the world.

As a Muslim living in the West, Ramadan brings the community together and really fosters the idea of a united Ummah or Nation. From the first night, the Mosque’s are packed, you meet people you don’t usually get to meet, everyone’s excited, lots of hugging, at times the occasional kiss from the Arab brothers – very manly and nothing queer! It is truly a festive atmosphere, sometimes you just have to take the time to appreciate it.

Despite the annual moon-sighting controversy and some differences in the approach and attitude of different ethnic groups, the concept of unity and the sense of togetherness still prevails. Once everyone is fasting, we forget the petty differences and the shared goals bring us closer again on the basis of our sheer love and respect for this great month.

I know I didn’t fully benefit from Ramadan last year which makes this year even more special to me. I am grateful that I have another opportunity and InshaAllah (God willing) I will have my redemption. The last 12 months have taught me many lessons and allowed me to appreciate my faith in a new light. After reflecting on Ramadan’s passed, I feel I have neglected a key aspect of this month and I plan to change that this year.

We get carried away with the fasting during the day and sometime forget that Ramadan is not simply the month of fasting. Ramadan is in fact the month of the Quran and without prioritising and emphasising this, the fasting becomes ritualistic and the month passes by like some sort of diet regime. This Ramadan, my intention is to fully and completely fulfil the rights of the Quran and I pray that by doing so I am able to maximise the blessings of this blessed month and come out the other end a better Muslim InshaAllah.

To my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, I wish you a Blessed Ramadan… May the Almighty shower His mercy upon you, accept your efforts and pardon your shortcomings.

Blessed Ramadan!

Remember the Quran… and the milk!

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

As part of my Ramadhan prep this year I’ve been looking at ways to increase Quran recitation each day. By spending more time at the mosque lately, I’ve had the opportunity to read Quran more than just once a day which naturally allows me to read more through the day. I’ve tried in the past and tried again recently to use one of the many Quran apps available to recite just about anywhere, anytime while keeping track of my progress each day. Some of the apps are really awesome and allow clear arabic text, english translation, notes and a bookmarks so you know exactly where you’re up to. The main advantage of these apps is the convenience and the progress tracking which is handy, especially when you’re reading at different times and in different places each day.

For some reason I can not find comfort in reading on a screen and scrolling through the text. As convenient as it is, I find the experience of reciting Quran on my iPhone or iPad very unusual and slightly un-natural. I grew up reading Quran the old-fashioned way and nothing can beat the familiarity and comfort in holding the Mus-haf (Compiled pages of the Quran or Kitab). I’ve been reading Quran in the same mus-haf for 12 years and no app can give you that feeling of familiarity and tranquility. The worn pages, scribblings and date markings add a dimension no technology can emulate but since I can’t carry my mus-haf everywhere, I needed a solution that allowed me to read in any mus-haf, anywhere I went while still keeping track of my progress.

I’ve been using an app called ‘Remember The Milk’ to manage my projects, emails, task list and priorities and after a few tweaks I found the perfect solution. This is what Remember the Quran looks like in my Remember the Milk app…

Remember The Quran

I’ve set it to recur everyday so I’ll have a daily reminder to ‘Read Quran’ and the notes section allows me to keep track of my progress which I can update any time I read, any where I read. It’s working well so far and I’m looking forward to really testing out through Ramadhan InshaAllah. Just love it when technology and religion come together. Alhamdulillah for Muslim Productivity.

Time for a little travel…

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

Decided to take few days off and travel with my wife and son. It’s been a busy few weeks and sometimes you need a little rejuvenation before getting stuck in to routine again. Planning to visit one of my favourite cities in one of my favourite countries… Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

With a last-minute booking and our flight in 3 days I have lots to do before I can really take a break but it’s exciting. Looking forward to taking my wife out and enjoying some quality time with my son. Becoming more interesting as he gets older so we’ve a few cool places to visit with him.

Whenever I think about travelling, I like to do it for more than just globe-trotting. This time, I’d like to give myself and my wife a break from routine, some quality time together in the same place we spent our honeymoon together. This time a little honeymoon with our 2 year old son. I find peace in travelling to Muslim country, particularly one with such an emphasis on the preservation of Islam and Islamic Literature. We’ve been to Malaysia on numerous occasions and we can’t get enough. Looking forward to the Muslim experience, the Halal food, audible call to prayer, praying in the beautiful Mosques, in the airport and in the shopping malls too. The perfect balance between holiday, leisure, family and faith…

A verse comes to mind:

Say, (O Muhammad), “Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then Allah will produce the final creation. Indeed Allah , over all things, is competent.” [Qur’an: Chapter 29, Verse 20]

Mid-day reflections…

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

There’s something very fulfilling about praying Dhur at the Mosque, something I missed when I worked in an office and something I took for granted when I started working from home. Today was a wet, blue day and the congregation was small, I’ve found that rainy days and a the silence of the mosque are quite soothing and thought provoking. 

I thought about how satisfying it feels when you simply drop anything and everything you’re doing to answer the call to prayer… an indescribable feeling that unfortunately  the modern lifestyle often deprives us off.  It’s a sad reality but for most of us, it’s something we can overcome with a slight change in mindset. 

When prayer is a chore or something we have to do at a certain time and certain place, it’ll always feel like a chore, something we do without too much thought or reflection with a goal of simply doing it. I’ve had Salaah on my chore list at times, though I’m grateful for the awareness and consciousness of prayer embedded in my upbringing, the attitude towards it makes a huge difference and can be the difference between ritual and spiritual. 

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Let prayer be a break from work or routine, not because you have to do it, but because it makes for a good break. The mistake we make is that we work, briefly stop to pray so we get it done and then take the break… which often involves some sort of mainstream leisure activity like watching tv or going for coffee. 

A small change in mindset can make all the difference. Work hard, have fun, set priorities, develop efficiencies but let cleaning, banking, changing light bulbs and gardening be chores… Salaah is the break you need from a busy schedule and a hectic lifestyle. 

For me personally, it means the difference between a 5 minute break in my office to pray and a 20 minute break to pray at the mosque, in congregation with a change in environment, some fresh air and an opportunity for reflection. 

The reward is greater, the break is better and what you may lose in time, you make up for in contentment, piece of mind and a greater sense of purpose. 

Start with one, Dhur is a perfect mid-day break to try out… then move on. Take a break 5 times a day and you’ll work better, feel better and live better. 

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.

2012 Solar Eclipse…

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

I was joking with my wife earlier tonight about waking up early tomorrow morning so we could witness the solar eclipse, we realised that we didn’t get any protective eyewear so we’d in fact be waking up early to not look at the solar eclipse which was kinda funny. Nevertheless, with the hype and media coverage this evening, we got talking and she reminded me of the eclipse prayer and asked if there was anyone offering in congregation. I haven’t heard of any mosques offering the prayer in congregation but I remember reading about it a little while back so I decided to do some research and put together a few notes on how to offer the prayer.

The prayer itself is described in the following Hadith:

Narrated `Aisha: In the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) the sun eclipsed, so he led the people in prayer, and stood up and performed a long Qiyam, then bowed for a long while. He stood up again and performed a long Qiyam but this time the period of standing was shorter than the first. He bowed again for a long time but shorter than the first one, then he prostrated and prolonged the prostration. He did the same in the second rak`a as he did in the first and then finished the prayer; by then the sun (eclipse) had cleared. He delivered the Khutba (sermon) and after praising and glorifying Allah he said, “The sun and the moon are two signs against the signs of Allah; they do not eclipse on the death or life of anyone. So when you see the eclipse, remember Allah and say Takbir, pray and give Sadaqa.” Bukhari, 2.154.

The Hadith explains the actual prayer which I have summarised below but it also clarifies the fact that solar and lunar eclipses have nothing to do with deaths, births or other events so we should avoid superstition and rather fear Allah at these times and invoke prayer. Allah’s signs are found throughout nature and though science may provide a logical explanation of these events, as believers, we acknowledge the Almighty and bear witness to His signs. While the sight itself is quite amazing, why not take advantage of the occasion by following a sunnah of our beloved Prophet (p.b.u.h) and performing Dhikr (remembrance) of Allah.

Here is a summary of the prayer, also known as Salaat-ul-Kusoof:

  1. Stand up for prayer as normal
  2. Recite Qur’an as normal
  3. Perform a prolonged Ruku (Bow) with Dua/Supplication
  4. Stand up and recite Qur’an again
  5. Perform a 2nd prolonged Ruku (Bow) but not as long as the first one
  6. Stand up and then proceed into Sujood (prostration) and prolong the Sujood with Dua/Supplication
  7. Sit up straight as you normally would between prostrations
  8. Go back into sujood again and prolong it but not as long as the first prostration
  9. Repeat the above steps for the second rakaat or second unit of prayer

 

The Eclipse can be viewed over Queensland (QLD) tomorrow morning 14 November 2012 from approximately 5:44 AM to 7:44 AM. May Allah accept our prayers and guide us towards the straight path.

 

“Therefore remember Me. I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and never show Me ingratitude” – Al-Baqarah 2:152