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’.

Thinking about Ramadhaan…

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

With the sighting of the new crescent, Ramadhaan is only a few weeks away. I remember the 100 day countdown on a few Facebook pages but it still felt like a distant event. It’s not too far off now so everyone’s talking about it, thinking about it and hopefully planning for it. Ramadhaan is a huge date stamp on the Muslim calendar and though we all complain that it arrives and departs very quickly, Ramadhaan memories usually last a long time.

Despite living by the gregorian calendar, there is something special about the month of Ramadhaan which makes it’s memories very vivid. Every year, the rituals and obligations remain the same but circumstances always change so your approach to Ramadhaan and the lessons learnt keep changing. Once we reach Sha’ban each year, the Islamic calendar becomes a major part of our lives and once Ramadhaan arrives, you couldn’t care less about what month of the year it is. It’s as if, the year pauses briefly to allow for this special month and then resumes when it ends.

Last Ramadhaan was a challenging time for me and my family. I had recently left work and moved back to Brisbane when my dad took ill and everything became slightly blurry for a few months. Ramadhaan arrived and unfortunately, due to the stress, pressure and unexpected commitments I had, I wasn’t able to maximise the Ramadhaan experience. I’ve found that emotional experiences during or around the month of Ramadhaan are not easy to forget.

Reflecting on these memories makes me extremely grateful for the events that have unfolded since then and I thank God for helping us get through it.

This year, InshaAllah (God willing) will be my first Ramadhaan since I left work last year without any unexpected or unplanned commitments. I am hoping to make the best of it and hopefully even make up for last year. When I was working in public practise, I remember fantasizing about what it would be like if I didn’t have to work during Ramadhaan… This time I get to test it out. I’m hoping that by remembering and reflecting on this, I can stay focused and maximise the Ramadhaan experience this year.

The Ramadhaan anticipation has struck earlier this year so I’d like to start planning earlier too. Hoping to write and reflect a little more InshaAllah.

 

اَللّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِى رَجَبَ وَ شَعْبَانَ وَ بَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَان

 

‘Allaahumma baarik lanaa fee Rajab wa Sha,baan wa ballignaa Ramadhaan.’

 

“O Allah, make the months of Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadan (i.e. prolong our life up to Ramadan, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings).

 

Islamic College Fete…

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

I attended the annual Fete at the Islamic College of Brisbane this weekend for my weekend dose of Halal-ness and inspiration. Due to an ever-growing Muslim population virtually everywhere in the world, our functions and gatherings always come with traffic congestions, parking issues and crowd control problems which we’ve grown accustomed to. Despite the massive turnout yesterday, I was impressed at the orderly manner in which we, as a community conducted ourselves. While I can’t comment on the success of the fund-raising initiative, from a social perspective, it was a success.

Despite the anti-Muslim media frenzy over the paste decade, the broader community have learnt the secrets of our gatherings and functions… The FOOD! It’s always a pleasure to see Muslims and Non-muslims coming together to celebrate and enjoy the many diversities our cultures have to offer. A true sense of community, family and brotherhood was on display which is a real display of what we, as Muslim’s mean when we claim that Islam means peace.

Nothing is more Peaceful than a group of Muslims from all over the world, living in a Western Land, coming together to raise funds for the growth of an Islamic School. The organisation of the event has been improving each year, the school itself has grown at an amazing rate over the last 5 years which is a positive sign for the Muslim community in this area. Support came from the muslim community, non-Muslim community as well as local government representatives and officials who understand the major role the Muslim community plays in the area.

There is distinct benefit in promoting and facilitating a single, united Ummah or community, particularly when residing as minorities in Western countries. The unity, discipline and strength displayed when the community stands and works together is precisely what we need amidst the global onslaught on our Religion.

Events that are hosted, supported or held at Islamic institutions have a special significance in promoting a true impression of both Islam and Muslims in the context of social integration. When you have Muslims from a range of ethnicities including so many reverts, Islam becomes more than just a brown religion. When people of different races, cultures and ethnicities unite for the sake of faith, it makes it easier for the broader community to understand and accept that Islam is not a brown religion, not an Arab religion but a world religion. This display of unity can dispel arguments that question our ability to work together and integrate with the rest of society.

The social, yet Islamic environment also displays the simplicity of our faith and the ease with which our religious obligations can be met alongside our social and personal lives. It doesn’t take much for a gathering to be Islamic, it usually starts with a prayer or recitation, music is kept to minimum if any, entertainment is usually provided by kids in the form of song or art and when the time of prayer arrives, Muslims answer it by getting together in a designated place and praying together which usually takes no more than 5 minutes. Thereafter, the eating, drinking and socialising resumes. As Muslims, this is something we take for granted but for a non-Muslim observer, this informal display of our religion can make a massive difference to their views and perspective on what is portrayed to be a strict and heavily regulated set of restrictions.

I believe our functions should remain Islamic at the core as a point of difference rather than simply being events organised by Muslims. The Fete was truly Islamic and provided a platform for social interaction, religious integrations and most of all… the best Da’wah or propagation of Islam which is through action and behaviour rather than simply words.

The Islamic College of Brisbane is very special to me and I hope one day, to send my kids there too. I pray that Allah grant them success and protect their reputation. As Muslims, it is OUR responsibility to support OUR institutions.

Sunday afternoon Halal-ness…

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

A blue, rainy Sunday at home got me feeling for some Hot Thai food and some coffee. Decided to go to Madinah Cafe which is down the road from the house. Hadn’t been there in months and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if they were still open. Halal restaurants come and go so I would not have been surprised if they had shut shop. Alhamdulillah they were open for business and lunch was awesome. Enjoyed my coffee and my cashew chicken but aside from the food, the Halal environment and peaceful atmosphere is what’s truly fulfilling.

Madinah Cafe doesn’t just serve Halal food, it provides an environment conducive to Halal dining and socializing. Cafe style dining with Arabic Caligraphy, Islamic paintings, artwork and little reminders about Allah on the wall coupled with friendly service from a humble and polite muslim family makes it more than just another halal cafe.

From the outside it probably looked like just another ethnic restaurant with noisy people and kids running around but on the inside it was a casual, peaceful place with Muslims from diverse communities coming together to enjoy Arab, Western and Asian food. Alhamdulillah, MashaAllah, InshaAllah, SubhanAllah, is what you hear around you and no one walks in or walks by without saying Salaam. It’s the little things that make the difference between simply serving Halal food and providing Halal dining.

When you are surrounded by goodness and God-consciousness, you feel more inclined towards saying and doing righteous things. It can turn a lazy Sunday lunch into something more virtuous and fulfilling. Instead of simply going out for lunch with your wife, you can spend on your family for the sake of Allah and enjoy a more satisfying experience. While waiting for our lunch, surrounded by  all the ‘Halal-ness”, I was reminded of this Hadith:

“When a man spends on his family, hoping for reward, that is (counted as) an act of charity for him.”
   (Bukhari & Muslim)

A beautiful hadith I would not have thought about if it was simply any Sunday afternoon lunch. On the micro level, this is what a Halal environment can do for you…

It doesn’t take much to create a good, Halal environment but it’s definitely worth it. Get more from your outings and gatherings, keep it Halal.

 

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 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.

…4 years married!

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

What a way to start the year… my son turned 2 on the 1st of January and the 2nd was our 4th wedding anniversary. I guess the fact that we have a 2-year-old son forces us to believe that we’ve been married for more than 2 years but it definitely doesn’t feel that way. It really feels like it was just the other day. So much has happened, so much has changed in these 4 years but there’s 1 thing that hasn’t… our marriage. Four year’s later and despite occasionally taking things for granted and being a bit cranky, I still feel like I did then. Grey hairs have sprouted and body weight has fluctuated but inside, I still feel for my wife what I felt that day 4 years ago.

With each day comes greater challenges and bigger responsibilities but the realisation that our marriage stands so strong 4 years on is soothing and certainly reassuring. Marriage is so easily taken for granted and it’s so easy to neglect the person we wake up beside each morning, I’m thankful for these reminders that often wake you up to the many blessings you have around you.

I’d like to use this milestone to change a few old habits and make sure that my wife and our marriage are both given as much attention as they should and a little bit more. Love, affection and romance are not reserved for newly weds or special occasions and should be celebrated everyday. If I fail or come short for some reason, I hope this post will remind me and keep me on track.

The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said: “The believer with the most complete faith is the one with the best character, and the best of them are those who treat their wives the best.”

… Insha Allah!

2012 closing…

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

 

Alhamdulillah, I am grateful for seeing the end of another year. Every day is a blessing from Allah whether you live by the Lunar or Gregorian Calendar or whether you ‘celebrate’ New Years or not.

After a few hectic weeks, we took a few days off to spend some family time together and celebrate our son’s 2nd birthday as well as our 4th wedding anniversary. These dates or milestones really put things into perspective and are sometimes good reminders about the things we take for granted. I could not believe my son was already 2 and the next day I couldn’t fathom being married for such a long time. The change in routine was good and gave me an opportunity to reflect on 2 of the most important people in my life. Some may call it celebration but I like to think of it as an appreciation for my son who just turned 2 and my wife who’s been with me for the last 4 years. I probably feel the same way every year but I can not believe how fast 2012 went by.

2012 was a big year, lots happened, so much changed and with the change came a few big challenges. My sister got married and moved to America, I quit my job in public practise, began working as a virtual business consultant and finally kicked-ff my online supplement business. Circumstances changed drastically with my dad’s illness and I guess things haven’t quite gotten back to normal since then. I haven’t yet had the strength to write about some of the things I learnt and felt during this challenging time but perhaps I might, Insha Allah.

With so much uncertainty and so much going on at home, time just flew by I’m glad I was able to stop and take a break for a few days to appreciate the blessings in my life. There are many things I wish I had done, so much that was done and as always a few regrets. My aim is to do the things I wish I had done, appreciate the things I did accomplish and work on reducing the regrets Insha Allah.

2012 closes, our holiday was the perfect transition into the new year and now… 2013! Alhamdulillah!