We awoke today at around 08:00am. Given that I only slept for a few hours after the dawn prayer and its Ramadan I wanted to desperately retreat into my bed. Alas! my daughters thought differently. Whilst lying down I remembered that my eldest daughter was given a project to complete. It was centred around a story called ‘Jasper and the Beanstalk’ and she was asked to make a flower that could be placed upon a display.
Reluctantly, rising from the bed I decided to make this into a lesson about growth and related it to Ramadan. However, as we began preparing, drawing, tracing, cutting, gluing, sticking, taping and finally painting (long list I know) subconsciously my mind had already made other links. My husband clambered down the stairs and sat down beside our youngest daughter and I could not wait to inform him of my analogy.
So I began explaining. When I came downstairs I looked in the storeroom for miscellaneous items that could be used. I thought it would be good to do this to encourage the use of materials at home. I then asked my daughter what does a flower look like and she found a flower hair slide to answer my question. Then the three of us went about preparing the items we would require for the activity. Similar to this we are recommended to prepare for this month, not just spiritually but physically and mentally. Although, we may not prepare in terms of gathering items like my daughter did, we do prepare for the meal after we break the fast and this is a blessing that Allah has given us.
Once we sat down we began to draw around the shapes that we had found. Now going on a tangent when I do things with my children I like to encourage autonomy. I do this for their own sake but recent research into child development promotes child lead activities. This is also promoted in Islam. As we are encouraged to raise our children with independence, be it through attempting the salaah or praising them for doing a good deed (this is another topic I will write about in another post inshallah.)
Anyhow going back to what I was writing about. As my daughter drew around the shapes to create the petals (which were in an array of colours), she started to cut around the lines and then we assembled them. In the process my daughter could not wait and was eager to simply paint. On seeing the final piece she smiled. It made me think of Ramadan. This is because just like my daughter cut the paper to make the petals the first fast (for me anyway) is like a sharp cut- as we struggle. Some struggle as they have work, some struggle due to ill health, some struggle as they have young children and there are unknown struggles too. By the end we hope that our souls are rejuvenated and our spirituality is assembled (or reassembled in our case) like the flower its just that like my daughter we are eager to see the result and undermine the process which is not something ordinary.
I began reading Surah Mujadilah today. On reading the translation I could not grasp what Allah was referring to so I decided to read the tafseer (commentary) of this particular chapter (which I would do with any chapter as I do not have a high calibre of knowledge.)
When I read the background I was amazed at the reason behind the revelation of this chapter. It was sent to the Prophet (SAW) after a women had come to him and sought advice regarding a dispute that had taken place between her and her husband. Before the verses were revealed the Prophet (SAW) advised her to have Taqwa (fear) as her husband was old. However, whilst she was there the Wahi (revelation) came down and what the husband had said to his wife was refuted. Writing these things now I am thinking that whoever is going to read may think what is so amazing about this? Well why I was amazed was because marital discord is common not only in the Bengali community but across all communities and often one party is given precedence according to the societal norms. Words are dismissed alongside the feelings of a person leading to resentment and in some cases further conflict. Here by admonishing what was said, Allah provides a balance.
When speaking to my husband later and explaining what I had found out and stating how if we understood and lived by the Quran life would be more simple-he simply agreed.
I realised that even behind dispute there is harmony.
His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; He quickeneth and He giveth death; and He is Able to do all things. (2) He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward; and He is Knower of all things. (3) He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days; then He mounted the Throne. He knoweth all that entereth the earth and all that emergeth therefrom and all that cometh down from the sky and all that ascendeth therein; and He is with you wheresoever ye may be. And Allah is Seer of what ye do. (4) His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, and unto Allah (all) things are brought back. (5) He causeth the night to pass into the day, and He causeth the day to pass into the night, and He is knower of all that is in the breasts. (6) Believe in Allah and His messenger, and spend of that whereof He hath made you trustees; and such of you as believe and spend (aright), theirs will be a great reward. (7) What aileth you that ye believe not in Allah, when the messenger calleth you to believe in your Lord, and He hath already made a covenant with you, if ye are believers? (8) He it is Who sendeth down clear revelations unto His slave, that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and lo! for you, Allah is Full of Pity, Merciful. (9) And what aileth you that ye spend not in the way of Allah when unto Allah belongeth the inheritance of the heavens and the earth? Those who spent and fought before the victory are not upon a level (with the rest of you). Such are greater in rank than those who spent and fought afterwards. Unto each hath Allah promised good. And Allah is informed of what ye do. (10) Who is he that will lend unto Allah a goodly loan, that He may double it for him and his may be a rich reward? (11)
I just could not sleep tonight without writing what I had taken away from reading these verses. There is a theme of ‘knowing’ that emanates from the verses that impacted upon my approach to fasting. There was a time when I could fast and I did not think about the duration I could focus on the Quran. However, I lost this and do want it back but reading these verses provided me with a reassurance in trying and appreciating the process of trying for the end reward. The above ayahs have made me re-evaluate where I am and where I want to be and if all of this will enable me to gain eternal reward.
It is as if Allah has given me so much or rather given everybody bounty upon bounty and yet we digress. Allah says in this chapter that ‘He it is who sendeth down clear revelations unto his slaves.’ Words such as ‘revelation’ corresponds with the month we are in at this moment in time. As I thought about these links it made me smile and gave me a spiritual lift that I was in need of, however, I do acknowledge that I have a long way to go but I guess I wanted to simply share this insight.
May Allah accept it from you and from me. Ameen.
In a previous post I discussed a section of a podcast I heard. In this post I am going to discuss another section. Nouman Ali Khan spoke about the slander faced about Aisha (RA may Allah be pleased with her.) I shall briefly (as brief as I can) write it here for those who are not familiar. During the time of the Prophet (SAW) it was customary for one the wives to accompany him on an expedition or battle. On one such occasion it just so happened that it was the turn of Aisha (RA.) At this time the women would be carried by men in carriage with two poles either side. This would be covered so no one could see inside. Aisha (RA) was very light in weight so when the expedition had ended her carriage was lifted and taken without her being inside it. She was left stranded. A companion came across her, he turned away and allowed his camel to kneel down so she could be lead to army.
After this, there were some people who spread rumours about Aisha (RA) and the companion. She was unaware of this until one of the other female sahahabi’s informed her. Her world came crumbling down she cried for three consecutive days and resided with her parents. The Prophet (SAW) was not coming near her either and eventually when he did he said that ‘if you are innocent seek forgiveness and if she is guilty then she should seek forgiveness.’ Upon hearing this, she turned to her parents and asked them to speak on behalf of her, they could not respond. After seeing everyone’s reaction Aisha (RA) says that her tears ‘dried up.’ It her reaction that I want to draw attention to-she said to her parents and the Prophet (SAW) that God would declare her inoncence and and turned away from them likening them to the Islraelites who did not believe Musa. She was angry and she responded. Now I have heard about this incident several times but I was not aware of how she had reacted.
When I was listening to Nouman Ali Khan he described her reaction and then related it to the Qur’an. We are told if you raise your voice to the Prophet (SAW) then the consequence is that all your good deeds are wiped away. We are also told (which is used against us much of the time) not to raise our voices to our parents. I struggle with the latter a lot. Now I am not an angry person but if a situation requires I can become egregious and indignant. As and when this has happened I have thought myself to be ‘wrong’ spiritually in some way. Hearing Aisha (RA) also reacted in the same manner as me, made me feel hopeful and less ‘wrong.’ (I am no way near the level of Aisha (RA.)
Now I am not saying that we should all go around and disrespect our parents, or the Messengers. I would not condone something like that. What I am saying is that we should be less harsh on ourselves and understand more about hadith’s, Quranic ayah before we advise someone else.
I listened to one and a half podcast’s today whilst ironing (as you do.) The speaker echoed some things that I believe are invaluable. He began by providing a history of his relationship with the Qur’an (the Muslim holy scripture.) I was astonished to find that his journey was similar to mine and he also began understanding the Qur’an dismissing some teaching and practices he had encountered whilst growing up. The reason as to why I was astonished was because he too found that the Qur’an and Islam had much to contribute and was not restricted. This was contrary to how it was portrayed to me as a child and a young women growing up in a western country. I always find it refreshing when I listen to speakers and they are able to relate to contemporary issues faced by Muslims and the community as a whole but take examples from the Qur’an.
The podcast was entitled Sabr through action not emotion. He began by talking about Musa (AS) and the time when he lead the Israelites to the desert to escape Firaun (Pharoah.) The Israelites faced many hardships and the hardship that really struck a chord in my heart was that of having their children murdered in front of them. No parent can withstand their child going through the smallest of pains and these parents had to physically see this and then live with it day in day out. At this point I thought of what was happening around the world. Parents are being tested differently with their children. A community I thought of was that of the Syrians and Palestians. We all see across social media the devastation that is occuring. We may only feel the pain whilst scrolling through our feeds and become indignant and outraged at that time and then continue with our daily tasks but we should try our best to remember them in our supplications (that’s the least we can do.) This then made me think about a poem written by Carol Ann Duffy about war. I remember her writing something about ‘reading about the catastrophes and the turning over to the next section’ (this is not a direct quote I am just taking from what I remember.)
Going back to Musa (AS) and the Israelites in the desert, there are a few important lessons we can take. Not only did they see their children being murdered and undergo torture, they now were on a desert not knowing what the future had in store for them. However, Musa (AS) had escaped tyranny before and gone to the desert. As I was listening to the speaker I was thinking what would be Musa (AS) advise? I was pleasantly surprised that it was an echo of my own thought. Musa (AS) advised them to be grateful and Allah will increase. Often times when faced with calamity and we ask for nasihah (advise) we are told to be patient. I do not know about anyone else but when I am not able to exhibit this I do feel spiritually deficient too. The speaker (Nouman Ali Khan) pointed out that to feel these emotions and be sad is a part of being patient. The precursor of this is gratitude-because this shows you what you do have and what Allah has done for you and where he has brought you. In saying this Nouman Ali Khan highlighted the importance of a persons mental and psychological state which I feel is at times overlooked.
I guess I wanted to share this with everyone and illustrate that our religion has answers and caters for all individuals we just have to search.
I made these with my daughters after a watching a youtuber. She is called umme Yusuf and makes quick and easy snacks that are useful in any household. The reason why I chose to make this was that it incorporated many hidden skills for the development of, language and communication, fine motor skills, world knowledge, literacy and numeracy. Of course I did not bore my children with the background as to why I was doing this with them that knowledge was more for myself being the geek I am. I mean a lot of parents probably already know this but I am definitely a supporter of embedded learning- and baking certainly incorporates a lot of it. Making these allowed me to discuss different countries. In this way it allowed me to illustrate the Muslims are not just one ethnic group but we are diverse. Growing up I remember that Muslims were ALL (yes ALL) brown skinned and Bengali. Of course I was confused between ethnicity and faith at this time. My day ensured we attended activities at the Mosque. Where we grew up the Muslim population consisted of many different ethnic groups. It is only after I got married I realised how significant this has been in my life. I know reside in a large Muslim populated city and have noticed there is somewhat of ethnic groups ‘sticking together.’ I noticed this whilst I was studying also. There are always great things to be learned from one another. Having said this I understand why this may have happened. In the 1970’s when there was a diaspora of different ethnic groups entering into the country including our ancestors they settled and made communities for themselves. They lived in overpopulated houses sharing bedrooms so money could be sent back to their respective countries. They never thought that they would actually ‘settle permanently.’ Its something I sort of undermined growing up but to understand the mind set of our elders its important to get into that mind set. Not only did they have to overcome the obvious language barrier they were faced with hostility (similar to what the EU people are facing now.) I guess they wanted to retain aspects of their identity and pieces of their home countries by holding on to what they know. Although much time has elapsed there are still challenges faced by the second generation to make the first generation understand. There has been great acceptance in many communities but we must plough on….I guess I may have thought a bit to deeply whilst doing this activity with my children.
Please leave comments about any ideas you have regarding this topic.
Ramadan is steadily leaving us and as the days go by there is one thing at the forefront of my mind. It is a quote from Nouman Ali Khan. He pointed out in his sayings about that the purpose of Ramadan and Fasting are different. Fasting is to aid us in attaining Taqwa, where as Ramadan is to aid us in gaining more understanding of the Quran. Effectively both enabling us to become better within ourselves.
Admittedly, it has been a slow build up of emaan for myself. Having two children, long fasts and a short time for sehri took a few days to get used to. The physical element so far has been better than I anticipated. I guess the supplications paid assisted me. However the spiritual element of connecting to Allah and understanding the Quran have taken their time.
After re-reading this post I had a writing epiphany. Coincidentally, it is after receiving an email (which I have not yet opened) from Nouman Ali Khan that I have began to think about Ramadan. I posed the question to myself where to want to be by the end of this Ramadan. I have been thinking about my routine in Ramadan. How I will manage my two little girls alongside working on myself. I want to take advantage of the blessed month and increase in my Ibadan (worship.) I have found that the tiredness overcomes me and at times I do ‘dip.’ Before getting married and becoming a mother it was easier to sustain the reading of the Quran and concentrate on chapters I was reading as well as attend taraweeh (night prayer) prayer the mosque. I miss it very deeply and cannot wait until my girls are older so we can go together as a family. However, being with my family is unequivocally a blessing. Another is the fact that I have not worked the previous Ramadan’s that have passed. Although, there are still distractions I am grateful that I do not have to think about work (or waking up for work) when the sehri period is such a short period. In fact I am in awe of those who do have to work and pray that it is easier for them especially with the fasts being so long. I guess every situation comes with its own blessings and struggles. In a way I think this Ramadan I will be working on gratitude.
I would be interested in hearing the goals of yourselves please share 🙂