NOiR: Meditative Monday

[Qur’an in Ramadan 3:Q2.253-Q3.112]

This series starts with meditation on our resolution for Ramadan. You may or may not believe in a list of resolutions but here is one we will do together, in sha Allah.
quran-ramadan

1. Pray Fajr on time and preferably in congregation.

2. Get to work or school on time, earlier than usual, so you can reflect. Thank Allah for letting you reach your destination safely. If you have nowhere to go, wake earlier than usual from your post-fajr nap and meditate.

3. Get a sheet of paper and write out the qualities of the person you would like to become this Ramadan and beyond. Don’t make vague descriptions like ‘to become more pious’ or ‘to become a better Muslim’. Instead, write achievable and measurable goals like ‘to observe salaah within 30 minutes of the adhaan’, ‘eat a salad for iftar on alternate days’, ‘give x naira, dollars or pounds to a homeless person every day, decline visits to non-productive places, work out for 30mins daily, stop lying’. Visualise this individual and believe you shall become like that by the end of Ramadan bi idhnillah. Save this sheet of paper to look at and visualise every day at Fajr.

4. Write out a checklist (if you haven’t already) containing all the acts of ibadah you hope to achieve in Ramadan like reading 20 pages of the Qur’an daily, observing the 2 rakats before Fajr, Sunnah prayers before or after every of the 5 daily prayers, giving a certain amount in alms daily, attending tafsirs (sermons), itikaf (seclusion in the mosque), umrah (pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina) etc. Review your progress daily and see how you can do better the next day. No matter how bleak it seems when you do not meet up, keep forging on till the end. For the mere fact that you intend to do this, Allah will reward you, in sha Allah.

5. Reflect on your life, at how far you have come and how far you have to go to become who you desire. Reflect on the fact that not everyone who fasted last year is alive this year. Resolve that this Ramadan is going to be the best you have ever had, in sha Allah.

6. Bring out your Qur’an and read a part of your daily quota (or all of it, if you have enough time).

7. If this was your last Ramadan, what would you do differently from last year’s?

I would love to read your thoughts.

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TILAWAT-L-QUR’AN

[Qur’an in Ramadan 2:Q2.142-Q2.252]
quran-ramadhan

Salaam, people! Hope we had a spiritually fulfilling day yesterday.

One of the oft-practised acts in Ramadan is recitation of the Holy Qur’an in its entirety at least once. It is perhaps the most popular resolution of the month. Makes sense since the Qur’an’s revelation began in Ramadan and deeds are magnified during this month.

It was a habit of the Prophet (SAW) to recite to Angel Jibril every Ramadan in a review, and he was said to have reviewed it twice in his last year of life.

Remember that we will be rewarded for each letter (not word) we recite, so if you stutter or are not proficient in reading the Qur’an, lucky you! It is important to note that we should all endeavour to learn and practise tajweed while reciting the Qur’an, giving each letter and word its due by pronouncing and articulating properly following the rules of quranic recitation.

Some of us cannot read the Arabic text of the Qur’an but we can enjoy the beautiful recitations by various reciters. They can be downloaded free at http://www.quranicaudio.com and http://www.mp3quran.net. This way, we can listen to the Qur’an in the car on our way to work or school, on the bus with ear-phones, on a queue, in between lectures, at lunch break; anywhere really. We can also get a good translation of the Qur’an in a language we know and fill our days with the Words of Allah.

A nasty habit I have observed is how some of us make a racket while someone else is reciting the Glorious Qur’an. In Qur’an 7:204, we are instructed to listen and be silent during the recitation of the Qur’an so that we may receive mercy.

Above all, we should apply what we have learnt of the Qur’an in our daily lives.
Read. Understand. Practise.

Tip: Dua during Sajdah (prostration) of the Qur’an:
Sajada wajhiya lilladhi khalaqahu, wa shaqqa sam’ahu wa basarahu, bihawlihi wa quwwati. FatabarakAllahu ahsanul khaaliqeen.

RAMADAN 101

ramadan
[Qur’an in Ramadan 1: Q1.01-Q2.141]

Ohkay! It is finally here! That much anticipated month that we can never get enough of. It may begin tomorrow for some based on moon sightings but for us in Nigeria, it begins today. Ramadan comes every year but we do not tire of eagerly expecting it and welcoming yet another chance to get closer to Allah.

It is the 1st of Ramadan! Alhamdulillah, we are alive to witness it. We’ve got to gird our loins and make the most of it before it leaves us in a jiffy. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we allowed the benefits of this month fritter away like desert sand between our fingers?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which it is compulsory for mature, sane Muslims to fast. A pre-dawn meal is taken before the morning Fajr prayer and the fast begun from dawn till sunset when the fast ends for the day.

The month is not only 29 or 30days of abstinence from food, water and sex from dawn to sunset; it is a month where the tongue, eyes, ears, hands, feet and indeed the entire body also abstain from evil. The purpose of the fast is to make us of the Muttaqun (those who have piety and God-consciousness).

Crucial to our fast in Ramadan is the intention which is between Allah and us. You will agree with me that the intention changes everything. You could abstain from food the entire day but
intending to fast for Allah’s Sake changes a mundane non-rewardable action to an act of Ibadah (worship). Let us embark on this spiritual journey with the right intention, and not just because we would like to shed a few pounds. If we need to drop shed some kilos, it should be off our scale of bad deeds. Whatever deed we perform in this month and beyond, it should be done to gain Allah’s Favour and to increase our good deeds on the scale. With the right intention, we end up achieving more than we thought possible because Allah blesses and multiplies the reward for us.

At Iftar, let us remember to break our fast with an odd number of dates &/water after saying Bismillah and ‘Dhahabazzama’u wabtalaati-l-urooqu wathabata-l-ajru in sha Allah’ meaning ‘The thirst is gone, the veins are moistened and the reward is confirmed, if Allah wills.’ Remember to break your fast with only halal food gotten through halal means!

I am going to commence a series in a few days’ time, in sha Allah. This series will be called NOT ONLY IN RAMADAN (NOiR). They are a list of challenges to be carried out this Ramadan but are by no means supposed to be restricted to the Holy Month alone. Also, in parentheses is the quota of Qur’an to be recited daily if you intend to complete the Holy Book within 29 days. I hope you will join me on this journey to make the most of Ramadan.

REFLECTION Q10.24,31; Q13.3

image credit: www.bobqat.com

image credit: http://www.bobqat.com


When we were younger, we would yearn to play outside. It was fun to be outdoors even when the sun was intense or it was raining. It was great to enjoy the splendour of nature and beauty all around us (or maybe it was the unlimited space for play!). We enjoyed seeing a plane fly, then watching the clouds and imagining what they represented, gazing at the stars and letting our imagination run wild.

My dad used to call me to see birds nestled in our trees. We always woke up to the sounds of birds tweeting in the morning and we could mimic and identify their songs.

One of my favourite places is the beach; its magnificence, expanse, beauty and danger. I also love looking up at rocks, boulders (yet to see a mountain). It’s amazing how solid, massive and ancient they are; what secrets they hold.

It is awesome using Allah’s gifts of our senses to appreciate the world around us.

Unfortunately, the skyscrapers and tall buildings started coming up, obstructing our view of the sky and restricting the flow of air. More industries were established with the powerful polluting effluents which darkened the landscape, dimmed the colours of the rainbow and muddied up the clear spring waters; bright neon lights covered the skyline at night and blurred out the visibility of the stars. Gadgets, videogames and other appliances emerged and turned our gazes firmly toward them. We no longer look up at the sky to see the beautiful cloud formations, instead we jampack our minds full of a plethora of needs, wants and data. No time to reflect on the wonder of Allah’s creation.

Are you presently in the office or at home? Step to the window and open it if you can. Take in a lungful of air (polluted or not) and hold it for a while then release it slowly. Praise Allah that you can do that without the aid of a machine. Let the scales fall off your eyes and experience the vastness of the heavens, the beauty of nature around you, no matter how small. Step out of where you are and take a little walk if you can and thank Allah you are able to appreciate via your senses. Drop the gadgets for a minute and be grateful for life. Life is for the living.

Alhamdulillah for life!

10 WAYS TO REDUCE KITCHEN DUTY IN RAMADAN

When some of us hear Ramadan, we instantly think: FOOD! FOOD! FOOD! We imagine lots of cooking, exotic meals, lots of food, overeating, hours of cooking in the kitchen, more hours doing a tower of dishes and pots, belching throughout Tarawih and sadly, very few thoughts of actual worship.

Other members of the family are resting after Maghrib, we are in the kitchen, yet to observe our salaah. They have gone for Tarawih, we are scrubbing pots and pans. They are sleeping; time to finally catch up but we fall asleep instead. They are observing Qiyaam-lail but we need to prepare sahur. And on and on till Ramadan is gone. While cooking for the family has its reward, should we ladies aim to spend all our waking moments in the powerhouse of our home doing kitchen duty, cheating ourselves out of the stack load of rewards available? Ramadan is about our relationship with Allah. We can cook up a storm during all the other months of the year but other months do not possess the qualities the Holy Month does.

The holy month is almost upon us so let’s resolve to make the most of it this time. I will highlight 10 ways to help us cut down on our kitchen time in Ramadan. Note that this size doesn’t fit all so you may have to tweak it to suit your family.

1. Accept that everything occurs in accordance with Allah’s Will. If you have family members who loathe recycled meals, must eat everything ‘fresh’ and not out of the freezer, perfect your intention and convert your cooking to ibaadah. Once you intend to cook for them for the sake of Allah, to nourish them in order to help them worship Him better, your time spent cooking no longer seems like a waste. Besides, food cooked with love, fisabilillah always tastes better!

2. You have to make your intention known to your family beforehand that you intend to make the most of this Ramadan and would like their help in actualising it. You may need to put your foot down as you explain the things that may need to change this Ramadan for your plan to come to fruition.

3. If you read my Shaaban post, you would have stocked up on non-perishables and had your menu written out by now. Your menu should not be filled with complex time-consuming dishes. It should be healthy and include a variety of food classes especially fruits and vegetables. Drawing a menu saves you the headache of thinking of what to cook and helps with the grocery shopping but remember that you may need to be flexible sometimes.

4. Foods that need lots of preparation time should like our West African pap, bean cakes (akara, kose), moinmoin, blended tomatoes, peppers and onions, elaborate soups, samosas etc should be prepared to a certain level in advance, batched and stored in the freezer. Once the menu calls for them, it will be faster to prepare them. For example, I blend my dehulled beans and store in the freezer. A pack will brought out of the freezer and allowed to thaw in the fridge ready for frying into bean cakes the evening. Likewise with samosas and pap. My tomatoes, peppers and onions are blended and boiled so when I need to prepare stew, it’s quicker. You can also buy lots of vegetables, chop/slice/dice them and store in various packs. Thaw and add to your soups, rice, pasta dishes to increase nutritional value.

5. When shopping, buy food items that shorten your preparation time, if healthy. Diced/chopped vegetables, de-scaled fish, pre-cleaned catfish or cow offals, soft cowhide (pomo), grilled fish or chicken can be procured at our local markets. Some of the sellers do often offer these services for free or for a little token.
fast-not-feast
6. While in the kitchen or out grocery shopping, seize every opportunity to make ibaadah. Instead of gossiping during cooking, recite along with your favourite reciter. While you are waiting at the checkout aisle at the supermarket, recite adhkaar instead of emptily browsing through your phone. Perform extra nawafil units of prayer while food simmers on the cooker.

7. Schedule inviting guests for iftar to coincide with your monthly period, if you can and you aren’t already menopausal!

8. Have you heard of division of labour? If you need help, ask. If you need a maid, employ. No need to act like a martyr. Involve anyone around you in the preparation for iftar. People are often willing to help or will help anyway if only we would ask.

9. Remember it is a fast, not a feast. The essence of the iftar is not to compensate for the meals we missed during the day. This defeats the purpose of the fast. It is counterproductive to gobble on food then become too sluggish and useless to perform worship. Meals high in simple sugars tend to make us hungrier. Eat right by choosing whole grains, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, lean meats, proteins, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Avoid or cut down on salt, sugar, canned foods, fizzy drinks, saturated fats etc.

10. For Allah’s sake and in consideration for whoever is going to pray beside your family, keep the garlic-y and onion-y dishes till after Tarawih!

Wishing you a fulfilling Ramadan in advance!

OPPORTUNITY Q13.11

My son’s shirt had split along its seams and since I had no sewing machine and it wasn’t something a needle and thread could fix, I waited for someone who makes such repairs for a fee. In these parts, men often roam around residential areas with the machine on their shoulders, flipping their huge metal scissors to make a peculiar sound. If you do not hurry out to call out to them, they will be on the next street in no time.
sewing machine
I was indoors and waiting for the tell-tale signal to herald the approach of one. When I heard it, I hurriedly wore my hijab (it’s pretty hot in the tropics to sit indoors with one). Alas, once I get outside, there is no one in sight. I sigh dejectedly and return inside the house, ears pricked for the signal. Before I can wear my hijab and slippers and dash out to the street, someone else has called them or they have gone beyond my line of vision.

Of course, it did not take me long to realise that if I really wanted to get Lil H’s shirt repaired, I had to sit prepared, ready to grab the opportunity once it arose.

Opportunity does not wait for us to go get ready while she waits; she is arrogant and would rather delay you than sit and watch while you prepare. She expects you to be fully alert, eager and hungry, ready to grab her with both hands.

You are not going to see an advert in the dailies and suddenly rush to get the required qualification. You have to have the necessary qualification before-hand. While you wait, you may keep improving your craft by acquiring extra degrees or going for related courses, or volunteering to improve your chances of employment. As a bachelor or spinster, you will not sit at the sidelines without an education or life goals waiting only to get married once a prospective suitor shows up then you will dash to the supermarket to procure the qualities the person desires.

Allah may occasionally toss a freebie in our laps but most times, He will not change our condition until we get up and make something of and for ourselves. It is either we create the opportunity we want or we await, ready to grab the opportunity once it presents itself. Allah will not descend to the Earth to help us but will send us guidance or help through people.

Improve your situation and ask Allah’s guidance.

SURMOUNT THE INSURMOUNTABLE Q2.155-6, Q2.286, Q29.2

At one point or the other in our lives, we will face difficulties, sickness, grief, relative poverty or weakness; seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Instead of begging Allah to strengthen us enough to lift the burden and conquer the unconquerable, we beg, moan, plead and cajole Allah to lift the burden from our frail shoulders.

Allah mentions in 2:286 and other parts of the Qur’an that He will test us believers but not burden us with more than we can bear. And in Q2:156, He counsels us on the right attitude to these trials.
moses-parting-red-sea
When I think about the story of Prophet Musa (ASW) and the travails he faced in his life right from his birth, I wonder how he even moved an inch when Allah ordered him to return to Egypt to meet Fir’aun. Worse still is the fact that he was commanded to flee toward the Red Sea and not once did he stop to ask Allah how they would cross. I bet if it was me or you, we would have thought of the logistics of the journey and cancelled the trip. I would definitely have wondered how to cross the sea before I even got there but we should always remember that if Allah brings us to a problem, He will bring us through it, in sha Allah.

A Chinese Proverb states, ‘The gem cannot be polished without friction nor can a man be perfected without trials.’ The friction of our daily lives sharpens and equips us better for the world and its challenges. We should thank Allah for the opportunity to learn from adversities, ensure we make the most out of them and have absolute faith Allah will help us overcome them.

List out the problems you have had in your life and beside them, write out what you feel you have learnt or what good came out of such circumstances. If you haven’t any lesson yet, Allah will make it clear to you in sha Allah. And if you have no problems to list, Alhamdulillah for His mercy on you.