TO YOUR PLACES Q2:238

There was a time I was missing praying in a mosque so I decided to go for Juma’a in a masjid. In Northern Nigeria and a couple of countries, the women’s section of the mosque is minimal, poorly lit, poorly maintained and sometimes, away from the masjid itself, seemingly like an afterthought.

I did not want to pray in such a space.
I wanted to pray in a magnificent masjid, and stare up at the elaborately detailed dome, admire the glory of the geometric designs, bask in the beauty of the masjid’s ambience.

I wanted to pray in congregation as I hadn’t in a long time. I needed to stand side-by-side with other Muslims, shoulder-to-shoulder, praying fluidly in unison – like we were one body. I needed to bond with fellow sisters in Islam on another level…

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The example of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 5665

Of course, I did not communicate my feelings in detail so I was invited by a friend of mine to her masjid for Juma’a and of course, I was disappointed.
However, I was able to reignite this feeling recently. I had forgotten the magical effect praying outdoors has on me.

 

Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The entire earth has been made a place of prayerexcept for the graveyards and the latrine.”

Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 317

I had the opportunity to pray outside my home (and workplace) for the first time in a long while. I was attending a week-long programme and the mosque within the premises was some distance away. A new friend and I decided to pray in the car park and it was so tranquil, quiet, secluded; and serenity washed over me. I wanted to sit there all day, perhaps, I could lay on the prayer rug and take in nature through all my senses, admire the drifting clouds, the beautiful hue of the sky…but it was short-lived. It was a car park afterall, no place for fantasies!

It is such a blessing to us to have the opportunity to recharge with Allah during the day. It’s refreshing, fulfilling and relaxing. I wish we would stop our rat races long enough to smell the roses.
Anyway, I think that car park was the strangest place I have prayed so far…and that’s so boring. I need to pray in some really weird place. Let me add that to my bucket list! 😀
So, where is the weirdest place you have prayed? Do you have a bucket list of strange places you would like to pray?

DELAYING SALAAH II

contd. from Delaying Salaah

There is a high premium placed on a woman who, amongst other things, observes her daily salaah because Allah knows well, how tedious it can be.

“If a woman prays her five (daily prayers), fasts her month (Ramadaan), guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: Enter Paradise by whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.” Narrated by Ahmad

Our children need to be made to understand the importance of the 5-10minutes we spend in front of Him 5 times daily. They should be taught not to bother us during these precious moments as we’ve taught them to respect our time on the phones, with a guest, in the bathroom and at work.

Addressing the excuses enumerated yesterday, I will make some suggestions.

  • We should simplify our clothing when going out especially if we anticipate praying outside our homes; just as nursing mothers plan ahead about convenient breastfeeding clothes when leaving the home. Our sleeves should be wide enough to be rolled up to the elbows; our khimars should wrapped/tied/worn in a convenient fashion to permit wudhu, our clothes should sufficiently cover our awrah. We can even practise wudhu in them or perform ablution before leaving the house (if the time for salaah is near).
  • Scheduling our lives around Salaah instead of trying to fit it into our schedule will help us when we get caught up in house chores or kid care. If we intend to pray and they are fussing, we can put them in a baby carrier/sling or strap them to the back as is common in West Africa.
  • image source: pinterest

    image source: pinterest

  • Toddlers can be encouraged to perform ablution and given their *special* prayer rug, kufi/hijab to observe salaah with us. They are usually excited to join us. If they have learn some short surahs, you can recite a little louder so they can concentrate and recite along. As much as is possible, we should ignore them during prayers for them to understand to keep quiet too. By the time we have done this consistently enough, in sha Allah, they will be the ones to remind us to go for prayers when they hear the adhaan. And wouldn’t that make your heart sing!
  • If all fails, schedule their nap time around Dhuhr salaah and their bed time at Maghrib or Ishaa so you can enjoy khushoo and the tranquility of prayer.Accepting to lower our standard of salaah when the children begin their antics helps us to be less irritable.
  • Sometimes, we have guests and feel guilty or self-conscious about leaving them to go and pray particularly if they are non-Muslim. Nothing will happen to them in the few minutes we are gone. If we excuse ourselves for 5-10minutes, none will be the wiser. If they are Muslims, we can gracefully ask if they will also like to pray so that they can be provided with water for ablution, a hijab, and a rug to pray. One has to be discreet about asking if there are women present due to our off-salaah days.

Piling our salaah makes it harder to pray them all at the end of the day. We should try our best to perform them on time and persevere with it. 5 daily prayers every day. At least.

I will round off with one of my favourite quotes:

A busy life makes prayer harder, but prayer makes a busy life easier.

May Allah make it easier for us because we can do nothing without His Help.

DELAYING SALAAT Q5:6, Q9:54

praying child

image credit: reddit

This post is mainly for the female readers of this blog, particularly the Stay-at-home-moms (like me at the moment). The men seem to have a better salaah habit than we do due to peculiar factors that keep us away from salaah like our clothing, vaginal bleeding (physiologic and abnormal), the lack of a female section in many masajid, children, chores etc.

We do not want to pray outside our houses because we will need to perform ablution and risk exposing our hair, and face for those who wear the niqab. It can seem cumbersome trying to remove the gloves, flip the niqab to wash the mouth, nose, face; manoeuvre the fingers through the hair, wipe the ears, wipe the socks or wash the feet…Mentally calculating these can discourage some of us from making the effort outside our homes. Some of us are simply too shy to pray in the open. To make matters worse, most masajid do not have a female section. The few that have are inadequate with inappropriate ablution spaces. So, while we search for these, the prescribed time for Salaah passes.

Other times, our clothes are inadequate and may not be up to par for Salaah. Our sleeves may be short, our hemline not long enough, or veil too light. Sometimes, our daughter peed on us or our son decorated our clothes by throwing up his lunch. With children, 1001 reasons often exist to cause us to delay or even miss Salaah. Infants may be fussy and refuse to allow us perform ablution properly. They may refuse anyone else and insist on us carrying them for prayer. They may need to be cleaned up just after we’ve performed ablution or even begun praying. You can hardly concentrate because from the corner of your eye, you spy them trying to leap on their sibling from the top bunk or a desk! Or she’s been sick all night and just woke up with a cry. Sometimes, we are simply sleep-deprived and cannot get up to pray even though we hear the adhaan.

child on praying muslim back

image credit: tumblr

Our cyclical bleeding, bleeding after childbirth, prolonged bleeding from contraceptive use, abnormal bleeding can also throw a spanner in our works. Sometimes, we feel some wetness but the unavailability of a restroom to confirm can be annoying. Perhaps, our period has stopped during the day but we cannot find somewhere convenient to bathe. Other times, our menses go on for longer than is usual and we become confused on whether to go ahead and perform ghusl and pray, or wait it out. Other times, we forget to even perform ghusl!

Associated with this is pregnancy, hormonal changes and the weather. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like praying after the long break after childbirth bleeding. We seem to fall out of the habit of being regular and punctual with Salaah after cessation of our menses. Other times, it’s the weather that’s too cold for ablution or too hot to wear the hijab for prayer.

For young mothers without help, any free time is spent rushing to complete house chores or catching a nap before one of the kids wakes up. Before the chores are completed, the patter of little feet can be heard approaching us and it continues. It can be very discouraging for a mother to get up to pray when she knows she has to rush it or cannot pray with the attention she desires.

I bet we can think up more excuses/reasons/challenges but that is the point; these are excuses, challenges meant to be surpassed. We just have to strike a balance constantly and make Salaah a priority instead of a burden. Allah knows the challenges we face and even if others do not seem to get it, the Prophet (SAW) did:

Narrated `Abdullah bin Abi Qatada Al-Ansar i(RA):

My father said, “Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Whenever I stand for prayer, I want to prolong it but on hearing the cries of a child, I would shorten it as I dislike to put its mother in trouble.” Sahih Al-Bukhari 868

 

Suggestions on how to overcome these challenges in the next post in sha Allah.

I would love for you to share any peculiar challenges you may have (had) too.

EQUALITY/EQUITY Q3:36

Someone close to me remarked me about how she trains her daughters to sleep with or without the lights on, because either of her girls could end up with a man who had a preference. I have boys so I had never considered that, but I began to do so from that point on. They sleep with the lights off but what if they got married to a woman who prefers to sleep with the lights on, would they expect her to bow to their preferences because she’s female? Was that right?

Men are different from women; but should one be treated better than the other or should we be treated the same; hence the debate about equity versus equality.

Equity versus Equality

image credit: http://www.maine.gov

I have observed the recent trend in homes because of the worsening economy. I cannot comment on other parts of the world but for Nigeria, an increasing number of women are entering the workforce and this is affecting marriages. The world has been beaming the spotlight on women since the Beijing Conference of 1995 to ensure gender equality. More girls are being educated, more girls are getting scholarships to college, more women are getting jobs, more women are becoming the breadwinners, more women are becoming more vocal about their rights, many are struggling to get married and fewer are staying so.

It is a wonderful thing educating a woman, empowering her and informing her of her rights but while we do this, we are beginning to neglect the boys. A woman is more likely to shelve her degree (in Nigeria) and learn a trade to make ends meet that an educated man would. He is more likely to dust his CV, type out more applications and wait to be called for interviews.

From the get-go, girls are taught to be more industrious, more resilient and more focused than boys are. Responsibilities are quickly piled on the head of the first born if she’s a female. She is expected to learn house chores, show manners and respect, fend for herself and her younger ones, prepare meals, protect her virginity and excel in school. More often than not, it is alright for the boys to simply excel at school.

By the time these girls are through with tertiary education, they are piling on the postgraduate degrees and amassing skills in the workplace. If jobs (and suitable men) are not forthcoming, they are learning to become self-employed by sales of wares, or learning a skill or two like make-up artistry, hair styling, fashion designing etc. When Cupid shoots his arrow, they contribute meaningfully to the wedding and eventually, the family upkeep. Soon, the dark clouds begin to drift toward the new home. Husband is laid off, or resigns because he cannot stand his boss then wifey steps in to juggle all the balls. Husband marvels at his wonder woman for a while then resentment kicks in as he no longer feels needed. From then on, everything goes downhill fast, unless Allah steps in.

As I said, female education is a wonderful initiative to balance out the disproportion of literacy between men and women but while we aid the women, the boys are becoming weak and cannot handle the empowered women. In an era of raising Khadijas and Aishas, we are neglecting to raise Muhammads. Educated and successful women are written off as arrogant. It takes Allah’s Grace for a wise woman to remain humble under such circumstances but even her humility may be misconstrued for stupidity. In this part of the world, the man is king; he is the boss and used to getting things done his way. Wifey would not remain subservient to a petulant brat for long.

Balance is very important in nature: Night and Day, The food web, the seasons, life and death. The man provides, the woman nurtures. The man is the head of the home. When that balance tilts, it rarely bodes well.

 

MY VIEWS ON TERROR Q5:32

Assalaam alaikum, dear readers.

I often do not comment much on the ‘terrorist’ attacks around the world because, I am tired of them. Opinions abound on the topic and I have read articles which echo my thoughts on the topic so I did not want to over-flog the topic. The attacks are becoming rampant with even more lone wolf attacks than before, and the effect on the ummah is painful.

Also, I have not particularly commented on these incidents myself because the information we receive from the media and online is always skewed and flawed, unreliable and seeking to enforce some propaganda (like the linking of the Paris bombing with the Syrian refugees). How can one make an accurate analysis when our sources of information are filled with spurious tales?

Every time I hear of an attack, my heart sinks. My heart always goes out to all the people involved: the victims and their families as well as the killers’ families and the Muslims living in that vicinity. The most recent one in San Bernardino was first brought to my attention by a fellow blogger, Anum. At first, I was filled with trepidation when she mentioned the gun attacks but to be honest, I was secretly relieved there was no mention of terrorists/Muslims…but not for long.

When terrorism began, the group (not neccessarily Muslim) responsible for the attack would release a video of the attack before and during the occurrence. It lent an air of authenticity to the group. Even after the video, the FBI/CIA would analyse if it was genuine or not. Now, all it takes is simply to claim responsibility which personally, I feel anyone can do. Isn’t the game about how many people they can kill in order to strike fear into people’s hearts? Even before the group claims responsibility, the media is already insinuating that it’s Muslims. Heck, even we Muslims think it is one of us!

It is true that most of the terrorists bear Muslim names but surely, if there is anything I have learnt about international (even domestic) politics, it is that things are not always what they seem. However, taking these issues at face value, it seems that the vast majority of these suicide bombers are youngsters, fiery with a new sense of misguided purpose, sorely deficient in sound Islamic knowledge, eager to be brainwashed. For most of the Muslims reading this, terrorism does not make any sense in whatever shape or form but our youth are voluntarily being recruited into ISIS and other terror groups.

‘Abdullah [bin Mas’ud](R.A.) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w) said:
“In the end of time there will come a people young in years, foolish in minds, reciting the Qur’an which will not go beyond their throats, uttering sayings from the best of creatures, going through the religion as an arrow goes through the target.”- Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2188

The onus is on me as a mother to ensure that those I can directly influence – my children- are positively impacted with the proper Islamic knowledge. (How can they imbibe this knowledge if we the parents do not possess them?) They should integrate with the community, both Muslim and non-Muslim and know that hurting people is unacceptable. Terrorism is abhorrent, plain and simple. No matter how thinly we slice it, no matter how different we may seem, we all bleed the same and hurt when our loved ones are taken from us. They must grow to understand that oftentimes, Islam is rational and if something doesn’t seem right, they should trust their instincts and verify further before they act. They must inculcate strong values which would guide them throughout life and help them manage pressures from their peers.

 

Jabir (R.A.) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Iblees placed his throne over the water and then he sends out his troops. The nearest to him are the greatest at causing tribulations. One of them says: I have done this and this. Iblees says: You have done nothing. Another says: I did not leave this person until I caused discord between him and his wife. Iblees says: You have done well.
– Sahih Muslim 2813

Finally, it is my opinion that a sound home with the parents working together as good role models for children will help to stem the tide of terrorism. Every organization needs foot soldiers, recruits and (with the exception of those being forced into these groups) our children should not be susceptible to such brainwashing if we have done our jobs well as parents, with Allah’s Help. We need to sit up and pay attention to the plethora of information available out there corrupting our children. We must censor the TV and the computer; know their friends and visit their schools. It is not enough to be out there raking in the money. It is not all about the money. Children need love, attention, approval. If they get it from you, they are less likely to seek it elsewhere.

In as much as we are having more Islamophobic attacks, we should stand strong, educate people about Islam through our actions and perfect our character. This too shall pass. There was a time in history when Jews were heavily persecuted by the Nazis; Japanese were also humiliated in the US following the Pearl Harbour bombing; Blacks did not have the opportunities they now have in Europe and the US. It is our turn now and in sha Allah, it will become a fading memory. Nothing ever lasts forever. Unfortunately, this may mean that another religion or race may be picked on.

May Allah help us all.

Image

PAYING VISITS Q33.53

Narrated Abu Musa (R.A.):

The Prophet (SAW) said, “Set the captives free, accept the invitation (to a wedding banquet), and visit the patients.” –  : Sahih al-Bukhari 5174

Although I work in the hospital, I hate staying long when I visit patients (unless they would rather I stayed). I worry that I am burdening the patient with my stay and would rather pop in and out. I am also uncomfortable staying long at people’s houses for a visit. It feels like extending my handshake to the elbow. As a woman, I am aware of the hoops women jump through to make their guests comfortable at their own expense and it seems unfair to take full advantage of that.

We should not visit people unannounced unless we are extremely familiar with them. There is really no excuse why anyone will suddenly drop by in this era of cell-phones, free emails, text messages and instant messaging. This will give your host time to prepare and possibly purchase or cook/bake what to host you with. Not all homes are fully-stocked 24/7.

cookies and milk

image credit: http://www.goodfon.su

As much as is possible, a non-mahram male should not spend the night in the house of a couple. It inconveniences the woman who has to observe her hijab in your presence. Personally, I cannot do without my hijab outdoors but once I am indoors, I toss it fast! A woman’s home is her sanctuary, somewhere she can let her hair down and dress down. You ruin this tranquility for her particularly when you prolong your stay; her only reprieve in her bedroom. Between the tropical temperature and special times like breastfeeding, her hospitality can quickly become hostility.

Fellow women who travel for visits with their toddlers need to be mindful of them. We should not leave them to run amok, destroy appliances, break dishes, defecate or urinate indiscriminately, and leave food crumbs in their trail. ‘They are just kids!’ No. Pick up after your children and caution them when necessary.

We should also endeavour not to make a nuisance of ourselves by staying out late, disrupting the peace in the house by playing loud music or having noisy friends over. Destroying property in their houses is also a big no-no.

Narrated Abu Shuraih Al-Ka’bi quoted Allah’s Messenger (SAW) as saying: Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously. The guest’s reward is to provide him with a superior type of food for a night and a day and a guest is to be entertained with food for three days, and whatever is offered beyond that is regarded as charity. And it is not lawful for a guest to stay with the host for such a long period so as to put him in a critical position. – Sahih Bukhari 6135

Also try to involve yourself in helping around the house and following the house rules. Take your dish to the kitchen and wash it, preferably. Clean up after yourself and make your bed. Assist by taking the children off their parents’ hands by playing with them or helping with their homework.

Do not pry into their affairs particularly if they are a couple and unless your advice is sought, or it is absolutely necessary, keep most of your thoughts to yourself. Do not take sides without listening to both sides of the story.

When preparing to leave, inform your hosts ahead of time so they can accommodate dropping you off at the airport or car park, into their plans.

Also noteworthy is that we should not convert our observations to gossip and tales by moonlight for our family members and friends. ‘Do you know the couple sleep in separate rooms? They must have quarrelled more than 5 times in the few days we were there!’

As the hosts/hostesses, we are duty-bound to treat our guests kindly. Having snacks, some juice or cake handy can save us embarrassment when friends pop in unannounced. We should be patient and accommodating and try to involve our guests in our activities. Time should be set aside daily to converse with them no matter how tight our schedule is.

We should also discuss when would be convenient for a reciprocal visit. No responsible individual wants to be the perpetual visitor. Make an effort to return the visit to keep the ball rolling.

And when they leave, we should see them to the door (or gate / bus terminal/train station/ airport) and let’s try not to make our relief obvious! 😉

 

FULL CIRCLE Q2:121


My son has begun his life’s sojourn into formal Islamic education. We used to take a few lessons on the Arabic alphabets and a few short surahs (Chapters of the Holy Qur’an) but we also wanted him to interact with more Muslims in a classroom. They do tend to learn faster that way and it is more consistent.

During his first week, I felt separation anxiety every time I dropped him off. It was weird because I thought I was over that since he started regular school a couple of years ago. I would walk him to the gate or classroom where he would wave solemnly and turn to enter and my smile would falter. Immediately I returned to pick him, promptly at the closing time, I would grill him about how the class went; if he made new friends; if anyone fought with him or beat him, but he would be all smiles. Running ahead of me excitedly, he would tell me names of new friends (which I would hurriedly commit to memory) and snippets of how the 2-hour class went. Yeah, I know…a mere two hours!

This reminded me of when I began my Islamic education too. I cannot quite remember my age but I was older than my son is, and I went with my brother. The school was a weekend one and lasted about 4 hours. It was a farther distance from our home than my son’s is and we used to be dropped off in the car but would often walk home when we closed.

I do not have fond memories of this school. I don’t think I ever discussed it with my brother but I was filled with dread whenever it was weekend and we had to go. I know he was too. I was a good student and did not get beaten by my tutor but the matron of the school (who I will call ‘Ma’) scared the hell out of our little minds. Pa, on the other hand, was a gentle soul.

Abu-Darda (R.A.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion.” – Riyad Saliheen Book 13, Hadith 1388

Yet, Ma attracted such curiosity out of me. I used to peep at her if she performed wudhu beside me. I would surreptitiously try to catch a glimpse of her face when she prayed beside me. She was not Nigerian, I could tell even though she was always in black and all I could see were her hands. Her complexion, her accent and her children’s looks gave her away.

I think I was eight or nine when this family came in quite late. Classes were in progress in an open space (we had long desks and chairs arranged in the compound) so when the group came in, we all looked up, distracted. A man reported one of his daughters (I think?) to Ma and it was a grievous crime that this teenager had committed. Ma ordered for canes and holding her niqab to her face with one hand, she lashed this teenager repeatedly following her around as she tried to escape the burning strokes. The cane broke and she asked for another! It was amazingly scary seeing this rather diminutive niqabi striking a precocious teenager who was even bigger than she was. The cane whipped the student’s hijab off and I saw blood streaks. It was gruesome and we were horrified.

Alhamdulillah, our Islamic school was eventually changed (my parents had begun to hear rumours about the school which probably correlated with our complaints). The new Islamic school was even farther (an hour walk) from home so we were usually dropped off by my mum or we took the bus. This place was so much nicer, run by medical students, and less oppressive. I have fond memories of this place <3. Now, it's my turn to do the dropping off 🙂

Do you have any memories of your early Islamic education?

May Allah bless our (good) teachers everywhere!