Sunday, September 30, 2007

Declaring yourself free- Reflections Ramadan 18

Yesterday....I was quite overwhelmed with the Imam recited the verse:

11:35 Or do they say, "He has forged it"? Say: "If I had forged it, on me were my sin! and I am free of the sins of which ye are guilty!

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ إِنِ افْتَرَيْتُهُ فَعَلَيَّ إِجْرَامِي وَأَنَاْ بَرِيءٌ مِّمَّا تُجْرَمُونَ
The word baree-un means to become free or be cleared from guilt or blame.
Here, Allah (swt) is telling Muhammad (pbuh) to declare that he is completely free of the sins which the disbelievers accuse him of.
I thought about how difficult it is to have a clean record. Can we say about ourselves, that we never:
  • lie?
  • backbite?
  • gossip?
  • tell on someone?
  • check someone out?
  • betray someone's trust?
  • share a secret?
  • ...

Can we declare a 100% on all the things disliked by Allah (swt)?

Often times we resolve to change our bad ways, but sometimes traits of that remain. If today we were to make a declaration to Allah (swt) about our actions and deeds, so that He may answer our duas and make our situations easy, what would that list contain? How confident are we about our 100-percent-ness of our virtues, etiquettes and moral values?

Are we completely shirk-free? Or is it that, we ocassionally brush off our sins to clean ourselves instead of getting rid of them completely?

In another verse, in Surah An'aam, Allah (swt) tells Muhammad (pbuh) to declare what he should:

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلاَتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَاْ أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ قُلْ أَغَيْرَ اللّهِ أَبْغِي رَبًّا وَهُوَ رَبُّ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلاَ تَكْسِبُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ إِلاَّ عَلَيْهَا وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّكُم مَّرْجِعُكُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلاَئِفَ الأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Say: "Behold, my prayer, and (all] my acts of worship, and my living and my dying are for God [alone], the Sustainer of all the worlds, in whose divinity none has a share: for thus have I been bidden-and I shall [always] be foremost among those who surrender themselves unto Him."

Say: "Am I, then, to seek a sustainer other than God, when He is the Sustainer of all things?" And whatever [wrong] any human being commits rests upon himself alone; and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another's burden. And, in time, unto your Sustainer you all must return: and then He will make you. [truly] understand all that on which you were wont to differ.
For, He it is who has made you inherit the earth, and has raised some of you by degrees above others, so that He might try you by means of what He has bestowed upon you. Verily, thy Sustainer is swift in retribution: yet, behold, He is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

Such a beautiful declaration.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ramadan in Kampala- Reflections Ramadan 17

A friend from Kampala City, Uganda, wrote to me:

As for the Ramadhan mood, muslims here are in high Ramadhan mood,they also fill the mosques to capacity, muslims who have the means try to help those in need by way of providing Iftar to the mosques where it is served but in most cases, a person is given juice/water and a banana and in cases where food is served, it's mostly the kids and those in dire need who eat it because it's usually not enough, in most cases it's little and you have to spend time lining for it.

So for people who have the means, they just come for magrib prayers and immediately after prayers, they leave the mosques to go and break their fast.

There are very few muslims these ends who invite the needy to go and break their fast from their homes, in other words there are very many muslims these ends who don't have enough to take them through Ramadhan and there are very few muslims who have the means to help them.

I always talk about how we live in a global world where everything is possible. Yet, despite being "connected", we still go through Ramadan after Ramadan, where millions don't have food for their iftars, or their suhoors. This Ramadan have you made it possible for a family you don't know and never met, to have a proper iftar? And I'm not talking about doing this through relief agencies or NGOs, but picking up a real person's email address on the internet, finding out about their Muslim community and then sending them money through Western Union or any other means. When you do it once, you'll also realise how simple it is to send money to anywhere, same day.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Paneer Tikka Pulao Recipe

4 servings - 35 min to make - 20 min prep

1 1/2 cups panir, cut into 50 mm. (2-inch) [panir can be replaced with cottage cheese]
1/2 cup red capsicums, chopped
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon gram flour (besan)
1 tablespoon ginger/garlic paste
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (zeera)
2 cloves (laung)
1 bay leaf (tezpath)
1 inch cinnamon sticks (25 mm darchini)
3 tablespoon oil
1 sprig mint

Paneer tikka preparation:

  1. Combine the yogurt, gram flour, ginger-garlic paste, chilli powder, fenugreek powder, garam masala, coriander, salt and 1 tablespoon of oil and mix well to prepare a marinade.
  2. Add the paneer, onions and capsicum to it and keep aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Arrange the paneer 4 skewer sticks.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on a non-stick tava (griddle) and sauté the paneer tikkas and the onions and capsicum, till they are lightly browned on all sides (approx. 4 to 5 minutes). Remove from the skewer and keep aside.
Pulao rice preparation:

  1. Clean, wash and soak the rice. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan, add the cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon and stir.
  3. When the cumin seeds crackle, add the rice and salt and sauté for 2 minutes.
  4. Add 3 cups of hot water. Cover and cook over a low flame for 10 to 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked. The rice is done when each grain can be separated with a fork.

Final steps:

  1. Add the paneer tikkas with the vegetables, and cook till the rice is hot.
  2. Garnish with the sprig of mint and serve immediately.

Maria, Let me know how it turns out :)

The Moon- Reflections Ramadan 16

Yesterday, at fajr time the sky was simply beautiful. Through the date palm tree branches, I caught glimpses of the twinkling stars. I made dua for sometime. Growing up, the moon always resembled a 25 fils coin. Somehow, the visible craters looked like the deer in the coin.

We're past the half way mark. It's time to begin preparing for some of the best days of the year- The last 10 days of Ramadan. I spent sometime today morning arranging my room to minimise all distractions. [And my laptop might just go too!]

Here, in Al Ain, there's virtually no pollution. It's one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities in the world. The sky is very clear throughout the year. However, most major cities have actually lost their skies. For man, deforestation, building dams, destroying habitats, industrial pollution, cars, landfills, air and water pollution, was not enough damage to the Earth. Excessive lighting has destroyed most of our skies as well.

Light pollution is excess or obtrusive light created by humans. Among other effects, it disrupts ecosystems, can cause adverse health effects, obscures the stars for city dwellers, interferes with astronomical observatories, and wastes energy.

One of the examples of light pollution is the Luminata Festival in Toronto. The source is a broad spectrum metal halide lamp pointing upward into the sky.
I understand the laser beams look great. But what's the point?? It's definitely not more beautiful than the stars in the sky that Allah (swt) has created for us naturally.

Skyglow reduces the contrast between stars and galaxies in the sky and the sky itself, making it more difficult to detect fainter objects. If you go camping a lot, you know what I'm talking about.

Here are some light pollution reducing tips from Wikipedia
Reducing light pollution implies many things, such as reducing sky glow, reducing glare, reducing light trespass, and reducing clutter. The method for best reducing light pollution, therefore, depends on exactly what the problem is in any given instance. Possible solutions include:
  • Utilizing light sources of minimum intensity necessary to accomplish the light's purpose.
  • Turning lights off using a timer or occupancy sensor or manually when not needed.
  • Improving lighting fixtures, so that they direct their light more accurately towards where it is needed, and with less side effects.
  • Adjusting the type of lights used, so that the light waves emitted are those that are less likely to cause severe light pollution problems.
  • Evaluating existing lighting plans, and re-designing some or all of the plans depending on whether existing light is actually needed.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What does your heart know? - Reflections Ramadan 15

Subhanallah, I've met many reverts to Islam, and they talk about finding the "inner" peace, and I'd often wonder, if that inner peace is within me, being a born Muslim, or, do I have to search for it as well? And if I'm not searching for it, then is my heart made of stone?

You ask about a heart of stone...Just today an American female colleague (also a convert to Islam) and I were talking about the difference between those who were born Muslim and those who adopted the faith by the mercy of Allah. There is a beautiful aya about Nabi Isa that reads:

You [Allah] know what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Yours. For You know in full all that is hidden [5:116].

It is not so much that you "feel" anything but rather that you know for certain that Allah Subhana Wa ta'ala knows your heart - every square inch of it, and that everything is exposed and revealed to Him. You don't have to feel this - you have to just have faith in this. Remember that our Ihsan requries of us to worship Allah as if we see Him, even though we don't. Everything in our Muslim hearts should be exposed and free to be before Allah.

- Raahil Bernand, Revert to Islam on September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Iftar | Hospitality- Reflections Ramadan 14

Subhanallah, many years ago, Ramadan used to be a month when I'd count the days to Eid, and now I'm sad with each moment that passes by. In fact, quite remorseful of all the times I wasted in the last 2 weeks. There's so much to do, and too many distractions. Starting today, I'm retiring to the masjid inshallah.

Planning and preparing iftars (or dinners) for my friends was one of my most enjoyable (and stressful Rehan would add) experiences. I'm not a food lover, but because I have such a diverse group of friends, I managed to learn some from different types of cuisine- Turkish, Morroccon, Italian, Mexican, Spanish (And of course, Pakistani) to suit all my guests. My friends were the unfortunate test subjects of my cooking, but mashallah, they'd mostly shower me with complements :D

This being my first Ramadan at home after so many years, I'm still surprised at the simplicity of what we have been eating at iftar. The credit goes to my mother, who has done away with the typical wasteful customs in our culture.

Yesterday I had iftar with my mother and sister as my father and brother had a work invitation, and we laughed at the thought of eating leftovers. It felt really good, and then I was reminded of a comment by Safdar bhai last year.


It was the second brothers iftar last Ramadan, and as the brothers were still chatting away, I called my brother into my room to let him know I'm leaving for taraweeh. As I was slipping out the door, Safdar bhai called out to me from the kitchen [Mashallah, he's a father of 4, and was my first Qur'anic Arabic teacher]

"Are you going for taraweeh?"
"salam... yes"
"Isn't it easier to make 4 dishes for 20 people than to make 20 dishes for 4 people?"

I really didn't know what to say. About a month later, someone told me they counted 17 different items at that iftar. This same person told me that he wasn't able to eat much, even though my brother kept insisting, because this was exaclty a week after the massive earthquake in Pakistan. I understood his feelings. He was involved with a relief organisation helping them with their efforts. So was I. In fact, one evening, a bunch of us packed some 300 boxes of food and other material for the surviving earthquake victims.

Perhaps there was too much food. But then, living close to campus, we'd always share food with others. I'd mostly never see my tupperware again. It would either be at 88 Lowther or 666 Spadina or somewhere else. And I'd have theirs. The environment was beautiful. Once I even got home made baked brownies from a frosh bro!

The definition of good hospitality is not having too much good food. At home, we always treat our guests with excellence, the type stemming from sunnah teachings and not from cultural practices.

This is a dilemma I've always had. I find that people are not used to good hospitality such that they find mine lavish :) My dilemma being, was I being ignorant of the global consequences of my action by providing "lavishly" for my guests when an earthquake had just happened in my home country?

"The world and its pomp has so overwhelmed society that hospitality now requires a veritable protocol" , says Hajj Gibril. "Simplicity often goes out the window together with many Islamic manners. Protracted and impromptu visits thus become a burden because they alter the normal run of the house more radically than before".

The essense of hospitality in Islam is that:

  • We are in need of Allah (swt) sending guests to our place. The Righteous of olden times would say that “the guest brings his rizq and leaves with the sins of the hosts forgiven.”
  • And Our messengers came unto Ibrahim with good news. They said: Peace! He answered: Peace! and delayed not to bring a roasted calf (Hud 11:69). Imam al-Qurtubi said: “In this verse, part of the etiquette related to guests is that they be hosted promptly, so whatever is available is presented to them on the spot."
  • Then it can be followed up with something else if one has wealth. The host should not task himself with what might overly burden him.
  • Hospitality is part of excellent manners, the etiquette of Islam, and the high character of Prophets and the Righteous.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) guides us by saying: "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be hospitable with his or her guests."

The magnificent paradigm of the Muslim hospitality is the following hadith:

One time some­one visited the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, who said: Who will host this man?” One of the Ansar immediately said: “I will.” Then he rushed to his wife and told her: “Provide generously for the guest of the Messenger of Allah.” She replied: “We only have food for the chil­dren!”

He said: “Prepare the food then light the candle and put the chil­dren to bed at dinner-time.”
She did as he said [and put the children to sleep on an empty stomach] then she got up to tinker with the light and she put it out. Then she and her husband pretended to eat but remained hungry that night. The next morning they went to see the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, and he said: “Last night Allah laughed or was astonished [the narrator hesitated] at what you two did!” Then Allah re­vealed the verse: They put others above their need though poverty become their lot (59:9). Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari and Muslim.

Those of us who have more than what we could have ever asked for in life, perhaps may never understand the depth of humility and reward associated with such an action. It sounds really beautiful to hear, but imagine being the mother who came to Aisha (ra) and split her own date between her two daughters. Aisha (ra) was so touched by that action.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Car wash- Reflections Ramadan 13

Today morning my father asked me if I've ever washed a car and I replied in the negative. He said he'd show me how to do it. And with 3 cars to wash, there was plenty of practice!

There are 3 steps to it:

  1. Turn on the hose, spray down the entire car with water.
  2. Soak a cloth in soapy water and scrub the entire car.
  3. Rub a dry cloth all over so that the water doesn't leave marks all over.

I ran back and forth to turn off the hose as often as I can. If you use a hose instead of a bucket, it wastes a lot of water unfortunately.

At the end of the procedure, I wished it was as easy to wash off my sins. It's almost going to be a year since my hajj, and effects of it have been wearing off. Nevertheless, we can purify ourselves using the same steps.

  • The more often you cleanse yourself, the lesser you'll have to scrub.
  • When you're asking Allah (swt) for forgiveness, ask for complete forgiveness, not just for the sins you remember. But also for the sins you don't remember.
  • Be sincere, otherwise you'll have a heart with black spots. Yuck.

What are some of the ways of washing ourselves?

1. Perfecting one's ablution

"No worshipper perfects his ablution except that his past and future sins are forgiven."
[Hasan, al-Bazzaar. Al-Haythami and al-Mundhiri agreed.]

2. Fasting the month of Ramadan with belief and seeking Allah's reward

"Whoever fasts Ramadhan out of Iman and seeking Allah's reward then his past and future sins are forgiven."
[Hasan, Ahmad. Declared Hasan by adh-Dhahabi, as mentioned in al-Mughni (5876).]

3. Performing the night prayer in Ramadan with belief and seeking Allah's reward

"Whoever stands (in prayer) in Ramadan out of Iman and seeking Allah's reward then his past and future sins are forgiven."
[Saheeh. an-Nasaa'i.]

4. Performing the night prayer on the Night of Qadar with belief and seeking Allah's reward

"It (Laylatul-Qadr) is in Ramadan, and expect it in the last ten days; it is on an odd night: on the 21st, or the 23rd, or the 25th, or the 27th, or the 29th, or on the last night (of Ramadan). He who performs the night prayer on it out of belief and seeking Allah's reward his past and future sins are forgiven."
[Narrated by Ahmad. There is a difference of opinion among scholars regarding this hadeeth, some declaring it weak and some Hasan. Al-Hafidh Ibn Hajr said in Al-Fath (4/116), "This addition – meaning, 'and future (sins)' – is also in `Ubadah bin as-Samit's Hadeeth, in (the Musnad of) Ahmad, in two narrations. Its chain is Hasan and it is supported by the previous chain."]

5. Praising and thanking Allah after eating and putting one's clothes on.

"Whoever ate a food and then said, `Praise be to Allah who has fed me this food and provided it for me, without any strength or power on my part', is forgiven his past [and future*] sins. And whoever wears a garment and says, `Praise be to Allah who has clothed me with this (garment) and provided it for me, without any strength or power on my part', is forgiven his past and future sins."
[Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasa'i, al-Bukhari in al-Kabeer, al-Hakim, ibn Sunni and Ahmad. The addition marked by (*) is related by Abu Dawud. Shaykh Al-Albani declared the hadeeth Hasan in Saheeh al-Jaami` (6086) and in al-Irwaa' (1989). He said in al-Irwaa', "Such a hadeeth causes hesitation between making it Hasan (good) and Da`eef (weak). Maybe the first one is closer to be the truth, because those who made it weak didn't explain it and didn't explain the reason for its weakness. Allah knows best."]

6. Who raises three daughters or sisters and is nice to them

"There is no one from my Ummah who takes care of three daughters or three sisters, and is nice to them, except that they will be a veil (protection) for him from the Fire."
[Saheeh, al-Bayhaqi and Al- Bukhari in Al-Adab, authenticated by Al-Albani in Saheeh Al-Jaami` (5372)]

7. Defending the honor of a Muslim

"Whoever defends the honor of his brother in absence has the right over Allah to be freed from the Fire."
[Saheeh, Ahmad, al-Tabarani. Authenticated by Al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jaami` (6240)]. Al-Manaawi commented, "'Whoever' is limited to other than the disbeliever and public wrongdoer." [Fayd al-Qadeer 6:136]

8. Sincerity to Allah

No servant who says `la ilaha ill Allah', seeking the pleasure of Allah, will reach the Day of Judgment, except that Allah will forbid the Fire for him.
[Ahmad, al-Bukhari] Hafidh Ibn Hajr said, "It's not like that (i.e. not entering the Fire at all) for everyone who believed in tawheed and worshipped, but it is specific for the sincere, and sincerity (ikhlas) requires the realization of its meaning by the heart. One cannot imagine that the heart will reach that while persisting upon sins, as the heart would be filled with the love and fear of Allah, whereupon limbs will embark upon obedience and leave disobedience."

9. Crying out of fear of Allah

"No man who cried out of fear of Allah will enter the Fire until the milk returns to the udder, and dust in the path of Allah (jihad) and the smoke of the Fire cannot go together."
[Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasaa'i and Hakim who authenticated it. Authenticated by Al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jaami` (7778)]

10. Performing the prayer in congregation for forty days while reaching the opening takbeer

"Whoever prays to Allah for four days in congregation, reaching the opening takbeer, will have two written for him: freedom from the Fire and freedom from hypocrisy."
[Hasan. at-Tirmidhi, declared Hasan by al-Albani in Saheeh al-Jaami` (6365)]

11. Being consistent in praying four rak`ats before Dhuhr and after it

"Whoever is consistent in praying four units of prayer before Dhuhr and four after it, Fire will be forbidden for him."
[Saheeh. Abu Dawood, An-Nasaa'i, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, al-Hakim who authenticated it. Al-Albani authenticated it in Saheeh al-Jaami` (6195)]

12. Being consistent in praying before sunrise and before sunset.

"No one will enter Fire who prays before sunrise and before sunset."
[Ahmad, Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasaa'i] Meaning, Fajr and `Asr prayers.

13. Good character

"Whoever is easy-going, easy to deal with and kindhearted, Allah will forbid the Fire for him."
[Saheeh. Al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak, al- Bayhaqi, at-Tabarani. Al-Albani authenticated it in Saheeh al-Jaami` (6484)]

Taken from the Yahya Ibrahim list.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Spirit | Minimalism | 1 minute- Reflections Ramadan 12

If you could tell your family just one thing before you die, what would it be? What would be your legacy? Of course, Professor Randy Pausch was happy about his worldly achievements as he looked back at life. Muslims too should be happy about their beneficial accomplishments that are sadaqa-e-jaria (ongoing charity). This video made me wonder, when you get to the end, how much spirit can you keep up? Most old people always talk about regrets- how they wasted their lives and now it's too late, they can't do too much about it. How much of my life am I wasting?

Randy Pausch

At the beginning of Ramadan, one of the two ceiling lights in my room fused off. Everyone at home knows what happens when a bulb goes off in my room. I start complaining how dark it is, how I can't read anything, and why aren't there any 100 watt bulbs of the right type at home??

Canadians have no idea what brightness at home means. Their houses are too dark, too yellow. Here in the Middle East, tube lights are used, and houses are brightly lit. There are lights everywhere! Most washrooms have 3-4 tube lights...

I decided I'm not going to bother my brother or father to climb onto a stool to change my bulb. For a change, I'd just try to last the month with only 1 light. This was I save more electricity as well (duh!)

I came across this post by Brad today on Achieve IT:

We simply have more stuff than we can possibly use. I’m speaking as someone who is as guilty of this myself. As I write this I look up at our fireplace mantel and see 11 candles in various candlesticks sitting there. They are not earth shattering attractive by any means — just everyday candles in candle holders.

Question: when is the last time we lit a candle in this house?

Answer: Hmmm… If I remember correctly we lit last year’s jack-o’-lantern. And even then it was on the front porch.

So there sits 11 candles and 11 candlesticks with almost no hope of ever being used. Why 11? Who knows? We probably had to candles up there at one point and someone decided we needed for. Then add on a gift or two or four and we were up to 8, 10 and then a big one in the center. Why? Because 2 candlesticks wasn’t enough. And more is better — right?

It's so true. If we look around us, we have way too many things. A friend once was given the advice, if you want to remove the clutter from your head, you have to remove the clutter around you first. Productivity gurus talk about the "100 items challenge"- where you cut his personal possessions down to 100 items. It's called Minimalist living.
Having fewer items around you helps you manage your time better. You're
Are you a minimalist? I'm a partial minimalist. I always get only what I need after a lot of thought and limit myself. But I still end up with a lot of things.

The Prophet (pbuh) was a minimalist. Aaisha (ra), his wife, said, “The mattress of the Prophet on which he slept, was made of leather stuffed with the fiber of the date-palm tree.”

Zen Habits talks about how you can do it. And speaking of productivity, I love the concept of Haiku Productivity!

Have you ever wondered what the value of your one minute is? Or, how much reward you can receive from Allah (swt) in one minute?
My mother and I started translating a small pocket book from Urdu to English. If you like figures, you'll love this.

The recitation of the Surah Ikhlas alone during the day or night in once gets you the reward of reciting 1/3rd of the Qur’an, as is established in hadith. If you recite it thrice, then you receive the reward for reciting the entire Qur’an.

  • In one minute, you can recite Surah Ikhlas 12 times, which is equal to the reward of 4 Qur'ans.
  • [4 x 30 = 120] If you do this consistently for a minute a day for a month, you earn the reward of 120 Qur' ans.
  • [120 x 12 = 1440] - 1 year
  • [1440 x 20 = 28800] - 20 years

And the reward for reading the Qur'an?

Next time think twice before wasting your precious minutes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lowest of the Low- Reflections Ramadan 11

Imagine if you were born into an extremely oppressed tribe. In your early youth, you saw two people fighting and one of them asked you for your help. As you tried to separate the two, your blow killed the other man. This really was the last straw. Now you are wanted for murder. You run away at the advice of a well-wisher. But you have nowhere to go.

You probably know who I'm talking about. But before I reveal the identity, let me continue the story.

Tired, dejected and with no personal belongings you arrive at an unknown place and rest under a tree. You make a supplication to Allah (swt)- Oh Lord, truly I am in need of whatever good you give me.

This is the point where things begin to change for you, for the better. It was a small gesture of yours, helping two young women fill their bucket with water, that led on to to beautiful things in life, but of course, many challenges as well.

Many years later you are married and wish to return to your homeland. Your journey is rather eventful.
Musa (as) feared that the Egyptians would kill him, because he had killed one of them. This was his biggest fear as he was travelling back. He asked his Lord to let his brother go with him and talk to them, since he was more eloquent in speech. Musa (as) was extremely worried and he tried to come up with excuses to simplify his dilemma. He was given two Clear Signs and was completely new to his mission of delivering Allah's message. At that point, he was feeling very low. Even though Allah (swt) forgave him, he knew he had taken someone's life, and he was extremely remorseful. He was in no position of power. Plus, he had a family to take care of, and if something were to happen to him, what would they do in a foreign land? His fears were dark and his situation was extremely bleak. [This story is mentioned in Surah Qasas.]

And at this point, as he made dua, Allah (swt) responded saying, "We are with you, and will listen (to your call)." [As Shu'ara: 15]
Now, this is profound because it is Allah (swt) speaking directly to Musa (as), and telling him that He, the Almighty is with him. Musa (as) was a Prophet (pbuh) and hence he had the privelege of Allah's conversations with him.
But we are also Allah's creations, His slaves whom He loves and showers with mercy and forgives. He is forever watching over us. It is for us to know that Allah (swt) is with us when we are feeling low.

Alhamdulillah I finished reading the Qur'an yesterday (and finished second!). Now round 2 inshallah, but at a much slower pace. Over the last 10 days, I'd think often how much easier it would be for me to read the Qur'an if I had it memorised. Lesser mistakes, more understanding, better recitation, and the best part, to be able to recite the Qur'an at any time, anywhere without depending on the book.

Here's an absolutely CUTE video (50 sec):

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Which way are you heading?- Reflections Ramadan 10

This almost happens everyday. W and M represent the women's and men's exits respectively.

From what I can see on the projector screen, there must be over 1000 men during taraweeh. The rest of the congregation are 300+ women and children. After taraweeh, everyone leaves as fast as they can.
The street with all those cars leads to the exit.
[The Random shopping cart is from the supermarket nearby, some people just bring them home and then leave them outside their houses or in the middle of the road]

When everyone is going towards the masjid before Taraweeh, there are cars parked on both sides, and the two-way street becomes one day. Which makes sense because at that time of the evening near the masjid, people are obviously coming to pray, not leaving the mosque.

But after taraweeh, imagine the crowd exiting the place. Although it doesn't take too long, many people still try to rush. The picture is a scene from a few days ago. The mustard car is ours. [Of course, the crowd is much worse than this!]
All of a sudden we're faced with the red car, and I get annoyed at that. Why is the car coming this way, when there's so much traffic and everyone's trying to leave? I ask out loud. My father says, the other driver is in the right lane, and he merges in with the other cars slowly. I kept arguing- He could have come later, or from the other entrance (not shown) which is less-crowded and so on.
The next day, my father stuck to his lane, and there was no incoming car until we turned right towards the exit, and a couple of taxis were coming in.
Yesterday there was just one car again, and goodness knows where it was heading!

I thought about how this situation affects me. The red car after all, was right. Even if the traffic dictated that the laws should be changed during rush hours (according to me). My car, and the ones behind us trying to switch to the incoming lane, was wrong. But it was some 20+ cars against 1. Also, when we were faced with the incoming red car, it's driver had to wait for sometime for my father to merge back in. I was almost worried he'd honk at us, but he didn't.

So, what did this teach me?

  • That sometimes, you're the only one who's right.
  • And when you are right, and face an obstacle, you should be patient, because the situation is difficult for others as well, and they are also trying to find solutions to their problems.
  • If their solutions are wrong, you don't back away. If you really care about them, you make them realise that they are wrong, and they need to correct themselves before it's too late.
  • Making them realise they are wrong is good, because they may not know that there are bigger obstacles around the corner.
  • If everyone follows the rules and sticks together, then they make it very easy for the few who don't have a strong enough voice but are trying to get on with their lives.
  • When you are correct, and doing the right thing, you have the support of the truth. Nothing can change what's right no matter what anyone tries to do. And that should be enough for you to stand by the truth.
  • However, when you are wrong, you begin to make excuses, and try to make the wrong look right, but deep down, you know the truth that you are doing the wrong thing.
  • Before we make any decision, it's important to step outside of the situation and look at the bigger picture.
  • If you see a shopping cart in the middle of the road, move it, for that action is charity.

It's all too easy to analyse a scene like this and think about right and wrong, so I tried to think of previous situations in life that were similar to this, and I came up with a couple. Inshallah I'm going to try to apply this next time I'm going the right way in my lane.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blessing of Choices | Success- Reflections Ramadan 9

A few weeks ago my mother had invited her friends over, and I was pleasantly surprised to meet with a girl who used to be a grade lower than me in school. I was meeting her after 7 years, and her story was sad and a great reminder. I meet her after taraweeh sometimes, and everytime I see her, it reminds me of this one sentence she said, after I asked her, "but what do you do with your time all day??" [She never managed to complete high school because of moving to Pakistan temporarily, and then she attempted GED, but GED wasn't accepted in most colleges in UAE/Al Ain at that time]

"What else? Clean the house all day. Sit at home. Get married some day and produce kids."

In her situation, the sarcasm is understandable. I had so many questions in my head, especially how and why her parents just let her sit at home. And she's a year older than me as well. Why don't they just get her married? But I kept quiet, feeling very guilty inside.

I felt guilty not because I have the blessings of choices in life more than most people. And many people have that blessing, just like being blessed with a perfect form, limbs, organs, etc. But because of the numerous times I abuse that blessing.
To me, she's a constant reminder of humbling myself and being responsible about the choices I have to make. Many times I become irresponsible or carefree, knowing that someone will take up the consequences for me if things go wrong.

Like the time a few months ago, after I picked up my sister from school, I took a turn onto the main road despite knowing that the incoming car was speeding. I thought I'd swerve into the second lane, but I wasn't fast enough. It was an impulsive decision. The car hit me, and the poor guy's car was badly damaged. I remember not panicking (and I don't panic mostly) because despite it being my fault, my father would be able to set things straight for me @ the traffic police department.

Or all the times I choose to drive instead of walk and abuse my environment nonchalently. Everytime I've driven to somewhere, I'm very aware of the environmental consequences. It nags at me, but my passion is not strong enough to make me let go of the car. [of course, I would not have this problem in Toronto since I'd just bike and secure my groceries with a mesh of bungee cords at the back...ah, fun!]

This blessing applies in all spheres. When you realise that the choices you have in life are a blessing, you take them more seriously and weigh your options better.

And it's not that the girl I met did not have choices. In her life, her choices were of the different type. But this is a blessing that Allah (swt) has given to all of mankind. She had the choice of studying at an institute (instead of a college), but she didn't. For the sake of analysis, I can say she made an irresponsible decision. Some education is better than no education, and because her parents support her, she chose to stay at home.

This reminds me of an article I wrote: The Choice within You- Developing a Positive Attitude. It has some good tips.

How do we define success? The definition of successful believers in the Qur'an is much simpler:

Successful indeed are the believers

  • Who are humble in their prayers,
  • And who shun vain conversation,
  • And who are payers of the poor due;
  • And who guard their modesty
  • And who are shepherds of their pledge and their covenant,
  • And who pay heed to their prayers.

These are the heirs who will inherit Paradise: There they will abide. [Surah Mu'minoon: 1-12]

And this reminds me, so far, I've come across the statement: Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear, four times: 2:233, 6:152, 7:42, 23:62. (Perhaps it occurs again but I haven't reached the end yet) This is a great reminder.

You can be successful in this dunya, in a way that's good for the akhirah if you follow the above, and at the same time you should be able to do it without bearing a burden greater than you can bear.

So, what do we complain about?

Salah | Wudhu- Reflections Ramadan 8

I'm not sure if this is in a hadith or a story of a Sahaba (I also read a similar story in Like The Flowing River by Paulo Coelho):

There was a devout man who once missed fajr prayer because shaitan made him sleep until late into the morning. When he woke up and realised he missed the salah, he cried his heart out and Allah (swt) forgave him and increased him in his rank. Shaitan came to know of this and the next day, he woke up the man up for fajr in time so that Allah (swt) would not reward him all that extra reward again.
Yesterday was not so good, I mostly ended up sleeping all day, and missed out on precious time that I had set aside for important tasks. After I woke up, I thought about the above story that my mother had told me. How much do I regret missing a salah? And how do I repent for it? And when my iman goes down before it comes back up again, it's never because of my own measly efforts, but truly the blessing of Allah (swt).

Hadrat Fazal Ali Quraishi (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) would plough, sow, and reap his own fields. He would bring the harvest home where both he and his wife would prepare the wheat to be cooked and made into bread. The bread would then be served to the students in Hadrat’s madrasa.

Hadrat Quraishi had a strong work ethic and insisted on doing everything himself. As part of his noble habit, he was constantly in a state of ablution, as was his household. One day, Hadrat served the meal as usual in the madrasa and the seekers sat down to eat. Hadrat used to address his seekers as faqir, and so he said, “Oh Faqirs, for the bread that is before you, a field had to be ploughed and this was done in a state of wudu (ritual purity). Next, a seed was sown and cultivated, all in a state of wudu. The wheat was then reaped, cleaned and cooked, all in a state of wudu. Now that it is before you, my only hope is that you eat it in a state of wudu.”

How pure must that meal have been, Subhanallah! Just like fasting, ablution (wudhu) also has an inner dimension. "No worshipper perfects his ablution except that his past and future sins are forgiven." [Hasan, al-Bazzaar. Al-Haythami and al-Mundhiri agreed.] When a person gets angry, the Prophet (pbuh) recommends that he performs wudhu. Over the years, I have seen my grandmother and mother always go to bed in a state of wudhu. I think I often undermine it's importance, despite knowing so much about it.

However, an important point about doing wudhu is that water should be used discretely. We're only in this dunya to adopt the Sunnah, not exceed it. The Prophet (pbuh) performed ablution using one mudd, a measure equal to a handful of water and took a shower using one sa` (four handfuls). Some translations say 1 litre and 4 litres respectively. [I think we use gallons of water for showering!]

So, if you want your sins forgiven before you even make them, always be in a state of wudhu.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Random Acts- Reflections Ramadan 7

Yesterday night I had to give a talk for evaluation. It was titled Living the Green Dream. [UAE has one of the largest ecological footprints in the world, and that's very sad, considering it just has under 2 million people]. I did a lot of research, but I didn't keep my audience in mind, and the feedback I received was that there were too many numbers and I should have used visual aids to explain that.
A few years ago in Al Ain I remember the municipality had given a green and red bin to residential houses. We had them as well, but they somehow were never used. I decided to call up the municipality to find out the process of recycling so that I could include it in my speech.
It was a frustrating experience. The person who answered my call didn't speak English. The one he gave the phone to didn't know Recycling is. They gave me another phone number. After a lot of people, the final guy I talk to says.. "We're very busy, I can't explain this on the phone. Come to the health dept on main street".

Of course, as many expats living in UAE know- There's no address system in UAE. You have to go by landmarks.
I debated if I really wanted to walk into a building full of Arabic speakers (most likely no women employees) to get the information I needed. I was really glad I went!
Again, once I got there, they didn't allow me in initially, and after being shuffled between a few offices and hallways, I ended up at the desk of the head of the Waste Management dept. The minute I started talking, he asked, "Are you from Canada?". I had to laugh. [I went to an Arabic school for kindergarten, a British school for grades 1 & 2, and then I was enrolled in an Indian school all the way until the end with of course a British English curriculum and Indian accented teachers, before spending my university years in a Canadian university where every professor spoke their own version of English (and so did my friends), so I can't imagine anyone would guess I have a Canadian accent!]

Turns out, he did his PhD @ Carleton U, Ottawa! Mashallah, he was a very smart person, and he said that they have a 5 year plan to educate people about recycling, but there's no recycling mechanism in effect right now. How sad. We talked for quite some time, and I learnt a lot.

I find doing spontaneous random acts are great eye opening experiences.
Once in Toronto, I was working on a community project, and for that I randomly walked into a community centre for AIDs patients to find out what they do. The centre was on Church St, so obviously their patients were mostly homosexuals. Around that time I remember other brothers and sisters talking about how their parents wouldn't allow them to go to a place like that.
And again, I learnt a lot about their services, the needs of these patients, they ways in which society accepts them, and doesn't, and the unfortunate children who are taught how to live with this deadly disease.

It's great to see community work at the source- from where it starts.
It gives you lots of insight into "behind the scenes" work.
It also motivates you to join in the efforts.
It educates you on the long term vision and planning, and the ups and down behind the work.
It makes you understand the needs and challenges of your community.
And many times, if you get to talk to the right person, you'll learn about how it all starts- With one person.

So choose a random act, not related to anything you've done before, and see what you can learn.

What does this have to do with Ramadan?

Exercising during Ramadan- Q &A

I've received many questions and most people are concerned about the adverse effects of exercising in Ramadan. I discussed the questions with some other fitness professionals, and inshallah here are some brief answers:

  1. When is the best time to exercise in Ramadan?
    Depends on your body type, fitness level and previous routine, you want to exercise when you have sufficient energy for it, and you know you'll be replenished soon thereafter. Hence, you can excercise an hour before iftar, or 2 hours after iftar, before or after taraweeh, or before suhoor if your schedule allows you to wake up that early.

    It's also a good idea to stretch your arms and legs before and after taraweeh if you are not used to long periods of standing.

    I would recommend exercising after you break your fast. It is not advisable to exercise while you are fasting because you are unable to replenish your water losses or your "fuel" losses. Your body increases its demand for glucose when you exercise, if you don't have enough glucose you can experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). To treat this you must ingest some fast acting sugar (i.e. juice) which you cannot do, when you are fasting. Low blood sugars can result in loss of consciousness and is very serious. That's why if you do exercise in Ramadan do it after you have eaten.

  2. What type of workout can I do?
    You can do from light to moderate to heavy exercises, whether it's yoga, pilates, aerobics or even muscular conditioning.

  3. Is it safe to exercise in Ramadan?
    Yes! The major battles during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) were fought in the month of Ramadan. Of course, the sahabas wouldn't fast then, but think of the state of an Ummah that's fasting and their soldiers are at war. Pretty fit I must say!
  4. Someone was just trying to tell me that working out while im fasting (as ive been doing for two days because of the complete lack of time anywhere else in the day) is detrimental, not productive. Is that true?
    If you do not feel dizzy, then you can continue your routine.

  5. How do we keep fitness levels and our physique in check during the fasting month of Ramadan?
    By visiting the sick, feeding the poor, following funerals, helping people, performing wudhu and other such acts. This preserves strength, good health, firmness of the heart and body and extracting unwanted residual substances that accumulate in the body. Have a holistic approach.

    For the hardcore bodybuilder and the fitness enthusiast who wants to keep his/her physique in check, this means that while you won’t be able to pack on any serious muscle mass or make any outstanding progress towards your goals, you will be able to MAINTAIN most of what you have gained so far. So use this month of fasting to get comfortable with your body, your food intake, and hopefully, though not 100 percent - you’ll be able to maintain your fitness level at where it is today. Once the fasting month is over… then, you can go all out once again. Hitting the gym hard the day fasting is over may be a bit dissapointing as you will notice that you wont be in top form, but it will only be a matter of days before your muscle memory kicks in, and you’ll be exactly where you last stopped.

  6. What are some of the duas we can read for health in general?
    It's as simple as asking Allah (swt) for good health :)
    Also ask Allah (swt) to remove distress, grief, incapacity, laziness, miserliness, cowardice, the burden of debt and from being overpowered by men.

  7. Can pregnant women pray taraweeh?
    I'm sure they can pray taraweeh if they feel upto it. However this is a question for a scholar if you want to go in detail. I will just list the benefits of exercising (which of course is different from taraweeh) for pregnant women:
    - Improves posture
    - Reduces the chance of back pain and general soft tissue stress
    - Increases energy levels
    - Increases confidence, self-esteem and well being
    - Helps to balance the energy/caloric intake and output

  8. Can I do cardio while fasting?
    Yes. In fact it's good for your heart in general. Some of the benefits are:
    - Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
    - Reduces every day stress on the heart and the circulatory system
    - Increases the size and strength of the heart muscle
    - Helps to keep the resting blood pressure normal
    - Decreases resting heart rate

  9. What dua can I make to improve my eyesight?
    The ayah from the Qur'an:
    فَكَشَفْنَا عَنكَ غِطَاءكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ
    We removed thy veil, and sharp is thy sight this Day! [50:22]
    This is one I know.

  10. When is the best time to have suhoor?
    The Sunnah is to delay it until just before fajr. Have a healthy meal, chew slowly and well with lots of liquid.

  11. I'm not sure about eating habits in Ramadan because of my busy schedule, how should I eat?
    There are many meal plans that you can adopt, but you have to plan it in advance- Do your grocery in bulk so that you know what you will be eating, and be consistent. Follow the food guide. Drink lots of fluids to flush out the toxins. You can find a sample menu here.
    I also recommend using black seed, honey, olive oil in your diet, as all of these have shifa (healing) in them as taught to us by the Prophet (pbuh).

  12. What general health advice can you give for Ramadan?
    Personally I think the best thing you can do to your body during Ramadan is to expel as many toxins as possible. Drink as much liquid as possible. Most people don't drink enough liquid to flush out the toxins.
    Before taking a shower, use a dry skin brush. Follow the tips by Dr Gillian McKeith here.

  13. I'm looking for a Ramadan exercise plan.
    Ramadan is not just about exercising, you have to maintain a balance of spiritual worship and attending to worldly needs. As such, your overall Ramadan plan should contain components of everything you'd like to achieve- from reading Qur'an to how much weight you'd like to lose. Make a chart on Excel or on paper and write down what you'd like to achieve for each week. Exercising is not independent from eating- You have to make sure you're eating moderately, drinking lots and healthy.

Read previous post: Ramadan and Exercising

Please, if you need the sources, let me know. They were just too many to list!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Garbage | Tahajjud- Ramadan Reflections Day 6

After taraweeh last night, my mother signalled to me to pick up the garbage around her. She was already prepared with a plastic bag. I started picking up tissues and Al Ain Water cups and filling the bag with it. It seemed that everyone was oblivious to my action. I felt a bit frustrated and flustered.
On the first night of Taraweeh, my friend, the Imam's wife and I talked about the entire story of this great woman:

Abu Hurairah(ra) reported that a dark-skinned woman used to clean the Mosque and then died. The Prophet (pbuh) did not know about it. One day the Prophet (pbuh) remembered her and said: "What happened to that person?" The people replied: "Oh Allah's Apostle! She died." He said: "Why did you not inform me?" They said: The story was so and so." He said: "Show me her grave" and he offered the funeral prayer. [Sahih Bukhari]
There really is no need for us to clean the masjid after us, since there's always someone hired to do it. However, that's not what Islam teaches us. You do not leave your garbage for someone else to pick up. I remember the saying that people in the West are unclean and keep their surroundings clean, whereas people in the East are personally clean but their surroundings are very dirty. Why are we so ill-trained that we cannot keep a tissue in hand and throw it a few metres away into a garbage can?

The Prophet (pbuh) said, cleanliness is half of faith and Alhamdulillah fills the scale, and Subhanallah and Alhamdulillah fill up what is between the heavens and the earth. Salah is a light, and charity is proof (of one's faith) and endurance is a brightness and the Qur'an is a proof on your behalf or against you. All men go out early in the morning and sell themselves, thereby setting themselves free or destroying themselves." (Muslim).
Our surroundings, the environment, are as much part of us are are our belongings, and we are required to take care of them. Alhamdulillah we don't face that problem in UAE, but in places like Canada, the mosque carpets are often smelling because of wet/dirty feet/socks or the mosque not being able to shampoo the carpets as often. We have to step up and solve these problems. The Masjid belongs to us. Read page one.
Our ranks are so low... but can we not strive to be like the woman who used to clean the masjid and the Prophet (pbuh) loved her action so much that he prayed for her? Would you not want the Prophet (pbuh) to pray for you?
Too many people say that one person is not going to make a difference. It is not true. Every big change starts with one person, a group, a movement, and finally a global voice- We will never know the impact until we train ourselves to be foresighted and understand the far-reaching effects of our consequences.

I thought about how what I'm doing may not have any effect on the women around me. I don't speak Arabic, so I can't give them a general talk on cleaning up after themselves. However, I know and believe that if I clean up as much as I can every day in Taraweeh, for the next 23 days or so, someone will notice and begin to follow, and soon it will pick up... inshallah!

This is a small action, but it illustrates the importance of your personal actions. Your actions will carry through for generations, and our reward lies with Allah (swt) alone.

In Surah Ibrahim, Allah (swt) says:

(And remember that) it is God who has created the heavens and the earth, and who sends down water from the sky and thereby brings forth (all manner) of fruits for your sustenance; and who has made ships subservient to. you, so that they may sail through the sea at His behest; and has made the rivers subservient (to His laws, so that they be of use) to you; and has made the sun and the moon, both of them constant upon their courses, subservient (to His laws, so that they be of use) to you; and has made the night and the day subservient (to His laws, so that they be of use) to you. And (always) does He give you something out of what you may be asking of Him; and should you try to count God's blessings, you could never compute them. (And yet,) behold, man is indeed most persistent in wrongdoing, stubbornly ingrate! [14:32-34]
So true! Let's try to count some blessings of Allah (swt) until we exhaust ourselves, and then thank Him profusely for them. I find that the best time to do this exercise is when you're most depressed. Nothing lifts me than counting my blessings.

Another good time to do this is in tahajjud of course. Tahajjud simply is the best time to do any time of worship!
Here's a dua you can make in fajr/tahhajud from Surah Bani Isra'il:

Establish regular prayers - at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony. And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a Station of Praise and Glory!
Say: "O my Lord! Let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honour, and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honour; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to aid (me)."

رَّبِّ أَدْخِلْنِي مُدْخَلَ صِدْقٍ وَأَخْرِجْنِي مُخْرَجَ صِدْقٍ وَاجْعَل لِّي مِن لَّدُنكَ سُلْطَانًا نَّصِيرًا

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dreams | Friends | Guantanamo- Ramadan Reflections Day 5

Early morning, yesterday, I came up with an idea for my mother to use her immense knowledge of home remedies to help people across the globe through starting a business. My mother has been studying for so many years, Alhamdulillah she keeps the health of the Al Ain community in check!
Her eyes lit up as I explained to her how far my idea could go.

I asked my best friend Asma a few days ago: " Is it okay to make a decision in Ramadan? "And she replied, "yes a blessed time :)"

I was a bit unsure because in Ramadan, my focus has always been personal worship, but what more blessed month than Ramadan to start off great ideas and make important decisions?

There's so much barakah being showered in every direction that one definitely needs to take advantage of. So far, I would do a lot of planning in Ramadan, but not actual implementation or major decision-making.

What dreams and goals do you have that you have thought about for months or even years, but haven't realised them yet? What decisions do you have to make around this time, that you can make in Ramadan with continous istikhara?

What's your passion? What mundane tasks are you involved in, that you can put a spin on, and revive them in your life? Where, really, are you headed in life? And if it's not where you want to, then choose your destination in Ramadan today.

Sh Muhammad Al Shareef explains how you can do it by building an ultimate dua list and highlighting your achievements.

Your goals and aspirations are also part of your worship, just how eating and sleeping is as well in Ramadan. I'm going to pull out my Gantt charts, to-do lists and get to action inshallah!

And don't just do it for yourself. What is it that your parents have always wanted, but never got time for? Make it happen for them, motivate them, support them, and then watch the fruits of your efforts and the blessings of Ramadan in action :)

Last night, the Imam recited this dua in Witr:
'O Allah! Let there be light in my heart, light in my eye-sight, light in my hearing, light on my right, light on my left, light above me, light under me, light in front of me and light behind me, and provide me with light.'
I remember Rania had helped me memorise this dua one day when Sawitri, her and I were walking to Masjid Toronto. Today, Rania and Afifa are in Lebanon. Last year, I would get regular updates from them on the crisis around them. I thought about my global friends who always drop me a note whether it's over phone, email or sms that I am in their duas and thoughts. Friends from Uganda, Nigeria, England, Denmark, Toronto, Australia, India, Russia, Turkey and many other places- some of whom I have never met.
And when I think of friendship at such a global scale, I have no words to describe brother/sisterhood. So, please make dua for your brothers and sisters. You may not know, but they can hear you, and Allah (swt) Alone answers all our duas.

Do you remember yourself at 14? Nazia and her friend are doing an excellent job at informing us on Guantanamo through their blog- Feesabilillah

a juvenile named Mohammed El Gharani, a Chad national, who was just 14 years old when he was seized by the Pakistani authorities and sold to the US military. Reprieve say there is no evidence that Mohammed ever travelled to Afghanistan, nor that he intended to do so. Nevertheless, he is now one of 20 juveniles Reprieve has identified as being held in Guantanamo Bay. In interviews with his lawyers he claims he has been terribly abused, including having a cigarette stubbed out on his arm by an interrogator. He states that much of the abuse stems from his vocal objection to being called a "nigger" by US military personnel.

If you have some 15 minutes to write a blog entry, consider, using that time for more rewarding purposes. Just ask yourself, "can I be doing something better that is pleasing to Allah (swt) at this time?"
Final point- My friend Jeewan's blogging about Ramadan. You can catch up with him here in case you miss his talks in Toronto ;)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fasting made easy | Prophets- Ramadan Reflections Day 4

Subhanallah, it's past the 3rd day, and I haven't quite felt much. Time's going too fast, but Alhamdulillah I feel quite productive. In fact, I feel more productive and motivated because of MR's online Qur'an reading competition. Last night I thought about how easy it is for me to fast, and then have iftar all because of what everyone else around does for me.
For example, in the morning I wake up at the same time as mummy and I'm able to work out or read some Qur'an while mummy finishes her nawafil and goes before me to the kitchen.
When I get there, Rizwan's already in action, asking me if I want an egg, and how would I like to have it. And he's very active in the kitchen before iftar as well, mashallah.
Once I'm done, I'm free to do whatever I wish for the rest of the day. And if my parents weren't providing for me, then I'd be doing other errands such as laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning, .. And this Ramadan would be as difficult as last year had I been working (even though I enjoyed it) but I decided not to, since I don't need to.
Iftar would not come together without someone filling the jug of water, other cutting the fruits for the salad, and me doing something else.
Finally, going for taraweeh is so easy, when I have my father to drive me there. There's never a parking spot, and he always has to park the car on the sandy area using his 4WD gears. I'd never be able to drive into such a mess of cars.
I shouldn't say "finally", since this is not even the beginning of my blessings.

So think about how how difficult your fasting in Ramadan would be, had it not been for all those people, and all those blessings.

I read the following ayahs last night after iftar:

That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.
We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good: And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous:
And Isma'il and Elisha, and Jonas, and Lot: and to all We gave favour above the nations: (To them) and to their fathers, and progeny and brethren: We chose them, and we guided them to a straight way.
This is the guidance of Allah. He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them.
These were the men to whom We gave the Book, and authority, and prophethood: if these (their descendants) reject them, Behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new people who reject them not. [6:83-89]

Subhanallah, so many Prophets mentioned in one place, and we are their descendants. But how much do we know about them, and how much do we try to emulate them?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Disability | Oppression- Ramadan Reflections Day 3

I have a friend who's sister is suffering from Rett's syndrome since the age of 3. She's about a year older than me now, and she's spent her life on a wheelchair getting seizures every now and then. Yesterday my friend told me she had a 45 minute seizure, and now the medication is going to make her sleep for a day. Everytime he talks about her, I feel so helpless. What can I do? He tells me, some have it worse- some have a 100 seizures/day, or a rod through their spine. "So may Allah make it easier on these Silent Angels". I admire my friend a lot, he loves his sister so very dearly, and truly exemplifies his being a brother.

In the summer of my third year, I worked as a student assistant for a quadruplegic student and now we're really good friends. I had written about him a lot on my old blog. Here's a snippet:

not being able to use your hands
or move your feet
having a dysfunctional diaphragm
using a suction pump to suck out the liquids from your body
a tube going through your neck
deteriorating body function
being stuck in a wheelchair for life
This is what my friend in the wheelchair has to live with, yet he's almost at the end of completing his degree. He's such a shining example of so many values- perseverence, positive attitude, determination, it goes on and on.

Disability is still not treated well in the Muslim community. I've heard people in mosques complain about wheelchairs getting in their way. I've seen people shun them as if they were a disease, not even once thinking, what if Allah (swt) had chosen this for them?

Would it not be nice, if people, would go up to these people- whether elderly, young or intellectually handicapped- and greet them? Ask them how they are? Bring them something they may need?

During Ramadan, it's truly a test for the many men and women taking care of these disabled people to continue their care. I'm sure they would appreciate someone coming in to take care of them for a few hours while they attend to their personal and or religious duties.

Let's spread some compassion today.

Today I came across the ayah in Surah Nisa, And how could you refuse to fight in the cause of God and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying, "O our Sustainer! Lead us forth [to freedom] out of this land whose people are oppressors, and raise for us, out of Thy grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of Thy grace, one who will bring us succour!"

Can you hear the cries of the oppressed? Cries of the girls who are raped? Or those forced into prostitution? Or those left to die in the heat? Or those who are born with genetic mutations? Children of war? The abandoned orphans? Grandmother villages? AIDs victims? There's no end to suffering out there, but, are we will to fight for their cause?

But I wonder, if we will ever be able to hear them from the comforts of our home.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Charity | Death | Discipline- Reflections Ramadan 1 & 2

Day 2
After we got home from taraweeh, I drove mummy to do some groceries. As I was stepping into the market, I noticed a small booth, with a big glass box on top of it. I grabbed the trolley and while fumbling with my bag to get my wallet out, I told my mother to go ahead. There was a man behind the stall and a lot of reading material as well. I wanted my action to be as fast as possible, but it was long enough to hear him say Jazakallah to me, and for me to reply to him.

I just finished reading the ayah from the Qur'an: By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth Allah knoweth it well. [3:92]

There's reward for giving charity, but imagine the reward of the people who... organise charitable actions. So, step up to the next level, don't just be a giver.

Two days ago my friends were telling me of a few deaths in 2 different countries. Two days ago my mother's sister-in-law (brother's wife) gave birth to a child who did not survive. She went into labour knowing that there's a chance of her losing her child, chance of her own death. There are not many ocassions when we know death came very close to us... and spared us.
Inshallah Allah (swt) will bless my mami with jannah, because of the hadith.
I'm a firm believer that everyone is in my life for a reason, even if I meet them once and never see them again. It was no coincidence that this baby's death, and the incidents that 2 of my friends narrated to me were at the same time. Allah (swt) wants us to know... wants me to realise, and turn to him, and ask for forgiveness, and increase in my good deeds.

I also thought about how my mamu didn't mention a word of that when I answered the phone, how my mother didn't give me the medical details and how, I just wasn't so involved at all, as if something distant from me happened.. to someone I didn't know. True, my parents still think I'm a child who doesn't need to be involved in grown up matters.. but every death to me, is a reminder of my experiences for a year as a Muslim chaplain assistant at a hospital. I dealt with parents... somehow... funerals... children... staff... And it has had an impact.

Day 1

Discipline and organisation are so important in our lives as Muslims. Taraweeh is all about discipline. Everyone in straight rows, with utmost attention. It's a great test for mothers when their children are running around or crying. In fact, taraweeh makes you very alert. You have to be early if you want to be in the first row. Yet, if your mother requires assistance, then you have to forego your space in the first row and make your mother comfortable first. It's discipline because it doesn't happen once. It's not one set of "Allahu Akbar", but many times over, that you have to raise your hands to.

And when someone leaves a row, others are automatically conscious of the gap, and hasten to fill it. Let not there be shaitan between us...

And once you're done, it's about connecting with those on either side of you. Sometimes, it's a Philipino or a Somali maid. Other times, it's someone's feeble grandmother. Say salam to all, and spread the sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).

Ramadan will help you get organised. Try Seinfield's productivity secret.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lessons in Ramadan?

Let's see if I can learn a new lesson every day in Ramadan, or a new reflection, towards becoming a better person. It will be interesting to read this "list" on Eid.

Ramadan & Exercising

Ramadan starts in a day or two!
Alhamdulillah today you can find everything you need to know about Ramadan on the internet- from dietary habits, personal development plans, charity programs to lectures, iftars, recipes, and much more!

In Ramadan, some lose weight, many others gain weight. Most people's eating habits go out of control. For those people for whom Ramadan has become a cultural practice- hosting iftars and other social engagements keep them from focussing on themselves during this blessed month.

One of the activities people leave out in Ramadan is exercising (that is, if they were exercising earlier). I did a bit of research after connecting with a few professors globally, and came up with a simple diet and exercise plan for Ramadan.

First, a few facts:

  • Studies done on physically active and sedentary Kuwaiti men indicates that during Ramadan fasting, cardiovascular adaptation to conditioning is adequate in the more physically active group. Body fluid balance was better maintained in active than in sedentary subjects.
  • At the end of Ramadan, significant increases in osmolarity, sodium,and bicarbonate, and a decrease in serum iron were noted in sedentary but not in active subjects.
  • The same study concluded that energy balance is well maintained during fasting both in sedentary and in active subjects. Metabolic adaptations during fasting result in lower exercise ratio due to increased lipid usage. Deficits or redistribution of specific micronutrients (iron, vitamins) may account for reductions in serum iron and platelet counts, particularly in sedentary subjects that need to limit intake to maintain body weight. 1
Is there any reason to bother exercising, despite the benefits, when there's so much going on in Ramadan, and not enough time?
Our bodies are not designed to react or change over night, they take time. After years of bad posture a person may end up with a chronic bachache. Similarly, years of bad eating can cause low energy levels, slouchiness and dissatisfaction in life.
Ramadan is the best time to fix all these metabolical problems with your body, if you really want to. And it can be quite simple.

Here's a simple sample diet plan 2:

Iftar (as early as possible)

  1. Before praying: 2 Dates (dried dates) with a half cup milk.
  2. After praying: a serving of cooked vegetables (ideal is steamed cooked vegetables) and green salad with lemon juice. A vegetable soup serving can replace the cooked vegetables option.
    Poultry (half a chicken) or meat (two pieces) or fish or tuna are also recommended.
  3. Drinking a cup of fresh juice.

Between iftar and suhoor

  1. Fresh fruits such as oranges, gauva, dates, apples, pears etc...
    A small piece of oriental dessert with moderate amount of honey syrup and low in fat.

Suhoor: (Best 15-30 minutes before fajr prayer)

  1. Four tablespoons of fava beans with lemon juice and/or olive oil.
    One boiled egg (try to avoid egg yolk if you are over 40 years old)
  2. A cup of milk or yoghurt
    A bread loaf plus a slice of cheese.


If you are not used to exercising, then working out just before taraweeh for 15 minutes will give you the energy you need for the prayers. Also focus a lot on walking and stretching. Drink lots of water.

Here's what I suggest:

  • 5-9 min cardio
  • 4-6 min muscular conditioning
  • 2-3 min stretching/cool down

If you wish to save time, do some jumping jacks and other cardio exercises before leaving home. If you walk to the masjid, that's great. Otherwise, park your car at enough distance from the mosque so that you can get 5-10 minutes of walking. Then, enter the masjid, pray your 2 rakats for greeting the mosque and do some light stretches as you wait for the salah to begin while doing continual dhikr in your mind.

If you exercise cardio regularly, then you can try a workout 45 min-1.5 hours before eating. If you're into weight training, exercising while fasting might make you dizzy, so it's best to switch to exercising just before taraweeh.

How's that?


  • Do not sleep except after one and a half hours following suhoor.
  • Do not forget to brush or Miswak (tender neem tree branch, Azhardicta indica or other appropriate plant in a country, about 1/4-1/2 inch diameter and 6-8 inches length, tip partially chewed and made brush like). Brush your teeth before sleep and after sahur. Brush more than two times or as many times as practical.
  • You shouldn't exercise after eating unless it is approximately 2 hours later.3
  • Do not eat too fast.

And here are the regular set of suggestions for what to avoid4

  1. Intake of high sugar (table sugar, sucrose) foods through sweets or other forms.
  2. Spicy foods( I know it's hard)
  3. Caffeine drinks such as coke, coffee or tea. Caffeine is a diuretic. Three days to five days before Ramadan gradually reduce the intake of these drinks. A sudden decrease in caffeine prompts headaches, mood swings and irritability.
  4. No smoking
Drop me a note if you need more ideas on diet and exercising for your schedules. Please note this advise is NOT for pregnant women.


  1. Jasem Ramadan PhD, Girma Telahoun, MIST, Naji S. Al-Zaid PhD and M. Barac-Nieto MD, PhD a Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait
  2. Dr. Tarek Rushdi, lecturer in Cairo University's Faculty of Medicine
  3. Dorothea Pitt, CanFitPro PRO
  4. Mohammad Zafar A. Nomani, PhD, RD, Professor of Nutrition,West Virginia University

Further reading:

Tunnel Trade on Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera is real news! I wish I had more time to watch it.
Last week on People and Power, Al Jazeera broadcasted a video on tunnel trade between the Gaza-Egypt border.
One of the tunnel traders talked about how he found medicine in the bag he was transporting through the tunnel for heart disease. He said how can he be doing something wrong, when he sells the medicine for a third of the price?
These people really have no choice. May Allah (swt) help them.

This film was made by Laila El-Haddad and Saeed Taji Farouky. Please visit their site and leave your comments.

Read the article here- Tunnel Trade.

Part I

Part II

This Ramadan...

I will miss:

  • My friends in Toronto
  • Hanging out @ aunty Naheed's and her iftars with the girls
  • Taraweeh @ Masjid Toronto and all the beautiful reminders
  • Walking to the masjid with Rehan, and sometimes detouring through Tim Hortons on the way back
  • Sister K, who's always looking for me at taraweeh whenever she wants to know which page of the Qur'an we stopped
  • Biking to the masjid clad in helmet and all, and beating Sawitri (ocassionally) to the bike post we share from across the mosque :)
  • Inviting my non-Muslim friends/colleagues over for my Ramadan iftars
  • Massive MSA Iftars @ UofT downtown
  • Hosting iftars for my friends
  • Iftars with organisations I've been part of
  • Shorter fasts
  • Qiyam with my favourite people
  • Praying 20 rakaat (most mosques in UAE pray 8)

I will not miss:

  • Being away from my family in Ramadan for 6 years
  • Kids wailing and running around in the Masjid (it's the same everywhere)
  • Taraweeh with one of the most beautiful recitation I've ever heard. The Shaikh @ Masjid Hammouda is out of this world! Mashallah
  • Looking at my watch to start and end my fasts, but with the azan
  • Working during the month
  • Washing dishes late night

I know I'm missing lots more from my list...

I returned from taraweeh a few hours ago. It was nice, so many women mashallah, but too many children. I spoke with my friend, who's the imam's wife, and luckily Canadian, to do something about the kids, and she said, "yea, we'll have to get organised". Just when I thought no more babysitting during Ramadan or managing women...

So we formed a "Canadian team" and came up with an action plan. This mosque is so unique. It's the most beautiful masjid in Al Ain, especially at night, with an active Imam, great accommodation for women, and it's only getting better. And it's a 3 minute drive from my place :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Winnie the Pooh! Part II

A couple others from Winnie-the-Pooh's Little Book of Friendship The secret of Pooh's social success:

Sharing Secrets

Pooh looked around to see that nobody else was listening, and said in a very solemn voice. "Piglet, I have decided something."
"What have you decided, Pooh?"
"I have decided to catch a Heffalump".

Know Your Friends

"Eeyore", he said solemnly.
"I, Winnie the Pooh, will find your tail for you".
"Thank you Pooh", said Eeyore.
"You're a real friend", said he.

Read more: Winnie the Pooh!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Books all over the place

Hafsa tagged me to post pictures of my bookshelf online, after Faraz started the general tag.
So, after some painfully hilarious attempts with my absolutely awful camera (sorry people!), I managed to get my books up :) Only for you Haffi!

My books almost reflect my absolutely disconnected interests. Most of the newer ones are catalogued on my LibraryThing. I think I'm also going to join BookMooch...

My collection includes books on professional development, Islam, fitness, some ficition, social causes, cooking and natural medicine. I often wonder how that comes together I have some 200 books lying in the store on British/European English fiction from my school days... Wouldn't it be amazing one day to go back and read them all again? But life's too short for that, and there's too much to do:)

Some dictionaries... rarely used now. I love the Penguin Dictionary of Quotations.

Maulana Maududi's tafseer in English.

Books on hadith and sunnah:

Hmm... I wonder if cookbooks can be considered part of a bookshelf? But they're definitely part of me, since I believe in healthy cooking and a diet of abundance. The one book missing here is You are What you Eat by Dr Gillain McKeith. She's the world's best nutritionist. I had ordered 5 copies of this book for friends. It's an absolute must-have. I haven't touched most of these books since I moved back to my parents as mummy does all the cooking.
The book above the Juicing Bible is Healthy Eating for your Heart [I think...]. The Juicing Bible was a gift from my best friend Fatima... for the love of smoothies :)

All the above books are in shelves outside my room. Here are the ones on my desk:

John Maxwell is a star. Inshallah one day I'd like write a book like his on leadership, but from an Islamic perspective. After meeting Dan Shapiro, from the Harvard Negotiation Project personally, I had to get his books! Beyond Reason is an excellent book on communication, and together with the Conflict and Communication workbook, you're very well-equiped with skills to negotiate your way through any argument. I haven't read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey that everyone has read, because I found it.. complicated and didn't have the patience @ that time to read it because... there isn't a better book by the Franklin Covey company than the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I can read that book over and over again. It's an absolute delight. I haven't finished reading Getting Things Done, inshallah in Ramadan since that's when I try to do a lot of planning.
A couple of these books were gifts from my wonderful friends.

Next to that, are books on social causes that I want to be aware about- Africa, poverty, Palestine, Middle East and Activism. Take Action and Take More Action are two wonderful books written for all age groups on plans, letters, ideas, etc for making a difference in your community. These books were written by two 12 year olds, Marc and Craig Keilburger.. they're probably my age now. I haven't read a few from these...

And then, some random fiction. I have very little time to read good books, so I avoid fiction, but I'd definitely buy all of Paulo Coelho books. Like the Flowing River is the inspiration for the Matters of the Rock series.

Founders at Work is a book that talks about... 30 founders of IT companies. Nice read. I bought it after Guy Kawasaki recommended it.

There are a few little books for lifting anyone's mood: Eeyore's book of gloom, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Qur'anic treasures and more...

Books I use for Shariah program, SunniPath and the Arabic Learner's blog, from the Hans Wehr dictionary, Arabic grammar books to the famous Stories of the Prophets. Vocabulary of the Holy Qur'an is my main source of reference for the Arabic Learner's blog.
Under the books for learning Arabic, are my course books for the CanFitPro certification that I completed this year. Strength Training Anatomy is a very comprehensive book on muscular conditioning. And the last set of binded books are from the Almaghrib Institute.

I subscribe to magazines by CanFitPro and Toastmasters Intl (again, apologies about the picture):

And finally, in the glass shelf above all these books, are mostly books about Islam. I haven't read many of these, but from those that I have, I've learnt a lot Alhamdulillah. I haven't read any of the Harun Yahya book, and I'm not sure why I bought them in the first place. I love the writings of Maulana Wahiduddeen Khan- very simple yet powerful. May Allah (swt) bless the scholars. His An Islamic Treasury of Virtues has been my main source of reference for my Glimpses into the Life of Umar Farooq blog. Dr A'id Al Qarni seems to be a popular writer in Saudi/UAE. My sister gifted me his You can be the Happiest Woman in the World.

Hammad, there's one of your favourite books too ;)

And thus it ends here. My Engineering books are missing. They're still lying in Toronto...

Let's see now... to do my part of tagging, I choose Sheepoo of Internals, and Sayam of Tranquil. Tariq of.. what's your blog's name? :P MTR's Musings I know you're trying to blog somewhere. And of course, my favourite, Raheel of Intellijunkt Commentary if you're back and 2 inches taller.

And my two best friends, Asma of Asma Maryam Ali and Sawitri of Life is a journey, so where are you going?- I've seen your massive bookshelves, perhaps you can showcase a section of your favourite books online? Especially since we don't have many books in common.

Finally, the ultimate traveller, the friendly Ozair of The Blog about Nothing :)

This was hard to do, mostly because I don't read most books with 100% attention, and there are many that I haven't even started on. I probably only have 30-40% of the information in my head, and I can't say I implement much of it...

I also have a collection of audio CDs, but let's not go there.. Oops.. did I give another tagging idea to Hafsa? :P