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All posts by Maryam Rana

‘Ahsanal Qasas’ – The Best of all Stories

Surah Yusuf has always been one of my favorite Surahs. Ever since I was a child, I had a deep love and connection with the Surah. I would read books about it, delve into its story, listen to Nasheeds about it, and by doing so, I began to love it more and more. Over the years, as I started to practice my deen more, and as I began to read the translation of the Qur’an, I realized how the meaning of the Surah further enhanced for me the beauty of its recital and its story.

It was then that I began to dream and hope of wanting to raise my first boy then, Yusuf!

It still is a Surah close to my heart, for the same reasons it was when I was a child, as well as a greater reason, which I was able to discover and learn about, through life experiences.

That reason is this.

So many of the situations we go through in life, so many of the tests we face, so many of our difficulties, are in some, way, shape or form etched within the life story of Yusuf (as). They may not be exactly similar, but the lessons we derive from them are the same lessons we learn from that which Yusuf (as) went through. From the test of jealousy, to the struggle of restraining evil desires and temptation. From the test of popularity and fame, to the test of greed and wealth. From love and loss, to oppression, dreams, obedience to parents, separations and reunions. From heartbreak and tears, to light and darkness. All these themes and tests are embedded within the life of Yusuf (as).

And that is why so many shed tears when they recite this Surah, as it comforts the heart, and consoles it. It is a story, which moves the hearts of both the young and old. It is no wonder that scholars have drawn so many parallels between the story of Yusuf and the Seerah of Muhammad (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam). Allah knows us better, so He sent us guidance in form of the best story ever to be written; by the greatest of Writers. And no one can ever match its profound beauty and eloquence. It’s the Best of stories containing some of the most profound lessons with a prose that is sweet to the ears and soothing to the soul.

One of the greatest overall lessons we can learn from this Suran, is the lesson of patience and trust. Of Sabr and Tawakkul. These two themes are highlighted in this Surah over and over again at every turn of every page. Yusuf (as) was someone who was repeatedly taught to practice patience throughout his life as well as rely on God in every single situation he was placed in. Hence, it was these two qualities that Yusuf (as) was able to master, that not only earned him the love of Allah, but also caused him to be successful in this world and the next.

Today, I want to shed light on just some benefits of this Surah and facts about it that will hopefully inspire you (after reading this article ofcourse), to want to pick up a Qur’an and read through its meaning. Although this will never do justice to the subtleties and linguistic gems that are buried within it, it will give you an insight of why this story is indeed the best of all stories.

So, here goes!

Some points of benefit about this Surah:

  • It was the first complete Surah ever to be revealed!
  • The Surah sticks to the same subject matter as oppose to other Surahs, which discuss many subjects and topics. This point itself makes the Surah unique.
  • Scholars say this Surah was revealed during the period of sorrow in order to comfort Rasulullah (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam) after the death of his beloved wife, supporter and companion, Khadidja, and the death of his supporting pillar, which was Abu Taalib, his uncle.
  • The Surah is about a boy, who was thrown into well, captured, sold into a foreign land, then seduced by a woman, thereafter imprisoned, and after all this he eventually becomes governor of Egypt! If that’s not a happily-ever-efter ending, her also was reunited with his parents and family after years and years of separation!
  • Therefore, this Surah is literally filled with precious lessons on how to deal with tests and trials and every difficulty.
  • It gives us hope that no matter how dark or clouded it may get, there will always be ray of sunshine amidst it all, and soon, the sun will begin to shine brightly again. In orther words, this Surah explains perfectly the ayah: “With every hardship comes easy.”

Look out for our second article on Surah Yusuf, where we will discuss a beautiful sociology lesson we can derive from this Surah, inshaAllah.

Oh, and don’t forget to read this Surah with its meaning. It will inspire you and soothe your troubled heart!

Why you SHOULDN’T look forward to Ramadan

Ramadan comes around every year, and every year it’s the same hype. The same old HYPOCRISY. “we love Ramadan, can’t wait for Ramadan, this Ramadan is going to be better than ever.” And yet, nothing changes. Instead, we’re worse off for it. Ramadan makes us fatter, unhealthier, lazier and hypocritical. So really, what’s the point?

People say Ramadan brings out the best in everyone (because Shaytaan is locked up and because of the barakah of the month), but I’d like to argue to the contrary. Ramadan brings out the worst in all of us and that too without the help of Shaytaan.

Here’s why I think you SHOULDN’T look forward to Ramadan.

Ramadan – has become the month of self indulgence instead of self restraint

 

The #1 reason why we shouldn’t look forward to Ramadan is the attitude of Muslims towards food. During Ramadan we become obsessed with food. All we think about and talk about and do, is food. What will we eat today, what will we cook, what will we have for our daily feast? We are extra hungry, extra voracious, extra particular about what we eat. That’s not the spirit of Ramadan.

Ramadan has become the month of israaf (extravagance)

 

This is a major issue. During Ramadan, we give up basic things like food, and this should be teaching us abstinence and gratitude. But instead, we spend more, and waste more. We spend more money on food during Ramadan than any other month throughout the year.

Just look at our mosques. Mosques make extravagant arrangements to feed their congregation and the amount of food that is wasted in these gatherings is unbelievable. More food goes into the garbage than into the bellies, even though our appetites are ravenous. And no one seems to care about the environment. There’s no concept of composting wasted food (which may make up for the wastage somewhat) or even recycling water bottles.

Ramadan has become the month of debate and arguments

 

In the month when a person is supposed to avoid “arguments” by saying “I’m fasting,” as Muslims we have the greatest number of disputes and arguments during this month. Whenever you think of Ramadan approaching, the fisrt thing that comes to mind is, oh man moon sighting arguments again. Discord within the community. The community splits into factions according to which day you started fasting, which mosque you attend, and how many taraweeh you pray.

Ramadan has become the month of festivity and partying

 

The month that should be full of reflection and solitude has lost it’s spirituality. Ramadan is a festive time for Muslims around the world, but is that the purpose of Ramadan? Or was Ramadan meant to be a month of reflection and solitude. A month where we should focus on spending some quality alone time between us and our Lord. Instead, we’re partying every night, we eat so much we’re too full and sleepy to stand in prayer. And we sleep all day because we ate the wrong foods and don’t have enough nutrition and energy to do anything else.

If this is what Ramadan is going to be, then how can we say Ramadan is our spiritual boot camp of the year. How can we say that Ramadan helps us attain taqwa, helps us to detox both physically and spiritually and helps us come closer to Allah. Unless and until we truly live Ramadan according to it’s intended purpose, all of that is just a delusion and a lie we tell ourselves.

So, what’s the solution? How do we rectify this situation? How do we bring back the real Ramadan?

From self indulgence to self restraint

 

Ramadan is supposed to be about purging ourselves from the attachment to our base desires. It’s about controlling those desires and not letting them control us. It’s about conquering our hunger. We fast from dawn to dusk in order to overcome our physical needs and desires and learn self control and self restraint. When we let our hunger drive us to an over obsession with food, we are doing the exact opposite and being controlled rather than practicing self control.

This Ramadan, let’s focus on eating better, not more. Let’s focus on allowing our bodies to attain the physical benefits of fasting by eating simpler and eating healthier more nutritious foods. Instead of cooking all those fried, indulgent foods, let’s try and substitute with more fruits and vegetables. Foods that will nourish and hydrate our bodies, give us the energy we need to worship Allah properly as well as to physically detoxify our systems and give them a break.

Also, let’s focus on allowing our bodies to attain the spiritual benefits of fasting by letting our hunger make us grateful for the provisions that we have. And by spending more time worshipping Allah than on cooking and preparing daily feasts.

From extravagance to prudence/frugality

 

This Ramadan, let’s save more and spend less. Or better yet, spend in charity instead of being extravagant with yourself. Spend on the less fortunate.

Some ideas:

  1. Instead of hosting an extravagant iftaar party, let’s make iftaar baskets for the poor families in our communities.
  2. Every time we go to the masjid for an iftaar, let’s take a donation with us, or make a donation to our local food bank.
  3. If we do host an iftaar, keep things simple, and ask our guests to make a small donation towards a local charity.
  4. Let’s come together as a community and buy Eid gifts for kids at our local shelter.

Whatever iftaar we do attend, let’s help out by recycling and composting appropriately. And encourage those around us to do so as well. Let’s be responsible citizens of the Earth that Allah has blessed us with.

From debate and argument to peace and reconciliation

 

This Ramadan, let’s remember that a difference in opinion can be a beautiful thing. Just like Allah has made us with different cultures, physical attributes and languages, He also allowed us to have differences of opinions in certain matters. Let’s embrace these differences rather than being hostile to one another because of them. If we’re fasting on different days than others in our community, or celebrating Eid on different days, let’s celebrate with them as well. Ramadan is a time for us to come together and unite under the banner of Islam. It’s a time for this ummah to grow stronger as a community, but this requires effort from each and every one of us. This Ramadan, let’s reach out to those who hold different opinions from us and rather than arguing, come together and celebrate.

From excessive partying to spiritual reflection

 

This Ramadan, let’s try to focus some of our time on reflection, contemplation and private worship. There is nothing wrong with coming together with family and friends to break fast and celebrate, but in doing so, we should not neglect building and strengthening our bond and relationship with Allah. Let’s remember that the time before breaking our fast, is a time of accepted dua, so instead of allotting that time for socialization or food prep, let’s allot that time for private discussion with Allah. Let’s prepare our food early and remind our family and friends of this special time as well.


 

Ramadan is a month that passes by faster than any other month. And at the end of it we are left sad and regretful. Sad at its departure and regretful of the time that we wasted and didn’t take full advantage of. But it doesn’t have to be this way, sure the sadness will always be there, but we can change the way we feel about Ramadan by changing the way we live Ramadan. We can make the most of Ramadan by living it with its intended purpose and values. And that’s when we will feel fulfilled, nourished and bettered by our Ramadan experience.

So, let’s all look forward to Ramadan. Let’s all look forward to a better Ramadan by making the commitment to live a better Ramadan.

Shirk in Sajdah during Salah

Imagine: you hear the adhaan for dhuhr, you get up, make wudu, lay down your prayer mat and begin. “Allahu Akbar.” You have begun a conversation with your Lord, your Creator. You recite Fatihah asking for guidance. You go down in ruku and glorify your Lord, the Mighty and Powerful. You proceed to the ground to make sajdah. With your head on the ground, glorifying your Master, you are in the closest position to Him. 

The prophet (saw) said, 
أَقْرَبُ مَا يَكُونُ الْعَبْدُ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَهُوَ سَاجِدٌ

“The closest that a servant is to his Lord is when he is in prostration.” (Muslim)

In that moment, you are fully immmersed in your conversation with Allah. You glorify Him and praise Him and seek His forgiveness and seek refuge in Him…

But.. while you are in this state, someone walks in. Your spouse or your mother, a sibling or a friend, perhaps a colleague or even just a stranger. Someone walks in and sees you in this state. Your attention is immediately diverted: you start to think, “Is my back straight and my posture correct? Let me fix my posture so this person doesn’t think I’m making sajdah all wrong.”,  “If I get up now this person will think my sajdah was so short, I should prolong it.”

Right then, in that moment, you’ve committed shirk (minor shirk: riyaa). You’ve committed shirk while being the closest you could possibly be to Your Lord. 

What a sad situation that is. You put so much effort in to this act of worship, and in a split second and tweek of intention, you ruined it.

This is something that has happened to a lot of us – or at least the thought has crossed our mind even if we didn’t act upon it.  This is a trap which shaytaan sets for us and he is quite skilled at it. But, don’t worry, all hope is not lost. You can still redeem yourself. If this happens to you.

1. Rectify your intention: adjust your intention and purify it for the sake of Allah.

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“Say, Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” [6:162]

2. Still prolong your sajdah and correct your posture, but with the intention of doing so for the sake of Allah. This way you destroy shaytaan’s plot in two ways: you have already saved yourself from minor shirk by rectifying your intention, but now you prolong and perfect your sincere worship and he is unhappy with this as well.

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَاتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوًّا
“Indeed, Saytan is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy.” [35:6]

3. Seek forgiveness from Allah: اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أُشْرِكَ بِكَ وَأَنَا أَعْلَمُ ، وَأَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لَا أَعْلَمُ
O Allah, I seek refuge with You lest I should commit shirk with You knowingly and I seek Your forgiveness for what I do unknowingly.”

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [39:53]

Other tips: 

  • Always be mindful of your intention and your sincerity and correct it as best as you can.
  • Remember, you can correct your intention before, during and after an act.
  • Seek help from Allah, ask Him to protect you from riyaa and grant you sincerity in your worship.
  • If you’re having trouble, try to ensure you perform some of your acts of ibaadah in private. Strive for excellence and perfection in these acts. This will help you strengthen your sincerity.

If you have any other tips, please write them in the comments section.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us sincerity and accept from us, ameen.

How to Attain Allah’s Love

قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.'” [3:31]

A simple method for attaining the love of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and attaining forgiveness: follow the prophet Muhammad (sullulahu alaihi wa salam).

This ayah is a test for us, a litmus test of faith and love of Allah. Allah (swt) is asking us to PROVE our love for Him! And, SubhanAllah, the proof of our love for our Rabb (Lord) lies in following His Messenger. And, even more amazing is the reward that Allah has promised for following His Messenger: Allah’s Love! What can be a greater reward than this?

This ayah clearly shows the great status of the prophet (saw) and the great status of his sunnah. It is a clear proof against those who reject the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saw).

Allah (swt) immediately after this says,

قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْكَافِرِينَ

“Say, ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger.’ But if they turn away – then indeed, Allah does not like the disbelievers. “ [3:32]

Allah (swt) emphasizes the message from the previous ayah with a direct command: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. It is not enough to merely obey Allah, because obedience in Allah entails the obedience of the Messenger. Allah (swt) directly links His obedience with obedience to the Messenger (saw) inextricably. What an honour for the Prophet (saw) and what a clear sign for us to follow his Sunnah.

And, in case more emphasis of this was needed, this ayah also indicates that defiance and turning away from the obedience of Allah or His Messenger (saw) is kufr/disbelief. Thus, we cannot claim to love Allah and to be true believers unless we follow the prophet (saw) and obey him. Belief in Allah and belief in the prophet (saw) go hand in hand. That is why even our declaration of faith includes witnessing the prophethood of Muhammad (saw).

لا إِلّهَ إلاَ اللهُ مُحَمَدُ رَّسُول الله

There is no diety worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger.

Notice the absence of a “و” or the word “and” between the two statements. The absence of the word “and” from this statement serves the purpose of conjoining the two statements. Again, emphasizing their inextricable nature.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us in following our beloved prophet (saw) and giving him the proper reverence that he deserves. Ameen.

Action Item: Choose at least one sunnah that you haven’t been practising and incorporate it into your daily schedule with the intention of following the Prophet sullulahu alaihi wa salam. Eg. Saying bismillah before everything you do.