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Category Archives: Qur’an in Action

‘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.

Two sides of the same Coin: Moral and Religious Uprightness

I always used to wonder why the Prophet (saw) mentioned, that when selecting a spouse choose both religion AND good character. When I was a child, I thought both qualities were inseparable in all practicing individuals. I thought that if one is practicing Islam, then they must surely be of good character. That was until one day, I learnt that in the Qur’an, two types of goodness are mentioned; both which go hand in hand and both which should not be separated. Religious goodness and moral goodness. Meaning, a person not only has to fulfil their duties to Allah (religious), but must also be kind, courteous, caring, and good to the people (moral).

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” [2:177]

Notice how Allah (swt) began this verse by mentioning the absolute fundamental principles that Islam is built upon. Those principles without which one cannot even claim goodness or claim to be Muslim. Belief in Allah being the first, then belief in the last day, belief in angels and finally belief in His books.

Following on from this, Allah (swt) goes on to list all those things that comprise righteousness. In other words, if righteousness was a person, this is what it would be like. Now, Allah could have mentioned Salaah first, even Hajj, for aren’t they amazing acts of worship? Sure! Yet, Allah chose giving. He chose charity. He chose freeing slaves. He chose serving others. Why? Because when a person gives his time, money, or effort for the cause of Allah, it speaks volumes about his personality. It speaks volumes about his MORAL goodness, which, just like religious goodness, is equally as important.

This really struck me. Firstly, because today we live in an age where many claim to practice both types of goodness, yet in reality, more emphasis is given on religious acts, such as Hajj, Zakah, Salaah, and moral goodness is totally neglected. Now, this is not to say that one must not stress religious actions, rather it is to say, that moral goodness is often brushed under the carpet and is never really given the same amount of importance that religious duties are given.

How many times have we come across individuals, who have performed so many Hajj, are consistent in their prayers, give Zakah every year, and do as much voluntary acts of worship as possible, yet they are foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, dishonest, and unreliable and are drowning in pride and arrogance? Of course, we are not to judge, for Allah is the One who Judges, however, this example should give us an understanding of the reality we live in. The reality, where complete goodness is not being embodied, where good character and morals are not being emphasized along side religious duties, as they should. Where our children are being brought up as ill-mannered, and where akhlaaq is not taught or implemented as it should be.

We look at the state of the Ummah today. We reflect upon its state, and realize that so many are lacking moral goodness. Where is the trust? Where is the loyalty? Where is the respect? Where is the kindness and generousity?

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) is the best example and role model who implemented BOTH types of goodness. He was the one who always strove to perfect his salaah, the first to rush to give in the path of Allah; at the same time he also performed Hajj, gave Zakaah, and stood in lengthy night prayers. Yet, he (saw), understood that there was more to this, that it doesn’t stop there. In addition, he practiced modesty, was polte, bashful, caring, giving, loyal, trustworthy – so much so, that people knew him as ‘Al-Amin (the truthful)’, before they knew him as ‘Rasul. (messenger)’ They could make up plentiful lies about his prophethood, about the message he was preaching, yet they could never lie about his character.

The Prophet (saw) embodied both types of goodness, and he also instructed us to do so. I ask you and I, how is our character? How much effort do we put into improving and mending our character; our moral goodness? Do we emphasize moral goodness as much as we emphasize religious goodness?

In a beautiful hadith, the Prophet (saw) gave glad-tidings to the one with good character, he said:

“The best of people are those with the most excellent character.” [Tabarani, Sahih]

We are an Ummah who have been given the best book, to the best prophet, in the best month, in the best days, on the best night… Shouldn’t we then also strive to be the best in every way possible? We need to embody complete goodness. We need to strive to beautify our characters, beautify our acts of worship, but without forgetting that both go hand in hand, and that together they make-up complete goodness, a goodness which our Ummah today is lacking. Moral uprightness and religious uprightness are two sides of the same coin. May Allah (swt) perfect our eemaan and our character, ameen.

Hajj Diary Day 3: First Day in Makkah Ready for Hajj!

Day 3: Tuesday, 30/9/14, 6th Dhul-Hijjah 1435; 4:35am

Done with Umrah, Alhamdulillah!

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

“…Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” (2:127)

I really should make a habit of reciting this more. It’s so amazing that Ibraheem (as) recited it as he was building the Ka’bah with Isma’il (as) – what a greatly rewarding act in itself!  and still asked for acceptance of his deeds. How much more so do we need it then?

I’m waiting for the Fajr adhan as I write. We all split up to do our umrah – tawaf and sa’ee are easier, I believe, if you’re not trying to hold onto someone. Yet with those very beliefs, Allah placed an old Chinese woman in my care, to hold onto and take care of in the crowds of tawaf. SubhanAllah! I was a bit confused at first as to whether she recognized me or not – maybe she mistook me for someone? But then I realized that she just wanted someone to hold onto. It’s a great feeling to be blessed with such a responsibility, and to show affection for our ummah who are our sisters, even if we don’t know them.

Alhamdulillah!

A part of me can’t believe I’m here. The place looks the same yet different, what with all the construction. It’s not as much a hindrance as we feared it would be, Alhamdulillah! It’s so amazing to see all the different groups of people from different countries, all here for one purpose. Makes me wonder what Jannah will be like!

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِينَ

“And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed, in that are signs for those of knowledge.” (30:22)

I’m falling asleep. It’s been a long tiring day. Alhamdulillah I got a women’s area as soon as I got out of sa’ee but the problem is that I don’t know where exactly I am or how long it will take me to get out of the masjid right after.

4:39pm

It is technically only Day 1 in Makkah and so far we’ve prayed only Fajr and Asr at the haram and rested for all the time in between. We have two days back in Makkah before Madinah so hopefully we’ll have energy for nafl tawaf then. We’ve been told to save it all now for the actual days of hajj, although we’ve been getting quite the workout by climbing up to the 7th floor every time..! It’s easier than waiting for the lift! All part of hajj prep!

We saw trucks full of goats yesterday, on the way to Makkah! Felt sorry for them, but it all adds to the spirit! It really is a bakra Eid!

The crowd is not as bad as I expected but I’m guessing the three days of hajj are going to be crazy. It’s so interesting to think that so much preparation goes into literally just three days – for that is the crux of it.

SubhanAllah.

In the midst of all the should-be ‘ibadah, you can’t deny the pull of all the shops – some of them screaming “Everything for only 3 riyals”! Alhamdulillah that is allowed too!

… لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِّن رَّبِّكُم

“There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord [during Hajj]…” [2:19]

A shopping list is definitely required though, so that one does not get carried away!

…فَإِذَا قَضَيْتُم مَّنَاسِكَكُمْ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّـهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ آبَاءَكُمْ أَوْ أَشَدَّ ذِكْرًا ۗ

“And when you have completed your rites, remember Allah like your [previous] remembrance of your fathers or with [much] greater remembrance…” [2:200]

We leave to Mina tomorrow night!