Wednesday 21 June 2017

Ramadan Retreat

I spent the last weekend away from home with a ladies tablighi jamaat group. Tablighi jamaat advocate taking time away from your day to day business and spending time in worship and dawah (sharing Islam). They encourage you to start with improving yourself and stepping up your amal (good deeds) and then sharing what you learn wider. They are big on simplicity and making personal sacrifices as a way to get closer to Allah (SWT).

I have been for 3 days and 16 days before, but not for many years as my youngest two children were too young to leave behind. I know not everyone will agree with the approach of Tablighi jamaat and that is fine. I believe in respecting the different paths we take in our deen (faith), but for me it has been immensely life changing in so many ways.

When I left this time I was rushed and harried. Cooking food to take with me and making sure there was plenty left behind. Packing, getting the weekend laundry and chores out of the way before I left and making sure the kids were okay, always with one eye on the clock. Once I was finally out of the door I felt a surge of relief. I have been juggling all of the different aspects of being a Muslimah, mum and working mother with no break for a long time and leading up to this weekend I was beginning to feel quite sad and frustrated that I could not make as much time for ibadah (worship) as I wanted to. I was falling behind on my Quran reading, I was getting too tired to spend as long in the night prayer as I wanted and come iftar time, I was struggling to get the children settled down enough to make dua in peace.

We ended up not travelling too far. My husband stayed with the men in a house close to the masjid, usually they will stay in the masjid, but this masjid doesn’t allow jamaat groups to stay. The women stayed in another house. Alhamdulillah, I have stayed in various homes as part of this process and invariably the hostesses have been generous and gracious. This time was no exception. The lady of the house had a gentle, very sweet way about her and her children were very well behaved mash’Allah.

Once we had settled down the three days feel into a familiar routine that the ladies group in Tablighi jamaat tends to follow. There is a short visit from the men to do a small talk on a topic, usually explaining the thinking behind some activity of the ladies jamaat (i.e. taking care of the hosts, how we should spend our time while we are there etc.).

This is followed by the two hours in the morning of halaqa, or study circle. This takes the form of reading through books like Fazail-e-Amal, practising our Quran tajweed (pronunciation), memorisation of short surah’s from the Quran, reviewing the way we pray salah and making sure we know the fard (compulsory) and sunnah parts of salah, and memorising hadith.

After a break for midday prayers, we spend time in praying Quran, engaging in Dhikr and resting. Part of the purpose of the three days away is to try and implement as much of the sunnah (traditions of our beloved Prophet sallahu alahi wasallam) in everything we do so that the sunnah is brought to life and becomes part of our day to day life. This includes the qaylulah, or sunnah afternoon nap. Taking the nap allows us to spend a longer portion of the night in prayer.

The men return in the late afternoon for a lecture which women in the neighbourhood have been invited to. The men will sit in a separate room and speak through a sound system. The lectures usually focus on the key themes of building and strengthening our iman (faith), implementing the sunnah, prioritising our salah, gaining knowledge, fulfilling the rights of others, sincerity and correcting our intentions and the importance of dawah work.

Following the lecture there is time for our personal “amal” or religious activities, which usually including reading the Quran, making dhikr and sitting with the women who have come to visit.

I took plenty of food with me, but we found the ladies in the neighbourhood brought so much food during the time we were there that we couldn’t even fit it all in the fridge and were sending some of it to the masjid. Alhamdulillah, I have always found that the Muslim women I come across are very generous in sharing food with others.

Once we opened fast and cleared away the food, we prepared for our night prayers and the taraweeh prayers as well as the bedtime sunaan. One of the things I love about going out with jamaat is the focus on the sunnah. When we eat, we sit, eat and drink in the sunnah way, usually a sister will be tasked to run through all of the sunnan related to eating and drinking. The same for when we prepare to sleep and for many other activities. I was able to pray the night prayers with concentration and devotion and in a better way than I have been able to for many years. I also had time to pray all of my nawafil (non-obligatory) prayers. These are the prayers that bring you close to Allah (SWT) and these are the ones that I neglect in the noise and rush of life at home.

Most pleasurable of all for me, I had the time and focus to make dua (supplication) to my heart’s content – for my every desire, wish and need, from the smallest to the largest with confidence and trust in Allah’s (SWT) generosity during this blessed month.

Alhamdulillah, there were six ladies in the house as well as the host’s children, and the time flew by in friendship, kind words and with consideration towards each other. When it was time to leave, I felt sad to be leaving my friends and the lovely host and the peacefulness and sense of satisfaction that the three days had brought me.

One of the sisters came home with me to share iftar. Almost as soon as I got home, the tempo of my day changed with complaints from the kids and their grandmother, nappies to change, groceries to grab and an iftar to prepare at lightning speed. I found myself getting irritated and stressed and had to take a step back and try and hold onto my experience of the previous few days.

Insh’Allah there are some things that have stayed with me and that I want to hold on to, mostly I have been able to since I came back home:

Praying my nawafil (non-obligatory) salah as well as my fard and sunnah prayers.

Reading as much Quran during the day as I can and trying to memorise short parts of it, also listening to tafseer (explanation of the Quran), particularly in Urdu, which I find has a more powerful impact than in English.

Implementing simplicity into my life as far as I can, including in the home, our clothes and our food insh’Allah.

Having the daily study circle with the children, whether of tafseer, the sunnah or books like Fazail-e-Amal. Also, getting the children to take turns to recite Quran to us to encourage them to improve their recitation insh’Allah (one of the young girls in the house we visited had a beautiful recitation and we enjoyed listening to her)

Insh’Allah, I hope to go one more time whilst my mother-in-law is here.  Certainly going during Ramadan has made me feel as if I have made the most of this Ramadan so far already.

And there has to be a group of people from among you who call towards good and prevent from evil.  (Quran 3:104)

Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel. (Quran 16:125)


  1. Your posts are love changing. Especially your real life experiences help me understand we all are going through similar. A few years ago I stumbled on your blog and I must say it was a blessing. Jazaakillaah

    1. Assalam-alaikam Dear Sis,
      Jazakh'Allah-khairun for your kind comments and for taking the time to read, your comment just made my day :)

  2. Please any contact details to go for 3 days initially with a view to go for a month later?