Monday, 12 April 2021

Ramadan 2021/1442: Ramadan Kareem

Assalam alaikam all my dear readers,

I pray that this message finds you healthy, happy and that Allah (SWT) is pleased with you and accepts your good deeds.


This beautiful month is with us again, a month of opportunity and blessing. I can’t remember a time I felt less prepared to welcome this honoured guest into my home, but more keen to see it. After a year of worry, anxiety, and confusion and after seeing the grief of so many around me, this Ramadan feels like healing medicine.


After a year when so many faced such hardship, and I managed to keep working, school my child and keep my health, Ramadan feels like a time of deep thanksgiving and an opportunity to make intense dua for my brothers and sisters.


I pray this Ramadan, the Muslim community step up as always to serve, to help and to pray for others. But I also pray that the future is not too harsh for us, that we get through this time with our health, wellbeing, and livelihoods intact and with our iman (faith) in a better state than before.


If Allah (SWT) has tested us, he has sent us this blessed month full of opportunities to raise our taqwa (consciousness), to try and better ourselves and to turn to him for help and sustenance insh’Allah.


This Ramadan be gentle with yourself and kind to those around you, please remember me and my family in your dua’s and may Allah (SWT) have mercy on every brother and sister and all of humanity.



"Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" ~ Qur'an 2:183


Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” ~ Bukhari - 31:123


The Prophet (peace be upon him) declared, 'Three men whose dua is never rejected (by Allah) are: the fasting person until he breaks his fast (in another narration, when he breaks fast), the just ruler and the one who is oppressed.' ~Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi – Hasan.






Ramadan 2021/1442: The Prophets Sermon on Ramadan

Alhamdulillah, every time I read the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) sermon on Ramadan I find something new and moving in it.  It never fails to inspire me, remind me how blessed Ramadan really is for us and take me back to why we fast and what we should be doing during this special month:


Baihaqi reported on the authority of Salman Al-Farsi (Radhi Allah ‘Anh) that Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) delivered a sermon on the last day of the month of Sha’ban. In it he (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said,


“O People! The month of Allah (Ramadan) has come with its mercies, blessings and forgivenesses. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. The days of this month are the best among the days and the nights are the best among the nights and the hours during Ramadan are the best among the hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him (to fast and pray). Allah has honoured you in it. In every breath you take is a reward of Allah, your sleep is worship, your good deeds are accepted and your invocations are answered.


Therefore, you must invoke your Lord in all earnestness with hearts free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah may help you to keep fast, and to recite the Holy Qur’an. Indeed!, miserable is the o­ne who is deprived of Allah’s forgiveness in this great month. While fasting remember the hunger and thirst o­n the Day of Judgement. Give alms to the poor and needy. Pay respect to your elders, have sympathy for your youngsters and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongue against unworthy words, and your eyes from scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from sounds that should not be heard.


Be kind to orphans so that if your children may become orphans they will also be treated with kindness. Do repent to Allah for your sins and supplicate with raised hands at the times of prayer as these are the best times, during which Allah Almighty looks at His servants with mercy. Allah Answers if they supplicate, Responds if they call, Grants if He is asked, and Accepts if they entreat. O people! you have made your conscience the slave of your desires.


Make it free by invoking Allah for forgiveness. Your back may break from the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate yourself before Allah for long intervals, and make this load lighter. Understand fully that Allah has promised in His Honour and Majesty that, people who perform salat and sajda (prostration) will be guarded from Hell-fire o­n the Day of Judgement.


O people!, if anyone amongst you arranges for iftar (meal at sunset) for any believer, Allah will reward him as if he had freed a slave, and Allah will forgive him his sins. A companion asked: “but not all of us have the means to do so” The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied: Keep yourself away from Hell-fire though it may consist of half a date or even some water if you have nothing else.


O people!, anyone who during this month cultivates good manners, will walk over the Sirat (bridge to Paradise) o­n the day when feet will tend to slip. For anyone who during this month eases the workload of his servants, Allah will make easy his accounting, and for anyone who doesn’t hurt others during this month, Allah will safeguard him from His Wrath o­n the Day of Judgement. Anyone who respects and treats an orphan with kindness during this month, Allah shall look at him with kindness o­n that Day. Anyone who treats his kinsmen well during this month, Allah will bestow His Mercy o­n him o­n that Day, while anyone who mistreats his kinsmen during this month, Allah will keep away from His Mercy.


Whomever offers the recommended prayers during this month, Allah will save him from Hell, and whomever observes his obligations during this month, his reward will be seventy times the reward during other months. Whomever repeatedly invokes Allah’s blessings o­n me, Allah will keep his scale of good deeds heavy, while the scales of others will be tending to lightness. Whomever recites during this month an ayat (verse) of the Holy Quran, will get the reward of reciting the whole Quran in other months.


O people!, the gates of Paradise remain open during this month. Pray to your Lord that they may not be closed for you. While the gates of Hell are closed, pray to your Lord that they never open for you. Satan has been chained, invoke your Lord not to let him dominate you.”









Monday, 22 February 2021

Yearning

Almost a year into the epidemic and lockdown, I feel like both I and my family and the people around me have changed in so many ways. I have lost interest to shopping and new clothes, there is nothing I can order that would make me feel much different. Work and home-schooling fill my time, my main contact with family is over the phone and evenings spent journaling have got me unpicking all parts of my brain. So, we work, we wait, we hope for the best…and I find myself yearning.


I’ve been thinking about Pakistan these last few days – Lahore, my village near Jhelum, the stunningly beautiful northern areas - I wonder if I will ever see them.


Lake Saif-ul-Malook, Pakistan (image source)


I have a hankering to see the sea. I was mulling about our twentieth anniversary last year and how the two of us sat on a high grassy cliff full of flowers, picnicking and whiling away a day in the sunshine.


I would love to spend a day on a green hill or by a lake, with the sun on my face.


I pray to sit with my family again, all of us in one room, sharing food, laughing, joking and telling the kids to stop screaming and racing around the house. I miss the stories, the teasing and everyone complimenting my mum on her food. Insha’Allah those days will come soon.



I miss meeting my friends for coffee and cake, we used to skip dinner, feed the kids and then meet up to eat cake guilt free. Every time I meet them, we chat, laugh and unwind. I feel the stress falling away as we catch up, I always come away feeling sleepy and contented.


I miss my bestie and her loving words and big heart. She has been through so much this last year and I could not be properly there for her.


I yearn for a time when the wanderlust gets me and I can walk out the house and go where I want.


I look forward to spring blossom season, which will be here soon.  I am taking pleasure in the longer, warmer days. I am enjoying taking a few stolen moments here and there in the garden, clearing away weeds and dead plants, wondering what the garden will be like this year.


When I yearn, it means my spirit is still lively, a bit too much in love with this world still perhaps, but refreshed and joyful by Allah SWT’s beautiful creation of nature.


Monday, 8 February 2021

Quarantine Stories: Schooling and Wellbeing.

We are now well into the third lockdown in London and the second stint of home-schooling. I remember how relieved I was when the children went back to school, thinking to myself: “I am never doing this again”, only to find myself there again less than six months later:


Home schooling five children

Navigating GCSE’s, A ‘levels, University application, a last minute sixth form application and GCSE options for next year.

Trying to support an eight your old that cried every morning during online lessons for weeks.

With one eye on a six-year-old little wildling that has no intention of sitting through a whole lesson.

Checking every hour between meetings on the boys to make sure they are not falling asleep mid class.

Trying to keep everyone talking to try and gauge how they are feeling.

Work with tasks piling up and meetings through the day (with various interruptions from various people, I have mastered the art of dirty looks and a viciously whispered “go away” now and again)

Trying to find a way to manage meals for five children and two adults, three times per day.

Studying for my Masters degree with online classes and research and reading for two assignments.


But something is different this time around.

At Christmas I took two weeks leave from work to coincide with the children winter holidays. I spent the time in rest, reflection, and to clear my head from work, study and home-school. It made a world of difference. It allowed me to get some perspective and set some boundaries:

No working long hours

Being clear on my priorities – worship and children

Weekly planning for things like meals, meetings and housework.

Protecting my “me time” for journaling, blogging.

Committing to learn to rest and not feeling guilty about it.


It takes me daily reflection and review of my day to try and stick to these principles, to stop myself working into the evening, stressing about home school and constantly overthink.


I have found doing less make me more peaceful and less stressed out, but also funnily, more productive.


I am still counting the days till they can go back to school. I am still very worried about my sons GCSEs and I still wonder how I am supposed to do everything I want at work and with my personal projects. But I am peace with the idea of imperfection, not finishing things, of a messy house and the art and practice of keeping my heart full of gratitude.



Sunday, 3 January 2021

Word of the Year 2021: Simplicity

I have been toying with my Word of the Year for 2021 for the last few day and struggling to settle on one word. My word for 2020 was belief – I wrote here about recognising the need to have greater self-belief in myself:


“Belief in my good intentions, in my capability, in my competence. Belief that I can achieve anything I set my will to. Belief that I do enough, have enough and am completely enough.”


In the past I have done better some years than others in using the Word of the Year to motivate or improve myself. During 2020, my self-belief grew exponentially. It was a year of hard work, at work, at home, with my children, in my community, alone for the last two months of the year. The hard work was accompanied by growth in my confidence and knowledge of my work.


I ended the year with recognition at work and having learned lots of new things. I managed to network and start working with various community groups and finally I made sure my children had everything they needed while we remained in lock down on and off through the year: access to online learning and devices, continuous encouragement and some monitoring, and most importantly routine and support to make sure things didn’t get to much for them. I think this has been the first year in 17 years of being a mum, I could put the mum guilt to one side and say I did my best in the circumstances we were in.


By the end of the year, I was full of self-belief and confidence but also overloaded with a feeling of stress and burnout. I realised I had been so busy “doing” all the time, that I had neglected my spiritual health and my relationship with Allah (SWT). I learned the hard way that if you don’t nurture your faith and connection to Allah (SWT), for instance through the quality if your salah, dhikr or reflection, everything else in life starts to feel meaningless and you start to feel aimless and even sad.


Because I felt so sad by the end of the year and had to work my way back to feeling more motivated and positive (with great difficulty), I committed going forward to prioritise my faith over everything else insh’Allah. I also realised I had to stop trying to do everything. At work I need to say no more, delegate more and raise problems without trying to deliver the solution to all of them. At home, I need to set boundaries with family and friends and again delegate chores and be more specific and firmer in asking for help.  I don’t know how this will fit with the million goals I have set for 2021, but it did make me think I need to simplify what is going on in my life.


So words that I considered for this year included ambition (the next step after self-belief, to act on it), fearless (again setting big goals and continuously moving beyond my comfort zone) and purpose (making sure everything I do goes back to trying to please Allah SWT). But in the end the one I want to hold onto is simplicity:


Simplicity means identifying what’s essential, then eliminating the rest. ~ Leo Babuta.


That means cutting down on e-mail especially, screen time, finding ways to filter and minimise the deluge of information, content, tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, WhatsApp’s that we get all day. All of these are other people’s noise and other people’s priorities, not mine.


It also means being clear on what benefits me and my goals going forward and saying no to most of the rest, especially at work. I am not sure how I will reconcile my goals for 2021 with my desire for simplicity, something to test and play around with in the coming year I suppose.


Do you have a word for the year? What would yours be and why?


Word for 2011: Courage

Word for 2013: Discipline 

Word for 2014: Focus

Word for 2015: Shukr 

Word for 2016: Health

Word for 2017: Salah

Words of the Year 2018: Quran and Khidmat (Service)

Word of the Year 2019: Acceptance

Word of the Year 2020: Belief