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Yaser Birjas | The Days of Hajj Series | The 9th of Dhul Hijjah

Sh. Yaser Birjas

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The Days of Hajj Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “ الحج عرفة “ or “Hajj is Arafah“. The Arabic text implies a very important concept of the meaning of Hajj.

This short statement means that the whole hajj and its validity is confined in the actual day of Arafah i.e. Hajj becomes valid only when the day of Arafah is observed and witnessed by those who undertake the journey, the pilgrims. Regardless how long the hujjaj stay in Makkah, if they missed that single day, they have then missed the whole Hajj.

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The name Arafah عَرَفَة was mentioned in many ahadith such as hadith of the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam): “ الحج عرفة “ or Hajj is Arafah (reported by Imam Ahmad and the four sunan). The name Arafat was mentioned in Surat al-Baqara 2:198

لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَنْ تَبْتَغُوا فَضْلًا مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۚ فَإِذَا أَفَضْتُمْ مِنْ عَرَفَاتٍ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ عِنْدَ الْمَشْعَرِ الْحَرَامِ ۖ وَاذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَاكُمْ وَإِنْ كُنْتُمْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الضَّالِّينَ

“It is no crime in you if ye seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when ye pour down from (Mount) Arafaat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, ye went astray”

There are different interpretations on why that day was called Arafah or Arafaat, none of these opinions was authenticated by a solid textual evidence that can be traced to the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam). Nevertheless, the scholars of the past recorded them in their books as akhbar or stories of the past and therefore I quote for you few of these opinions here:

1. Arafah was the place were Adam and Eve met once again when they were sent down to reside on earth. They came down on two different spots but eventually were able to meet and recognize each other on this plain. Arafah here means “to get acquainted”, so based on this opinion Adam and Eve got acquainted to each other on that very same land we call today Arafah.

2. When angel Jibreel came down to Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salam), he taught him the rituals of Hajj and took him around the Holy Sites. For every ritual explained Jibreel would say to Ibrahim “A’raft?” or “Did you learn (this one)?” and Ibrahim would reply with “Araft” or “I did”. Thats why it was called Arafah i.e. he got to know or learn.

3. It is a place where people get to know “ عرف or arafa” each other. Since the hujjaj or pilgrims spend most of that day on the same place and perhaps spot, many will get to know new people and learn more about them. So it is a place of تعارف or getting to know one another, and because of the great number of people who get to know each other the word عرفات or Arafaat came about.

4. The word عَرْف or A’rf means fragrance, and because the plains of Arafah are sites on which Allah’s mercy (rahmah) and forgiveness descend, the people would describe the day, the place and its dwellers of being perfumed with this spiritual and mystical fragrance “Arafah”. Moreover because of the rahmah or mercy descending upon the gathering, the small mountain on the plain on which many hujjaj desire to stand was called the mountain of Rahmah “Mercy”.

Despite the difference of opinion on why the day was called so, no scholar would argue the importance and significance of Arafah for the hajj and hujjaj.

In a previous post we mentioned some of the virtues of this blessed day, and now we mention the actual practices on Hajj needed done on this day.

1. On that day most of the pilgrims will still be in Mina. They pray Fajr in their camps in Mina, and after sunrise they start their final preparation for the journey ahead.

2. Marching or riding to Arafah is not supposed to be that far from Mina, but the crowd and traffic jams make it seem like hundreds of miles.

3. As they all march and head to Arafah, their chanting will be continuously Talbiyahlab-bayka Allahuma lab-bayk, lab-bayka laa sharika laka lab-bayk, in-nal hamda wan-ni’mata laka wal Mulk, laa sharika lak”. “Here I am in Your service, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner.” [Muslim] This chanting definitely symbolizes the purpose of this whole journey, that is to serve Allah and worship Him and Him alone.

4. Once the pilgrims reach Arafah, they take their places in their pre-assigned camps and wait until the call for the prayer is announced.

The Messenger of Allah, upon his arrival to Arafah, camped outside the plains of Arafah prior to the time of Dhuhr in the location where the Masjid of Namira is now built, once called Wadi ‘Urana.

Unlike the back part of the masjid today, the front part of the masjid is actually outside the boundaries of Arafah where the Messenger had delivered his khutbah or sermon. When he finished delivering the sermon, the Messenger (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) lead the hajj congregation in combined prayer between Dhuhr and Asr, then he moved inside the plains of Arafah until the end of the day.

5. When the time for prayer approaches, the khateeb or Imam who delivers the sermon stands to remind the congregation who gathered in Masjid Namira and the surrounding areas with what is known as the sermon of Arafah. The adhan or call for the prayer is then announced, the Imam then leads the congrgation in Dhuhr and Asr prayer combined and shortened, each performed in units of two rak’ah with one adhan and two Iqamas.

6. The sermon will be broadcasted live on many national and international media outlets. One mistake many pilgrims fall into, is that they follow the Imam in salat or prayer even if they were staying in their own camps miles away from masjid Namira where the prayer is held. Instead every camp should have their own congregational prayer but without the need for an extra khutbah or sermon.

7.Once the prayer is done, the hujjaj move back to their camps, seeking shelter from the scorching sun of Arabia. They have to stay within the boundaries of Arafah which are marked by huge yellow billboards all around. The hujjaj are obligated to stay in Arafah until pass sunset. Anyone who fails staying there risks invalidating his entire Hajj.

8. People spend the rest of the day in active devotion performing many acts of worship. It is recommended for the pilgrims to engage in constant dhikr and remembrance of Allah. The best dhikr for the hujjaj will still be the Talbiyah aforementioned. They can read the Qur’an, supplicate and invoke Allah for mercy and forgiveness too if they will.

9. Even though fasting the day of Arafah is so virtuous, it is still not recommended for the pilgrims to fast. The practice of the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was not to fast on the day of Arafa while performing Hajj. [Bukhari and Muslim]

It is important for the hujjaj to save their energy for the most important day of the Hajj.

10. After Asr time, the plains of Arafah transforms into a completely different sight. Hundreds of thousands of people are now realizing the imminence of the end of this blessed day and hence engage in a passionate and vigorous du’a and festivity of praise and supplication.

People will be standing or sitting everywhere, on the side of the road, on the mountain of Rahmah and on the top of their cars and buses raising their hands and voices with du’a and shedding tears and worries in a hope that they will be forgiven all their sins.

There is no day better in the sight of Allah than the Day of Arafah. On this day Allah descends to the nearest heaven in a manner that suits His Majesty, and He is proud of His slaves on the earth and says to those in heaven, “Look at My servants. They have come from far and near, with hair disheveled and faces covered with dust, to seek My mercy, even though they have not seen My chastisement. Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafah than on any other day.” (Abu Ya’la, Ibn Khzayma, al-Bazzar and Ibn Hibban)

Abu Ad-Darda reported that the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “On no other day does the Satan feel so belittled, humiliated, and angry as he does on the Day of Arafah.” The reason for this is the mercy of Allah that descends this day and the forgiveness that He grants to people for major sins, except the day of the battle of Badr, which witnessed a far greater mercy of Allah descending upon people, which caused great sadness to Satan.

11.Once the day comes to an end, and right at sunset the hujjaj start heading back towards Mina. On their way to Mina there will be one stop for the night, the plains of Muzdalifah. Whether they go riding or walking the hujjaj have to stop in Muzdalifah to pray Maghrib and Isha combined, where Maghrib is done in full three rak’ah and Isha is shortened into two.

12. It is the sunnah of the Prophet and therefore for the hujjaj to spend the entire night in Muzdalifah resting, and hence the best act of worship on Muzdalifah is to go to sleep. The hujjaj needs to get some rest after a long day of worship and they also need to prepare well for a longer day of various acts of worship, the day of Nahr “the day of Eid”.

13. It is permissible for people of legitimate excuses to leave the plains of Muzdalifah after half of the night had passed, in order to avoid being caught in the crowd and the heavy traffic. The elderly men and women, the sick, the disabled and those who work to serve the hujjaj are permitted to leave earlier and continue with the rituals of Hajj before the great crowd arrives.

14. At Fajr time a new day would arrive and the journey continues on the 10th day of dhul hijjah, the Eid day.

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Sh. Yaser Birjas is originally from Palestine. He received his Bachelors degree from Islamic University of Madinah in 1996 in Fiqh & Usool, graduating as the class valedictorian. After graduating, he went on to work as a youth counselor and relief program aide in war-torn Bosnia. Thereafter, he immigrated to the U.S. and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He is also an instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, where he teaches popular seminars such as Fiqh of Love, The Code Evolved, and Heavenly Hues.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Yaser Birjas | The Days of Hajj Series | The 9th of Dhul Hijjah | MuslimMatters.org -- Topsy.com

  2. Avatar

    Mezba

    November 15, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    Informative article.

    “On this day Allah descends to the nearest heaven in a manner that suits His Majesty.”

    I thought Allah was everywhere?

    • Avatar

      abu Abdullah

      November 15, 2010 at 5:45 PM

      jazak Allah khayr for the article in depth shaykh. may Allah forgive your parents and your family. ameen.

      I thought Allah was everywhere?

      That’s hindu concept of non duality, school of thought, creeped into various generations of persians/sufis and among masses of muslim. We should really be serious from where we take our religion from.

      Allaah Ta’la as suit to his majesty is separate from his creation.

    • Avatar

      HadithCheck

      November 16, 2010 at 3:16 PM

      I thought Allah was everywhere?

      Assalam Alaikum

      Allah mentioned in 7 different places in the Quran that He rose over His throne. This is mentioned in Surah A’raf, Ra’d, Taha, Furqan, Sajdah, Hadeed, and Yunus. So Allah is above His throne, and His throne is above the 7 heavens.

      {The Most Gracious Rose (Istawa) above the Throne} [20:5]

  3. Avatar

    rubiya

    June 13, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    has any1 taken an infant less than 1 year old for hajj?? im planning on taking my baby who will be 8 months old inshaallah

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#Islam

Podcast: Prayer is a Work in Progress | Shaykh Abdullah Ayaaz Mullanee

Zeba Khan

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Many of us have been Muslim for our entire lives, and despite praying regularly for years, can still never feel like we’re never doing it right. Why is it so hard to focus in salah? And what should someone do if they feel like they are AWFUL at it?

Join Zeba Khan as she asks Shaykh Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee, who not only struggles with his prayers too, but is also the dean of Mishkah Institute, and author of the books “A Ramadan With the Prophet ” and “The Poetic Words of Sayyiduna Ali رضي الله عنه.” To take a free short course on the meaning of Salah, visit this link.

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#Islam

An Ashura Message: Proclaim Good And Refrain From Evil, Always And At All Costs!

Shakeel Syed

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Light coming through the stone lattice window


“If you do not march forth, Allah will chastise you grievously and will replace you by another people, while you will in no way be able to harm Him. Allah has power over everything”. (The Holy Quran – 9:39)

No people can live successfully, fruitfully and triumphantly without a strong memory of their past. Ashura, the 10th of Muharram, is one such milestone.

Muslims attempt to recall the tragic event that took place around the 60th year after Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) migrated from Makkah to Madinah. This time it was his family led by his noble grandson Imam Hussayn ibn Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

Reciting Divine words, reflecting Prophetic advises and studying history enables us to crystallize our insights. However, when we attempt to draw the imagery of Karbala, no heart could be so hard as not to be pierced with sadness while replaying the Day of Ashura. Words cannot do justice to the sacrifices made that day.

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They kept their heads high, faces flowing with blood and tears, looking one upon another. Others stood in dolorous pain, looking up to the highest heavens, fixing their eyes upon it, crying out, asking help from the Only Helper; while others made lamentations in the manner of dirge.

Today we try to recall their pain, suffering and sacrifices, as they happened, to inspire ourselves and to understand the concept of sacrifice for a noble cause.

Regrettably, sacrifice as it is generally understood today, is to give up something that should not have been touched in the first place. Selfless and unasked giving is a rarity and unheard of. Giving one’s entire self and offspring for His pleasure is unimaginable. Muslims must spiritually survive from the unparallel yesterdays of the Prophet’s progeny.

We have been largely overwhelmed by a culture that has emptied our memories, made us apologetic for who we are, and stripped us along the way of the sheerest hope of self-definition. We alone are presumed past less and are left to repair our self-esteem. Imperative it is for us today, to define ourselves by our ongoing tribulations and those who mete them out to us. Otherwise, we cannot be collectively successful if we have no idea or, worse that we have the wrong idea of who we were and who we are.

The intent of this writing is to stimulate, not to sate — to pose the question and to invite reflection — to cause ourselves to act for an almost forgotten legacy of the sacrifices made by our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)and his progeny.

O Allah! Bestow upon us the courage to enjoin, proclaim and enforce the good and the patience and perseverance to forbid and stop the evil for and by all.

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#Life

Mental Health & COVID-19: Light, Guidance, & Much Love | Part 1

Sharada Nizami, Guest Contributor

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Insha’Allah, you and your loved ones are safe & healthy. May Allah swt protect us all from COVID-19, Ya Hafidh, and open the way for our spiritual growth, Ya Fattah Ya Rabb. No doubt, we are living in very challenges times, and many in our community are suffering. As such, my intention for this two-part series is to provide some beneficial perspectives and practical strategies that will make your emotional journey safer & easier, insha’Allah.

And a journey it surely is. We are on a very long hike up a very steep mountain. And we have only two choices about HOW we approach this challenge: unskillfully or skillfully. If we wear flip-flops, and fail to pack water and snacks, we will have a very difficult time reaching the summit. And if we do, we will be in very bad shape. If we wear good socks, sturdy hiking boots, and our backpack is well-stocked, not only are we likely to reach the summit, but reach it in great shape. This is what I want for our beloved community, insha’Allah.

As Muslims, it is crucial to remember that the ultimate summit is the hereafter. Truly, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our goal and pleasing Him is our aim. Truly, everything we do or fail to do here has an impact there. For many people, this haqq is much more difficult to remember and actualize when their day-to-day challenges are daunting. This is why historically and traditionally, in times of crisis, Muslims have always sought the nasiha of wise elders. Imam Muhasibi, the father of Islamic Psychology, developed this crucial, beautiful science in response to the human needs of his students. Sadly, the loss of these teachings as a widespread living tradition has contributed in large part to the widespread mental-health problems that have been plaguing our community for a very long time, which have now been exacerbated by COVID-19.

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Here’s a good metaphor. The science of nutrition teaches us about our body, the properties of different foods, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum physical health. Likewise, the science of mental health teaches us about our heart and mind, the impact of specific activities, what to avoid to prevent disease, and the vital psychological nutrients we MUST ingest to attain optimum mental health. Lack of knowledge about Islamic Psychology and the absence of the vital psychological nutrients have taken a huge toll on our community. The stories I hear would probably shock you. They would certainly break your heart. Especially the stories of our young people, who are my top priority. Insha’Allah, the wake-up call of COVID-19 propels us to reclaim en masse this lost part of our spiritual heritage, so we can reclaim our vitality and nobility as the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

To continue with the metaphor. Working one-on-one with an experienced nutritionist is very different than reading a book about nutrition. With the former, your nutritional program is specifically tailored to your particular problems, challenges, habits, and temperament. The same is true when it comes to mental health. So I must manage your expectations honestly and honorably by saying that it is not possible for me to do in two articles for the general public what I do one-on-one in my private practice as a psychotherapist, life-coach, and spiritual mentor. Truly, there is a palpable, powerful, fitrah-based alchemy that can only happen when two human hearts link-up in real time. That said, in the same way that reading and learning about nutrition is very beneficial, so too reading and learning about mental health, especially now.

Working Skillfully with Difficult Emotions

No doubt, COVID-19 has unleashed a wide range of very difficult emotions. People are struggling with tremendous anxiety, uncertainty, fear, sadness, loneliness, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, frustration, confusion, grief, despair, and in some cases, a full-blown crisis of faith. So let me explain a little bit about emotions and how to work with them skillfully  

One of the foundational principles of cognitive-behavioral psychology is called ‘reframing.’

It is the process of deliberately thinking differently about our situation. Reframing it. The fact is, the lens through which we view our circumstances makes all the difference in the world insofar as how we feel. Thoughts are like the front wheels of the car and feelings are like the back wheels. We must be in the driver seat, steering intentionally. Whichever way the front wheels turn, the back wheels follow. So paying attention to our thoughts moment by moment, and making sure they are aligned with the Qur’an and Sunnah, is crucial. The mind is a like a muscle that MUST be trained through specific exercises, and our tradition is rich in the techniques for doing so. Truly, we must hit the spiritual gym regularly. The heavy lifting of muhasiba (self-reckoning) and muraqaba (mindfulness/meditation) are not optional. If these are not already a consistent part of your spiritual practice, NOW is the time to take them up. You will be so happy you did!

Here’s a good metaphor. If you are a longtime couch potato, even a flight of stairs leaves you huffing and puffing. If you are in good shape, you’re able to jog around the block easily. If you’re in great shape, you’re able to leap over the hurdles like a gazelle. For many, COVID-19 has been like asking a couch potato to run a marathon. So we need to get in the best spiritual shape possible as quickly as possible. To that end:

The Centering Exercise 

Every time you notice that you are feeling sad, anxious, fearful, angry, hopeless, helpless, impatient, frustrated, confused, or depressed, here’s what to do.  

  • Turn off your devices and put them in another room.
  • Close your door and put a “Please do not disturb.” sign on the doorknob. Lay down.
  • Close your eyes. Turn your attention to your heart. Remember the Hadith Qudsi, “Heaven and earth cannot contain me but the heart of my faithful believer is where I reside.” Truly, Allah is closer than our jugular vein. (50:16)
  • Take some slow-deep breaths. On the out-breath, silently recite “La illaha.” On the in-breath, silently recite “il Allah.” After a few minutes, notice the shift in your state. Notice the deep connection between ‘self’ and ‘breath’, not just experientially, but also etymologically. They both derive from the same Arabic root, transliterated nfs.   
  • When you are centered, mentally review what you had been thinking about that gave rise to the difficult emotions.  Then do a ‘search and replace,’ deliberately and intentionally replacing your dark thoughts with the Light of The Qur’an or Hadith. Here is one example: Search: “I’ll never get through this.” Replace: “Allah never burdens a person with more than he is well able to bear.” (2:286)

As individuals, we each have our own particular dark thoughts. NOW is the BEST time to fix them. I lovingly encourage you to get a blank journal, so that each time you do The Centering Exercise, you can make note of what you observed, what you learned about yourself. Write down each dark thought and then write down each Rx of Light from The Qur’an or Sunnah. Having a personal journal gives you a concrete means of reinforcing your new thought patterns. 

We know from our neuroscience that the human brain possesses ‘neuroplasticity’, which is the capacity to be shaped, molded, changed. As such, the more often you do The Centering Exercise, the more your thinking patterns will change. This is how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created us, mash’Allah! It’s really quite amazing to realize that the Qur’an we’ve been given provides Light upon Light from The Lord of The Worlds. And the Sunnah is that Light fully actualized to perfection, mash’Allah. The fact is, no matter how dark a room may be, if we light just one candle, it illuminates the space. Mash’Allah!

Parents, once you get the hang of The Centering Exercise, please please teach it to your children! Insha’Allah, make it the new normal in your household, transforming discord and upset into harmony and peace.

Say “Ameen!”

Divine Reminders

Insofar as reframing COVID-19 in the broader sense, I offer you this lens, this Divine Reminder, with much love. May it shift your state from embittered to empowered. My beloved sisters and brothers, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is our Rabb, our Teacher, and COVID-19 is the Test we’ve all been given. Every single human being on the planet. We all woke up one day, walked into the classroom of Life, and got handed a pop quiz. The purpose of which is to show us the places where we weren’t prepared. This is great! Because the trumpet is absolutely going to sound, and we surely want to be ready. As long as we’re breathing, we have time to prepare. This is great!

Say “Ameen!” 

Beloved ones, we have the incredible privilege of being students of The One Who Knows Everything, including The Future and The Unseen.  It is very bad adab to question the teaching methods of our Teacher or to complain that we don’t like the Test.

This was the fatal mistake of Bani Israel that we are reminded 17x/day not to emulate. On the contrary, what we want to be asking ourselves is: “What must I do to pass this Test with flying colors, to ace this Exam?” Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between.” (38:27)  This pandemic is not some random event. It has a divine purpose. There is deep meaning in it. 

There is also enormous rahmah in it. Our beautiful Qur’an teaches us: “…My mercy embraces everything.” (7:156) The Divine Physician has dispensed this bitter medicine to heal us. To heal the whole world from its longstanding imbalances and injustices. Surely, it is no accident, the timing of COVID-19 vis-à-vis the murder of George Floyd and the global response it has galvanized.  Surely, every human being wants to and deserves to breathe.

COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the whole world. Ours to do as students is to be fully present in each moment, to practice mindfulness (muraqaba), so we can be deeply receptive to the Lessons we are meant to learn (muhasiba). Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11) Beloved ones, NOW is the time for global tawbah (repentance). As the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), this is our Divine Assignment, individually, collectively, institutionally. 

My vision and personal commitment is that we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of this, insha’Allah. I can say this with great confidence because first and foremost, I know that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is not out of business! The presence of The Presence, the power of the Names & Attributes, are as robust as ever. 

We are being summoned to recognize our hubris and turn our hearts in humility toward The One Who Is In Charge, The One Who Calls The Shots, to The One Whose Decree we surrender. Humbly. Readily. Insha’Allah, NOW is the time to actualize the last part of Hadith Jibreel about qadr. The fact is, what’s happening around us is what’s happening, and this is always in the hands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). HOW we respond to what’s happening is entirely up to us.

What I want for our community is the best possible response, the most skillful and beautiful response, the response that will be of maximum benefit here & hereafter, insha’Allah.

I can also say this with great confidence because time and again, working with Muslim refugees who have been through horrific trauma, I have seen with my own eyes how absolutely amazing human beings are. How resilient. How courageous. How creative. How capable of transforming sorrow into joy, lemons into lemonade, compost into roses. This is what I want for you, my beloved sisters and brothers.

No doubt, on any long and arduous journey, in addition to having the right equipment and supplies, having an experienced trail-guide makes all the difference. There is dangerous terrain you want to avoid, and beautiful vistas you don’t want to miss. In my experience over decades, I have observed that human beings thrive when we are given the right tools and the loving encouragement to master them.  So let me give you now some very practical guidelines to help you navigate skillfully, so you can extract from these precious days of your life what is meaningful & transformational. 

Practical Strategies

When it comes to protecting our physical health from the pandemic, there are certain steps we MUST take. Likewise with our mental health. As such, here are some practical strategies, culled from thousands of pages of research and decades of experience. My focus is on parents, whose job has never been more difficult. And with the new school year right around the corner, this guidance is extremely timely. 

Boundaries: Set clear boundaries regarding where and when devices can be used. This applies to everyone in the household, kids and parents alike. Parents, as your elder who loves you, I am reminding you that YOU are the CEO of your home. YOU are the policy maker. YOU are in charge. NOT your kids or their devices. So take charge!

  • No devices for kids 0-3. These guidelines are from the American Pediatric Association. 
  • No devices at the dinner table* or in the bedrooms.
  • No devices until after Fajr. Better yet, after breakfast.
  • All devices put away 1-2 hours before bedtime. Plugged in in the kitchen to recharge.
  • Limit on-line entertainment and socializing to 1 hour/day MAX.
  • Schedule tech fasts ½ day weekly, and 1-2 full days monthly, on a weekend.
  • An occasional family-time movie is fine on the weekend. Choose something meaningful, uplifting, thought-provoking, heart-opening. Pop some popcorn. Make tea. Engage in a special time afterward to really talk together about your experience. *Getting in the habit of real-time-face-to-face conversations is crucial. If you start when your kids are young, it will lay a strong foundation for their teenage years, when they desperately need wise, trustworthy, caring adults who really know how to listen from the heart.

Nature: Spending time in nature is the very best thing you can do for yourself and with your family. There are reams of data about the stress-reducing effects of being outdoors, especially in the woods. There are also reams of data about the benefits of exercise, not only for physical health, but for mental health. Given all the extra sitting everyone is doing during COVID-19, regular exercise is not optional. 

Furthermore, if your kids are schooling from home and you are working from home, everyone will surely need some breathing room, some physical and emotional space from one another, some time every day in solitude, unplugged from their devices. Spending alone-time in nature is the perfect solution. 

For family-time activities, unplug from your devices and enjoy these delightful experiences. They will engender tremendous awe (khushu’) and deepen your heart-connection with your Rabb, The One Who Created you and all the beauty around you. Subhan’Allah.

  • Take a 15-30 minute family-walk every night after dinner before homework.
  • Go hiking, biking, rollerblading, kayaking, kite-flying, or camping on the weekend.   
  • Set up bird feeders in your yard. Learn their names and identify their songs.
  • Go out nightly to look at the stars. Learn the names of the constellations.
  • Watch as many sunrises & sunsets, moonrises & moonsets as you can. 

As Muslims, our worship is guided by the natural cycles Allah put in place. The sun is our clock. It tells us when to pray. The moon is our calendar. It tells us when the new month begins. Sighting the moon is an act of worship, mash’Allah.

Divine Reminders

Our beautiful Qur’an teaches:“We will show them Our Signs (ayat) in the universe and in their own selves, until it becomes clear to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth.” (Fussilat 41:53)

In this ayah, we are taught the two beautiful gateways into the sacred: the macrocosm of the universe, and the microcosm of the self. Both of these gateways open into the direct experience of Allah’s presence. 

As Muslims, we have been invited to spend time in this dunya in the company of The One Who is Love (al-Wadud). The One Who is Strength (al-Aziz). The One Who is Peace (as-Salaam). And on & on. What could be more beneficial during this time of crisis? Alas, calling upon our Rabb by His most Beautiful Names, with urgency & sincerity, is one of the Lessons we must learn from COVID-19.  My prayer for our community is that people do not squander the opportunity to connect in a deep, meaningful, intimate way heart-to-heart with Allah because they can’t put their phone down or turn their computer off. Insha’Allah, I will address the subject of digital addiction in the second article, as it plays a huge role when it comes to mental health issues.

Closing Du’a

Ya Habibi Ya Allah. Please grant us oceans of fortitude and mountains of strength Ya Sabur Ya Aziz. May we be dutiful beautiful students who strive with all our might in jihad al akbar to pass this test with flying colors, to ace this exam. May we, the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), love one another like he loves us, and strengthen one another every step of the way. May we wind up stronger and better-than-ever on the other side of COVID-19, reclaiming the standard of Insan Kamil as the Index by which we measure our lives. Ya Dhal Jalali wal Ikram.

Say “Ameen!” 

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