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What I Learned About Ramadan – By Not Fasting

I missed all but five fasts last Ramadan, and if this sounds like a shocking confession, you might want to try a survey of women to see how many of them have fasts to make up.  Many young mothers struggle to make up dozens -if not hundreds- of fasts missed in the alternating cycles of pregnancy and breastfeeding.  There are also people with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting entirely, and last year I was a little bit of both.

Ramadan 2012 the fasts in Dubai were 17 hours long and the weather was a daily average of around 45C.  That’s 113 degrees in case you think in Fahrenheit, and it was sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but never anywhere below 100 degrees.  I had a five month old baby to feed and two children to care for when I got a kidney infection that was exacerbated by dehydration.  The spiritual bootstrapping that I had been looking forward to all year, every year, was brought to an end having barely begun -after just five fasts.

I felt guilty.  I felt cheated.  I felt resentful to yet again be sacrificing my personal spiritual goals to the never-ending demands of motherhood. Wasn’t it bad enough that I was struggling with Fajr and praying with one eye on the baby and less than half a heart in my duas?  I’d been to less than a dozen Jumma prayers in the previous six years, was forgetting my longer surahs, and now I couldn’t fast either?

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If I wasn’t fasting, then what was I supposed do for the rest of Ramadan?

I wasn’t sure, so for lack of an alternative, I sulked.  In parallel, I put on a cheerful Momma-mask and tried to make Ramadan special for my children, but when the sun set on the last day and I realized that Ramadan was over, I cried.  I wasn’t expecting to -and I certainly wasn’t planning to- but I was mourning.

I thought it was all gone: the spiritual high, the feeling of lightness that lets you float through hunger and thirst without your feet even touching the ground.  I missed the opportunity to get close to Allah for that one month, when I had always struggled to find that closeness for the remainder of year.  The sweetness of the first date after 17 hours of hunger, the life that the first sip of water brings to the body after thirst -it was lost.  I thought my soul was a land of drought that was doomed to never again see rain.

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Alhamdulillah, I was wrong. But it took me a while to realize that.  In giving me children and health challenges, Allah wasn’t taking me out of the game, He was raising the bar.  Think of it this way: it’s easy to clear a forest if you’ve got a chainsaw.  But what if Allah takes the chainsaw away? Can you still clear the forest? If you want to badly enough, yes.  Because fasting is a spiritual power tool, but it is not the only tool in the believer’s box.

If you’re not into religious metaphors for lumberjacks, then think of video games.  When you were young and single and carefree, you could wake up and pray half the night, eat suhoor and read Qur’an until the sun rose.  You could sleep after Dhuhr and spend as much time in the masjid as you wanted to because you were playing the game on easy mode.  No kids, no job, nothing to stop you from using all the big guns in the game right from day one. Congratulations, you got a high score -but that was easy mode.

Play the game again, and this time put it into “Adult” mode -you get a full-time job  so you can’t use tahajjud or long taraweeh to level up.  There are way more baddies stomping around; family, work, and peers pulling you away from Allah, and the puzzles you’re required to solve to reach the next level are even more complicated.  If you get a high score on adult mode, MashaAllah, good job. There are still harder levels, and “Mother” is one of them.

When you play Ramadan in “Mother” mode, you get one gun, one medikit, and only six bullets for the whole game. No sleep, rushed Fajr, no sitting peacefully before Iftar because you’re busy frying things.  You’re pulling double shifts: the red-eye suhoor to taraweeh schedule, in addition to the 9-5 kids & school schedule.  Try earning Ibadah points when you’re busy feeding people and struggling to get enough rest to survive another day.  Try -just try- to find the time and the quiet to take your twisted, battle-hardened nafs and strip away the armor to find the softness of repentance inside.   But try that later, because right now there are guests coming over so please make two dozen samosas.

Also, the baby is crying.

Oh, and the kids need help with their homework.

And can you please iron this? Thanks.

There’s a bright side.  The greater the challenge, the greater the reward.  In the same way that a person who struggles to read Qur’an is rewarded more than one who reads it without effort -the person who fasts with great difficulty will be rewarded more than one whose fast is easy.

If you’re a young mother and you’re frustrated with balancing maternal responsibilities and missing spiritual goals, you’re not alone.  You should not be sad, you should actually be honored.  Allah decided you’re ready to play on the next level, and your duties as a mother are not a distraction from the game, they’re actually part of the plot.

(Of course, it may also be part of the game to teach you to prioritise and downscale which Ramadan “traditions” are spiritually nourishing and which are spiritually sabotaging, but religious vs. cultural practices for Ramadan is a post for another day.)

To take it up another level, the one who fasts amidst difficulty and gets closer to Allah in Ramadan will be rewarded for their effort, but the one who Allah does not allow to fast –but achieves the same closeness- could be rewarded all the more for the greatness of that challenge.  If you are someone to whom -for whatever medical reason- the door of fasting is closed, remember that the doors of tawakkul, Qu’ran, sabr, sadaqa, ihsan, and iman are still open and they all lead to the same place -nearness to Allah.

Instead of seeing your situation as a disadvantage, try to see it as the next level and thank Allah for the opportunity to play it.  You will have to work harder, think faster, and plan better to be able to reach the same spiritual goals that everyone else is, but Allah challenges us directly in proportion to our abilities, so trust that Allah knows you’re up to it.

So, if your Ramadan game is on Hard Mode for whatever reason, here are some things you can do even if you can’t fast:

Pray more

This is a given, but Muslims have an interesting relationship with Salah.  If you’re not from among the blessed minority who love it, look forward to it, and perform it with Ihsan, then you probably do it because you should,  and you may not be enthusiastic about doing more of it than you must.  You might not be tremendously excited to hear that you should be praying more in Ramadan, but there’s a good reason for this.

 “But prostrate yourself and draw near (unto Allah)” (Surah al-Alaq:19)

In a nutshell, not wanting to pray more indicates a distance from Allah, or having a heart that is yearning in a direction away from Allah.  The solution? Pray more.  Pray harder.  Pray longer.  The more you pray, the closer you get. Dua included.

Attend religious talks and classes, even if you normally never do and might otherwise not

Allah (glorified and exalted be He) has supernumerary angels who rove about seeking out gatherings in which Allah’s name is being invoked: they sit with them and fold their wings round each other, filling that which is between them and between the lowest heaven. When [the people in the gathering] depart, [the angels] ascend and rise up to heaven…

…Then He (Allah) says: I have forgiven them and I have bestowed upon them what they have asked for, and I have granted them sanctuary from that from which they asked protection.

He (the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) said: They say: O Lord, among them is so-and-so, a much sinning servant, who was merely passing by and sat down with them. He (the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) said: And He says: And to him [too] I have given forgiveness: he who sits with such people shall not suffer.

[Related by Muslim (also by al-Bukhari, at-Tirmidhi, and an-Nasa’i)  Full version of the hadith available here: http://sunnah.com/qudsi40/14]

Share the blessings by sharing Iftar

Zaid ibn Khalid Al-Juhani reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“Whoever feeds a person who is breaking his fast will earn the same reward as his without anything being lessened from the reward of the fasting person.”

[Sunan At-Tirmidhi 807, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to At-Tirmidhi]

Wrap yourself in mercy and surround yourself with angels by reading Qur’an in a masjid.

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports as part of a longer hadith, from the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that:

“No people gather in a house of the houses of Allah reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves except that serenity descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels surround them, and Allah makes mention of them to those with Him.”

[Muslim (4867), Tirmidhi (1345), Abu Dawud (1243), Ibn Maja (221), Ahmad (7118), and others]

Replace your background noise with Qur’an.

While this is a good tip in general for reducing sins and helping detox your brain from the addiction of music, there is another benefit as well:

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has said: “The one who recites the Qur’an and the one who listens to it have an equal share in the reward.”

[Mustadrakul Wasa’il, Volume 1, Page 293]

Do Dhikr, and aim for quality over quantity

Rather than target saying a certain phrase a certain number of times and patting yourself on the back for it, pick something and say it once. Then, think about it. Understand it.  Ponder over it.  Blog about it if you must, but make sure your dhikr isn’t evaporating off your lips without ever reaching your heart.  Remember that when you make mention of Allah, he is with you, and he mentions you.  Let that sink in -if you even whisper Allah’s name to yourself, he whispers yours back.

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

Allah the Almighty said: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.

[Related by al-Buhkari, also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah]

There are many more ways that you can draw close to Allah during Ramadan other than fasting, in the same way that there are other tools for cutting down trees other than with a chainsaw.  So, if you really want to make the most of Ramadan, and if you really want the emptiness of your stomach to put the sweet taste of faith on your tongue, then you’re going to have to work for it.

Are you game?

References:

Qualities of a True Servant: Ramadan Supplication Series

Seeking Refuge from Four Things: Ramadan Supplication Series

Effectively Planning Your Dua: SuhaibWebb.com

Will You Be a Better Person After Ramadan?: Yaser Qadhi

 

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zeba Khan is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org and the producer of the newly launched Muslimmatters Podcast, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate. In addition to having a child with autism, she herself lives with Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome, Dysautonomia, Mast-Cell Activation Disorder, and a random assortment of acronyms that collectively translate to chronic illness and progressive disability.

60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ummbilal

    July 12, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    Masha allah sister, I really needed that.

    • Avatar

      Nazia

      July 19, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      Jazakallah for such a good read!

  2. Avatar

    Junaid Farooqi (@junaidnx)

    July 12, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    I wonder why the husband is not helping at all in this picture? Why are you frying stuff before Iftar time? Get your family eating healthy and prep Ramadan meals before Ramadan even starts and freeze them. I feel like a lot of these hardships are self inflicted due to lack of planning and inefficient home environment and what seems like a complete lack of concern from the husband.

    Lot of these families are in this mode of developing horrible Ramadan habits. Why can’t your husband watch the baby while you pray and then he can leave for the masjid if he does go to the masjid? Why can’t the husband help while you read Quran?

    To use your video game analogy, it seems like you are using the controller with one hand when it was designed to be played by both.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      July 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      AssalamuAlaikum Junaid- I completely agree with you about the poor Ramadan habits that place cooking priorities over spiritual priorities for women- but social pressures to entertain Ramadan guests are heavier than you would think. If you showed up at an Iftar and were served dates and one rice dish, there’s a good chance you’d be seeing the issue a bit less kindly.

      I am very blessed to have a husband who is supportive, eats only fruit salad for iftar and oatmeal for suhoor which is prepared the night before. Some women do not, but the issue is not about unhelpful husbands- not even the most helpful husband in the world can relieve the tremendous responsibility that is motherhood.

      It’s about accepting difficulty as a challenge and an opportunity rather than sabotage. :)

      Ramadan Kareem!

      • Avatar

        amani

        May 27, 2016 at 4:12 PM

        Alhamdulilah! I’m so glad to have read your article. After reading this I have realised I am not on my own. I have missed 3 ramadans due to breastfeeding. And now the 4th ramadan is coming up but I am still nursing my 12 month old. In Sha Allah I am going to fast this year. But I am feeling sooooo scared. I have 2 very demanding mummy’s boys…1 yr old and a 3 yr old. Youngest is a very bad sleeper. Keeps me up all night both of them up at 5 6 ish in the morning. I keep thinking when will I sleep. Because my little one nurses through out the night and keeps waking several times an hour. Iv been trying to break him.from that habit but really struggling. I keep worrying about ramadan and how I’m going to do it, where will I get the energy to entertain my children and full fill all other responsibilities. Please keep me in your duas…I feel so guilty for having missed soo many but I really want to fast this year.

    • Avatar

      Maryam

      July 12, 2013 at 6:56 PM

      subhan Allah! You would analyze her life and her husband through a few included or omitted lines in an article?

      May Allah bless you sister. I really appreciated this article. jazaki Allahu khayran! I will pray for your mom inshaAllah and please pray for the guidance of my nonMuslim and those who are Muslim but don’t really know it relatives as well!

  3. Avatar

    Mayyah

    July 12, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Nice tips, and may I add keep your tongue moist with dhikr? And there are women who can’t fast when pregnant etc but I learnt that the story isn’t quite so simple here, a must read for all preg/breastfeeding muslimahs: http://ramadanfastingandpregnancy.wordpress.com

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      Good suggestion sister, and JazakAllahuKheiran for the useful link. :)

      • Avatar

        Mayyah

        July 15, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        You did mention dhikr in your lovely article but there is something about trying to make sure that all our empty moments, when our tongues are still and hearts are empty, to try fill those moments with remembering Allah. Sure, I see that it should reach our hearts too like you say. Not a wasted moment in Ramadan inshaAllah!
        That link is really helpful in decision making isn’t it? Just to say, ‘yup, I am not cut out for fasting, alhamdulillah, I’m at peace with that’, or ‘I really should at least try fast – it’s safe and that’s the minimum required of me’. Most detail I’ve found in one place.

  4. Avatar

    iMuslim

    July 12, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    I think the video game analogy is more environmentally friendly. ;)

    Jazakillah khair for the reminder sis.

  5. Avatar

    Susan

    July 12, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Jazak’allah khayr Sister, I am in tears because I haven’t been able to fast my first Ramadan and feel so sad. Alhamdulilaah, I saw your article on my News Feed… I had just asked Allah for help, alhamdulilaah He has. May Allah accept all of our efforts ameen

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      Ameen sister, Ameen. :) <<>>

  6. Avatar

    Hyde

    July 12, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    Your a mother; all is forgiven.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      As much as I would like to believe that, I don’t think the Qur’an or Sunnah say that mothers are automatically forgiven anything. ;) We have to struggle to reach Jannah too. :)

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        July 13, 2013 at 9:12 PM

        Currently I have a tense relationship with my mother (because of possible marriage proposals) so I feel even more guilty inside because she is a mother, so naturally I assume mothers are right.

        I hold the opinion, that a women could very unkind to her husband, but because of her love to her son/daughter, the former would be overruled. What is the ruling on that ?

        • Abez

          Abez

          July 14, 2013 at 6:16 AM

          I’m not a scholar, and I know that mothers are given a special regard & respect due to their dedication to their children, but it’s not a get-out-of jail free card. If you want to believe your mother gets special sinning privileges just for having given birth to you, you might be hard-pressed to find any information from the Qur’an or Sunnah supporting that. But again, I’m not a scholar, so why not check with Islam Q & A?

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            July 14, 2013 at 11:23 AM

            Well perhaps not overruled, but I guess the measures would be given for each deed.

        • Avatar

          Anon

          July 15, 2013 at 6:41 AM

          The importance of a wife being obedient to her husband is paramount in Islam. The hadith literature is full of this – so it’s a bit of a dangerous statement to imply that a mother’s love for her children will cancel out her sin of unkindness to her husband. You seemed to have realized this later on so I won’t say more here – just thought I’d point it out,

          Abez has also mentioned that according to Qur’an and Sunnah, mothers have the same struggle as other believers – their virtue is that they are the most honoured people to their children after the Anbiya and Nabi Muhammad’s (s.a.w.s.) companions. So in other words: her virtue should be upheld by you, for in deen she is just another Muslim, and her daraja will depend on her taqwa, just like yours:-)

          However, it must be mentioned that childbirth and pregnancy, do have a special reward which are exclusive to mothers. So this may be what you’re referring to

          *Note from Comments Team: Please refrain from using “anon” and use your name to comply to our Comments Policy*

  7. Avatar

    Ahlam

    July 12, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Jazaki Allah Khair for a well-written article. I believe that only a mother can understand such hardships. Even the most supportive husband can not nurse a baby, or soothe the cry of a baby who only wants the mother’s warmth!

    Alhamduallah, stumbled upon your article as I’m currently struggling with trying to soak up Ramadan and almost falling on my face the first day, due to the demands of motherhood and iftar.

    Alhamduallah – and may Allah smooth all of your struggles, ameen!

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      “Even the most supportive husband can not nurse a baby, or soothe the cry of a baby who only wants the mother’s warmth!”

      Thank you, exactly!

  8. Avatar

    asiahkelley

    July 13, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    I can definitely relate. I am so happy to see more and more of these articles talking about this issue. Being a mother can make one spiritually bereft, so much that you feel like you have lost everything. It’s not even “baby blues” although that for sure plays a role. So many things that I took for granted when I was unmarried and not a mother- like you say, reading Qur’an and going to the mosque and classes, and even meeting and befriending other Muslimahs. It’s crazy to think being a mom will affect your ability to make friends, but so it goes. These articles are a great first step; I’m glad to know I’m not alone. But I feel these problems make the issues of women inclusion in mosques and communities all the more important. Thank you so much for writing this. May Allah reward you and make your Ramadan full and fruitful.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      You are so correct sister- being a mother basically affects your ability to do ANYTHING the way you did before- even using the bathroom can be a challenge and you have to accept either A) tiny fists banging on the other side or B) a two minute limit to your needs no matter what they are. It has taken me three kids to truly appreciate my mother, and If my own behaviour as a teenager is any indicator of what I have to look forward to, then I have a whole lot more learning to do in just a few more years. May Allah make it easy for all of us!

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      JazakAllahuKheiran Bro, this article is a gem.

  9. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    July 13, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Mash’Allah very nice, thoughtful article! I’ll work to spread this around In sha Allah to all those who can benefit.

  10. Avatar

    Fish

    July 13, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    Junayd, ‘self-inflicted’ sounds very harsh and judgmental. Not everyone has the time or resources (or storage space) to pre-prepare meals for 30 days (and that is without even considering guests). Certainly I wouldn’t have anywhere to put that much food. And, certainly, in the olden days no one did that – I suspect your family probably cooked (and cooks) fresh food every day. If you actually had experience running a household (which, from your comment, I get the feeling you do not), I suspect you would be more sympathetic and less critical.in sharing your view of homemakers’ ‘efficiency’.

    • Avatar

      Junaid Farooqi

      July 15, 2013 at 12:27 AM

      Actually prepping meals before Ramadan or at least half prepping meals is what my wife has done this Ramadan. We don’t waste time with parties and time wasting gatherings in Ramadan. And we eat small meals. We don’t eat a meal for Iftar and another for dinner. Our iftar is literally 2 or 3 dates and a small meal. We don’t like being the garlic and onion burping, fried food eating lazy people during Taraweeh.

      • Avatar

        Zonn

        July 15, 2013 at 3:59 AM

        Still harsh and judgemental. One day you will see, insyaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Here

        July 15, 2013 at 6:19 AM

        Do you have kids and does your wife also work? Not going to or hosting iftars is not something to brag about – socializing and giving iftar is recommended in Islam.

      • Avatar

        Um Abdul-Rahman

        July 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        What is best for you and your wife, Junaid, is not what is best for everyone. Please keep in mind how the Prophet (SAWS) would correct others. Yes, it is makruh to come to the mesjid with garlic and onion on the breath, and maybe there is a way to convey this message in a more gentle way. May Allah reward you and your family.

  11. Avatar

    reali-dee

    July 13, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    There needs to be more emphasis on husbands taking care of themselves and their own children so that wives (fasting or not) can dedicate more time to spiritual enrichment, and can take part in community activities during Ramadan. If not, Ramadan can feel hellish for moms. Husbands should also contribute to relieving the intense stress most wives-and-mothers deal with regarding all sorts of demands associated with Ramadan that are not even spiritually related (frying things). And I would go beyond Junayd’s suggestion that husbands watch the kids and then leave for the masjid. How about picking several nights a week or even alternating nights where one parent stays home to put the kids to bed and the other goes for taraweeh? How about alternating sehri and iftaar preparation duties between spouses? Also, how about agreeing not to make everything so fancy (less fried objects, maybe just have a fried-foods night once a week or less) and keep sehri and iftaar simple? Ramadan always feels hectic, but husbands need to pitch in more as a flip side to this story. This should be a demand across our communities. And FYI I am a wife and mother and my husband and I strive to make sure each of us gets time for spiritual enrichment during Ramadan, mashallah! None of this hubby running off to the masjid everynight for taraweeh while I clean up the fried things.

    • Avatar

      Em Hamzah

      July 14, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      IAssalamu alaikum,

      t is easy to throw the burden and responsibility on maids and husbands, with all due respect. The sister wrote this for empowering and not belittling our daily activities (like frying 100 samosas, running up and down the stairs because your husband just likes to watch you do that, whatever it is…)and remind us that we are not just doing “maid work” or just-let-someone-else-do-it. We have a good reward for obeying our husband and making the home clean and comfortable and taking care of the children. Who wants to miss out on that?

      And also, we must remember this life is not for luxury, relying on someone else and we have to work and it is hard.Just because the wives and daughters of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did not fry foods and make 3 platters of biryani does not mean that they too did not work hard. In fact, we have evidence of this and a solution.

      Imaam al-Bukhaari narrated in his Saheeh that Faatimah (may Allaah be pleased with her), the daughter of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked him for a servant.

      He said, “Shall I not tell you of something that is better for you than that? When you go to sleep, say ‘Subhaan-Allaah (Glory be to Allaah)’ thirty three times, ‘Al-Hamdu Lillaah (praise be to Allaah)’ thirty three times, and ‘Allaahu akbar (Allaah is Most Great)’ thirty four times.”
      (Saheeh al-Bukhaari bi Sharh al-‘Asqallaani, part 9/506).

    • Avatar

      Anon

      July 15, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      I feel I must agree with Em Hamzah here – There’s an argument to be made of spouses supporting each other, always, but especially during Ramadan when time is so limited. That being said, we claim to follow Islam, so hence we should look for guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah to solve all our problems.

      Allah and his Rasul (s.a.w.s.) have delineated the roles of men and women in marriage. And even though there is a great degree of flexibility in those roles (much more than many people expect and are aware of), it is true that the best of homes are, generally speaking, those where the wife tends the home and the husband, being the public representative of the household, seeks a living outside, and represents the household when needed. So, suggestions of husbands missing out on Tarawih, sharing in duties which are in the domain of a mother, etc. so that the wife can attend, are, while Islamically allowed, a sign of a bigger issue – the desire to do away with traditional marital roles.

      Remember that the best place of prayer for a woman is her own home, and tor a man, the first saff of the masjid. It becomes an issue when we attempt a deed with a good intention (in this case, allowing the wife to attend Tarawih), but which could cause another deed to be lessened in value (the husband performing his Tarawih individually, or, not at all).

      However, I must emphasis that I agree with those who have mentioned the unnecessarily lavish food spreads which are made in this month – we cannot say that it is an obligation to offer 5-course iftars for our guests. Using the Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) exhortations to provide someone’s iftar and the reward therein, to justify spending hours and hours preparing food for iftar and suhur is misleading and, frankly, dangerous.

      *Note from Comments Team: Please refrain from using “anon” and use your name to comply to our Comments Policy*

  12. Avatar

    Sam

    July 14, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    JazakAllah Sister :) Really helped at this phase of life.

  13. Avatar

    Ummer Farooq.

    July 14, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

    here’s a book that’ll help all mothers and families,

    http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200251h.html

    And here’s a video from Sheikh Dr Akram Nadwi (the same guy who wrote Al Muhaddithat: Women scholars in islam)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2iX46g_hrE&list=PLAB52E6EDB628A15A&index=6

    Hard mode is interesting, but halal and sunnah modes are better because God intends ease.

    Quran 2:185 translation
    The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

  14. Avatar

    Hanani

    July 15, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    I am not yet blessed with a child, but have been facing hardship since last Ramadan. I lost my baby (which was never alive to begin with) and had to undergo chemotherapy because of it. I went through last Ramadan while doing chemo and I managed to fast for 22 days, Alhamdulillah. Little that I know, my little stunt of pushing myself to fast during chemotherapy will affect my fasting ability severely afterwards. I am now having terrible gastritis and I couldn’t make up for another 6 days and it gets even harder come Ramadan. I just came back from my doctor with a very terrible gastric and then I found this article. Masha Allah, I cried so hard reading this. I thought I was being punished for my sins.. When instead, Allah has been raising my bar slowly even when I was so far away from Him. He stayed by my side. Not leaving me once. I needed this. Thank you so much sister for sharing this. JazakAllahu Khairan..

    • Avatar

      Um Abdul-Rahman

      July 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      So beautiful sister. Ma sha Allah. . I cried reading it. May Allah reward you and raise you and your family to the highest levels of Jannah. And I extend that du’a to everyone reading. Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      July 16, 2013 at 5:25 AM

      AssalamuAlaikum Sister Hanani- I know what you mean about pushing yourself and then regretting it later- but Umer Farooq who posted above was spot-on when he posted:

      Quran 2:185 translation
      The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

      Allah intends ease for us, not self-destruction. Given your circumstances, an exemption from fasting is a blessing that you should be thankful for, not a punishment you should feel guilty for. Allah loves you 70 times more than your own mother does, and He is putting the best option before you even if you don’t realize how good it is for you. The same applies to me- all of us really. Alhamdulillah Ala Kulli Haal, not just Alhamdulillah for the things we like.

      May Allah make it easy for you and bring you shifa, and where we meet in Jannah where I can hug you. :)

  15. Avatar

    recyclebayt

    July 15, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    Jazakallahu khair sister. seriously, the post made my day. alhamdhulillah

  16. Avatar

    Berserk Hijabi

    July 16, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    I’m young and single and carefree per se,and I feel really guilty now.Thanks(seriously,I needed this.)

  17. Avatar

    Jessi Frenzel

    July 16, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    Absolutely amazing and well-written.

    As a mother of four who used to love to attend classes and stay for ALL the rakaas of Taraweeh but now cannot, I thank you.

  18. Avatar

    Salik

    July 16, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Salams Sister,
    Great article! People rarely talk about these things… it’s almost a taboo.

    My wife has had a lot of difficulty this last couple of Ramadans with the 17 hour fasts and little time to sleep. We have 2 small hyper-active children who are at home all day with my wife, (one who still gets up every couple of hours at night for milk). The only way we’ve been able to manage is by me skipping Taraweeh Sunday-Thursday so I can help out at home. My wife always insists I go Taraweeh and sleep after work however I don’t because a) I have trouble falling asleep after work and b) when I do go to Taraweeh, (20 rakahs which end around 12:20am) and sleep after work, my wife has a very difficult time at home and is often in a state of anger, frustration and despair because she feels she’s not strong enough like the other mothers in the community who also have small children. My Monday-Thursday routine is as follows:

    7:30am-6pm: Work
    6-9pm: read Quran and watch the kids including a break for Asr at local mosque
    9:30pm-10-30pm: help clean the house and prepare the kids for bed
    10:30pm: Isha and Taraweeh at home (however many rakahs I can pray)
    11:00pm:eat a small meal
    11:30pm-3:30am: sleep
    3:30am-4:20am: suhur and fajr at home
    4:30am-7:30am: sleep

    Factoring in the time it takes me to fall asleep, I actually get around 5-6 hours of sleep. I have difficulty concentrating at work as it is so any less sleep… Allahu-alum.

    I’ve talked to other brothers with small children who do go to Taraweeh for 20 rakahs and sleep after work and basically, the wife has no choice in the matter… her life must revolve around the husband. This probably explains all the arguing I hear from their homes when I walk past them.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 17, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Your wife is not alone, and she shouldn’t be worried about not being “as strong as some of the other mothers in the community…” I think what we all learn from the comments sections of articles like these is that young motherhood is a struggle for everyone. There is no way that it is a walk in the park, unless you have a nanny, a cook, a maid, and a driver to take over all the other roles that your wife is probably playing. Even then, I’m sure there’d be something to stress about.

      If your wife is frustrated, stressed out, and working hard nearly every minute of the day, she’s not falling behind. Congratulations, she’s falling right into place with all the rest of us. It will get easier in a few years, but for now her Jihad is to work through tiredness, find peace despite frustration and get closer to Allah despite the challenges of being a young mother.

      Brother, JazakAllahuKheiran for being supportive and understanding of your wife. May Allah put lots of blessings and love between you and make it easier for her, InshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Salik

        July 17, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        Jazakumullah khair for taking the time out to respond. I think one of the major issues related to this topic is brothers missing salah with jamaa to help out at home. Many brothers I’ve come across say it’s impermissible considering there are very few exceptions where salah with jamaa can be missed and also since ‘heaven lies beneath the feet of the mother’, mothers must struggle like a martyr to attain it. Personally, I think this is problematic when mothers have difficulty to the extent it leads them to:

        -Excessively yell and be aggressive with the children
        -Excessively yell and argue with the husband for small things (small things is subjective)
        -hit the children
        -neglect the children (including not play with them or watch over them to prevent injury)
        -depression

        The list is relative to my experience obviously.

        One of the major consequences of opting to miss salah with jamaa for helping out at home I’ve found is harassment from ‘Super Muslims’, often times from some members of Tableegh Jamaa. Some of the things people have told me directly or indirectly are:

        -I have more small children than you but still manage to make it to the mosque every day when I’m home.
        -The sahaba or X person, community, grandparents had it way harder than you.
        -Women in the west can’t take hardship. You should’ve married someone from back home.
        -Tell your wife heaven lies beneath her feet and all your problems will be solved.
        -This life is a test, hardship is expected
        -You’re being too lenient with your wife.
        -You give in too easily.
        -There is a limit to patience.
        -From a sister: I go to work, have 4 kids, I live with the in-laws, my mother in-law is verbally abusive to me, my husband doesn’t help at home and I still manage. Tell your wife to suck it up.

        To be clear, I don’t intend to miss salah with Jamaa, I usually assess the situation, check my intention, and then make a decision accordingly. I think once both children are 4 years old, things will improve for us inshAllah.

        In regards to if my wife is working hard every minute of the day, I don’t know. I know she works hard and try’s her best but she does slip now and then like everyone else. When she does slip, I make it a point not to point it out. I also make it a point not to ask her if she’s giving it her best or even relaying some of the ‘nasihah’ some people give because I know that would trigger a negative response.

        My intention is not to stir up fitna here. I just think it’s important for people to know that we all struggle differently. Ramadan Mubarak to all. May Allah grant us patience and strength to overcome whatever challenges and difficulties we’re facing.

        • Avatar

          RCHOUDH

          July 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM

          Salaam brother Salik,
          It’s unfortunate that you’ve had Muslims giving you such advice. While there’s nothing wrong with the advice in and of itself, we Muslims nowadays don’t know how to apply anything other than a “one size fits all” approach to every problem/issue we encounter. I believe that you as the husband know your wife best and are already doing what’s best for your family. Until we Muslims learn to be more flexible with how we approach different issues and learn to understand the different circumstances facing every individual, we should withhold from giving any sort of advice!

        • Abez

          Abez

          July 18, 2013 at 2:17 PM

          AssalamuAlaikum Salik- RCHOUDH is spot on- other peoples’ situations are not your situation, and I really wish people were more eager to offer help than advice.

          Praying jamaat in the masjid is very important, but please note that praying Tarawih in Jamaat is not fardh. So perhaps reconsider (and pray at home) if you feel that being at the masjid for two hours every night is endangering your wife’s sanity or your children’s safety in any way.

          If you and your wife are committed to the same spiritual goals (Ie- helping you make it to Jamaat as often as possible) then it would be a good idea to talk about what could happen to make it easier for both of you.

          Do the kids need an earlier bed-time? Does your wife need some sane, reassuring company every now and then to help reduce frustration and help her de-stress? Does she have a sister or a best friend who can come over for tea more often? Are any of the kids old enough (and well behaved enough) to start joining you in the masjid? These are just questions to look in to. InshaAllah, the more you ask the more likely you are to come upon an answer.

          Above all, the best thing you can do in your situation is to first ask Allah for help, and then look for people in your community who can be far more helpful without being condescending.

          May Allah make it easy for both of you. Hugs to your wife.

  19. Avatar

    Lisha

    July 17, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum Sister, I just came across this write-up and I love it – I have already shared it on my personal Facebook page as I think many many mothers are/were in this situation and would definitely appreciate your inputs. JazakAllahu Khairan and with dua’as for you and your family…If you’re interested, I also invite you to my Facebook parenting page at http://www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach to join us for our parenting tidbits and tips – see you there!

  20. Avatar

    muqlis

    July 17, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Good article! Thank you for sharing! Though, I learnt just as much reading through the comments that followed. These 17+ hour fasts, particularly in hot scorching weather, are just as much a challenge on the psyche of a hardworking, serious & sincere dad (though it is the psyche that fasting is supposed to make strong). Also, not all people are endowed with the same level of physical, emotional & moral strength; our needs differ also & change from time to time – a point that is often neglected by a vast majority of the over-zealous & self-appointed critics of any gender, ethnicity or faith. I am convinced that God did not intend His faith to be oppressive to His slaves – a fact that is often twisted & miss-fed, misled or misused by the critics as well as well-intentioned helpers of this faith. Remember: ‘whatever we do, we do it for our own good’, and, ‘whatever we miss doing, we do it to our own loss’. ‘God is free from all needs, including & not limited to the worship by His slaves’. ‘Neither God nor Islam is a tyrant over any soul’.

  21. Abez

    Abez

    July 18, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Excellent point muqlis- fasting is not easy for anyone, and as we are all challenged, we all benefit form the challenge. Nothing that Allah puts on us is tyranny, it’s all catalyst for growth. His Mercy dictates that it will never be more than we can bear, InshaAllah.

  22. Avatar

    Aisha

    July 19, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Subhana Allah Sr. Abez – I feel like you have been reading my mind. Just yesterday I posted my feelings about this in my blog and basically said, Who stole my Ramadan? Allah SWT guided me to Islam in 2004. I married my husband within 1 year after converting. After ending up in the urgent care dehydrated my first 2 Ramadans, I finally succumbed to the fact that I Can’t Fast from water. So, there goes Ramadan.

    My husband comes from a very traditional family and has gloriously instilled his families Ramadan traditions into our home. However, in the US, unless you are extremely wealthy, you cannot hire someone to come in and clean everyday. So, being the only woman (1 Husband & 2 Grown Boys) in the home & maintaing a full time career, I have actually come to – dare I say – really, really NOT like Ramadan. I get very depressed and stressed out and my Imaan level goes down to about the point I was at before I converted.

    Alhamdulillah, one thing I try to do, year round, is teach my boys to help out. Because I know the anamosity that I have towards my family during Ramadan & I would never wish this feeling on my future daughter in laws.

    JAK for the wonderful ideas you listed. I have cried once while reading this & am sure when I pray again will cry for all of us who feel like this.

  23. Abez

    Abez

    July 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    AssalamuAlaikum Aisha- I’m sorry to hear that your experience with Ramadan hasn’t been so great. Cultural traditions aside, the only real and important things in Ramadan are closeness to Allah, self-discipline, and forgiveness. Fast and let the house be dirty. Order take-out for Iftar. Do whatever you need to in order to find joy in Ramadan, free yourself from operational dirty-work in any way you can, because you deserve to find solace, peace, and spiritual sweetness in Ramadan. At the end of the day, Jannah is more important than anything else, so put everything else on hold in the pursuit of Jannah.

    Dehydration can be debilitating, but if you’re willing to give fasting another go, I recommend trying it again in winter – once or twice a week only- and composing your suhoor of a little bit of oatmeal and a WHOLE LOTTA gatorade. Seriously. It’s worth the effort. But if you find that you really and truly can’t, then thank Allah for His Mercy and enjoy the reprieve. :) If you’re unable to fast, then Allah has decided that not fasting is better than fasting for you.

    I pray that you’re able to keep your Iman high all year round, InshaAllah, and that the rest of Ramadan is an opportunity to pursue closeness to Allah in whatever way He makes easy for you. :)

    Ma’Assalam & Hugs,
    Abez

  24. Avatar

    Paizah Yan

    July 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    AssalamuAlaykum sis Abez… what a beautiful eye opener article and touching comments. I may not have said my gratitude and appreciation more often enough. Your article made me realised how “comfortable” my life is. We fast about 14 hours and the temperature averaging @ 29-34C. I have no “family” committed except my 9-5 office work. And sometimes I feel I am lacking in my Ramadhan spiritual ibadah though I am in easy mode all the time but failed to utilised to the fullest. Thank you for your reminder (of other people living in Hard mode during Ramadan)

  25. Avatar

    Christine

    August 1, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Assalam alaikom sis. Wonderful article. I am a convert (2008). I also had the not liking Ramadan attitude, it was a time of complete stress and depression. I have type 2 diabetes and after one year ending in the hospital, I do not fast unless I have DR’s permission. This year I got the go ahead, only missed 1 day. Here where I live it is 16+ hours. I have 3 kids…. 12, 9 and 2 and work full time for a newspaper. It has been a struggle, I have been wondering how will I make these last few days. Praying has helped so much. The kids know to leave me be when in Salat, so I sujood for looooong periods. I am averaging about 4-5 hours of sleep a night and it is taking a toll. My husband works at the masjid from 4-midnight, best part he brings extra food home from iftar, so I rarely have to cook. On Sundays he does all the cooking :) Along with this, my mom fell and broke her hip and had surgery, so now I am helping her. My whole family is Christian so they just don’t understand that I am tired and need rest. I have to help my mom, as my dad does not drive. This article was a huge pick me up! I am not going to feel jealous over the ones that can sleep all day and have it easy. I love that Allah has challenged me. Thanks for the reminder! May you be rewarded!

  26. Avatar

    muqlis

    August 3, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    Srs. Aisha (July 19) & Christine (Aug 1) – for you being the newcomers to the faith, I am troubled by the pain/plight you suffer (& the repugnance that you express in consequence) particularly facing the summer fasts in the Western non-Islamic environment. It seems the beauty of the Ramadan experience is marred by what appears to the harshness of our faith, its fiqh/legal commands & the ethnic practices that some of us have brought over from the old countries. Upfront, I am not a scholar, so take my words very lightly/casually & research well before you agree or disagree. As I said before (July 17), which the author agreed, Islam is not a religion of duress/force by any means. Everything that we do is by our own freewill & for our own benefit out of the love & mercy of our Benefactor/Creator. In referring to the verses v183-185 in chapter 2 of Quran (which are most often repeated in prescribing the fasting) I feel we miss the words in v185 which say: “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship”. To me, then, when fasting becomes hardship it loses its sole purpose, i.e., to endure with patience & grow spiritually (morally & emotionally). I hope this helped. I would like the scholars to respond in case they are reading/watching this discourse.

  27. Avatar

    Noticias Deportivas

    September 30, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Muy buen articulo te invito a que puedas ingresar a nuestro blog deportivo.

    Saludos!

  28. Pingback: *First & Foremost* | UmmBaby - 3 baby girls, 2 hands & 1 very exhausted body.

  29. Avatar

    Shahab

    May 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Great read mashallah
    I have chronic kidney disease stage 4 and it’s really tough to do a full time job , let alone hold a 14 hr fast. So when I fast I am forced to take the day off But I can’t do that for the whole month So I’m planning to take a week off this year

  30. Avatar

    Xyz101

    July 2, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    Mashallah nice article. JazakAllahu khairan. May Allah accept your deeds and everyone’s. As a mother, this article really helps. Just a small note, not everyone who is young and single and childless is ‘carefree’. Not all of them have it easy. We don’t know what struggles different individuals are going through – it doesn’t help to infantilise people who don’t have children, they are adults! but with different and perhaps very challenging and difficult responsibilities that others cannot see. Maybe we think they can spend all day or night long in the mosque, but we are just assuming this without knowing. And perhaps they are facing very tough circumstances all alone without the support of a spouse or their children, be it financially, in their work, in their health, or in caring for ill relatives – for example. No one has a monopoly on hardships and tests, and no one group automatically has it easy in life! It may be that we personally remember things being a lot easier for us when we we single and without kids, living a relatively peaceful and carefree life, but not everyone has that privileged life. Alhamdulillah for all our blessings, big or small. Thank you again for the very nice article

  31. Avatar

    Karen Teodoros

    June 17, 2016 at 4:45 AM

    Salam, thank you for the nice article, may Allah Subhan Allah wa Ta’ala reward you. I personally decided to intensify the prayers, and InshAllah i am planning to give back the days of fast later InshAllah, so InshAllah i will not loose nothing.
    2:185 The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

  32. Pingback: I am not fasting… – Amaliah

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#Life

7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health.  Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.

New Year's Resolutions
Who uses sticky notes on a cork board #stockimagefail

It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

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Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

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“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

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#Life

I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator

It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

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I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

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I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

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#Life

How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age

I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.

While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.

Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!

  1. Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
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In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.

  1. Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
  2. Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.

A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.

Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!

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In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.

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