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What I Learned About Ramadan – By Not Fasting

Zeba Khan



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?

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.

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:]

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?



Qualities of a True Servant: Ramadan Supplication Series

Seeking Refuge from Four Things: Ramadan Supplication Series

Effectively Planning Your Dua:

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


Zeba Khan is the Director of Development for, 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.



  1. Avatar


    July 12, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    Masha allah sister, I really needed that.

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      July 19, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      Jazakallah for such a good read!

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    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.

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      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


        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.

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      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!

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    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:

    • Abez


      July 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

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

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        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.

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    July 12, 2013 at 12:48 PM

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

    Jazakillah khair for the reminder sis.

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    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


      July 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      Ameen sister, Ameen. :) <<>>

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    July 12, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    Your a mother; all is forgiven.

    • 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. :)

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        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


          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?

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            July 14, 2013 at 11:23 AM

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

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          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*

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    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


      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!

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    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


      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!

  9. Avatar

    Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    July 13, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    • Abez


      July 13, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      JazakAllahuKheiran Bro, this article is a gem.

  10. Avatar


    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.

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    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 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


        July 15, 2013 at 3:59 AM

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

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        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.

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    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


      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*

  13. Avatar


    July 14, 2013 at 6:06 AM

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

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    Ummer Farooq.

    July 14, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

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

    And here’s a video from Sheikh Dr Akram Nadwi (the same guy who wrote Al Muhaddithat: Women scholars in islam)

    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.

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    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


      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. :)

  16. Avatar


    July 15, 2013 at 3:17 AM

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

  17. 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.)

  18. 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.

  19. Avatar


    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


      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


        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)

        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


          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


          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.

  20. Avatar


    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 to join us for our parenting tidbits and tips – see you there!

  21. Avatar


    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’.

  22. 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.

  23. Avatar


    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.

  24. 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,

  25. 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)

  26. Avatar


    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!

  27. Avatar


    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.

  28. Avatar

    Noticias Deportivas

    September 30, 2013 at 11:35 AM

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


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

  30. Avatar


    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

  31. Avatar


    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

  32. 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.

  33. Pingback: I am not fasting… – Amaliah

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Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D



children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Ammar Al Shukry




I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7)  

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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On Divine Gifts And Tribulations: Reflections on Ustadh Nabeel al-Azami

Reflections on Ustadh Nabeel al-Azami

Dr H. A. Hellyer, Guest Contributor



Nabeel Al Azami

In the early hours of the 14th of August 2019, corresponding to the first day following the ‘Eid al-Adha’ of the Muslim community, my friend Nabeel, son of Mamoon al-Azami, passed away peacefully in London. He was 39 years old. He honoured me by considering me a teacher to ask counsel of – but in truth, he himself was an educator par excellence by his words, his actions and his state of being.

I have nothing but good memories of this man. He was generous and kind, and personified good manners. A year ago, we were together when he was giving a presentation on his work, and we had lunch together beforehand. He was speaking to me about the subject of the presentation, and as we were speaking privately, I told him about my unease around a bit of the approach on a few points.

Nabeel was not only warm in private in response, but when we were sat in the public arena for his presentation thereafter, he, unprompted, insisted on giving me the floor, though I had no speaking role that day. He did so after addressing me and introducing me in a deeply respectful manner, so that I could offer my thoughts, even though he knew of my stance.

I no longer even remember what I said – I only remember the generosity of spirit he had. In this day and age, that kind of magnanimity is rare, usually absent, and evidence of something beautiful.

(You can see more of Nabeel’s work here — his final book, which he wrote on the Prophet and Leadership, with leadership professor John Adair writing the forward).

A few months ago, I asked if I might visit him, while he was in the hospital. He was in the midst of various obligations but knew my travel schedule would make it difficult to find an opportunity to allow me the privilege of his company, and he had some things he wanted to discreetly discuss. We had spoken a few times on the phone after he had learned of his illness, but we had not met since. We found a common time of 15 minutes to speak privately. It turned into an hour.

When I saw him, what are called the ‘signs of sainthood’ (wilaya) were deeply upon him. His riḍā (contentment) was evident to anyone who saw him, and his concern was not for himself. Rather, it was first and foremost for his family. Whenever people ask me about him, I immediately think of that word: riḍā.


I left his company with a sense I cannot easily put into words – he was a paragon of strength and fortitude, while simultaneously being a person of charity and concern for his wider community. The presence of contentment, harmony, self-composure, and quiet trust in the working of the Divine. In this are signs for the ones who are aware, for they represent the rising of station (maqam) according to the sages.

There will be others who will no doubt write about Nabeel’s professional accomplishments, of which there are many, not least the book he wrote and completed while he battled his illness. These are inspiring, and a testament to Nabeel’s deep commitment to the work he devoted himself to (his last work on Prophetic leadership can be purchased here from the publisher) – a work that all about serving the community which he so loved and cared for.

I knew about Nabeel’s work, but most of our interactions showed another side to him – a facet of his personality that will forever be instructive to me. It was the aspect of him that I mentioned to my students as we read through tracts of spirituality. It was the aspect of him that asked for prayers that God might allow him to see and meet the Prophet in his dreams. It was the aspect of him that sought out to understand and comprehend the meaning of what was happening in a deeply metaphysical manner, which was admirable in such an advanced way.

“But it is as though, Allah has given me this tribulation, as an unworthy servant, as a gift. And then He has given me some challenges, that I didn’t think I would cope with. And then He somehow gave me the resources as a gift…

And I feel as though I am being taken among individuals who must have taken this journey, who are much more worthy; I am left very confused as to why I am being given this privilege. Maybe you can help explain this confusion to me.

But that aside: I hope if it is benefiting brothers, to be able to talk about our conversations, then hopefully if there is any ajr (reward) for me there, that may be something I can hold onto in the next life, as a source of salvation.”

(Nabeel al-Azami)

In the hours that followed his passing, as his family and friends prepared to bid him farewell at the funeral service, I went through my recent correspondences with Nabeel, following and preceding conversations we had. There were perhaps three recurring themes I can mention. The first was the most pre-eminent, which I’ve alluded to above, in terms of his spiritual journey and path. His instructive comments reflected a serenity of soul, a strength of spirit, and a constancy of commitment.

The second theme was the concern he had particularly for his family. His father, his wife, his children, but really the entire family – his concern for them was touching, moving, and genuinely thought-provoking to any of us who get wrapped up in the mundane nature of this world. The very last message he sent to me was an ‘ameen’ to a du’a I sent him in response to his request I pray for his wife, children and family.

Finally, the third theme was care he had for his community, and that watchfulness was something he spoke to me about in his one of his very final messages to me – the rifts within the Muslim community more generally, especially among the ‘ulama, and how their differences needed to be bridged.

In all of these, Nabeel al-Azami’s considerations were deeply important. One of the final things he said to me was his hope that if his tribulation could serve as a lesson to others, may he partake in the reward for that, and maybe it would be something he could hold onto in the next life for his salvation.

It never occurred to me to share Nabeel’s thoughts while he was still with us. When we met and discussed, we did so privately. But after he passed to the mercy of his Lord, I remembered what he said about our conversations benefiting others – and thus took pen to paper, transcribing some of the notes he sent.

There was a message that related to knowing God, and spirituality more generally, which indicated one of the priorities he thought this community needed – this is where our relationship actually began, in a way. It is fitting that be the first tract. About half-way in, Nabeel responded to a message I sent him, where I had let him know I’d used his character as an example of how to respond to tribulations in a class I teach. That class was and is based on the works of one of my teachers, the Malaysian polymath, Professor Sayyid Naquib al-Attas. In response to Nabeel’s message, I told him the title of the work, at which point he expressed great joy, saying he had used the work as a reference in his last book.

That message was followed by a concern for the community writ large, particularly vis-à-vis the partisanship and conflicts the community had been riven by in recent years. We had discussed this in person, and he re-emphasised his point in this message – it’s a rare message indeed at this time, and important to share. He knew about my apprehension I had about partisanship driving our community apart, but he excelled me in focusing on the need to bring hearts together, rather than simply analysing the problem.

I close the below with two tracts that in particular related to trials and tribulations, to which I appended a short excerpt from the writings of Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani, the Persian saint of early Muslim history, and this represented the last of the transcriptions I chose. I believe I mentioned this tract to Nabeel himself, and it formed the basis of some of our discussions.

I pray the reader benefits from Nabeel’s thoughts and prays for him. For those who knew him, they should know that Sayyid Nabeel passed away in one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Qur’an – Dhu al-Hijjah. This is the month of the Hajj; it is the month the Great ‘Id, ‘Id al-Adha; it is the month of the passing of Sayyidina ‘Umar, Sayyidina ‘Uthman, and Imam Muhammad al-Baqir.

May we all benefit through Ustadh Nabeel al-Azami for a very long time to come.

I know I will.

On Spirituality

“Thank you for your message and thank you for the du’a (supplication) that you shared. SubhanAllah, the dua’ that you shared about Allah opening up the gates so that I may know Him better; it has been a part of my tahhajud (night vigil prayers) since you mentioned it.

And you know; these many small du’as that you hear and those that you end up memorising: this is one that I wish [had been] in my system. Because I knew the du’a – but it is so simple and beautiful – but insha’Allah, Allah will give you the ajr (reward) that you reminded me of the du’a which I memorised and now it has been normalised.

And it’s wonderful: because the ability to know your Creator and discover Him is that life-long journey. We try to learn about the 99 attributes to be able to understand the incredible nature of our Creator, whom we are blessed to be created from. And the quality of my prayers have been impacted as a result of this process of ibtila’ (tribulation).

Which is, in a sense, the only way you can really achieve and access the unveiling needed to know a little bit more about your creator. So, I feel I need to be in this ibtila’ longer! There is so much I can learn now that I have unlocked a few things, you know, through the wasila (means) around me, including yourself.”

“And it is wonderful to hear that you are teaching a text on taṣawwuf; I’d love to know which one it is. The need for teaching, tarbiyat al-iman, tazkiyat al-nafs, and the sciences of taṣawwuf; it is so, so urgent and so neglected. So, if it is a public class that I can promote, let me know: I’d love to send it in the network, because there are just too far and few between.

So, thank you for sharing: but the only thing I would say here is that I certainly wouldn’t be the precise example. But good brothers around me and my shayukh and my learned friends like your good self: with your help I am trying to be an acceptable example, insha’Allah.

But it is as though, Allah has given me this tribulation, as an unworthy servant, as a gift. And then He has given me some challenges, that I didn’t think I would cope with. And then He somehow gave me the resources as a gift; and then I feel the raising of maqam (spiritual station). Not because of anything from myself, but that Allah is just gifting.

Because I thought I just had to take one step towards Allah, and he would take ten steps for me. I think I managed to just think about one step. I don’t know what little iota of indication I gave to Allah that I am interested in guidance; and that was enough. That was enough, and Allah is just raising me.

And I feel as though I am being taken among individuals who must have taken this journey, who are much more worthy; I am left very confused as to why I am being given this privilege. Maybe you can help explain this confusion to me.

But that aside: I hope if it is benefiting brothers, to be able to talk about our conversations, then hopefully if there is any ajr for me there, that may be something I can hold onto in the next life, as a source of salvation.”

On Bringing Hearts Together, in a world where lines have been drawn

“In our community, the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets: that we know. And amongst them, we need to build bridges, and we do know that for various reasons amongst the difficulties of the world, a broken world that we’re facing, there are lines being drawn even amongst the ulama (scholastic) community. And differences of strategy and direction, and differences in trying to say this is how we can serve the ummah (Muslim community) better can and will arise.

But all I can hope for is people like yourself, in a small way myself, if I can, and others, try to at least make hearts stay together…

There should never be an instance where people amongst the ulama, who are the inheritors of the prophets, who are at the heights of those who represent the prophets in their absence today —- at least the hearts and their brotherhood should remain there.

And I think that is the case anyway amongst the most senior ulama that we know. And without naming names, I think their hearts are clear in their interaction, but they may be operating in different platforms and structures.

But I think we need bridge builders, so we keep the ukhuwwa (brotherhood) and the conversation going, as we try to navigate ourselves across common challenges in the world and navigate our community towards a direction. Which is ultimately the same direction anyway, seeking the pleasure of Allah, and following in the footsteps of al-Habib al-Mustafa salAllahu ‘alayhi wa salam.

And that’s about it, in order to be worshippers who are keen only to seek Allah’s pleasure and have that kind of connection and rida (contentment).”

On Tribulations and Trials

“Al-salam ‘alaykum, shaykh Hisham: and thank you for your ongoing affection, care, concern and spiritual advice which I really, really value, and it does help me. At some point, it would be good to talk or see you just to share the seriousness of my condition.

But, alhamdulillah (praise be to God), this ibtila’ (tribulation) is a blessing, it has given me so much khayr, by God, so much khayr – and I am full of shukr (gratefulness). I have sabr (patience) when the pain is happening, but I have shukr for what Allah is doing for me spiritually. And as one of my teachers once said: when you are suffering from a physical illness, be grateful you are not suffering from a spiritual illness. And I am really feeling the benefits of that right now.

Alhamdulillah: jazakAllah khayr for sending me all the Prophetic supplications and invocations, and alhamdulillah most of them I have been doing already, but I haven’t actually been doing [certain elements of spiritual practice I recommended], so I will immediately add this into my practice on your advice; so, thank you for that.

And although I am in a wonderful spiritual place, you are absolutely right that the hardest thing is often for the family and for the wife and the children. They are struggling a little bit and I do try to give them strength, so please make du’a for my wife and my three young children: that Allah gives them strength in the midst of this ibtila’ that we are all facing. And insha’Allah I am confident that Allah will take care of us, and take care of our affairs insha’Allah.”

“Al-salam ‘alaykum, Shaykh Hisham – I hope you are well. Thank you for your ongoing enquiry and concerns about my health and your du’a. In terms of how I am, alhamdulillah, spiritually and mentally, I am in a really good place – I have this wonderful connection and relationship built with our Lord, subhanhu wa ta’ala. My tahajjuds (night vigil prayers) are beautiful, and I am just loving the experience of this ibtila’, taking as much benefit of it as possible.

In terms of the jasad, the body: unfortunately, that is choosing to go in a different direction…Suffice it to say my physical condition is extremely serious, and I need lots of your du’a.

But my spiritual condition, by Allah’s will, is in the best place I have ever experienced, and long may Allah keep that. So, I ask for your continued dua’ and insha’Allah I will update you more next week.”


Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani (may Allah be well pleased with him, and may He grant him contentment) said:

“As for one who suffers tribulation, he will sometimes be tried as a punishment and retribution for an offense he has perpetrated or a sin he has committed, at another time as an expiation and purification, and finally, for the sake of elevation in spiritual degrees and advancement to high stages, to join those versed in knowledge, people with experience of all states and stations. This they have received through the providence of the Lord of creation and of mankind.

Their Lord has sent them to ride the fields of misfortune on the mounts of friendliness and kindness and refreshed them with the breeze of loving looks and glances while in movement or at rest, because their trial was not intended to destroy them and hurl them into the abyss. Rather did He put them to these tests for the sake of choice and selection, so drawing from them the reality of faith, which He purified and separated from polytheistic association [shirk], pretensions and hypocrisy [nifaq], and presenting them with all kinds of knowledge, secrets and enlightenment. Then He made special favourites of them, entrusted them with His secrets, and granted them the pleasure of His company.

… For those trials have the effect of making their hearts pure and free from sinful association, and from attachment to creatures, worldly means, wishes, and self-willed desires. They are instrumental in melting them and smelting out the pretensions and passions, and the expectation of returns for obedient behaviour, in the form of high degrees and stations in the hereafter, in paradise and its gardens…

The sign that the trials are for the sake of spiritual progress is the presence of contentment, harmony, self-composure, quiet trust in the working of the God of the earth and the heavens, and annihilation within them until their eventual removal with the passage of time.”


Anyone who saw Nabeel knows what signs were most prominent upon him. I consider it my honour that I knew Nabeel al-Azami, and my loss that I did not know him longer and better.

May God have mercy on the soul of Sayyid Nabeel al-Azami; grant him the highest stations of Paradise; and give his family strength.

إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون

“And that’s about it, in order to be worshippers who are keen only to seek Allah’s pleasure and have that kind of connection and rida (contentment).” (Nabeel al-Azami).

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