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Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People | Part 2: Planning and Hitting Ambitious Goals Easily

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

It’s great to have ambitious goals for Ramadan, but in order to achieve those goals, one must be able to deal with the challenges of Ramadan which include decreasing energy levels (from a combination of lack of food and sleep), decreasing enthusiasm in the middle of the month, and maintaining the rest of your commitments (work, school, kids, etc) while increasing the time commitment of your worship; and since you don’t live in a vacuum, you have to reconcile your schedule with others who may depend on you for supporting them in their goals and vice versa.

In this post, I will cover some common goals. What is important is that you have a means by which you can determine which goals are sensible for your situation and how to make them happen.

For goals that take time and occur daily, the methodology is as follows:

  1. Time Commitment
  2. Technique to complete
  3. The Bare Minimum

For goals that do not require time, or they require one-time efforts that take time, I will highlight some strategies to consider.

The Five Daily Prayers w/Sunan

1. Time Commitment

While the five daily prayers are often said to consume at most 5 minutes per prayer, averaging 30 minutes a day, this is a poor way to get even people who don’t pray thinking about it. In reality, praying often entails making wudu’, drying off, praying the fardh and the sunnah prayers, and possibly du’aa. Additionally, by setting the bar low on time, we effectively make the salaah a timed dash + aerobic workout, which complete defeats the idea of having khushoo’.

2. Technique to Complete

Since we’re in summer, we have at best two prayers to complete while working (if we’re not telecommuting), and the other three at home or in the masjid. That said, we should put aside 15 – 20 minutes at work for the complete act, and 30 minutes outside of work. If you have the luxury of time on your job, you can complete the sunan prayers as well over here, otherwise you can make them up at home or in the masjid.

On the job, block out the time in your Outlook calendar, get a conference room if you can, and get praying. If you’re under tight time constraints, such as in a factory, then make your manager aware of your situation and let them know you’ll take a short amount of time. In this type of an instance, a mad dash to completion might be necessary.

3. The Bare Minimum

If on a particular day you’re crunched for time, the bare minimum is always to complete the five daily prayers. Make sure it’s always taken care of. If you’re someone who has not previously prayed the five daily prayers consistently (or at all), this is your #1 habit to develop and keep. Maintain it and never let it go thereafter.

Completing the Qur’an

1. Time Commitment

Depending on how quickly you complete reading 1 juz (20 pages), your time commitment might be anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours.

2. Technique to Complete

A number of good methods exist to complete the Qur’an:

  1. One Juz Daily Method: Read 20 pages per day, starting with the first night of Ramadan.
    – Method 1: Pick a time block during which you’ll read all 20 pages (e.g. after fajr, during lunch break, commuting home from train, etc)
    – Method 2: Break up the daily reading into smaller chunks throughout the day (e.g. read 4 pages after each prayer).
  2.  I’tikaf Method: If you plan on staying in the masjid for I’tikaf, you can set a daily amount to read that is substantive but achievable (e.g. 5 – 10 pages, can vary each day) and then spend I’tikaf completing the Qur’an.
  3. Energy Level Method: Read more Qur’an in the first night (e.g. 2 – 5 juz) and then average out the daily amount to read that remains for the following 29 days.

3. The Bare Minimum

If for some reason you find that completing the Qur’an is out of your reach, that’s ok. Set an easily achievable daily amount (e.g. 3 pages) and if you feel like you have more energy on some days, read more, and if you’re out of sorts on other days, stick to your daily minimum.

Nightly Tarawih

1. Time Commitment

Tarawih can be anywhere from 1 – 2 hours after ‘Isha prayers.

2. Technique to Complete

You may be tired from all that’s gone on the previous day before getting to this point. Standing for 8 – 20 rakat of 20 pages of Qur’an recitation is unbelievably physically taxing, you may experience a post-iftar food coma, and your mind might be wandering hither and dither. If that’s the case, treat yourself to a cup of chai or a strong brew of coffee.

3. The Bare Minimum

More important than tarawih prayer in the masjid is ‘Ishaa at the masjid. If you must get one prayer at the masjid at night, make sure you get ‘Ishaa, don’t time things so you show late for tarawih and miss ‘Ishaa as that was the most important prayer of the night to get in congregation.

Beyond this, try to get at least 4 rakaat in tarawih. If it becomes too physically taxing, sit down for part of one raka’ah and then get back into it – do this only as needed to deal with exhaustion, not as a habit for each and every two rakaat.

Family Time

When I say family time, I mean time you spend with your family (kids, spouse, parent) hanging out, doing stuff together – playing games, reviewing Qur’an stories, relaxing and talking about the day, whatever brings you together. This time is crucial and for those who are so ‘ibadah-focused, consider this your daily dose of daw’ah for your family.

1. Time Commitment

Depending on your circumstances, can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours (or more).

2. Technique to Complete

Spending time with family may be the last thing you want to do after a long day of fasting, but remember that some of the best memories, positive associations with faith, and more good are during those times when the whole Muslim community is engaged in extra worship and good will towards one another.

  1. Look into your schedule and set aside time to spend with family.
  2. Ask them what they want to do with you, and try to accommodate it.
  3. Don’t gorge during iftar, or you’ll find yourself drifting into a food coma.
  4. Try to come up with an activity everyone will like. Don’t force kids into boring lectures with your favorite teacher that only you like – let them choose.
  5. Make sure to have fun!

3. The Bare Minimum

Try to get at least 30 minutes each day with your family, where they have access to you and can spend time with you during this month.

I’tikaf – Seclusion in Masjid for Worship

1. Time Commitment

Given the modern work day, many will not be able to do the full ten days without taking paid time off on the weekdays.

2. Technique to Complete

  1. If you’re the type of person who gets motivation by being in a masjid where there are lots of people worshipping and people you know, then that’s where you go.
  2. If you’re the type of person who wants to be left alone and undisturbed, a smaller masjid with less traffic may be better for you.
  3. Besides the food, clothing, hygiene, and camping gear, be sure to bring a Qur’an mushaf that isn’t electronic (keep off your phone or tablet), a book of du’aas, a good translation of the Qur’an, and audio of your favorite reciter to listen and then recite while reading.
  4. If you’re obsessive-compulsive about fitness like I am, you can also download the “You Are Your Own Gym” app and, after breaking your fast, do 4-minute Tabata intervals with your own bodyweight (no equipment needed).

3. The Bare Minimum

Try to at least come in Friday evenings to your masjid of choice and leave Sunday evening.

Other Goals

1. Du’aa List

Before Ramadan begins, record a du’aa list (in a note taking application like Google Keep, which syncs with smartphone and desktop web app). You may have some Prophetic du’aas that you’ve memorized in Arabic, so remember to say those often, but also remember du’aas related to:

  1. Your Afterlife: The grave, the Day of Judgment, and your final home
  2. Bettering Yourself: Your Islamic practice, manners, and habits, your personal, fitness, financial, and professional development.
  3. Your Family
  4. The Community
  5. Those Suffering
  6. Remember to ask to be forgiven and to have your Ramadan ‘ibadah accepted.
  7. Remember to thank Allah for all that He’s given you, both the mundane and the monumental.

2. Charity

Besides Zakat al-Fitr, there are many opportunities to donate and it can seem confounding deciding where to send money. I would recommend the following:

  1. Automate monthly sponsoring of orphans via Islamic Relief USA or Zakat Foundation of America some other organization. If you already do this, add another orphan.
  2. Automate monthly support of your local masjid. If you already support them, add more to the amount you support, or support another local masjid that needs income.
  3. Encourage close friends and family to do likewise #1 and #2.
  4. Find a worthy cause that needs a good lump sum amount of money. Decide how much you plan to donate, multiply that by 3, and then donate that amount to that org in the last 10 nights.

3. Help Others Achieve Their Ramadan Aspirations

While you should be busy with your Ramadan worship, you should also keep in mind others in your home may be making life easier for you by taking care of certain shared responsibilities. You should likewise proactively approach a parent, spouse, sibling, or child and see what their Ramadan goals are and how you can help them achieve them.

For example, if your wife wants to attend tarawih, but the masjid doesn’t allow kids in the women’s area, it’s not practical for both of you to attend tarawih, but is it possible for the husband to attend the fardh and then take the kids after to allow the wife to pray? Can you work out a schedule alternating days, or maybe weekdays vs weekends? Neither one of you will get to pray all 29 or 30 days in tarawih in this set up, but you’ll both get good quality ‘ibadah from worship, and time with the kids otherwise, which shouldn’t be underestimated.

4. No Arguing

Every single year, arguments about the start and end of Ramadan reach a fever pitch as to which opinion is correct, what methodology some group is following this year as opposed to last year and the politics underlying why all those decisions were made, and then some.

It’s almost like before the shayateen are chained up, they leave with one last parting shot to get everyone angry and disunited. What follows is the calm frenzy of intense worship, which ends with Eid moonfighting.

Remember two pieces of advice from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about argumentation:

  1. The one who gives up an argument, even when he is right, has a palace in Paradise built for him or him.
  2. If someone argues with you while you’re fasting, you’re instructed to tell them you’re fasting.

That’s it. Don’t argue about anything. If someone starts asking your opinion, tell them you’d rather not talk about it. If they insist you talk about it, you insist you’re not talking about it. If they start telling you about others and their wrong opinions, smile (because it’s sunnah), and politely walk away.

What Are Your Goals and Techniques?

Write in the comments and tell us your cool techniques for achieving your goals. In the next article we’ll cover how to add these goals and tasks into your calendar.

Siraaj is the COO and interim CEO of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    amatullah

    June 10, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    Assalamu’alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh
    JazakAllahu khair for the tips.
    I would like to add some and inshAllah i hope others can benefit.

    To set most important and least important goals.

    In the most important it is better to include easy deeds with great rewards like saying la ilaaha ilallahu wahdahu la shareeka lahu lahul mulk wa lahul hamd wa huwa ‘ala kulli shayin qadeer 100 times in the morning.

    reciting surah al mulk before going to sleep

    calling atleast one relative every last ten nites even if it’s for 5 mins to maintain silatu rahim (ties of kinship)..

    trying to shed a tear for the sake of AllahSWT in secret especially in the last 10 nites (there are 2 hadiths which i remember but dont remember the source..plz check..one is being shaded on the day of judgement and fire not touching)

    saying salam and shaking hands especially in the last 10 nites (atleast one time) so that sins drop.

    reciting surah ikhlaas atleast once since it’s like reciting one third of Quran.

  2. Avatar

    Balooh

    June 10, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    Jazakallah for this article.
    Countdown to ramadhan has started, Allah ho akbar! My favourite time of the year, truly the heart finds contentment in these blessed days. May Allah give us all tawfeeq to make the most of our time, who knows if we will have another ramadan in our lives.
    :-)

  3. Avatar

    Saliha

    June 10, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum,
    This article is such a great reminder and super motivating!

    In my family, one ways we have family time is during and right after iftaar.

    One thing I’m really interested in hearing about is planning for Qiyaam ul layl. I know taraweeh counts as tahajjud, but it’d be nice to wake up later on too (even though gap between fajr and taraweeh may be very small).

  4. Avatar

    The Salafi Feminist

    June 10, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Boring but practical ;)
    And points for avoiding being all preachy about how to schedule your day exactly and telling everyone off that if they don’t do XYZ in this precise order, they’re losers who will never benefit from Ramadan.

  5. Avatar

    olivia

    June 10, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    Very relevant and well structured article. Great advice espec for those living in non Muslim countries where you still have to contend with lots of other priorities, can’t sleep in, etc. Liked how you broke it down and allowed for flexibility :)

  6. Avatar

    Siraaj

    June 11, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    @amatullah: those are some really great additions, jazakallah khayr for sharing that =)

    @balooh: Ramadan is the best time of the year, besides Hajj season, may Allah (swt) accept it from all of us, ameen =)

    @saliha: I wrote an article about how to wake up at 4am daily, try this: http://muslimmatters.org/2012/10/22/the-muslimmax-series-wake-up-at-4am-daily/

    @The Salafi Feminist: I tried to give people a realistic sense of what the day will look like and how to consider where it’s spent.

    @Olivia: Yes, the target audience is people who do not sleep through fasting, and have ambitious ‘ibadah goals in mind, so it’s western facing mostly, or those who prefer to be awake and productive throughout Ramadan.

  7. Avatar

    isiaq

    June 14, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    Jazakha Lahu Khairan

  8. Avatar

    AbuUmar

    June 14, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Because of long hours of fasting and small nights, sleep management is big issue. Usually after iftaar, before going to traweeh, u brain shuts off, sleep takes over, any tips of any drinks etc(energy drinks? 5 hours energy drinks? gatorade etc?) tht can boost energy and make u awake esp in traweeh (other than cofee, tea)..Even drinking lots of water doesn’t help much..

  9. Avatar

    Umm Abdullah

    June 15, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    JazakAllah khair for the benefical points maashaaAllah tabarakAllah.

    one point i would like to stress – many many articles go on and on about FINISHING THE QURAN…and different formulae on how to achieve this – but i have yet to see someone write READ THE QURAN WITH MEANING and IMPLEMENT IT IN YOUR LIFE.. or.AT LEAST TRY!

    i understand there is alot of reward for every letter that is read and i also understand that the Quran is a healing, however what better way to become better muslims then to read the quran with meaning and implementing it in our lives…insha Allah.

    just my opinion mind,
    jazakAllah hu khair

  10. Avatar

    Siraaj

    June 15, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    @isiaq: wa iyyak

    @AbuUmar: The next article will cover the details of managing time and dealing with how to handle the sleep issues. But briefly, you’ll need to do a couple of things, one of which is catching a nap. A good half hour nap can help considerably. Another is to not gorge during iftar as this can trigger food coma. And finally, I personally don’t have a problem with stimulants like 5 hour energy or biotest brain candy, but I have very high caffeine tolerance and they contain about 250 – 300 mg of caffeine in one shot, which can be great the first time, but you may find yourself overstimulated, unable to sleep, and worse off the next day. I think a strong cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt, though it really depends on your caffeine sensitivities.

    @Umm Abdullah: My own view was the same as your own about completing with understanding, however, Sh Waleed Basyouni clarified a few years ago in of the AlMaghrib pre-Ramadan ilminars that during Ramadan, this is the one time of the year which is the exception where we should chase after the reward for recitation because of how much it’s multiplied throughout the month, and why we find scholars who would just complete the Qur’an repeatedly throughout the month, and the speed at which they were going would not be conducive to thoughtful reflection.

    Having said that, if I was to hack a method to pull it off, it would be to re-read what I’ve read in Arabic in my native language after completing my allocated daily portion, keeping a translation handy on my smartphone so wherever I was and had a free moment, I could read it.

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      nadia

      June 17, 2014 at 2:30 AM

      I cant believe the thumbs down on this, it makes sense to me what he is saying.

  11. Avatar

    Hazique

    June 17, 2014 at 6:50 AM

    Assalamua’laikum…

    Just a little confession, I was the one who accidentally pressed the unlike button. Totally not my intention to do so, tried to undo it but couldn’t do anything bout it. Am a newcomer to this website and am really sorry but anyhow I totally love the practicality of the methods put forward. Just to add on the issue of having energy throughout the day, one can say SubhanAllah and Alhamdulillah 33 times each and Allahu Akbar 34 times before going to bed as advised by the Prophet s.a.w and this can be further explained by this post that i bumped into on mm – http://muslimmatters.org/2010/03/03/the-prophets-prescribed-antidote-for-housework-fatigue-remembrance-of-allah/

    This is a really great website Alhamdulillah. A fraternity of believing brothers and sisters calling to good. Lots of love from Singapore and may Allah reward all of you for your works and may all of us have a blessed Ramadhan and progress in our iman.

    JazakAllah hu khair :)

  12. Pingback: Pedoman Persiapan Ramadhan untuk Orang Sibuk | Bagian 2 : Merencanakan dan Mencapai Target yang Ambisius dengan Mudah | Rummaan

  13. Pingback: Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People | Part 4: Clearing the Decks | MuslimMatters.org

  14. Pingback: Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People | Part 3: Keeping on Track for 30 Days | MuslimMatters.org

  15. Pingback: Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People| Part 1: Training Season | MuslimMatters.org

  16. Avatar

    Atul mittal

    June 27, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    Thanks sir the helpful tips. I am not a Muslim, but many of my friends are and I will convey these tips to them. Ramadan is starting from tomorrow. It is not easy to fast for a whole month with so many rules. I wish all of you very good luck and a very Happy Ramadan.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  17. Pingback: Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People | Part 1: Training Season - MuslimMatters.org

  18. Pingback: óÍ Some couldn’t direct the winds so they adjusted their sails Ìò | gauntletsofAllah(swt)@WordPress

  19. Pingback: Optimizing our Ramadan effectiveness: 3 practical lessons – Waleed Kadous’ Blog

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide 

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.

The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.

The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.

Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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