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Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People | Part 3: Keeping on Track for 30 Days

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

The Secret Sauce of Successful People

Ramadan is known for its ups and downs.  Moonfighting arguments reach a fever pitch the days before Ramadan (magnified nowadays by social media), then drops like a rock once the fast begins.  Motivation for ‘ibadah also peaks in the first few days like runners taking off at the beginning of a marathon, only to spiral downwards towards the middle, and only pick back up again in the last 10 days before the 27th night.

Rather than jumping up and down, we want consistent spirituality.  When the moonfighting starts, we consciously put shaytaan and our nafs on “unfollow” and we stop retweeting that spiritual muck.  We are calm before, during, and after Ramadan.  The same is true of our worship during.  It will increase, as it must, and it is consistent throughout as much as possible for all 30 days.  When it goes down post-Ramadan, it’s a gentle drop rather than a frenetic effort to chuck all spirituality out the door post-‘Eid.

Some of the ingredients to the secret sauce of success in any endeavor include having lofty yet achievable goals, working smartly by recognizing which actions provide maximum benefit, planning a feasible plan forward, consistently moving the ball towards your goal by achieving just a bit more, persevering through those days when you don’t have motivation, and reviewing your plan to ensure you keep on track.

Within all of those, you must take into account the people who depend on you and how to keep them happy while you also take care of yourself – I can’t underscore this last point enough.  We don’t live in a vacuum where we can do what we want and the rest of the world isn’t constantly demanding our attention.  People who are successful manage their own needs amidst others.  They don’t live in an either / or paradigm, but they look creatively within their situation with an “and” mindset.  For a good example of this in action, take a look at famous athletes such as Hakeem Olajuwon or all the Muslim soccer players in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  They’re fasting AND they’re playing an intense game of futbal ;)

In the first part, we covered pre-training to get us warmed up for the upcoming Ramadan triathlon of siyam, salah, and Qur’an.  In the second part, we covered goal-setting and planning out how to think about the time each goal will consume on a daily basis.  Let’s now consider how we bring this alive into our daily schedule and keep ourselves riding high for the full month, insha’Allah.

Tools for Ramadan Success

The following are tools I recommend for keeping oneself in Ramadan mode throughout the month:

  1. Calendar / Planner
  2. Motivational Spiritual Talks
  3. Support Groups

1. Calendar / Planner

The calendar / planner should contain your monthly, weekly, and daily agenda.  It should contain the following:

  • Appointments: Events that must happen at a specific time.  This can include meetings, doctor’s visits, car repairs, and most importantly, prayer times at the masjid.
  • Single Tasks: This is anything else that needs to get done in the day.
  • Important Daily Habits:  By important, what I mean are those things which don’t have a time to complete and may not even have to be completed, but knowing if you did them consistently would result in an exponentially better life.  Some of these would include working out to keep fit, giving your kids quality time, qur’an reading / memorization, the five daily prayers, and developing new skills / talents through reading and practice.

I’ve intentionally emboldened important daily habits, as these are the foundation of a successful person generally, and particularly in Ramadan.  To help you understand why, watch the following video

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPsLnnAse0A[/youtube]

How you decide to deal with Important Daily Habits on your calendar is up to you.  You can do one of three things:

  1. Schedule them like an appointment:  Do them consistently at the same time daily.
  2. Schedule them like a single task: Each day, have the habit tracked somewhere as a task.  Place it in the schedule first before you put down anything else, then put everything else around it.
  3. Hybrid: Place some important daily habits at specific times and others simply keep them recorded, and then decide where you’ll put at the time you plan your day.

Let’s look at an example of a calendar which captures all of this (click the image, it expands :)).

mmpart3cal

I’ve colored coded them so that green is important daily habits, yellow is appointments, and blue is single tasks.  I realize it’s possible that something can both be an important daily habit and treated like an appointment (eg fajr at the masjid), and as well, there may be certain things which are important, but happen only once.  Don’t get too caught up on that, but focus on whether something is important and if it’s scheduled as the highest priority in mind.

The first thing you should fill out are your important daily habits.  Notice that I’ve filled many (but not all of them) at a specific time in the week.  So fajr and isha / tarawih are always at the same time.  Other prayers like dhuhr, asr, and maghrib are also on the calendar at specific times, but because a person may be doing them independently, if they have to manipulate the time a bit to adjust to day to day demands, they can do that during that day.  Sometimes, an appointment may occur at the planned usual time, so move the prayer around it to accommodate it.

One habit to note is the Qur’an reading habit.  This is an important daily habit, but for this hypothetical person, it’s not feasible to do it at the exact same time every day, so notice that it’s placed at the very top of each day (as an all-day event) simply as a means of tracking.  When the time comes to plan the day, the person can choose where best to put in their one hour of Qur’an reading.  In this example, the person decided that after waking up and getting their bearings a bit, they’d read Qur’an for an hour first.  The next day, this hypothetical person decided they would read Qur’an during their lunch break on the job.  Maybe on day 3 they wake extra early before fajr and have lots of energy and decide they’ll take advantage of the time to fill their Qur’an quote, even though they haven’t put it down, but they know it’s coming.

After the important daily habits, on Sunday this person decided to fill their time taking care of the home, doing chores, groceries, and taking the car for a cleaning.  In the evening, this person either rests before iftar or spends quality time with the family, and does this every single day.  On Friday and Saturday, their evening routine is a bit different because of gatherings they plan to attend that week.

Each day, the person will come back to their calendar to look at not only the current day, but what’s coming ahead in the next 6 days as well (a one week view).  They can plan out the most important activities to complete that day, place it in the agenda for that calendar, and then make sure to complete everything on there.  If they go over the time and can’t complete something in the allotted time, they can adjust the schedule as needed to bring down the amount of work they think they can complete in the day, move tasks to be completed later, and then revisit them the next day (or week) if needed.

Because we often underestimate the time to complete certain work, I personally think it’s better to plan out only the current day in detail on an hour-by-hour basis either in the morning of that day or in the evening before bed.

Also please note that I have intentionally added sleep all over this example calendar.  Sleep is important when you’re fasting 16 hours daily and praying late nights.  Since you won’t get all your sleep at night, try to find times during the day to get it, maxing out at 8 hours.  Do not spend all day sleeping as some do, as there is no virtue in this.  At the same time, don’t think you can feasibly neglect it and only have 4 hours of sleep each night.  No matter what you’ve read about other scholars and virtuous people doing this, realize that that lifestyle requires the development of habit over many years, and one should not try something so drastic in an overnight-cold-turkey sort of way.

Finally, you may find that you’re not perfect.  That’s perfectly ok, so long as you have a plan to make up for mistakes.  For example, let’s say you only completed 10 pages of Qur’an on Monday.  You’re officially 10 pages behind in Qur’an reading now, so what will you do?  Adding extra pages during the weekdays might be too much, but can you split the difference and make it up on the weekend?  For those things that can be made up, try to find a way to make them up later in a way that’s doable for you.

2. Motivational Spiritual Talks

It’s truly tragic we debate whether music is halal or not, focusing and (I would say) wasting all our energy on academically discussing the reasons for or against the use of instruments when we all agree that anything with licentious lyrics should be prohibited, full-stop.  Contemporary pop music is nothing more than an automated shaytaan whispering in your ears in full HD, calling you to sex (i.e. the degradation and objectification of women mostly), narcissism, greed, disrespect, and overall heedlessness of the next world in favor of an excessive focus on this one.  And to cement those ideas positively in your head, it’s accompanied with music designed to elicit a positive chemical response in order to hard wire it’s acceptance into your brain.

During this month, let’s drop the music and singing in favor of Islamic talks.  Get your favorite speaker on your mp3 player and where ever you would have normally been listening to music (or if you don’t listen, where there is nothing that consumes your mental bandwidth while working), listen to a good set of talks about Ramadan.  Commit to do it daily.  Automate virtue and spirituality and the call to better adab, manners, living, ethics, and worship in HD in your ears.

Some times to do this would include when you’re doing chores at home, commuting to work, or some other mundane task.  Get a smart phone, a car stereo that connects to devices via bluetooth, and stream your favorite speaker from youtube to your car stereo.  Put some headphones on while you’re grocery shopping.  Find a way to fill your head with virtue and keep virtuous company.  Post-Ramadan start listening to audiobooks and become a better read, more intelligent individual.

3. Support Groups

One method that is known to keep people on track with difficult goals is being part of a support group.  Find yourself a group of close friends who want to achieve big things during Ramadan, and form a group – a mailing list, a discussion forum, a facebook group, a twitter list, whatever technology or means you prefer, but keep a group on hand where you can talk about your goals and share your progress.  It will motivate others as well as keep you motivated to stay on track.  There may be some fear that one can feel their intention getting compromised by sharing progress, but this something you have to fight.  When you feel you may be falling into riyaa, renew your intention and fight that feeling as you keep motivating others while being motivated by them.

What Are Your Techniques?

In the comments below, share with everyone your techniques for staying motivated and keeping on track during Ramadan =)

Siraaj is the Operations Director 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

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    M

    June 17, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Salam, JazakAllah Khair for sharing this. Keeping a calender/planner really helps in keeping track of one’s goal. It’s like a self-evaluation tool. I came across the “Daily Taskinator” chart from Productive Muslim, and made a personalised version of it last Ramadan. It’s really handy. I’ve been using it since then for every month.

  2. Avatar

    Uzair

    June 18, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    Assalam Alaykum.
    Jazak’Allah for the amazing series!

    Wonderful post brother. May I suggest DayScore.net for keeping track of your habits during Ramadan?
    It’s pretty simple and straightforward since you don’t need a separate app. Just type in the habits and bookmark the page. Open it daily while checking email and stuff.

  3. Avatar

    M.S.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    As salaamu aleykum.

    MashaAllah, good suggestions and tools brother Siraaj. May Allah reward you.

    Ok, so I think, I had a good Ramadan last year, Allah knows best. And I would like to share some things I had incorporated into my routine.

    1. Attending all congregation prayers at the Masjid. I tried to attend as many prayers as I could during the work-week, and I made it a habit to pray all the prayers at the Masjid during the weekends. I found out when I did this frequently, it got easier for me to make more dhikr and read a few extra pages of Quran every day.

    2. Giving regular Sadaqah every day. I allocated a budget before Ramadan started, and gave charity in both money and food every single day. Sometimes I would donate to a charity online, other days I would give out a few dollars here and there in whatever Masjid or area around town I found myself in. In terms of food, I would distribute food consistently each day. People would ask me how I could give every day and frankly speaking, once I started it, it became super easy, I never got tired, and it never drained my wallet. I miss it so much, I can’t wait for this year’s Ramadan already.

    3. Have a unique dua list ready to go. (Sensei…oops, I meant Shaykh Muhammad Al-Shareef, may Allah reward him, advocates having a good dua list ready. I used this for both Ramadan and during Hajj. It is awesome.) InshaAllah, write down your dua list today and check it twice. Start practicing those duas every day from now, and as Ramadan gets closer, it becomes easy for you. Then when Ramadan arrives, say those duas after the Adhan, after making dhikr after the Salat, before breaking your fast at Iftar time and even before you go to sleep. InshaAllah, Allah will answer something for you on that dua list.

    4. Every free moment I could find, I worked in some time to recite Quran. During the work week, I would consistently recite Quran after Fajr prayers. The Quran after Fajr, was the key to having a good recitation day. After work, after Asr prayers or before Iftar time came in, I would recite more, to see if I could complete a Juz or even more. At work, I would put on my head phones and listen to Quran, and/or recite along as much as I could. On the weekends, cutting out internet and TV from my time increased my efficiency, it allowed me to recite two, sometimes three Juz in one sitting. AlhamdulilAllah, with the slight changes in habit, I found out that I was able to finish reciting the complete Quran from cover-to-cover many times. May Allah guide me, and all of us to the sweetness of the Quran in this coming blessed month.

    5. Postponing all Iftar dinner invitations to Eid day and afterwards. Sad to say this, but I did turn down a majority of the Iftar-dinner invitations to people’s houses during last Ramadan. I know it is hard for some people to refuse a good meal (including myself), or invitations from important people and/or respected relatives, however try your best to keeping it within 3 to 5 outside Ifar dinner plans. I suggest you make a schedule, mark an ‘X’ on the free nights, and lock it in. (I would suggest picking an even-night on Saturdays or Sundays as one of your wild-card nights for accepting invitations. Although every day & night is potentially very rewarding, you want to have a game plan and avoid being spontaneous in Ramadan. Don’t be afraid to say no, for the sake of Allah.) Once all available space is booked in your schedule, take no more appointments until Eid day inshaAllah. In my case, if a brother kept insisting on inviting me, I would say ‘Sorry brother, I love you for the sake of Allah but I have made plans already”. I learnt to repeat that line over and over again with a big smile. I found out many Iftar dinner parties outside my zip code or held outside my local Masjid, disrupted my chances of catching the Maghrib, Isha and Taraweeh prayers in congregation. Also, most Iftar dinner parties led to over eating on my part. Most of the time the host (i.e., the host’s wife) almost always overcooked, the portions were enormous, and as a guest who didn’t want to disappoint, I don’t know how but I turn into a competitive eater. So minimizing or completely curtailing these Iftar dinner smorgasbords did wonders to my Ramadan activities, and my waistline.

    6. This last point is an extension of the previous – be friendly and nice to people in Ramadan, always seek refuge in Allah from Shaytan, overlook people’s errors even if they hurt you, and try to focus on oneself. So what I am really saying is, be a little selfish in a good way. Focus on yourself and don’t lose sight of the blessings you, as an individual, can earn in this month. Yes, many things practiced in Islam fall into a group activities, group activities have people with personalities & attitudes that will most likely clash with yours. I am not advocating avoiding people but I am suggesting making a few intelligent choices, picking one or two activities with people that will really benefit you, and don’t just buy into anyone’s idea of a ‘super-awesome Ramadan Halaqah Dawah Project Family Gathering’ mash up. AlhamdulilAllah, last Ramadan there were many activities in our local masjid that I would have loved to participate in, but frankly, I declined many of them because I knew there was potential for me to lose focus or burn-out. In one incident, last Ramadan, while I was sitting in the masjid reciting Quran, a brother at our Masjid stood up and made an announcement about a new Halaqah that was starting that same day in the Masjid, and would continue every day after Asr prayer in the month of Ramadan. He was encouraging people to participate, and he actually walked over to me, and invited me to attend. I greeted him, gently declined and he somehow got pissed at me. He insisted it was beneficial knowledge and it is a blessed month to be learning, and I told the brother, I couldn’t and that I wanted to focus on some other tasks. The brother walked away disappointed. Working 40+ hours a week did not leave me with a lot of energy, and I choose to focus on the goals I set for myself like continuously reciting the Quran, upping my GPA average on congregational prayer attendance, and maximizing the reach of my charity in my local community. I think I accomplished those tasks and I ask Allah to accept them of me. But what I didn’t do is attend Tafsir classes, participate in dawah projects and/or take part in distributing the Zakat ul-Fitr charity. I know there were other brothers who took advantage of those activities and I ask Allah to reward them and bless them for it.

    May Allah accept of us all and reward us with Jannatul Firdaus al-‘Alaa.

    Wa salaamu aleykum

    • Avatar

      AA

      January 28, 2016 at 9:31 AM

      Jazaaka Allaahu khairaa for sharing this list. It’s very helpful.

  4. Avatar

    Abdul-Qadir

    June 18, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Assalamualiakum,

    What I do every year for the past several years is have a create a few goals, and try to meet those few only. If i try to do too much i feel let down and quit.

    1. Dua list for use the entire month especially during the last ten nights.
    2. Quran read/memorize
    3. Chosen Islamic book to read (Dua: weapon of the believer, short tafseer, Aqeedah book, etc.)
    4. Chosen Non-fiction book (marriage, money habits, business, etc.)
    5. 10 hadith from Riyad-as-Saliheen daily.

    I then look at the day and see where i can fit it in. The hadith usualyl happen in the morning, the quran during lunch, the rest after work.

  5. Avatar

    Said Hasan

    June 19, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    JazakAllah khayr for sharing this great article. After reading beneficial Ramadan posts at muslimmatters.org, productivemuslim.com, onislam.net, islamqa.com and youthlyhub.com, I aim to have a life-changing amazing Ramadan in sha Allah.

  6. Avatar

    Shahzad Mustafa

    June 19, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    JazakumAllahu khairan for this series. Lots of great ideas on help us organize our Ramadan. What needs to be said loud and clear, is that once a Muslim’s heart begins to yearn for his/her Lord, truly believing in the reality of the Akhirah, and feeling the urge to maximize his/her time in this world to do good deeds, then all these tools/technique become contextualized. It’s gotta be an “inside out” approach. One of the challenges of spirituality in our community is people get overwhelmed with the “externalities” of Islam (praying, fasting, going to the masjid, jumu’ah, hijab, beard, etc.) while the hearts and minds are not growing. Ramadan in particular can be very “religiously hectic” with the need to pray all that taraweeh, finish reading the Quran, etc. But it’s that internal journey that is ultimately to be sought for, and then the actions will easily follow.

    • Avatar

      M.S.

      June 19, 2014 at 6:01 PM

      As salaamu aleykum

      I support Shahzad’s position on the need to raise the spiritually level of one’s heart in a blessed month like Ramadan. And throughout the year. And I have to agree we have to challenge ourselves to think deeper, to ask intelligent questions about where we stand in our faith and we need to start looking from the inside-out.

      However, if I am reading the post correctly, and I could be misunderstanding what was written, it seems like Shahzad is saying we need to relegate some recommended actions because they are “externalities of Islam” that hinder a community from achieving a higher spiritual threshold. Maybe this is not what you meant but I have to say this line of thinking sounds flawed, and it is weird to imply that the lack of spirituality in people in a community, is a result of burn-out from performing some obligatory actions (or the supererogatory actions). I hate to use the cliché, correlation does not imply causation, but it really applies here. Maybe we need to dissuade people in the community from getting involved in other things that could be degrading them spiritually, for example, discouraging sins, or consumption of impure earnings & staying away from interest, or discouraging them from excessively loving materialism & glamour, and/or warning them about not getting involved in actions of bid’ah which can blemish their thinking and their understanding of Islam. These are just some of the few bad apples I can think of that could really undermine people’s spirituality and weaken their connection to their Creation. As far as the praying of Taraweeh and/or reciting the Quran goes, these are recommended actions and considered some of the best deeds, and it is okay to accept that not everyone is going to be at the same performance level in reading, reciting or attending the prayers. Some people will struggle a bit in Ramadan, others may find a comfortable pace, and yet others will move like well-oiled machines. Some people may even become more generous in Ramadan by them just witnessing other people giving generously. Everyone will agree, this is a good step in the right direction. (Yes, if someone did put in major effort throughout the year in learning Arabic the language of the Quran, for sure, their level of Khusoo’ and comprehension of the recited Quran will be better during Taraweeh prayers in Ramadan. But that doesn’t mean we have to discount the Taraweeh altogether.) We need to encourage people to do more of these actions in Ramadan and after Ramadan, and not discourage them. From what I understand, the intent of the recommended actions done with sincerity, is to try to raise one’s rank in front of Allah and have hope that Allah accepts that extra effort. And we all know there are many ranks for the sincere believers to strive towards, may Allah make us amongst the best. However, to insinuate that a recommended action like Taraweeh prayers takes away from raising the spirituality of practicing Muslims or keeps them away from doing good deeds, is a stretch. Yes there is a problem with lack of spirituality or low spirituality in many of us, no one disagrees, but let’s not use the mentality of the cynical six-phases of a big project that said “Search for the Guilty, Punish the innocence”. This would not work well.

      May Allah forgive me and all of us, may He accept our deeds, and help us improve ourselves and the condition of His creation and the believers.

      Wa salaamu aleykum

    • Avatar

      Saliha

      June 19, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      Shahzad, I see where you’re coming from: we definitely need to focus on spirituality and our hearts. That being said, I agree with M.S. To paraphrase a hadith, Prophet (SAW) said, “None of you truly believe until your desires are in line with what Allah (SWT) commands.” So a major part of the inner journey is doing what we need to do like salah, beard, etc. The goal would be for the feeling of these acts of worship being a burden or overwhelming transforming into positive feelings like enjoyment and relaxation. So, it would have to be the other way around: the more obligatory and nonobligatory stuff we do and the more we’re actually enjoying it, the better and the more sincere our inner journey would be. To use a mundane example, you wouldn’t tell a person that has heart disease to just stop working out and dieting because they find it overwhelming would you? You would instead tell them, “Ok, so incorporate a little of both each time until you’re no longer aware of the fact that you’re eating healthy because it’s so normal for you, and until working out becomes a routine that you actually love.” That would be the ideal, but even if we can’t get to this ideal, we can still keep working at it, right?

  7. Pingback: Ramadan Prep Guide for Busy People | Part 2: Planning and Hitting Ambitious Goals Easily | MuslimMatters.org

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#Life

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

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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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

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students

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

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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.

Riḍā.
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.”

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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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