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21 Ways to the Sweet Taraweeh

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Written by Ehab Hasan

It’s that time of year again. Ramadan is here! It’s a beautiful time of year for Muslims all around the world. It’s time to tighten that belt and fast those long days. It’s a time to connect with Allah, even if you’ve fallen below your own bar for the last 11 months. Alhamdulillah, you made it to another Ramadan – when the gates of the hellfire are closed, the gates of paradise are open, and the devils are chained. The good deeds are multiplied by 70 or more, and in it is a night that is better than 1,000 months.

During the month of Ramadan, the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to urge the people to perform optional taraweeh prayer at night. He did not order them or make it obligatory on them. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: 

“Whosoever performs optional Taraweeh prayers at night during the month of Ramadan, with Faith and in the hope of receiving Allah’s reward, will have his past sins forgiven.” (Muslim)

Taraweeh can be tough sometimes. You want to make that connection with Allah, but the prayers can be long sometimes – standing for extended periods of time and sometimes not understanding the verses being recited. Well here are some ways we can all work on making that connection and finding that sweet taraweeh.

1.  Eat a light iftar

So your stomach shrunk, but your eyes haven’t.  You’re starving and the iftar looks great.  Take it easy.  Eat when you get back from prayer if you need to, but don’t overdo it before taraweeh.

2.  Use the bathroom

Just like I tell my kids before we go out, use the bathroom even if you don’t think you have to.  Especially because you should be drinking a good amount of water at iftar this time of year.  Don’t let that disrupt your prayer.

3.  Make a good wudu

Concentrate on your wudu.  Think of your sins dripping as the water washes away.  Sure, you’re rocking the leather socks and are ready to wipe, but try washing your feet anyway.  And while you’re doing it, think of the One you’re about to meet.

4.  Dress comfortably

Nobody’s saying you have to wear a thobe or shalwarkamees… but it doesn’t hurt to try it out every once in a while.  Regardless, just make sure you’re comfortable (and modest) in whatever you decide to wear.

5.  Smell nice

This is more for your taraweeh neighbors who just finished reading this article and are also searching for that sweet taraweeh. But the last thing you want to be thinking about is whether that stench is really you or the guy standing next to you.  Brothers, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) loved nice-smelling musk, and so should you.

6.  Drink green tea

Drink green tea 30 minutes before taraweeh for a natural energy boost. The light caffeine will make you feel more alert. While it may not improve your Arabic, you will definitely have the feeling that its not the first time you heard these verses. (Please don’t start trying to correct the imam with your new boost of confidence and awareness.)  It’ll also keep your breath fresh, and the person next to you will thank you for it.

7.  Get to prayer early

Don’t be stressed about parking and whether or not you’ll get a good spot.  Get in your zone before prayer starts.  Do some pre-game warm-ups (sunnah) if there’s time.  It’s unfortunate that we worry so little about Isha prayer and concentrate more on taraweeh.  Remember that the obligatory prayer in its time is the best of deeds.

8.  Take the grudge out of your heart

Yes, that sister that walked in at the same time as you told an auntie who told your best friend’s cousin who told your mom that you rolled through a four-way stop sign.  It’s that time of year, so let it slide.  Let go of your stress so you can concentrate.

Let them forgive and overlook.  Wouldn’t you love that Allah would forgive you?” (24:22)

 

9.  Be aware of which chapters are being recited

If you’re not very familiar with the Quran yet, at least try to get the chapter title. Maybe ask the imam or the person following with his or her own Quran. You can even ask the organizers to post a schedule on their website.  It’ll help you concentrate when you know which surah you’re on.

10.  Review the verses if possible

Yes, we’re just laymen.  But if you can review the verses and have an idea what they’re about before you go then you’re golden.  I know, I know – time’s tight.  But it had to be said. If there are short reminders at your masjid about the verses, then even better.

11.  Memorize key words that shake the heart

If your Arabic isn’t good, or nonexistent, memorize a few common words that shake your heart and help you reflect – words like mercy (rahmah), Forgiver (ghafoor), believe (aminu), paradise (jannah), hell fire (jahannam), punishment (‘athab), and anything else that moves you.

12.  Make dua’/ istaghfar before going

Stand before Allah with a pure heart.  Ask that He open your heart to Him, that He protects you from an eye that doesn’t shed a tear and a heart that doesn’t ache. In His hands are all matters, so ask for His guidance and help to benefit from the taraweeh.

13.  Sit close to the front if you can (brothers)

Don’t let the congregation distract you.  Sitting in the front is the best for the brothers, and in the back rows for the sisters.  I know you want that spot in the fifth row right under the ceiling fan, but you’re the first person at the masjid.  Sit as close to the front as you can.

14.  Stand near those who remind you of Allah

As long as you’re not trying to impress or show off to them, sometimes good friends or people you really respect can give you the spiritual high that you need to concentrate more in taraweeh.  Try to be near them if you know that you’re only doing it for Allah’s sake.

15.  Have heart softening discussion/ reflections before taraweeh

Talk about Islam on the way there – with someone in the car or on the phone.  If you have no one to talk to, reflect a little, listen to a short lecture, and get yourself in the mood to stand before the Lord of the Worlds.

16.  Remember death

Remember the destroyer of pleasures.  Remember death.  This will make concentrating that much easier.

Among you are some who desire this world, and among you are some who desire the Hereafter” (3:152)

If you remember death, you will be of the latter.

17.  Pray as if it’s your last prayer

This was the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).  If you can figure out how to do this make sure you let others know.  It’s easier said than done, but if you can do it, then you’ve accomplished all you need to do.

18.  Know that God is Greater

“Allahu akbar” is often translated as “God is Great”.  It’s actually “God is Greater”.  He’s greater than anything else you have on your mind.  Anything that’s keeping you from concentrating.  Like the battery in your smoke detector that needs to be changed, or what you’re going to have for suhoor.  Allah is Greater than anything occupying your thoughts.

19.  Leave the world (and your cell phone) behind

Stop thinking about school, work, troubles, Facebook, Twitter, replying to texts, emails, or anything else.  Turn the ringer off… not vibrate so that when someone calls you can spend the next 10 minutes of prayer wondering who it could have been, only to find it was a wrong number.  Turn the ringer completely off.

20.  Reflect on your regrets and moments of closeness to Allah

Stand before Allah as a needy beggar.  And ask Allah to give you. Remember what you’ve done, and be humble enough to ask Allah to forgive you.  Only when you’re broken can you sincerely ask Allah to fix you.  Those are some of the best moments of your life.

21. Concentrate on the message

Listen to the words as best as you can, and know that this is a message to you from the Lord of the Worlds.  Know the depth of the Quran and how heavy it really is.  Had it been revealed on a mountain it would have crumbled out of the fear and love of Allah.  Yes, some recitations keep you more engaged than others.  I’ll let you decide if you want to stick to your local masjid or go masjid hopping.

Now go get it! Enjoy this beautiful month. May Allah allow us all to find that sweet taraweeh, and may He grant us the most out of the blessed month of Ramadan.

 

Ehab Hassan is a Muslim youth activist and Islamic worker.  He has served on several councils and boards of various Islamic organizations while concentrating much of his efforts in youth work over the past 15 years.  He strives to motivate and connect with Muslim youth and families by delivering sermons, leading discussions, and organizing creative community activities.  His passions lie in Islamic manners, family development, and sharing heart-softening stories, as he tries to get the world to feel something – because people can be so numb sometimes.  By day, Ehab is a Mechanical Engineer and by night he is a family man trying to maintain his status as the world’s best dad.  Ehab resides in Maryland with his wife and two young kids.  Follow him on Twitter @ehababuayah.

 

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ahmed

    June 27, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    Not really taraweeh specific but yeah

  2. Avatar

    Maqbool

    June 27, 2014 at 12:24 AM

    Mashalllaah!!!!

    This is such a good article with great tips

    Just make sure the Green Tea is not decaf!!

    Also…dont forget to rinse your mouth with mouthwash after meals

    The best mouth wash I have ever tried is called Smart Mouth…its costs a little more, but it truly lasts 24 hours a day….it even eliminates morning breath

  3. Avatar

    Sister

    June 27, 2014 at 1:21 AM

    JazakAllah Khair! These are some great tips.
    May Allah allow us to implement them and make this Ramadan our best one yet. Ameen!

  4. Pingback: 21 Ways to the Sweet Taraweeh – By Ehab Hasan | Masjid Noor Ul Huda

  5. Avatar

    umm habiba

    June 27, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Jazaak Allah khair. Good tips. I would like to add that my taraweeh became sweet after joining a word for word Qur’an class. Alhamdulillah could follow every word of the recitation n I wished the recitation would go on.

  6. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    June 27, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    22. Pray by the fan or air conditioning vent. :)

    • Avatar

      O H

      June 28, 2014 at 4:25 AM

      Especially if you’re in Saudi Arabia, many people try to compete for a spot closest to the fan/AC instead of first row! Obviously if the intention is one can concentrate better than hopefully it’s alright.

  7. Avatar

    Omer

    June 27, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    “Sure, you’re rocking the leather socks and are ready to wipe, but try washing your feet anyway. ”
    What do you mean by that? Washing your feet is fardh when doing wudu?

    • Avatar

      Kamal

      June 28, 2014 at 1:56 AM

      Dear Omer,

      I believe he is referring to the fact that if you do wudhu and then put your socks on, for your next wudhu (from 1 day upto 3 days depending) you can just wipe on top of the socks. You dont have to wash the entire feet.

      You can if you want to. See here for more info

      http://islamqa.info/en/9640

    • Avatar

      nadia

      June 28, 2014 at 4:35 AM

      I believe wiping over socks is the exception and not the rule. In surah Maida verse 6, (translation of the meaning)

      “O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and WASH YOUR FEET TO THE ANKLES. And if you are in a state of janabah, then purify yourselves. But if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and do not find water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and hands with it. Allah does not intend to make difficulty for you, but He intends to purify you and complete His favor upon you that you may be grateful.”

  8. Avatar

    Faizan Mumtaz

    June 27, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    Great tips Masha Allah

  9. Avatar

    Mahomed Shiraz

    June 27, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Really nice article. Love the fun aspect of the whole thing. And why not? This month should be enjoyed and embraced! May Allah help and guide all humanity ameen

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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#Current Affairs

Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians

Raashid Riza

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On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.

It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.

Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.

In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.

Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.

Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.

Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead

Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.

Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.

However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.

Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.  Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.

Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.

It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.

I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.

I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.

I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah

Raashid Riza is a Sri Lankan Muslim, the Politics & Society Editor of The Platform. He blogs here and tweets on @aufidius.

 

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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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