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My Starry Night – How Van Gogh Gave Me A Glimpse of Allah’s Plan

Hiba Masood

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Drama Mama
When things that you thought were entirely unrelated to each other come together, it is a joy and a relief. A joy because you experience firsthand a flash of the divine plan: It’s all connected! Everything! Everyone! And a relief, because for that fraction of time, things make sense. Order is present and it is established and it is manifest.

This is what faith means to the faithful. The constant knowledge that there is reason and order behind everything, even, or rather especially, when we can’t see it.

But when does this faith begin in us? And how? As children, can we pinpoint any spot in our childhood in which we directly witnessed the machinations of divinity? Perhaps not. But as adults, as parents, with all the experience and wisdom that age brings us, I have come to believe, that if we are present and paying close attention, we stand good chance of catching glimpses of the divine plan in the lives of our children.

Art history is not something I would have ever thought to include in my children’s homeschool curriculum. It simply would not have occurred to me. But all of a sudden, art history has become an integral and exciting part of our educational journey. My six year old son, Beta, is enthralled and I am running, breathlessly alongside him, often behind him, trying to keep up.

It all begins with that glorious website, beloved by parents everywhere, Starfall. Beta browses through it regularly and one day he stumbles upon the extremely short biographies of six renowned artists. I hear him reading along with the chirpy web voice about Marc Chagall. Paul Gaugin. Van Gogh.

“My favorite artist is Van Gogh.” Beta announces a few weeks later, apropos of absolutely nothing. (most of his pronouncements are like that – seemingly out of left field, but usually as a result of a long, internal dialogue which suddenly comes to be verbalized.) Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Van Gogh. I hear his name dozens of times a day. I nod and smile but pay little other heed. After all, I’m not very interested in art history.

Two Saturdays on, we are in a bookstore and my three children are sitting on the floor playing the awful game of who can pull out dozens of books from the lowest shelf and makes the biggest pile. They’re dragging and yanking and a mountain of book is growing beside me when plop! a storybook about a little girl visiting an art museum falls straight (from the heavens?) into Beta’s lap. He is captive and quiet for the next half an hour. The game is forgotten and he is entranced. We obviously purchase the book and bring it home.

Three days later, we are making our Plan for the Day and the kids clamor painting. Painting! Argh, I think, I am so not in the mood. I am feeling angry and confused about the kids and what their education or lack thereof is looking like. But they beg and plead, so painting it is. I bring out the paints and lay out the paper on the ground. Fine! Paint! I am sulky, already anticipating the mess to follow.vangogh2

 

But instead of painting, Beta is crouched in front of his bookshelf. He has opened up the story book we bought last week and is intently studying the pictures inside. I see him staring at “Café at Night”. I ask him, “Hey, we have this picture in our house. Can you think where?” He looks at me amazed. This picture? In OUR HOUSE? How does he not know this?! I think the same to myself. How does he not know this? Our apartment is tiny. There are only two pieces of art on the walls. This is yet another example of what an internal life this boy of mine leads.

We walk ten steps over to the living room wall. There, in its full 1500 piece glory is the jigsaw puzzle of Van Gogh’s Café at Night. Beta is laughing and laughing. “It’s so beautiful, Mumma. It’s so beautiful. Look! It’s in my book and it’s on our wall!” Yes, yes it is.

“Today, I’m going to paint like Van Gogh,” he declares. I show him how to Google images. We type in Van Gogh and stare silently at the dozens of image tiles that pop up. He eventually points to Starry Night. We leave it open on the laptop. I begin pouring out our acrylics, white, black, blue, yellow. When the materials are ready, I leave him to it. He looks back and forth from the screen to his paper for a long while. I walk around the house, doing my chores. Every so often, I pop my head in and I talk him through it whenever he seems confused. “Try using more white.” “Mix blue and black for this part.” He keeps going and going and an interesting version of Starry Night slowly but surely begins to appear on his paper.

It takes our entire morning and most of the afternoon, this “lesson”. It is Reading and Writing and Art and Art History and Computer Skills and Speech Therapy and Fine Motor Skills and Concentration and Logic all rolled into one. For a boy with many delays, including sensory processing, who just two years ago would howl uncontrollably if a speck of paint touched his fingers, it is progress. It is dedication and focus and frustration and effort and achievement.

vangogh3

When he is finished, we spread it on the balcony to dry. He turns to the iPad, his preferred refuge when he has been outward for too long, and I am sitting on the floor, physically spent but mentally satisfied. I am looking at the Beta-Van Gogh styled splatters of paint. I am thinking.

I am thinking of a day long time ago.

Six years ago to be precise: After two years of wanting and trying and praying, I am finally pregnant. We are happy but nervous. At the end of the doctor’s appointment that marks the end of the first trimester, we are cautiously jubilant. We are wandering around a toy store. We want to buy something but superstitiously don’t want to buy anything for the baby. I find myself gravitating towards the jigsaw puzzles. My husband, Hums, laughs. “You’ve never done a puzzle before and you’re going straight for a 1500 piece one?” Yep, I nod. I don’t know why I pick the one I do. It’s a Ravensburger edition of a Van Gogh. They don’t come cheap. For an unemployed couple who feels like throwing up when it’s time to pay for groceries, this is a splurge. But I am driven by something. I must get this puzzle. I must.

I come home with my Café at Night. I spend the rest of my pregnancy working on it. It is a very slow and painstaking, often frustrating, process. But as the days slip by like beads on a tasbeeh and I get bigger and bigger, so does the puzzle. I finish just a couple of weeks before Beta is born. It is beautiful. It is the only beautiful thing in our bare apartment and it makes us happy to look at it. The rich colors and the relaxed mood of the café diners under the twinkling stars help us forget, if only for a few minutes, the burden of our financial strain. A few months later, when we realize we are moving from Canada, bone broke, I make Hums promise that one day we will come back to that same shop and get me Starry Night. That’s the one I really wanted. But they were out of stock. Hums promises and we move across the world.

Six years later, it appears that I got my starry night. That I got it from this child, this child that I carried inside me while I searched the shelves of the toy shop for the puzzle; this child with all of his struggles, this child who has taught me patience, gratitude, and what hopeful happiness tied only to unshakeable belief in the promises of Allah looks like, this child who is the shining light, the shimmering star of my life, is the cherry on top of a very sweet cake.

For the adult, this is the lucky break. It is a front row seat to the grandest show of all. It is how parenting becomes the blessed opportunity to look both backward and forward so that we may witness the way flashes of light, His Light and His plan, are scattered throughout our lives starting from when we are not even born.

For the six year old, when things, seemingly unrelated – what you saw on a website, what’s hanging on your living room wall, the new book you bought last week, a painting lesson – come together in one exquisite whole, it is the picture of learning. But not just academic learning, no. It is the beginning of his education of what it means to be human, of what it means to be a trusting servant of his Lord, of what it means to have faith. He doesn’t know it yet but he is taking the tiniest starting steps towards understanding a little of what his mother and his mother’s mother and all his ancestors from time immemorial have been trying to learn and remember about life itself:

Nothing is random. Everything is connected. Every person you meet, every decision you take, every mistake you make, every purchase, every encounter, every success, every failure, everything has a purpose.

And all that this life, this starry, starry life asks of you is that even though you often don’t see that purpose for years and years or maybe even ever, you trust.

Always.

You trust that you are part of a bigger puzzle. You trust that the pieces of this puzzle are slowly but surely coming together. You trust that the puzzle may be frustrating, confusing or time consuming, but ultimately it is beautiful because the Maker is beautiful and He is Wise.

You trust.

And you keep the faith.

Always.

Hiba Masood is a writer, a motivational speaker and an entrepreneur. You can find more of her thoughts on life, faith and parenting on her page www.facebook.com/etdramamama

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kirana

    January 14, 2016 at 3:11 AM

    When Allah gives something you wanted such that you *know* it’s from Him ‘personally’ it’s infinitely better than if you got it when you wanted it.

  2. Avatar

    uzma gora

    January 14, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    *sigh* you make me cry….every single time you write something, you make me cry. Stay blessed, you beautiful soul. <3

  3. Avatar

    Shahnoor

    January 14, 2016 at 8:45 AM

    MashaAllah I am tears eyed You are a beautiful soul Hiba and May Allah swt continue to bestow his choicest blessings and Rahmah on you and uour beautiful family!

  4. Avatar

    Sadaf

    January 14, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Love every word!! Yes nothing is random.. Even me reading this at this point in time..

  5. Avatar

    Falak

    January 14, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    Starry night :)
    For someone not really into art , this is my absolute favorite painting. It speaks to me.

    The depth in your writing takes readers to a different wavelength. In the mundane days of caring for children, talking, connecting, then cleaning and more cleaning after them there is meaning . Your post reminds me that it is up to me to be mindful of that meaning.
    SubhanAllah, every mothers journey is unique and so beautiful. It’s a struggle as we advocate for what’s best for our kids.
    I have a 6 yr old boy with some speech and fine motor delays too – figuring out his puzzle has taken out the warrior in me.

    Keep writing sis – so that we can keep reading and getting inspired :)

    • Avatar

      Thomas

      January 28, 2016 at 9:42 AM

      And may I add our better understanding of whom we are in this confusing but beautiful world He has created for us all. We thank that eternal Love daily with our humble service to all. : ) Thomas

  6. Avatar

    nadya

    January 14, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    Beautifully written.. HE surely is the best PLANNER!
    You wanted that painting and it was out of stock and then you got it from where you least expected, thats how HE gives, just at the ‘right’ time!
    And I think beta’s painting is so full of hope, faith and light- definitely a master piece!
    hats off to the super mom- keep spreading faith and happiness through your blogs, posts and HAPPY PLACE, all the best.
    love & prayers!

  7. Avatar

    Rabah Masood

    January 14, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    I love this piece. Everything comes to a full circle in life. Subhanallah!

  8. Avatar

    Zujaja

    January 14, 2016 at 10:02 AM

    Beautiful thoughts all woven together to appreciate and thank for lords blessings..a connection we often forget to make, a much needed reminder..Alhamdullilah for everything indeed.

  9. Avatar

    Rabia

    January 14, 2016 at 10:39 AM

    This is what I believe in beautifully written

  10. Avatar

    Anas

    January 14, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    This is one of the best pieces you’ve ever written!

  11. Avatar

    Masooma

    January 14, 2016 at 1:45 PM

    ‘To trust that you are part of a bigger puzzle’ ; Thank you for the reminder Hiba!

  12. Avatar

    Fouzia

    January 14, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    Absolutely loved it.. Beautifully written.

  13. Avatar

    Maria

    January 14, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    This is beautiful.

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  15. Avatar

    Faiza

    January 14, 2016 at 3:12 PM

    Absolutely loved this piece of writing!! ❤❤❤
    And beta’s painting is simply awesome mashaAllah!!
    God bless u and ur family hiba?

  16. Avatar

    Mona

    January 14, 2016 at 6:26 PM

    Masha Allah. ….what an article!!! Love ur posts always. Keep going lady!!!!!

  17. Avatar

    M4

    January 14, 2016 at 6:42 PM

    Beautiful and so motivational.I was thinking just exactly this.That whatever plans we make,surely they benefit us,but what about Him,The Divine,He also planned for us,and ofcourse what He plans is Absolutely the Best of best,but for us humans it takes time to register,to absorb it,and because we are always so short of time,running after it,we almost miss it that what is coming towards us is actually the best piece.
    Wonderfully written,keep it coming and all the best for your new ventures.

  18. Avatar

    Sarah

    January 14, 2016 at 9:59 PM

    Gave me goosebumps. ….this is jus so beautiful

  19. Avatar

    Fawzia Salahuddin

    January 15, 2016 at 12:40 AM

    After reading your article, I had tears in my eyes… of happiness, of how well things got connected and out of sheer appreciation of the feeling of achievement and connectivity. You write beautifully and wonderful is the experience of being on the journey with you when reading your article. I can only aspire to be the mom you are for your kids… patient, cajoling, sullen yet understanding, rolling with the flow. Keep writing for you fill a void in me with your energy and your positivity . Jazak Allah Khair!
    PS: Beta’s painting is simply wonderful.. he’s so talented and bright Masha Allah!! His journey will be different and the “path less travelled”. Keep us on the path with you.

  20. Avatar

    Mahwish saud

    January 15, 2016 at 1:17 AM

    beautiful… no words to express my feelings…
    you writing this column without knowing that in how many ways this piece of writing can effect a person is also a part of the plan.
    I truly trust buddy…
    would love to meet you in person..
    In sha Allah will visit your happy place in coming days
    Allah khush rakhey…ameen

  21. Pingback: How To Know Pregnancy Week

  22. Avatar

    Jawairia

    January 15, 2016 at 4:54 PM

    I didn’t know that I’d be crying by the end of this..
    Thanks..:)

  23. Avatar

    Zee

    January 16, 2016 at 12:47 AM

    Marvellously written! Touched my faithful ? and artsy soul!!! Can’t what to read it again.

  24. Avatar

    Bright Light

    January 17, 2016 at 9:58 AM

  25. Avatar

    Nadine

    January 17, 2016 at 12:02 PM

    What an incredible piece of writing, and what a piece of art your 6 year old son created! He is really gifted. Just read this quote yesterday: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein.
    Only the faithful can see miracles. Thank you and God bless.

  26. Avatar

    Mariam mustafa

    January 17, 2016 at 4:05 PM

    Mashallah very beneficial!
    Baarakallahu feekum.

  27. Avatar

    Quran Classes

    January 18, 2016 at 4:31 PM

    o so sweet very nice article thank you for sharing ..

  28. Avatar

    Muslima

    January 18, 2016 at 6:16 PM

    LOVED IT!! Jazakillah khair!

  29. Avatar

    Maryam

    January 19, 2016 at 3:50 PM

    Few years back, My family and I had a really bad time but with Allah’s help we went through. Now, when i explained to my friends
    I always say it was like a puzzle and little by little the pieces came together so yes i agree with you, life is like a puzzle and sometimes you don’t see it but when the tribulations calmed down and you reflect on it you realised it. That made me more thankful for everything I have and made me realised Allah is so important and He is there for anyone who want to believe. Everything happen because of HIM and if you are greatful to Him your puzzle’s pieces will come together and bring you happiness InshAllah.

  30. Avatar

    Larry A. Singleton

    January 24, 2016 at 7:09 PM

    You’re to be congratulated. you sound like a great mom.

    My mom related a story to me. I guess I repressed it. Where I ran downstairs from my room in the attic. (A really cool room by the way) I wanted to show some neighbors who were visiting my parents a picture I drew. I was about your son’s age. According to mom dad said, “They don’t want to see that s**t”.

    I don’t know how true that is. My parents had a nasty divorce and mom was continuously badmouthing dad.

    Speaking as a frustrated artist. That Starry Night picture the kid painted looks great. I hope you bankrupt yourself buying paints, pencils and brushes for this kid. Really, that is a very nice painting.

    I haven’t read this article yet but I’m looking forward to it.

    On a religious note I wonder where “forbidden images” enters into this? What would be the parents reaction if he decided to “draw Muhammad”. Or if he and his friends decided to have a “Draw Muhammad Sleepover” in the ole’ tree house.

  31. Avatar

    M

    January 27, 2016 at 7:24 PM

    Made me cry! “We have the pixel; God has the picture” (Hamza Tortiz) i.e. We may not understand everything that has happened and continues to happen in our lives, but God is The Most Wise and Most knowledge, so He knows the wisdom behind it. If we choose to see good in something even if it appears otherwise, we’ll benefit in developing ourselves to better.

    • Avatar

      M

      January 27, 2016 at 7:25 PM

      Most Knowledgeable*

  32. Avatar

    Thomas

    January 28, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    Love it & will share this Love with many! God certainly blesses us daily, we only need to appreciate it — keep it up, and many blessings to you!

  33. Avatar

    Khoya Pyar Ko Pane Ka Strong Amal

    April 23, 2016 at 1:56 AM

    Khoya Pyar Ko Pane Ka Strong Amal , “Amal is the very powerful way which is most preferable by the Muslim people to solve the problem and for completing their desires. Khoya Pyar ko pane ka strong Amal is a strong tactic by our astrologer for the people who are the Break up a problem. Love is a very fragile feeling and emotion which needs extra care and extra support and when couples fail to give that support then they fail to make their love story successful.

  34. Avatar

    Surah Waqiah For Marriage

    April 23, 2016 at 1:58 AM

    Surah Waqiah For Marriage, “Marriage in a dream is excessively translated in kinship with an arrangement. On the off chance that one get hitched a lady who bites the dust not long after her wedding in the vision, it means,his determination perform work to be paid him not anything other than rather hard work, drudging, and push. On the off chance that one weds a two-timing in a fantasy, it assets to he is a miscreant. In the event that one get married an awful, bellicose or a represent wife in a fantasy,

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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan

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Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.

If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.

The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.

Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?

The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence.  For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.

For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.

Come Prepared

Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.

Stock it with as many things applicable:

  • A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
  • A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
  • A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
  • A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
  • Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.

Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.

Do not pack:

Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.

Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.

Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.

Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.

Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there. 

Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…

I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.

Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.

Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.

Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device. 

Reward for Success, in this life and the next

You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.

Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.

Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.

“Here’s the ice cream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of ice cream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”

Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.

Reinforce the rules – but define them first.

“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.

Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.

Avoid saying this:

Try saying this instead:

Stay out of my purse Please use the toys in your bag
Don’t draw on the walls Crayons only on the paper
No yelling Please use your “inside” voice
No food on the carpet Please have your snack in the hallway
Don’t run off Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]
No peeing the carpet We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.
No hitting Hands nicely to yourself.

While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.

Plan for Failure

Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.

  • How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
  • Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
  • For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
  • Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
  • If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.

Don’t Give up

If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:

Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.

When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.

Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.

May Allah make it easy for you and bless your children with love for the masjid in this life and love for Allah that will guide them through the next. Aaaaaaaameeeeeeeeen

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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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.

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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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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.

A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.

So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!

I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need  – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!

Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.

Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.

I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.

To catch Laylatul Qadr with MyTenNights, visit their website MyTenNights.com

Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.

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