Ramadan Momentum…

Even with most of us at home and a lockdown in place this year, Ramadan still went by as fast as it usually does. It may have been different, but it came and went as it always does. This Ramadan felt like a lifeline amidst all the chaos and uncertainty in the world. Just as the pandemic reached its peak, Muslims around the world had the luxury of shifting their attention to the Blessed month that promised to be the first of it’s kind. A Ramadan without the Masjid. 

With Ramadan now behind us, we lose that focus and in many ways have to now face the reality of the ongoing pandemic. While some countries grapple with large death tolls, others are easing restrictions, where ever you are in the world, there’s one thing for sure, the world will never be the same again. Everyone speaks about things going back to normal but perhaps, our normal was wrong in the first place so we should strive to be better. Likewise, as we reminisce about Ramadan 2020, we should not be content with going back to normal. Now is the time to strive for a new normal, a better normal.

Ramadan is a great reformer but we often treat it as a season of goodness rather than a reminder of our true potential. We disrupt our routines, adjust our focus, and benefit from the Barakah for the entire month – but before Eid is over, we fall back into old habits and undo so much of what we strived to achieve. 

Make use of the Ramadan momentum and carry these blessings into the rest of the year. 

Little things, done consistently will create change. Everyone has their own Ramdan habits, their own memories, their own vices, and bad habits, change something, change one thing, stick to it and In Sha Allah, that might become the source of Barakah in your life even outside of Ramadan.

Sleep is for the weak… this week.

One of my fondest memories of Ramadan 2019 apart from the lack of a global pandemic was the nightly Qiyam-ul-Layl at the Slacks Creek Masjid. After Taraweeh we would head home for a break, get the kids to bed and I’d head back to the Masjid for the 10:30 PM Qiyam session. I’ve attended Qiyam programs at various Masjids over the years but what made this special was the fact that the Imam was focused more on quality than quantity.

We would pray 2 Raka’ah in just under an hour but would only cover a few pages of Quran so the recitation was slow, steady, and absolutely transcending. Prolonged Ruku and Sujood forced us to look inward, to reflect, to appreciate. 

This year we have an opportunity to create memories in our own homes. Don’t let the virus steal this from you too. These are the nights to exert ourselves. Perhaps our own recitations won’t be as captivating or melodious as our favourite Imam’s but that’s no reason to miss out on Qiyam during these Blessed nights. 

Whether from memory or holding the mus’haf, loudly or in small whispers, pray at night and make the most of these nights. For this week, sleep is truly for the weak. Not only was this a practice of the Messenger (S.A.W) during these nights, it is much needed during these chaotic times we live in. We need the dua to ease our current situation and we need the peace and tranquility to overcome the mental burden of these challenging times. 

May Allah accept our efforts and grant us the reward of Laylatul Qadr. Ameen. 

The seeds of Laylatul Qadr…

Children can’t fully comprehend the magnitude of Laylatul Qadr and don’t fully appreciate the fact that it is equivalent to 1000 months of worship. A child doesn’t yet understand the idea of pleasing the Almighty or earning such rewards for the hereafter so we need to make our discussions more relatable for them. 

Based on the conversations we’ve had this week, below are a few topics to help get them excited:

The magnitude of Angels that descend on the night of Qadr – more angels descend than there are grains of sand on this earth. WOW!

The majesty of Angel Jibreel who also descends on this night – a good segue into the story of revelation and the Quran.

Being able to ask Allah for anything that they want – encourage open communication with you and Allah. My heart melted when I told my 6-year-old daughter about making dua on this night and she reminded me that she makes dua with mummy every night before bed. Say Masha Allah!

The concept of Qadr and divine ordainment can also be tricky for a child to grasp so be mindful of this. By linking Qadr to dua, we can instill in them a habit of communicating with Allah and also an understanding that everything happens with His permission and by His decree. 

Bonus rewards – we should be encouraging our kids to do good deeds throughout the year but remind them of the extra points they can earn in these Blessed nights.

We came across an awesome Laylatul Qadr story this week which described the extra rewards as ‘when our parents really want us to have something, so they make it super easy for us to earn it. Like if they say, “you can have a new bike for Eid if you pick up that tissue from the floor.”‘ Love this! Check out the book here.

Kids are pure and innocent so the idea of repentance and forgiveness won’t appeal to them. 83 years or 1000 months don’t mean much to a child but by making the occasion relatable and exciting, we will plant the seeds that will one day lead to a greater appreciation for this amazing night. 

When the Masjids closed…

No one anticipated such a drastic change to our way of life within a matter of a few days. We’ve had to adapt slowly but we find ourselves living very different lives suddenly. Each week brought new challenges, new changes, new restrictions. I recall the last Jumuah I prayed at the Masjid, we heard about the virus but thought nothing of it. We went on with our lives as if we were invincible and within a week, Jumuah at the Masjid became a thing of the past.

The change was gradual but it really hit home when the Masjids were closed completely. We didn’t have the privilege of praying in the Masjid at all. This hurt because it was a harsh reminder that we are not in control, that we are utterly helpless. I thought about every time I could have gone to the Masjid but succumbed to laziness, every missed opportunity, every excuse.

It was a sad and sudden realization that really put things into perspective. I am an optimist and I know, our Lord is very Merciful so I came to terms with it and I pray for many more opportunities to visit the Masjid again soon. Ameen. 

Since this is the new normal, I figured its a good idea to look for opportunities even during these strange times. In the absence of the Masjid and with such strict social restrictions, the home became the new focal point of society. Stay home, work from home, pray at home. Every home became a Masjid.

I share my reflections and some tips on praying at home with the family on the My Salah Mat blog. Check out the article here, like, share and follow for more. 

My Salah Mat – A welcomed innovation.

One of the greatest joys and fears as a Muslim father is watching your kids emulate you in everything they do. As young parents, we were determined to set a good example for our kids and this alone was a key factor in many of the lifestyle choices we made as a family.

I recall taking my son to the Mosque with me from a very young age which I believe was a key factor in his understanding and love for Salaah. By creating a positive relationship with the Masjid from a young age, he was always excited to accompany me for Salaah. By observing me and everyone else around him, it wasn’t long before he began praying as he saw us pray and this extended beyond the walls of the Masjid too. I am so grateful for this experience with my son and I do believe that it was his early exposure to Salaah and the Masjid that contributed to his enthusiasm and appreciation for prayer in general.

Take your kids to the Masjid and show them how you pray well before you teach them about the importance of Salaah or even how to perform Salaah. That early foundation of love and familiarity will form the basis for their understanding of the fiqh later on. Based on my experience with my son, I wrote a post back in 2015 on how to encourage kids to pray with you which you can peruse here.

When it came to my daughter a few years later, we had a very different experience. She wasn’t as energetic about visiting the Masjid, she wasn’t excited about emulating me or mum when we prayed either. Kids learn and develop differently so I wasn’t too concerned but I was hopeful that my little girl would also come to appreciate the sweetness of prayer as her brother did.

Though this wasn’t of great concern to me, I have been searching for ways to encourage her to pray with us and when I came across My Salah Mat a few months ago, I thought it would be a great opportunity to create some excitement about Salah again. I am grateful for the opportunity to share our experience with this amazing new product.

First up, the service was fantastic. Once we finalised the details and logistics, I received a notification that the item was dispatched and I received it 3 days later all the way down in Brisbane, Australia. This was great since I had already told my daughter about it and she was ecstatic to check it out.

We received our package on a Friday morning and unboxed it immediately. The packaging and bright colours were so enticing that my little girl who hadn’t shown much interest in praying until then asked if she could pray on the mat. I rushed to find batteries and had it up and running in no time.

A few notables:

  • The 36 touch-sensitive keys guide you from Wudhu right through to completion of each prayer including Adhan and recommended dua’s.
  • The brightly coloured keys contain basic information regarding each step of the prayer process including the number of rak’ a in each prayer, when to recite aloud or not and even basic prayer times through the day.
  • By using touch-sensitive triggers, the mat is able to encourage the correct position and movements for prayer.
  • The mat is waterproof and fire-resistant making it very durable.
  • The bright colours are very attractive and appear almost toy-like.
  • The activity book is great fun and even contains basic information on Salaah, dua and surahs.

When I returned from Jumuah later that day, my little girl ran up to me and shouted ‘Guess what daddy? I prayed with mummy today’, I smiled and thought to myself, this review just wrote itself! We were pleasantly surprised and I was reassured that everything has its time, sometimes we just have to try different things and be patient particularly when teaching our kids about our faith.

My little girl is now regularly praying with us and has also begun enjoying our trips to the Masjid. We attended Jumuah together last week and she was proud to stand beside me and pray as she does on her special prayer mat at home. I am thrilled by the results we’ve had with this product and absolutely grateful for the opportunity to work with the team behind this amazingly innovative device.

If you’d like to order one or know someone who might benefit from this product, check out the My Salah Mat website and for a limited time, use code ‘modestman10’ for a 10% discount at checkout. See other reviews and how people are using their Salah Mats on Instagram @MySalahMat and follow me@ModestManStuff – Salaam.

Disclaimer: I received this product at a discounted price in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Views expressed and images are my own.

10 tips for the greatest days of the year…

The month of Dhul Hijjah has always been a notable event on our calendar. As a child, my first real memory of this month was the year my parents made the pilgrimage. More recently I feared having to leave my own kids to perform our pilgrimage and since performing Hajj 2 years ago, this blessed month has a special place in my memory and in my heart.

While the pilgrimage is the ultimate act to perform during these Blessed days, we shouldn’t restrict God’s mercy and blessing to the pilgrims alone. The Blessings of this month transcend the plains of the holy lands and we should all be striving to achieve more in them.

Eid-Ul-Adha has always lacked the enthusiasm and zeal with which we anticipate and celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr each year and I believe this is closely linked to the manner in which we spend the days leading up to it.

We spend an entire month sacrificing, reforming, reflecting and reciting in Ramadan which leaves us with a true appreciation of the celebration of Eid-Ul-Fitr. We need to apply this to Dhul Hijjah and in particular, these blessed 10 days so we can also earn the joy and blessings of the celebration of Eid-Ul-Adha.

10 tips for the greatest 10 days of the year:

  1. Reciting more Quran
  2. Reading and Reflecting on the meaning of the Quran
  3. Visiting the Musjid more often
  4. Optional prayers throughout the day/night
  5. Increased charity
  6. Reading and seeking Islamic Knowledge
  7. Increased Dhikr and the remembrance of Allah – particularly Tahleel, Takbeer and Tahmeed*
  8. Optional Fasting – at least fasting on the day of Arafah.
  9. Hajj activities with the family**
  10. Teaching the kids about Hajj and the importance of Udhiya/Qurban

Think about how you spent the last ten nights of Ramadan… and do it again!

* Tahleel = La Ilaha Illallah, Takbeer = Allahu Akbar, Tahmeed = Alhamdulillah

** Check out some of our previous years Hajj activities here.

May we all benefit from the Blessed days of Dhul Hijjah and may the efforts of those who are performing Hajj be accepted.

When interests align…

Taking time out each day to unwind and play with the kids has been a big part of our parenting strategy over the last 8 years. On most days it’s something we and the kids look forward to and when things get crazy or the routine changes, it becomes a fall-back, a safety net of sorts that we could all bank on at the end of the day. 

Avengers… Assembled.

The other day as I was setting up our Lego Avengers HQ with my son, I thought about a piece of parenting advice I came across a few years ago. I don’t recall the details but it was about taking a real interest in the things that interest your kids. Simple advice that stuck with me over the years which I am very grateful for. 

It got me thinking about all the ‘play-time’ activities that truly bring a smile to their faces. It’s the things we share an interest in that gets us excited and when we’re excited, we let down our guard, we get involved and actually ‘play’. This is where the magic happens.

I shared my interest in cars and superheroes with my son when he was a toddler without realising that they would become a great source of joy and bonding for us later on. We have our ups and downs, sometimes life gets the better of me but we can always connect and talk about cars or superheroes. Much like I can always connect with my dad on all things automobile. 

Children will seek out their curiosities and find their own interests but we have an opportunity while their young to nurture shared interests that will allow us to bond with them for years to come. 

Sounds easy enough but the catch is that we have to be willing to indulge them. Let down our guard, get on all fours and actually play with them. For some reason, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. We’re too busy, too tired, too old, or otherwise pre-occupied. We tell them to play, buy them toys, give them whatever they want but not what they need… our time, our interest. 

The mistake we make when becoming fathers is that we assume that fatherhood changes who we are. That we need to act ‘fatherly’, that fatherhood removes our inner child, our desire to play. We have to ‘man-up’ and be more responsible. All true, but no one ever said it had to come at the expense of our children’s childhood. Becoming a father should be our gateway back to our childhood, it provides an opportunity for us to re-live our childhood and re-visit our inner child. 

If we let go of our ego’s and allow ourselves to find our inner child, perhaps we’ll be better equipped to nurture and raise our own kids. 

I’m a Marvel fanboy that plays with lego, I watch super-hero movies and ‘invest’ in superhero merchandise. I have the Avengers assembled on my office desk and sip my coffee from an Iron Man mug. If anyone questions my actions or doubts my maturity, I like to remind them that…

‘we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing’ – George Bernard Shaw.

5 tips from an 8-year-old for the last 10 nights of Ramadan…

As we drove to Taraweeh a few nights ago, my son asked me if he could accompany me to Taraweeh prayers more often during the last 10 nights of Ramadan. I was impressed and I wasn’t sure how to respond since he’s at school this year and I wouldn’t want to make a commitment I couldn’t follow through on. I told him it was a great idea and that we could think about it over the next few days.

This got us talking about the significance of the last 10 nights of Ramadan and Layaltul Qadr which we discussed in detail when he memorised Surah Al-Qadr a few years ago. He has an excellent understanding for his age so I gave him some homework to come up with a few tips for kids to benefit from the last 10 nights of Ramadan and Laylatul Qadr. 

These are 5 tips from an 8-year-old on how to benefit from the last 10 nights of Ramadan:

  • Read the Quran and revise surahs every night
  • Go for Taraweeh prayers as often as possible
  • Read Ramadan Stories 
  • Give charity at the Masjid every night
  • Don’t waste time watching tv and playing video games

I was pretty impressed with the list so I told him I would share it. May Allah bless him. 

Easy and simple tips from the mind of an innocent kid who doesn’t have the burden of guilt, societal pressure or judgement. 

I pray you and your families benefit from these special nights and have a productive end to this blessed month. Ameen. 

Ramadan endgame…

When we become neglectful during Ramadan, there’s always the promise of redemption in the last ten nights. Once we reach the last third though, there’s less room for error. We’re in the endgame now. 

Our faith is diverse and flexible so everyone’s worship is somewhat unique to there own circumstances. Fluctuating levels of faith also make it difficult for a one-size-fits-all approach so these last 10 nights could mean different things to different people. 

Where ever you’re at with your worship, no matter your level of faith right now or the number of missed opportunities over the last 20 days… there is always room for improvement, there is always hope in the boundless mercy of our Lord. 

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” – Sunan Ibn Majah.

My game-plan for the last ten nights of Ramadan:

Quran before bed: I usually read Quran after Fajr and Asr so I’ll be adding some time at night to increase my recitation. 

Nafl prayer before bed: My post-Taraweeh time has been less productive recently so I’ll be adding Nafl prayers to increase my worship at night. 

Nightly charity: Small amounts regularly will allow you to maximise rewards and also create a habit of being charitable.

Check out My10Nights to automate your donations and ensure you don’t miss the opportunity of giving in charity on Laylatul Qadr. Many Masjids now have tap and pay facilities making it quick and convenient to donate every night.

Consistency is key because we’re at the tail end of the month, it won’t take too much for us to burn out. Small acts done regularly and consistently over the next 10 nights will allow us to end this blessed month on a high while also creating a few good habits with which to leave Ramadan with.

Whatever your gameplan, I pray you have a blessed end to Ramadan. May we be among those who find and achieve the blessings of Laylatul Qadr. 

Ruqyah & Meditation

My son recently went through a phase of fear, insecurity and what appeared to be mild anxiety. He went from being loud and very talkative to being very soft, quiet and scared for some reason. 

At first I assumed he might be having trouble at school since it was his first term at school after 3 years of homeschooling. Then we noticed that he was still excited about school and seemed to get into this quiet mode around 5 pm each evening. 

My indo-pak-ish family speculated that it was the evil eye. I even heard about egg-related rituals etc. but I decided that if it was indeed, something along those lines, I would deal with it according to the Sunnah. No eggs were harmed.

I pulled out my ‘Ruqyah’ book and did some research on what the best practice would be. My wife felt the same way and asked me to perform Ruqyah for him so I did and I was  absolutely gobsmacked at the results. 

He went from tearing and sulking that night to dancing down the stairs the next morning and we haven’t had any issues since. 

I have always erred on the side of caution when dealing with culture-heavy rituals and practices so this was not new to me but I was amazed at the simplicity, the sense of peace and of course, the results. Completely vegan friendly too. 

Following this, we also added meditation to our nightly routine again which I’ve found to be very effective in calming the mind and facilitating mindfulness, gratitude and better sleep. 

Hoping to put together a summary of both, the Ruqyah practice and our nightly meditation soon.