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. 

Mothers Day thoughts

Growing up in an indo-pak Muslim environment, love, respect and servitude to your mother is almost instinctive. We read about this in Madrasah, listened to entire sermons on the topic and even sang songs about the elevated status mothers have in our faith. 

Ironically, it’s the same culture that will propagate against the celebration of Mother’s Day each year which is something I’ve reflected on for many years.

 
The reason I don’t ‘celebrate’ Mothers Day is because I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve my parents everyday. If you love and take care of her everyday then Mother’s Day becomes just another day. 


Modernity has slowly but surely removed much of the emotional and spiritual bonding between parents and children, particularly teenage and adult children so unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to love, respect and serve their mothers every day. For these people, at least there is Mother’s Day. 


If you look beyond the mindless capitalism and token gestures you will find an innate desire to love and show love even if it’s just for this one day and I don’t see why anyone should ridicule that. 


The commercialisation of Mother’s Day is frustrating in many ways but equally frustrating is the judgement calls from narrow minded,  self-righteous keyboard warriors making people, Muslim or otherwise feel like there is something wrong in displaying love or affection for your mother on this day. 


Mothers Day is not Haram and every day is not Mother’s Day for everyone. 

أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ

“Be grateful to Me and to both your parents.” (31:14)


If everyday is Mothers Day for you, be grateful for that. If not, let Mother’s Day serve as a reminder of the importance of loving, respecting and serving her. In Sha Allah there is Khair in Mother’s Day too. 

Afternoon reboots…

“The replenishing thing that comes with a nap — you end up with two mornings in a day.” – Pete Hamill. 

The Qaylulah, Siesta or power nap has been a part of my Ramadan arsenal for a few years now and I think I may have finally mastered the art. As someone who is sleep averse and does not/can not nap at any time during the rest of the year, I find great solace in adopting this prophetic-inspired habit during the month of Ramadan. 

In Arabic, “Al Qaylulah” means “the mid-day rest”, which can be a short nap or rest period. It was a practice of the Prophet Muhammad (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) as well as his companions.

“We used to offer the Jumuah Salaah with Nabi (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) and then take the afternoon nap.” (Al-Bukhari)

It is the most practical means of maximising morning productivity while facilitating the balance in energy levels to allow for the endurance and stamina needed for the rest of the day.  I honestly can not fathom a Ramadan routine without it.

Ishaaq ibn ‘Abd-Allah said: “Taking a nap is one of the deeds of good people. It revitalizes the heart and helps one to pray Qiyaam Al-Layl.”

It does just that. While there is a plethora of health and other benefits associated with day time naps, I’m grateful for the wisdom in this simple but often overlooked Islamic tradition.