The mid-Ramadan slump…

When the fasts get slow, when the days feel long and the Taraweeh lines get short…

We go trough this every year and I think everyone experiences it in some way or the other. It’s important to acknowledge that this is happening so you can deal with it and re-energize ahead of the last 10 days.

Focus on quality over quantity. Remember, everyone’s worship is different and fluctuations in your level of faith or Imaan are completely natural and normal. We can not experience the highs without the lows.

  • Take a break from your Ramadan routine – change things up.
  • Reflect on the importance of Ramadan and what you’ve achieved so far.
  • Read the translation of the Quran to compliment your Arabic recitation.
  • Get some rest, catch up on some sleep.
  • Listen to motivational lectures about Ramadan.
  • Listen to the recitation of the Quran.

Don’t make Ramadan unnecessarily hectic and it won’t be a blurred memory. By taking some time out during the middle 10 days of Ramadan, we can improve our chances of maximising the final 10 days/nights.

Decide on what your core Ibadah actions are and focus on achieving this as a minimum during the middle 10 days. Plan ahead and establish some sort of direction for the final 10 days/nights of Ramadan and then give it all you have In Sha Allah!

In the words of Muhammad Ali, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count’.

Ramadan game-plan…

The month of Ramadan is almost upon and as always, is a month of spiritual devotion, reflection and discipline. As part of my Ramadan preparation each year, I like to reflect on Ramadan’s gone and plan ahead to make the most of this blessed of months.

 

Plan Ahead
If you seek to gain maximum benefit in any activity, planning is essential. Whether you’re studying, working or at home, Ramadan requires preparation. Physical and psychological preparation is just as important as spiritual preparation and combined, can make a significant impact on the quality of your Ramadan experience.

 

Meal planning, food preparation, priority management and efficiency strategies are vital to a productive and spiritual Ramadan. Everyone has their own way of adjusting to a new routine but don’t underestimate the importance of planning even the little things ahead of Ramadan.

 

Fasting
The month’s leading up to Ramadan provide a number of opportunities to get yourself back into the fasting groove. It might be a year since your last fast so it’s a good idea to test your mental and physical resolve with a prep fast. I find fasting outside of Ramadan to be more challenging but it also helps me realise how well I can cope without all the coffee and protein shakes.

 

Clean eating
What you eat and drink can greatly impact your ability to last the fast as well as your level of productivity while fasting. For some reason, some cultures associate fasting with greasy, deep fried anything and everything which tastes amazing but will also make you lethargic in your prayers. Not to mention the reflux, heartburn and weight gain.

 

Drink lots of water through the night and avoid high sugar and salty foods. Watermelon, cucumbers and dates make for awesome snacking and keep you refreshed for the night prayer. Green Tea is a good source of natural caffeine for the extra energy hit if you’re feeling down after a long day of fasting. Coffee is probably not the best at Iftar but I do look forward to my post-Iftar cuppa which helps me re-energise for Taraweeh.

 

Read Quran
We should be reciting the Quran on a regular basis anyway but Ramadan is the month of the Quran so there is almost a natural inclination towards a greater awareness of the book and it’s message. Increase your recitation and aim to complete at least one cycle of the Quran during the month of Ramadan. Recitation is important, understanding is key so try to compliment your recitation with the Tafseer or explanation of the verses.

 

Family Time
The change of routine associated with Ramadan is not a bad thing. Play your cards right and the new routine can shake things up at home for the better. If your kids are early birds like mine are, they will love waking up early and getting a head start on the day. Suhoor and Iftar are great opportunities for family bonding and spiritual enlightenment. Eat together, have a picnic in the backyard, pray as a family and let Ramadan be something your family looks forward to every year. Don’t stop at Iftar, post-Taraweeh date night can be very romantic too – late night dessert and dhikr is a good way to end the the day.

 

Charity
Ramadan is also the month of giving. Give a little, give a lot, every bit counts. Always carry cash so you can contribute to the local Masjid collection box, pay your Zakaat in Ramadan for extra rewards and increase your voluntary charity throughout the month. Ramadan is the perfect time to teach the kids about charity and the value of giving. We always have charity boxes handy for the kids which gets them collecting throughout the month. Give money, give your time, give food, give prayers… we all have something to give.

 

Keep Busy
Work, school and other commitments don’t stop for Ramadan so it’s important to find the right balance. What you do in your downtime can make a huge difference, don’t waste time with meaningless activities. Give thought to the things you do and find meaning in your actions. If you find yourself with some time on your hands, do something good, it doesn’t have to be something big. Help with Iftar preparations, go early to the Musjid, visit the sick, perform optional prayers or read a (beneficial) book. Sometimes, a changed perspective is the only difference between meaningless and meaningful.

 

Keep going
In the words of Rocky Balboa, ‘It ain’t about how hard ya hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward’. Life will always get you down or get in the way, that’s part of the struggle. If you find yourself falling behind, perhaps the fasting proves difficult or you have difficulty coping with other commitments, just keep going. Have a plan, do your best to stick to it and make an effort. One of the beauties of Ramadan and fasting is that the reward is with Allah alone.

 

I pray for a productive and successful Ramadan In Sha Allah.

Pre-Ramadan Shake up!

Ramadan 2017 is fast approaching and with only 2 weeks to go, it’s time to re-visit a few Lifestyle Optimisation Strategies of old. Clear up the clutter now so you can take advantage of every opportunity during the month of Ramadan.

Here are a few tips I’ve used over the years to prepare for the blessed month:

  • Make up previous year’s missed fasts / Pay Fidyah, etc. depending on your circumstances
  • Take advantage of fasting during the month of Sha’ban
  • Recite Quran – if possible, complete your current recitation and begin a new one in the month of Ramadan
  • Get a good sleep cycle going so you can handle waking up for Suhoor
  • Cut down on socialising and social media so you can avoid unnecessary talk/chat, etc
  • Talk to the kids and prepare them for the change in routine ahead – Get them excited too!
  • Limit the amount of Entertainment/Television/Movies/Gaming, etc
  • Plan your meals early – Ramadan is not just about food but since we need to eat and drink, plan your menu in advance and make all necessary preparations so you don’t waste time in the kitchen.
  • Shop now – get your shopping done early, stock up on groceries and your Eid clothes too so you’re not frequenting the shops when you can be benefiting from the virtue of this auspicious month.
It’s been a year since the last Ramadan, take this opportunity to get back into the zone so you don’t waste valuable time trying to find your feet. Prepare early, prepare well and get ready for the month of Mercy.

Ramadan with a 6 and 3-year-old this year should be fun and interesting In Sha Allah. Circumstances may change each year but the yearning for Allah’s mercy remains and continues to grow. This is also of the blessings of Ramadan.

Friday feels…

Fridays are quite often a short and hectic day for us and I’ve found that I am usually rushing to wrap things up before Jumuah Salaah which can sometimes make me a bit edgy and frustrated.

I’ve noticed that no matter how busy my day is or how frustrated I am, the mid-day break for Jumuah is the perfect cure. There is a certain beauty in simply dropping everything to answer the call to prayer and if you really take advantage of it, Friday will change your week.

The Jumuah prayer should be the highlight of the week and not just a ritual to get done with before rushing back to work.

I am grateful that my flexible work life over the past 5 years has allowed me to maximise the Jumuah experience and has also instilled a great love for Jumuah in my son who dresses in his Friday best and excitedly inquires about which Musjid we’ll be visiting each week.

No matter the work-load or what ever is going on around me, when I’m sitting in the Musjid beside my little boy and my old man… I am at peace.

Evening connections…

When you’re away from the kids all day and you start missing the sound of their voices, think about the things you regret most at these moments. What would they be?

I think about the times I check my work email, scroll through various news feeds and catch up on the things I was too busy to do through the day. The cause of my guilt? My phone.

My solution: the evening disconnect.

Our pre-bed time unwind is now offline and more enjoyable. My phone gets a good workout throughout the day so needs a little re-charge by then anyway.

We often call out our kids on being distracted yet we are more distracted than they can ever be. Our kids deserve better, I know mine do.

The evening unwind is an important part of the daily routine and a good time to reconnect with the family. Everything else can wait.

Peace at the end of the day…

While trying to get back into a good routine after a hectic holiday season, my 6 year old son seems to be lacking attention which has made his behaviour quite unpleasant lately.

Despite the whining and arguing throughout the day today, when I sat with him tonight and went through our usual nightly routine, his tone changed and suddenly my well-mannered, soft-spoken little man began filling me in on the days happenings. A complete turn-around in a matter of seconds.

Perhaps it was my un-divided attention that he needed or maybe I’ve underestimated the power of our nightly turn-down routine. Whatever it was, it reminded me of how fragile our kids can be and how we sometimes lose sight of the little things that bring peace to their little worlds.

Recycling old-tech for new learning…

I recall my own excitement when I heard about the concept of a digital Quran many years ago. In a pre-smartphone world, these were seriously high-tech. With all the features of a digital Quran now available on Smartphones and Tablets, they became obsolete quite quickly. Today I decided to recycle some old tech and put it to good use as part of our home Madrassah routine.

Old Tech for New Learning

After memorising Surah Al-Fatiha, Al-Asr, Al-Fil, Al-Kauthar, An-Nasr, Al-Ikhlas and An-Nas, my son seems to be having difficulty perfecting Surah Al-Falaq which is a little more confusing than the rest of them. I know some adults who get this Surah mixed up so I do understand his frustration.

I don’t have the one I used growing up, the earlier ones were not very reliable and I think I went through more than one but I did have a brand new ENMAC EQ509 which we received as a gift a little while back so I cracked it open and it works, didn’t even need to charge it. It must have a Nokia battery.

This model is feature packed but one of the best features on these devices is the repeat function which is absolutely essential when memorising verses of the Quran.

After only a few repeats of the Surah (Al-Falaq), he was more confident and made a good effort to recite without any assistance which is more than you can expect from a 5 year old.

Despite its age and bulkiness, the concept appealed to his curious nature and he was quite impressed with himself listening to the recitation on a pair of earphones. I found this quite satisfying to watch and it brought back many memories of my days at the Mosque, learning, revising and reciting.

In the age of technology we live in, I never thought I’d be using a Digital Quran but it turns out old technology can be useful in certain situations and I’m glad I kept one to pass on to my son.

Though technology will never be able to teach our children or replace us as their role models, it can be a good tool and is something we should incorporate into the learning process, whether religious or otherwise.

We’ll definitely be adding this to our Home Madrassah routine In Sha Allah.

Patience at the end of the day…

Both my kids are early risers and as an early riser myself, I’ve had some of the best experiences with my kids in the early hours of the morning. They seem to be at their best early in the day and it pays to take advantage of this.

While I enjoy my mornings with the kids, after an early start and a long day at work, maintaining the patience and understanding at the end of the day becomes a challenge.

When the grown-ups are exhausted at the end of the day and the kids are approaching their bed time, patience becomes scarce and in most cases chaos ensues. Tired kids are cranky kids and cranky kids can’t think rationally. Unfortunately the same is true for tired adults so when these situations do arise, its a good idea to have an action plan.

  1. Give yourself a break. Take a few minutes to compose yourself and lose the work-baggage before you engage with the kids.
  2. See the bigger picture. In most cases, the quarrels we have with our kids are over trivial matters, put them into perspective and they’ll probably take care of themselves.
  3. Focus on the positives. Think happy thoughts and look at how mazing they are despite the current situation.
  4. Reflect. Find a quote or saying that inspires you and use it in these situations.
  5. Remember. Think about how much you love them and say it. Show some love and you might even be able to change the topic and neutralise the tension.
My kids are under 5 so I guess my strategies will have to evolve as they develop. For now, this is my action plan.

“And if you forgive and overlook and pardon – then Allah is most forgiving, most merciful.” – [Quran, Surah Taghabun, Verse 14]
Reflecting on this verse in the context of fatherhood is a good way to stimulate rational thinking in moments of anger or frustration.

Unplug and play…

I see many pictures and videos criticizing the excessive usage of smart phones and gadgets by kids and teenagers these days. While it is a major issue and though I’m not free from making judgments myself,  why is there so much focus on the kids? Kids and teenagers are almost being vilified for there use of technology which in some cases is justified but what absolves us as adults from this obsession and excessiveness?

We discipline our kids in regard to excessive TV, movies, video games, etc. Some of us wouldn’t even dare allow our kids to use our phones, yet we are comfortable and ignorant enough to whip out our phones anywhere, any-time without any regard for the people around us.

As a perpetrator myself and speaking from experience, I believe that our smart-phones are a great injustice towards our children. Technology has advanced so much that it now allows us to neglect our children while they sit in our company. I’ve made this mistake myself and its very easy to get carried away after a busy day at work but there is nothing on that device that can be more valuable than the time spent with your kids.

I have reduced my phone usage over the last 4 weeks particularly in the company of my kids and I plan to reduce it even further. Sometimes awareness is all it takes. Be mindful of your usage, focus on the things you and your kids are missing out on while your head is buried in your screen.

Unplug and play with your kids, one day you’ll look up from your screen… and they’ll be looking down at theirs!

10 tips for the 10 blessed days…

The pilgrims have arrived in the Holy cities and will soon embark of the life-changing experience that is Hajj. There is no doubt that the best act of worship one can perform in these Blessed days are Umrah and Hajj, but what about the billions of us that aren’t there right now.

With the emphasis on the actual rites and rituals of the pilgrimage, we often neglect the virtue and the blessings in these days. The ten most blessed days of the year.

While we adjust to the post-Ramadan lifestyle, a busy life and an abundance of distraction can easily deprive us of the other blessed guest. How bad a host we must be for failing to even acknowledge this guest.

I’ve always felt that Eid-Ul-Adha lacked the enthusiasm and zeal associated with Eid-Ul-Fitr 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. This is how I plan to spend these days In Sha Allah (God Willing):

  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 – with an emphasis on the current Refugee Crisis
  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 In Sha Allah.
  9. Hajj activities with the family**
  10. Teaching the kids about Hajj and the importance of Udhiya/Qurban
My hope is that the increased awareness and sacrifice will not only allow us to benefit from these Blessed days but also facilitate a greater appreciation for the celebration of Eid-Ul-Adha.

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

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

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

** Click here to see some of the Hajj activities we’ve done in the past.