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.

Quran4Kids App Review

We downloaded the Quran4Kids App today and I thought I’d put it to the test with my 4 year old this afternoon. Pumped as any kid would be about using the iPad, he bugged me about it for most of the day and was very eager to get ‘Madrassah Time’ started this afternoon. After reciting the 7 Surah’s he’s now memorised, we had some fun trialling this new app.

The interface is clean and simple but very colourful which appealed to him and the child in me. He got into it fairly quickly and I knew we were on to something when he asked if we could use the app for ‘Play Time’ at night. The simple menu makes it very kid-friendly and we had seamless navigation between the 4 game modes.

The Move and Match game is very straight forward and works well to familiarise the child with the letters of the Arabic Alphabet. As the child progresses through the levels, punctuation characters and basic Tajweed Symbols are added to the letters.

The Writing Letters game is cool but can be a bit fidgety for little fingers. I’m sure this will get easier with practise and will definitely assist with letter recognition.

Bubble Pop and Letter Chase are more game-like and add a fun dimension to the learning experience. Identifying the moving letters and having fun with the different symbols and characters can also contribute to the learning process. Learning through play is also known to have positive effects on developing memory skills which would be a great way to start a child’s journey towards learning and appreciating the Quran.

I have purchased the full app now so I can explore the Tajweed Rules and pronounciation guidelines which we may need once we progress beyond the letters. I do intend to purchase the Quran4Kids e-Book which is available on their website.

The App is designed to compliment the Quran4Kids Program so its a good addition to our current Home Madrassah program. If your child is currently learning the Arabic Alphabet, the App is a good way to facilitate learning through play which may quicken the learning process and make it fun and interesting at the same time. Download for Free for a limited time on the App Store and Google Play.

I look forward to reviewing the Quran4Kids e-Book and hope we can benefit from some of these techniques going forward. The App is pretty cool and we will definitely be adding this to our Home Madrassah routine…

In Sha Allah.

10 tips to get your child to pray with you…

As a Muslim Father, one of the greatest joys of my day is having my kids pray beside me and join in the praise and remembrance of their creator and mine. It might be easier to put off Salaah until the kids are older but the best habits are formed early in their childhood, why not make Salaah one of them.

After 4 and a half years of hands-on experience and 1 amazing wife at my side, this is what I have learnt. My 10 tips to get your kids to pray with you…

  1. Pray with them, make it a habit of praying in front of them when ever possible – I started praying with my son beside me when he was a month old.
  2. Don’t make Salaah a chore – Allow them to witness the joy and peace you experience through Salaah.
  3. Play with them before/after you pray – let the prayer room/area/rug be a place of comfort for them too.
  4. Don’t be quick to pack up the prayer mat -leave it out for the kids to explore.
  5. Pray together, pray as a family – Let Salaah also becomes an activity the whole family can participate in and benefit from.
  6. Answer their questions, talk about Salaah and feed their curiosity – they’ll be emulating your actions in no time.
  7. Let them know when it’s time to pray – make room for them beside you in case they decide to join in.
  8. Entice them with a little kids prayer mat – make it fun and interesting.
  9. Visit the mosque with them – this can sometimes be tricky but I’ll leave it for another post In Sha Allah.
  10. Lots and lots of praise – acknowledge and praise their efforts!

It’s not rocket science, but we often take these things for granted. It’s a matter of priorities and lots of patience.

Though the requirement to perform Salaah is only incumbent on kids at a later stage, it is our duty as parents to get them started on the straight path. Teach them to pray now and when they pray later, we too will benefit from it.

I pray that our children are the coolness of our eyes!