25 July 2013

Ramadhan Series: Are we that many times better?

Photo by Umar Mita

Ramadhan is a special month for Muslims, especially for those who understand the sweetness of the month. How many Ramadhan have we gone through? Are we improving? Do we love the Quran more? Is our relationship with Allah stronger? It is important for us to go through every Ramadhan with a success.

Photo from IRPC
To know whether we have achieved that success, we evaluate ourselves whether we've become a better Muslim or not as we go through Ramadhan. As Allah mentioned in the Quran in Surah Al-Baqarah (2) : 183 Allah SWT  prescribed fasting upon us so that we may become among the Muttaqun. If by the end Ramadhan we've become closer to Allah then it's an indicator of success walhamdulillah., because as we get closer to Allah we also becoming closer to achieve the level of a Muttaqun.

Photo from IRPC
Let us take this opportunity for us to improve ourselves. As we all know in Ramadhan, as narrated by Abu Huraira r.a  in a Hadith Qudsi, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”. Allah SWT has created a conducive environment for us to improve ourselves. But we have to remember that this improvement is  not only in Ramadhan. Rather, we must continue for the rest of the year. We must not become a Syaitaan-Based Muslim whereby we're a better Muslim only when the syaitaan is not around. When Ramadhan ends, Syaitaan is back and we fall back into our normal routine. That would be an Epic Fail and that clearly shows that we have lost the whole point of Ramadhan. 

Photo from IRPC
Bear in mind that fasting is not just about restraining ourselves from hunger and thirst, it's more than that. Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”. We take this opportunity to lift up our iman to another level so that when Ramadhan ends, we can sustain our Iman, but that doesn't mean we should shut ourselves from the world and get into a cave and seclude for the rest of the year. Ramadhan is not the month of inaction. It’s the month of action.

Photo from IRPC
Reported by Ibn Maajah Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam said that “It may be that a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger & thirst". So let us not waste our Ramadhan, make it count! It has already been 15 days of fasting. Let us take moment to ask ourselves, where are we now? Are we moving along with Ramadhan? Are we 15 days better since Ramadhan started? Or are we stuck at day 1? Or even worse, is our iman deteriorating? If that is what is happening to us, then Ramadhan would be waste, our life would be a waste.

So in this Ramadhan Series I just want us to think, where are we? 

22 July 2013

Ramadan Series: Rules of I’tikaaf

The following are Rules of I’tikaaf – both in our masjid as well as applicable to any masjid that you may intend to make I’tikaaf in. Please read through carefully and ensure that you follow them to gain maximum benefit of this Ibaadah.

1.        Make your Niyyah and check it frequently to ensure that it remains purely for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) alone. Some people make I’tikaaf to make connections and network with others. This will corrupt your I’tikaaf as your Niyyah will no longer be for the pleasure of Allah (SWT) alone. Don’t waste your time and life.

2.        There is an Ameer of I’tikaaf. He has been appointed to overlook all matters related to your comfort, safety and to manage all matters during the period of I’tikaaf. He must be obeyed without argument. That is your training to prepare yourself for the Khilaafa that you are so fond of talking about. So don’t do anything without the permission of the Ameer. That doesn’t apply to your personal needs i.e. you don’t need to ask his permission to go to the toilet. But it applies to your desire to change the AC settings or other such unnecessary things that people seem to be compelled to do just because they are in I’tikaaf. Resist the urge. Make Tawba and stand in Salah instead.

3.        Set your goals for I’tikaaf. The main goal is to get close to Allah (SWT). The way to do that is through reading the Qur’an, making Dhikr, praying Nawaafil and reflecting in silence. So set your goals for your Ibadaat during I’tikaaf. How much Qur’an do you intend to read? Which Nawaafil do you intend to practice so that they become permanent practices in your life? What do you intend to learn with respect to your own Tarbiyya? Making Tawba and Shukr. Pay special attention to Dhikr which seems to have lost its importance in our lives. Especially to sending Salat was Salaam (Durood) on Rasoolullah (SAS). There is great benefit in this Dhikr and so engage in it profusely. Also ensure that you pray all Sunnah Salawaat and do all the Masnoon Adhkaar after Fardh. Always ensure that your tongue is busy in the Dhikr of Allah (SWT)

4.        You didn’t come to the masjid to browse the net so please don’t ask for the masjid internet password. If you ask for it, our IT Head Geek has been instructed to stare at you blankly in the face until you go away.

5.        Bring your own:
a.    Sleeping mat, sleeping bag, pillow, towel
b.    Toiletries, medicines and mosquito repellent
c.    Mushaf (Qur’an) with your name on it
d.    Don’t bring all that you possess just in case you need it. You are coming to the masjid for a few days. You are not shifting residence. I’tikaaf is also training in how to do without – so be minimalist in terms of creature comfort and maximize your Ibaadaat.

6.        Rights of the Masjid:
a.        Dress appropriately for the masjid. Tight clothes showing the outline of the body, T-shirts with slogans and pictures and trousers which display the underwear are all highly unsuitable at all times, especially in the masjid.

b.        Switch off all lights, fans, ACs when you leave the room. Don’t switch on all the lights when you enter the room. You don’t do that at home, so why do you do it in the masjid? The house of Allah (SWT) deserves more respect than your own home.

c.        Don’t interfere with any arrangements in the masjid. Ask the organizers for anything you need. Don’t ask for the AC temperature to be raised or lowered. It has been set for the general public. If you are feeling too cold, experiment with wearing a shawl. Usually it helps. Otherwise try a blanket. If you are feeling too hot, stand directly before the AC vent until you freeze, then try the blanket. Remember that we only have individual capsule climate control on the Day of Judgment and on that day you don’t want to be among those who are experiencing it.

d.        Don’t take any Mushaf or anything else that doesn’t belong to you. If you didn’t bring it, it doesn’t belong to you. If you want to read it, ask the owner or the Ameer of I’tikaaf.

e.        Neatly roll up your bedding and put it in the place designated for it as soon as you wake up. The masjid is not an extension of your bedroom. It is the house of Allah (SWT) and must be respected. Place your shoes in the racks, not all over the floor. How you treat your belongings shows how you respect yourself.

f.         Don’t leave any of your personal belongings lying around. The masjid is not your home. You are responsible for your belongings. The masjid will not be responsible for anything lost. Please take care of your valuables.

g.        Use bathrooms with care – leave them clean even if you didn’t find them that way.

h.        Use water frugally – that means as little as possible. The taps are not connected to the clouds.

i.          Making noise in the masjid, laughing loudly, talking about worldly matters are all prohibited.

j.          Smile, it is Sadaqa and it endears you to people. Practice good manners. Help others especially the elderly. Give Salaam first. If you are the younger, it demonstrates respect. If you are older, it is a dua to the youngsters. Demonstrate that you are a credit to your parents. You are Muslim. Show it.

k.        You came for I’tikaaf to worship Allah (SWT) – not to hang out with your friends or party or eat different kinds of food, or even to relax.

l.          While in I’tikaaf, worship Allah (SWT) or go to sleep. Sleep is also worship.

m.       Use of phones for essential calls is permissible but not for long social conversations, even if you are describing what an awesome time you are having in your I’tikaaf. Tell your friends about it when you go home. Not from the masjid.

n.        If there is any collective activity happening in the masjid, e.g. lectures, classes and so on, please participate if you wish or worship on your own in a corner. Don’t disturb the activity in any way.

o.        The masjid is the house of Allah (SWT). You are His guests. The food that comes before you is from Allah(SWT).  إن شاء اللهُ you will not be called to account for that food. It is a gift from Allah (SWT). So never complain about the food as that would amount to rejecting the Neyma of Allah (SWT). If you don’t like the food, don’t eat it or get something for yourself from your home. But do it silently without a single word of complaint. Even if someone asks you if you like the food, don’t say you don’t like it. Just say Alhamdulillah. And say it with a smile while being genuinely grateful to Allah (SWT). Remember that is someone eating from a garbage pile while you are complaining about the food. Thank Allah (SWT) that He didn’t switch places for you and thank Him for what He chooses to provide you in His house.

p.        I’tikaaf is not a time to indulge yourself but to deny yourself. Eat less, sleep less. Not eat more and sleep more.

q.        Don’t interfere in the management of the masjid, not even in the guise of, ‘Can I make a suggestion?’ Yes you can, but you may not. The people organizing things know what they are doing. It is their responsibility to ensure that everything is in order. They are doing their best and sometimes they will fail – just like you also fail sometimes. Some of them are also in I’tikaaf. They have enough to do without being bothered by individual likes and dislikes. So leave them alone. If you like what is happening, make Shukr. If you don’t, make Sabr. Both are good for you.

r.         Be ready and volunteer to serve others and do Khidmat of the masjid during I’tikaaf. This can include cleaning the toilets. Consider it a special privilege if this duty is given to you.

s.        The people who serve the masjid are the caretakers of the masjid. They are not your servants, so never ask anyone of them to do anything for you personally, even if it is to bring you a glass of water. Get up and get it yourself and get one for your companion also.

t.          If you don’t like what is happening in a particular masjid remember that there are many other masaajid in the city, country and world. Go somewhere else. Until you discover that they are all the same. Better still make I’tikaaf in the Haram one year. It will cure all your eating and sleeping urges.

7.        Rights of your fellow worshipers – Mo’takifeen
a.        That you avoid all controversial topics and discussions. You didn’t come into I’tikaaf to reform anyone, even if you are the Mufti-e-Azam of the Nation. So do your own stuff and leave other people alone. It is better for you to break your I’tikaaf than to be the source of Fitna for others.

b.        That you don’t disturb anyone else in their worship or sleep. Your talking, reading Qur’an loudly, listening to Qur’an recitation on your iPad or Whatnot without headphones are all a disturbance to others. Don’t do it.

c.        That you never use anything that belongs to others without their permission, even if they are your dearest friend. Also that you don’t ask permission for things which people may feel hesitant about refusing permission but dislike giving it – for example, personal toiletries, towels, iPads or other devises that they have brought to read Qur’an on or their Mushaf which they have marked for their own reading.

d.        That you offer to participate in any maintenance, cleaning activity or work that may be going on in the masjid including cleaning of bathrooms and toilets.

e.        That when you have eaten you make sure that you remove your plate and where necessary wash it and put it back. In other places, depending on the arrangement you may be required to help in cleaning up after Iftaar or Suhoor. Please volunteer for it and don’t wait to be asked.

f.         That you remain clean and pure, cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, do not make subhuman noises from either end, do not create foul odors or do anything which is likely to be offensive to others, even if you don’t find it offensive yourself. Consideration for others is a part of what you came to learn in I’tikaaf – believe it or not.

8.        Make a lot of dua for yourself, your family and the Ummah of Rasoolullah (SAS). You are a guest in the house of Allah (SWT). You came because Allah (SWT) called you and permitted you into His House. Allah (SWT) calls to give, not to take. There is nobody who honors His guests more than Allah (SWT). So make the most of your status while it lasts and ask Allah (SWT) for His Pleasure, guidance, protection and help for the Ummah. Prepare for Salah in advance and ensure that you pray all Salawaat without fail right from the beginning. It makes no sense to come for I’tikaaf and join the Jamat later or worse still, miss the Jamat altogether. You came to worship Allah (SWT). So do it and do it as much and as well as you can. I’tikaaf is the time to practice.

9.        Remember that this may be your last I’tikaaf and so make the most of it. Don’t waste a single minute of your time. That you were given the chance to make I’tikaaf is a sign that Allah (SWT)’s mercy is on you. Show your gratitude to Allah (SWT) by observing the rules of I’tikaaf and using the time to gain His Forgiveness, Mercy and Bounty. Don’t show ingratitude by wasting your time.
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
Ibrahim 14: 7. And (remember) when your Rabb proclaimed: "If you give thanks (by accepting Faith and worshipping none but Allah (SWT)), I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless, verily! My Punishment is indeed severe."

This is a repost. Written by Shaykh Mirza Yawar Baig

Shaykh Mirza Yawar Baig is the Founder & President of Yawar Baig & Associates. He is an international speaker, coach, trainer and facilitator, specializing in leadership in family businesses. He works with prominent family businesses in the role of Life Coach and Mentor. He has successfully trained managers in business, government & academia on 3 continents for over 24 years and developed a reputation for teaching effectively across boundaries of culture, function and nationality, not to mention that he also speaks 5 languages! An ongoing project that Shaykh Yawar is engaged in at the moment is the Standard Bearers Academy – which operates with the vision to provide role models to the world. Shaykh Yawar is known for his love of adventure and rich life experiences.

More about him:

16 July 2013

LIVE Ramadhan Series: What if this is our LAST Ramadhan? with Young Muslims Project

YMP is an English based group of urban Muslim youth coming together in the interest of Islam.

With its main objective to connect young Muslims based around Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, YMP organises youth oriented sessions once a fortnight open to all of its members and interested individuals. Each session revolves around Islam with creed (tawheed) as our conduit to achieve His blessings. These exciting sessions range from diversified intellectual discourses and open sharing circles that hope to bring us closer to God (Insha Allah); fun filled recreational activities and tummy filling food festivals that never fails to bring us closer to each other, as well as social welfare activities in reaching those in dire need to bring us closer to everyone. All these activities are planned with much hope of helping each other learn and understand about the teachings of Islam and its relevance in our life.

In recognizing the diversified background of each member, YMP has a strong policy of not being judgmental to anyone and sincerely open to accept as well as to embrace anyone who is interested to bridge a link with Islam.

The Islamic bond that it creates within its members has been growing from the time YMP was first established. With an average of about 20 pax per session, YMP’s more than 4000 virtual members suggest the growing need for a social support group to cater for these youth to face the challenges of growing up in today’s conventional hip and cool environment.

The Shariah compliant brotherly and sisterly love and energy that it creates amongst its members have allowed YMP to achieve many amazing activities such as “We Are In This Together: Muslim Youth & The Future Youth Camp 2010”, “The Arts And Knowledge Tour 2009”, “Ramadhan specials” and the list goes on and on. Log on to our Facebook account to view our professionally crafted posters of all our activities, photos and future events.

YMP is open to the many views of the Muslim jurists as an inspiration for our members to delve in further with their own accredited Shariah scholar. As our members are not scholars of the Shariah, we try to stay away from scholarly opinions or fiqh matters. Rest assured that YMP is indeed capable in translating serious issues into the language of the modern youth. At the same time, considering that we are based in Malaysia, our events are carefully structured to be mindful and in respect of the diverse cultural background of all Malaysians in particular and other cultures around the world in general, the views of Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), other Malaysian religious authorities and also to be in line with the laws of Malaysia.

In mobilizing youths toward a better understanding of Islam as a way of life, YMP strives to be the leading platform to have their voice heard and inspire others to be better Muslims.

The Young Muslims Project is certainly the kind of project you would want to be part of in life!

This Ramadhan YMP brings to you their annual Ramadhan Series. It's an open circle where we'll have talks and discussion about Islam, Youth, & Ramadhan. This year Ramadhan Series the theme is "WHAT IF THIS IS OUR LAST RAMADHAN". The talk will be presented by prominent speakers that will be announced weekly through YMP's Facebook Page and Blog and it will be held EVERY SUNDAY in the month of Ramadhan InshaAllah.

Our whole religion is based around self-control. One of the reasons we pray five times a day is to gain discipline. We fast in Ramadan in order to learn self-restraint. We perform Hajj to practice perseverance. We “lower our gaze” to resist temptation. Even the pursuit of wealth always comes back to examine the how and why of whatever we earn and spend. We have been told to watch over what we say, “speak good, or remain silent”. We have to constantly & consciously exert control over our thoughts and feelings. We have to manage our anger, pride and jealousy. We constantly have to check our actions against our intentions.

Forgiveness is another attribute which has received due attention in Islam and which has been extensively discussed in the Holy Qur'an and hadiths. As human beings we are responsible, but we do also make mistakes and we are constantly in need of forgiveness, from God and from our fellow human being. We need both, because we do wrong in our relations to God as well as in our relations to each other. The question is, how can we be humble enough to always seek His forgiveness and forgive others, who just like us, are imperfect? Why is forgiveness so powerful?

Come and join us this Sunday as Sister Tasneem discusses the power of these two attributes and how can we train ourselves to apply and live with them this Ramadhan and beyond.

About the speaker:
Tasneem Ghauri
Da’eah, Motivational Speaker, Qur’an Teacher, Counselor

Tasneem Ghauri was born and raised in Montreal, Canada where she completed her secondary schooling in English and French and was elected class valedictorian. She obtained a Teacher’s Aide Diploma followed by a TEFL Diploma. She taught English in a Muslim school and taught Qur’aan / Tajweed and Islamic Studies for 6 years in her local Masjid. She is the former chairperson and volunteer of the Amal Center for Women, a Montreal organization that serves women facing difficult situations. She has volunteered extensively in both the non-Muslim and Muslim communities. She conducted halaqahs for young girls on a variety of topics and was also responsible for travelling to local non-Muslim schools to make presentations on Islam. She is the mother of one and is currently living in Malaysia and in the second year of her BA in Islamic Studies with the Islamic Online University. She has continued to conduct halaqahs for sisters here in Kuala Lumpur and has participated in various Islamic programs, both as a student of knowledge and as a lecturer. She is a self-taught cake decorator, loves to read and loves children dearly.

Ever since we were we born, most of us are being taught to score hundreds of A's, get into a good college, get a good job, good pay, get married, have a comfortable lifestyle and live "happily ever after". In a sense all that we are doing is for the duniya. We often think that tomorrow will come as if God owes us another day, but what if this was our last Ramadhan?

What would happen to our relationship with the Duniya?
We have been living in this duniya, striving for it for all our lives. Are we just going to let it go?
Are we ready to let it go? Should we?
Can't we just hold on to it and bring it with us to the hereafter?
What does Islam teach us about the Duniya?

InshaAllah these are among some of the questions that we will discuss in 2nd Episode of The Ramadan Series by Young Muslims Project. Come and join us this Sunday!

About the speaker:
Sh. Shareef El-Arbi

Sh. Shareef is of Libyan-American descent. He lived most of his life in the United States of America. He has a bachelors in Business Administration from the U.S. and an MBA from Australia. He works as a project manager for an IT company. He has been blessed to be active with the Muslim youth from a young age. He studied Arabic and Islamic studies in Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. He is a prominent Da'ie amongst the English speaking Malaysian Da'wah circuit.

10 July 2013

Ramadhan Series: Secrets of Ramadhan (Part 1)

Ramadhan is a month that we all have been waiting for. Alhamdulillah, now we are in it and hopefully we would be able to go through this whole month of Tarbiyyah. During this Ramadhan inshaAllah I will try to share with all of you my notes, lectures, points to ponder, life lessons, and some experiences so that we can reflect and share with each other during this holy month of Ramadhan.

For this first post, I would love to share a lecture by Brother Shazly Khan, the founder for iMuslim Institute entitled "SECRETS OF RAMADHAN". Briefly SECRETS OF RAMADHAN talks about the purpose of fasting, how can we benefit from it, and what to actually do to remain productive throughout this blessed month. Let me remind you that the words in this post are based on my notes and my understanding of the lecture. If I've misunderstood, or put things wrongly do let me know. I wouldn't want to spread false information and knowledge. To facilitate this post I'll also include Brother Shazly's slide so that all of you can benefit from it too.

In Surah Al-Baqarah (2) : 183 Allah SWT  prescribed fasting upon us so that we may become among the Muttaqun. Allah uses the word "Muttaqun" which means people of Taqwa. To think critically, Allah did not say that He prescribed fasting upon us so that we may become Muslims, but instead Allah prescribed fasting for us to be Muttaquns.

Taqwa as we know is to do what pleases Allah and restrain ourselves from doing things that displeases Allah. Most of us, when we think about Taqwa, what comes into our mind is that we must fear Allah. We restrain ourselves from doing something because we fear that Allah will be displeased with us or we do something because we are afraid of Allah. We fear that if we didn't do our solah Allah will be mad at us. We fear that if we didn't do our fasting, we won't be able to go Jannah. Well, my brothers and sisters, this is the lowest level of Taqwa.

The Taqwa that we want to achieve is a higher level, that is, we do something or we restrain ourselves from doing something not because we Fear Allah, but because we Love Allah. There's a difference in doing something out of fear and doing something out of love. We have to remember that Allah said the mercy that we are seeing in this world is just 1%. The remaining 99% of His Mercy is kept with Him and would only be revealed on in the day of judgement.

We must put in our mind that Islam is not about fear of Allah but Love of Allah. We must balance the fear that we have towards Allah and the Hope and Love that we have towards him.

So which level of Taqwa are we?

Coming back to the Secrets of Ramadhan, Allah granted us the month of Ramadhan so that we can be a muttaqin and not just a muslimin. A person is a muslim the moment he says his syahadah, but a person is a muttaqin only when he do what pleases Allah and leave what displeases Allah.

Ramadhan An Annual Habit Change Workshop

Allah SWT grants us Ramadhan as an Annual Habit Change Workshop. Within this month of Ramadhan, Allah trains us to change our habit so as to becoming a better person. It is up to us whether we are up for it or not.

Psychologist says that if we want to inculcate a habit we need to continuously do it for 21 consecutive days before it becomes part of us. However, my brothers and sisters, Allah gives us 29 to 30 days for us to train ourselves, to inculcate the habit that we want. This 29-30 days is of course without the distraction of syaitaan.

The next question we need to think of is how will Allah train us? Is it just by giving us 29 - 30 days of Syaitaan-free environment? Well to think of it, yes. Allah gives us this Syaitan-free environment so that we can train ourselves and equip ourselves with the habits of the people of Jannah and for us to have a better focus in cleansing ourselves. By taking Syaitaan away from us, we would have a better focus in cleansing ourselves as there's no one around us whispering and trying so hard to deviate us from the righteous path.  

We should take this opportunity to inculcate the habit of people of Jannah. What is the habit of the people of Jannah? Well the answer is simple, all the good, nice and lovely deeds and characteristics. Didn't our mother tell us that in Ramadhan we should be practice patience, speak good things, not to backbite or slander others. Aren’t these all values and habits of the people of Jannah? Would someone who curses be considered as people of Jannah? Clearly the answer is a big no!

That is the reason why, this month of Ramadhan is said to be an Annual Habit Change Workshop because we are inculcating the habits of the people of Jannah.

Why is it so important for us to have this habit of people of Jannah?

Why is it so important? Well do you want to be in Jahanam? No. Nobody wants to. The habit of the people of Jannah will lead us to be a Mutaqqin (people of Taqwa). The difference between a Muslimin and a Muttaqin is that a Muslimin is promised of the hisab by Allah SWT. A Muttaqin is promised Jannah. So which one of this do we want?

If we are just a muslim, Allah will give us the opportunity to be in Jannah, but we must go through hisab. Our good deeds and bad deeds will be weighed on the Mizan. If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, Alhamdulillah. We may go to Jannah. But if our bad deeds outweigh our good deeds? Nauzubillah.

But if we're a muttaqqin we are promised Jannah. Allah mentioned this in numerous instances in the quran. We can look into Surah Al-Baqarah (2) : 2 and Surah An- Naba (78) : 31. The mutaqoon referred in this two verse are the same.

(78):31 If we want to attain Jannah we have to be a Muttaqoon and for us to be a Muttaqoon we must follow the Quran (2):2. Quran is THE guideline for us to achieve success, be it in this world or the hereafter. And verily, Ramadhan is being granted to us for us to train and work towards becoming a mutaqoon and ultimately, towards achieving Jannahtul Firdaus!