Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Silver Lining Behind Dark Clouds.........

“Five truly effective prescriptions to remedy a bad day.
(You can't overdose.)

—Pray; discuss your troubles with God.
—List your blessings. (The blue sky, soft cookies, warm socks, etc.)
—Call your mom.
—Visit an animal shelter and hug a lonely cat.
—Visit a nursing home and hug a lonely grandparent.”
Richelle E. Goodrich

Like any other normal human, I too, have days when my sanity hangs by a thread. These are the days when I become an emotional wreck because the unscrupulous people who got on my nerves. I would feel completely unappreciated and useless, and I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for eternity. Maybe the bogeyman will go away and my world will be happy and peaceful again. But….that doesn’t happen! No matter how long I hibernate under the blanket, my problems will not go away on its own.

Sometimes, when I am faced with this kind of days, I can’t help feeling disappointed because I have failed as a Muslim. The reason being is my heart is silently groaning and sighing. No matter how hard I try, there are days when I just fall into despair. Does that make me ungrateful to my Maker? Does that make me an inconsiderate servant? Am I questioning my fate?

The last two days, I was actually feeling insignificant and small. I just felt frustrated because I felt that the little knowledge that I have, is not benefitting others as much as I would like it to be. It didn’t help when someone commented “ oh, you are not an ustazah (religious teacher)!”. Sigh! It is true that I am not an ustazah or a doctor or even a professor in Islamic Usuluddin but then again, I never said or declared that I was. I am just a normal person who is trying to do what every Muslim is supposed to be doing….sharing…..

The Prophet SAW said: "Acquire knowledge and impart it to the people."
Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 107

Then, I remembered one of my conversations that I had with the Wise Owl. The Wise Owl told me once that even Prophet SAW had sad moments in his life and he too felt helpless at times. Being sad or frustrated is normal human emotions. If we do experience those feelings, that only means we are human. Feeling sorrow or despair does not mean we are being ungrateful. The most important thing is how we deal with our sorrow or frustration or heartache.

Narrated Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira: The Prophet SAW said, "No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that."  
Sahih Bukhari #545

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials."  
Sahih Bukhari #548

I must be constantly reminded of the above hadith because sometimes it just slipped my mind. Of course everything is a trial but sometimes, I do get beaten down. Normally, when that happens, God Al Mighty always sends me someone or something to remind me of His Trials and also His Mercy.

So back to my sob story. Whilst I was wallowing in self pity, I received a phone call from the Wise Old Man. This person is like a walking encyclopaedia. It would seem that he has everything at the tips of his fingers. I tutored under him for years and to me, his vast knowledge is amazing. Anyway, he called me and said, “sister, I need to consult with you on a matter. This is an area of your expertise and I would appreciate it if you could spare me some time and give me your opinion.” Err…..I was gobsmacked for a while. The Wise Old Man is asking me for an opinion?  Dark clouds suddenly lifted and I didn’t feel useless anymore. My knowledge is useful to someone…

What the Wise Owl had once told me is in fact very true. We should never be arrogant in acquiring knowledge. Just because a person does not carry any academic title, it does not mean that he or she is not qualified to be a teacher. Our Prophet SAW himself was not a university professor but his knowledge incomparable. Even if a person holds a doctorate, in a certain field, it does not mean that he knows everything and he can’t learn from a person who is academically inferior than him. Knowledge is precious. Find it, learn it and impart it. Do it for the sake of Allah SWT. Don’t be stingy with your knowledge. By hoarding your knowledge to yourself, it will not make you a genius. By sharing your knowledge with others, it will not lessen your intellect or I.Q. but it will increase your rewards…

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Do you know who is most generous? ... God is the Most Generous, then I am most generous to humankind, and the most generous people after me will be those who will acquire knowledge and then disseminate it. (They) will come on the Day of Resurrection singly, like a ruler." Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 93

So….in conclusion, let me state this again. I do not have a doctorate in Islamic studies neither am I a professor. I am not an ustazah or a famous religious scholar but I am a Muslim and for as long God allows me to draw in my breathe, I will continue sharing the knowledge that I acquired during this lifetime…..In Shaa Allah……

Friday, 21 June 2013

Modestly Fashionable.......

“When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the lustre of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist.” ― Akhenaton

A few days ago, I woke up one morning and the first word that popped up in my brain was ‘modesty’. The whole day the word stuck in my mind and I was beginning to wonder the real meaning behind the word.

‘Modesty’ in simple English basically means “1.Reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behaviour 2. Lack of pretentiousness; simplicity.” It also means “behaviour, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency”.

In Islam, modesty or ‘haya’,  refers to shyness. It includes inner and outer modesty. Modesty does not only refer to clothing but also the demeanour of the person.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Faith consists of more than seventy branches. And haya (modesty) is a part of faith.” (Al-Bukhari)

“O children of Adam, We have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of God’s signs, that they may take heed.” (Al-Araf 7:26)

Yesterday, a young brother asked me about modesty of Muslim woman or more specifically the awra of a woman in Islam. He told me that he is very confused with the current clothing trend and would like to know the exact boundaries of clothing for Muslim women.

I was actually taken aback with his question. I am used to getting this type of question from sisters but this is the first I am being asked by a brother. Then a thought came through my mind, “hhmmmm is this trick question or does he genuinely wants to know?” So, I decided to give him the benefit of a doubt.

I told him that in Islam, as how I understand it, a woman must cover everything except her hand and face.

‘A’ishah (Allah be pleased with her) that Asma’ bint Abi Bakr (Allah be pleased with them both) entered upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) while wearing thin clothing, so he turned away from her and said, “O Asma! Indeed when a woman reaches [the age of] menstruation, it is not proper that anything should be shown except this and this”, and he pointed to his face and hands.”
Narrated by Abu Dawud

From what I understand from this hadith, is that our feet are also part of the body that needs to be covered. If our feet are uncovered then it is akin to exposing our awra Awra is not just the hair or the head or the body. The common mistake that I see women make is, covering everything but their feet.

The Wise Owl also taught me that the women’s covering must be loose and not tight or figure hugging or transparent.

“There will be women who will be dressed but they will be naked. Their heads will be like the humps of camels. They will not enter Jannah and will not even smell the scent of Jannah while it can be smelt from a far distance.” [Sahih Muslim]  

The whole purpose of covering our body is to conceal our beauty which includes our body figure from men who are not in our privileged list. So, next question is, who are the men in our privileged list? That answer is found in the Quran….

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.”
Surah An-Nur 24:31

There you have it, the men in our privileged list. In Islam, we are given such high regards that only a selected few can view us in our full glory. Those who are not in the list, are not worthy of an audience with us.

Wearing tight or transparent clothing not only goes against the whole concept of covering up but also similar to that person being naked.

The young brother also asked me about the current fashion and colourful clothing that is available for Muslim ladies nowadays. Ok, this part is a bit tricky....... Some may say that the issue is subjective and some may say it is a personal choice. To some extent, it is both subjective and a personal choice. Each woman has her own freedom to learn about Islam and her personal choice on whether to follow what she had learned. After studying under the tutelage of the Wise Owl and the Wise Old Man for years and after various discussions and arguments going back and forth between us, I have drawn my own conclusion about women’s dressing in Islam. I do not expect others to agree with me as the conclusion that I have made is for ME to follow. If others wish to adopt the same reasoning , then so be it but I do not wish to impose my thoughts on others.

So here goes….. to me, modesty is Islam is not just the clothing that we wear but also our attitude and character. Personally, I think that, we women can wear the most colourful and attractive clothes but it should be worn within the vicinity of our homes. When we step out of our sanctuary, we should dress as plainly as possible, in fact, to the point of being invisible to others. We should not be seen attractive to people whom we are not suppose to attract. In fact, from my understanding, we should be wearing another outer garment over our normal clothes when we step out of the house. The outer garment refers to abaya or jilbab. It is like a cloak or a robe to be worn over our fancy clothes.

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
            Surah Al-Ahzab 33:59

Let me give you an example, if you are carrying a very expansive sparkling diamond, would you carry it in secured chest, away from prying eyes or, do you carry it in a transparent bag so that everyone can see it and possibly steal it? To me, women, are like sparkling diamond, if you let too many hands touching it, it will lose its shine and lustre. I am also not a freak on display, for people to stare and comment, nor am I a cat-walk model strutting on the runaway when I step outside the comfort of my home, hence, I would not dress to please people but rather, try to dress to please God. Before you step out of the house, the first thing that you should ask yourself is “why am I wearing this and who am I trying to please?”. Your answer will reflect your intention.

There is nothing wrong in wearing colors but I personally prefer black. Wearing colors sometimes makes a person stands out in public and can attract unwanted attention and that is one thing I wish to avoid. I have been called ‘fanatic’ by some, over my stand and choice of dress code but seriously……….. for me, I am only trying to be a proper Muslim.

I don’t speak for others and I don’t question their intention. I have too much sins of my own to worry about, than to wonder or ponder about others but the principles that I follow is quite simple and clear. It all boils down to intention and the willingness to obey God’s Commandments. I also have nothing against being fashionable but, if a person wants to promote and encourage Muslim women about fashion, then, make sure that she is encouraging the correct method of clothing and within the correct sphere, otherwise, she might end up bearing the sins of others due to her conduct.

Jarîr relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever initiates a good practice (sunnah hasanah) in Islam and is emulated by others in doing so will get the reward of it and the reward of all those who act upon it without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And whosoever initiates an evil practice (sunnah sayyi’ah) in Islam and is emulated by others will bear the sin of it and the sin of all those who act on it without their burden being diminished in the least. ” [Sahîh Muslim: (1017)]

Anyway, back to the young brother, after giving a lengthy explanation about my views on Islamic clothing, I finally told him that, in the end of the day, I can only give my two sen worth of opinion. To accept or to reject is the liberty of each individuals, after all, I am not a pious Islamic scholar to be followed as an example,  but just a plain simple person who is trying her level best to be a Muslim………

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lost but Not Forgotten....

Wahshi bin Harb (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Some of the Companions of Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: "We eat but are not satisfied." He (SAW) said, "Perhaps you eat separately." The Companions replied in affirmative. He then said: "Eat together and mention the Name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you."
[Abu Dawud]. Book 3, Hadith 743

The Wise Owl is always telling me, “Sister, we must, as much as possible, live our lives like the Prophet SAW. The way he eats, sleeps, talk and everything else.”  So, since I started my rediscovery journey, I have been trying as much as I can, to revive one sunnah at a time, in our lives. After living my life for more than 30 years in a certain way, I know that I can never make drastic or too many changes at once. For me, I felt that I needed to follow  a sunnah slowly until it becomes a norm and then it becomes easier to incorporate it in my daily life.

“Say: "If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
Surah Al-Imran 3:31

I realise that I started learning about sunnah at a late stage but, to me, better late than never right? One thing that I am trying to do now is, to make sure that my children do not make the same mistake as I did.

Last night, hubby and I decided to eat according to sunnah. That means, the food is placed in a very big round dish and we all eat from it. It’s like sharing a big plate of food. At first, my kids thought that it was bit weird to be huddling together on the floor and eating from one plate but they went along.

            Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:
Messenger of Allah SWT said, "When any of you wants to eat, he should mention the Name of Allah in the begining, (i.e., say Bismillah). If he forgets to do it in the beginning, he should say Bismillah awwalahu wa akhirahu (I begin with the Name of Allah at the beginning and at the end)."

[At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud].

I have to admit that I enjoyed every minute of our dinner. The very act of all 6 of us sitting in a circle and eating together brought us closer as a family. Hubby demonstrated to the kids, the correct way to eat i.e. taking the food nearest to you. One must not reach out and take the food opposite him or her. Eating from one dish teaches us to respect the boundaries of our neighbour.

The Prophet SAW said, "Blessing descends upon food in its middle, so eat from the sides of the vessel and do not eat from its middle."

[At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]. Book 3, Hadith 744

Umar bin Abu Salamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I was a boy under the care of Messenger of Allah SWT, and as my hand used to wander around in the dish, Messenger of Allah (SAW), said to me, "Mention Allah's Name (i.e., say Bismillah before starting eating), eat with your right hand, and eat from what is near you."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Throughout the meal, hubby explained to our kids about the spirit of sharing and also demonstrated how Prophet SAW used to sit whilst eating, i.e.with one leg raised. Our kids immediately changed their sitting position to mimicked their father but after a while, they declared that they needed practice and shifted back to sitting cross-legged. Oh well! At least they were willing to give it a try…

Anyway…… the verdict? The kids loved it! They thought it was fun. They simply love the fact that all of us were eating together and sharing food. In fact, they love it so much that tonight they requested that we do it again.

For me, I like it when hubby put food in my path. I like it when the kids asked for  permission first before they  took more rice from my portion.  I also like it when my kids ended up eating more than their usual portion. To strengthen the family bond, I can see why our beloved Prophet SAW recommended this.

However, I do understand the reservations that others may have. Some might find it unhygienic, with so many hands touching the food. Some may even get irritated eating with strangers, especially when they decide to take the food from in front you instead of from their side. Also messy eater might make you uncomfortable.

To me, eating from one big dish will work provided everyone eating from it understands the etiquette behinds it.  If everyone understands it, then it is a cool ice-breaker. Making small talk with your dinner mate whilst eating. Unfortunately, not many people do grasp the rationale behind it. That is why we should study the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad SAW.

After eating we are supposed to eat everything on the plate and once we finished, we should lick our fingers clean.

            “Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah SWT commanded the licking of fingers and the gleaning of the dish, saying, "You do not know in which portion the blessing lies."


There are many sunnah of the Prophet SAW that has been lost but hopefully not forgotten and eating from one dish is one of them. Reviving a lost or forgotten sunnah is most highly encouraged.

Narrated by Bilal ibn Harith al-Muzani: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: He who revived a Sunnah out of my Sunan, which has died after me, for him is the reward like the reward of those who acted upon it, without any decrease in that reward. He who introduced some evil innovation which Allah and His Messenger did not approve has (a burden of sin upon him) like the sins of one who acted according to it, without their sins being mitigated thereby in the least.” [Tirmidhi, 168].

My advice would be, revive this sunnah with your own family first. Start with once a month and then increase it to once a week. Trust me, you will reap the full benefit behind it, In Sha Allah….