Creating Love & Awareness of Masjid al Aqsa in Children

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aqsa_bubbles

The recent closing of Masjid al Aqsa, together with the cancelling of the Friday prayers is a stark reminder of the reality we are facing as a Muslim Ummah. Our perception of a perpetual cycle of Israeli aggression followed by a temporary lull is tempered by the fact that the Palestinian people face a daily struggle whilst they live under the reality of occupation.

In truth, it is a daily struggle that only grabs our attention when the flashpoints make the mainstream media or appears on our Facebook newsfeed. Sometimes it can feel like we are living in a different reality. Our 1st World concerns revolve around the collection of our wheelie bins during the latest bin strike. Whereas in Gaza / Aleppo the people live in sewage and even that is the least of their concern.

However, Islam builds within us a mentality of being concerned for the affairs of others who find themselves in difficultly.

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah, (pbuh), said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” [Bukhari / Muslim].

The situation of Palestine and Masjid al Aqsa is central to Islam. Firstly, it is the 3rd most blessed place in Islam, where a single prayer performed in Masjid al Aqsa is worth 500 times the regular prayer. Secondly, it is significant in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was the destination of al Isra (night journey), where the Prophet (pbuh) led all the other Prophets (as) in prayer. Thirdly, it is a land that has been occupied for over 70 years, with over 7 million displaced and those who remain live in oppression.

For most of us above a certain age, the struggle of the Palestinians in entrenched within our hearts and minds. But for the younger generation the connection might not be so strong as the Islamic significance, historical proceedings and awareness may be missing. Mentioning Masjid al Aqsa to some will bring blank faces. It is inconceivable that a person will feel for the plight of Masjid al Aqsa if they don’t even know where it is.

Creating awareness regarding the plight of Masjid al Aqsa and the Palestinians is not an easy task. The conflict has been skewed by a biased media who often present a distorted narrative of the events. Israeli aggression is often portrayed as defence and Muslim resistance portrayed as militancy. The death of 100’s of Palestinians in air strikes is termed ‘collateral damage’ whilst the killing of 1 Israeli termed slaughter.

In addition, as part of the government Prevent agenda there has been a blurring of the lines between criticism of Israel and Zionism and extremism. There have been calls to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, with anti-Semitism being perceived as a trigger sign for radicalisation. For Muslims, Israeli occupation of Muslim land is a crime and raising awareness of the cause and solution forms part of the religious duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Many non-Muslims also view Israel as an occupying force and they speak out against the perceived injustice. Some Jews are also keen to distance themselves from Zionism. All views are not influenced by anti-Semitism or anything ‘anti-Jews’. Anti-Semitism is a tool being used to silence any political opposition of the Israeli state. Conflating this as a sign of Muslim radicalisation and extremism will also be used to silence the Muslim community. Although, as Muslims we should not let fear stop us from speaking the truth, our silence may lead to the false narrative gaining precedence, especially amongst the coming generation.

Our children will naturally learn about Makkah and Madinah as they are the birth places of Islam. They feature prominently in Muslim life. Whereas Masjid al Aqsa doesn’t have the same prominence in our teaching.

There is a need to build awareness in our children regarding the centrality of Masjid al Aqsa and Bait al Maqadis in Islam. Our children need to know about how Islam entered the region and the implementation of Islamic law brought harmony between the various religious groupings. They should know about the crusades and the role of Salahuddin in unifying the Muslims and liberating the region. They should be aware of the events of WW1 and how Britain determined in the Balfour Declaration that Palestine will be a homeland for the Jews. They should learn about the events of the creation of Israel and the fate of the millions of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christians. They should learn about the 70-year brutal history of Israel, the hypocrisy of the International community and the impotency of the surrounding Muslim countries.

With knowledge comes awareness. With awareness comes love and with love comes the motivation to come to their aid, both in speech and deed.

This week we set out to discuss the reality of Masjid al Aqsa with our children, but discovered that there was a distinct lack of material available for teaching younger children about these issues. Also, the complexity of the issues can make it difficult to discuss simply with young minds. Thus, we have produced a small workbook for 8 – 12 year olds to discuss the importance of Masjid al Aqsa and its occupation. Some of it is taken from https://imanshomeschool.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/history-of-masjid-al-aqsa-lapbook/ and a booklet on Palestine by Friends of al Aqsa.

Having ran through it with our own children we felt that it would be a useful resource to share with others. It opened numerous discussions, created an excitement around Masjid al Aqsa and made them more aware of the plight of others.

The link to the resource is attached below together with an aid to help in delivery.

Masid_al_aqsa_aid_sheet

Masjid_al_aqsa_workbook

 

 

 

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Grey hairs, Regrets & Opportunities

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Ibn al Jawzi in his book ‘Awaking from the Sleep of Heedlessness’ describes the different stages of life.

The first stage – starts from birth to puberty and that is 15 years.

The second stage – starts from puberty until the end of youth, which is until one reaches 35 years of age. This is deemed as the stage of youthfulness.

The third stage – starts from 35 years of age until 55 years of age. This is the stage of maturity.

The fourth stage – Starts from 55 years of age until the age of 70. This is the stage of old age

The fifth stage – Starts from 70 years of age until death. This is the stage of decrepitude.

 

When I look at these stages, I find that my children, all 4 of them are in the first stages of life, whilst I, their father am in the 3rd stage. In other words, they have just boarded the train, whereas I am half way to the destination.

There is a reality which has dawned upon me. I am now in my 40’s and I am realising that my youth has now left me and I have entered the mature years of my life. Over the past few years, much to my bemusement, the number of people that now address me as ‘uncle’ has increased. Then I have the grey hairs in my beard. I remember a time when my kids used to sit on my lap and count them. Now there are too many they can’t be bothered to count them anymore. My hair is receding. My barber looks at my bald patch, shakes his head and asks ‘what has happened to you?’ Like any man does, I tell him ‘it’s the wife and kids’, but, in reality this is life, we were not meant to stay young forever.

The Prophet (pbuh) in numerous narrations stressed the importance of utilising your youth before it disappears.

Ibn Abbas narrated that The Messenger of Allah (pbuh), said, “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.

Youth is a time when we are generally healthier, have more time and less responsibilities. When we get older, our energy levels deplete quicker, our time gets occupied and our responsibilities increase. It’s analogous to being a juggler in the circus, just when you start to cope with juggling 2 balls, someone throws you a 3rd, 4th and 5th. The extra balls are our responsibilities. As you get older you have to manage juggling marriage, children, work, bills, ageing parents and so on, and they all demand your time.

My increasing grey hairs are a constant reminder for me that I have exited the stage of youth and have entered the stage of maturity. This is a new stage of my life. This is the stage where I should be reaping the harvest of the seeds that I planted in the early years and the fruits that grew in my youth. However, when I look at my basket of fruit I find that it is not full and not all the fruit is ripe and juicy.

 

When each person looks at their life, they will all feel a sense of regret at loss. In a consumer society many people regret that business opportunity that past them by. In the Bollywood era some people regret the loved one that slipped them by. For others it may be not spending quality time with their children. For some is may be misspent youth in disobedience of Allah (swt). Everyone will have regrets, none of us are immune from regrets. When I look at my half full basket of unripe fruits I also have a sense of regret.

Unfortunately many in the community are affected negatively by regrets. There is a tendency to lament lost opportunities and suffer from despair and defeatism. Others, who regret, will look at people who have attained their goals and become envious until they start to wish bad for their brother or sister.

It is important to start looking at our regrets in a positive manner and use them as a means to get productive in life. When I look at my life now that I am in my 40’s, am I content with how my time is focused and prioritised? When I look back at over 15 years since my reversion to Islam, am I content with my Islam and my relationship with Allah (swt)? If the answer is NO, then I should use that regret to refocus my life, reorganise my priorities, allocate the required time, stop procrastinating, stop making excuses, start planning and act .

There is a saying that ‘age is only a number’. In reality that is true, but it is a number that keeps on increasing until it matches the number that has been set, by Allah (swt) for my ajal (lifespan). Irrespective of the past, the time for acting is now. The regrets of the past should focus me to act now and shape the future to how I would like it to be, for both myself and my family. Often as families we get caught up in the daily grind of life. It is easy to get stuck into a routine and forget about whether our daily family life is in line with the objective and purpose that Allah (swt) defined for our lives. Often we find a disparity between what we view as important and how we actually live. Reflection allows us to realign. Perhaps things will not go as planned, but at least we will not regret not trying.

Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab (ra) once said: “No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by Allah’s decree.”

 

Final thoughts

Allah (swt) is reminding me through my grey hairs that He (swt) is the one who gives life and takes life away. Grey hairs are a reminder for the one who is contemplative that an opportunity exists which will eventually come to an end.

If Allah (swt) wills and I pass through the years of old age and enter into the years described by Ibn al-Jawzi the state of decrepitude, I wonder what my regrets will be. When I lie in the stillness of the night and I think of my life that has past, what will I regret?

Will it be the lack of cars, houses and other material things? Or will it be that my head lay comfortably on a pillow during the night instead of laying on the ground prostrating to my Lord (swt)? That fear that prevented me from enjoining the good and forbidding the evil?  That my heart remained in this world instead of seeking the hereafter?

Mu`adh ibn Jabal (ra) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh)said: “The People of Paradise will not regret except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by and in which they made no remembrance of Allah.” [Bayhaqi].

May Allah (swt) allow us all to be from among the People of Paradise.

The Snakes & Ladders of Raising Children

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snakes-ladders

My eldest daughter turned 10 recently. I remember the day she was born. It was a Sunday evening after a massive labour. My wife and I were exhausted. We had the excitement of the first contractions and I remember thinking ‘This is it’. Then a good 36 hours later Rumaysah was born. Nobody told me that it could take that long and that I should try and get some sleep during early labour. So I was shattered, but even then holding Rumaysah in my arms completely made up for the fact that she had kept us waiting for so long.

Now 10 years later, I have this skinny, gangly girl who gives my wife and I moments of joy and moments of sheer frustration. She is a smart little girl, at times a bit ditzy but in general surprisingly intelligent (given her parents). She loves reading and always has her nose in a book. She has her good points, along with her bad points, but I wouldn’t change her for the world.

However, my little Rumaysah is not so little anymore, she is now 10 years old.

The Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said: “The Pen is lifted from three a child until he reaches puberty; an insane man until he comes to his senses; one who is asleep until he wakes up.” [Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah]

In a few years she will be a teenager getting ready for adulthood. Soon she will, insha-allah reach maturity, the angels will start writing and she will become accountable to Allah (swt). She won’t be my little girl, but will be a young woman facing the complexity of having to navigate her way through life. I worry for her – Is she ready for the challenges of life? And I worry for myself – Have I adequately prepared her?

 

Raising Rumaysah was a little bit of trial and error. We tried an Islamic nursery, only to pull her out. We tried an Islamic school and also pulled her out. Home schooling was a viable option for us, so we gave it a go. At times we focused on academic studies such as maths and English. Other times we focused on history and geography. We had moments when we focused only on Quran and other times where we did a miss-match of everything. However, we were acutely aware that, whatever approach we took, we needed to couple it with a strong conceptual understanding of Islam. Ultimately, she could become a doctor, dentist, mathematician, teacher, even brain surgeon, but we would have failed her, if her education and upbringing wasn’t focussed around building an Islamic personality that understood that the purpose of her life was to submit to Allah (swt) completely and yearn for only His (swt) pleasure.

Many times my wife and I have sort to raise discussion with our children to make them gain an appreciation of their purpose in life. Often we would think that we have conveyed the idea soundly, only to find that one of them would then do something contradictory. Other times we would think ‘boy we got that wrong’, but then one of them would do something that would indicate that they understood what we were saying. Trying to prepare Rumaysah for adulthood has been like a game of snakes and ladders.  Just when we felt some progress has been made and we have climbed up some ladders, a long snake will come in the form of a program on TV or a misbehaving friend or relative, which then sends us back to square one.

 

My 10 years with Rumaysah, has shown me that raising children is not an easy task and this task is made all the more difficult given the environment that surrounds us. We live in a secular society that pushes a whole host of concepts that impact the way we act and behave.

We are constantly told that we are free to do what we want, without any restriction and seek benefit and immediate gratification in all situations.  These ideas are reinforced at all levels of society, with characters from television programs and children’s story books. This is then played out in life in a struggle between parents and children. Even shopping these days for most parents is a battle between what children want to wear and what is appropriate for them to wear. Children are encouraged to explore their sexuality and schools now play an active part in promoting sexual freedom from a young age.  A relative’s daughter once visited our house and spoke to my children about attending the school prom and kissing her boyfriend. The girl was only 6 years old at the time.

Islam encourages us to explore and follow our dreams, but we act within the confines of the commands and prohibitions of Allah (swt). A child that has brought into the notion of freedom will find Islam restrictive and become resentful unless they understand their purpose in life.

Whilst we may be trying to get our children to reflect upon the reality and arrive at the existence of Allah (swt), we find that the society propagates a contradictory view and generally disregards and ridicules religion. Rumaysah was once confused and upset after a disagreement with her friend over the existence of Allah. Her friend was saying Islam is rubbish and that we all came from the ‘big bang’.

Although it enabled us to have a discussion with her and build the Islamic viewpoint, she could have easily kept the issue to herself and remained in a confused state.

 

Islam has clear thoughts about life. Reflecting upon reality builds the concept of a creator. In Islam life is more than just play and amusement, but is about submitting to the one that gives us life. The Quran and the Sunnah gave us our criteria for acting and pleasing the creator. Accountability makes us careful about following the commands and prohibitions of Allah (swt), in open and secret.

The challenge for parents is building this in our children so that it convinces their minds and shapes their disposition. The early years is very much about repeating these discussions using various realities, styles and not resting and thinking that the idea has been conveyed and ticked off the list. We also need to constantly challenge the opposite understanding in a way that highlights its fallacy whilst reinforcing the correct viewpoint.

Often I have felt inadequate in raising my children and feel that I have let them down.  Many parents often share similar sentiments. As parents we need to recognise the importance that thoughts have on our personality and behaviour. We need to be proactive in discussing some key concepts with our children in order to help them in preparation for challenges of adulthood. This necessitates us taking an interest in our children’s upbringing and having an open relationship with them. As our children grow up they will naturally have questions about what they see around them and contradictions that they witness in people around them. The open relationship enables them to approach us and seek answers.

In subsequent articles I hope to elaborate on some of the key ideas I feel would aid in developing our children for maturity.

 

May Allah (swt) strengthen us, and strengthen our children for the challenges that await them in adulthood

 

 

 

The Dutiful Child Part 3: Reward beyond the Grave

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Senior and Young Women Holding Hands

Part 1 discussed how Allah (swt) made it an obligation to be dutiful to our parents. 

Part 2 explained how kindness to parents is manifested in our daily lives.

This final post will outline the ongoing reward that can be attained after the death of our parents

One of the biggest regrets for the child is the passing away of their parents. With the death, a door to Paradise closes, that will never open again. Often the regret stems from the child’s realisation of the neglect in fulfilling the duty whilst their parents were alive. Nothing can compensate kindness to parents during their lifetime. It is of the highest obligations and a sin to neglect, whereas dutifulness to parents after their death is recommended and does not carry the same weight. Hence, in the polluted secular environment of the West, it is essential that we remind the youth of the reality of life. It is more than just play, amusement and irresponsibility. With maturity come accountability, reward and punishment. Part of the accountability relates to our responsibility to our parents when they are living amongst us. However, even after they have passed away we can gain reward for us and them through various recommended deeds.

 

Of the best actions that can be performed for the deceased parent, after praying for their mercy and forgiveness is keeping good relations with their friends and relatives.

A man from the tribe of Banu Salamah came and said to the Prophet (pbuh), “O Messenger of Allah, are there any rights of my parents on me which I have to fulfil even after they have died?” “Yes”, replied Muhammad (pubh),  “To pray for mercy and forgiveness on their behalf, to fulfil the promises they may have, to pay due regard to the bonds of relationship that are from their side and to be respectful to their friends”. [Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah].

When I think about this hadith, I remember myself as a child sitting bored witless when relatives and family friends came to visit. I also remember those visits to India meeting relatives who I have never seen before, who I had nothing in common with and no interest in getting to know. Perhaps it was a false superiority complex that I was from the ‘West’ and they were from the ‘village’. I imagine many of the Muslim youth growing up in the West have such a complex. However, for Muslims, maintaining relationships helps strengthen the Islamic bonds and build a sense of community. Not only is it a rewardable action, but imagine sitting with your father’s childhood friend, sharing memories and stories of when your father was young. It helps maintain the memory of your deceased parents and in turn spreads goodness in the society.

 

Giving charity for the sake of the souls of your parents increases Allah (swt) pleasure with them, without reducing the reward of the child who gave in charity.

Sa’d ibn ‘Ubaadah’s mother died when he was absent, and he said: “O Messenger of Allaah, my mother has died when I was absent. Will it benefit her if I give in charity on her behalf?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “I ask you to bear witness that my garden that bears fruit is given in charity on her behalf.” [Bukhari].

 

Even the good deed a child does in response to Allah (swt)’s command, is rewarded by Allah (swt) with reward for the child and the parent. This is because the righteous child is the result of parents who raised and nurtured them.

The Prophet (pbuh) said,” Whoever recites the Quran, learns it and acts according to it will be given a crown of light to wear on the Day of Judgement whose light will be like the sun. His parents will be clothed in two garments that did not exist in this worldly life. So they will say, what has caused us to be clothed (in these garments)?’ It will be said “Your child taking hold of the Quran has caused this.” [Al Hakim]

So a gate to Paradise closes with the death of a parent, however the opportunity remains to gain reward and the pleasure of Allah (swt) after their death.

 

Conclusion

The family unit is a pillar in the society that has been corrupted by the secular thoughts of individualism and freedom. Unfortunately we find that parents have forsaken their rights over their children, whilst children have neglected their responsibility to their parents. As a parent, I wish that my children grow up to fulfil their responsibility to both myself and my wife. To help achieve that my wife and I need to fulfil our responsibility to our parents

Jabir (ra) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Be dutiful to your parents and your children will be dutiful to you. Be chaste with women and your wives will be chaste with you” [Al-Hakim]

Kindness to parents needs to permeate within our families if we seek the pleasure of Allah (swt). Every parent must inculcate the fundamentals of obedience as ordered by Allah (swt), out of mercy for their children. Every child should learn how to be kind to their parents so that they will not regret after their parents are gone.

The challenge for Muslims is to realise the impact that secularism has had on the Islamic culture. Our perception of right and wrong, our priorities, even our close relationships have become polluted by the dominance of secularism in the world today. We need to purify our atmospheres and strive to live in a society in which Islamic culture and values, such as kindness to parents, are both protected and dominant.

 

It is with a very heavy heart that I wrote these blog posts. The heaviness is a natural consequence when I reflect upon the deficiency in my relationship with my parents and when I recollect all those moments when in haste I raised my voice or acted in a manner displeasing to them. My relationship in my teenage years before my reverting to Islam was spent in rebelliousness. The immediate time after was spent hastily trying to convince them with little thought or wisdom. Unfortunately my recent years have been spent with my own family trying to navigate them through the complexities of life in the West. I have neglected my parents, and I ask Allah (swt) to forgive me, soften the hardness of my heart and allow me to understand my priorities.

The heaviness also stems from my parents being non-Muslims and disbelievers in Allah (swt), together with the lack of opportunity for me to ask for their forgiveness and the inability to raise their level with Allah (swt) as a result of my deeds. Much of what I typed I am unable to enact due to their disbelief. I wonder what the situation will be, if Allah (swt) wills, that they die before me in a state of disbelief. As I see the signs of ageing in me, I can see the signs manifest in them and a time will come when they will take their last breath, whether that be as Muslims or disbelievers.

Asma bint Abu Bakr narrated that my mother came to me during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and she was a Mushrikah (polytheist). I said to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) (seeking his verdict), “My mother has come to me and she desires to acknowledge our connection, shall I keep good relations with her?” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Yes, keep good relation with her.” [Bukhari]

This narration outlines my relationship with my parents. Only Allah (swt) knows what the future will bring, but whilst they are both alive, I need to reassess my relationship with them and make the necessary changes to treat them with kindness and gain the pleasure of Allah (swt).

The Dutiful Child Part 2: Kindness to Parents

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hajjparent

Part One discussed how Allah (swt) made it an obligation to be dutiful to our parents. 

In this post I will outline how kindness to parents is manifested in our daily lives.

 

Kindness in our lives

Being dutiful to your parents is one of the deeds most loved by Allah (swt).

Abdullah bin Mas’ud (ra) said, ‘I asked the Prophet (pbuh), Which deed is loved most by Allah?’ He replied, ‘To offer As-Salat (the prayers) at their early (very first) stated times. Abdullah bin Mas’ud asked, ‘What is next (in goodness)?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘To be good and dutiful to one’s parents.’ Abdullah bin Mas’ud asked, ‘What is next (in goodness)? The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘To participate in Jihad for Allah’s cause.’ Abdullah ibn Mas’ud added, ‘The Prophet (pbuh) narrated to me these things, and if I had asked more, he would have told me more.’” [Bukhari].

After performing the obligatory prayers on time, the next deed most liked by Allah (swt) is kindness to parents and then taking part in Jihad (N.B. this is when Jihad is Fard Kifayah (obligation of sufficiency) as opposed to when Jihad is Fard ‘Ayn (an individual obligation)).

In another narration Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (ra) said, “A man came to the Prophet, (pbuh), and said, ‘I have come to make you a pledge that I will do hijra although I have left my parents in tears.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go back to them and make them laugh as you made them cry.'” [Bukhari]

In life we often have to prioritise. When I reflect upon my relationships in this world, I often reflect upon my role as a husband, a father and a son. Subconsciously when I typed the above sentence, it was in the following order, husband, father and son. When I look back at my prioritisation in reality, in most instances, it has been in that order. As a male, I have a duty to my wife, children and parents which I need to fulfil. However, the saying of the Prophet (saw) makes my duty to my parents higher than that to my wife and children.

Striking the balance is key, as is upholding the truth and justice, but in hindsight, I am guilty of viewing family time as being spent with the wife and kids, whereas in reality, my parents have more right over my time. Alhamdulillah, my wife and parents get on fairly well. My parents are self-sufficient and rarely call upon me for help, but the issue is more than whether they need my assistance. My natural disposition should be that I go above and beyond the minimum and be there for them to share in all their joys and sorrows and not only those that I have been exposed to.

 

Not only is dutifulness to parents a means of attaining Jannah, the one who neglects this duty is destined for humiliation.

Abu Hurayrah (ra) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saying: “May his nose be rubbed in the dust, may his nose be rubbed in the dust, may his nose be rubbed in the dust. It was said: Who, O Messenger of Allah? He said: The one whose parents, one or both of them, reach old age during his lifetime and he does not enter Paradise.” [Muslim].

In another narration Abu Bakr narrated that the prophet (pbuh) said: “Do you want to know the greatest sins of all sins? – Polytheism and impiety towards parents”

These narrations contextualise the issue of piety towards parents. As a revert from a Hindu background I am acutely aware of polytheism and associating partners in worship. It is the worst of actions a person can perform for which no good deed can compensate. To find impiety to parents in the same sentence as polytheism shows the seriousness of the issue. It is a great sin, which will prevent a person from entering into paradise, unless the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness. Often we can fall into the trap of shaytaan and view sins as minor. The close relationship we have with our parents can fool us into being overly relaxed with our parents to such an extent that we do or say that which causes them anger and sadness. The closing of the door to Jannah and the opening of the doors of Hellfire is sufficient reminder for the one who has fear of Allah (swt) of the need to be careful regarding his parents.

 

Dutifulness to parents is not an easy task. It is a lifelong struggle, requiring the believer to constantly be aware of his parents’ needs and wants in order to readily work to fulfil them. It requires the believer to be constantly conscious of what he is saying, how he is saying it and how it will be perceived by his parents.

Allah (swt) informs us: And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect (fie / uff), nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.” [TMQ Isra: 23].

Looking after parents is a constant struggle whether they are healthy or old and frail. However, it is in their old age that they may require us more and be needier of our help and support. As a person ages they are often more difficult to please and look after. I find this with my own parents and I witnessed this when they had to look after my grandfather. With age comes the realisation that you are unable to do the things that you used to. Your body weakens and your mind becomes more forgetful. This is hard for parents to acknowledge as they don’t wish to become a burden. Older aged parents are stubborn. My wife thinks I’m stubborn now, who knows what I will be like if Allah willing, I attain old age.

Parent’s will do and say things that you will find troublesome. Whether you are 30, 40, 50 or 60, you parents will always think they know what is best for you. They will feel they know what is best for them, irrespective of whatever advice you give them. Dealing with the elderly can be frustrating, hence Allah (swt) reminds us in the above verse  “If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect (fie / uff), nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour”.

Ad-Daylami narrated from Al-Husayn ibn Ali that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “If Allah knew any smaller than uff to be disrespectful to parents, He would have decreed it to be haram!”.

Uff is such a small expression which is forbidden, yet how many times may I have said much worse? Uff, by itself is an expression of an emotion or sentiment. It indicates insolence, derision, displeasure and disobedience, thus contradicting “address them in terms of honour.” All of this is prohibited for the child and, upon reflection, memories flood the mind that fill the heart with regret.

 

The child needs to develop thick skin and a short memory in dealing with their parents.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: Whoever rose up in the morning pleasing to his parents, he would have two open doors to Paradise, and if in the evening, the same, is to one (parent), then one door). The Prophet (pbuh) was asked: “Even if they were unfair to him?” He (pbuh) answered: “Even if they were unfair to him” [Bayhaqi]

We live in a culture of reciprocating love and hate. We treat people well, only if they are good to us and if they are bad we treat them badly. In addition, the society pushes us to seek interest and benefit, so often people are befriended if they may be of some use. Sometimes we find this criterion deployed to parents.

Our parents may say some hurtful words to us, or even be negligent towards us. However, irrespective of what they do, or how it makes us feel, our kindness and obedience to them should be absolute, unless they command with a prohibited matter. Holding a grudge against your parents is not allowed, especially if it affects your relationship with them. Every interaction with them should be viewed as a new interaction and opportunity for reward and forgiveness, and that can only be achieved with thick skin and a short memory in forgetting any previous confrontations.

In life, we will have many grudges and disputes, however with parents, this should be avoided. Our kindness towards them needs to be manifest, so that they feel the kindness. The issue is more than just treating them well, but they need to feel that they have been treated well. This is not an easy task, it is a lifelong endeavour and hence it is no surprise that the reward is analogous with performing Jihad for the sake of Allah (swt). It is the action which qualifies our other deeds and will raise us righteous and God-fearing

Amr narrated that a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and you are the Messenger of Allah. I pray the five (daily prayers), I give zakat and I fast Ramadan.” The Prophet (pbuh) said to him “Whoever dies doing that will be, on the Day of Resurrection, in the company of the Prophets, the martyrs and the righteous – provided he was not unkind to his parents.” [Tabarani]

 

Examples from the Companions  of the Prophet (pbuh)

Dutifulness to parents is easier said than done. In fact much in life is easier said than done and often we can ‘talk the talk’ but fail to ‘walk the walk’. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend what it means to be dutiful to parents. Does it manifest in visiting them often? Buying them gifts? Doing their weekly shopping? Taking them out? In reality it manifests in whatever will make them happy and smile, as kindness relates to how they feel about you and not whether you feel you have achieved making them happy.

Abu Hurairah (ra) lived in a house next to his mother. Whenever he went out he would say, “Peace be unto you, my mother, and Allah’s mercy and blessings. May Allah grant you His Mercy for raising me when I was young.”

His mother would reply, “May Allah grant you His mercy for being dutiful to me when you grew up.”

Here we find that Abu Hurairah (ra) achieved the desired aim of being dutiful to his mother and this is manifest in his mother’s praise of him. This is music to the ears of the believer. I wonder if my parents have ever said anything similar to indicate their pleasure in me. If they have I can’t remember it, may Allah (swt) forgive me and strengthen me.

The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) understood the status of parents in Islam and were meticulous in ensuring that they fulfilled their rights. When we look at the lengths they went to regarding their parents, you will feel that your efforts have been insignificant, and indeed our efforts are insignificant in comparison.

Ayesha (ra) said: “Of this Ummah (Muslim community) two companions of the Prophet (pbuh) were kindest to their mothers. Uthman ibn Affan and Haritha ibn al-Nu’man. As for Uthman, he said ever since I became I could not contemplate the face of my mother (i.e. the act of kindness demanded lowering his head in the presence of his father and mother and not looking directly at them). For this indicated submission and acceptance in executing any order or request. As for Haritha, he used to look for lice in his mothers head and feed her with his own hands. He never asked her to explain an order she made. After leaving her, he would ask those who were with her, what did my mother want.”

Ayesha (ra) then relates that the Messenger (pbuh) said: “Whilst sleeping, I saw in my dream that I was in Paradise and I heard someone reciting (the Qur’an). I asked ‘who is that?’ and I was told Haritha the son of al-Nu’man as a recompense for his kindness to his mother”

The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) would go to extremes in obedience to their parents, going to all lengths possible to execute any command.

Anas (ra) relates that the mother of Ibn Masood one night asked for some water to drink. Her son went and got her some but found her fast asleep. So he remained there till the morning standing at her head, holding the water.

This extreme would also stretch to the permissible matters, such was their fear of upsetting their parents.

It was narrated that al-Hasan the son of Ali (ra) would refrain from eating with his mother, even though he was most kind to her. When he was asked about it, he answered: “If I eat with her I fear that maybe, without my knowledge, she might have her eye on some food that I may inadvertently eat, and thus I would no longer be a kind son to her.”

The companions prioritised their parents above all other relationships, even above their wives and children.

Hafsa (ra) used to say of her son Huthail: “He used to peel the reeds and leave them to dry in the summer so they would not smoke. Then in winter, he would come and sit behind me while I was praying and light a gentle fire that would warm me without harming me with its smoke. I used to tell him: O my son go home to your family tonight. He would say: O Mother I know what they want. So I would leave him till the morning. He used also to send me the milking of the morning and I used to tell him: O my son! You know that I do not drink milk during the day. He would reply: the best milk is that which stays in the udder overnight, and I would give precedence to no one over you. So send it to whomever you wish.”

The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) set a very high standard for us to emulate. Truly they are the best of generations.
 

In Part 3, I will outline how we can gain reward for ourselves and our parents after their death

The Dutiful Child Part 1: The Responsibility of the Child to the Parent.

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elderly-couple

Looking in the mirror, I can see that I am getting older. I remember when Faatiha would sit on me to count the white hairs in my beard. Now she sits on me and complains that there are too many white hairs to count. Insha’allah a time may arrive when it is easier to count the remaining black hairs in a predominately white beard.

Another sign of ageing is manifest in my children. I got married at 29, which is fairly late and my eldest is now 9. My other friends, who got married earlier, have teenage kids and one of my friends even became a grandfather this year.

With age comes another reality. Over the past few years, many of my friends have lost either one, or both, of their parents. Death is an eventuality which can strike at any time, whether you are old or young. However, my generation has reached an age where this eventuality is becoming common. Not a month goes by without receiving a text message informing me that a father, or mother has passed away, with a reminder to make dua for them and the next stage of their journey.

The death of a loved one is a most humbling experience. The mother who went through the pangs of labour, fed you, cleaned you, clothed you – now gone. The father who provided for you, supported you, disciplined you, taught you the meaning of life – now gone. Undoubtedly you reflect upon the good times you shared together and fond memories flood your mind. You also reflect upon the relationship you had with your parents, because alongside the good memories are those moments when you raised your voice, showed anger and acted in a manner that displeased your parents and hence yielded the anger of Allah (swt).

Out of all our worldly relationships, the relationship between the child and parent is one of the most important. It forms the fabric of the society, and, in fact, forms a measure of the society itself. The converse is also true. The society we reside in will also shape how we view the relationships we form. Currently, the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim is dominated by secularism and hence we find disobedience of parents prevalent in the World today.

Popular culture promotes personalities that are free and enjoy freedom. As a child growing up in the 80’s many Hollywood movie scripts revolved around teenagers rebelling against their authoritative parents. The parents in teenage angst movies were portrayed as being ‘not with the times’ and stifling the child’s creativity and individualism, hence arguments, disobedience and general rudeness of parents was the norm. Programs like ‘The Inbetweeners’ still promote that view today. Parents are viewed as a burden and a spoiler of pleasure, as epitomised in the famous John Smith TV ad in which Peter Kay decides to put his mother in an old people’s home so he can put a snooker table in her room. At the time it was funny, but now we see that image being played out in houses up and down the country, even in Muslim households.

As Muslims growing up in secular society, we are caught in the cross-roads between our general Islamic culture and the prevalent atmosphere in the society. We all have examples when the prevalent atmosphere dominated our relationship with our parents and we spoke harshly and rudely to our parents, to such an extent that they were visibly upset with us. Most, if not all, of us are caught in this battle until the battle ends. It is unfortunate that many of us, whilst in our youth, are unaware of the importance of our parents. Perhaps we only fully appreciate this when we become parents ourselves, or when our parents die, and with that closes the door to the mercy and forgiveness of Allah (swt).

Reading the book “The Son – with His Father & Mother” by Sheikh Yusuf Badarani has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with my parents. My deficiencies have always been apparent to me, however I was not fully aware of the weight that Allah (swt) gave to pleasing your parents, equating it with obedience to Allah (swt) himself. The companions of the Prophet (saw) went to extremes to manifest this obedience and kindness and I can only weep when I consider myself in comparison.

This blog post, split into three parts, is primarily written as a reminder to me of what I need to aspire for. Hopefully others may benefit and go against the grain of secular society and produce a relationship with their parents that allow them to enter into the highest levels of Jannah amongst the righteous.

 

Defining the relationship

Being dutiful to your parents is a basic duty in Islam.

Allah (swt) says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years, give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination. But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]. Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.” [TMQ Luqman: 14-15]

This verse starts by Allah (swt) defining that He (swt) has ordered the child to be dutiful and good to his parents, an order that is strengthened when He (swt) reminds the child of all that the parent has done for them. Allah (swt) says in the above verse “His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years”

As a child, I never fully appreciated what my parents had done for me. During my youth, I would think about myself and give lip service to the hardships my parents underwent to raise me and my sister. However, when I became a parent myself, I started to appreciate them in light of this verse.

My children occupy a vast amount of  time and effort, whether it is looking after them, feeding them, clothing them, taking them out etc. Parenting involves sacrificing your own for the sake of your children. We sacrifice our time, our sleep, our money, our energy for them. I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve come home only to find that my children have finished my share of food.

Thinking of others goes against the very concept of individualism as propagated in capitalist societies. People are encouraged to think about themselves and not the favours that others have bestowed upon them. The fruits of such thinking are selfish individuals, even in their relationship with their own parents.

Allah (swt) then states “give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination. This is a very humbling statement, in which Allah (swt) associates kindness to parents as an act of worship, with gratitude to parents being analogous to gratitude to Allah (swt).

As a weak human being, it is impossible for me to truly thank Allah (swt) for all that he has given me. Allah (swt) is the one that created me in perfection, keeps me alive, provides me with air to breathe, food and water to consume, as well as giving me my family. None of us can praise Allah (swt) as He (swt) deserves to be praised.

In a similar vein, comes gratitude to parents, which Allah (swt) has linked to thanking Him (swt), together with the warning that our ultimate accountability is with Allah (swt). All this raises the importance of treating parents kindly, as an act of worship for which we will be judged in the hereafter.

Finally Allah (swt) informs us of the limits of kindness and obedience to parents that it should not cross the limits set by Allah (swt). He (swt) said “But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance].”

There is no obedience in disobedience to Allah (swt), however, this should not lead to confrontation, arguments, anger and a severing of relationship. Often we find the most petty of disagreements getting blown out of proportion in the family unit, resulting in the son not talking to his father, or mother not talking to her daughter and vice-a-versa. Here Allah (swt) is informing the child that, forget the minor inconsequential issues, even if they command you with a prohibited matter, you do not obey, but still treat them with kindness, warmth and humility.

In Part Two I will outline how kindness to parents is manifested in our daily lives.

Rough guide to Ramadan in Istanbul

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Istanbul Title

 

For the past 2 to 3 years my wife has wanted to spend Ramadan in Istanbul. For a variety of reasons we were unable to go. However, this year everything fell into place and we traveled to Istanbul and, as a family, experienced Ramadan in a Muslim country for the very first time.

In this blog post, I hope to elaborate on our experience and provide some general tips and travel advice for spending Ramadan in Istanbul. Primarily this is a reminder for myself (my wife has already started planning for next year) but also for anyone else looking to escape the UK with their kids and experience an unforgettable Ramadan.

 

Why Istanbul?

Firstly, although it is a holiday, the trip should not come at the expense of your Ramadan goals, targets and objectives.   I commonly take off some time from work during the later period of Ramadan as the month often catches up with me and i need some extra rest during the day in order to make the most of the odd nights.  Going away seemed like a good idea in order to eliminate some of that running around I often end up doing.

Istanbul is a great choice for anyone wanting to get away in Ramadan.  The temperature is comparable to the UK and the flight is relatively short at approx. 4 hours which is great especially if you are travelling with children.  Also the fasting day is a little sorter compared to the UK.

Worshipping is also facilitated in Istanbul. Whether that be the numerous adhaans in the background reminding you of prayer times, or the numerous mosque within walking distance of almost all locations.  They all accommodate women so finding a quiet spot for all the family to contemplate, reflect and recite is easy.

 

The logistics:

Flights

IMG_20160630_173458344The main airlines offering direct flights to Istanbul are Turkish airlines, British airways and Pegasus. All have their good and bad points and generally speaking Pegasus is the cheapest. However the best option, in my opinion, is Turkish airlines. They offer flights to both Istanbul Attaturk and Sabiha Gokcen and fly from various airports in the UK, you get a luggage allowance and is generally cheaper than BA. In addition you have enough entertainment in the plane to keep the kids occupied for the 4 hour flight. Also you have a halal meal, a blessing after my many Ryanair journeys. Regarding the price, it very much depends on when you fly. Naturally peak time (July onwards) is more expensive, but playing around with the dates could save you some money. By flying at the end of June and returning on a Monday, instead of the weekend, saved us around £150-£200.

Visas

Visits to Turkey require a visa. These can be purchased from Istanbul airport, or you could purchase an e-Visa online. We purchased ours online by visiting https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

It is a painless process of filling in some online forms and adding payment details. The cost is calculated in US dollars and depending on the exchange rate is around £15. The advantage of purchasing the visa online is that is saves you from waiting around at Istanbul airport getting the visas, whilst your kids are moaning and whining in the background. The quicker you can get through the airport the better. Also the plan is to phase out buying visas from the airport.

Accommodation

I’ve lost count, the number of hours I’ve spent sitting behind a laptop with my wife looking at accommodation in Istanbul. Where do you stay?, What kind of accommodation?, What facilities does the accommodation need? These were questions my wife and I debated beforehand. The main problem was that we didn’t know much about Istanbul in Ramadan and hence were surfing in the dark.

My advice to anyone travelling to Istanbul for the first time is to stay within the old city or Sultanahmet district. It is the most central to landmarks and monuments. It is the tourist centre of Istanbul with numerous restaurants, cafes and hotels. In fact Sultanahmet is a world heritage site, meaning that the building of new accommodation is restricted in height. As a result there are numerous boutique hotels and apartments. Regarding the type of accommodation, we booked a 2 bedroom apartment. Given that half our trip was in Ramadan, self-catering suited us fine as breakfast was redundant and we would be out for iftaar.

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Kadirga Limani Ramp

Apartments often contain a kitchen area, ideal for feeding the kids that are not fasting. They also have a lot of space, ideal for escaping from the kids for a bit of ‘me’ time. Look out for other extras such as access to a washer dryer, rooftop terrace which may give you a nice view of the Bosphorus and also look out for supermarkets and other amenities in the area. Our accommodation gave us access to the communal gardens which was a nice safe area for the kids to run around and do a spot of gardening. One thing to keep an eye out for is the steep hills and roads around Sultanahmet. We stayed in an area called Kadirga Limani, the supermarket was a couple of doors away and our accommodation was about 5 – 10 minutes’ walk from the Blue mosque, albeit up a very steep hill.

If you are looking to be closer to the Bosphorus, then Sirkeci (between Eminonu and Sultanahmet) is a good option, although the area is a little expensive and many restaurants appeared to serve alcohol. If you are looking for modern hotels with all the mod cons and facilities, then Taxsim and Besiktas would be preferable, although you may miss out on the traditional Istanbul experience.

Personally I would love to live in Eyup or Fatih during Ramadan, purely for the atmosphere. But for a first time experience, Sultanahmet is an ideal base to explore from. Common sites to look for and compare accommodation are www.booking.com, www.lastminute.com, www.airbnb.co.uk and www.holidaylettings.co.uk .

Airport Transfers

There are plenty of options available online for airport transfers.  On average it costs around 60 euros for a return transfer from Attaturk airport to Sultanahmet.  Our flight arrived into Istanbul late and with there being 6 of us, a pre booked transfer suited us well.    We booked through http://www.istanbulairportstransfer.net  The 8 seater was very comfortable, with complimentary water and a map of Istanbul. We also had the option of paying the driver or via paypal.   Your accommodation may also offer you an option of an airport transfer. This is convenient, if not a little more expensive than what you might find online. For the brave, you could catch the metro or municipality bus http://www.iett.gov.tr/en/main/pages/access-to-airports/798. This will be a lot cheaper, although public transport can get very busy. Alternatively there are plenty of yellow taxis which are all metered.

 

Ramadan life in Istanbul

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Prayers at Sultanahmet mosque

Ramadan in Istanbul is a lively affair. During the day everything functions as normal in the tourist areas. Restaurants and shops are open serving food throughout the day. The tourist attractions are all open with the exception of Eid day. Unlike some other Muslim countries, you will be able to eat and drink without any trouble or hassle if, for some reason, you are not fasting. Having said that, we did not venture out too much during the day in Ramadan, preferring to lounge and read Quran in the comfort of our air conditioned apartment or the local mosque.

Something special about Istanbul is the sheer number of mosques within the vicinity. At fajr time, in our apartment you would hear 3 of 4 adhaan being read almost simultaneously to such an extent that it was difficult to know which one to follow. Unlike in the UK, where you are clock watching to know when to stop eating suhur, in Istanbul it is the pronouncement of the adhaan. During the Ottoman period men would beat drums on the streets to signify the start of the fast. You still see them in Istanbul today, although it is more symbolic. With my nearest mosque, literally 20 steps away, there was no excuse for missing the reward of praying in congregation.

Things pick up pace the closer you get to iftaar. We decided to break our fast in different districts each day. The 3 main districts we visited at iftaar were Eyup, Sultanahmet and Fatih.

Iftaar in Sultanahmet

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Picnic at Sultanahmet mosque

Iftaar in Sultanahmet is a family picnic affair. Families come and camp out in the nearest grass area they can find, open up the picnic basket and wait for iftaar. In the area there are various restaurants trying to tempt you and some stalls selling picnic food, like meze with bread, rice pudding and kofte. The district has an open market, similar to the German market in Birmingham town centre at Christmas. The whole area is bustling until the magrib adhaan, when you get the customary silence as people start eating. Breaking the fast and eating well appears very important in Turkish culture, to such an extent that the people will still be eating outside whilst the magrib prayers are being read. Once they have eaten, you find a queue at the wudu taps and people coming into the mosque to pray.

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Light show at Sultanahmet mosque

One beautiful sight in Ramadan is the lighting up of the Blue mosque between magrib and eesha. Every evening in Ramadan the blue mosque is lit up to enact a lightshow whilst a narrative plays on loud speakers outlining the history of Islam. The narrative is in Turkish and English, interspersed with nasheeds, verses of Quran and salutations upon the Prophet (pbuh). Everyone hangs around until eesha, when they make their way to one of the many mosques in the district to pray.

A point to note is the extended time gap between magrib and eesha. Magrib was about 8:30pm and eesha adhaan was about 10:45 pm. In the UK you just about have enough time to eat, possibly have a cuppa before you need to head off to the mosque. In Istanbul you have time to rest, relax and let your food digest before praying.

Iftaar in Eyup

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Eyup Sultan at Iftaar

Iftaar in Eyup is busy, exciting and warm. It is similar to Sultanahmet only the area is much smaller and hence more densely populated. Eyup is not a touristic area; hence it is the local Turks you will mingle with. It has a more authentic feel; you are surrounded by shops selling mus’haf of Quran, prayer hat and hijabs. Amongst the hustle and bustle you can hear the recitation of Quran in the background. Eyup Sultan mosque is smaller and quickly fills up. However, area is allocated in the courtyard for spill over.

Eyup is about 6 – 7 km from Sultanahmet. You can catch the tram from Eminonu direct to Eyup. Alternatively a taxi should cost no more than 25 liras at peak time. Eyup has a fun fair feel about it. There are stalls selling candy floss, ottoman ice cream (dondurma) and balloons. In the UK we look forward to Eid in the Park. In Eyup it is Eid in the Park every day, for the whole month of Ramadan. As soon as you get out of the taxi, you are inundated with restaurant menus with their fixed price, fixed menu iftaar. There are plenty of places to eat and even if you don’t have a proper meal, people will feed you Turkish delight until you have your fill.

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Iftaar table at Eyup

A point to note, if you do want to have a proper meal don’t leave it too late. Many restaurants will require you to pay a deposit to reserve a table for iftaar and the closer you get to iftaar time the tables start to fill up. Some restaurants will shut up shop after they have served the iftaar and it may be more difficult to get food as the night progresses, until the restaurants open for the fixed price suhur. So if you want to eat, reserve a table, otherwise snack and soak up the atmosphere.

Iftaar in Fatih

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Fatih mosque complex

Fatih is the absolute opposite to Eyup and Sultanahmet. The atmosphere is more calm, relaxed and tranquil. Fatih Sutan Mosque is situated a small distance away from Fevzi Pasa Cadessi, a main road. This road is busy, littered with restaurants and designer clothes shops and women’s fashion outlets. But as you climb up the path to get to Fatih mosque the atmosphere starts to change. The mosque complex is more peaceful. There are still some families, but much fewer in numbers, mostly sitting on benches interspersed between the numerous stray cats. The courtyard of the mosque is even more peaceful, a handful of families sitting on picnic blankets waiting to break their fast. It is a time for reflection and contemplation, a rare moment in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. It is advisable to bring a picnic to Fatih, as there are not many places to eat in the near vicinity of the mosque. I managed to buy some mamoul biscuits and other snacks from the local supermarket.

After magrib is an opportune moment to stroll through the streets of Fatih. There are people around and shops are open, but it feels like someone has pressed the pause button. The closest I can describe it is the feeling you get in Madinah after spending time in Makkah. Istanbul is a beautiful city to just walk through. Although there probably are some rough neighbourhoods, most areas you just feel safe walking through. A blessing in comparison to how you feel walking in parts of the UK, post Brexit.

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Taraweeh at Fatih mosque courtyard

Everything picks up pace towards eesha time. People come from various directions to converge at Fatih mosque. Again it is families. Women frequent the mosque just as much as men and children are equally as welcome. The men fill the main hall of the mosque and the women fill the allocated area. The women then fill the sides of the mosque courtyard and the children play and run around, either in the mosque or the courtyard itself. In the UK it is extremely difficult to find mosques that cater for families. Bringing children to the mosque is often frowned upon, especially by the elders. As a result, children do not gain a taste of the beauty that can be found in listening to the taraweeh. Although attitudes are starting to change, many mosques are hampered by a lack of space and facilities. Fatih mosque showed me that if you have space, children will keep themselves occupied, whether with a football or even on roller skates. It’s an amazing sight to see children making circuits around the wudu fountain. As for the taraweeh itself, the Imam’s in Turkey have their own way of reciting, sending peace and blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) after every interval. It was the 28th night when we were in Fatih and it is likely that they had completed the recitation of the Quran. The imam started surah Rahman in eesha prayers, continued to read it in taraweeh and finished it in witr. Afterwards you get the feeling that less is more.

 

Eid in Istanbul

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Eid Prayers at Sultanahmet mosque

Our plan was to experience both Ramadan and Eid in Istanbul. The Ramadan days would be spent resting and reading and the days after Eid spent sight-seeing and visiting the other attractions.

So what is Eid like in Istanbul? Well the first thing to note is that the government announced the day of Eid prior to sighting the moon. They appeared to have based this upon calculation of when the moon will be born as opposed to, what the saying of the Prophet (pbuh) states, the actual sighting. I remember speaking to the manager of our apartment, ascertaining what will happen on Eid day and him telling me “Eid prayers tomorrow will be one hour after the end of fajr” and then realising that they are not waiting for the moon sighting.

As the actual new moon was not sighted we ended up keeping the full 30 days of Ramadan and hence celebrated Eid on a different day to the rest of Turkey. With most, if not all, the mosques being state sponsored this will present a problem when it comes to praying Eid prayers. It is reminiscent of a government that does not refer to Islam as a criterion for all its actions and highlights the need for a single Islamic leadership for all the Muslims.

However, we ventured out on Turkey’s Eid morning to see how the end of Ramadan is celebrated. The Eid prayers appeared to be a lively affair. We arrived at the blue mosque when the prayers had just finished and people were exiting the mosque. People were embracing, hugging, engaged in small talk, sharing sweets. One random stranger even gave my children some Eid money, making them very happy.

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Eid money

As for the atmosphere during the day, I can’t say much as we went back to our apartment. I imagine in the main areas most shops will be open and in the evening, when we broke our fast, everything was as normal in Sultanahmet square. One point to note, museums and other tourist attractions are closed on Eid day.

Our one regret is that we never got to truly experience Eid in Istanbul.

 

Sight-seeing and tourism

There are so many mosques in Istanbul, but each one has a story to tell.

First you have the iconic Sultanahmet mosque, or Blue mosque which is directly facing Hagia Sophia. This is the mosque you see in the background of all those pictures your friends and relatives have shown you over the years.

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Suleymaniye Mosque at Jummah

Nearby there is the district of Suleymaniye, named after the Khalifh Suleyman al-Kanuni (Suleyman the Magnificent) This area houses the Suleymaniye mosque, the largest mosque in Istanbul. In fact, historically, it was more of a complex, with a hospital, soup kitchen, library, school and much more. It was built in 1557AD by the famous ottoman architect Mimar Sinan and the original structure has survived the numerous earthquakes that struck Istanbul, without a single crack.

Then you have the district of Fatih, named after the conquerer of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Muhammad al-Fatih). This district contains Fatih mosque and the tomb of Muhammad al-Fatih.

A little further there is the district of Eyup, where you will find the tomb of Abu Ayub al-Ansari (ra).   Abu Ayub al-Ansari was one of the companions of the Prophet (Pbuh) who died during the original conquest of Constaninople in 674AD.

Then you have Ortakoy mosque on the banks of the Bosphorus, Rustum Pasha mosque with its distinctive, blue tiles. Even the mosque 20 steps from our apartment, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha mosque has some significance. Firstly it was built on kadirga ramp and secondly it is claimed to contain some pieces of the black stone above the door.

All this forms a fraction of our Islamic heritage. When you look at the havoc and destruction in the Muslim world at present, it is hard to imagine that we had a glorious past. But we did, and Istanbul gives an indication of what we can achieve if we once again make Islam the centre of politics in the Islamic world.

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Harem at Topkapi Palace

There are many landmarks in Istanbul, all of which are sign-posted. My advice would be to get a good travel guide to give you some idea of what there is to see. A trip to Istanbul is not complete without paying visit to Topkapi Palace. Topkapi was the residence of the ottoman khalifs for 400yrs   and has now been converted into a museum. The palace is vast and will take a whole morning to explore and also contains some sacred relics attributed to the Prophet (Pbuh) and the sahabah (ra). Make sure you pack some food and some water as the restaurant in Topkapi is fairly expensive. Expect a 500ml bottle of water which costs about 0.5 lira in the supermarket to cost over 3 liras in Topkapi palace. The entrance fee to Topkapi is 40 liras and visiting the palace harem requires a separate ticket costing 25 liras.  There is an additional charge for a guided tour and rental of audio guide headsets.

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Museum card venues

One way to bring the cost down of entrance fees is by purchasing a Museum card. The card costs 85 liras and allows you a single access into various museums within Istanbul over a period of 5 days after first use. You more than make your money back by visiting Topkapi, the harem and Hagia Sophia. The card can be purchased in advance or at Topkapi palace itself, just remember to go early to beat the queues take some photo ID.  Children under 12yrs are free, but you may need to show some ID for the older looking ones. They do not allow buggies in most exhibition halls so it is useful to have a sling to carry a younger baby.

An advantage of the card is that it allows you to jump the queue of people buying tickets. During peak season, queues for the museums can get long especially tiring in the heat. Some of the museums, although free with the card are probably not worth the visit. The science and Islam museum is fairly technical and will most likely bore your children. However, the Turkish and Islam Museum give a chronological history of the various dynasties in Islam and significant artefacts of each generation, including old copies of Quran and old word portraits praising the Prophet (Pbuh). Definitely worth a visit, and free with the Museum card.

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Ortakoy mosque from the Bosphorus cruise

A cruise of the Bosphorus is also a must and a bargain too. In and around Eminonu, vendors will try and sell you tickets to a ‘private Bosphorus cruise’ charging anywhere from 15 to 25 euros. You could try them out and see, but most likely ‘private will involve sharing a boat with around 100 other people. The national ferry company in Istanbul is Sehir Hatlari they offer a short cruise, long cruise and evening cruise. We brought tickets for the short cruise at the bargain price of 12 liras per adult, discounted to 9 liras with the museum card and 6 liras per child over 6yrs. The short cruise was a total of 2 hours up the Bosphorus.  The ferry departs once daily for the short cruise at 2.30pm and is a nice break from the city. Tickets are purchased from the Sehir Hatlari ticket office in Eminonu and you can find out more, including travelling to Princes Island from http://en.sehirhatlari.istanbul/en

Whatever you decide, there is plenty to keep you busy in Istanbul. Plan your days and try and combine attractions, especially if you are fasting. For example after visiting Suleymaniye, walk to the grand bazaar and exit in Beyazit square to visit the mosque. Whilst waiting for the Bosphorus cruise you could pay a visit to the spice bazaar. Galata tower can be combined with Taxim or Domabache palace. Try and get the balance between the historical sites that you would like to see and what your children would find fun.

 

Eating

Part of holiday fun for children is also eating and trying new foods and Ramadan is no different. We stayed in self catering accommodation. Regarding food, everything you find in the UK is available in Turkey, including some brands that you find in the UK, albeit at premium prices. The fresh fruit in Turkey is amazing, especially the cherries, peaches and melons. Fruit is seasonal and not imported, so what you get will depend on the time of the year. In the supermarket, everything is in Turkish, so it can be trial and error what you buy. On our first evening I went out to buy some milk and came back with what I thought was milk, but actually Ayran (lassi type yoghurt drink). Eventually I discovered that milk is called ‘sut’ and is often in uht cartons. Having said that you might want to pack some of your children’s favourite foods and some other bits and bobs.

Our accommodation provided us with an electric hob, kettle, toaster, microwave and small fridge freezer. Cutlery was limited as were cups and plates, although the manager did provide us with some extra. You might want to consider taking some disposable cutlery, plates and cups, although they are also available at supermarkets. Taking a picnic basket, blanket and other materials would also be useful if you plan some outdoor iftaars.

Iftaar, as previously mentioned is either a picnic outdoors or reserving a table. We did both, and in my opinion our best iftaar experience was sitting in the courtyard of the blue mosque with some fruits, various meze, dips and bread. Whatever you decide, you need to be prepared and not just turn up and hope for the best.

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A Simit stall

Turkish food is quite varied. The staple street food is simit, a bread brought from street stalls for 1 lira. The summer months also bring you corn on the cob, either boiled or roasted, costing a maximum of 2 lira. Both simit with chocolate or cheese spread and corn are good, cheap options for keeping the kids quite if they are not fasting.

Turkish cuisine involves kebabs and a mixed grill is a good choice when you want to try a bit of everything. Most food comes with bulgar wheat or rice. It is worth experimenting with the variety of kebabs. Iskender kebab is doner meat on a bed of tomato soaked bread with thick, creamy yogurt. If you are feeling brave you can try cig kofte, which is basically a raw mince mixed with bulgar and spices.  The amount you eat will depend on how brave you feel and whether your digestive system can handle raw meat. Otherwise you can always stick with Burger King, KFC or Dominos.

Whilst in Turkey it is worth trying the Turkish cuisine. For the kids there is pide, a type of Turkish pizza and durum which is wraps. Then there are pancakes, which are more like a stuffed paratha. Kofte kebabs are famous. In Sultanahmet there is a restaurant called Sultanahmet koftecisi whose origins can be traced back to ottoman times. During Ramadan, at iftaar time the queue is reminiscent of the Next sale. They have one main dish which is kofte kebabs served with bread and a bean salad called piyaz. Other restaurants have fixed dishes which are visible through the restaurant window. It looks like a buffet, but instead of getting to try everything you point to a dish and they plate it up with some rice and bulgar. Prices are reasonable and you get to try something different and more authentic. If only they would let you have a spoon full of everything.

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The main dessert in Istanbul is Turkish delight (Lokum) and Baclava. Price and quality vary and it is worth spending that little extra and visiting a shop like Haji Beckir, Hafiz Mustafa or Osmanlizadeler for a one off treat.

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Hafiz Mustafa Turkish Delight stall at Sultanahmet market

Ice cream is readily available from stalls selling a scoop for 1 lira, to the more expensive shops like Mado selling a scoop for 3-4 lira. Traditional Turkish ice cream is called dondurma. You can spot it by the seller who will often be wearing a traditional waistcoat and hat. It looks like sorbet, but has a slightly elastic quality due to the presence of Mastic gum (damla). Keep an eye out for damla in ingredients for desserts; it is an acquired taste, one we didn’t acquire.

Beyond that there are many milk based puddings. Sutlac is a baked rice pudding and Tavuk gogsu is a dessert made from minced chicken breast, boiled in milk and sugar, and then chilled. It sounds strange and has as elastic texture, but the kids seemed to like it.

Alhamdulillah, the food is halal and it’s worth experimenting. My wife and I have made a mental note of the food that we want to try or eat more of, if we go back again such as Iskender kebab, ottoman cuisine, borek and kunefe.

 

General tips

Due to the lack of English amongst the people, it is useful to learn a few phrases and learn the basic numbers. It will come in useful when the shopkeeper says ‘bes lira’ and you pull out a 50 lira note. At least the currency is not in the millions as it was on my first visit to Istanbul.

Be aware of the random dogs just roaming around the tourist areas of Istanbul. Although most of the time you find them lying around soaking up the sun.

The further you move from the central areas, the better exchange rate you will find. Even walking up the road you will find a change in exchange rates. At the airport, the exchange rate appears good, but they add a commission. Beyond that, you can use cashpoints.

Finally don’t be afraid of the selfie stick. Istanbul has to be the selfie capital of the World. Everywhere you look people, old and young are taking selfies and are holding selfie sticks. You can buy them everywhere and we ended up buying one of some random man for 5 liras. Embrace the atmosphere, buy a selfie stick and snap away.

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Final thoughts

Istanbul is a city of great heritage and culture. It formed the centre of Christendom, was the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate before Attaturk seized power in 1924 and founded modern day secular Turkey. During the secularisation of Turkey, public manifestations of Islam were banned. The Arabic script replaced with Latin letters, hijab was ridiculed and banned in public life, adhaan was outlawed in Arabic and rewritten in Turkish language. This created a polarised nation.

However, when you walk through the streets of Istanbul, you are enamoured by the Islamic heritage, the mosques and buildings adorned with Arabic script and verses from the Qur’an. When you walk through the streets in Ramadan you are taken aback by the powerful adhaan bellowing from the minarets in the Arabic language. That is the lasting memory of Istanbul.  A warm city, with even warmer people all tightly bound together with Islam.

Radiant Faces

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This year, probably because we find Ramadan occurring in the summer months, I have found myself reflecting on the hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) when he said: “The fasting person has two occasions for joy, one when he breaks his fast because of his breaking it and the other when he meets his Lord because of the reward for his fast.” [Muslim].

The breaking of the fast is indeed a joyous moment, especially for the kids. We often find ourselves sitting around the table with the kids waiting patiently for the clock to strike magrib so that they can get stuck in to the delights for the day.

Fasting is an action we do in response to the command of Allah (swt) and hence the knowledge that we fasted for His (swt) sake and broke our fast with food that He (swt) has provided is a humbling thought. But the immediate pleasure of the medjool date hitting my taste buds is not the only source of joy. In the hadith we are informed that there is another source of joy for the fasting person, when he meets his Lord and is rewarded for the fast. It is that part of the hadith I have been reflecting upon, meeting and seeing Allah (swt) in the hereafter and whether my family and I view this as a desire.

Allah (swt) describes in surah al A’raf the exchange that took place between Himself (swt) and Moses (Musa (pbuh)), in which Musa (pbuh) asks for permission to be able to see Allah (swt).

He (swt) said: “And when Musa (Moses) came at the time and place appointed by Us, and his Lord spoke to him, he said: “O my Lord! Show me (Yourself), that I may look upon You.” Allah said: “You cannot see Me, but look upon the mountain if it stands still in its place then you shall see Me.” So when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He made it collapse to dust, and Musa (Moses) fell down unconscious. Then when he recovered his senses he said: “Glory be to You, I turn to You in repentance and I am the first of the believers.” [TMQ Al A’raf:143]

Musa (pbuh) was so in awe of Allah (swt) that what he wanted more than anything else was to be able to cast his eyes upon the beauty of Allah (swt). That was his desire and immediate wish. But Allah (swt) told Musa (pbuh) that he would not be able to see him, such is the Power, Might and Magnificence of Allah (swt). Musa (pbuh) was unable to fulfil his immediate wish, but the Prophet (pbuh) told us about a day in which the believers’ sight will be set firmly on their Lord. That Day is called Yawm al Mazeed (the Day of Increase).

Abu Said reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said: And listen on the Day when the caller will call out, ‘ O people of Paradise, Your Blessed and Exalted Lord wants to meet you.  So come to visit!  They will say : ‘At your service’. They will rise and hasten to visit.  They will have najaib (special vehicles) and will leave in a hurry until they will arrive to the valley of ‘Al-Afyah’.  That is their point of meeting as they will all be gathered there. Not one of them will leave. The Lord Almighty will ask that His Throne be brought and put in the place of the meeting.   

Then they will set up platforms in Nur (for the people of Paradise), and platforms of pearls, and platforms of aquamarine, and platforms of gold and silver.  And the lowest of them will be sitting on hills of musk.  And there is no one lower among them.  They will see the owners of the chairs (the more righteous) above them in due happiness.  Until they are all well established and reassured of their place, the caller will call out ‘O people of Paradise, you have a meeting with Allah.  He wants to reward you.’  They will say, ‘What? Has he not instructed our scales [good deeds] made our faces shine, and made us enter Paradise and saved us from the Fire?’   

And while they stand, a light (unlike no other) will illuminate through Paradise.  They will raise their heads.  Then when the All-Compeller, Perfect in His Majesty with His Exalted names is present above them, He will say, ‘O people of Paradise, Salamun Alaikum (may the peace and blessings be upon you).   They will not have anything better to say than ‘Allaahumma antassalaam wa minkassalaam tabarakta ya zaljalali wal-ikram.(O our Lord, Allah! You are Peace, from You comes peace, Blessed is the Owner of Majesty and Honour!   

And the Lord, the Majestic, to Him belong all Blessings will then say to them, ‘O people of Paradise.’ This is the first thing they will hear from Him, ‘My servants who obeyed Me while they did not see Me, this is Yaum al Mazeed (Day of Increase),’ So they will all come together on a single word which is ‘we are satisfied, be pleased with us.  He will say ‘O people of Paradise, if I was not happy with you, I would not have let you enter into My Paradise.  Today is Yaum al Mazeed, so ask of Me.’   

They will all unite on a single word, which is ‘show us Your Face so that we may see You’ And so the Lord Almighty will remove the veil [between Him and the people of Paradise] .  He will manifest Himself in all His glory, and the brilliance of His Nur, they will forget all the benefits they had seen (from their time in Paradise).  And had Allah not willed, they would have burned by the brilliance of His Nur.  And there will be no one there but each person will meet with his Lord!.  Then He [Allah] will say, ‘Do you recall the day when you did such-and-such (sin)?’.  They will then remember the sins committed in dunya [standing before Allah]. They will respond, ‘O Lord do you not then forgive us?’   Allah will say, ‘ Only thanks to My forgiveness have you arrived at this grade’ [Muslim]

 

This is a spine tingling narration. I imagine that we would all want to be present at the gathering of Yawm al Mazeed and we would sacrifice every pleasure to experience that day.

Often we are conditioned by the society to only seek the immediate. We want everything here and now. This is a natural reflection of living in a secular society which denies the importance of a creator and the hereafter. We see the extreme of this in our children, whose faces light up in joy when they get what they want and whose faces turn sad when they don’t. They, and more often than not we, want immediate gratification and we find it difficult to continue on a path with patience.

When the kids are struggling to memorise a certain surah of Quran they want to give up because they want immediate gratification. In educating my children I tend to want to give up when they do not respond in the manner I would like because I am looking for the immediate. In seeking the immediate my children forget that Allah (swt) will reward them in the hereafter for ever letter they read and the reward is doubled for making effort. In seeking the immediate I forget the closeness I may share with the Prophet (saw) for raising my daughters.

Allah (swt) promises us this and much more, but this gratification is delayed. Ultimately every happiness and pleasure we have in the world, no matter how numerous, is only a fleeting moment. They come and they go. True and permanent happiness is only attained through gaining the pleasure and forgiveness of Allah (swt) and our faces will truly be radiant when they are facing the one worthy of all praise and submission, Allah (swt).

So as a Muslim I need to realign my pleasure and happiness to that which gains the pleasure of Allah (swt). As a parent I need to inculcate in my children a true desire to gain closeness to Allah (swt).

In this world, we will have joy, in the form of samosas, pakoras and biryani for iftar. But we should never forget the joy of meeting and being rewarded by Allah (swt). Together we will work and help each other in order that we will be present on the day of Mazeed, where the beauty of Allah will increase the beauty and radiance on our faces.

Allah (swt) says: Some faces that Day will be naadirah (shining and radiant), looking at their Lord.” [TMQ Al Qiyaamah: 22-23]

 

Interview with Sheikh Abdallah Daudi Muhammed

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Sheikh Abdallah Daudi Muhammed is an accomplished murattal and mujawwad reciter and a Qari in 7 Qira’aats. Sheikh Abdallah is 34 years old and originally comes from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Sheikh currently resides in Birmingham and is a Quran teacher at the Birmingham Quran Academy.

In this interview Sheikh Abdallah shares his journey with Quran.

 

Sheikh Abdallah you are a hafidh and a Qari in the various recitals, what motivated you in wanting to do hifdh?

When I first started to learn Quran I wasn’t thinking about memorisation as I thought it would be too hard for me, but when I went to study in Yemen I started to learn about Qira’aat (the different ways of reciting the Quran) and my teacher told me that if I wanted to be a proper Qari in Qira’aat then I would need to memorise Quran because you need to be able to have grasp of the Quran, answer questions with daleel (evidence) about how to read. From then I started to memorise Quran.

 

How old were you when you finished memorisation and how long, approximately did it take you?

I started when I was 22 and it took me about 2 and a half years.

 

Subhanallah that is quite old, gives the rest of us some hope. You mentioned that you completed hifdh in Yemen, how did you move from Tanzania to Yemen?

My sheikh  Sheikh Hussain Ahmed Badawi,  is a famous sheikh in Tanzania.  The first president, Nyerere, used to invite shayukh to make recital and dua. He was not a Muslim, but would call Muslim scholars and speakers, but after some time, for some reason, Sheikh Hussain Ahmed Badawi was expelled from Tanzania and given 24 hours to leave. After that he went to Sudan, Congo and Kenya. Then afterwards the 2nd president, who was Muslim invited him back to open an institute for teaching Quran. The sheikh was close to Habib Umar bin Hafeez who was the principle of the Islamic institute in Yemen called Darul Mustafa. Habib Umar came to Tanzania and I met with him. Habib Umar agreed that my friend and I could come to Yemen. So, alhamdulillah we went to Yemen where we studied Quran, fiqh and other Islamic knowledge.

 

How did you cope with Hifdh? Did it come easy to you or did you find it difficult?

Quran memorisation is not easy, it’s hard. You have to work hard because it is something of weight and value. When I was memorising I was taking many other Islamic courses so it made it difficult to find time, but alhamdulillah I completed it.

 

Which part was hard, was it difficult at the start, did it get easier?

When you start it seems hard, but everyday you are reading and memorising and it gets easier. Always the beginning is difficult, eventually you get into a routine.

 

After you finished your hifdh, what came next for you?

Before I started hifdh I was studying many courses, like fiqh and Arabic. After 2 years I decided to join the Quran group and specialise in Quran as it was my passion. I spent a total of around 4 years in Yemen. My last 2 years were dedicated to Quran studies,  where I did memorisation and studied Qira’aat (different modes of recital) both at the same time.

 

So you must have been full time, when did you day start and end?

There was no break, continuous almost like 24 hours. This is the commitment that Quran requires.

 

Sheikh you have a unique voice, very deep, my children they love your voice, how did you get that voice? Is that your natural voice? Did you do voice training to get that voice?

I can say that this is my natural voice. In Tanzania when I was learning Quran, one of my sheikhs said that he felt I had a talent in reciting and a unique voice and they would like to send me to a sheikh who is a specialist. So they sent me to the sheikh, who was the one I mentioned Hussain Badawi and he taught me how to tune and get the most out of my voice. But this is my normal voice and my normal recital.

 

That explains why when we try to imitate you voice we never get it right. When you were learning which reciters did you like to listen to?

First when I was doing murattal recitation, I used to listen to Minshawi and al Husary. These two Egyptian reciters were the ones I listened to the most and they are famous, Minshawi has a very nice recitation and Husary is very strong in makhaarij and is slow in reading. In mujawwad I was listening to Mustafa Ismael, Raghib Mustafa Ghalwash. People say that my voice sounds like Raghib Mustafa Ghalwash and they feel like I’m copying him. Possibly it is true as I was listening to him a lot so maybe I took his characteristics.

 

What is your favourite surah, the one you love to recite the most?

The whole Quran is special, any part you read becomes your favourite part if you understand it and feel it’s meaning.

 

Sheikh you have also taken part in competitions, can you give us some examples of competitions you took part in.

The big and famous competition in the world takes place in Tehran, Iran. I went twice to Iran, first time I went in 2003 when I was still young and I didn’t have much knowledge or experience with reciting and I didn’t get very far. In 2010 I went again and alhamdulillah I took 2nd place.

 

Sheikh you are now a teacher of Quran, when did you decide to teach and where have you taught?

I’ve been a teacher for a while. In Tanzania, before I went to Yemen, I was teaching. After I finished Quran by looking – actually there we don’t finish Quran by looking, you get to a stage where you are capable of reading and able to finish it yourself. So I was teaching in Dar es Salaam before I went to Yemen. Then after I came back from Yemen I went to Malaysia at an institute called Maahad Tahfiz Negeri Pahang where I taught for 3 years after which I went back to Dar es Salaam and then came to the UK where I am teaching now.

 

As someone who memorised Quran at an older age what advice would you give to anyone who wants to memorise Quran?

Whatever you memorise you need to keep alive. It is not just about memorising, but you need to make the hifdh strong by working hard, especially in revision. The number of pages you do is not important, what is important is retaining that. We have 5 salah in the day, in order to make the hifdh strong after every salah perhaps read one quarter or a half after every salah that will make you. Also I recommend learning Arabic, it will help you understand the meaning of the Quran and aid memorisation.

 

Below is a clip of Sheikh Abdallah reciting Surah Rahman in maqaam Kurdi

Hafidh Juned Ibn Faruq – My Journey With Quran

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In this article, guest contributor, Hafidh Juned ibn Faruq gives a personal account of his own journey with Quran and how protecting the Quran should go beyond recitation.

 

From an early age I had a great enthusiasm for reciting the Quran.   I would constantly hear many hadith stating the great rewards for the one who memorises the Quran and lives by it.  I was particularly motivated by the hadith which explain how the hafidh will be a dweller in the Gardens of Paradise.

 

The Prophet of Allah (pbuh) has said

“It will be said to the companion of the Quran: Read and elevate (through the levels of Paradise) and beautify your voice as you used to when you were in the dunya. For verily, your position in the Paradise will be at the last verse you recite!”  [Tirmidhi]

I wanted to be in Paradise, in the company of the righteous with my level increasing with my recitation and to achieve that I would need to make the Quran my companion.

 

My journey began when I was finishing primary school.  My Quran teachers encouraged my father to enrol me into a madrasah which was renowned for producing strong hufadh.   Personally I wasn’t sure I had the capability, but I thought I’d give it a go and see what happens.

I attended the Madrasah part-time.  Straight after finishing my day at school, I would then start madrasah and be there 3-4 hours a day, six days a week. Many hufadh have techniques that help them along their journey, but they would all cite the need to work hard and putting in the requisite hours in a disciplined manner. For me, fajr time was important; my mind was most attentive at fajr.  Just like the believer starts his day with fajr, the fajr revision and recitation became part of my day. I would also run back home after school, to squeeze in that extra half hour recitation before madrasah.

I was also blessed with a strong teacher, who was passionate about teaching the Quran. He was a very determined and disciplined person who wanted us to succeed.  Our classes were full of words of motivation and our teacher would remind us of the sahabah and how they competed in the good deeds.  Another blessing was my friends. We would encourage and compete with each other in memorisation and this atmosphere helped me greatly in focussing, memorising and retaining the Quran.

By the grace of Allah (swt) I was able to complete my memorisation of the Quran in just under 2 years.

The day I completed my memorisation was one of the best days of my life.  Seeing my parents so happy and proud was truly humbling and a day I will never forget.  I was now a hafidh of Quran something which I could only dream of becoming.  I felt honoured and protected.  I thought that as long as I maintained my memorisation I would remain protected from the troubles and corruption of this world.  My main objective now was to maintain my recitation and retention of what I had memorised.

However, as I proceeded in life, I soon discovered that memorisation of the Arabic words alone with no comprehension was not going to keep me safe from the trials of the world.

I remember enrolling in college and one of my science teachers started discussing scientific thinking, the evolution of the world and the limitations of religion, in particular Islam. As a hafidh of Quran, I should have been at the forefront of protecting Islam when it was attacked, but here I was struggling to respond to fundamental questions about Islam.   As youngsters growing up in the West we were facing many temptations. How could my knowledge of Quran help me? How could I use that knowledge to help my friends who were succumbing to these temptations?

I always believed that the words of Allah would be a source of protection for me in the issues I faced but life at college was tough.  At this point it began to dawn on me that having memorised the Qur’an was not enough if I did not know how to link the Quran to my struggles.

This made me search for answers and resulted in me re-evaluating my relationship with Quran.  Undoubtedly, the recitation is a great act and those who convey the message of the Qur’an should spend time perfecting their recitation, but to limit the Quran to only recitation is a disservice to a speech that Allah (swt) describes as being so weighty it would crumble the highest of mountains.

Indeed, Allah (swt) states in the Qur’an:

‘Alif, Lam, Ra. [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that you might bring mankind out of darknesses into the light by permission of their Lord – to the path of the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy’ [TMQ: 14:1]

The Quran was a source of strength for the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions and should be a source of strength for the believers today. In order for it to be a strength I needed to study the Quran, understand its meanings, its theme, its context and apply that to the problems we face both individually and as an Ummah.

This is something which can be missing for the hafidh of Quran. Sometimes the completion of Quran is viewed with relief, as if a burden has been lifted and now I can get on with the rest of my life. Other times it can be viewed as just a recitation and as such it is common to find personalities that contradict the very words that have been memorised.

When we study the Quran we find that it addressed the arguments of the Quraish and the people of other faiths who would deny the existence of Allah (swt) by telling them

“Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain.” [TMQ 52:35-36]

The Quran also addressed the disbelievers who questioned the authenticity of the Quran, by telling them

“Or do they say: “He (Muhammad) has forged it?” Say: “Bring then a surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!” [TMQ 10:37-38]

The Quran discussed the messengers who had been sent in the past and the fate of those who belied the message. The Quran outlined a new way of living, centred on belief in the existence of Allah (swt). It gave us laws, rules and systems to govern our affairs in society.

“And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy and good tidings for the Muslims.” [TMQ 16:89]

The parallels between the past and the present are only too apparent. Islam and its followers find themselves again demonised in the media with the whole concept of religion attacked. Mankind finds themselves living in the darkness of oppression and tyranny again, needing liberation through the light of Islam

The Quran provides solutions for humanity, I had this knowledge on the tip of my tongue, but I could not comprehend it, relate to it or apply it to the reality.

Alhamdulillah, I am now a teacher of tajweed. I have been studying Arabic for a number of years and am studying the Islamic sciences, whilst also reciting to qualified teachers to improve the quality of my recitation. There is a beauty in the recitation of Quran when each letter is given its weight and due. Similarly there is also a beauty in the comprehension of the Quran. Its words moisten dry eyes and soften the hardest of hearts.

Technically speaking, I carry the title, hafidh of Quran, however really I am only at the beginning of my journey with Quran. The title hafidh of Quran is a honourable title, but one which is very difficult to live up to, as to protect something, you need to be close to it, understand it, comprehend it, live by it and call to it.

May Allah (swt) allow us all to be companions of the Quran, so that it acts as a witness for us on the Day of Judgement.