Ramadan Reflection.

Written by Mustafa Briggs

This Ramadan has been unlike any Ramadan we have ever experienced before, due to the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic and the resulting self-isolation and social inclusion measures that have been put in place across the globe, and so many Muslims the world over have found themselves having to spend Ramadan alone or just with their immediate families, away from the masjid, with no Jummah or Tarawih prayers, no lectures or social gathering and community iftars and most of all with much less of the usual ‘Ramadan Spirit’ we are acquainted with.

However for me personally upon reflection, this Ramadan has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity, despite the lack of ‘Ramadan Spirit, to actually return to the original spirit of Ramadan, in a way that perhaps hasn’t been done since the time of Rasulullah ﷺ himself.  As we know the Holy Month is made special due to the revelation of the Qur’an in it, as Allah describes the month as

The month of Ramadhan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion (between right and wrong)” 2:185,

and Aisha, the mother of the believers narrated that

“He ﷺ used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food likewise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira.” (Sahih Bukhari)

When looking at this, we can see that the reason why Ramadan was made special in the first place, and the cause for Allah to send down the revelation and begin the Prophet’s ﷺ mission, was that he would self-isolate, and practice a form of social distancing by retreating from society during the month of Ramadan and use that time to meditate and reflect and soul-search, thus bringing about the revelation itself and the unraveling of his own spiritual reality as the Messenger of Allah.


This month was later honored and immortalized 15 years later, 2 years after the migration when Allah revealed “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” — Surat Al-Baqarah 2:183. And now over 1400 years after that, we have been invited by the Lord of Ramadan to imitate the one who came before us ﷺ, in using this period as a time of reflection and self-isolation as He ﷺ originally did, and maybe through that Allah will bring us closer to Him and allow us to utilize the time not going outside by allowing us to go inside ourselves and become reacquainted with our own truths, and the Ultimate Truth (SWT). “We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth.” Quran 41:53 “And on the earth are signs for the certain [in faith], and within yourselves. Then will you not see?” Quran 51:20-21

Featured photography by Dana Mahmoud @dana.mahh

Thank you Mustafa for sharing a truly insightful and reflective perspective on Ramadan in lock down.

My Ramadan 2020

Written by Iqra Yousaf

Ramadan during this pandemic may seem disheartening but in some instances, it is a blessing in disguise.  The ideal time for reflection of our small privileges and blessings we never took much time to consider.

So far is has been beautifully challenging. Encompassing a rollercoaster of emotions (and I am not the emotional type). I approached this Ramadan with the ‘usual’ mindset + some renewed intentions. I, yet another wayfaring traveller in hope of discovering myself, wanting to strengthen my relationship with my Rabb and attempting to understand this dunya we call home. This beloved month of reconnecting, detoxing, replenishing and reviving traditions, all in the hope of finding sukoon (peace of mind). We present forth our tired hearts, parched lips and khawahish (wishes) with complete umeed (hope) in our Rabb.

I go to greet my Rabb, after eating suhoor. I don’t know how to explain it but reciting the Qur’an in the early hours of the coming day is a feeling like no other. I reside to my room, my family beside me in a state of dhikr. And as I turn each page, I can feel my heart lighten, the warmth, tranquillity and security of each verse, as it escapes my lips. 

By now hours have passed. I am crossed legged on my janamaz (prayer mat) having prayed. I now and again find myself pondering on why I am struggling, stumbling on my words, why are the tears not flowing though my heart is aching. Then at times I have found myself filled with this emotion I can’t explain. It is as if my heart is being reassured, as there is a deep sigh of relief and a tear trickles down my cheek. 

One of our traditions during Ramadan as a family is we tune into Shan-e-Ramazan, (a Pakistani Ramadan programme) that tells you stories of the prophet (peace be upon him) giving life lessons, our family favourite Naat-Khua’an’s make an appearance and has beautiful tilawats (Qur’an recitations). It ends on the Maulana making a beautiful dua, that never fails to hit a chord. As he finishes up, our hands remain raised as we make our personal dua’s. Thinking of our loved ones. Those that are close and far. Living and departed. Blood and water. Soothed and aching. Our dastarkhan (table spread) laid in front of us. One is teary, another’s stomach rumbles, the other announces there is a minute remaining, we grab our dates. We break our fast by reciting the dua in unison. It is just a beautiful moment that lasts for only a couple of minutes but remains in our hearts for a lifetime. There is so much peace in that moment, as we delve into worlds of our own, forgetting about the chaos of this dunya. Just ourselves surrounded by loved ones.  

I find immense comfort in these moments of solitude. A nasheed playing in the background, the occasionally tears racing down. Although on the surface I am unsure as to why I am in this state, in my heart I know. My Rabb knows. For he knows every tear I have shed for my loved ones. For the times when my heart has sunk in sadness and despair. For the countless, untold battle fought. Undoubtedly, for every “Ya Allah”, “Ya mere Rabb” that have escaped from my quivering lips. And though my dua’s may be a secret to the world. The sound of this weary heart resonates in the heavens. Soon it will find its home. Soon it will settle. Soon it will heal. May Allah’s Nur (light of God) enter our wounded hearts. But this isn’t my promise. This is the promise of my Rabb.



Featured photography by Dana Mahmoud @dana.mahh

Thank you Iqra, for sharing such a beautiful and deeply comforting and resonating reflection.

Allah is the destination. Ramadan the vehicle.

Written by Ahmed al-Moroni




The prophetﷺ said ‘al qasd al qasd tablughu’ [.Sahih al-Bukhari 6463] Often awkwardly translated as ‘adopt a middle, moderate regular course whereby you will reach your target’. Essentially, once you know where to go, take it slow. With that in mind then, setting our goals for Ramadan becomes a lot easier. As forgetful creatures we often occupy ourselves with the vehicle and not where it’s going. So the Muslim’s mind begins to wonder. “How many acts of worship can I physically squeeze in? Is this amount of raka’at correct? Also how often can I tell people about it? Shouldn’t I be doing i’tikaf this year?” These thoughts and many more plague us whilst we heedlessly neglect that Allah’s pleasure is all we need.

Ramadan as a time of taqwa (God consciousness), peace and reflection often comes with its social pressures. All the more amplified by social media and this apparent inability to quit ‘flexing’ our piety. Something that strangely doesn’t seem to have been affected by the lockdown. This can put a downer on an otherwise blessed time. Question marks appear, voices whispering. “Am I doing enough, why can’t I be like that guy or this girl.”. Anxiety sets in, the pressure mounts and Ramadan is ruined. 

 The sunnah however is quite clear. The prophetﷺ encouraged acts that were consistent even if small.[Sahih al-Bukhari 6464] I personally always admired those who strategically set themselves Ramadan goals within their personal limits. That always seemed to be closest to the sunnah. Better still, those who formed bonds of sacred friendship to pursue a common Ramadan target. With the prophetic exemplar in our minds it would perhaps be best then to just sit down, calm ourselves, chat to friends, let the blessings pour in and plan out the road ahead, one step at a time. Allah is the destination, Ramadan the vehicle.

Featured photography by Dana Mahmoud @dana.mahh

Thank you Ahmed, for sharing such valuable reflections with us. May we all be reminded of our purpose here and to be kinder to ourselves.

How breathing changed my prayer

Written by our Nabila Qureshi




My dad has always said I have a ‘shift-and-drift’ brain, moving from one thing to the next faster than words could ever come out of my mouth or a meaningful thought be uttered. This was irritating at the best of times, but worst when I opened my prayer mat and faced my Lord. I was completely unable to silence my mind and honour the treasured conservation I was being granted. The talks I saw online about khushu’ told me that I was not on my own, but no matter how many tips I found and tried, nothing worked.

That was until, like many things in life, help finally came from an unexpected source: yoga. 

The first type of yoga I tried was Ashtanga, a practice which focuses heavily on syncing breath with movement. Doing so requires you to be conscious of every inhale and exhale, observing where our bodies start and finish. Paying attention to what each muscle is doing and, most likely, how much strain it is experiencing. The penny dropped when I finally caved and listened to what I thought was just my yoga teacher rambling about breath and found a rhythm: 

In, out, in, out. I could think of nothing except the air going into my lungs. My pain softened. 

I was familiar with conscious breathing from the many encounters with mindfulness I have had since being a teenager. As anyone who has spoken to a professional, a friend, or even Google, about anxiety will tell you, one of the first things you are advised to do is mindfulness. This is a technique developed to help draw your attention to the present moment, and thus, help reduce the mental chatter that anxiety brings. It is also (as you see above) a key aspect of many yoga and holistic healing practices. 

But why? One of the most fascinating aspects of breathing is that we do it all the time with absolutely no notice of it whatsoever. We refer to our ‘dying breath’ as a shattering, final moment on earth, but most of our ‘living breaths’ drift past, leaving without a trace. This is not by accident, but by design. Like many things our brains tune out, if we were to think about breathing every second we wouldn’t be able to fit much else in. 

When this becomes beautiful is when it works in reverse. Because when we think about our breath, nothing else can fit in. If we focus entirely on our chests rising and falling, air being sucked in and pushed out, we don’t have space for anything else. Focusing on the one thing that is truly fundamental to our physical existence on this earth shuts everything else out. 

There has been a huge amount of research on the importance of breath in soothing our nervous systems, in helping heal from trauma and much more  (see links below) – and yes, absolutely, just stopping, closing my eyes and breathing deeply, even once, has pivoted many moments in my life. But one of the greatests blessings it has given me has been beginning to transform my prayer. 

Once, entirely unintentionally, I began my prayer with a full deep breath, the exact same as I would if I was stepping on a tube or walking into my Year 8 class or any other anxiety-inducing moment, and I noticed something shift in my brain. The previous months of breathing intended to teach me to slow and focus did exactly that. They gave me power over my attention and allowed me to put that to God, quieting the world down and reminding me of my purpose. I could start my prayer with a heart and mind that was, even for a moment, aware, in every sense, of the presence of Allah.

Learning to be with your breath is not easy, nor is it a straight road where serenity waits at the end. It requires practice, patience and consistency – small and little every day. Even one conscious breath, where you stop yourself to close your eyes and slowly breathe in and out can start to give you power over your attention. I am reminded of the verse: ‘Hold firmly to the rope of Allah’ (3:103), and am comforted in the depth to which our Lord knows us. He knows we will need to grasp onto Him, for there will be moments when this world takes us over and tries to claim us for its own. There are moments throughout prayers where my mind wanders, drifts to the world and then I am reminded of this, reminded of Him, and I stop reciting, I breathe deep and try to connect to His infinite presence. And I continue. 

Whilst I didn’t do this with the intention of improving my focus in prayer, and whilst, if I were to speak truly, I know my prayer alone should have brought this to me, I am so grateful that Allah provided me with a way to begin to heal my mind and soul together and I hope that, in some way, beginning to understand the power of our breath can help soothe and focus our energies during this blessed time.

Resources: 

https://www.waterstones.com/book/it-didnt-start-with-you/mark-wolynn/9781101980385

4. An-Nisa: The Women

Bismillahi, Wal Ahamdulillahi, Was-salatu was-salamu ‘ala Rasulillah, sal-lal-lahu ‘alyhi wa sallam

In the name of Allah, and exaltations be to Allah, and blessings and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, (peace and blessings be upon him).

Structure:

  • Verses 1-36 : Social observances of righteousness
    • 1 Unity of humanity, the command of fearing Allah, and worth of ties of kinship
    • 2 Rules related to orphans and their guardians
    • 3 Restrictions on the number of wives
    • 4 Marriage and the rights of women
    • 5-6 Rules related to the weak-minded and their guardians
    • 7-12 Laws of inheritance
    • 13-16 Rewards of the obedient and punishment of the disobedient
    • 17-18 Repentance
    • 19-25 Rights of women
    • 26-28 Major aspects of Allah’s bounties
    • 29-33 Inviolability of people’s wealth and souls
    • 34-36 Laws of family and social solidarity
  • Verse 37-59 : Worship related issues
    • 37-42 Warning against stinginess and showing off
    • 43 Some prerequisites for the validity of prayer
    • 44-55 A negative example
    • 56-57 Reward of punishment
    • 58-59 Trustworthiness, justice and obedience to Allah and His Messenger
  • Verse 60-104 : Strive for protecting rights of the weak
    • 60-68 The hypocrites claims and positions
    • 69-70 Position of the faithful
    • 71-84 Fighting and faults on the part of the hypocrites
    • 85-87 Intercession for good or evil causes and responding to greetings
    • 88-91 Instructions on the way of dealing with hypocrites
    • 92-93 Killed by mistake and intended murder
    • 94-100 Unbiased fights
    • 101-104 Shortening the prayer and how to offer it in war
  • Verse 105-136 : Fairness
    • 105-109 Judging between people according to Allah’s just laws
    • 110-113 Allah’s infinite mercy and great favour
    • 114-121 Dangers of misuse of the tongue, shirk, and Satan
    • 122-126 Reward is not obtained by man’s wishful thinking
    • 127-130 Doing justice to women and orphans
    • 131-136 Allah’s Oneness and His command to keep firm on true belief
  • Verse 137-176 : Categories of people
    • 137-149 The hypocrites attributes and ruling on the public mention of evil
    • 150-152 The disbeliever’s deeds and their recompense
    • 153-162 Children of Israel
    • 163-166 Unity of Allah’s Messengers and their calls
    • 167-170 Danger of persistence in disbelief
    • 171-173 Christians and the prohibition of excess in religion
    • 174-175 Reward of the true believers who firmly adhere to Allah
    • 176 A social observance of righteousness

Revelation:

  • Madani Surah
  • 176 verses
  • Consists of several discourses that were revealed on different occasions
  • Instructions about the devision of inheritance
  • safeguarding the rights of the orphans were revealed during the Battle of Uhud
    • 70 muslims were martyred (v:1-28)
  • By the end of 3 AH, a last warning to the Jews (v.47) was given before the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir was expelled from Madinah in 4 AH.

Key Themes and Messages:

  • Restrictions on the number of wives
  • Marriage and the rights of women
  • Law of inheritance: women are awarded the right to inherit
  • Acceptable and unacceptable repentance
  • Mahram relations – relatives that are prohibited for marriage
  • Commandment about ‘arbitration’ in family disputes
  • Second commandment related to the prohibition of drinking (First was in 2:219)
  • The one who disputes the decision of the Prophet is not a believer
  • Devine law that obedience of the Prophet is in fact the obedience of Allah
  • Allah commands to respond greetings with better greetings
  • Laws about manslaughter, murder and bloodwit
  • Salat Al-Qasr: permission to shorten prayer whilst travelling
  • Salat Al-Khauf: performing prayer in a state of emergency (war)
  • Salah (prayers) are obligatory at prescribed timings
  • Prohibition of ‘secret counsels’ and its exceptions
  • Decree pf Allah that He will never forgive a polytheist
  • Commandment to be firm in the path of justice and bear true witness
  • Hypocrites will be in the lowest depth of Hellfire 
  • Jesus was neither killed nor crucified
  • Jesus was a prophet of Allah and his worshipper
  • The Quran carries the same Message that was sent to Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa and Isa
  • Commandments relating to family and community life

Selected Verses:

4:25 On patience

… وَأَن تَصْبِرُوا خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ …

… but to be patient is better for you …

4:47 People of the Book are invited to believe

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ آمِنُوا بِمَا نَزَّلْنَا مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا مَعَكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن نَّطْمِسَ وُجُوهًا فَنَرُدَّهَا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِهَا أَوْ نَلْعَنَهُمْ كَمَا لَعَنَّا أَصْحَابَ السَّبْتِ وَكَانَ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ مَفْعُولًا

O you who were given the Scripture, believe in what We have sent down [to Muhammad], confirming that which is with you, before We obliterate faces and turn them toward their backs or curse them as We cursed the sabbath-breakers. And ever is the decree of Allah accomplished.

4:48 Shirk (associating others with Allah) : an unforgivable sin

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا

Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.

4:75 Permission to fight against those who persecute others

وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ الظَّالِمِ أَهْلُهَا وَاجْعَل لَّنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ وَلِيًّا وَاجْعَل لَّنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ نَصِيرًا

And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?”

4:80 Obeying the Messenger

مَّن يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّهَ وَمَن تَوَلَّىٰ فَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ عَلَيْهِمْ حَفِيظًا

He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah ; but those who turn away – We have not sent you over them as a guardian.

4:86 Replying to greetings

وَإِذَا حُيِّيتُم بِتَحِيَّةٍ فَحَيُّوا بِأَحْسَنَ مِنْهَا أَوْ رُدُّوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَسِيبًا

And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet [in return] with one better than it or [at least] return it [in a like manner]. Indeed, Allah is ever, over all things, an Accountant.

4:90 If rivals offer peace, they should not be harmed

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ يَصِلُونَ إِلَىٰ قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُم مِّيثَاقٌ أَوْ جَاءُوكُمْ حَصِرَتْ صُدُورُهُمْ أَن يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ أَوْ يُقَاتِلُوا قَوْمَهُمْ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَسَلَّطَهُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ فَلَقَاتَلُوكُمْ فَإِنِ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلًا

Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people. And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them.

4:171 Christians and Jesus

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ انتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ إِنَّمَا اللَّهُ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.

Virtues:

Abdullah ibn Masud said, “The Messenger of Allah asked me to recite the Qur’an.” He said “Messenger of Allah, [how] should I recite to you whereas it has been sent down to you? He [the Prophet] said, “I desire to hear it from some-one else.” “So I recited Surat an-Nisa [4] till I reached the verse: “How then shall it be when We shall bring from every people a witness and bring you against them as a witness?” [4:41]. I lifted my head or a person touched me in my side, and so I lifted my head and saw his tears falling [from the Prophet’s eyes].

Source: Muslim no. 800a – [Sahih]

Supplications:

وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ الظَّالِمِ أَهْلُهَا وَاجْعَل لَّنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ وَلِيًّا وَاجْعَل لَّنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ نَصِيرًا

4:75 : And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?”

Sources:

Online:

Altafsir.com (Tafsir)
Alim.org (Tafsir)
Sunnah.com (For Hadith references)
islamawakened.com (For Quranic text, transliteration, and translation)

Books:
Tafsir Al Jalalayn Jalalu’d-Din as-Suyuti (Author), Jalalu’d-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Mahalli
Journey through the Qur’an – Sharif Hasan al-Banna

On Fulfilment.

Written by Alman Nusrat






We are taught that before we came into this world, we existed in a pre-worldly realm- where we engaged in perpetual worship of One True Creator. There, we had no attachments and no needs, save God. And it was there that we felt complete.

As our souls fused with our physical form, we came into this world – vulnerable and needy. The moment we arrived, Satan greeted us. He reminded us that he and his minions would be there everyday, working to disrupt our souls and working to cut us off from all things good and spiritually nourishing. Satan prides himself in knowing our weaknesses- that our senses are prone to indulgence. He knows that there exists within us a void that we will do anything to fill. Though nothing but God can fill that void, we are tempted with countless distractions and false substitutions.

And so we live our lives and it seems that with every passing hour and every passing day, we are presented with new things to attach ourselves to. We start longing for this Dunya. In this ephemeral world where nothing was ever meant to last except for our deeds, we so easily begin to obsess with notions of who we are, who we want to be, what we want out of this life- a good job, big house, fame, fancy clothes, and decadent foods. We turn to our phones and stare in guised envy at countless men and women who seek attention or acceptance. Through continuous flaunting of wealth, immorality, and toxic aesthetic, we seek to escape reality- just another way for us to develop a false sense of purpose and resolve.  We see people who seem to be frozen in time- those who will do anything to stay young, relevant, and beautiful. We scoff, laugh at, and sometimes critique the toxic cultural norms around us yet somehow, we remain intrigued. Subconsciously seeking to imitate what we see and hear, we become complicit in the oppression of others as well as ourselves. The obsession with the physical form, the lust of things we can only see, hear, taste, smell, or touch- leaves our souls feeling empty. We consume until we are consumed, and we wonder what more there is to life. It seems the more we indulge, the more we are left longing. One cannot help but to feel that the more we satiate, the more hungry we become. There must be something more.

Like clockwork, Satan and his minions toy with the thoughts and emotions of the children of Adam. Feeding off of our vulnerabilities, we turn to things that harm us in order to gain momentary bliss or joy. We develop habits. We enter into patterns of thought and cycles of behavior. We wander deserts and are told the sand will nourish us.

Still, there exists an endless oasis to be discovered by those who are sincere in their search for Truth.

When Adam was sent down to Earth, he was advised by God. He was told that if we hold to God’s guidance, we will find ourselves to be amongst the successful. Alhamdulilah, we have Islam. We have this gift of Ramadan. This is the time of year that gifts us the time and self restraint to look within and understand Satan’s ploy, return to gratitude for guidance, and intend to do better.

If we can begin to detach ourselves from things that inflict upon us spiritual distress…If we can see Satan for who he is…If we can begin a process of purification… If we can start to understand who we are underneath our narratives of struggle and triumph…If We can start to see past the veils of our ego and exorcise our own demons…. If we can begin to see God at work in every facet of life and how He longs for us to return to Him. If we can start to see the grand love story behind all of this…

We will see that though Satan works relentlessly to distract us and fill our voids with things that bring about spiritual death, it is God in all his Majesty and Mercy, who calls us to that which gives us life. 

Featured photography by Nadeem Ghafur @nadeemghafur

Thank you Alman, for sharing such a thought provoking and important reflection, one of great relevance in these times.

Love through death

Written by Amelia Jafar

“It has taken death to give birth to a whole galaxy of love within me” — Amelia Jafar

I have never experienced a pain more excruciating than losing my father,
But Allah knows best.

Subhanallah, He surely does. Allah doesn’t take something away from you without giving you something in return. This time He had given me love. I like to think He knew how torn my insides would be, so He opened a floodgate of love and flowed it my way.

It’s normal to feel the hurt, the grief, the processing into acceptance, but I can’t say speak of my father’s death without speaking about love. And love in this context isn’t just from the family, friends, people who used to work with him, strangers, but also, the love I felt that could have only come from God.

God’s been dropping blessings upon blessings, before and after death happened. I lived in New Zealand at the time of my father’s passing. I received a call at 8 pm from my brother that he passed away. Coincidentally, the last flight out of Auckland was at midnight. Literally made it just in time to catch the last flight out. At the airport, the kind flight attendant upgraded my seat so I would be the first one out of plane. I was seated next to a man of God. We prayed for my father in the flight. I made it in time to see my father one last time before they drove him to the cemetery. I couldn’t count then number of people who showed me and family love and support. My dad’s old colleagues approached me and told stories about him and how much he used to talk about me. All these things that had happened, it seems too perfectly aligned to doubt that it came from God. If I had received a call at 1130 pm, I wouldn’t have made it to the funeral. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like that — I was sad, but I was at peace. At peace because I believed, God was making it happen in a way that I would hurt the least and that to me, was a testament of His love.

The thing about death is, your overwhelming pain is a built-up of the love you have for the person who died and it has no where to go. So you weep. You weep because the one thing that is innate for you to do, you can’t. Perhaps, all it takes is redirection. A redirection of love because although the physical person isn’t here, the soul is in barzakh. A place between the now and the moment the last trumpet blows. I am redirecting my love for my father, in terms of prayer. In terms of continuing his legacy through investing in communities, in people.

God has done everything He possibly could to aid my soul. I believe He does this to all, we just haven’t taken the time to slow it down, and notice it.

My point is, I don’t want to speak to you about how God took my father back. My father has always belonged to Him. Don’t we all? Today, I want to tell you about how gentle God’s love is and if you’re looking close enough, you will notice, He has always been there to show you love. After all, His name is الْوَدُودُ.


May you find your Ramadan witnessing God’s love and growing your love for Him.
Inshallah.



Featured photography by Omair Shah @_omair.s

Thank you Amelia, for sharing such a personal and reflective piece that is sure to bring light to those who read.

How to keep a healthy heart beat.

Written by Hanan Abdel-Khalek






A week in, it has all gone by so quickly, a beautiful blur of rice, frayed deep blue velvet prayer rugs, milk, honey, and dates, wudu water spilled from a cheek, laughter caught on the ends of the steamed hot air rising from the kitchen. Tasbeeh whispers, rolling on old and young tongues. And in all of this beautiful blur, I can go through 10 solid emotions in a day, when Ramadan comes in, I find myself feeling an immense closeness, and a severe far ness from Allah all at once, at times. 

“I have never struggled to rectify something that is more difficult to overcome than my soul.” – Sufyan ath-Thawri

The pressure in which these intensified emotions have rolled out day to day, has urged me to think about, study, and understand my entry points well. Like a General planning his next move in this warfare I am in with myself. I examine the access I have into the signal that connects me to Allah. What are these mind vortexes I step in and out from, daily, hourly? Why does it feel like I am wrestling with my spirit and heart constantly to enter and leave them? The needs versus the wants, versus the needs. I am a seesaw of commitment. The nature of the heart is so soft, and sensitive, that the fear of losing that signal, the connection to Him, overwhelms, at times, to a paralysing degree. Daily tasks, what are those? Keeping up with daily prayers, Dhikr, Athkar for protection of this unruly heart of mine. Ok, What else? Reading this heavy book, revealed in this month, filled with the greats, bursting with colours, secrets, treasures, science, and reflecting on its sublimity.

But here’s the thing, all of these daily tasks I set myself, views the heart in a vacuum. As if the other tasks I do, won’t counter the impact of the ‘spirit tasks’. The chatting with friends, the mundane laundry pile, the emails that won’t write themselves, reply to that WhatsApp, tune on to that Live, the cheeky Netflix episode before your next Salah. These are actions too; they’re tasks that carry pressure of impact, a knock on effect. I go deeper, what food am I consuming? How am I consuming it? When was my last mental check in? Have I been outside? Look at that sky!

All of these thoughts, whirling around my mind, and in all that sparkly noise, I find some clarity. A great lesson from this month, for me, has been the practice of discipline. To look back, I have always called myself a free spirit without understanding the truth behind my own words. I’m not free, I’m not free at all, rather, I lack discipline, and hate anything that forces me to succumb to it. 

But here’s the thing, discipline leads to freedom. Discipline enables that email load to finally go away so that you are left with that filling hour to be present with your mum learning her ancestral recipes as she spins magic in the kitchen. It allows the hoovering to get done so that you can breathe, with some African Bukhoor and finally have that direct conversation with Allah (swt),  and level with Him. It summons you from your lazy slumber on the couch to recite the daily protections so that your heart can survive another day unscathed by the claws of distraction. Without discipline, the formula I have been looking for, all this time, to gain sovereignty over the state of my heart, just won’t work. 

Now that I found the formula, I had to re discover what was distracting me from my new found balance. My entry points, the spaces and dimensions around and inside of me, areas on my body, the corner of my room that gathers dust, were both feeding me spiritual food, and making me starve of it. Entry points are metaphorical, and metaphysical, but they are also very tangible. The bodily senses are entry points to your heart. Am I exercising restraint, and discipline over the things I consume, watch, hear? The things I say, are they fruitful for others to hear? Are my hands going to purchase things online, that can lead to a knowing or unknowing endorsement of child labour, that may impact my heart later?  Is the food nutritious, is it Tayyib? Halal? Small doses? Am I wasting water when I take wudu, letting the tap run? Did I leave my light on wasting energy?  Am I being gluttonous, selfish, greedy? What about my limbs? Are they being fed appropriately by giving them gentle workouts? Am I sticking to my commitments, the facetimes, helping my friend on her project, the meetings, the call to the cousin I promised a week ago?

If Ramadan is a time of discipline, what is it that helps lift me in this month, that I don’t feel in others? True, there are blessings in this month, only awarded to us by Allah that no human can take responsibility for, but the rest, that daily willingness to participate in any of it, that burn of motivation, yes that comes from you. It can be orchestrated, created and gathered. I read in a book once about Quest Physics, I don’t think it is a legitimised science, but it should be, it goes like this, 

“a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule is ‘If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.’ 

I see my path to finding peace, like this, a mini quest. With that said, the formula for a balanced heart, I’m sure looks like a very different blueprint for every single spirit out there. But for me, I have found, that my balance, and freedom, both rest in discipline. The daily tasks, therefore, spiritual or otherwise, are all necessary, not just for a healthy mind, spirit, and body. But for the flagrant, and colourful beating of an otherwise numbed, and neglected heart.  

After all Allah loves small and consistent deeds. 

Featured photography by Dana Mahmoud @dana.mahh

Thank you Hanan, for sharing such insightful and important food for thought!

Dear light



Written by Hanaa Abdella







Dear light,

I forgot how you can shine so bright
And I am sorry for not getting in touch; that I didn’t fight,
for you to stay in my life
But this month you came back visiting me again
and I realized that I should care for you like I care for my friends
I am sorry that it took me so long to see your value
I missed you during your absence and now that I have you, I will not let you go, because it’s true what they say about you
You are the enlightenment that we need
You are the one who nurtures and feeds
our desperate soul
Without you there is a hole in my heart and I don’t feel whole
Keeping the good attributes you gifted me is my goal
Because with you I feel like walking on clouds
I feel calm and balanced out
Mainly because of the beautiful sound I hear of the book that was in your month revealed
My heart aches everytime I remember that our time won’t last forever.
So I try to enjoy every second of our time together before your departure is here.
The last ten days is where the true miracle lays
So I take whatever I can take
For my own sake and be able to survive until our next meeting
And it leaves me with a sad feeling that I won’t see you for a long time
But oh Ramadan you will stay in my heart and on my mind

Photography by Dana Mahmoud @dana.mahh

Thank you Hanaa, for sharing your beautiful words and poetry. May we all stay in contact with our light.

Ramadan Reflections.

Written by Rahan Alam

In my slightly younger years, I would look at Ramadan as a burden, and in return it would treat me in that way.

In 2018, after a life changing experience within a Naqshbandi Masjid, I decided to change my approach to this Holy month, and accept Ramadan for what it is and embrace it.
This totally changed my outlook and how I felt within the month, as I can now appreciate the spirituality it holds and give the month the respect it deserves.

Since my change of perspective, the month has brought so many blessings and a sense of peace into my life. This reminded me of the very well known hadith where Allah swt says:

“Take one step toward Me, I will take ten steps towards you.
Walk towards Me, I will run towards you.”

[Hadith Qudsi]

I now use Ramadan as a form of reset and detox. Spiritual reset and physical detox.

This month (especially in our current situation) allows us to look inwards and address the issues we are facing and gives us the strength to overcome those issues physical or spiritual. I pray that everyone can involve themselves in countless amounts of ibadah this month and moving forward; whether that be reading Quran, Performing Dhikhr of Allah (SWT) and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or gaining knowledge of the Deen.

“Ramadan in lock down has really made me realise the importance of community and how much I’ve taken it for granted in the past. However with that being said it has also allowed me to turn inwards and also step back from the world and re-align my energy.”

Featured photography by Dana Mahmoud @dana.mahh

Thank you Rahan, for sharing your comforting thoughts and advice. We can all take from your advice.