Friday, September 21, 2007

Shutting the Door


Asalamalaykom

I wish all of you peace in my garden; my little piece of earth.

There was a door to the garden. Did you see it as you came in? It used to be locked. None could enter.

Then, I unlocked the door with the key, which the sweet little bird helped me to find. Now, I could get in and invite all of you to join me. I thought that I could spend time with you and feel refreshed from the experience.

Sometimes I do.

Sometimes I don't.

Lately, I can't shake the thought that I'm not meant to be with you. It's un-Islamic. Even if it's talking about aspects to religion, or even if I attempt to be worshipful of Allah, or kind within the ummah or spreading dawaah...no, the good just isn't outweighing the bad.

I'm uncomfortable.

I opened this place to you to be peaceful and restful, but I've discovered that I can't keep the door open to all. Yet, I can't very well have a guard letting some in and some not. I also can't disregard some while warmly welcoming others. The door has been open to all who pass but now I have to shut it and after Ramadan, lock it.

I have kept trying, but the truth is that blogging isn't working for me. I don't want to incur God's wrath and it seems that I set myself up for Allah's displeasure with being here. I would rather not. I did as much good as I could and still it is not good enough. The bad outweighs the good.

Inshahallah, I will eventually find a way to share my time on this earth with you through halal means. Please send a prayer that I find that way and that it benefits everyone with goodness and increased iman.

Masalama.


Allah Jallay Shan (Allah is Great and Glorious)

Praise to You, there is no end for You.

If there is any example of You then there is no example of You at all. (No one is like You)

It’s your perfection in the everything of this world which is perfect.

You are The Most Glorious of All the Glorious.

Our beloved Prophet Mohammed is the very respectful reference of Your introduction.

O, Allah! The Greatest! The Most Glorious!

(O, Allah) You are The Highest of the Highest.

Your every word is chosen and selected.

Jinn, angels and human beings all praise You, oh my Lord.

(O, Allah) Fill up my empty begging sack.
Shower Your Mercy and Benevolence upon me.
You are The Only King, who fills the sacks of beggars.

O, Allah! The greatest! The most glorious!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Say Mosque. I Say Masjid.

Do you know that the tallest religious building in the world is a mosque? Really? A masjid?

Subhanallah!

Where do you think it is?

I'll show you a picture of it.





This is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morroco. It is the tallest religious building in the world. It stands at 575 feet.
It was built for $750 million USD.
It can hold 20,000 worshippers.
It took 35,000 workers a total of 50 million man-hours to complete.
That is impressive.
Here are other related sites to visit:
This site has more information about King Hassan II Mosque. Click on his Flikr photos to see great shots of Morroco.
This site has tons of photos of mosques/masjids from all over the world.
Oh, and the reason I prefer the term masjid? I use the Arabic “masjid” and not the Spanish word “mosque.” The latter term comes from King Ferdinand during the Spanish Inquisition, when he boasted that he would swat out every Muslim place of worship like a fly, or “mosque.”
This site talks about the minaret as a symbol of faith and power.
Why talk about this? Why think about this? For me, it is a confirmation that small people can do great things for God. The masjid's architecture amazes me and makes me feel the great possibilities in life are within my reach.
Architecture starts as a dream in someone's mind. It is the unseen. Then, it is put on paper as a drafting sketch. That moment; from dream to drawing is such a huge leap of faith. It is pulling out from inside you what you hold dear and then sharing it with the world.
Aren't we all scared of that moment? Of taking a dream and making it real?
When we see the great buildings in Islam, we can remember that IF we are glorifying God, then nothing is impossible. That helps me immensely today and I hope that helps all of you as well.
Ramadan Kareem.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Break in Routine





















On this, the seventh day of Ramadan, I have established a routine. It now feels normal to get up before 5:00 AM pray two rakhas, read Quran, then eat beans and whole wheat pita. I'm comfortable with the constant pace of, "gotta keep going" as I brush my teeth and floss before 5:30. Really, I can down three glasses of water in that time period and then go pray fajr.

So, this morning, it came as a bit of a shock to hear little boy feet trod sleepily through the hallway; my two-year-old.

What was he doing up?


My routine was broken and I'll admit I felt jostled out of my calm. Would he ruin it? Would I have to attend to him and thus be unable to fully attend to my own needs? Selfishness was creeping up in me, as he climbed up on my lap. He eyed the yummy oatmeal cereal squares sitting on the plate.

"Wha dat?" he asked.

I had to offer some to him.

Oh, no...was he going to eat all my suhour; my carefully planned suhour?

He ate one, maybe two, and then fed the rest to me. He fed me...the one who coveted the cereal. May Allah bless him. May Allah forgive me.

Time to brush and floss. Would he fuss as I entered the bathroom? He followed me as I went in, but then he walked out and shut the door. I forgot about him, in my tiredness, but soon wondered what kind of mischief he was into on the other side of the door. When I finished, I opened the door to find....

him laying down in the hallway waiting for me. He was rubbing his eyes. He looked up at me with such sweetness, mashahallah.

Time for my last glass of water. I held him with my left arm as I did everything with my right. It felt good to have him with me now. I took my gulp and then offered him some. He sipped and then pushed the glass to my mouth. He wanted to make sure I had enough.

The time to pray was on. Honestly, I hoped that he would be good. I tried to find a kid's show on TV that could occupy him. I flipped channels in vain: news about OJ Simpson, news about Senator Craig, the weather. Don't kids watch TV at 5:36? He toddled over and turned off the TV, then returned to me on the couch.

"It's time to pray. I've got to pray," I tried to explain.

"ALLAH!" He illuminated.

I beamed. "Yes, to Allah. Allah gives us everything. Allah gave me you. Alhumdulillah. Allah gives us our food, our money, our car..."

"Scoo ba."

I laughed because I knew what he meant. "Yes, and school buses. Allah gives us school buses. So, I need to pray to Allah to say, 'thank you,' for everything Allah gives. Do you want to pray with me?"

He's prayed with me many times, but never at fajr. Would he do it? Was he too tired?

I put on my prayer cover-up and stood on the living room carpet. I began and he left.

"Oh, well, " I thought in that split second. "He ran off, but it was worth a try."

I re-focused my prayer. I could hear him walking around and walking back. I opened my eyes to see the green prayer rug being opened at my feet.

He had wanted me to pray on the rug instead of my usual way of praying on the carpet.

I went down with tears in my eyes, in gratitude for a break in the routine.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ramadan Frustrations



It's easy to get frustrated when you are fasting. You aren't numbed by the comfort of a full belly. Your head might be dulled by hunger. You are more intune with the immediate reality of every situation. You have less patience.

Some would think, therefore, that Ramadan is a great time to work on your patience.


I'm thinking it's also a great time to work on ridding your life of expendable frustrations:



The alphabet letter magnets laying around the refrigerator which make cooking in the kitchen an Indian Jones like challenge.



Upsetting information in an IM session which comes while you need to pay attention to cooking.

The phone call while you're eating from a person that doesn't participate in fasting and therefore doesn't understand what you are feeling.


That all happened around the breaking of the fast


Feeling off-balanced is the first key to realizing that there is a better way. You must feel the difference and fasting helps with that.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Shahadah

This morning I was searching the internet for the correct way to type out the shahaddah, or declaration of Islamic faith. This is the Romanized version of Arabic and it is phonetic. Like all phonetically spelled words, there are many, many ways to spell them:



lā ilāha illā-llāh
muḥammadan rasūlu-llāh



La ilaha il-Allah
Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah


la ilaha illal-Lahu
Muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluhu



La ilaha ill'Allah
Muhammad rasul Allah


LA ELAHA ILLA-ALLAH
MOHAMMADAN RASUL-ALLAH


La ilaha ill'Allah
Muhammad rasul Allah


LAA ILAAHA ILLALLAH
MUHAMMAD UR RASULULLAH


La ilaha illallah
Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah


See what I mean?


The first half of the shahaddah, makes the most sense to me, when I see:


La ilaha illa Allah


That's how it sounds. There aren't a lot of extra letters to confuse. It's maybe easier for me to figure out than the second half.


I did a search of Muhammadur rasulullah which has 10,700 sites listed on google.


It's competitor Muhammdar rasulullah has only 9,130 sites.


So it isn't by a huge margin that Muhammadur rasulullah wins. You could really use either and be understood, but for me, I'll us the "ur" verses the "ar".


Muhammadur rasulullah


There is another common way of writing it, which is Muhammadan rasulullah. If you do a check, you'll see that it garners 13,000 sites. It is actually is the clear winner, but I do not think it really represents how the Arabic is spoken. My Arabic speaking friends agree that the "N" is silent. I will not be using this spelling just because it is the most popular.

While jumping around the internet looking for this information, I found a number of interesting links:

Top 10 Bad Habits During Ramadan

Dictionary of Islam

Converting to Islam

How to Become a Muslim

Ramadan and the Meaning of Fasting

Please continue to make the most of every day in Ramadan. I'm telling that to myself. What do you want to tell yourself?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

4th of Ramadan

Here we are: the fourth day of fasting.

Has the fun worn off yet?

It's like: ya, you signed on to be a Muslim, but did you read the fine print?

It isn't fasting whenever you like.

It's fasting during the MONTH of Ramadan.

Has it sunk in yet that we are all in for 25 or 26 more days of fasting?

Yesterday, it sunk in for me. I was tired. I was tired the whole day. Just never found the BURST of energy. Subhanallah! Some days you don't! I started to think that IF I was eating and sleeping better THEN I would have energy. Truth is: even when I'm eating HUGE meals, I sometimes don't have energy. It isn't all about food.

That's true, isn't it?

Ramadan isn't all about the food.

It's about pushing away from the world, as much as you are pushing away from the table.

I spent a lot of time on-line shopping yesterday. I thought I was being smart to stay out of stores, but really I wasn't. That pull on us to spend and to be materialistic is everywhere we look. Being on the computer so long took me away from the centered place I wish to be. Ramadan is here to cleanse us of that pull on our lower selves. This is indeed a "Jihad of the Nafs".

I've been reading Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Loss Solution. Hey, those ten pounds have to come off some time! And in the book, he talks about the stimuli or "cue" that makes you feel like you need something, even when you don't.

Did you know that your body actually has chemical reactions when you look at delicious food? Your body acts like you're eating it! Even when you're not! Subhanallah! You can gain weight from only looking!

So, can you stop your body from this process?

No.

But you can stop yourself from looking.

That is a very Islamic way of thinking.

Be honest with yourself! There are things in your house right now that make you think of haram. OK, I haven't been to every one of your houses, but I'm just guessing.

It might be the celebrity magazines that dish the dirt and destroy lives by gossiping. Even if you don't know them, they are still people. If you talk about their private lives, then you are backbiting them. Think about that.

It might be the music which you or your kids listen to without thinking. Do you actually know the lyrics? What is going into your brain? What are you teaching your kids?

Yep, this stuff is pervasive.

What about that large framed family photo you've got hanging on the wall? Are you looking to that photo to bring you comfort? Isn't that a kind of idolizing?

Or what about the sexy dolls that your little girl is playing with? Astragferallah! Is that what you want her to idealize?

All of this is easier to see during Ramadan. We see it because the Shaytan is locked up and we are more in touch with Allah. We feel more ashamed of what we have accepted blindly as "normal" while forgetting what is clean and good.

I'll tell you one of my transgressions.

I have really enjoyed the website where anonymous people send in post cards of a secret. Every Sunday would be a new slew of tawdry, and sometimes funny, but always thought-provoking secrets. This is Sunday. I'm not looking. Sometimes there would be disturbing postcards that would haunt me. I've decided that I'm disturbed enough without any additional help. I want my mind clean from troubling images and flithy lives.

On this, the fourth day of Ramadan, take a moment to really think what you have in your life which is not pleasing to Allah. What are you doing that can't be done in the name of God?

Then, use this chance to rid yourself of its harm, inshahallah.
Take a deep breath in and say, "Alhumdulillah," that we have 25 or 26 more days filled with chances to get right what we've been doing wrong.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nasheeds During Ramadan

It's really best to listen to Quran during Ramadan.

I know that.

However, I need a beat sometimes too. Like, right now I'm working in the kitchen and I am draggin' a bit as I keep busy.

I found
these modern nasheeds on streaming radio. Take a listen, if you are needing some music too.

Allah and The Holy Spirit

The question has been asked:

I noticed when reading the Quran last night two references to the Holy Spirit ( Baqarah 11: 2:87 and 2:253) could you please tell my how Islam would understand the Holy Spirit?

There are several references to the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures, which I believe is simply understood as the abiding spirit or presence of God and in Christian theology is understood similarly (but also considered as part of the Trinity). Would be very interested in your thoughts.

I looked up Baraqah 87 in my Mohamed Asad translation that reads as "an apostle" and in 253 it reads as "God". It is good to remember that none of us reading The Quran in English are actually reading The Quran. We are reading a translation. I'm curious what the actual Arabic word is. Any Arabic-speaking volunteers?

Regardless, here's a good answer. It says that The Holy Spirit is really the angel Gabriel.

To be honest: I didn't want to touch the question. I grew up in a household with a theologian. I heard grown-ups in my living room discuss weighty spiritual matters the way other kids hear the adults talk about the ballgame.

I'm not a theologian. I start to kind of disassociate from my body and float away into a happy place when the talk goes for religious doctrine.

One thing I like about Islam is that it doesn't get confusing. It is very simple.

There is Allah.

And then there is also....

No, actually...there is only Allah.

See, the trinity idea? It's confusing! It is! I never "got it". Most reverts you talk with never got it either. Actually, many Christians don't and fully admit they couldn't explain it.

I'm much more simple in my faith. I worship Allah and only Allah and only think of Allah.

Comparisons are tricky. Is a church really the same as a masjid? Is a priest really the same as an imam? In my experience, it is hard to draw direct parellels between the two faiths. We do have a place of worship, but we don't have a, "Muslim church". We do have a leader of faith, but we don't have a "Muslim priest."

Does Islam have a "Holy Spirit"?

Islam has Allah.

Does Allah have a Holy Spirit?

Allah is The Most Holy.

Do you understand? I can't really use the same language in which the question in was framed. We all have to back up; reverse it and re-phrase or re-think the wording.

What is that feeling of Holy Spirit that comes into you? I've felt the spirit of God in my life many times. I felt it at the masjid last night as I prayed magrib. I feel it throughout my day--working to ease the way with blessings of grace and mercy.

But, I don't call that Holy Spirit. I call that power Allah.

In the name Of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.

Say, Allah is One,

Allah The Everlasting, The Eternal,
He has not given birth and was not born,
And no one is comparable to Him
Surah 112: Al Ikhlas

There is a beautiful Oneness in Allah that is very powerful. I would encourage anyone rooted in Christianity to consider dropping some of the past notions and ideas that confuse them. Instead, open up to the simple truths you know; that make sense completely.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Day of Ramadan





















Ramadan came today for me and for you! Alhumdulillah! We are indeed blessed that Our Mighty God gave to us another chance to obtain blessings.

Today is special. It is the first step on a journey. The first step is always the hardest. Because I know that there are many who are experiencing Ramadan for the first time, and many traveling alone, I am going to share my first day of Ramadan with all of you.

I will be telling you of my activities today and be updating frequently so that you feel connected to me and to the rest of the ummah. It is my wish, inshahallah, that my sharing be of some help and encouragement to others.


3:00 AM I couldn't sleep. I went to bed at 11:00 PM, but lay there in bed. Rather than let my thoughts race, I made du'a for all Muslims in the world who were starting Ramadan today.

3:30 AM Got out of bed and prepared myself to pray. If you do wake in the night during Ramadan, go ahead and wash for prayer, then make at least two rakhas. You can pray as much as you wish, doing two rakhas at a time. If you finish your set or sets with one additional prayer it is even better.

3:36 AM My Prayer only took about six minutes. I held, in my hand during the prayer, a print-out of Surat An-Nasr, which I am in the process of memorizing. While I pray, I keep my focus on Allah, but open my eyes onto the paper when I forget the next word. I then close my eyes again and keep my focus. I open them again if I need to. I have found that, once you have the words memorized for the most part, you really have to start using them in prayer to make them stick.

I had my first glass of water in the day.

I then did my usual routine of reading from The Holy Quran. I started reading this Mohamed Asad translation weeks ago, in the hopes of finishing it by the end of Ramadan. It includes Tafsir so it's a little slow going. I am now in An-Nisa/The Women. I read until I cannot take in more. Some days, it's a little and other times a lot.

If you are wanting to go through the entire Quran during Ramadan, be realistic: put together a plan. See how many pages are in your Quran, then divide by 30. The answer you get is the number of pages you will have to read each day, in order to finish. This is harder in the beginning, when all the surahs are very long and take up full pages. It is easier later on, when one surah is only three lines.

4:00 AM Another glass of water. I ate. One goal I have, for Ramadan, is to remember to say, "Bismallah" for everything that passes my lips. There are times I am forgetful, astragferallah.

The day before I had made crepes, which are a really good suhour-- take three eggs, one cup milk (can even be the milk that's gone bad), one cup flour, salt, sugar and vanilla, mix and then pour into oiled frypan. I had two leftover, which I filled with sweet potato and brown sugar. I also grabbed a cheese stick and two chucks of beet. It really is best to cook a number of items ahead of time. I started soaking beans that I'll cook later on today, for use tomorrow. I drank another glass of water.

4:30 AM I started blogging, but kept my eyes two things: my intention to do good and the time. Everything I do this Ramadan has to be a positive action and everything has to keep within the prescribed time.

5:00 AM I stopped to brush my teeth. You cannot let ANYTHING go into your stomach during your fast. That means not only no food or water, but no vitamins, no medicine, no gum, and no breath fresheners. Can you brush your teeth? Scholars say that you can, as long as you don't swallow anything. If you're like me, then sometimes you do accidentally. Wouldn't it be awful to ruin your fast from a little toothpaste? I do not brush my teeth during my fasting. The Prophet Mohamed, pbuh, said

(that Almighty Allah has said) Every act of the son of Adam is for him; every good deed will receive tenfold except fasting. It is [exclusively] meant for me, and I [alone] will reward it. He abandons his food for My sake and abandons drinking for My sake and abandons his pleasure for My sake. When any one of you is fasting he should neither indulge in sex nor use obscene language. If anyone reviles him he should say, "I am fasting." The one who fasts has two [occasions] of joy: one when he breaks the fast and one on the day when he will meet his Lord. And the breath [of a fasting person] is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk.

So, for me...I'd rather care about Allah's perception of my breath than anyone else's.

I do however, recommend brushing AND flossing, then rinsing with something like baking soda or mouth wash. Here are some other tips on your breath during Ramadan.

5:26 AM I kept an eye on the time while I was typing. I snuck in another glass of water. That made three. The azan just went off on my clock. If you don't have an azan clock, I would really encourage you to purchase a high-quality one. I spent about $50 on mine and it is some of the best money I ever spent.

5:38 AM It's time for me to pray. Be careful not to delay the prayers. What I think about is how quick I am to break the fast and pray magrib. I think how I should be so eager to jump up and pray the other ones as timely as I do at twilight.

Once I'm done praying, I will head back to bed, inshahallah. I get to cuddle up next to my two-year-old. If you are sleeping with your spouse, be careful if you return to bed together. It is best to stay very separate; not even touching in anyway. It's a shame to break the fast by something so easily avoidable.

So, anything passing into your stomach breaks the fast, as does sexual activity, as well as something else: angry outbursts. As I leave you, please remember to keep calm in your day. If you feel frustration, turn to Allah for the strength. You simply won't have enough reserves to get through the day alone. You must ask Allah to help you in this The First Day of Ramadan.

6:30 AM I decided to send e-cards before heading to bed. I like the ones from this site. I sent them to everyone I love---even my dad, who is not Muslim.

I sent an e-card to a sister with whom I am estranged. Why? Because mending broken relationships at Ramadan has extra blessings. May Allah facilitate a meeting of the minds.

7:12 AM Got a call from my girl wishing me "Happy Ramadan". You can wish "Ramadan Mubarak" to say the same thing in Arabic. I prefer wishing, "Ramadan Kareem" which is hoping for the person fasting to feel strengthened, rather than happy. I was very happy, however, to get her sweet greeting.

7:45 Baby woke up! So, there goes my plan to return to bed. But the couch looks good... NOPE! I have a routine doctor's appointment scheduled. I think it's best to keep living a normal life during Ramadan. When you do that, rather than taking it easy, you are in better remembrance of those poor and starving, who cannot take it easy. When you feel the weakness, then not only make du'a for them, but send a little money their way. Ideally, you should take the money you are saving by not having lunch, and donate it to a charity.

11:30 AM Back from doctor's and a trip to Burger King. NO! I didn't break my fast this early on. :) I picked up a "hammer an byes" for the little guy at home. I honestly did worry if I would get a Somali employee ready to school me on Ramadan. Then, I started to think how hard it would be to have a job working around food while you were fasting; it's all there, but it is all off-limits. I also remembered my responsibility to show the best of Islam during Ramadan. Being in the drive-thru while in hejab is a little suspect. And YES the little paper sack smelled familiar, but it's best not to let your sense of pleasure start gaining hold over you.

By the way, I was supposed to get blood drawn this morning, but was informed that wasn't a good idea. I'm usually a little faint when blood is drawn, so to do it during fasting is asking to be out cold on the floor.

As for how I feel: alhumdulillah. I'm happy that I've gotten so much done today. That is one of the amazing parts of Ramadan; you do more on less. I am noticing, though, at this point in the day that I am tired and having less patience. I'm headed for a nap. Again, not everyone in the world has this luxury.

1:06 PM Had to be smart on a phone call. Found myself being slow and quiet, which is not at all like me. I had to use extra time to answer questions. I didn't get the jokes right away. Oh, and that hamburger? My little guy complained, "I don't like it," and won't chow it down like I thought he would. Meanwhile, I'm hungry, of course. I have been keeping busy cleaning and orgnanizing. Even though it is tiring to be active, it seems even more dangerous to sit and veg out. When you are busy, time flies and that's exactly what you want it to do while you are fasting. Almost time for duhr and NAP, inshahallah.

2:00 PM I had an IM from one friend and then later a phone call from another. They were both on lunch break from work. May Allah make it easy on them. The first had a very bad headache and that is typical, especially if you don't eat suhour. The second was doing alright but hungry. Some of our hunger is habitual, rather than actual.

2:30 PM I finally finished the portion of today's work: clearing out my closet. I decided to get rid of EVERYTHING in my closet. Everything needed to leave, really, to get me ready for this new chapter in life, starting today. So, no old clothes with old memories; they were all bagged up today and brought to the charity box. I could then do my prayer and take my rest.

4:00 PM When I awoke from a much-needed nap, I could look in my closet and see in amazement all that I got done. I went to check the computer and got IM'd by my friend in Egypt. May Allah bless her and her family. It is indeed uniting to be sharing best wishes for Ramadan. I had called family overseas yesterday and that global-family-feeling is so wonderfully welcome to me.

4:49 PM Time for asr prayer. My mind is clear again. My body is feeling hollow. I had gotten weighed at the doctor's: 167. I'm interested to find out what weight I end up at by Eid. It's funny, but overseas people actually gain weight in Ramadan! The iftar/breaking the fast meals are too extravagant and people pig out with two and three plates. Astragferallah. Not long now before I can break my fast.

My plan is to go to the masjid. I hope, inshahallah, to have enough energy to get me and the toddler there.

6:14 PM With about an hour to go until I leave for masjid, I'm feeling great, Subhanallah! Really, I'm so happily busy hanging up my new clothes that it totally takes my mind off the lack I feel. If I was sitting, I know I'd be thinking of my hunger. I do have beans in the pressure cooker right now and they are creating an odor in the house. I do have to fight the sensation to enjoy it. When my little guy woke from napping, I fixed food for him and it didn't bother me to see him eat. The only thing I thought about was whether or not the food was the right temperature. I have heard that Muslim women cooking are allowed to put the food in their mouth to check the flavor or the temperature IF they aren't doing it to enjoy and they spit it out afterward. For me, I'd rather not risk it.

7:00 PM I was calling my mom to double-check if she wanted to go to the iftar. I was just about to leave. Once I hung up and started out the door, but then remembered the diaper bag wasn't packed. And then I remembered the diapers were in the communal washer downstairs (so I had to grab them too). I was unable to multi-task very well. I was forgetting everything! That's when I thought, "Oh, ya! This is fasting!" You simply can't do it all. It really isn't a normal time.

7:15 PM I left home and headed west. Subhanallah! There was a gorgeous sunset. I was doing OK with the end of my fast. The back of my head was just starting to ache. With the food at the masjid's iftar, I was going to be alright.

7:31 PM It was time to break my fast, yet I hadn't brought a date or drink along with me. That was dumb. I have to do that if I'm driving to iftar next time. You MUST break your fast on time without delay. I kept thinking I was going to make it to the masjid soon, but the red lights were getting in my way. I received a nice message of "Ramadan Kareem. Happy iftar" and that made me smile.


7:45 PM There were no parking spots at the masjid. I parked down the street and walked in and up the stairs, now carrying the toddler. I was able to break the fast with a delicious date, alhumdulillah. It felt wonderful. The little guy ate the "candy" too. OK, I lied, but it's all in the marketing! I drank a little milk.


Then, I went to pray with my son in my arms. The woman's room in this particular masjid isn't safe for him to be on his own. I prayed the first rakha and was down on the carpet when I heard a voice next to me and a presence take my son from the floor. I felt peace. I prayed the other two rakhas with tears in my eyes. Alhumdulillah, the sisterhood in Islam is soooo wonderful. I could completely be with Allah in my prayers knowing that my son was taken care of. When I finished, I saw him sitting with a little old lady. It was this woman who had picked him up from the floor. I kissed her cheeks.


I talked with women I knew and looked for the food. There was no food. NO FOOD! Apparently, they had announced this somewhere, somehow, and we had all missed this information. All of us were hungry and tired and yet we had to leave and go to a different masjid nearby.


8:12 PM I arrive at the next masjid. FOOD! Alhumdulillah. More sisters I know and a place to sit and eat. Alhumdulillah. Rice, meat, vegetables and salad. I was so relieved.


One sister had suffered a lot trying to fast while breastfeeding. She had actually thought she was dying from a migraine during the day. I DO NOT recommend fasting while breastfeeding. Your baby's needs are more important than your own. You owe the baby his or her time. If you do not take in adequate liquid, you will dehydrate and lose your milk...which isn't really your milk...it belongs to your baby. Allah is merciful and would not want a baby to suffer needlessly.


My little guy got to run around at this masjid. He had so much fun. I could relax. Alhumdulillah, I'll be there tomorrow inshahallah.


I prayed isha and left.


10:00 PM I came home and ate that hamburger. Ate a popscicle and drank two glasses of water. I'll drink another before bed, inshahallah.


10:30 PM I'm going to pray a couple more rakhas before going to sleep. Alhumdulillah, it's been a great start to Ramadan; a fresh start. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Readying for Ramadan: Believe












 







This is it. The preparation for Ramadan is nearing the end. You and I and one billion other people are focusing on the impending month of fasting and praying. It is a daunting task. Just because we all do it, doesn't make it easy. It ain't easy!

No.

It's not supposed to be easy.

Right now that thought of hardship is enlivening me with a renewed sense of purpose and a drive towards excellence. This blog is named, "After Hardship There is Ease," but that doesn't mean that I reach the ease and then sink down onto the comfy couch for the rest of my life.

Life is cyclical. We see that in every part of nature. As for Surah 94, the reminder about hardship and ease is repeated to show that pattern: hardship then ease, hardship then ease. Ramadan is coming around once more and with it comes the difficulties.

Why do it?

Why?

There has to be one over-riding reason:
Allah. You ABSOLUTELY have to believe in Allah in order to participate in Ramadan. I have loved people so dearly in this life, but I have never loved anyone enough to endure early morning force-feedings, parched mouth by the afternoon, and zombie zone-outs by the evening. I fast only for Allah.
Check yourself. Why are you fasting? Are you trying to prove something to someone? Is this to gain acceptance from a person? Guess what! Your fast won't work! You must only fast for
Allah's pleasure.


اللَّهُمَّ اِنِّى لَكَ صُمْتُ وَبِكَ امنْتُ [وَعَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْتُ] وَعَلَى رِزْقِكَ اَفْطَرْتُ



Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu [wa 'alayka tawakkaltu]
wa 'ala rizq-ika aftarthu
O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You [and I put my trust in You]
and I break my fast with Your sustenance


I fasted for You.

For whom?


I believe in You.

In whom?


I put my trust in You.

In whom?

And I break my fast with Your sustenance.

Whose sustenance?

May all of us center ourselves in these last days; take a deep breath and center. May we treat this Ramadan like it is our last; there is no guarantee that there will ever be another. May the ummah increase our iman. May each one of us make a conscious decision to do our part.
May we believe that all of this hardship will be worth our efforts.
May we believe that Allah sees us and hears us.
May each one of us believe that we can make a difference in our life, in the lives of those around us, and in our world.

Ameen.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Readying for Ramadan: Prioritizing























Your time on this earth is finite.That's hard to think of! 

The exact number of days you possess is known to God. 

It's not even that difficult for you to figure out a high-end estimate. 

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years. Let's just say that you are blessed with this much time; this much opportunity to do God's work. Now, subtract the age you are. Multiple that by 365 to figure out roughly how many days you would have.

For me? I calculate 14, 140 days. That's a lot. That's a lot of chances to get it right.

On the other hand, I might not live to see tomorrow...or even this afternoon. We don't know how little time we have.

The point is: we do know roughly how much time on average we could have and it's finite. It will NOT last forever.

As we continue to get ready for Ramadan, there is a sense of urgency that builds. Perhaps this Ramadan, at autumn's start, brings more feeling of impending momentum. For some reason, at the start of every Ramadan, I think of two books I read as a child. I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder's series and their preparation for winter. I think of Anne Frank's family building a secret life one step ahead of the Nazis. This time right now also has an immediacy that is real and based in truth.

We must push ourselves into doing what has to get done.

For me, it means doing the heavy work now. I've been organizing my storage room for Fall while I still have energy. I won't later. Yesterday, I did the big shopping trip to the halal market and lugged all the bags from the car. I would be suffering from exhaustion if I did the drive, shopping and the hauling after next week. I did it now because it had to get done while I still had my full strength.

You do feel weak while you fast.

Oh, not right away in the morning! You feel energized by a meal of beans, or eggs, cheese, fruit, whole wheat or oatmeal. You eat it and pray and start your day. While you feel that life force at its fullest, that's when you have to really prioritize again.
You do the important tasks in the early part of the day. You make the phone calls that require your mind. You do the laborious chores that take your muscle power. You use what you have... to do what you have to do.

Later on, you will loose your mind's ability to understand clearly. Your speech will be softer and your thoughts less succinct. Your physical power will diminish and tiredness will set in. The zombie mode will overtake you towards the end. You might even have to lay down or nap. You will not be able to be that bubbly extrovert or that funny go-getter. You have to submit to your limits; your finite abilities under the circumstances.

It's a lot like what happens to us as we age. Our early years hold so much promise. We can do anything we set our minds to. Later, we start to slow down and we aren't able to, "JUST DO IT," anymore. Sure, we can still be active and vibrant, but it is with a better understanding that we better do it now. Time is ticking. We truly begin to feel our age, which isn't all bad. Feeling our age means that we also feel the necessity to submit to The One Who Never Dies.

During Ramadan, we remember to put Allah first, as we should always. That doesn't mean that everything else stops. In fact, I think you'll agree that the fullness of Ramadan is one of the amazing elements. You truly can cram so much into one day and one month! It is because you did the first thing well; you tried to solve the puzzle with the first piece in the right place. Knowing that God is the reason you are alive is the first step really. Knowing that you must live this life as a worship is the next.

Oh, and watching TV? Gossiping on the phone? Complaining about your inlaws? Going through the drive-through? Maxing out your credit card? No. No, you really don't have time for any of that during Ramadan.

You really don't have the time. 

What do you need to get done BEFORE the start of Ramadan? Do it today like the Walnut Grove wind is getting chilly or like the officer's knock on the door could happen at any second. See that you have to do the work of your Lord while you still have full ability. See that in terms of preparing Ramadan and in the context of living a faith-filled, finite life.

Readying for Ramadan: Media



It's a good time to think about what you are taking in...and I don't mean food.

Think about what else comes into you: the energy others give, the thoughts, the comments, the gossip, the knowledge, the music, the TV, the movies, the internet.

You have the power to consume good or bad. Too often, though, we are babies with gaping mouths being fed pablum. We numb our consciousness with nothingness.

As Muslims, we are asked to remain in full control of our senses. This is why we do not do drugs or alcohol. We must remain ready to do God's work any waking moment.

Think about how much those other substances coming through our ears and eyes might be harming us or our family.

For me, this Ramadan, I am going to have to struggle with my desire to watch Survivor. This year the show takes place in China and I think that sounds really interesting. BUT it is unrelated men and women living closely together; sleeping together even. How does that help my life? How does that help my growing children? Sadly, I have to admit that it doesn't.

Sure, there is some good that comes from that program. It teaches many worthy attributes; like perseverance, determination, inner strength, team work, and faith. It, however, teaches other things like lack of modesty, underhandedness, lying, cheating, stealing, backbiting and jealousy.

In Islam, we learn that if something has good in it, but that the bad outweighs the good, then we shouldn't do it. So, this Ramadan I will not be watching Survivor: China. It is a sacrifice. Giving it up now might mean giving it up forever. Good habits are formed during Ramadan.

Two years ago, I stopped listening to the pop station as a regular listener. I used to have the station on as background noise. I let the songs flit through my brain mindlessly. Now? No. I really examined how one great, uplifting song could be followed by a horrible song filled with sexual innuendo. You can't control the radio like you can CDs. I now play music instead of letting the music play me.

I used to listen to music in the car but since the stereo is broken I can't. What do I do? I recite Quran as I drive (especially the bridges). I am at peace as I drive and my son hears, and hopefully learns, the words of Allah.

During Ramadan last year, I didn't listen to anything other than Quran and nasheed. Mashahallah, I was calmer.

I'm not saying that you have to give up everything forever. That's a mighty big request! We as humans can't fathom those quantum leaps. However, we can imagine giving up what is unhealthy for what truly sustains us.

There are a lot of wonderful, educational programs that make you a better person. You become a true servant of Allah instead of a slave of the TV. See what you can change in your viewing and listening habits this Ramadan. Make the intention to monitor what goes in, so that you can improve the the efforts you put out.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Readying for Ramadan: Courage




Summoning up the courage to do what must be done.Courage.

Dan Rather, the American newscaster, used to end his broadcast with that one word.

My father says it to me often as a farewell.

I like the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

This is very true for readers who are about to fast in Ramadan for the first time. Wow! How overwhelming! I remember.

I remember being so interested in fasting for Ramadan UNTIL I realized there was not only no food, but no water. NO WATER?! What?! Are they crazy?! And I stumbled in my strength, lost my courage and had ABSOLUTELY no confidence.

Then, I had to screw my courage to the sticking-place. If I wanted to be a Muslim, I had to fast Islamically, which meant no water. I would do it, as billions had before me. I would think of those in the world who haven't any clean water to drink. I would pray for them as I felt thirst. I would thank my gracious God more for my blessings, when I would receive water at the end of the day.

I made a deal in my mind. I set the stones in places for me to cross. That is creating your own path. Don't look for someone else to get you to where you want to go. You have to make it clear to your own self. You have to really know why you are going to do something so difficult BEFORE you start. Make strong your intentions and get better results.

"To be what you want to be, you must give up being what you are," said Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens.

Yes.

What do you want to be?

I wrote before about not being able to take everything with you on the Ramadan journey. In addition to material possessions, you must also give up some of yourself. There are parts of you standing in the way of your own potential.


"We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are," said Max DePree.


Same thing.


It has to be about letting go of the past. The past is haunting. We hold onto the past with every photograph of what used to be; and who we used to be...who they used to be. We can't live there. Fasting certainly brings you to the NOW and makes you feel more alive and more in touch with who you have to be.

Start making the intention clear in your mind that you are about let go of this world. This world's contaminations are intoxicating and fool us into being scared of trusting in God. This world's pleasures make us wonder why we have to live like those less fortunate. The "letting go" has to be because you are about to embrace your faith more. This has to be about reconnecting to The Source.


Sure, there are other reasons to participate in Ramadan. You can learn about the cultural aspects to Islam. You can meet new people at the masjid during iftar dinners. You can lose weight. You can gain some respect from others who learn of your endeavor. That's all good and fine, but none of it can be the reason for the fasting.


So! Time to get your head screwed on! Look around you, in your own little corner of the world. See what it is that will have to soon be pushed aside and start summoning up your courage to let go of what you have and who you have been.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Readying for Ramadan: Lightening




Time to lighten the load.

Ramadan is a journey and you can't take everything with you.

You can't take anything which no longer serves you.
There are too many things cluttering your life.

You are holding on to mementos of sad times. You pass by them and remember the person who gave them to you and it hurts you to know that you no longer talk. Well, either talk with them or admit that you can never talk again. If you can no longer hold them as a friend, you should no longer hold onto that object.

Free up that space for blessings yet to come.

You are holding on to mementos of happy times. You see them and wistfully wish for what was, like children's clothes that they've outgrown and you will never fill again. Can't another child utilize that which sits in storage? When you donate to charity those clothes and toys, you are giving sadaqa.

Giving away gets you ready to receive.

Remember, as a small kid on the playground, that feeling of finally getting the ball? I mean, you wait and wait and wait until somebody throws you the ball. When it lands in your hands, you almost can't believe it! And then comes the realization that everyone is shouting at you to throw it to them! You could just hold on to it, but that would stop the game. You throw it and the game continues. You play joyfully, knowing that the ball will come to you again, if you believe and you're patient.

None of what we have in this world is for us to hold onto. We have to let it go; to flow.

It also helps our lives stay organized and clean, which is a hallmark of Islam. Life is easier when it's simpler. When you live a simple life, you free your time up, as you are no longer spending so much effort guarding and dusting the things of the dunya. You can stop being a slave to the stuff and start being a servant of Allah.

There are some that have so little. If you have so much, then getting ready for Ramadan can include cleaning out the piles that no longer serve you.

You truly can't take it with you. Go ahead and lighten your load. Isn't it funny that the phrase, "lighten your load," connotates not only making things less heavy, but also making things brighter?

May your preparations for Ramadan be lightening and enlightening.