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Patience – Part II

[These are my notes taken from “Patience and Gratitude: An Abridged translation of Uddat As-Sabirin Wa Dhakhirat Ash-Shakirin by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah” translated by Nasiruddin Al-Khattab. So I hereby give you the summary of a summary. 🙂 Oh, and the first part is here. ]

Sabr – Patience

When do we need patience?

1)  For worship: in order to perform it regularly, sincerely and correctly.

2)   To keep from wrong, through:

–     haya’ (shyness or shame) before Allah.

–     Learning more about Allah (this is the importance of learning His Names and Attributes).

–     Fear of punishment.

3)   In accepting Allah’s will, through:

–     Husn a-Dhun, or thinking well, both of Allah and of His creation, including people.

–     Remembering Allah’s previous blessings, as Luqman said to his son:

31:17
Oh my son! Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patience whatever befalls you; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs. (Surah Luqman : 17).

The worst and hardest type of patience is in trying to keep away from our Lord, as this contradicts a person’s natural state (fitrah).

How to strengthen patience:

1)   Through knowledge of Allah and His attributes, because if you love someone, you should want to be like them. It’s a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. Also, it enables you to attain Allah’s love, as He is with those whom He loves, and He loves those with His characteristics. And as Allah has said:

2:153
O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer, verily Allah is with those who patiently persevere (Surah Al-Baqarah: 153).

2)   By taking action to reduce temptations, and surrounding yourself with positive reinforcement as much as possible.

Tools to develop patience:

1)   Remember the glory and greatness of Allah and that He is too great to be sinned against.

2)  Remember that if we love Allah, as we claim, then we should not disobey Him.

3)  Think of all that He has given us – do not sin against one who has bestowed so much on you.

4)  Think of the wrath and punishment for those who sin.

5)  Think of what you have to lose: iman (faith), the next life, etc.

6)  Relish the idea of defeating satan.

7)  Remember the reward and compensation of Allah.

8)  Be mindful of death.

9)  Stop thinking of falsehoods and rubbish.

10) Gradually strengthen yourself by defeating your whims and desires, etc, because the more you do it, the more you can do it.

11) Direct your thoughts towards contemplating Allah.

12) Remember how short our stay on earth is. Do you really have the time to be sinning?

Looking at this list of tools to increase patience, I’m reminded once again how little I do them. Alhamdulillah I’ve started making dua and saying adhkar, so my thought are directed towards Allah more, and since Ramadan I’ve tried to keep up some of my Ibadahs, even if I’d rather read, watch TV, or do anything else (Procrastinating Queen, right here) and as such I’ve been fighting them whims and desires. Aaaannnnndddd that’s it. The problem, of course, is that you need patience in order to practice the tools to develop patience. Hah! So I guess the key is to start small – slow and steady wins the race, people!

Which – if any – of the tools do you utilise? Are there any others that you can think of?

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September Week 3 Review

[For previous reviews of this month’s goals, see here and here.]

Oh boy, what a week. I feel like this whole month has been a waste – like I’ve accomplished nothing. Alhamdulillah we got to see quite a few people last week (and go the hairdressers, which always makes me feel better), and as a result everything pretty much went out the window.

Anyways, on to the nitty-gritty! Here’s the review of this month’s goals for this week:

Things I will do Inshallah:

1) Finish reading the Qur’an.

2) Perform 4 Rakat of voluntary prayer a day 4 times a week.

Not praying, so doesn’t count.

3) Morning and evening Dua.

Mostly yes, but I’ve been cheating and skipping some of the Adhkar most of the time. This is a bad thing because even when I do say my dua, I feel as though I haven’t really because of my cheating.

4) Work on my thesis for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week

This goal is a joke. I’ve done nothing on it yet.

5) Read the Qur’an again in its entirety.

Ummm, I got as far as Surah Al-Maidah this week before slacking off, so I guess that means it aint gonna happen this month. 😦

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1) Blog twice a week.

Alhamdulillah, this does seem to be happening, which is kinda funny when you think about it. I mean, this is one of the things that I’d like to do, but might not and I’ve done pretty well on it, but the things I was definitely going to do, I’ve been slacking on.

2) Revise three hizbs from the end of the Qur’an.

I’ve basically given up on this one.

3) Keep a food diary.

7 out of 7 – Woohoo! Alhamdulillah I’ve gotten back into my usual food / exercise routine, which is something I am really happy and relieved about. It’s only taken a year to form these new healthier habits, but they seem to finally be habits. May Allah make it last – especially though winter, cause that’s my weakness; winter makes me lazy.

As for my other non-Islamic goals, I’m picking up the teaching again so inshallah by the first week of October I’ll have my timetable all figured out, I’ve been reading lots of articles online from various magazines (non-Islamic) that I’ve subscribed to on my Google Reader, but I need to finish my fiction book. Unfortunately it’s a crime/mystery/thriller-ish type, so I can’t read it before I go to bed – it either keeps me awake, or gives me such vivid dreams that I wake up after an hour or two and can’t go back to sleep for ages. #ReadingProblems.

This week, I’m just going to try to focus on my habits, reinforcing them. That means no cheating on my adhkar, praying 4 rakahs 4 times this week, and continuing to read the Qur’an. At least this way I’ll start October with something approaching good habits.

How’s your week been?

Patience – Part I

[These are my notes taken from “Patience and Gratitude: An Abridged translation of Uddat As-Sabirin Wa Dhakhirat Ash-Shakirin by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah” translated by Nasiruddin Al-Khattab. So I hereby give you the summary of a summary. 🙂 ]

Sabr – Patience

What is patience?

Sabr (the Arabic word for patience) originally means: to refrain, detain and stop. Spiritually, this means to stop ourselves despairing and panicking, to stop our tongues from complaining and to stop our hands from striking and tearing clothes at times of grief and stress.

Abu Uthman said: The one who has patience is the one who has trained himself to handle difficulties.

 Is it better to have patience at a time of difficulty or to be in a situation which does not require patience?

Some scholars define patience as not seeing or making any difference between times of hardship and ease. Ibn al-Qayyim disagrees, because:

~ This is too difficult.

~ We are not told to be this way.

~ We were made to feel the difference – it is part of our nature.

~ Having an easy time is better than having a hard time.

His evidence is that the Prophet (May Allah’s prayers and peace be upon him) said in a supplication (Dua): “If You are not angry with me, then I do not care what happens to me, but still I would rather have Your blessings and favour.” Therefore, it is acceptable to differntiate between hardship and ease.

Complaining:

There are two types of complaint:

1)    To Allah: this does not contradict patience.

– e.g.: the words of Ya’qub (Jacob):

12:86
[I only complain of my distraction and anguish to Allah.] (Surah Yusuf :86).

– And the words of Ayyub (Job):

21:83

[And (remember) Ayyub when he cried to his Lord, “truly distress has seized me”…] (Surah Al-Anbiya’ :83).

2)    To people: this contradicts patience.

– Through words, actions, behaviour and looks

– N.B.: this is different from seeking advice, which is when you confide in a trusted person who you believe has more knowledge and may help you overcome your difficulties. Complaining is simply bemoaning something in your life to anyone/everyone without seeking to actively improve your condition.

Types of Patience:

Psychologically speaking, we have two opposing forces: a driving force and a restraining force. Patience uses both: it drives a person to good and restrains them from bad.

Different people have different levels of patience for different aspects of the religion (deen):

1)    Strong iman (faith) and patience driving them to perform Ibadah (worship), but weak faith and patience in stopping them from evil.

~ e.g.: Someone who spends all night in prayer, but cannot lower his/ her gaze. (Yup. Lots of long bearded brothers S.T.A.R.E. It’s like dude!)

2)    Weak faith and patience in driving them to worship, but strong faith and patience stopping them from evil.

~e.g.: Someone who does not practice their faith, but lowers their gaze.

3)    Weak both ways. (Few people are like this – phew!)

4)    Strong both ways. These are the best people.

Most people lack patience in one of the aspects only.

In terms of staying away from our desires (like sleeping when it’s time to get up and perform the fajr (dawn) prayer), patience is three types:

1)    Religion is the biggest motive and desires are controlled and defeated. This is achieved through consistent patience.

2)    Desires win out. Total surrender to Satan, with the simple reason being that they ran out of patience; they failed to outlast him.

~ This is characterised in the Hadith of the prophet: “The helpless man is the one who follows his whims and desires, and indulges in wishful thinking.”

~ Different forms include: those who hate Islam, those caught up in worldly interest, hypocrites who try to gain from everything, those who say that they want to be better but that its too hard, those who say that God is the All Merciful All Forgiving (true) as if they have to give Him something to forgive(!?)…

~ A key feature in these people is that their desires control their reason, so their reason finds ways to meet their desires.  (Been there, done that, unfortunately. But, really, my excuses/reasons are epic. 🙂 )

3)    A Raging war between the two. This is the situation of the majority of the ummah. Sometimes the religion wins, sometimes the desires take over. And I don’t know about you, but for me it really feels like an active battleground. (I was going to go deeper on the war metaphor, but decided it was probably best avoided on an Islamic blog, given the current climate and all. :/ )

What are your strength and weaknesses when it comes to patience? And which category do you fall in with regards to the 4 levels of patience in religion?

I read through that list and got thoroughly depressed because really I think I’m weak both ways, it depends on the scenario, I guess. Although having said that, I find it easier to not do haram than I do in doing good deeds. So I guess that makes me a level 2? And personally, I have a terrible habit of complaining. To everyone.

[Here is the list of goals for this month, and this is the review of the first two weeks.]

Another week’s whizzed by, leaving us a few days short of the end of Shawwal and with only a couple of weeks to the end of September. I feel like this week overall was a bit meh. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it just was. Anyways, onto the review:

Things I will do Inshallah:

1) Finish reading the Qur’an. DONE!!!

2) Perform 4 Rakat of voluntary prayer a day 4 times a week.

I did this 3 times this week. I could’ve done it more, but I remembered too late that I wouldn’t be praying the whole week. Either way, 3 aint bad.

3) Morning and evening Dua.

Not every day. Most days, but not every day.

4) Work on my thesis for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week .

Nothing. Again.

5) Read the Qur’an again in its entirety.

Nope, haven’t started this either.

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1) Blog twice a week.

I’ve done this alright, although God only knows what my next post this week is gonna be about. And, even though I’m blogging and reading my comments, I haven’t gotten around to answering any of the comments or even doing some commenting myself.

2) Revise three hizbs from the end of the Qur’an.

Nope. I haven’t done any of this.

3) Keep a food diary.

5/7 – Which is good. I never really manage to keep the food diary every day of the week. I usually aim for 5 or 6 days, so I’m happy with this one.

As for the other goals I had, well Alhamdulillah I’ve finished all my fasting: both from Ramadan and the six days of Shawwal, may Allah accept them. I’ve also gotten back to exercising (cardio! – Yay!) and I’ve finished an audio book. Other than that the most notable thing that I did was meet up with my bestest BFF (that’s Best Friend Forever AND Bestie From Forever 🙂 ).

I really feel like September is slipping through my fingers and I’m not getting anything done. I think I really underestimated how much fasting would take out of me this month, but still; it’s not like my goals are really tough or unattainable. I need to find a rhythm Inshallah, so I think that’s going to be my new aim for this week: get back my groove.

And do all the stuff I said I’d do this month.

 Is your September shaping up as bad as mine? Or are you having a better time of it? What’s your week been like?

This is the second post about fasting the six days of Shawwal, the first one’s here. I’m nearly finished fasting my six days this year, and as encouragement I thought I’d post this list of benefits/virtues of fasting these six days. Most of this is actually copied verbatim from this article by Salman Al-Awdah, but I’ve rewritten some of it to make a bit more sense and show a bit of my personality. 😉

1. Fasting six days in Shawwâl after observing the Ramadan fast gives the person the reward of fasting throughout the year. Really this list could stop right here, I think. Imagine the reward of having fasted an entire year. Alhamdulillah – Allah’s mercy is limitless.

2. The fasts of Sha`bân and Shawwâl are like the Sunnah prayers that accompany the five obligatory prayers. Like the Sunnah prayers, these extra fasts cover up for the deficiencies in our performance of our obligatory worship. On the Day of Judgment, our voluntary acts of worship will compensate for the shortcomings in how we carried out our duties. Most of us have deficiencies in our observance of our Ramadan fasts and we need something to cover up for those deficiencies. [Note: The deficiencies being discussed here are not missing days of fasting. Rather, they are the deficiencies in our conduct that detract from the value of our worship. Like losing one’s temper, talking about things that one should avoid, etc.]

3. Our return to the habit of fasting right after Ramadan is a sign that our Ramadan fasts were accepted. When Allah accepts our worship, He blesses us to engage in further acts of piety. The saying goes: The reward of virtue is further virtue. Therefore, following one good deed with others like it is a sign that the first deed had been accepted by Allah. By contrast, if a person’s good deed is followed by a sinful one, it is an indication that the first good deed might not have been accepted. (This is a good point, especially for someone who’s counting down the days to when I’m finished fasting and has no intention whatsoever of keeping this up throughout the year. I’ll have to really focus on the other good habits I picked up during the month.)

4. After fasting Ramadan, we are given the blessing of Eid Al-Fitr. Getting into the habit of fasting again after that is a way of giving thanks to Allah for the blessings that we have recieved. There is no blessing greater than forgiveness for one’s sins, and we know that fast of Ramadan is recompensed with forgiveness of one’s previous sins.

Fasting these days in Shawwâl is one way for us to express our thanks for Allah blessing us in our observance of the Ramadan fast.

It is known that some of the Pious Predecessors would try to get up at night to pray the Tahajjud prayer. When Allah blessed them to wake up and do so, they would fast the next day in thanks to Allah for blessing them to observe that prayer.

Once Wuhayb b. al-Ward was asked about the blessings of various acts of devotion and he replied: “Do not ask about the blessings that can be earned by performing these acts of worship. Rather, ask how you can show your thanks to Allah if He blesses you to perform them, for he is the one who assists us in doing so.”

Every blessing that Allah gives us is something that we have to be thankful about. Moreover, when Allah blesses us to show thanks, this is a further blessing from Allah that deserves further thanks from us. If we show further thanks, this in turn is another blessing deserving our gratitude. There is no end to this and we can never be thankful enough. When we recognize that our thanks is never enough, this is the highest expression of gratitude we can give.

Can you think of any more benefits/virtues of fasting these six days? I really hope that remembering these things will give us the necessary boost to finish these days in strong Iman.

I did really well last week, and then at the end of the week it just fell apart and this week has been a mess. Why? I’m fasting. Still fasting. And I’m so over it. I just want to be done already. I find it draining mentally. Inshallah I’ll be finished making up my days and fasting the six days of Shawwal by Tuesday the 11th of September. I’m literally counting down the days.

Anyways, I’ll go over my goals for this month so far:

Things I will do Inshallah:

1) Finish reading the Qur’an. DONE!!! Alhamdulillah I finished this last Friday – just before September started.

2) Perform 4 Rakat of voluntary prayer a day 4 times a week. I did do this last week, but this week I just couldn’t be bothered. I know that sounds terrible, but I kept putting it off and now intend to just restart this week.

3) Morning and evening Dua. I have kept this up overall – there have been a few days where I’ve missed some or all of them, but I’ve stuck to this overall.

4) Work on my thesis for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. I aint done zip on this. Nada. Nuffink. Zero. And the first week of September is over. Le sigh.

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1) Blog twice a week. Well obviously I haven’t done this! I’ve only blogged 3 times so far when I should have done four, so I’m going to try and squeeze an extra post in at some point down the line. Either way, including this post, I’ll make it for this coming week’s quota with a post scheduled for Sunday Inshallah.

2) Read the Qur’an again in its entirety. Haven’t started this yet, but I’ve decided to start it this week Inshallah, so I’m re-prioritising this as one of the things I will do inshallah.

3) Revise three hizbs from the end of the Qur’an. Haven’t started this yet.

4) Keep a food diary. I have mostly done this over the past two weeks – I’ve skipped a few days here and there, but already it’s having the desired effect: I’ve quit grazing, and have started to think about what I actually put in my mouth.

Apart from that, I’ve just been fasting, getting back into teaching, and been reading tons (I’ve already finished the Hunger Games trilogy).

I guess what I’m going to have to work on over the next week is praying 4 extra rakats a day, sticking to my dua and food diary, and starting to read the Qur’an again. Towards the end of the week, when I’m done fasting Inshallah, I’ll start working on my thesis again and really get into the whole teaching thing properly.

Is anyone else finding this fasting hard? It’s sooooo much harder than Ramadan – and I usually like fasting by myself (don’t have to consider other people’s moods, amongst other things).

[Alhamdulillah I meet up with some sisters on a monthly basis and we do a short talk during the meet-up to remind us of Allah and to boost us spiritually a little Inshallah. This month we discussed making up the days of Ramadan and fasting the six days of Shawwal, as a reminder for us all, I’m posting what we discussed here.]

Making up days from Ramadan:

From Hilali’s book ‘Fasting in Ramadan’: “… it is not obligatory to make up the missed days from Ramadan immedieately afterwards, rather it is an obligation which may be delayed, due to what is rported from Aishah (RA):

“It used to be that I had days to make up for Ramadan and I would not be able to do so except in Shabaan.” (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim).

Although, obviously it is better to hasten in making up the fasts than to delay them, since this falls under the general proofs concerning hastening to do good works and not delaying them – and the proof is from the Qur’an:

“And be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord.”  (Aali – Imran: 133)

… It is not obligatory to make up the days together (i.e. one immediately after the other)… Ibn Abbas said: “There is no harm if he fasts them separately.” (Bukhari)”

Fasting Shawwal:

From Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid:

Fasting six days of Shawwaal after the obligatory fast of Ramadaan is Sunnah Mustahabbah, not waajib. It is recommended for the Muslim to fast six days of Shawwaal, and in this there is great virtue and an immense reward. Whoever fasts these six days will have recorded for him a reward as if he had fasted a whole year, as was reported in a saheeh hadeeth from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).

Abû Ayyûb al-Ansârî relates that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) says: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwâl, it will be as if he had fasted the year through.” [Sahîh Muslim (1163)]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained this when he said: “Allaah has made for each hasanah ten like it, so a month is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days completes the year.” (al-Nisaa’i and Ibn Maajah. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, 1/421).

The Hanbali and Shaafa’i fuqaha’ explained that fasting six days of Shawwaal after fasting Ramadaan makes it as if one has fasted for an entire year of obligatory fasts, because the multiplication of the reward applies even to naafil fasts, because each hasanah brings the reward of ten like it.

Another of the important benefits of fasting six days of Shawwaal is that it makes up for any shortfall in a person’s obligatory Ramadaan fasts, because no one is free of shortcomings or sins that have a negative effect on his fasting. On the Day of Resurrection, some of his naafil deeds will be taken to make up the shortcomings in his obligatory deeds, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The first thing for which people will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be their salaah (prayer). Our Lord, may He be glorified and exalted, will say to His angels – although He knows best – ‘Look at the salaah of My slave, whether it is complete or incomplete.’ If it is perfect, it will be recorded as perfect, and if something is lacking, He will say, ‘Look and see whether My slave did any voluntary (naafil) prayers.’ If he did some voluntary prayers, [Allaah] will say, Complete the obligatory actions of My slave from his voluntary actions.’ Then all his actions will be dealt with in a similar manner.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood).

From the Permanent Fatwa committee:

When should a Muslim start fasting six days of Shawwal?

You can start fasting six days of Shawwal from the second day of Shawwal, because it is haram to fast on the day of ‘Eid. You can fast the six days at any time during Shawwal, although the best of good deeds are those which are done soonest.

These days do not have to be fasted immediately after ‘Eid al-Fitr; it is permissible to start fasting them one or more days after ‘Eid, and they may be done consecutively or separately during the month of Shawwal, according to what is easier for a person. There is plenty of room for maneuver in this matter, and this is not obligatory, it is Sunnah.

And (you should hasten to fast these six days) because delaying may cause problems. This is the view of the Shafi’is and some of the Hanbalis, but it is OK if you do not hasten it and you delay it until the middle or end of the month.

An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Our companions said: it is mustahabb to fast six days of Shawwal. Because of this hadith they said: it is mustahabb to fast these days consecutively at the beginning of Shawwal, but if one separates them or delays them until after Shawwal, this is permissible, because he will still be following the general guidelines of the hadith. We have no dispute regarding this matter, and this was also the view of Ahmad and Dawud.”

Can a person start fasting six days of Shawwal when he still has days to make up from Ramadhan?

The precise rewards for the deeds which people do for the sake of Allah is something which is known only to Allah. If a person seeks the reward from Allah and strives to obey Him, his reward will not be lost, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – indeed, We will not allow to be lost the reward of any who did well in deeds. (Surah Al-Kahf: 30)

If someone has missed some of the days of Ramadhan, he should fast them first, then fast six days of Shawwal, because he cannot follow the fast of Ramadhan with six days of Shawwal unless he has completed his Ramadhan fast.

Links:

http://islamqa.info/en/ref/7859

http://sunnahonline.com/library/hajj-umrah-and-the-islamic-calendar/322-fasting-the-six-days-of-shawwal

Are you fasting the six days of Shawwal? Or are you just focusing on making up days from Ramadan? How’s it going?

Ramadan Part 2

 

Eid party food 2011

Ok, so technically Ramadan is over. Except that for a lot of Muslims it isn’t. Muslims like me who have days to fast, making up for when we couldn’t fast in Ramadan. As those days are rewarded as days of Ramadan, and the fact that it is encouraged to fast the six days the month after Ramadan also, Shawwal – to me – feels like a bit of a lacklustre sequel to Ramadan. A sequel, because of all the fasting left, and lacklustre because often you fast by yourself, there’s no Tarawih in the mosque, no atmosphere. Ramadan is easy. This is the month that a lot of people find hard.

So as it’s the following on from Ramadan (when I set some goals for myself to achieve) I’d like to set some goals for myself for this month. In fact I’d like to start setting goals for myself on a monthly basis. Why monthly? Because according to studies, monthly goals work better over the long-haul than either short-term (which are too much effort) or long-term (which are easy to forget) ones. I’m also continuing with my division of priorities for goals. So here goes:

 Things I will do Inshallah:

1) Finish reading the Qur’an. I was reading it before Ramadan and then stopped so that I could restart it for the new month. I read 41 hizbs, so I only have another 19 to go Inshallah.

2)   Perform 4 Rakat of voluntary prayer a day 4 times a week. This may include Duha’ prayer, Qiyam or anything, so long as it’s 4 extra rakat.

3)   Morning and evening Dua. I need to keep this up. To make it a bit more challenging I might learn a few new ones. Might.

4)   Work on my thesis for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week for starters. (My thesis is about Islamic Fundamentalism in Western writing, so it qualifies as an Islamic goal, methinks.)

 Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1)   Blog twice a week. This is doable. Especially if one post is an update on my goals.

2)   Read the Qur’an again in its entirety. (At the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of reading the Qur’an 3 times this year, excluding Ramadan. I read it once and started on the second time, and I hope that seeing as I have built the momentum and habit I can complete this one this month too.)

3)   Revise three hizbs from the end of the Qur’an.

4)  Keep a food diary. I’d also like to keep distinct meals, so that they don’t become a continuous graze, but I think keeping a food diary will help that, so it’s really part of the main goal.

These are just my Islamic goals, and don’t include all the things that I’ll be doing over the next 5 weeks anyway, such as:

–    Making up my days from Ramadan.

–    Fasting the six days of Shawwal.

–    Getting back to teaching again.

–    Getting back to exercising regularly when I’m done fasting.

–    Reading more (especially the Hunger Games trilogy) and listening to audio books (always non-fiction).

–    Phoning my friends and staying in touch more.

Obviously a lot of my goals for the coming weeks are a rinse-and-repeat of my goals from Ramadan, and that’s mainly because I’ll be fasting for two of these weeks and I don’t want to set any goals that will be hard to achieve when my energy levels – and therefore self-control (seriously, the lower your energy levels the worse your self-control) – will be depleted.

Do you have any goals for September? Islamic or otherwise? How are you going to achieve them?

Ramadan 1433 Review

2:185
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
[Surah Al-Baqarah: 185]

Alhamdulillah I feel pretty good overall about this Ramadan. Of course, it could always have gone better (I could have prayed more, read more, revised more, etc) but as they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And it was a good Ramadan.

This Ramadan I divided my goals into what I intended to accomplish, what I’d like to accomplish, if possible, and what I wouldn’t do. This took the pressure off me and made it easy to see my priorities. Also, it should be known, I chose things that wouldn’t be too taxing for my main goals, and used them to build some momentum. So here’s how it all went:

Things I was determined to do:

1)  Read the Qur’an.

Alhamdulillah I finished this on 5th of August – which was the 17th day of Ramadan. I don’t think I’ve ever finished the Qur’an that quick, Subhanallah, but as it was my main goal that I could work on during the day, I gave it more effort, especially at the beginning.

2)   Pray Tarawih.

Alhamdulillah I prayed Tarawih 15 or 16 times. At face value, it’s a little demoralising to think that all that effort and I only prayed half the month, but in reality it is pretty good considering I obviously wasn’t praying the entire month AND we had more guests than we’ve had before during Ramadan. (And therefore WAAAAYYY more washing up.)

3)   Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week.

I knocked this one out of the park, mashallah. I deliberately chose something super easy – 2 rakahs in which I could recite any surah, however short or long, and only a couple of times a week. I don’t think I ever prayed only 2 rakat, and I frequently prayed more than two or three times a week – in the last ten days I prayed Qiyam every night.

4)   Make my dua in the morning and evening.

Alhamdulillah, I did good on this one, too. It helps that I stuck to a VERY short list of dua/adhkar that took me less than five minutes to get through, and they were basically the same every morning and night.

Things I wanted to do, but wasn’t focused on:

1)   Finish memorising Surah Yunus.

Alhamdulillah I finished this the day before Eid. Honestly, I feel like this is my biggest accomplishment this Ramadan, as I didn’t really think I’d do it, especially given that I’ve been meaning to finish it for a couple of years now, Subhanallah. I think it helped that I was in the habit of reading Qur’an at this stage, and spending half an hour on it, so it wasn’t a truly new behaviour. Plus, I started this just before the last ten days, when I was motivated to make the most of what was left.

2)   Publish one post every day on this blog.

This one only really lasted while I wasn’t praying and therefore wasn’t fasting. I think it’s the combination of the change in routine (no meals to prepare/serve in the middle of the day, and no snacks to bake – and snacks are my job), and the fact that my focus was more Islamic than it is at other times. Outside of Ramadan I definitely think that posting every day is far too ambitious for me. However, I think I can manage to blog more than once a week (which I did during Ramadan).

3)   Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.

I actually thought I’d choose this one over finishing Surah Yunus, because I knew it’d be quite easy and fun. I memorised most of these Surahs as a kid, and I didn’t always understand what I was saying, so going back over the verses I once struggled with and realising how easy they actually are in terms of meaning does give me a chuckle at my little girl self. Also, it’s sooooooo much easier to revise surahs I learnt when I was little than the ones I’ve learnt as an adult. Anyways, I only revised one hizb (the last and easiest one), and I’ve started to incorporate the surahs I have a kiddie hang-up on in my prayers, so that they’ll become like Al-Fatiha Inshallah.

4)   Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

Yeah, ok this sooo didn’t happen. I knew it was going to be tough in Ramadan because I could only do it at night, when I could guzzle water throughout and afterwards, but I really didn’t want to lose my fitness. Hah! Lose it I did. I think I should have aimed for three times a week – it would have felt more manageable. Four was just too hard. Also, I tried doing cardio the first week: bad idea. Strength was definitely the way to go, but I needed more rest in between workouts.

Things I was determined NOT to do:

1)   Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films.

Totally nailed this one. There were a few times when I was tempted to watch an episode of something, but it wasn’t all that strong, and by the end of the month, I’d gotten in the habit of not watching stuff. So now, when I’ve got the time and there’s a lull in my energy levels, I forget that there’s always TV. 🙂 I guess this is a good thing though.

2)   Overeat.

Alhamdulillah, I think I managed this one. I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full, so it went well. The only thing is the quality of food I ate. Normally I track my food (to ensure a 40% carb, 40% fat, 20% protein ratio – or to keep me mindful of it at any rate) using an app on my iphone, but not having normal mealtimes made it kinda hard.

In addition to this I also listened to 2 audio books:

–      The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life & Business – Charles Duhigg

–      Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength – Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney

I picked these two books because I really wanted to have a chance at both completing my Ramadan habits and continuing them outside of Ramadan. They were fabulously motivational, insightful and informative and I learned A LOT about habits, habit formation and self-control from these two books. Some of the habits, I’ve applied, others have changed my approach to trying to do things.

I also read a book called ‘Watching the English’ by Kate Fox, an anthropologist who decided to study English culture. It’s very interesting, and actually helped me to understand why I find some things in Algerian culture a bit OTT, such as the obsession with cooking and the amazing dramatics people come out with at certain times. I know it’s not just Algerians that do these things, but realising that I’m uncomfortable, not because it necessarily is over the top, but because I come from a culture where gushing earnestness (food) is frowned upon and restraint is demanded. As interesting as the book was, the fact that it wasn’t a great gripping novel gave it the added advantage of being perfect to send me to sleep on those occasions after Fajr when I couldn’t doze off. A half hour of this book and it was definitely lights out!

Some overall observations:

–   Every Ramadan I rediscover something about myself that I always forget afterwards: my biggest incentive for getting out of bed in the morning – the thing I always look forward to – is a cup of tea (more even than the rest of my breakfast). I have a terrible time getting up in Ramadan because I know I can’t have my tea. It’s a really big problem, subhanallah. And it’s not the addiction to caffeine – during the day, when I have to do something I don’t like, I can usually motivate myself by telling myself I’ll have a cuppa afterwards.

–   I have grossly underestimated the number of Islamic blogs there are floating around. It’s nice to have a little reminder pop up in my reader, as well as a good laugh at some of the Islamic humour stuff. Of course, I wasted hours online going from one good blog to the next, but at least it was Islamic.

–   Now this might just be me, but I’ve noticed that praying at night with hijab in the middle of a North African summer with an incandescent lightbulb makes the room way hotter. Fluorescent bulbs just don’t seem to radiate the same heat. And this is with a fan pointed straight at me. Anyone else agree that incandescent are HOT?

–   The more I pray at night, the easier it is to concentrate in my prayers during the day. Not total concentration, mind you, but a definite improvement on the norm. I think it’s one of those cases of practice makes perfect. Hmmm. Of course, it helped that I was doing a lot of Ibadah anyway and avoiding sins, so my heart (and head) weren’t exposed to so much crap, which probably strengthened my heart a bit.

All in all, I’m declaring Ramadan 1433 a success. My priority was Ibadah, and I did good. My only concern now is how to incorporate these new habits after Ramadan. There’s no point in just saying I hope to continue with them – I have to figure out how I’m going to do that, as well as what exactly I intend to accomplish.

What can you take from Ramadan this year to help you improve yourself in your deen?

Here are my reviews for week one , week two and week three.

One more day left, and Ramadan 1433 is over! 😦 Here’s this week’s review!

Things I will do Inshallah:

1)  Read the Qur’an. – DONE!!

2)   Pray Tarawih.

I prayed Tarawih every night except Saturday (we were out) and tonight (that time o’the month. again.), so I’m very happy with this one, Alhamdulillah.

3) Pray a minimum of 2 rakahs of Qiyam ul-layl, two or three times a week.

DONE!! You may remember that last week I stated that I wanted to pray Qiyam every night during the last ten nights, and Alhamdulillah I did, praying a minimum of 4 rakahs every night.

4) Make my dua in the morning and evening.

DONE!! Alhamudlillah, I think this one has really started to become a habit.

5)  Finish memorising Surah Yunus.

I have made good progress with this one, even though I had to slow my pace as I’ve reached the pages that I haven’t memorised before, and I can only memorise a maximum of one page a day. I still have 2.5 pages left, and I’m determined to finish them before Maghrib tomorrow, Inshallah.

Things I’d like to do, but might not:

1)  Publish one post every day on this blog.

Another week, another no show. Hey, at least I’m publishing once a week – it’s more than I’ve done over the year!

2)  Revise some Qur’an. Maybe the last 4 hizbs.

I have only really truly revised the last hizb completely and properly, inside out. The second last is coming along nicely, but I don’t know if I’ll get it all revised by tomorrow evening.

3)  Exercise 4 times a week Inshallah.

I only exercised once this week. Unfortunately my knees started to act up and my right knee got swollen (probably from standing for so long) and they hurt way too much for exercise to be a reasonable activity. Oh well.

Things I will not do Inshallah:

1)   Watch any of my usual TV programmes / films.

DONE!! I ain’t watched nuffin’!

2)   Overeat.

DONE!! Alhamdulillah.

Overall, I think this week went quite well. I had serious problems with my willpower early on in the week, but I’ve made progress on most of my goals, Alhamdulillah, so I’m happy with it.

Inshallah I’ll put up a full review of the whole month either tomorrow or some time after Eid, with some of my thoughts / musings about this year’s Ramadan.

How was your last week of Ramadan? How did the last ten days go for you?