Ramadan Reflection #1: Purify Your Soul With Salah

Assalamualaikum Everyone!

In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.

I am starting up my Ramadan Reflections (previously called Enlightened Encounters) once again for this Ramadan. Throughout the month, we tend to learn many beautiful and valuable lessons from small encounters and reflections. This is a place for me to express my thoughts and insights, and share them with you, hoping that you’ll benefit from them in some way or another. May Allah s.w.t. grant us knowledge and guide us to purify ourselves and improve our character as Muslims, Ameen. Before I begin, I would like to remind you all that these are only my reflections.

Speaking of purifying ourselves, let me ask you a question, how often do we wake up for Fajr? You know, the time of the day when most of us prefer sleeping in our warm, comfortable beds, when it is dark and quiet in our homes, and the only thing we can hear is the soft breeze outside our windows and the birds chirping early in the morning. Let us not forget it is also the time of the day that Allah s.w.t. has commanded us to pray two sunnah rakats, followed by two fardh rakats. We find it so difficult to wake up for a total of about 10 minutes, to do something that is obligatory in Islam. Why is that?

We are often too worried that we won’t get enough sleep and energy for our busy day at work tomorrow, or the exam we have coming up. Or maybe it’s because we were up late that night watching Netflix or talking to our friends. While all that can be fun and important, we can’t forget the importance of Salah. Have you ever thought that maybe that one additional (mandatory) prayer before sunrise, might just make your day a little bit better? When Allah s.w.t. sees that you have taking time out of your schedule for Him, He might help you in a greater way.

With Ramadan having arrived, the interesting thing to think about is that, suddenly, those individuals who didn’t have the energy to pray Fajr or any other prayer through out the day for the last 11 months, will now make sure they don’t miss a single Salah. SubhanaAllah, we are taking a step towards our Lord, but what about the rest of the year?

I can’t remember where it was that I heard this great analogy that I want to elaborate on and share with all of you. It kind of makes us think twice about the importance we give to Salah. So say you’re a middle-aged man, who’s working a 9-5 job, with a few additional projects on side. You also have a wife and two kids, who you have to take to extra-curricular commitments, attend family parties and all the other things an average middle-aged man would do. One day, amidst your busy schedule, you feel a pain in your chest. The pain is sharp. The pain is unbearable and it’s preventing you from being able to go about your daily routine. You’re not sure why it’s there. So you book a doctor’s appointment immediately to get it checked. You need to know if this pain is something serious, or is it temporary and will go away in time. Now, in order to make it to the doctor’s office, you cancel a meeting here, move a soccer practice there, you move your entire schedule around just so you can make it to the doctor’s to find out what is causing that pain.

Isn’t that interesting? When a person feels a pain in their body, when they feel their body is being harmed, they do anything they can to find out what it is, to make sure it’s nothing too serious. They re-arrange their schedules for that visit to the doctor, that they believe is so mandatory. Why do they do that? Because they want to survive. They also know that they must visit the doctor, and if they don’t, the consequences could be detrimental to their health. So my question is, if people can change their entire schedules for a doctor’s appointment they believe is a “must” for their body, why can’t they take a few minutes out of their day to pray to Allah s.w.t., a command that is a “must” for our souls?

Similar to how doctor’s can cure and heal our bodies, prayer can purify and heal our souls. Especially during Ramadan. We need prayer in our lives. Taking time out of our day to do something that makes us patient, that makes us concentrate, that makes us reflect, that gives us time to ask Allah s.w.t. for anything, is that not something we need? It’s a medicine for our soul, that can teach us so many beautiful lessons.

In the Qur’an, Allah s.w.t. says, “And seek help through patience and prayer” (2:45). Only when we turn to Allah s.w.t., will we gain the help and guidance that we need. Instead of making Salah something that is an afterthought, make it a priority. When planning out our days, we must include prayer in our schedules. Whether we work or attend school, we must make time for Salah each day. Pray on time. Focus on perfecting your Salah, understanding the words you say while you pray, allowing it to be something through which Allah s.w.t. will protect you and purify your heart and your soul.

So I ask you, friends and family, this Ramadan, when you focus on making sure you don’t miss a single prayer, take it one step further by also focusing on making sure you never miss a single prayer in your life again. Don’t let Salah be an afterthought, something that you squeeze in whenever you can, but rather something you remember to do before anything else, fulfilling a command that will bring you one step closer to Jannah.

May Allah s.w.t. make us steadfast in our prayer and make it easy for us to keep up with each and every one throughout our lives in’sha’Allah. Ameen.

prayer

Pray sincerely this Ramadan.

‘Tis the Season for Nutella

So we’ve all tried the famous Nutella Donuts and Nutella Pockets at Tim Horton’s over the last week haven’t we? Probably one of the best sweet products I’ve ever had from there, the Nutella is just so perfect!

But since Nutella is so “in” these days, I decided to try making my own sort of Nutella dessert: the Nutella Oreo Brownie Bites! Just saying the words chocolate and brownie and Nutella in the same sentence makes me hungry for these delicious and easy to make desserts! Whether you’re having friends or family over, or you just need some dessert to cheer you up, these are super simple to make!

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Here is the recipe for making these tasty Nutella Oreo Brownie Bites!

Ingredients:
1 Jar Nutella
3 Eggs
1 Cup Flour
A Pinch of Salt
12 Oreos (Any flavour of your choice!) 

When I made these, I halved the recipe because I wanted to make less, but you can adjust it depending on how many you want.

Special Materials:
Cupcake Pan
Cupcake Liners
Cooling Rack

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Mix together Nutella, eggs, flour and salt until the mixture is smooth.
3. Fill half of each cupcake liner with Nutella. Place in the Oreo cookie. Top off each cup with remaining brownie mixture. Feel free to add nuts or chocolate chips…anything you like!
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes and check to see if they are done early! When the toothpick comes out clean, your bites are done!

And that’s it! So easy right? I hope you enjoy your Nutella Oreo Brownie Bites, trust me, they’ll be gone in a night!

That’s all for now!

-A

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 10

Dua

Ramadan is more than half done. Many of us don’t want this beautiful and blessed month to finish so quickly. With such few days left of this month, I hope that each of us can make the most of it’s final days. I hope that each of us can say with confidence, that there is at least one thing about our character that we have changed or improved. And with regards to refining our character, and purifying our soul, it’s important to establish the quality of forgiving others and seeking Allah s.w.t.’s forgiveness.

With Ramadan coming to an end, we are also approaching the end of the second ten days of this month, the days that bring Allah s.w.t.’s mercy and forgiveness.  Each of us try to seek Allah s.w.t’s forgiveness in Ramadan, but we must ask ourselves whether we are seeking His mercy from our hearts? When we ask for forgiveness for our sins, are we sure that we won’t commit those sins again? Are we letting go of our past mistakes and refining our character so that we stay away from bad deeds and instead, perform righteous deeds?

In order for us to have our sins forgiven by Allah s.w.t., we must recognize and be aware of what is right and what is wrong. We must recognize that which we did wrong. We all make mistakes, and we don’t acknowledge that some are much greater sins than we think they are. Say, backbiting for example, some people do it without acknowledging that they are doing it. We have to make a promise to Allah s.w.t. and ourselves that we will not commit the same sin again. And most importantly, we must pray to and ask Allah s.w.t. to forgive us.

The Qur’an repeatedly says, Allah s.w.t. is “Ever-Forgiving.” Thus, we should never doubt that He won’t forgive us. In Surat At-Tawbah, Allah s.w.t. says, “So if you repent, that is best for you” (9:3). Repenting to Allah s.w.t. will do us good, and when we refrain from bad deeds, Allah s.w.t. will bless us in this life, and in the Hereafter in’sha’Allah.

But with that in mind, we must recognize that being merciful is a trait of Allah s.w.t., so is this not a trait we want to have in our own character?

When people upset us or make us angry, whether it is our family members, coworkers, or friends, it is important to have the courage to forgive those who have wronged us. When we forgive them, we will achieve peace, rather than being in a constant state of anger or distress. When we forgive them sincerely, we will bring them one step closer to being forgiven by Allah s.w.t.

Yes, people will lie. People will backbite. People will hurt us. But if Allah s.w.t., who is the Most Gracious and Most Merciful, can forgive us and tell us to seek His forgiveness when we commit an act that does not please Him, then we should be able to have the mercy and courage to forgive those who have displeased us. Simple as that.

So I suggest that this Ramadan, we forgive those who may have upset us, and we seek forgiveness from those who we have wronged. Asking for forgiveness is easier said that done, but if we establish the courage to do so, I know we will certainly achieve peace and Allah s.w.t.’s mercy.

W.Salam,

Amira

 

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 9

Patience.

What does it mean to have patience (Sabr)? As children, we were always taught to be patient when we wanted to something. When we were children, it was a toy. When we were in high school, it was getting accepted into university. And as we grow older, the list of things that require patience grows bigger and bigger. Sadly, as we age, our ability to remain patient tends to weaken as we feel the urgency to get what we want immediately.

We lack patience in many aspects of our lives, whether it’s waiting for something we want or remaining patient in a situation that upsets us. As human beings, we have a tendency to become caught up in little things that bother us or upset us, and we spend hours and hours thinking about them, worrying about them, or being frustrated about them. But the reality is, these things are not worth putting our time into, when they are only a little incident in our enormous lives. All we have to do is, let it go, which is easier said than done. Instead of becoming anxious or worrisome, we should remain patient, and focus on the things that will allow us to improve and perfect our character and do good in this world.

Patience has no boundaries and no limits. It is what refines the human soul. If we think about it, our souls are confined into very limited bodies that can only handle so much. What we must remind ourselves and one another is that having patience is something Allah s.w.t. appreciates. When we realize the importance of patience in Islam, we will ultimately be able to come closer to Him.

Allah s.w.t. says in Surat Al-Baqarah: O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (2:153) During hardships, we tend to forget that Allah s.w.t. has a plan for each of us, and if things don’t work out the way we want them to, surely, Allah s.w.t. will have a better plan or outcome. We should always seek guidance and help through patience and prayer, because if we continue to seek and remember Allah s.w.t., He will surely open up many doors for us. We should put our trust in Him and have faith that whatever happens or doesn’t happen is for the better.

Just like fasting, where a person prevents himself from going to the fridge no matter how hungry or thirsty they are, the patient person is able to hold back his anger, desperation, fear, anticipation, and eagerness.

Developing our patience means to develop our character. We want to gain a sense of inner peace, calmness, and self-control. Patience allows us to appreciate what we have. It allows us to not worry about things that are beyond our control and know that we can achieve peace in our hearts if we put our trust into Allah s.w.t.

Ramadan is not over yet. Let’s work on being more patient for the things we want. Let’s not get frustrated. Let’s accept that Allah s.w.t. is the best of Planners, and that whatever happens, is surely for the better, even if it doesn’t seem that way initially. When something upsets us, let’s not burst into anger, but rather stay calm, and know that this difficult time will pass. Let’s make dua that Allah s.w.t. continues to give us patience in every situation we face. Let’s remember that Allah s.w.t. is with those who remain patient.

Good things come to those who wait.

W.Salam,

Amira

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 8

The real world is full of enlightening encounters.

The people we meet and the people we interact with on a daily basis; they are all so unique. So exclusive. Each with their own distinct characteristics. Each with their own story.

Each of us have a story. For some of us, our stories might be very obvious and known by those whom we work with. But some of us, we just don’t express ourselves as much. This may simply be a matter of our personalities, and how much we like to talk and tell others about ourselves. After all, every one does have their on comfort level.

But as Muslims, there’s one story we should all share with others. And that is, the story of being a Muslim. And how beautiful it is to be a Muslim, and how blessed we are to be Muslims.

As people who live in a multicultural society, where we encounter different faces from different backgrounds on a daily basis, it is important to use this opportunity to do Da’wah. It is important to clear the misconceptions our society has of Muslims and Islam. But this does not mean arguing with others and telling them that we are right and they are wrong, or calling them ignorant, but rather means sharing the beauty and peace of Islam through kind and positive words. Simply, telling our story.

I recently started working as a children’s program co-ordinator at the Oakville Public Library. I work with many lovely, and generous people. Among these people, I happen to be the one and only young Muslim girl, who has a Pakistani background, and wears a hijab – surprisingly, a type of person some of my coworkers have never worked or personally interacted with before.

When I first started, a nice lady would compliment the hijab I wore every day. Red, pink, brown; every time I wore a different colour, she would compliment me. I would gladly thank her each time. But the more she said kind things about my Hijab, the more it became clear to me that these compliments, were a symbol for her curiosity. She wanted to know why I wear it, she wanted to know whether it was my choice, maybe she just wanted to know where I bought my Hijabs.

One day, after telling me she loved my brown hijab with sparkles, she said to me, “I thought they were all black, but these are lovely!” At this point, I had gained some insight. It wasn’t that she was ignorant, she just didn’t know. It was as if there was a flashing red siren telling me to stop everything and explain to her what it meant to wear a Hijab. I immediately took the opportunity to sit down and tell her about my Hijab, its purpose, and its relevance to modesty, and of course that no, they aren’t all black.

And when I did, subhanaAllah, she was amazed. She was smiling and she was happy to have gained some wisdom about this aspect of being a Muslim. She seemed wiser. Once I had opened up to her, once I told her my story, her curiosity kept pouring out of her. She was happy to see that I was so happy to speak about my faith.

So what can we learn from this simple experience?

Often, in our workplace or school environment, we come in contact with individuals who are simply unaware of our faith. The reason it’s important to express and share what it means to be a Muslim with others is so that they can be educated about it and they can learn the truth. People learn best from hearing one’s first-hand experiences, rather than trying to understand the misconceptions that the media often portrays. There are simple ways to express and educate others about our faith.

So what I suggest is that this Ramadan, let’s engage in conversations that will allow us to educate others about our faith. Not only should we tell others about our faith, but we should also be open to learning about, respecting, and appreciating the faith of others.

Let’s share the beauty of Islam. Let’s tell others how we are privileged to be Muslims, to be able to fast and pray. Let’s be bold and assure that our work environments give us a quick break to pray or break our fast, and let’s tell them why it’s important.

Let’s share our story.

W.Salam,

Amira

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 7

cloud

Verily, with every hardship, there is ease. (94:5) 

By virtue of being human beings, each of us will be tested, over and over again. When you’re going through something difficult, remember that it is a test, a trial in your life, and you’ve been through so many of those. But you still got through it, didn’t you? And just as you’ve passed previous tests in your lives, you’ll pass the ones to come too.

Our days may often feel cloudy or rainy, but remember that the rain doesn’t last forever.

During times of hardship – when we don’t get the job we want, when we are dealing with a health issue, when we are unable to solve a problem with someone, or simply when things aren’t going the way we want them to – we may have a tendency to forget that Allah s.w.t. has guaranteed us, that with every hardship, comes ease.

Tests will come at us from every direction; events will test the very core of our character and the strength of our beliefs. But these are the tests we cannot afford to fail. Allah s.w.t. guarantees, that when we face hardship, if we remain patient and respond to situations as best as we can, things will become easier for us.

If we had to choose between the easy path to success and happiness over the difficult path, most of us would probably choose the easy path, would we not? But if Allah s.w.t. has said that we will have to walk on difficult paths and face trials and obstacles in our lives through which we will be tested, then why choose the easy path, when we know that the real ease and reward comes from being patient during the most difficult times.

A friend of mine has continuously reminded me that “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that which it can bear” (2:286), and this simple reminder should help each of remain strong in our faith and know that Allah s.w.t. will only test us to the extent that we are capable of handling.

I know we all experience difficulties in our lives. For some, the difficulties are much greater than others. Every person handles them differently, but this Ramadan, let’s try to improve our attitude towards the hardships we face.

Let’s be patient, let’s smile, let’s look for the good in every situation, and make du’aa and know that difficult times are not here to stay, similar to how the rain is not here to stay. After every storm, there is a bright sun that peeks through the clouds. Just as this sun brings happiness and joy into people’s lives, when we get through a trial with patience and perseverance, things will get easier, and you will also feel happiness and joy. You will be a revised, renewed, and better person. A wiser, stronger, more patient and blessed individual who will feel a sense of triumph, as you bring your character and strength to where it needs to be. Don’t hang your head low but keep it up and be hopeful because there are amazing days and moments ahead of you.

It begins with us walking towards a better life with patience, commitment and knowing that the hardships we face are only a test, and we will get through it, and surely, after hardship comes ease.

Remember Allah s.w.t. when things get difficult, but always remember Him and thank Him when things get easier too. 

W. Salam,

Amira

 

Enlightened Encounters #30Days: Day 6

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Parents. 

In Surat Al-Isra, Allah s.w.t. says: And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour (17:23).

I know I’m not alone for this one. Last week, I was getting tired and weary because of work, and when I’d come home at 5 p.m., I did not want to do anything. The laziness was real. My mom and dad both wanted me to do something for them: my mom wanted me to help with my sister’s wedding preparations, and my dad wanted me to edit one of his presentations, but I was just “too tired.” When I was having a rough day, I spoke to my sister, who told me something so simple, yet so powerful. She said to me: Our parents know us better than ourselves, so you just have to be patient. And she couldn’t be more right. You can never be “too tired” to do what your parents ask.

Something that we all struggle with is being respectful and dutiful, as respectful as we should be, to our parents. We’ve all entered a world where we think it’s okay to say whatever we want to our parents; a place where disagreeing on various topics is acceptable, or when they tell us to do something, we do the complete opposite; we speak to them in harsh and angry tones. We complain to our parents, we release our anger on them, and we ignore them when we are upset. But the misconception that lies in our hearts and our minds is that we think all this is okay, just because they are our parents. But the reality is, it’s not okay. When do we think about the love and care they have for us? Or how they are the most supportive during difficult times? Or how much of our wisdom comes from them? Or how excited they get when we accomplish something great?

Similar to how lying to someone can be considered disobeying Allah s.w.t., disrespecting our parents, may also be considered disobeying Allah s.w.t.

The verse from the Qur’an stated above, shows how important it is to obey our parents. Immediately after Allah s.w.t. says to obey Him, He tells us to be dutiful to our parents. SubhanaAllah, our parents hold such a high place in Allah s.w.t.’s Grace and Mercy. So it’s necessary to improve on how we speak with, act with and think of our parents. We must pray that Allah s.w.t. blesses them and sends His mercy upon them. We must thank Allah s.w.t. for blessing us with parents who care for us, who have raised us, nurtured us, educated us, and have helped us learn right from wrong. We must show gratitude to our parents for all that they do.

This Ramadan, I suggest that we start off by seeking forgiveness from our parents for disrespecting or hurting them in anyway. I hope that we can learn to appreciate and show gratitude for all that they do for us. I hope that we can start to speak to them softly and kindly, with love and compassion. I hope we can engage in positive and happy conversations with them. If you’re someone who needs to spend more time with your parents, do so by helping your father at work or helping your mother prepare iftar. If you’re someone who often speaks in a disrespectful manner to your parents, take the extra second to think of a better, more positive and kinder response before you speak up. Tell your parents how your day really went, rather than simply saying, “It was good.” If you’re someone who simply doesn’t give your parents enough hugs, then give them more; I know they will appreciate it.

So yes, my sister was right, when we feel upset or when we feel like our parents do not understand us or when we’re just too lazy to do what they ask, we simply have to be patient, accept what they say, and please Allah s.w.t. by being dutiful to our parents.

Love your parents, trust me, they’ve done a lot.

W. Salam,

Amira