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Would Her Lover Say That?

When I say Muslims should love one another, you think "yes of course", but what does this love really mean?

Most Muslims feel free to criticize and ridicule their fellow Muslims, especially if they don't know them or "there isn't a chance" they would meet. Thus they make fun of Sami Yusuf's behavior in his videos or his voice. Or ridicule and abuse random Muslim girls and women for wearing tight clothes or showing too much skin or wearing too much make up.

They think there is no chance that they would ever meet that person, completely unaware of the life that awaits them, completely unable to think like a Muslim (with faith and awareness of the afterlife), yet they debase others for not being perfect Muslims or perfect human beings.

Whenever you are about to say, or even think, something about another Muslim, even if it is a random Muslim girl in a photo on the internet, first ask yourself "Would a lover say or think that of his/her beloved?". If not, and you still feel free to say it or think it, know that great shame awaits you in Paradise, and if you make it a habit, a lowly place there as well.

May Allah increase our awareness of our many faults so that we can keep correcting them, instead of going about judging others and saying and thinking things that only debase ourselves in this life and the next.

Too much hardship?

It's never too much. It's exactly the right amount to create change in you, to bring you out of your comfort zone and closer to Him.

A Better Way to Fight Stereotypes

Posters and billboards are not enough to fight Islamophobia. The fight should be directed at the sources of information that lead to negative biases—the media, the internet, and ourselves.

There are many posters floating around on the internet that were made to fight popular stereotypes against Muslims (such as those posters that talk against the West's beloved fantasy that Islam oppresses women). While these posters bring feelings of power and liberation to those who create them and to those who pass them around, a Muslim activist's time can be spent in a better way to fight stereotypes, due to the way human nature works.

It is about how stereotypes are made in the human brain and how they are strengthened. See, stereotypes are general conclusions that we draw from the massive amounts of data that enters our brains every day. For example if many times we see cats attack small birds, we conclude that cats are dangerous to small birds. Now, if cats started creating posters that claimed cats are not bird killers, we wouldn't believe the posters because we have data in our brains that contradicts the posters' claims.

When people who hold negative stereotypes against Muslims see anti-stereotype posters, they don't say to themselves: "Oh! I have been so wrong about Muslims all along." They look at the posters with indifference because the information they have gathered in their brains for all of these years tells them that their stereotypes are correct. One single anti-stereotype poster has no power to fight the one million stereotype-supporting posters that many Westerners carry in their brains against Islam.

Stereotypes are natural. Allah has made the human brain processes in a way that leads to their creation. Fighting stereotypes is like fighting the clouds that come out of the oceans. What use is removing a cloud or two when there is a whole ocean that is constantly producing more of it?

The way to fight stereotypes is to fight the data sources that generate them. Most of the anti-Muslim data that exists in the West's brain comes from the media, and some of it comes from Muslims themselves

  • The majority of the West's media dislikes Islam to some degree and for various reasons. Some Christians feel better when they are told how bad Muslims are, which motivates the media to do it to please them. Most Jews, whether following Judaic religion or atheists, love Israel and consider Islam the biggest enemy of their beloved state, which motivates them to use their prominent media and publishing positions to portray Islam in a negative light. Non-Jewish atheists dislike all religion and love to publish anything against it, and Islam makes the easiest target.

    All of these interests and many more have come together to create today's Islamophobic media and internet atmosphere.

    To counter these interests, the media and the content on the internet should be made more honest and agenda-free. This is done by having more Muslims work in the media field. Whether as reporters, news photographers, editors, filmmakers, bloggers, website owners, writers and scholars, or media executives and entrepreneurs, Muslims can ensure that the media's systemic anti-Muslim bias does not pollute their own work and the work of their subordinates.

    A book about the history of Islam, if written by a person who has reason to dislike Islam, will end up being a negative portrayal of Islam, even if the person tries not to make it such. So far a lot of the works published on Islam are written by such people. There is an obvious danger in a situation like this, when almost everyone who writes about a religion dislikes it right from the start. The truth has no chance of surviving in such a situation.

    Things can be made better by adding more voices to the mix. If some of the highest quality books on Islam are written by Muslims, the publishing media atmosphere will be made less Islamophobic.

  • Muslims: We often say that Islam is great. But we aren't great Muslims (as Tariq Ramadan says). Anyone who wishes to spread Islam and to be a representative of Islam must first look at their own actions and their own heart. Saying that Islam is great does nothing, because words are empty. Our actions and behavior, our kindness and generosity should talk for us.

    Being a Muslim means being a representative of Allah. That is what the word khalifah means when God says "I will put a khalifah on Earth" [from Quran 2:30]. We are Allah's representatives, how are we representing Him? How many of us, through being terrible representatives of Allah, have turned people away from Him and His guidance?

This is not to say that anti-stereotype posters are completely useless. They don't affect those who hold strong stereotypes, but those who don't may be made to realize that these stereotypes are questionable. People who haven't been strongly affected by the media's anti-Islam bias will see that there are multiple sides to the issues related to Islam, and these stereotype-fighting posters may motivate them to find out more about Islam (what they end up finding out, of course, is another issue.)

But if the goal is to fight stereotypes at large, rather than reaching the small sector of unbiased individuals in the West's populace, the fight should be directed at the sources of information that lead to negative biases—the media, the internet, and ourselves.

The Charge of Faith

Life is constantly pushing us to worship it, and if we do not fight back through worshiping Allah, we will end up as its slaves

Even if you have been a great Muslim for the past 12 months and you have created a great relationship between you and Allah, if you suddenly stop trying, everything will go back to normal, you will lose your spiritual peace and will feel rejected by Allah again.

That's because there is no way in this life to reach a certain point of iman (faith) and stay there without working hard. There is no stability. Every moment of our lives we are either gaining iman or losing it.

Faith in Allah is like the charge of a laptop battery. We are recharging our iman whenever we are worshiping Allah with attention and sincerity, and we are losing charge whenever we are doing anything other than remembering Allah. Some activities drain our iman faster than others. But regardless, it is constantly getting drained except for those moments when we are remembering and worshiping Allah.

The reason is that iman is not the natural state of existence on earth. What's natural is to be controlled by life, to complain, to get upset, to love money, to need people's attention and support. Life is constantly pushing us to worship it, and if we do not fight back through worshiping Allah, we will end up as its slaves, lost in its darknesses and disconnected from Allah.

Salah is My Real Life

The Muslim who has been given true hikmah (wisdom) is the one who rushes his life to get back to his salah, instead of rushing his salah to get back to his 'life'.

If you want to live a truly fulfilling and mature life, expand your real life, expand your real world; the moments you spend inside salah. This dunya (worldly life) is a useless dream world, and the moments we spend inside salah are our only waking moments, the only ones that are real, that remain, that matter. So what kind of insane person ignores reality and gives priority to empty and futile moments of sleep?

***

These thoughts were inspired by these beautiful and eye-opening quotes by two beloved teachers:

If you ever find yourself rushing through salat to make it to another engagement, it’s time to reorganize your priorities. [Yasir Qadhi]
If you don’t try to wake up for Fajr, there is really no benefit in you waking up at all. [Yasir Qadhi]
Strive for the Hereafter according to how long you shall remain there, and strive for this world according to how long you shall remain here. [Yasir Qadhi]
On that Day, we will see the true reality. On that Day, we will realize that two rak`at (units) of prayer were greater than everything in the heavens and the earth. We will realize the priceless check that was left on our doorstep every night as we slept. There will come a day when we would give up everything under the sky just to come back and pray those two rak`at. [Yasmin Mogahed]
Salah is something we squeeze into our day, when we find time—if that. Our ‘lives’ don’t revolve around salah. Salah revolves around our ‘lives.’ If we’re in class, salah is an afterthought. If we’re at the mall, the Macy’s sale is more urgent. Something is seriously wrong when we put aside the very purpose of our existence in order to watch a basketball game. [Yasmin Mogahed]
Reflecting upon this incident scholars have explained that the process of going from fifty to five was a deliberate one, intended to teach us the true place salah should hold in our lives. Imagine for a moment actually praying fifty times a day. Would we be able to do anything else but pray? No. And that’s the point. What greater way than that to illustrate our life’s true purpose? As if to say, salah is our real life; all the rest that we fill our day with…just motions. [Yasmin Mogahed]

Fast Fear

“Mama, it’s not bad, please,” reassures Abdurrahman. He’s come early from office, and is sitting on the living room carpet. Ibrahim and Amna are busy building with two large stacks of legos on either side of him.

I scarcely hear my mother-in-law’s voice, but Abdurrahman has been trying to reassure her for at least 10 minutes. I meanwhile am sitting at the kitchen table, desperately trying to catch up on my own work. Time is fleeting, especially during Ramadan, and I have fallen far behind. Also, the children’s long summer holiday, while wonderfully ‘free’, leaves little time for anything else.

What follows is an excerpt from the 10th chapter in the sequel to ‘A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz Amma’, published by Greenbird Books in April 2012. The sequel, 'Ya-Sin' narrates the family’s ongoing journey through the Qur’aan with a focus on Surah Ya Sin, the surah they set out to learn following completion of Juz Amma. Although each of the chapters are connected, each one may be read as a stand-alone text.

“Mama, it was his decision. We didn’t force him,” I hear Abdurrahman say, his own voice rising slightly. Ibrahim picks up his head, sensing that he is the subject of conversation.

“May I speak to Nonna, again?” asks Ibrahim, sticking out his hand toward his father, as if to take the phone.

“No,” says Abdurrahman, more sternly than one would have expected. Ibrahim in turn shoots a look of hurt and confusion at his father, who is visibly struggling.

“Mama, I think we should speak later, per favore,” says Abdurrahman, obviously trying to exit now and avoid any further conflict, with either mother or son.

“Papa, I really want to speak to Nonna. I need to explain to her that I wanted to fast and that you didn’t force me, and that Sabir was doing it, and that Yaseen was doing it and I thought…” Ibrahim rambles on.

“Ok, bambino, here she is,” says Abdurrahman, finally relenting, and passing the phone to his son.

“Nonna, Nonna, did you hear me?” asks Ibrahim to his grandmother.

I have dropped my work, and also am listening, keenly.

“Nonna, I’m ok, really, I’m ok. It’s actually been pretty fun. I wish you were going to be here when I break my fast tonight. I think you might even be proud of me,” says Ibrahim, smiling, and looking back at his father and then over at me, in the kitchen.

There is a long pause. Nonna appears to be speaking, but is inaudible. Ibrahim changes his expression several times, listening intently.

“Well, I may take a break tomorrow,” he finally says to his grandmother. “But honestly, I feel like I could fast for the rest of Ramadan.”

I cringe slightly at his last statement, hoping that my mother-in-law will not grow increasingly anxious. Abdurrahman and I exchange glances.

“But I won’t, not this year,” continues Ibrahim. “Maybe next year, I’ll try half, and maybe you could even…”

Nonna appears to cut him off, as again he is listening hard.

Bambino,” Abdurrahman finally says. “How about you pass the phone to your sister so she can greet her grandmother, and then I think we need to move toward iftar preparation?”

“But Nonna says she might do one fast with me next year, provided she gets to drink water,” responds Ibrahim, putting his hand over the receiver. “I said that I don’t make the rules, but if she wants to, she’s always welcome.”

MashaAllah, very encouraging,” Abdurrahman responds. “Now, how about it, Amna do you want to speak to your grandmother?”

“Yes, after I build tractor,” she responds, fixated on her legos.

“Well, how about before the tractor?” says Abdurrahman. “Your grandmother is heading out to the theater, and I think you’ve got a very limited window, Ms. Amna.”

“Window?” says Amna, picking up her head, finally.

“Yes, the window of opportunity, and the door, for that matter, are about to close. The tractor might even stop running, so quickly let’s talk to Nonna and then finish up,” encourages Abdurrahman.

“Nonna,” says Amna, taking the phone from Abdurrahman. “I miss you, but I’m making you Otis,” she adds.

Abdurrahman looks quizzically at his daughter.

“Remember, Oh-tis,” she then says, slowly, looking at her father, but still speaking into the receiver.

Again, a pause. Nonna’s voice is unintelligible.

“So I love my birthday Otis, and I love you, and so I make you Otis,” Amna finally concludes, passing the phone back to her father. [1]

“Mama, I didn’t quite follow that last bit, until the end, when Amna mentioned her birthday gift, but bottom line, you have a room full of people here who love you a lot, tractor or no tractor, fast or no fast, and wish they could all jump in your pocket and accompany you to see The Tempest tonight,” says Abdurrahman.[2]“ I really wish you weren’t so far away; per favore, consider another visit after Ramadan,” he adds, lowering his head and his voice, then finally, “addio.”[3]

I watch Abdurrahman. The children also have their gaze on him. I sometimes wonder about all the different worlds he juggles. I can’t quite imagine a conversation with my mother, trying to explain or justify my son’s fast, then segueing effortlessly into a Shakespearean comedy.

“Papa,” says Ibrahim, slowly to his father. “I’m sorry I mentioned my fast to Nonna at the beginning.”

Bambino, nothing to be sorry about. She was concerned about you. Most of my colleagues at work are concerned about me too, and do you know that your Uncle Geo nearly had a panic attack the first time I told him I was fasting. I think it’s hard for someone who doesn’t do Ramadan to fully understand. And remember what I told you about mothers on Sunday,” responds Abdurrahman.

“Mamas were made to worry,” says Ibrahim, quoting his father, exactly.

“Hey, I take issue with that,” I finally pipe in, putting my papers to rest, and walking over from the kitchen. “We were not made to worry. You all simply give us too much to worry about. I think that Nani and Nonna would both agree with me on this one….now, what time is it?” I ask Ibrahim.

“I’ve got two hours to go, Ammi,” says Ibrahim, looking down at the watch that Abdurrahman lent him today, and then stretching and leaning back against his father. “I’m starting to feel like I could use another nap, or a glass of water, or a…”

“A distraction, bambino, that’s all you need,” says Abdurrahman, standing up and pulling his son into his arms. “You and I have a tree to climb and one surah to review before we start preparing iftar and celebrate your first fast.”

“Papa, I don’t have the energy,” says Ibrahim, making his body go limp.

“You do, bambino, you really do. Your mother has kept you under such close watch today, from what I’ve heard, that you must have tons of energy in reserve, just waiting to climb trees.”

“Papa, I really don’t think I can,” responds Ibrahim.

Janu, please don’t force him; he’s never done anything like this before,” I say, looking at Ibrahim with concern. “Why don’t you simply let him rest here on the couch until iftar?” I propose to Abdurrahman.

“Because I know my son. Give us a minute and don’t worry, I won’t cause him any harm,” responds Abdurrahman, starting to walk towards the backdoor with Ibrahim now slung over his shoulder. His navy tie, twisted around, rests on top of Ibrahim’s back, and his office shirt has come un-tucked, but there is still a slight aura of formalism, which seems in stark contrast to the tree climbing activity.

Amna gets up, not wanting to be excluded. “I climb trees,” she says.

“Yes, bilcul baita, but maybe not now,” I caution.

“Bhai jaan climb trees,” Amna adds.

“Preferably not right now,” I repeat. Meanwhile, Abdurrahman and Ibrahim have exited. I follow suit, genuinely concerned about Ibrahim, and not fully trusting Abdurrahman’s judgment of his son at this point. By the time Amna and I reach them, they have already made their way to the third branch of our backyard tree, which is half the size of the one in the park, but still prodigious.

“So I can climb, but I can’t recite right now,” I hear Ibrahim say to his father.

“Why not?” responds Abdurrahman.

“Climbing is easy, reciting is hard, especially when you’re fasting,” says Ibrahim. “My brain wasn’t very clear today, but Ammi said I could take a break and just listen to all my surahs and draw pictures of the ayaat like I used to do in the old days.”[4]

“Nice mom, and soft teacher today,” says Abdurrahman, who sees me approach. Then switching gears into our characters, he says, “So, Lieutenant Laila, apparently Captain Kashif is taking a break from any serious work, today?”

“He’s doing just fine, mashaAllah,” I respond, not playing along, and taking a minute to readjust my dupatta around my neck. “But I would really like for him to come down Abdurrahman. I don’t think he’s up for this right now. You know he could faint up there.”

Amna meanwhile is trying to climb up on the lower branch.

“Ammi, I’m really ok, up here. Papa’s holding my hand. And we’re just going to hang out on this branch, but I think I’m going to park Ya Sin for another day, unless Papa just wants to recite to me.”

“You’ve got a pass on Ya Sin until tomorrow, but promise, no higher,” I say, looking up at both of them.[5]

“Promise, Lieutenant,” says Abdurrahman. “Now, why don’t you leave Amna with me and grab this moment to finish some of your own work. You’ve got a little too much on your plate right now, especially taking into consideration Bihar,” he adds.

“Ammi, we’re all ok,” says Ibrahim, gesturing at the small quorum of tree climbers.

“Ok, but only for 30 minutes,” I respond. “Then, I’m coming to get you all. I need your help in the kitchen if we’re really going to prepare an iftar party for our master faster.”

“Master faster,” repeats Amna enthusiastically, who hangs upside down now on the first branch.

“Yes, master faster,” I respond, looking at our son, who seems to have grown up a lot today.[6]


[1] Otis (Long 2009). See also Otis and the Tornado (2011). Both books tell a wonderful story of friendship and loyalty. Although only snippets of the conversation are audible, we may deduce that Nonna has given Amna Otis for her recent birthday.

[2] The Tempest by William Shakespeare c.1610.

[3] The Qur’aan is replete with references to respecting and honoring ones parents, including Surah Al Isra (17:23), “Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour,” (Abdullah Yusuf Ali 1989, p.680). In the case of Abdurrahman’s reversion to Islam, this ayah has particular significance, namely worshiping Allah and simultaneously honoring his non-Muslim mother. In the commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali goes on to write, “The kindness to parents is an individual act of piety [worship],” with no reference to the faith of the parents (n.2204, p.680).

[4] In Chapter 3, ‘Sirat al Mustaqeem’, as they are working on Surah Al Fatihah, Abdurrahman asked the children to draw how they envision ‘sirat al mustaqeem’; drawing is among the activities in which the children engage throughout A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Towards Juz Amma to enhance their hifdh experience (pp.7-9). In terms of Ibrahim’s specific comment about his ‘brain not being very clear today,’ this is often a normal sensation experienced on the first day of fasting as the body adjusts, however, most Muslims report a heightened awareness and sense of iman throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

[5] ‘Checklists and Saint Francis’, Chapter 20, narrates how Ibrahim took several weeks to complete the hifdh of Surah Al Bayyinah. Although at times, Khadija has exerted more pressure, the predominant theme and approach has been slow and steady, “Remember what Papa told you that night when we were working on Surah Al Fil: your hifdh is not for me, or him, it’s for Allah Subhanahu wa-ta‘ala and also for you; it’s like your own treasure map for this world, and inshaa Allah you will find lots of treasures as you make your way through it. Do you know that the Qur’aan was revealed to Prophet Muhemmed, Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam over 23 years…” (A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Towards Juz Amma, p.69).

[6] Children are not required to complete the fasts of Ramadan until adolescence, however, most children opt to fast earlier due to the communal experience. Parents are also encouraged to introduce fasts gradually, including half-day fasts with younger children, so they may experience the sawm. See also footnote 7 from Chapter 1, ‘The End’, which emphasizes the spiritual nature of the fast, which is also reinforced throughout Chapter 2 of Ya Sin Odyssey. Among other resources, the author recommends the Ramadan Memory Book by Umm Ibrahim (Talibidden Jr) as a wonderful outlet for recording and animating fasts (and Ramadan in general) for young children. Also recommended is Fatimah’s First Fast Day available via Mini Mu’min Publications.

Allahu Akbar

The most ignored part of salah is probably the allahu akbar we say after every motion. It has become a word that we keep repeating over and over again, more than a hundred times a day during salah, and yet we have no idea what it means or what it signifies. It comes from our tongues and never from our hearts.

Next time you make salah focus on putting meaning into these beautiful words. Allahu akbar, God is the Greatest! Allahu akbar and Allah is the most important thing in my life. Allahu akbar and nothing else matters compared to Him. Allahu akbar and to Him I belong and to Him I will return.

These words, said with feeling, with heart, with meaning, can put a new life into your prayers.

A Du`a for Lailatul Qadr

Ya Allah please teach me, teach me the ways of getting closer to You, and block me from everything that would distance me from You.

Heart-Touching Recitation of Surat at-Tin

At The Masjid

“It’s my turn,” says Amna, dropping herself into my lap, then adding, “bhai jaan, move.”

“It’s still my turn,” counters Ibrahim, who is sitting cross-legged in front of me, on the light brown carpet.

“Amna, how about we share the time? Let bhai jaan finish up his work and then you can start, ok?” I ask her gently, not wanting to lose the momentum with Ibrahim, who is working on Yā Sīn and longer surahs from Juz Amma this afternoon.

What follows is an excerpt from the 9th chapter in the sequel to ‘A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz Amma’, published by Greenbird Books in April 2012. The sequel, 'Ya-Sin' narrates the family’s ongoing journey through the Qur’aan with a focus on Surah Ya Sin, the surah they set out to learn following completion of Juz Amma. Although each of the chapters are connected, each one may be read as a stand-alone text.

“I’m first,” says Amna, pointing at herself for emphasis, and starting to raise her voice. Her pink hijab rests loosely around her head, albeit upside down so the seam is on the top rather than at the nape of the neck. She insisted on fitting it herself. Meanwhile her coloring books are strewn around us together with countless crayons—a diversion which did not last long.

“No, I’m first,” responds Ibrahim, “and I’m also older and stronger, and I could…”

Before he says or does anything more, I say, “freeze, everyone.” There is an older woman who is sitting in the far right corner of the mosque reciting quietly who looks up. She appears to be wearing a long blue abaya and blue and white patterned scarf. It is not clear that she understands my discipline technique, but she seems relatively unfazed and carries on with her recitation.

“Amna is not being fair,” says Ibrahim, gritting his teeth, but trying to whisper.

“Bhai jaan is not being fairer,” is Amna’s rebuttal.

“I said ‘freeze’,” I repeat, quietly. “Now Amna, please let your brother continue. Look here, you still need to color the giraffe’s neck,” I add picking up one coloring book. “Otherwise he is going to be very sad, and you don’t want a sad, half-green giraffe do you?”

“Yes,” responds Amna. “My turn,” she repeats.

“Fine,” says Ibrahim, turning abruptly, and pulling away from us. “I won’t review then, and it’s all your fault.” He is speaking to his sister, but I also feel as though he’s directing his comment to me since I am not able to divert her.

Baita, give me a minute to settle her and then we’ll continue, ok?” I say looking tenderly at Ibrahim, who now looks like he is pouting. Meanwhile, he has placed his Qur’aan back on the small wooden stand that he took down earlier from the mosque’s bookshelf and has started twiddling his thumbs.

“My turn,” says Amna, triumphantly.

“Briefly,” I say. “Ok, where’s your qaida?”

Amna looks around. Other than the coloring books, I have placed all the other books we brought on a second Qur’aan stand, at my side.

“Here,” she says, picking up the blue covered book, which, while somewhat tattered, has lasted us over two years.[1]

“That is actually mine,” says Ibrahim, somewhat at a distance, still sulking. “Sabir gave it to me.”

“No it’s mine,” responds Amna.

“Ok, please open the book,” I say, trying to move beyond what feels like a constant struggle between the children.

Amna follows my instruction and has soon flipped to the page with the entire Arabic alphabet.

Aliph,” I say.

Aliph,” she repeats.

Aliph,” I say again, pointing to the first letter. We have been doing this exercise for several weeks now, since her third birthday, and have progressed through the first four letters.

“You know I could do that,” says Ibrahim, who continues to sit at a distance.

Baita, of course you could; you learned this two years ago,” I respond.

“No, I mean, I could teach Amna that,” he clarifies.

“I thought you were at war,” I say, somewhat off the cuff.

“No, we’re friends, she just doesn’t understand boundaries,” offers an adult Ibrahim. “Really, I could do that,” he says emphatically, now approaching us.

“It’s mine,” says Amna.

“Yes, baita, it’s yours for now,” I say to Amna.

“Ammi, watch this,” says Ibrahim. “Amna, say ‘Baa’.” Ibrahim opens his mouth slowly, pronouncing the second letter in the alphabet.

Baa,” repeats Amna.

“Now, say it again,” says Ibrahim.

Baa,” repeats Amna.

“Ok, now say, ‘Aliph, Baa’,” says Ibrahim.

Alipha, Baa, Taa,” says Amna, anticipating the next letter.

MashaAllah,” I say, not knowing how long this will work but appreciating the cease fire and collaboration.

“See Ammi. I’m really good at this job,” says Ibrahim, confidently. Then continuing, “maybe some of this could count for my review of Yā Sīn and Juz Amma, like…I could trade one Amna lesson for two long surahs.”

“Ibrahim, we need to review Surah Al Mutaffifīn. Do you realize that it’s been almost a week since we worked on this one? And we’re slipping on Yā Sīn. We still haven’t finished ayah 12 for today.”[2] [3]

“Ammi, remember what you said, ‘one ayah at a time’ and ‘no due date’,” says Ibrahim, looking at me right in the eyes as though I’ve gone back on a promise. “We were going to take it slow, Yā Sīn is just too long.”

Yā Sīn too long,” mimics Amna.

“No, not ‘Yā Sīn too long, ‘Yā Sīn is too long,” corrects Ibrahim. “So Ammi, can I trade?” persists Ibrahim.

Baita, you’re doing a great job with Amna, now, and you’re right, Yā Sīn is long, but you’ve been making remarkable progress. I just thought that we might be able to finish it before Eid, but maybe that’s asking too much.  We can put the pause button on Yā Sīn for a little while, however, I’m not going to relent on review.  Allah Subhanahu wa-ta‘ala has entrusted us with these surahs, and we need to take care of them, just as we would take care of, and protect a valuable jewel. And remember Hafidha Rabia is also going to want to hear how well you have taken care of all of them, after Ramadaninshaa Allah.”

“I don’t want to,” says Ibrahim, defiantly, adopting more of Amna’s tone.

I was not expecting this, not here, not now. I anticipated a swift lesson, due to the change of scenery, in the mosque, and some distraction from Amna, but not Ibrahim’s resistance. I look around, again, spotting the older woman. For a minute, I wish a young boy would walk in and start reciting so that I could point to him, as a potential role model.

“Do you want to listen to Mutaffifīn?” I ask, trying to come at it, at a slightly different angle.

“No, I want to teach Amna, up to the letter geem,” he responds.

MashaAllah baita, that’s wonderful, but I also want to teach you to complete your cycle of review,” I say.

“I’ll use it at magreb,” suggests Ibrahim finally giving in a little.

“Out loud?” I say, referencing a technique that we use to help review our surahs.

“Well, what if Papa leads us in prayers…” says Ibrahim.

“Then you may not be able to recite Surah Al Mutaffifīn at all,” I respond, wondering how we are going to close the loop.

“I’ll do it,” says Amna, unexpectedly.

“Do what?” asks Ibrahim.

“The surah,” she says.

“You can’t do Surah Al Mutaffifīn, you’re a baby,” counters Ibrahim, who’s now acting as though he doesn’t want to be upstaged by his three-year-old sister.

“I can, and I’m not baby,” responds Amna, adamantly.

“I think I am simply going to do Surah Al Mutaffifīn and anyone who wants to join me is welcome to,” I say, giving in. Although the mosque is air conditioned, at this time every afternoon, during Ramadan, my energy level tends to dip, reminding me that I am definitely still a mother-in-training.

“I’m doing it,” insists Amna.

“No, it’s my turn,” says Ibrahim, then continuing he adds, “Waylul-lil- mutaffifīn, allatheena ithak talou alan-nasi yastawfoun….”[4]

Amna contributes her variation of the third verse, which is sufficiently recognizable for Ibrahim to carry on with the fourth. Hearing the children recite, the older woman picks up her head again and looks over at us, witnessing the surah. She smiles, deeply, and I smile back, finally grateful for her presence.


[1] Part one, of the two part Qur’aanic primer series, Towards Reading the Qur’an, has a blue cover. Generally students of Qur’aan may take between six months and one year to understand the Arabic alphabet and basic tajweed rules before starting on the Qur’aan, however, it depends largely on the age, aptitude and interest of the student. See footnote 3, Chapter 7, ‘Qur’aan Contract,’ (p.25) and footnote 3, Chapter 17, ‘Surah Work, Leaf Blowing and Amna’s Ikhlas,’ (p.60) in A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Towards Juz Amma.

[2] Ibrahim first tackled Surah Al Mutaffifīn in Chapter 35, ‘Water, Again’, of A Qur’aanic Odyssey, Towards Juz Amma (pp.134-138). Prior to that, in Chapter 27, ‘Reunions and Understanding,’ Khadija was working on her hifdh of thissurah (pp.96-99). In both instances the characters expressed that this was a particularly challenging surah, which has one refrain that repeats as well as several similar ayaat. The hifdh note on page 138 of A Qur’aanic Odysseyattempts to provide some techniques for how to overcome these challenges.

[3] Ayah 12 of Surah Yā Sīn is translated as follows, “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they sent before and that which they leave behind, and of all thing have We taken account in a clear Book (of evidence),” (Abdullah Yusuf Ali 1989, p. 1119). The commentary explains that the initial reference is to the ‘hereafter’, i.e. give life to the dead (ibid). Thereafter he explains, “Our deeds, good and bad, go to Allah’s Judgement Seat before us. They will of course be brought to our account; but our account will also be swelled by the example we left behind us and the consequences of our deeds, that will come into play or continue to operate after our earthly life had ceased. Our moral and spiritual responsibility is therefore much wider than as affects our own person,” (ibid).

[4] Ayaat one and two of Surah Al Mutaffifin are translated as, “Woe to those that deal in fraud-, Those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure,” (Abdullah Yusuf Ali 1989, p.1616). The third and fourthayaat, subsequently referenced, are translated as, “But when they have to give by measure or weight to men give less than due, Do they not think that they will be called to account,” (ibid).

Taqwa

Taqwa is the full knowledge that at any moment of your life Allah can transfer you in an instant to the depths of the Hellfire, or the highest places of Paradise. It is both a feeling of insecurity in this life and hope, knowing that the life of this world is an illusion that can disappear at any moment. That it is not real. That at any moment Allah can unplug our world, He can shut down the illusion of dunya, and this life of this world that seems so real right now will clear away like smoke and we will find that we have been right in front of Allah all our lives, we just couldn't see it. We were ignorant. We were deluded. We were asleep.

On Generosity

The more we think of money the less generous we become, while the more we think of Allah the more generous we become.

What do you think more about?

On the Need for Allah

You need Allah the most exactly at those moments when you feel you need Him the least.

Muslim and proud?

Pride is a disease in the heart. May Allah give you humility.

A Du'a to Remember

...Allah is sufficient for me. None has the right to be worshipped but He. In Him I put my trust and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne. [Quran 9:129]

The Rewards of Dunya

For some reason I always thought that Allah rewards us only in the Hereafter, that nothing in this life should be seen as a reward, but only as a test, from Allah. But the Quran says otherwise. The Quran tells us that Allah will reward believers in this world, in addition to the greater rewards that He prepares for them in the next one. An example is the case of Prophet Yusuf 'alaihis salam (peace be upon him):

And when Joseph reached maturity, We gave him judgment and knowledge. And thus We reward the doers of good.

And again regarding Prophet Yusuf:

And thus We established Joseph in the land to settle therein wherever he willed. We touch with Our mercy whom We will, and We do not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good. [Quran 12:56]

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala (Exalted and High is He) tells us that He does not forget to reward good deeds, but the topic here is Prophet Yusuf's knowledge first, and second his worldly status in Egypt. This shows us that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala does not keep all of our rewards for the Hereafter. Realizing this Truth is a good protection against hopelessness and the Shaitan-inspired feeling that Allah has abandoned humanity na'udhu billah (we seek protection from Allah). Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala is always there, ever watchful, rewarding those who do good deeds with His infinite blessings and mercy.

Another example is Prophet Musa 'alaihis salam:

And when he attained his full strength and was [mentally] mature, We bestowed upon him judgement and knowledge. And thus do We reward the doers of good.

Thus those who seek Allah's pleasure and the rewards of the Hereafter are rewarded with knowledge and high status in dunya (worldly life). Allah does not leave the believers to fend for themselves, unsupported and under the whims of dunya, rather:

Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand

This point is made stronger when you realize that everything good in this life has been made specifically for the pleasure of the believers.

Thus if you believe in Allah and make Allah your primary concern, nothing will have the power to cause you to worry in this life, for you will be under the 24/7 support of Al-Qawwi Al-Mateen (The Lord of unbreakable might) insha'Allah.

Welcome

“Khadija, what are you doing, exactly?” says Abdurrahman, coming downstairs, after settling the children in bed.

“Just rearranging, a bit,” I respond, stooping over the door mat, which has been residing just inside our front door. I still have my abaya on from the mosque and am trying to do this activity without getting too dirty.

“What’s wrong with the mat?” Abdurrahman continues.

“Nothing at all,” I respond, opening the door, shaking out the mat, outside, and then pausing before turning it around, inside, several times.

“It’s in English,” says Abdurrahman, switching on the hall light so he may see better.

“Janu, I know that. And it’s perfectly clear, no fancy calligraphy here,” I respond, smiling.

“So, why so much fidgeting with it?”

“I think that we should turn it around,” I assert, angling the mat into a new position.

“So the ‘Welcome’ side is upside down? That seems a little counterproductive,” says Abdurrahman, looking at me quizzically.

“No, so the ‘Welcome’ side is facing our guests,” I respond. “I want to make sure they feel welcome.”

“Don’t you think they do?” Abdurrahman says somewhat defensively. “And don’t you think…it requires more than the position of a doormat to ensure that?”

“Of course, the sign is just a symbol. But I want the symbol to be effective. I think rotating the symbol every so often is important. The thought came to me this evening as we were driving home.”

“So, before was the ‘Welcome’ side facing inwards and not outwards?” says Abdurrahman, seeking clarification.

“Yes, it faced us, which is important. All who live here should feel welcome, especially our mothers, but there’s something more for me, for all of us, actually.”

“And what Dr Khadija may that be?” says Abdurrahman warmly, as though he is preparing for one of my mini lectures.

“Well, I want those who come to stay with us to feel welcome. I want us to welcome them and I want the children to welcome them. I want our home to exude hospitality.”

“That’s a pretty tall order for a house, especially considering we’ve just moved in.”

“It’s a home, Abdurrahman, and I really think it’s feasible. Prophet Muhemmed, Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, had a home like that. It’s sunnah.”[1]

“Easier said than done, don’t you think,” says Abdurrahman somewhat rhetorically.

“Janu, you had a home teeming with family and friends growing up,” I respond. “I remember all those stories you’ve told me about Geo and you and your friends always stopping by.”

“Khadija, they were all Italian,” replies Abdurrahman, reacting.

What’s that supposed to mean,” I say slowly, not fully grasping the weight of his words.

“Our parents spoke the same language. We celebrated the same holidays. There was a sense of culture. It was comfortable.”

“And so?”

“I’m not always comfortable, here,” says Abdurrahman looking around at the walls, which in our hallway are still mostly blank, and then staring down at the ‘Welcome’ mat.

“What is that supposed to mean? This is your home.” I say, really not understanding. It is rare for him to be negative, especially about our home. I wonder whether he might simply be tired after a long day at the office and Taraweeh.

“They all spoke Urdu tonight, and it was all desi food,” says Abdurrahman. “It wasn’t home.”

“Janu, that’s not entirely correct. I saw you speaking to Abdullah, in English. And you’ve almost always maintained that you like our food, not to mention the fact that we had lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which I think are pretty universal. And then we went to the mosque, for taraweeh, and we all prayed in a common language. They were Najma’s friends for goodness sake. It was important for us to host them, especially during Ramadan.”

“It was never this way in Cape Town,” says Abdurrahman.

“Janu,“I start to respond, but then hear my mother, who has come to stay for the week, on the stairwell. “Ammi, we’re just going out for a quick walk around the block,” I call out.

“Ok baita, be safe,” she responds, then goes into the kitchen to help herself to a glass of water.

I take Abdurrahman’s hand and gesture for us to head out the door.

After a couple of minutes of walking, he then continues, “we had our own culture over there.”

“Abdurrahman, there’s really not that much distance between our two cultures. You’ve reminded me of this so many times before. In fact, it’s you who have taught me this. And there’s no difference when it comes to our deen. We just need to focus on that, and not let the biryani and the pilao come between us. These are really minor details,” I say trying to reassure him. Then continuing, “You know the children finished reviewing their third ayah of Ya Sin today.”

“I know, Ibrahim recited to me, before iftar,” responds Abdurrahman. “And then he snuck in ayah four, too.”

“Really? How does he know that?” I ask.

“I think you can answer that question, Khadija. You’ve only been listening to it for as long as he can remember and…”

“Nani?” I say.

“Yes, your mother helps,” he responds.

“Ala sirat al mustaqeem” I say slowly.[2]

“Yes, ala sirat al mustaqeem,” he repeats.

“Let’s keep coming back to it,” I respond.

“Before, and after the pilao,” says Abdurrahman, starting to smile. “And I like your idea about the ‘Welcome’ mat, even if it is just a symbol.”

“Next week, we turn it around again, ok?” I say, looking at Abdurrahman and squeezing his palm a bit.

“Inshaa Allah,” he responds, nodding. “And, I think it’s time for me to start working on my Urdu again.”

“And my Italian,” I say, in a gesture of peace, and hopefully, understanding.

[1] Hospitality is valued across religions, with the notion of ‘welcoming the guest’ or ‘hachnasat orchim’ clearly spelled out in Judaism, and exemplified by Prophet Abraham in the Book of Genesis (See Remarks by Rabbi Larry Back from the Institute for Interfaith Dialog’s Iftar Dinner on October 8, 2007). Similar examples may be cited in Christian tradition and scripture. In Islam, the following oft-recited hadith reminds Muslims that there is a parallel between how AllahSWT treats HisSWT creation and how the host should treat his/her guests: “Indeed whoever believes that Allah is All-Generous, Who provides for His creation and rewards those who are hospitable towards their guests, should look after his guest.”

[2] Ayah 4 of Surah Al Ya Sin is translated as “On a Straight Way,” (Abdullah Yousuf Ali 1989, p.1117).

The above is an excerpt from the third chapter in the sequel to ‘A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz Amma’, published by Greenbird Books in April 2012. The sequel, 'Ya-Sin' narrates the family’s ongoing journey through the Qur’aan with a focus on Surah Ya Sin, the surah they set out to learn following completion of Juz Amma. Although each of the chapters are connected, each one may be read as a stand-alone text.

The Quran is my Oxygen

The Quran is my Oxygen [The Internet Islamic Art Database]

Whoever puts all his trust in Allah...

Allah is enough [The Internet Islamic Art Database]

Barren houses

The most barren house is the one in which the Quran is not recited. —Abdullah ibn Masud

A YouTube channel for beautiful recitations

AgmalTelawat is a YouTube channel that showcases heart-touching recitations of the Quran, including recitations by many less-known reciters who deserve to be appreciated more. An example is this recitation of the final parts of Surat Yusuf by the Libyan reciter Abu Ubaidah:

Make sure to subscribe to their channel. Also check out their Facebook page where they post additional recitations.

Islam and pleasure

It is easy for the observant Muslim to feel guilty about enjoying the pleasures of this life. The Quran asks us to focus on the afterlife; our current life is short and we should use our time wisely—in preparation for what comes next. There are also many sects and ideologies, such as Sufism and Catholicism, that celebrate the denial of life's pleasures.

But Islam at its foundations has a radically different view of pleasure, best shown in the following verse from Sura al-A'raf:

Say [O Muhammad]: Who is it who has forbidden God's adornments that He has brought out from the earth for His servants, and the righteous pleasures that He bestows? Say [O Muhammad]: These are meant for those who have believed in this life, and in the next life, these will be for the believers only. Thus do We make the communications clear for a people who know. [7:32]

A believer should feel no guilt in the enjoyment of life, knowing that God has made life's pleasures specifically for his or her sake.

Despair is not for the believers

One of the most inspiring verses in the Quran, and one that always enters my mind whenever my brain tells me "it's impossible!" is Prophet Ya'qoob's words to his sons after they despaired of rescuing their captured brother:

Do not despair of God's mercy, for indeed none despair of God's mercy other than disbelieving people. [12:87]

This verse has taught me to never lose hope. God has the power to get us out of any trouble we could possibly get into. All that's needed is to stay steadfast on our path, to always stay close to God, for as He says:

And whoever has taqwa (stays constantly mindful of God), God will create for him a way out, and He will provide for him from sources he never expected. And whoever puts all his reliance on God, then God is all that he needs. [65:2,3]

What a wonderful promise to the believers!

The end

“Do you think we’ll ever get to the end?”

“Inshaa Allah,” I respond, patting Ibrahim gently on the back, in an attempt to encourage him.

“Ammi, there are six pages between me and Ya Sin,” says Ibrahim, looking down into his mushaf.

“You are six,” pipes in Amna.

“I am not six pages,” is Ibrahim’s response.

“Yes, you are,” responds Amna, starting to put on a fighting face.

“No, I am not,” sounds out Ibrahim slowly, increasingly frustrated.

“Just a minute, both of you, please,” I say stretching out my arms to keep them from coming to blows. “You’re right Ibrahim, you are not six pages, and you are also right, Amna, he is six. So how about rather than arguing about all of this, we try to channel some of our energy into memorizing?”

“Ammi, I really don’t think I can do this,” responds Ibrahim, shaking his head. “It’s just too long. It’s like four Surah Al Nabas lined up. You never did that when you were my age; how am I supposed to now?”[1]

“You’re right. I was definitely not on Surah Ya Sin when I was six, but I do remember hearing my Daadi recite, and I vaguely remember her trying to teach me... what if we take it one ayah at a time?” I say, then continuing, “and finish when we finish.”

“What is that supposed to me?” asks Ibrahim.

“Supposed to mean?” mimics Amna, nodding her head.

“There’s no due date. No expiry. We just start learning, and let Allah Subhanahu wa-ta‘ala do the heavy lifting, like we did all throughout Juz Amma.”

“Ammi, I really don’t understand you. No expiry, like the milk? And what do you mean by ‘heavy lifting’?” follows up Ibrahim.

“We take our time, baita, and we hope and pray that Allah in His infinite mercy will help us. Anyway, 83 ayaat are actually not that many. Technically, it’s less than two Surah An Naziats if you think of it that way. And you remember that beautiful hadith on our bookmarks?”

“The one about running?”

“Yes,” I say smiling, and then read out from my bookmark: I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.[2].

“I speed,” responds Amna. In her customary way, she starts running in between the porch pillars, which accent part of our new backyard.

“I go faster,” says Ibrahim, leaping up and starting to chase after his sister.

[1] Surah An Naba spans approximately one and half pages in a 15 line Uthmani script mushaf (Uthmani script refers to the notation in the mushaf and may be contrasted with an Indo Pak script, with the latter providing additional notation for the non-Arabic speaker). For this reason, Ibrahim likens Surah Al Ya Sin to 4 Surah An Nabas. In terms of total ayaat, however, Surah Al Ya Sin is 83 ayaat, or only approximately double the ayah length of Surah An Naba (which is composed of 40 ayaat).

[2] The above noted hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Abu Hurairah, Radiallahu Anhu (RA), and related by al-Buhkari, as well as by Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah.

Continue reading... at A Qur'aanic Odyssey blog.

The above is an excerpt from the first chapter in the sequel to ‘A Qur’aanic Odyssey: Towards Juz Amma’, published by Greenbird Books in April 2012. The sequel, 'Ya-Sin' narrates the family’s ongoing journey through the Qur’aan with a focus on Surah Ya Sin, the surah they set out to learn following completion of Juz Amma. Although each of the chapters are connected, each one may be read as a stand-alone text.

iSawab is an app that encourages you to do more good deeds

In April the creator of this app asked me if I could mention it on QuranClub. At first I thought QuranClub wouldn't be the right place. I had plans for a general-topics Islamic site that I thought would be a better home for it, but that plan is still in my head and nowhere else. For that reason, and since the app is about the Quranic concept of thawab (God's rewards for good deeds), I finally decided to write about the app here.

That app uses a points system to help you keep track of the reward-generating activities you do, such as Quran reading, reciting adhkaar, or visiting a sick person, and it also allows you to set goals and track your progress toward them. From the app's website:

iSawab is a culmination of years of thought regarding a motivation tool that will challenge and help today’s technology-minded person to practice his Islamic faith. Most people understand targets and have at some time determined what it would take to get there.

The iSawab App allows you to track the accumulation of your Sawab through an innovative points system against a self-imposed target. You can track your progress everyday, and look at increasing your reward through more opportunities than you would normally think about. Be aware of all the Sawab-bearing activities, Most of us need the reminder, and this app will do that for you.

The site answers a number of potential questions:

How does one use this App?

The app's concept is simple. Set yourself a target level (points) for a certain period of time, and track your deeds to meet the target. Points are assigned for each act, and you're able to track your performance on a daily basis.

How are the points awarded?

While the relative merits of each deed is with Allah, and Allah alone, this system tries to assign higher points for relatively more meritorious acts. You can set your own points per activity to challenge yourself to meet a particular target.

I haven't been able to test the app myself. If it succeeds in encouraging one to do more reward-bearing activities, I would say it is very much worth a try.

Visit the Internet Islamic Art Database, a QuranClub project

The Internet Islamic Art Database (IIADB.com) is a website where you can find Islamic posters, photos, illustrations, and other graphics. You can also upload your own and other people's graphics at the Submit Artwork page.

The goal of this project is to make it easier for people to find high quality Islamic art on the internet by providing a central location where Islamic art is presented and categorized, and to provide exposure for the works of Muslim artists, photographers, and illustrators.

A Qur'aanic Odyssey

Umm Muhemmed is an American born development economist who recently began her own hifdh study. Earlier this month, Greenbird Books published her fiction A Qur'aanic Odyssey, a promising book that portrays a knowledge-seeking and Quran-loving Muslim family's journey through the Quran.

We asked Umm Muhemmed a number of questions about herself and her book. Her interesting and informative answers are below:

What’s the book about, and who’s it for?

The narrative is based on Ibrahim aged five, and Amna aged two, who embark on a journey of hifdh al Qur’aan with their mother Khadija and father Abdurrahman. This story emphasizes love for the Quran in a thoughtful manner. Through the eyes and hearts of this young family, we learn about courage and patience. We learn to look inwards and reflect on the journey ahead.  A Qur’aanic Odyssey is for all who are interested, including parents who coach their children in learning and memorizing Quran or more general Quranic study. I also hope to reach out to non-Muslims, especially any who may be linked to cross-cultural families, trying to navigate and understand some of the intricacies of the ‘culture’ of Islam, especially with regard to the Quran. In addition, the text may be used in a classroom environment including by teachers, of any faith or conviction, who seek to present Islam and more specifically the Quran in a positive ‘real life,’ ‘Western’ environment. Through storytelling, I aspire to demonstrate that the Quran and Islam may be complementary to the ‘West’.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

We all wear many hats. I feel very fortunate to have so many diverse roles: as mother, wife, daughter, sister, development economist, author, educator, and, perhaps most importantly, student. In all of these roles, I seek to learn as well as to live Islam in an increasingly true and compassionate way. A Qur'aanic Odyssey is a new outlet for me. It is very different from the academic writing that has occupied my work over the last decade, and yet the process of conceiving and writing the book has taught me endless lessons about hifdh, motherhood, the Quran in general, and of course, the process of writing.

Why did you write this story?

The book arose in part as a response to a superhero figure that emerged in my son’s life, through no introduction of mine, I might add. I was amazed how such figures completely mesmerized my son and so many of his peers. As we had already started on our own hifdh journey, I was curious how I might attract the same interest, harness the same energy for our Quran lessons. Initially, I sought to create a Quran/hifdh game, but my computer programming skills were inadequate. Then, I thought I might simply create a type of Quranic superhero for him, almost in the style of a comic book. As I wrote, however, I found myself developing a series of characters to whom he could relate directly, and who could potentially encourage him on his own hifdh journey, simply by their real life example. I also sought to reach out to many adults who had little or no experience with hifdh and Quran and found that the children’s voices could be straightforward, thoughtful, non-threatening and ultimately very effective in communicating a message.

I have also been inspired by my teachers, especially Hafidha Rayhaanah Omar, founder of Fee Qalbee, who has shared countless child-friendly Quran activities. My own two young children are the source of endless inspiration, along with nieces and nephews. The author of ‘A Muslim Princess,’ Umm Aasiyah Muhammad, also deserves special mention here, both as an author and as the parent of an aspiring hafidha.

With what do you want readers to walk away?

Two main messages. Hifdh may be fun (although it is hard work). Working on hifdh, at home, has the potential to be extremely rewarding for the whole family.  

How might parents/teachers/students find this book useful when reading to children?

Almost every chapter showcases at least one hifdh activity: namely it demonstrates how Ibrahim, Amna and Khadija are learning one of the surahs from Juz Amma. In this regard, parents (and other teachers as well) should inshaa Allah gain insights about how to approach surahs in a fun, loving and thoughtful way. In addition, the book includes ‘hifdh teaching notes’ (immediately following each chapter) which endeavour to go one step further in providing recommendations for how to generate a positive and productive response from our little ones. At the same time, it is not an in depth novel. Each chapter is short, almost like a skit, and is intended to highlight life lessons amidst Quran learning.  The text may be read to children, by children, and/or solely by adults. It is intended to be interactive inshaa Allah.

What’s next for you?

As a person of faith, I don’t think that we fully choose our destinies. I am busy working on hifdh, coaching our children (in Quran and life, in general), writing a sequel to A Qur’aanic Odyssey, and keeping a number of other projects afloat, but one never fully knows what Allah SWT has in store for us. I try to keep a certain pace and focus, while at the same time, being open to the endless opportunities of learning and teaching that come our way inshaa Allah.

What specific advice do you have to the members of Quran Club?

I am in no position to hand out advice. Suffice it to say, as a revert, who embraced Islam as an adult, I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to hifdh and to have been blessed with the opportunity to share the transformative experience through A Qur’aanic Odyssey.

A Qur’aanic Odyssey by Umm Muhemmed, published by Greenbird Books, is available via Amazon.com.

Check out the book's website at: http://aquraanicodyssey.wordpress.com/

Arrogance, blood and brains: How God prevents certain people from seeing His Signs

I will avert from My Signs those who consider themselves superior without any right, and if they see every Sign they will not believe in it, and if they see the path of reason they will not follow it, and if they see the path of error they will follow it; that is because they denied Our Signs and were oblivious of them. [7:146]

How does God accomplish this—how does He avert arrogant people from His signs? Human biology could be one of His methods.

Strong emotions blind rationality. A few weeks ago I read about a study in which the researchers found that when humans try to think of an idea that they strongly disagree with, their brains receive less blood where it matters, and this strongly diminishes their ability to think about the idea.

When humans are arrogant, and dislike the idea of God and that of submitting to Him, this dislike manifests itself in their bodies by causing a blood famine in their brains whenever they are reminded of God. Instead of thinking of God rationally, they fall into a state of great discomfort that blinds them, as God Himself describes it:

Thus whoever God wants to guide, He makes his chest relax and expand, ready to accept submission, and whoever He wants to render lost, He makes his chest narrow and distressed as if he is climbing into the sky... [6:125]

God has designed humans in a way that evil, arrogant people are prevented by their own bodies from appreciating God's existence. God put His will into the blueprint of all humans, and whenever humans deserve to be rendered lost, their bodies and minds, being extensions of God's will, make sure that it happens.

The more arrogant a person becomes, the harder it becomes for them to appreciate God's Signs, possibly due to a stronger emotional response against God, and thus a greater lack of blood in their brains when facing one of God's Signs. The classic example of this is the powerful Egyptian king Fir'aun, who refused to believe any of the miracles that Moses showed him...until the moment he lost all of his power. When God destroyed his ego, and his arrogance vanished, he could then see the truth:

So We brought the Children of Israel across the sea. Fir'aun and his troops pursued them arrogantly and aggressively. When he was about to drown, [Fir'aun] exclaimed, ‘I believe that there is no deity save Him in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of those who surrender themselves to Him!’

Only now … when you have always been a rebel and a wrongdoer? [10:90-91]
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