Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mai's Q&A with the Imam about Sleeping on the Floor

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum.

Well, a few months ago, off I went to the Imam to ask about emulating the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, in things such as sleeping on the floor. He said that some things were Sunnat al ibadah and some were Sunnat al a'adat. That means some are Sunnahs of worship and some are Sunnahs of custom, things that were the Prophet's habits, not things relating to worship specifically. So he said, we don't have to sleep on the floor - that was his choice. We can sleep in comfort and luxury, it is halal.

I feel some lack of conviction about this...not that it is haram to sleep on a raised bed, LOL, but about the sunnah of sleeping on the floor not being something we are meant to emulate. Oh, you may sigh...what now, Mai?

Well, these ahadith are always in my mind on the subject.

The Zuhd of Prophet Muhammad: his bedding

Narrates Sayyidina 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with him): "I went to the Prophet and saw that he was lying on a mat made of the leaves of the date-palm, and there was no bedding between him and the mat, and the texture of the mat had left deep marks on his body, and under his head was placed a leather pillow stuffed with the bark of the date-tree. On seeing it, I said, "My Master! Pray to Allah (The Glorified and The Exalted) to grant prosperity to your followers. He has bestowed riches upon the people of Rome and Persia even though they are not believers." The Prophet (may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him) replied, 'O son of Khattab! Do you also think like that? They are the people who have been deprived of the blessings of the Hereafter (owing to their ungodly ways), and hence, the comforts (Allah wanted to confer upon them) have been granted to them in this world.' (In another version of the same Tradition, it is said that the Prophet replied, "O 'Umar! Do you not prefer that they took the joys of this world and we of the Hereafter)?" (Bukhari and Muslim)

Hadrat 'AbdAllah ibn Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) says that (once) the Holy Prophet (may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him) slept on a mat made of date palm leaves and when he awoke, the impressions of the mat were visible on his body. We said: "O Allah's Messenger (may Allah's blessings and peace be upon him)! May we prepare a soft bedding for you?" He said: I have got nothing to do with the world. I am in this world like a rider who halts in the shade of a tree for a short time and after taking some rest, resumes his journey leaving the tree behind. (Tirmidhi)

There is another I recently read regarding the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) asking Aisha (radhi Allahu anha) if she had changed his bedding. She responded that she had folded up the mat to make it more comfortable for him. He said that he slept so comfortably that he didn't wake up at his usual time for tahajjud and asked that his mat be returned to its original state.

Subhaan Allah, I cannot tell you how differently I view super snuggly, soft as a cloud, comfortable beds since reading that!

Obviously, we are not told that we must sleep in such a way, but we are shown the best example in our Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, when it comes to leaving behind the comforts and things of this world. It wasn't so much a custom, as a deliberate thing he did for a clear reason. He even said to Umar, are you thinking like the people who are only getting comforts in this life? Well, I do not want to be one with the comforts in this life and none in the next. Somehow there is a serious message in the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, sleeping in such a simple state. That is why I don't want a raised fancy bed.

Disappointed is an understatement about having to get mattresses to put on the floor here in Madinah, but Allah is the Most Perfect Planner and always with the patient, so I simply accept and place my trust in His Qadr and Qadar. In the meantime, I just keep on loving every aspect of how our beloved Prophet lived and praying I can even emulate a fraction of it - the ibadah and the customs insha'Allah.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Replacing What Is Lost with What is Better

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum.

Allah keeps sending me messages, keeps putting information in my path and I cannot ignore it. A couple of years ago, I read that fantasy books are not beneficial to read. They are not only lies, but impossible scenarios that have no basis in reality. At the same time, such things as fairy tales often promote immorality, an unrealistic concept of life and love, and a consistent boy meets girl, fall in love, maybe get married, and live happily after theme. Totally NOT what I want my children to grow up thinking or believing to be true.

Well, it's not exactly news that I hate the whole focus on entertainment and totally agree with the schools of thought that say that Islam should be taught seriously, not with cutesy videos, a bunch of songs, and cartoon characters to imitate Walt Disney. I do not want my children to be addicted to entertainment. So, when I was reading "You Can Be the Happiest Woman in the World" to prepare for a workshop I'll be doing this Saturday, I came across a directive which tied it all together. The author stated that romance books are promoting haram and are a waste of time. He further said that mystery novels teach us crime, deception, and are not Islamically beneficial. He said that if we are to read, we should read things that draw us closer to Allah, whether it be actual religious books, or books that further our knowledge of His vast universe, or books that teach us about the healing properties of every plant He has placed on this earth. This finally focused me. I took my questions to our Imam during the children's Quran class. He confirmed that to leave our children to read such fiction is to allow them to read lies and that the culture promoted in those books will have an effect on them. Reading about magic, fairies, vampires, etc. is not all...any of the story books that are about people's lives outside of Islam are harmful to our children. We end up glamorizing Western society and norms by giving them these books to read.

Now my mind is clear regarding Allah's message for me. We are preparing to go the Madinah Al Munawarrah in early September, insha'Allah. Our children will attend Private Saudi Quran-based schools insha'Allah. My sole focus is for them to all learn Arabic to fluency and know exactly what they are reading when they recite Quran. By the end of elementary school they should know about half the Quran, bi ithn Allah. Allah is guiding me to prepare properly. My children are no longer going to read books that are lies. They are no longer going to read fiction, particularly fiction that is not based on an Islamic lifestyle.

So, for my avid little 6 year old reader I must make some serious replacements. I have set her on the life of the Prophet Muhammad - a children's version. She read the stories from the Quran, so I will start finding readable books on the life of different prophets, sahaba, etc. The wives of the prophet will be interesting for her, too. I am going to get more craft books from the library and start making the effort to involve her in cooking. I am even planning to sit down and play Madinah Salat Challenge game with them, so they have a halal and educational fun time with me. We are going to make rag rugs together insha'Allah, practise our Quran daily, listen to interesting things and I'm thinking to turn her on to Sahih Al Bukhari. I believe she will enjoy reading ahadith and understanding more about the way the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, lived. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. It will certainly be a big adjustment for a girl who goes through 4 or 5 chunky chapter books per day of a 4th - 5th grade level or higher. But it is time to set things right and take her out of that form of entertainment.

Today she asked to read the Stories of the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, masha'Allah. Then she proceeded to read a selection of our Islamic children's stories. This is the beginning. I pray that Allah blesses me in this and makes my children of the rightly guided strangers in this dunya - ameen. As I gradually build up the adhkaar, the dua', the little Sunnahs of eating and sleeping, I can feel them thrive under the light of Islam. Tomorrow we will fast, insha'Allah. As we draw closer to Ramadan, I feel hopeful that we will strive more this year than ever before.

May you all be guided to what will truly impact you and your family this Ramadan and see it through - ameen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Degrees of Deen

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaikum.

What happens when you find that you and your spouse are in different places Islamically? Hey, everybody is in a different place, but I'm talking about things that cause difference of opinion about how to raise the children or conduct oneself in public. Well, it may be that one of the parties goes to the Imam with questions, and each time gets confirmation that their thinking on the subject is correct. The first time, the Imam says try to talk about it nicely but have patience because we all have to grow in Islam and we all do it at different speeds and times. The second time, the Imam says that if possible it is best to try to talk nicely about it and convince the spouse that the subject isn't as they see it. Once the Imam is informed that this will upset the spouse or cause discord, he says, "May Allah help you. Make dua' for Allah to help you."

So what can one derive from all this? That when there is a serious conflict in issues of deen, something where one cannot see the harm in something and the other can, the most powerful thing you can do is turn to Allah. Of course, we know that dua' is the ally of the believer. But in this case, when the believer who is striving for Allah's cause and has been given clear guidance makes dua' for a change for the good, there is no way that Allah can refuse. One way or another, He will address your pleas. Also, what should one make dua' for? Pray, pray, pray that Allah makes your partner love what He loves, hate what He hates, and increases them in emaan, taqwa, and ibadah. Pray that Allah gives them eyes to see the traps of shaytaan, to avoid the doubtful things. Pray, pray, pray that Allah will protect anyone and everyone that may fall victim in the situation. Pray, pray, pray for your children.

And a word of encouragement to anyone out there who can understand this whole subject. Don't ever feel sad that you have "eyes" and "ears" and a "heart" that Allah has blessed with sure and clear Guidance. It is hard, there is no question. You will feel alone much of the time and may be called "extreme" lol. But would you ever turn down such gifts from your Rabb? Never! Just pray that He blesses those near and dear to you with those "eyes", "ears", and "heart." When you get to a stage that life is a prison, that you see the fitnah clearly in everything and know that distractions from Allah are of no benefit, just keep praying for Allah to keep raising your awareness and drawing you closer. He may be sending you as an example, as a benefit to others. He may have put you with someone of different understanding to give them da'awah and move them to a better place. One thing is for sure, He has given you a gift...use it as He Wills, wisely and well and turn your whole self over to Him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Non-Muslim Sunnah

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah.

Why are all the non-Muslims raving about the Sunnah?

What, you ask? Is there a group of non-Muslims that have learned about the Sunnah and love it? No. There are masses of non-Muslims who swear by living the Sunnah - but they don't know it is the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet. They just know it is the best way to live.

So, I ask you...why do they know and practise, and we don't?

Why is it that when you go to the doctor, they tell you to eat whole, unrefined grains, natural foods, fruits, vegetables, like olive oil? Sunnah food! We are warned day in day out about avoiding chemical-laden, refined and processed foods like white sugar, white flour, white rice, etc? Why are they tell us to use honey, which we have ahadith and Quran ayaat about? Why are they giving us tips about how to eat mindfully, when we have extensive ahadith about the etiquettes of eating that tell us these things?

Why is it that the Green Revolution is telling us to build houses out of earth, just as they built the first masjid in Madinah? In the secular world, we are reminded that every day is Earth Day. In Islam, every day IS Earth Day because we have been given this earth as an amanah (trust) from Allah. They tell us not to use dangerous and harmful chemicals...subhaan Allah, it's as if they read the ayaat in the Quran "and do not destroy yourselves."

We turn up our noses at the "primitive" squat toilets used in the Middle East, but the west says that they are the healthiest toilets to use for proper elimination and even sell steps to use in front of western toilets to give the same effect of crouching. Subhaan Allah! We are even told that conventional toilets are a huge waste and composting toilets are the way to secure our earth's future.

Just go online and you will see articles and blogs about giving up material things, getting rid of the clutter. Non-Muslims are raving about the virtues and value of giving up unnecessary things to better appreciate what is important in life. So now, we have non-Muslims taking practical steps towards Az-Zuhd, when we are out shopping and filling our homes.

Non-Muslims are recycling, living for a year without throwing anything away to see how they can reduce their impact on the earth. They have gone back to the materials used in the time of the Prophet - iron, steel, glass, pottery - and shunned the plastic, aluminum, and teflon found to be so dangerous to our health. They even went back to the Sunnah in the materials they use - cotton, hemp, linen, wool, silk, leather, while we buy Japanese polyester abayas and thobes.

Frankly, I think we look a little foolish. What have we come to that the rest of the world is doing what was sent us by Allah, in the form of our Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and his Sunnah, as the best example of how to live?

Polygyny: The Magnifying Glass

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I have pondered the issues that are generally faced in polygyny for years. In fact, I came to a conclusion that it was imperative that everyone be on the same page, have a level of taqwa and emaan combined with the desire to live solely for the pleasure of Allah, to be able to make it a success. I still hold to that, because without it, fitnah abounds. However, something much bigger than that is really at the root of polygynous success. It's all about the man.

The pious man, truly connected to his Rabb, will select his wife based on criteria and Divine guidance. The pious man will fear Allah in his dealings and strive to correct his failings and be a good husband. The pious man will marry for the best of reasons. So, before anything else, the husband must be a good, pious man.


Because polygyny is a magnifier. The wife knows her husbands faults, shortcomings, weaknesses. She knows and it is her duty to cover those faults and to encourage improvement. However, what happens when another wife is brought on the scene is that the same things the first wife knows about, the second one learns about too. So if the husband lacks patience or is a poor communicator, he has two women telling him about it or reacting to him because of it. Whatever he has weaknesses in that cause problems or difficulties in a relationship, become two sets of difficulties...or three...or four. The problems do not disappear by taking another wife, they are magnified and duplicated. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. Even if the first wife has remained silent about the husband's shortcomings, often the newness makes the second or third mention them. Usually, however, they are issues that have already arisen in the first marriage and are simply repeating themselves in the subsequent ones. So from every angle, he will hear that he is not fair, or not admonishing correctly, or not communicating well, or not having compassion. It puts him under the microscope and magnifies his deficiencies. So, at the end of the day, it is the husband who it all rests on. Nearly every problem that has arisen in polygyny was caused by improper practise and deficiencies in deen. Those issues hinge on the husband foremost, and spiral out. Often men cannot handle such brutal exposure, but if they are truly striving for Jennah, they will realize that it is an opportunity to improve and correct themselves.

May Allah, azza wa jal, increase the emaan and taqwa of us all and keep us firmly on His Perfect Siraat, ever striving for His pleasure and living according to the Quran and Sunnah - ameen.

Polygyny: The Acid Test of Sisterhood

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah.

When I was single and wanted the stability of marriage, I was told by my closest friend that if it wasn't for the physical aspect, she would let her husband marry me. Several years later, in a conversation with another friend, I said that in the event that she was left widowed or alone with her children, I would hope that my husband would marry her so she could be close to us and taken care of by someone good, insha'Allah. I was told that if the situation was reversed, she could not do the same.

Even though I have had two experiences with polygyny, and neither was meant to continue, I still have the same mindset. Of course, I cannot make my husband take a dear and close friend in need as a wife; it is his decision. Of course, it also depends on his tastes and the situation all around. However, my love for certain sisters - those in whom I can clearly see clean hearts and a sincere struggle - makes me want them to be in good marriages, and have them close to me.

It has come to me that polygyny is an acid test of really loving the best for your sister. When there is some disease in the heart, it takes on a different aspect. However, when the sisters involved are truly good and sincere, it breaks my heart that we can be so selfish and put up such barriers.

My First Polygyny Post: An Outlook

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh my dear sisters,

May this post find you all firmly on Allah, subhaana wa taala's, straight path (siraat al mustaqeem) and aware of His Love and infinite Blessings - AMEEN!

I have found reading the posts from different sisters on polygyny very easy to relate to. In fact, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel with what I write in this post. No question, the issues we all face in polygany are very big tests from Allah that I hope and pray we all will pass for Allah's ultimate pleasure - ameen.

I have been in polygynous situations twice; once as recently as last year masha'Allah. The experiences have been of benefit and great growth to my Islam, my marriage, and my priorities. At times, I too was plagued by shaytaan with negative thoughts. My answer to this is to recognize them for what they are - efforts to sabotage my success in Islam and as a wife and mother. The more I recognize this, the less these thoughts come and the more positively I can view the whole situation.

As for issues of jealousy, whether sexual or emotional, one thing I was advised when I was previously a second wife was that what all wives should focus on is their own relationship with their husband. If that relationship is lacking, then we must work on improving it and making it a success. If it is successful, then we must work on keeping it that way and always strive for improvement. THAT is our business.

In reading The Ideal Muslimah, I realized that the most important thing we can do for ourselves is to focus on OURSELVES. We all want to get to Jennah, we all want Allah to be pleased with us, we all want to be good wives and mothers and the only way we can succeed with that is to work on dealing with everyone, from Allah to the world at large, as Islam prescribes. That is an all-consuming, 24/7 job! Between attending to our families, keeping house, mealtimes, day-to-day events, keeping up with our extended family and friends and maintaining the ties of sisterhood we are often begging for 5 minutes to read the Quran or try to learn something towards our Islam, and yet it is something we MUST do.

For many of us with children, if we truly want to have the time to grow and learn in our Islam, be a good wife and mother with a lovely home and beautiful meals on the table or floor (LOL, we have a sunnah dining table) then it is probably not going to happen unless and until our husband takes a second wife! Of course shaytaan tries to sabotage this reality with thoughts of jealousy and whisperings of insecurity - after all, that's his job. But the practical reality is that there truly are advantages that need to be looked at and appreciated. Having no pressure (even if it is self-imposed) of getting back on track after the birth of a child or during menses. Having some time for yourself. Going to bed as early as you like, even if you have to wear the kids out first! Being able to cook and eat what YOU like on your 'off' days, without having to make something separate for hubby.

The Prophet's wives, radhiAllahu anhunna, all had time to grow in Islam and a few were narrators of many ahadith. We never hear of them being occupied all day with housework and cooking. Although they cannot be compared when it comes to children, in other respects we can see that the division of time gave them great freedom.

Of course, things don't just fit neatly into the formula and sail along all the time. Hardships and tests on top of tests will come. The key, I believe, is in remembering that tests are a reminder from Allah that He loves us. He wants us to learn from them, pass them, and have His Success. Sisters, keep your eyes on the goal, focus on yourself and your Rabb, love for your brother and sister what you love for yourself, and remember: on the day of judgment we will all stand ALONE before Allah, subhaana wa taala. We will not answer for the mistakes or virtues of our husbands, co-wives, or anyone else - only ourselves.

May we all meet in Jennah, pleased with our Lord and He pleased with us - ameen.

Your sister from the heart,


Monday, August 3, 2009

Miscarriage #5

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum.

Seventeen months, 5 miscarriages wa alhamdu l'Illahi Rabb il aal ameen! Miscarriage #1 was in May 2008, and all thanks and appreciation to Allah, I said "al hamdu l'Illah" first, as soon as I heard the fetus was dead in there. I went home calmly, shed a few tears in hubby's arms - horribly fearful that those tears would indicate dissatisfaction with Allah's decree. Then I made taubah in case it was truly wrong to cry, and moved on.

I know, without a doubt, that everything that Allah sends me is out of Perfect Love and for my best end. I know that I need to accept gladly and learn from the experience or simply yearn for the reward for such pains and trials. By miscarriage number 3, I had read that those who bear with patience will be the envy of the shuhadaa on Yawm al Qiyama. I read that Allah has set a rank for each of us in Jennah and He sends trials and afflictions down on us to expiate our sins and assist us in achieving those ranks, which we otherwise would fall short of. Subhaan Allah wa bihamdihi, subhaana Rabbi al atheem! I said to my husband, " I don't care if I have 100 miscarriages if it gets me to my beautiful rank with Allah, azza wa jal." So when miscarriage number 4 rolled around, it was not only gladly taken, it was welcomed! And, as we learned that my thyroid was out of sync and was a serious factor in the miscarriages, I got that sorted out wa al hamdu l'Illah. So, here we are, just two months after the last miscarriage, and I'm knocked up again. I thought to myself that perhaps this would be okay now my thyroid is under control. However, I also know that at my age only 50% or so of my eggs are "good" so it's only half/half anyway, even in ideal conditions. Well, this was not the ideal and I'm bleeding it out as I type. I did start calculating to see how many years it would take for Allah to send me 100, LOL, but it may not come to that.

It certainly is a blessing though, because as with miscarriage #4, this too was going to prove a serious hindrance to me preparing to move and establishing ourselves in Madinah. Allah is the Most Perfect Planner, the Dearest of Deliverers of our Needs. I'm free of the physical drawbacks of pregnancy and I gain a reward for every cramp, every ache, and for bearing His Gift with gratefulness.

He even sent more Mercy to me. We were having guests today, so from early morning I was preparing food for the lunch and trying to organize and clean the house. Subhaan Allah, thunderstorms abounded! The guests called to say they would not come in such severe weather. Of course, the food was cooked and I continued to organize anyway, but I am having some real pain and I may not have put forth my usual bubbly self. As this would be the first time to meet a new sister, Allah has postponed it to a time when, bi ithn Allah, I will be back to myself. So, I'm off to check the laundry and clear another space, insha'Allah. Shukr Allah wa al hamdu l'Illah for miscarriage #5.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shabaan Quest

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Subhaan Allah wa bihamdihi, subhaana Rabbi al atheem! Without even making a plan, Shabaan has started as a month of improvements and I feel so blessed. Masha'Allah, hubby said he planned to do the fast of Dawud for this month, which is fasting on alternate days. I caught that ball and ran with it, LOL. He planned to start on Saturday, I started the Thursday before. Things have come up to disrupt his schedule, but for me...all praise is for Allah - The Facilitator, The One Who Makes Things Possible - I am rolling along. We got the children on the bandwagon and they all fasted last Monday masha'Allah. The 3 year old made it until 5 minutes or so after fajr prayer and then announced urgently that she was "fursty." However, the rest made it through the heat and humidity to an 8:30 p.m. maghrib masha'Allah. Now my 5 year old wants to do Mondays and Thursdays, so we fasted together on Thursday. Masha'Allah, how beautiful it is to get up and eat suhoor with your child/children and then all pray together. There is serious congestion in the bathroom for toothbrushing, but aside from that, it's all good.

Now, I am a person who has struggled with the loss of ibadah since marrying and having children. After 36 years of living alone, and establishing my own routines and ibadah schedule since being blessed with the knowledge of Islam, I always feel at a loss. I know that I reap rewards for caring for my family, but the spirit isn't nourished well. The closer I am to Allah - the more time I have to commune through prayer, Quran, and learning - the better control I have over myself and the better I can model and apply Islam to the various aspects of our life. Anyone with chilren knows, it's all about modeling and making connections with everyday occurences that makes Islam a reality for them. So, when I take the children to the masjid for their Quran class, I sit with the Arabic and the English Qurans and I read. I managed to read a juz on Wednesday, then most of another juz on Thursday masha'Allah. I'm setting a goal of 4 juz per week bi ithn Allah. Then, if that wasn't wonderful enough, I opened up a big bag of Islamic books sitting in our basement that have been left with us, and discovered a treasure chest, wa al hamdu l'Illah! I thought it was all the same books we have, but when I looked I found The Book of Knowledge - Volume 1, An Explanation of the Aspects of the Days of Ignorance, 40 Hadith Regarding the Madhab of the Salaf, The Obligation of Acting Upon the Sunnah of the Messenger, Protection Against the Plots of Shaytaan (I will explain the critical importance of this one in another post, insha'Allah), and more. So, I had a read-fest!

This morning, I got up for suhoor and prayed 11 rakaat for tahajjud and I was searching for an online Quran program so I could continue reading, I saw my link for 80 percent words
and KNEW. It all clicked and I went on there and did the first three units, masha'Allah. It is something I know will be beneficial and I can do it easily in a short period of time per day insha'Allah. Bi ithn Allah, throughout this month I hope to finish the program and review until I have those words clear in my mind. I feel energized, full of momentum, and focused. I've decided that the most important thing I can do, rather than plot and plan out schedules that life won't let me stick to, is seize the moment. So in my limited Latin, I say to you all: Carpe Diem!