August 14, 2012

Umm Saalih on Memorizing Qur'an at Age 82

This interview has been taken from its original format which was published in Ad-Da’wah Magazine, no. 1552, 17th of Rabee al-Awwal 1417, corresponding to August 1, 1996. It was later presented on the 1st of Muharram 1426, February 10, 2005 by the late Dr. Saleh as-Saleh, rahimahullah (May Allah have mercy on him), one of the foremost student of Shaykh ‘Uthaymeen, rahimahullah, well-known lecturer and author of numerous Islamic books. This interview was originally transcribed by Umm Maahir al-Amreekiyyah, rahimahullah. You can find the transcribed interview online at

What was the reason that drove you to memorize the Qur’aan after so many years?
“I always hoped to memorize the Qur‘aan from the time I was young. My father always used to invoke Allaah for me to become one of the memorizers of the Qur‘aan, like himself and like the elder brothers of my family who memorized it. So I memorized in the beginning about three parts and then after I completed the age of thirteen, I got married and became busy with the household and the children. After I had seven children, my husband died. They (the children) were all young so I took the time to raise them and educate them, and then after they grew up and got married, I had more time for myself. Therefore, the first thing I directed myself to focus upon was the Qur‘aan.”

Tell us about your journey with the Noble Qur‘aan. 
“My younger daughter was going to high school and she was the closest of my children to me and the most beloved, because she stayed with me after her older sisters got married and got busy with their lives, and because she was a quiet girl, upright, loving, and good. In addition, she was interested in learning the Noble Qur‘aan, and her teachers encouraged her.  Furthermore, she was very enthusiastic and always told me of many women who were driven by this great motivation to memorize the Qur'aan, and this is where I started.”

Tell me about your way of memorization.
“We assigned ten verses (meaning her and her daughter who was going to high school). So each day after Asr, we used to sit together. She reads and I repeat after her three times. Then she explains the meaning to me, and after a while, she repeats that three times. On the next morning, she repeats them to me before she goes to school. She recorded also the recitations of Ash Shaykh al Husary, Rahimuhullaah, repeating each verse three times and thus I continued to listen most of the time. Therefore, the next day we would go to the next ten verses if my memorization was good. Otherwise, we would postpone taking additional verses until the day after. Moreover, we assigned the day of Friday to review the memorizations of the entire week. And this was the journey from the beginning.
Over four years and a half, I memorized twelve juz’ according to the way I described to you. Then this young daughter got married. When her husband knew of our task concerning the memorization, he rented a house close to me, close to my house, so that he could allow the continuation of the memorization. In addition, he, May Allah reward him used to encourage us and sometimes sit with us listening, explaining and teaching. Then after three years of her marriage, my daughter got busy with the children and the household and our schedule was interrupted, but that did not make her give up. To the contrary, she sensed that my eagerness for the memorization was still established so she looked for a special good teacher to continue the journey under her supervision. So, I completed the memorization by the success of Allaah and my daughter is still working to finish the memorization of the Glorious Qur‘aan. She has a little left, In Shaa Allaah Ta‘aala.”

This motivation of yours, did it have an effect on other women around you? 
“It really had a good strong effect. My daughters and stepdaughters were all encouraged and worked on learning and teaching the Qur‘aan to their children and learning it themselves. 

After finishing the Noble Qur‘aan, don’t you think about working on memorizing hadith?  
“Now I have memorized ninety hadith and In Shaa Allaah I will continue the journey. I depend, in my memorization, upon the tapes and upon the Qur‘aan radio station. At the end of each week, my daughter comes and checks for me the memorization of three hadith, and I am trying now to memorize more.”

Over this period of memorization of the Qur‘aan, did your life change? Was it affected in one way or another?
“Yes, I went through a major change and I tried always, all praise is due to Allaah, to obey Allaah before I started the memorization. However, after I started the task of memorization, I began to feel a self-comfort, a great self-comfort and all worries began to move away from me. I even reached the stage of freeing myself from all these excessive worries concerning fearing for the children and their affairs, and my morale was boosted. I had a noble objective to work for and this is a great Ni’mah (Favor) from Allaah upon me, since we know that some women, when they get old and they do not have a husband, and their children got married, may be destroyed by the empty time, thoughts, worries, and so forth. But, Al Hamdulillaah, I didn’t go through this and I made myself busy with a great task and a great objective.”

Didn’t you think at one point, to join one of the circles focusing on teaching the Noble Qur‘aan?  
“Yes, some of the women suggested this to me, but I am a woman who got used to staying at home, and I don’t like to go out every day, and Al Hamdulillaah, my daughter sufficed me from all difficulty and I was so happy while I was learning from her. My daughter had set an example in goodness and righteousness which we rarely find in our days. She started this task and journey with me while she was an adolescent and this is a critical age many people complain of. She used to pressure herself so that she could have spare time to teach me, and she used to teach me with kindness and wisdom. Her husband was a good help to her and he exerted a lot of effort. I ask Allaah to give them success and to bring their children up on uprightness.”

What do you say to a woman of your age who wishes to learn and memorize the Qur‘aan yet she is worried about it and feeling unable to?
“I say to her that there shall be no despair with the firm, sincere and truthful determination. Begin with sincerity, firm determination and dependence on Allaah at each time. And remember that at this age you should have the time for yourself.  However, do not use your time to only go out or to sleep and so forth. Rather, busy yourself with righteous work.”

Now what would you say to a woman who is still young? What would you advise her?
“Preserve Allaah and He will preserve you. Make use of the favor of Allaah bestowed upon you from health and ways and means of comfort. Use that to memorize the Book of Allaah. This is the light which enlivens your heart, your life and your grave after you die. And if you have a mother then exert the effort to teach her, and there is no better favor upon a mother than one of her righteous children aiding her to be close to Allaah.”

April 30, 2012

Our Milk is More Than Just Food

Umm Layth is an American mother of two, currently living in New Jersey, USA. She is a WHO/UNICEF Certified Breastfeeding Counselor, an AFPA Certified Pre/Post Natal Exercise Specialist, and a staff writer for the Saudi Life Motherhood column. This article originally appeared on Saudi Life in April of 2012

Many choose breastfeeding because it’s a baby’s most perfect food. But our milk is more than just food.  Even well after our children have finished their “mommy meals” and their hunger is satisfied, our milk continues to provide for them in numerous ways.

Our milk is an on-call body guard
It’s a true mercy from Allah that the moment our children are born our milk is there to help protect them from infection, disease, and illness.

The first bit of milk we get, colostrum, coats and seals our child’s intestines so germs and bacteria don’t make him sick. It also helps to clear his body of excess waste that he accumulated in the womb. If he’s born jaundiced, colostrum will help clear that too!

MashaAllah, as time goes by our milk will provide ongoing infection protection for our children at every single feed. Each time our child is exposed to germs (from the air, from the floor, from a sick relative or fellow playmate) she’ll transfer those germs to us when she breastfeeds. Immediately, our body will produce antibodies to fight that germ and then pass them back to her through our milk, helping to keep her strong and healthy.

Our milk helps protect our bodies too. From the first day our babies are born, breastfeeding lessens mom’s risk of hemorrhaging and helps balance out our hormones, reducing the risk of post-partum depression. The more we breastfeed, the more our bodies benefit. Breastfeeding has been shown to help protect women against various cancers (breast and cervical to name two), naturally help space children, and even speed up post-baby weight loss!

Our milk is a safe haven
Breastfeeding babes know that there’s no comfort object quite like mommy’s milk. Whether it’s used to soothe trauma from a bad fall, crankiness from a recent illness, or anxiety over life’s many changes, our breastmilk is always there to help our little ones feel okay again.

The real beauty of breastfeeding our children through stressful times is that it provides us moms with comfort too! How relaxing it is for us to watch our children’s upset cries fade to content smiles with just a few suckles at the breast. How comforting to look down after a feed and see our children calmly (and deeply) sleeping without a worry in the world.

And unlike other comfort objects (such as toys, dolls or dummies) our breastmilk can never get lost in a mess, forgotten about in a rush, or worn down after years of wear and tear. As long as we choose to breastfeed, our milk will be there to help provide a safe space for our children when they need it.

Our milk is an ever-lasting connection
It’s no coincidence that babies can smell their mother’s unique milk scent and are more attracted to it over other smells.

Divine design made our breastmilk smell similar to that of our amniotic fluid which housed baby during his time in our womb. When baby is born, his familiarity with our smell helps him to search for our breasts when he gets hungry, a newborn reflex called ‘rooting’.

With every feed that baby takes from the breast, the hormone oxytocin is released into our bloodstream, increasing the feelings of love and attachment to our children. This process sets the foundation for a uniquely strong and caring bond between mother and child.  

The bond between breastfeeding child and mother is so strong that in Islam any breastfeeding child under two years of age can forever be considered the son or daughter of the woman who breastfeeds him or her, a process known as Tahrim (creating mahram relationships through breastfeeding). 

Our milk is an inspiration
Breastfeeding didn’t begin with us.

Allah, subhana wa ta ala, mentions the mother of Musa, alayhi salam, who suckled her son before sending him down river to save his life (Qur’an, 28:7).

Prophet Ismaeel, alayhi salaam, was breastfed by his mother Hajar before she climbed Mt Marwa and Mt Safa to look for water (Sahih Bukhari).

The Prophet Muhammad himself, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, was breastfed in his childhood by a wet-nurse named Haleemah (The Sealed Nectar). Later, his daughter Fatima, radiAllahu anha, was breastfed by her mother Khadija bint Khuwayylid, radiAllahu anha (Great Women of Islam). 

I like to think that every time we breastfeed, we’re continuing the legacy these great women left behind. And every time our older children see us breastfeeding the younger ones, we’re setting the example for this legacy to be carried forward after we’re gone, inshaAllah.

Our milk is so much more than just food! It’s nourishment for the whole family; unbreakable bonding for mother and child; and when done with the intention to please Allah, it can even be an act of worship to better our souls. 

April 5, 2012

Maria Zain on the The Birth-Faith Irony: Who Are We Really Relying On?

Maria Zain never thought she would become a birth junkie after two disastrous medical births but things changed a bit when she caught baby number three on her own. Now between homeschooling her four children (yes, number 4 was also born at home), writing and editing, she is honing in onto birth advocacy with a du’a that all mothers will have their own empowering births.

This article was originally published in Saudi LifeThank you and JazakamAllahu Khairan to Maria Zain and Saudi Life for allowing us to re-post this piece on our blog.

A Western woman from Europe approaches a woman of the East. She says, “I would think that in a country like yours, being conservative and being Muslim-majority, that there would be many more homebirths than hospital births, as it would be closer to your beliefs.”
The woman of the East – a Muslim – answers that this isn’t the case in her country – and in fact, it is completely the opposite. She continues to describe the standard birthing scene that a woman in her country has to undergo...
A passer-by, of the same Eastern country, scoffs quietly. “How insulting. And I suppose this Western woman also believes we hang from trees and bathe in mud. We ARE modern, you know.”
It is easy to feel insulted at such comments made by our Western peers, but in retrospect, there is so much truth in it. As a natural birth advocate, I agree totally in what the “Western” woman had to say. But for those who are not on the natural birth bandwagon, it may sound incredulous that homebirths have anything to do with religious beliefs.
The country I come from is a Muslim-majority country, and one that churns out babies by the dozen to boot. I nearly have half a dozen myself, but that’s not the point. The irony of the “Western” statement above is that though Malaysia comes across as conservative and somewhat religious in many ways, she prides herself in modernity and technological advancements in the medical industry – both dangerous and detrimental to her birth culture.
Birth, for natural birthers, is part of a journey for the female form, the medical industry parades it in a different way – in a very “Western” way, one might say. The majority of women birth in hospitals, not at home, and along with hospitals come intervention, protocol, fears of litigation and medically-induced complications. Why is this contrary to faith?
While for many, medicalised births seem the way to go. Why would anyone want to avoid medical interventions, when they are supposedly there to save lives? And why on earth would anyone have their babies at home when there are machines at hospitals that can gauge progress and complications? Contrary to this popular belief, there is plenty of statistical data that proves that even the minute intervention, including monitoring, causes the birth process to become jagged and disturbed, leading to a cascade of interventions that cause potential harm to both mothers and babies.
Birth is rushed along in government hospitals where capacity is usually the pressing issue. Women are admitted and treated like sick patients, hurried along a factory line, and in many cases emerge with distasteful experiences. Some wards have been likened to jail cells, with birthing mothers – in raging on oxytocin – are left strapped down in fear and doubt, causing hindrances for her baby to be born gently. These women are often engulfed in protocol and timelines, and leave the hospital as quickly as they arrive.
In private practice, where the underlying motive for the birth industry is profits, medical intervention is the cultural norm, with inductions being scheduled even weeks before the infamous EDD, regardless of the health of the mother and baby. Scare tactics also run high, as do non-emergency and elective Caesarean sections (c-sections).
Walk along any neighbourhood and throw a few rocks, at least half will hit women who have had to undergo c-sections at birth, the remaining of those rocks will probably hit women who have had traumatic vaginal experiences.
Still, this has nothing to do with faith? It does, as it does with having knowledge. The art of birth has been lost along the tresses of time in this country, Malaysia, and birth is often feared and ridiculed, associated with pain, trauma and even death. Few women are even aware that they are able to birth their babies on their own, not only without medical intervention or “assistance” but without doctors themselves. This isn’t to say that every woman who is expecting a baby should go ahead and plan an unassisted birth, but they should at least be aware how birth was designed by Allah SWT, and how they too were designed to birth, mostly without assistance. They should also at least be aware of the perils of birthing in a hospital, coupled by the hazards of medical intervention, no matter how small.
By understanding a little more about pregnancy and birth, women would be able to be better care providers for themselves rather than rely on medical judgment for non-medical conditions like pregnancy and birth. Over-reliance on hospitals in communities that are perceived as more conservative or religious is really becoming an oxymoron. There is so much more to birth than meets the doctor’s eye, and it is for us women, to try to learn and understand further, and to have faith that our bodies are able to birth our babies.
Having a little more knowledge takes us on leaps and bounds of our faith. In the Qur’an, the womb is known as “mekiynin,” defined as the term “secure receptacle,” or a powerful, sound, unshakeable, fixed object that is designed by Allah SWT. By knowing this alone, mothers would stop consenting to unnecessary inductions that usually happen out of convenience and allow babies to be born on their own accord without rushing the womb along through augmentation or even a c-section.
The one, single birth mentioned in the Qur’an was the birth of Prophet Isa (AS), where his beautiful mother, Maryam (RA), birthed him on her own, assisted only by Allah SWT.
To have the perfection of Maryam is a feat on its own, with one whole verse in the Qur’an named after her. But to come close to having that type of tawakkul – the feeling of complete submission – will allow us to have our babies in gentler, safer environments, without bright lights, without dangerous medical intervention, without prejudice and judgment... and maybe even at home. Who knows?
The compounded irony of the European “Western” woman’s statement is that the highest rates of homebirth are recorded in some European countries, and these have the best outcomes for both mothers and babies; whereas countries with high rates of hospital births have the worse effects on mothers and their babies. Yet we feel insulted when we are culturally associated with homebirths as this discredits the modernisation that is paraded by the medical industry. Oh, the irony.
We need to let go of the fear that is fuelling our reliance on the medical industry and start believing in ourselves. And we certainly shouldn’t feel insulted if an outsider thinks we should. It’s not because we are backwards or under-developed. It’s about having a shimmer of faith in what is natural and letting the gift of birth shine through as per its design by Allah SWT.

March 16, 2012

Beautiful Reminders: Being Good to Our Parents

If there is anything that parenthood teaches us, it’s how to have love and respect towards our own parents for all that they went through in raising us.

Allah, subhana wa ta ala, says in the Qur’an: And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years, he says: "My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your Favour which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds, such as please You, and make my off-spring good. Truly, I have turned to You in repentance, and truly, I am one of the Muslims (submitting to Your Will)." –Suratal Ahqaf, 46:15

According to Ibn Kathir in his tafsir, this duty that Allah, subahna wa ta ala, commands us to have towards our parents includes treating them well, having compassion towards them, and obeying them (so long as what they’re asking for is not haram) regardless of whether or not they are Muslim.

Upholding this duty is so important that throughout the Qur’an, Allah, subhana wa ta ala, mentions it right after obeying Him and the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. Even the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, spoke of good conduct towards our parents as being the next best thing we can do after praying our daily prayers to Allah!

In a hadith found in saheeh Bukhari, a man once asked the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, “Which action is the most beloved to Allah?” The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, answered: “Prayer at its correct time.” The man then asked: “Then which action?” The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam answered: “Birr (good treatment, kindness) towards the parents.” The man said: “Then which?” The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, answered: “Jihad in the way of Allah.”

In his book Sharh ul-'Aqeedat-il-Waasi tiyyah, Shaykh Uthaymeen says regarding good conduct towards our parents:

“When we reflect upon the state of people today, we find that many of them do not treat their parents kindly rather they openly disobey them and treat them badly. You would find someone being good to his friends and not tiring of sitting with them. However, if he were to sit with his father or mother for just an hour in the day, you would find him restless as though he were on hot coals. So this is not from kind treatment. Rather the one who shows kindness is one who opens his heart to his mother and father and serves them and is devoted to them and who has the utmost eagerness to please them with everything that he is able to do.

And as it is commonly said, "Al-Birr is an investment". For indeed if someone is good [to his parents], then he will receive a great reward in the next life, and he will even be repaid for it in this life. So good or bad treatment of one's parents is like, as is commonly said, "an investment", or a loan. If you had been good to your parents, then your children will be good to you, and if you had been disobedient to your parents, then your children will be disobedient to you.”

So how can we show birr to our parents?

1. Know that good conduct is for BOTH our parents, not just one.  
From Abu Hurayra who said, "It was said, 'O Messenger of Allaah (Peace be upon him), who is most deserving of my birr?' He replied, 'your mother'. He said, 'then who?' He replied, 'your mother.' He said, 'then who?' He said, 'your mother.' He said, 'then who?' He replied, 'your father'" –Sahih Bukhari

2. Speak gentle words to them.
Taysala bin Mayyaas said, "I was with the Najadaat (a group of the Hururiyyah) and I committed a sin which I regarded to be Major, so I mentioned this to Ibn Umar. He said, 'what sin is it?' I said, 'this and this.' He said, 'this is not from the Major sins, the major sins are nine: "Associating partners with Allaah, killing a soul, fleeing from the advancing army, to accuse a chaste woman, Eating Ribaa, Eating the property of an orphan, to apostasize in the mosque, the one who ridicules/derides others, and making the parents cry due to disobedience to them."

Ibn Umar said to me, 'Do you fear the fire and wish to enter the Paradise?' I said, 'of course, by Allaah!' He said, 'are your parents alive?' I said, 'I have a mother.' He said, 'then by Allaah! If you were to speak gently to her and feed her, you would certainly enter paradise, as long as you stay away from the Major sins.'" –Saheeh Bukhari

3. Try to repay them for all they’ve done.
From Abdullaah bin Umar who said, " A man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to give him the bay'ah for hijrah, and he left his parents crying. So the Prophet said, 'return to your parents and make them laugh as you have made them cry'" –Saheeh Bukhari

From Abu Hurayra from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that he said, "The son can never repay his parent. Except that he finds him a slave, then buys him and sets him free." --Saheeh Bukhari

4. Serve and care for them as they get old.
From Abu Hurayra, from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that he said, "May he be disgraced and humiliated, may he be disgraced and humiliated, may he be disgraced and humiliated." They said, "who O Messenger of Allaah?" He said, "the one whose parents attain old age, or one of them, and he enters Hellfire (by not serving them)." –Sahih Bukhari

5. Show them respect and pray for them.
“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 honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.’” –Surah Al-Isra, 23-24. 

February 19, 2012

The Prophet's Methods of Teaching

How will I teach my child?

It’s one of the most often asked questions a parent reflects over. Alhamdulilah, in the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, we have the best of example of a teacher.

The Prophet didn’t just teach his children; he also taught his wives, his companions, community leaders, and many others. When the Prophet taught, he was careful to build relationships with his students, emphasize important points, and tailor his lessons in a way so the person listening would understand his message. 

InshaAllah by reflecting on his methods, we can find the keys to unlock our own teaching potential with our children.

Teaching by Parables and Narratives
Parables and narratives are illustrative tales used to teach moral concepts and they were a common method used by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.

An example of a parable used by the Prophet with regards to prayer is narrated by Abu Bakr, radiAllahu anhu, in Sahih Muslim.

Abu Bakr, said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: ‘Behold! Can any dirt remain on the body of any one of you if there were a river at his door in which he washed himself five times daily? They said: No dirt would remain. He, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: That is like the five daily prayers by which Allah obliterates sins.”

Teaching by Oaths
At times, the Prophet would get his students’ attention and emphasize important lessons by beginning with an oath.

In Sahih Bukhari it’s reported that the Prophet said, “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! It was said: ‘Who is that person, O Allah’s Messenger?’ He answered: That person is he whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.”

Teaching Gradually
Rather than immediately impose rules and laws on the people who accepted Islam, the Prophet Muhammad taught the religion gradually focusing on building a person’s belief before anything else.

An excellent example of this was when the prohibition for alcohol was announced, the companions (due to the strength of their faith) immediately disposed of all the alcoholic drinks they owned to the point that the alcohol was seen “flowing through the streets of Medina (Sahih Bukhari).”

Teaching by Offering Alternatives
When correcting people’s mistakes, the Prophet would offer positive alternatives to help improve behavior and practice, as opposed to just criticizing for the wrong that was done.

Once the Prophet saw some sputum in the direction of the qibla (direction of the Kabbah) and it upset him so much that his anger could be seen on his face. After removing the spit with his own hand, he told the people: “When any one of you stands up to pray, he is talking to his Lord. His Lord is between him and the qibla, so no one should spit in the direction of the qibla; he should spit to his left or under his feet (Sahih Bukhari).” 

February 2, 2012

Choosing to be a Positive Parent

Umm Layth is an American mother of two, currently living in the USA. She is a WHO/UNICEF Breastfeeding Counselor and Writer for the SAUDI Life parenting and motherhood columns. This piece was originally published on SAUDI Life's parenting column. JazakamAllahu Khairan to SAUDI Life for allowing us to re-post this on our blog. 

Recently, I was scolded for exercising “bad planning” in preparing to have a second child while my first would soon be entering his “terrible twos”.

“Who says they have to be terrible?” I asked.

The person on the other end of the line gave a quick laugh and then exclaimed that I had no clue what I was getting myself into.Well maybe I don’t have a clue, but I still stand by my question.

“Terrible twos”, “ferocious fours”, “teen drama queens”, and “impossible children eating us out of house and home”. With all the horror stories and negative nicknames that parents spread around the block, it’s no wonder that less and less people want to start families. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, we can choose to stay positive and focus on the good.

Staying positive doesn’t mean being unrealistic or blind to the challenges that parenting can bring. After all, Allah, subhana wa ta ala, does tell us in the Qur’an that our children will be a trial for us.
“Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah – with Him lies a great reward.” - translation of Surah at-Taghaabun, ayah 15.

But Allah also tells us that with every hardship comes ease.
“Verily along with every hardship is relief.” - translation of Surah Ash-Sharh, ayah 5

And time and time again, Islam teaches us that there can be great rewards in raising our children.  
And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in anything. Every person is a pledge for that which he has earned.” –translation of Surah at-Tur, ayah 21

“When the son of Adam dies, his (good) deeds come to an end except for three: a recurring charity, a knowledge that is beneficial or a righteous child that supplicates for him.” –recorded in Sahih Muslim

“Indeed a man may ascend a level in Paradise and ask: ‘How did this happen?’ So it will be said to him: ‘By your child’s asking forgiveness for you.’” –recorded in Ahmad and Ibn Majah

It seems to me that the potential for good in our relationships with our children far outweighs the little bad we may face along the way. So why does negativity still reign?

The way I see it, our children and/or teens are bound to get emotional, throw some tantrums, be stubborn, and maybe even blatantly defy us. But let’s face it: adults can (and often do) act the exact same way.  So what’s the point of allowing our entire day to be ruined because our child does it?

I’m not advocating that we ignore bad actions or behavior, but I am advocating that we don’t allow them to define the relationships we have with our children.

Children mirror the behavior, actions and outlooks of their parents. If we wake up every day believing that our children are going to be terrible and treat them as if everything they do is terrible, what incentive will they have to be anything more than terrible? 

In contrast, imagine if we were to wake up every day being positive. What if every day we believed that our children were capable of good and rewarded them for all the good that they do? Wouldn’t this then encourage them to continue doing good down the line?

Wouldn’t it just feel better if at the end of your day, you could sit back, reflect and praise Allah for all the good that he put into your children instead of going to bed angry and stressed over the little bad that may have happened?

The reality is that whatever age or stage our children are in, they will be a trial for us. We can’t change that. But we can choose how we respond to it. So which parent will we choose to be? The one who hangs onto the bad and adds another negative nickname to the list? Or the one who accepts that their trial is from Allah, stays positive and enjoys the good that comes with it? 

January 22, 2012

Drawing Closer to Allah During Pregnancy

We all want the best for our children. But as Muslims, providing the best isn’t limited to financial, physical or emotional provisions; it includes provisions for the soul as well. And what better way to spiritually provide the best for our children than by our own example? And what better time to improve upon our relationship with Allah than during the nine long months of pregnancy?

In her book, Heaven Under Your Feet: Pregnancy for Muslim Women, Umm Hasan bint Salim writes, “As mothers-to-be we become acutely aware of how our children will learn from us as soon as they meet us. This may not be how we have thought about it, but this is the time for us to embark on a journey of self-rectification as essential preparation for the grave responsibility [of parenting] awaiting us.”

Because our children will watch and learn from everything that we do, improving upon ourselves as servants of Allah is a vital part of laying the foundations for raising righteous children, inshaAllah. If we prepare and do our job well, Allah, subhana wa ta ala, has promised us rewards in the akhira.

Allah says in Surah at-Toor (translation), “And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith – to them We shall join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in the least.” –Qur’an: At-Toor, ayah 21

MashaAllah, pregnancy is an ideal time for us to focus inwards. Below are a few ways that we can work to improve ourselves and our closeness to Allah during this time:

1. Purify Our Intention
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said (translation), “The reward of deeds depends upon their intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” –Bukhari

Umm Hasan writes, “Every minute of every day with our babies can hold potential rewards for us if we have the best of intentions. If our intention to have babies is one that Allah, subhana wa ta ala, is pleased with then inshaAllah our pregnancy, our babies, and our lives with them, will bear fruit upon fruit.” –Heaven Under Your Feet, Part 1

2. Be Thankful to Allah
Although we may not like to think of it, pregnancy and childbearing is not something guaranteed for everyone.

Allah, subhana wa ta ala, has said in Surah Ash-Shura, ayahs 49-50 (translation), “He gives to whom He wills females, and He gives to whom He wills males. Or He couples them as males and females, and he renders whom He wills childless. Indeed He is Knowing and Capable.”

The simple fact that Allah, subhana wa ta ala, has allowed some of us to be pregnant while many others are not able, is a gift and a blessing. And when we show gratitude to Allah for the blessings he gives us, He promises to give us even more, mashaAllah! 

Allah tells us in Surah Ibrahim, ayah 7 (translation), “And remember when your Lord made [His promise] known: If you are grateful to Me, I shall most certainly give you more and more, but if you show ingratitude, truly My punishment is severe.”

One way of showing our gratitude to Allah is to perform a prostration of thankfulness, known in Arabic as Sujood ush-Shukr.

It’s narrated in Abu Dawood that whenever something would befall the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, that made him happy, he would fall to the ground in prostration to give thanks to Allah. –Also reported by Ibn Majah and at-Tirmidhi

A second way to show gratitude to Allah is to constantly say “Alhamdulilah” (Praise be to Allah).

In an authentic hadith found in Ibn As-Sunni, when something happened that pleased the Prophet, he would say, ‘Alhamdulilaahi lathe bini’matihi tatimmus-saalihaat’ (Praise is to Allah Who by His blessings all good things are perfected). And if something happened that displeased him, he would say, ‘Alhamdulilaahi ‘alaa kulli haal’ (Praise is to Allah in all circumstances).” –taken from Fortress of a Muslim: Invocations from the Qur’an and Sunnah

A third way to show thankfulness to Allah is show thankfulness to the people.

In a hadith narrated in Abu Dawood, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said (translation), “Those who do not thank people do not thank Allah.”

3. Improve Our Salah
MashaAllah, pregnancy is the only time that women are able to pray non-stop which, by the Mercy of Allah, leaves us with ample time to perfect whatever may be lacking in our prayers. Over and over again we see both the Qur’an and hadith emphasize the importance of praying all of our prayers and praying them with khushoo’.

In Surah Al Baqarah (2:238) Allah says (translation), “Guard strictly your prayers, especially the Middle prayer; and stand before Allah in a devout frame of mind (i.e. with khushoo’).”

The prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, even warned us what could happen if we don’t do this.

In a hadith recorded by Abu Dawood, the Prophet said, “A slave may pray and have nothing recorded for it except a tenth of it, or a ninth, or an eighth, or a seventh, or a sixth, or a fifth, or a quarter, or a third, or a half.”

4. Make Du’a
No matter how much we prepare and plan the best for our children, our efforts can never be successful without the help and mercy of Allah, subhanAllah. The importance of du’a in the life of a Muslim can never be overemphasized. And when we reach those points of our pregnancy where we feel like we’re facing an uphill battle that no one in the world could possibly understand, du’a can bring us closer to the One who is All-Knowing, All-Hearing, and Most Merciful.

In Surah Al Baqarah, ayah 186, Allah says (translation), “And when my slave asks you concerning Me, then answer I am indeed near. I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me.”

One of the best times for us to make du’a and ask of Allah is while we are in sujood.

In Saheeh Muslim, it’s recorded that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said, “The closest that the slave can be to his Lord is when he is prostrating, so increase your du’a [at that time].”
In another hadith, the Prophet said, “As for sujood, strive hard to make du’a in it, for it is bound to be answered for you.” –Sahih Muslim

Some of the du’as we can make include asking Allah for healthy pregnancies and deliveries, righteous children, patience and gratitude for His endless favors, courage and strength to face the large task of motherhood ahead of us, protection from Shaytan, and purification from any sin we commit.

Fortress of a Muslim is an excellent book for specific du’as from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

5. Exercise Patience
With pregnancy comes enormous change, both physically and emotionally. It’s beneficial not only to our own health but to our family’s sanity as well that we try to take things easy and do our best to maintain our composure even under the most stressful of times.

Allah spoke of having patience in the Qur’an when he said (translation), “By Time! Surely the human being is at loss. Except for those who have faith and do righteous deeds and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience,” –Surah Al Asr, ayahs 1-3

To help us be patient, let us remember that every ounce of discomfort we face during pregnancy, or at any other time for that matter, is actually to our benefit because it is designed to help purify our souls.

In Sahih Bukhari it’s recorded that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said (translation), “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.”  

An important part of being able to have patience with what Allah decrees for us is to know and trust that whatever happens to us is from Allah, therefore everything that happens is exactly as it should be.

In Sahih Muslim, it’s recorded that the Prophet said (translation), “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, and both are good. Pay attention to that which could benefit you, seek the help of Allah and do not feel incapacitated. If anything befalls you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such, such a thing would have happened.’ Say instead, ‘It is the decree of Allah, and what He wills, He does,’ for saying ‘if only…’ opens the way for Shaytan.”

In Surah Al Baqarah, ayahs 155-157, Allah says (translation), “And give good news to the patient, who, when struck with disaster say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah and to Him we will return.’ Upon them be blessings from their Lord, and Mercy, and they are the rightly guided.” 

January 15, 2012

Sunnah of Childcare: Welcoming the Newborn Part 2

When a Muslim child is born, welcoming him or her into the world includes certain religious rituals. Some of these rituals are considered obligatory to perform while others are not. And for some others differences of opinion exist. Below is a list of these rituals compiled from various sources and continued from our previous post, Sunnah of Childcare: Welcoming the Newborn Part 1

5. Performing the ‘Aqeeqah
‘Aqeeqah refers to the religious animal sacrifice made on behalf of a child when he or she is born as a way of thanking Allah, subhana wa ta ala, for the blessing he has bestowed.

In a hadith reported by Abu Dawood, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Every child is held at ransom by his ‘aqeeah. A sacrifice should be offered on his behalf on the seventh day. (On this day), his hair should be cut and he should be given a name.”

The aqeeqah is performed for both male and female children and may be offered on the seventh day after the child is born, the 14th day, the 21st or any day after that. Animals to be sacrificed must be healthy sheep. They cannot have a limp, broken bones, sickness, or be only one-eyed.

When one performs aqeeqah, two sheep should be sacrificed for a boy, while only one need be sacrificed for a girl. In addition, the meat should be distributed evenly; some is kept to eat by the family, some is given in charity, and some is used to feed the people who attend.

Umm Kurz once asked the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, about the aqeeqah and he replied, “two sheep for a boy nad one for a girl. And it does no harm to you whether they are males or females (the sheep).” –reported by abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, and AnNasaa’ee

--Taken from Raising Children in Light of the Qur’an and Sunnah

6. Shaving the Child’s Head
In relation to the aqeeqah, the child’s head should be shaved on the seventh day after its birth.

When the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, performed aqeeqah for his grandson Hasan he said, “O Faatimah! Shave his head and give charity the weight of his hair in silver.” –Reported by Tirmidhi

Shaving the head of the child, whether male or female, is a way of removing harm from them as the Prophet, sallallahi alayhi wa sallam, said,When it is the child's seventh day, then spill blood for him, remove the harm from him (i.e. shave the head) and name him.”—Recorded in at-Tabaraanee, declared hasan by Ibn Hajar

Once the child’s head is shaved, the hair is to be weighed and its amount equal in silver is to be donated as charity (see above hadith recorded in Tirmidhi)

7. Initiating Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is considered an essential right of the Muslim child and should begin as soon as possible after birth and last until the age of weaning, which is two years. 

For a detailed explanation of breastfeeding in Islam, please see our previous post A Mother’s Milk: The Command from Allah

8. Circumcising the Child
Circumcision is part of the fitrah for male children as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, said

The Fitrah (natural way) is five: circumcision, shaving the private parts, trimming the mustache, clipping the nails and plucking hair from the armpits.– Reported by Bukhari and Muslim

It is recommended to perform circumcision on the seventh day after the child is born, but can be performed before or after that as well, if needed.

The benefits of circumcision include implementing a sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, and reducing the risk of infection from dirt and bacteria that can get caught underneath retained foreskin.

9. Making Dua’a for the Child
It’s recorded in both Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, would seek make dua’a for his grandsons, saying, “I seek refuge (in Allah) for the two of you through the perfect words of Allah from every devil and poisonous pest, and from every evil (envious) eye.”

For more on making dua’a for children see our previous post, Sunnah of Childcare: Seeking Protection