Tawheed – a liberation from oppression

“Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them – so worship Him and have patience for His worship. Do you know of any similarity to Him?”
Maryam [16:65]

Growing up, the importance of worshiping Allah alone and not committing shirk (associating partners with Allah in worship), was constantly emphasized. My mum especially, would stress the importance of us learning the concept of tawheed in depth. When I went to Quran school and started learning Islam, it seemed, tawheed is all they would talk about. For a while, in my ignorance, I failed to comprehend why so much emphasis was given to something I felt was essentially simple to understand: worship Allah alone. Not complicated. Well, little did I know, for the past year especially, I have slowly began to understand a fraction of how powerful the concept of tawheed is, and how incredibly significant it is in a believers life.

Undeniably, this is a huge topic, one that scholars wrote numerous books on and studied their whole lives about, in comparison to the mountain of knowledge they possess, my knowledge is finite. And yet, understanding this one benefit of tawheed has clarified many things for me, it has shifted my perspective on some wordly affairs and enabled me to see things through a different lense. More importantly, learning about tawheed has helped me to understand my purpose in this life more clearly. By the will of Allah, I wish to pass on this benefit to you, and I hope that you will find this knowledge as liberating as I do.

The world has changed drastically. The believers now feel, as described by our prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasalam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), as though they are imprisoned in this earth: Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever.”
[Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2956]

In many ways, people feel oppressed, which is somewhat paradoxical in a world shifting most of its focus on the importance of being free. Different individuals have their own interpretation as to what being free means, but most of us are deluding ourselves without even noticing it. We think we are liberating ourselves by becoming enslaved to our whims and desires, listening to everything they demand. Society has taught us not to obey limits, but rather to transgress the bounds of nature, to do and experiment everything. We have become indoctrinated into believing that this is happiness; and yet ironically enough, there has been a rise in people being depressed, having anxiety, committing suicide and so forth. If obeying our desires is supposedly beneficial to ones self, why are we so unhappy?

The fact is, that going by what our desires command isn’t freedom, it isn’t liberation. We were not created for this. Our hearts yearn for Allah and Allah alone, not wordly affairs. Many of us have corrupted ourselves by feeding our hearts with everything but the love of Allah, and we wonder why we feel so empty within. And this is where tawheed comes in. The concept of worshiping Allah alone, allowing your love of Him to prevail over everything else is profound. To submit yourself to your Creator only, not money, not fame, not alcohol or drugs, not music, not women, not materialism, not societal expectations and the list goes on, is very powerful.

Just think about how much internal conflict you could solve by ignoring what society dictates what you should do and how you should be. Many of us stress the importance of taking care of our bodies, but we neglect our hearts and souls. While our bodies are in need of physically sustenance, our hearts yearn for spiritual sustenance, and that lies with tawheed. With worshiping Allah alone. And this is one of the many reasons why tawheed is extremely important, to purify and illuminate our hearts. I mean, should not the Creator of your heart know what is best for it? I urge my brothers and sisters to liberatin themselves from the oppression of the self, reclaim your freedom and go back to Allah.

Ramadan Muslims

As people, we make mistakes, going about our day to day live’s doing things that we may know are completely wrong or forbidden, enticed by the ‘sweet’ whispers of the Shaytan. However, when it comes time to Ramadan, the sudden opportunity for change presents itself. Where you didn’t pray or perhaps wear hijab you find that you start to change, praying your five times in Ramadan, putting that hijab on to ‘try it out’. However, what usually happens after the hype of the blessed month wears off, most of us who have grasped this chance may find ourselves slipping and turning back, doing the things we used to or not to do. Perhaps, you are going through this yourself, or know someone who is experiencing this. It was only recently that I discovered that this ‘slipping’ is often referred to as ‘Ramadan Muslims’

In Ramadan the thing we’re trying to accomplish is change as it is the most blessed month and we should show gratitude to Allah, striving to get closer to Him, for He is the All Knowing, the All Seeing.  That being said, the key to change is doing good deeds consistently, keeping it up throughout the year.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” Sunan Ibn Majah, 4240 (authenticated by al-Albani)

Why is it that we act a certain way or do a certain thing during Ramadan and outside Ramadan? It could naturally be due to the fact that we are aware that Ramadan really is a blessed month, a month of striving, so we’re on our best behavior as we try to accomplish as many good deeds as possible. However, even when the motivation is low, we need to wake up and push ourselves to turn the things we’ve accomplished or worked on this Ramadan into habits, realizing that Allah is the All Seeing the All Knowing, the Judge of all things.

If we know He sees and hears all things, then we must fear His punishment, staying away from bad deeds and displeasing Him. It is sad to say, but also true that some of us are good Muslims during Ramadan and then at soon as it ends we find it as a free pass to stop praying, let that hijab slip, be rude to our parents, talk in a bad way, fight with our siblings, listen to music, etc. the list goes on and on.

We have to motivate and help each other, when we fall back and do something wrong don’t give up! Repent and move forward and remind yourself that: “I’m going to try and be the best Muslim I can be!” Repeat this mantra in the mirror everyday when you wake up if you feel it’ll help.

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” Sunan Ibn Majah, 4251 (authenticated by As-Suyuti)

Repentance is beloved to Allah, as He says: “Verily, Allah loves those who repent and those who purify themselves.” [Al-Qur’an 2:222]

Going forward we need to develop an awareness of how we act outside Ramadan vs. the way we act during Ramadan. The way we act during Ramadan is how we should strive to be all year round. This is because we want to change ourselves for the better, pleasing Allah, not to show off or please others. If you do a good deed such as finishing the Quran, or make a delicious iftar for your family, reaffirm your intentions that at the end of the day you’re doing this for the sake of Allah.

“And your Ilâh (God) is One Ilâh (God – Allah), Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (there is none who has the right to be worshipped but He), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” [Al Qur’an 2:163]

We’re human and we all make mistakes and slip up. Now that Ramadan is coming to an end, use this time to evaluate yourself and where you stand. Take responsibility and make attainable goals to continue your progress outside of Ramadan, and hit the ground running rather than lagging behind.  It’s important to note, and remind yourself when the motivation is running low and you feel like lapsing back, that the next Ramadan is never guaranteed. Therefore, take this moment to return in gratitude to Allah for giving you a golden opportunity that you may not experience next year, reaffirming your belief, as you use the Ramadan as stepping stones to getting closer to Allah throughout the rest of the year.

Narrated by Abu Dhar, that Allah’s Messenger said that Allah said: “He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” Reported by Muslim.

Being SMART During The Last 10 Days

Nabiha started Ramadan with a good kick, zealous to complete her goals and take the steps towards the changes she wanted in her life. She was extremely excited, following her strict regime ‘To a T’. Extremely careful not to skip a day, for she had made up her mind to change and make the most of this blessed month. She did good, until the tenth day of Ramadan hit, the first third, she was feeling over-confident, and her motivation started to wane – just a little. She decided to give herself a break – just for one day.

BAM – the last ten days are approaching faster than she imagined; the first ten days surely hadn’t been so fast had they?  She felt guilty, having become lax with her goals and fell further behind than she would’ve dreamed, her to-do list now piling up. Her motivation was pretty much a thing of the past, and she had to struggle and fight to try to catch up. She felt despair…would she be able to make the most out of the last ten days like she’d originally hoped?

Many of us face a similar, if not the same, situation as Nabiha. We start off Ramadan all excited, rearing to go, only to crash and burn before the end has even arrived, feeling unmotivated with the idea of ‘throwing in the towel’ becoming more and more appealing as the days speed by.

A common mistake that we make is setting unrealistic goals that are general and broad.  After falling into this same trap time and time again, in countless situations a wise teacher taught me how to make SMART goals. Which means making your goals:

 S – specific, significant

Make sure that your goal is well defined and that it’s clear to anyone has basic knowledge of your goal.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

Measure whether it’s obtainable and how far away is the completion.

A – attainable, achievable, action orientated

Make sure you can actually achieve your goal within the set measured time that you’ve set above.

R – realistic, reasonable, result-orientated

That you can realistically do it with your given resources available, taking your level of comittment into account.

T – time based

Make sure you have enough time to complete your goal and not too much time as this can affect your project performance.

One valuable lesson my mom taught me was to eat my ‘Elephant’, goal,  bite by bite rather than trying to swallow it whole. As we can undoubtedly vouch from experience, it’s extremly easy to get overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Even though the last ten days of Ramadan are almost here, it’s not too late to re-evaluate your goals and readjust your plan, using the SMART template above as a guide.

Choosing Allah

Tahajjud: its excellence and benefits

Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam said: “The best month for observing fast after Ramadhan is muharram, and the best salah after the prescribed salah is salah at night”

As servants of Allah, we should be always seeking ways of getting closer our Lord, and Islam teaches us that one of the easiest ways in which we can ignite a connection with Allah and grow closer to Him, is through the night prayer. When is the last time any of us left our beds for the sake of Allah, and stood in the depths of the night to pray? Last Ramadhan? Before an exam? Maybe there hasn’t even been a first time, and yet it is a beautiful act of worship with a huge amount of reward.

Salah, in general, is one of the most important actions a servant must perform in our religion, we know, it is the second pillar of Islam after the shahada (testimony), and this highlights its significance. Tahajjud is one of the supererogatory prayers we are constantly advised to perform, it is one of those actions that, when performed, enables us to become amongst the individuals mentioned in this beautiful qudsi hadith: Narrated on the authority of Abu Dhar: Allah’s Messenger said that Allah said: “He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” [Muslim]

This act is a beautiful deed which Allah swt loves. Just imagine, during the night when the world has settled and people are caught up in their sleep, you arise and begin to pray, you’re one of the very few servants of Allah who do this. Calmness and serenity settles within you because you are alone with Allah, you worship Him, remember Him, make dua to Him. Due to the night’s calm atmosphere and silence, you genuinely feel a sense of comfort. The Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?”. What an incredible hadith subhanAllah! It is sad to think that so many of us miss this amazing opportunity because we choose sleep over prayer, and contrary to what Muslims believe, this act of worship is not tiring or difficult in anyway, in fact once it becomes a habit, it will be something you will find difficult to live without.

Praying tahajud is also one of the most excellent ways of manifesting your gratitude towards Allah swt and the uncountable blessings He has bestowed in your life. One of the best hadith that illustrates this is the one that follows: Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: “Why do you do this, while you have been forgiven of your former and latter sins?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful slave of Allah?” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] This hadith teaches us so much, the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, despite not possessing much, acknowledged the blessings of Allah swt upon Him, and stood in prayer until his skin got affected to show his gratitude to His lord, what excuse do we have? Our blessings are so much that it is impossible to count them,  “If you were to count Allah’s favors, you would not be able to number them; most surely humanity is very unjust, very ungrateful.” [Sūrah Ibrāhīm: 34] this verse should soften our hearts, and make us feel ashamed when we compare our ungrateful attitude towards Allah’s generosity towards us. Even though it would realistically impossible to thank Allah for all His blessings, let us implement the action of the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam, and pray tahajud as way of showing some gratitude towards Allah.

Ramadan is near – Stay active and keep worshiping

As children, the phrase: “Ramadan is coming” brought joy to our hearts. Knowing that Ramadan was a month where we have guest, delicious food, night trips to the mosque; where family and friends come together to fully appreciate this unforgettable month. As children we didn’t pay much attention to what we were supposed to do and not to do, but as we’re getting older, we’re realising that Ramadhan is much more than Maghrib  countdowns and good family vibes, and sometimes we may be confused with what to do as we become young adults.

Many of us are focused on the food and inviting guests during this month, to the point that we miss the actual benefits of Ramadan. We get caught up in an everyday routine and we forget the actual purpose; to praise Allah, subhanah wa ta’ala, in Ramadan, which is a widespread problem in our Ummah today .

Things to do in Ramadan

  • Sleep at night, not the day

It’s easy to get your nights and days turned around as you get up to prepare Suhur before Fajr and pray Taraweeh in the Masjids after Isha’. Make it your goal to not be amongst those who waste precious hours in the day and find ways to keep yourself occupied during the daytime i.e reading Quran, make dua, etc.

  • Try to be active during the day by worshiping Allah and increasing your deeds

When preparing for this Ramandan make a goal list. Think about the type of person you desire to be and pick a few characteristics or deeds and break it down into obtainable goals and work on them this Ramadan. One such goal may be to indulge in less screen time and social media. Choose goals that will help you fill your day and try and stay off that phone until after iftaar.

  • When you cook, try to spend less time in the kitchen. Eat light foods and make easy meals so that Taraweeh isn’t difficult and you can worship Allah at night

Remember that Ramadan is not the month of ‘feasting’ but rather a month of training and endurance against your Nafs, self/desires, a vital stepping stone for helping you build your relationship with Allah, subhanah wa ta’ala, throughout the year. Eating a lot and ‘feasting’ will leave you tired and overly full making Taraweeh extremely difficult. This can lead to missing out on such a golden opportunity for gathering rewards.

  • When the last 10 day have approached, don’t spend all your time preparing for Eid.

The greatest rewards are in the last ten days, espically Laylatul Qadr, a day that is better  than a thousand months – that is longer than most people live. As stated in Surrah al-Qadar(97):3: “The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months”

A night wherein Allah sent down the Qur’ân to the lowest heavens. Our good deeds on this special night are magnified in value, so that it is as if we have been offering those deeds for 1000 months.

  • Increase in kindness to those around you. Give your fellow Muslim brothers and sisters their rights.

Use this blessed and beloved month as your training ground to becoming a better version of yourself and choose take the high road when provoked by others.

  • Keep yourself hydrated and satisfied when eating and drinking (make soups to maximize on hydration) and help your mum in the kitchen or around the house.

Staying active during Ramadan

Health! We all spend time trying to get to a body size, that we wish to be, or just want to eat healthy in general. Making time to workout during Ramadan can be difficult especially when you’re fasting and want to make time to sleep before getting up for suhoor.  The following is a solution that you can implement during this Ramadan:

  1. You can workout 1-2 hours before Isha  or before Fajr
  2. After taraweeh you can rest until 1-2 hours before suhoor and then you can workout.

It’s important to remember that spiritual and physical health are both vitally important and therefore we should strike a balance, all the while not forgetting the true purpose of Ramadan. Use this beautiful and blessed month as your training ground to prepare both and insha’Allah, by the end of the month you will see the fruits or your hard work.