Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Uff’: The three letters that taught me how to respect my parents

There is a brilliant and somewhat amusing line in the Holy Quran where God advises us concisely and clearly on how to treat our parents. Under no circumstances, even if we are entrusted with caring for our parents in old age, should we say to them “uff” – the Arabic equivalent to an expression of annoyance such as “argh” or “ugh”.

I admit that when I read that line for the first time last year, I was humoured to see this colloquialism used in the pages of the Quran, Arabic for “The Recitation” – a series of messages and admonitions from God for humankind recited through the Last Prophet ﷺ.

“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as] "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small’." (17: 23-24)

The simplicity of these phrases made me smile, but also served as a reality check. The three-letter-word shook me instantly. Besides worshiping and loving God, very little is more important than consistently acting toward ones parents with warmth and watching one's tongue.

Family has always been central for me and I was someone who was widely viewed as a good daughter. Yet, many times I would regard financial and moral obligations to my parents as a burden rather than a pleasure. Due to a series of circumstances – including illness and financial strain – I had perhaps more responsibilities than the average child from a young age. I understood the moral duty to care for family and endeavoured my best to perform these duties.

But I cannot say that my actions were always inspired by compassion and understanding. I would at times disagree with my parents, quarrel with them and fail to deal with them in tenderness. I think many of us can be negligent of our parents as we pursue our careers, travel, and search for love and friendship. We can also be unforgiving of mistakes they have made.

Upon finishing university in Canada, I moved to Cairo to work as a journalist for two years and, following a brief return my hometown Vancouver, I have worked in the Gulf region for more than five years. Up until recently, this distance prevented me from seeing my family frequently.

Both of my parents were, in their own unique ways, supportive and appreciative of my success, sacrifice and commitment. They did not expect more. But when I discovered my Islam, my submission to God, I realised I was not doing nearly enough. I intrinsically understood that family was important, but there was something about reading the words of God Himself that impressed upon me that the obligation to care for parents was not simply a matter of performing actions. Rather, it was appreciating the honour of those actions.

Last July, I completed my first reading the Quran while on a short holiday in London and Paris. My mom, sisters and nephews were together in Dubai and my father was in Fayoum, Egypt, an oasis city south of Cairo where he was born. I found myself exploring beautiful European cities on my own but wishing instead that I was with them. Understanding that one of God’s biggest tests of us is our success at treating our parents compassionately changed me; I suddenly wanted them around as much as possible.

My mom noticed the difference in me immediately as she saw me pray deeply, fast frequently and treat her with more attentiveness than I had previously. Now when my mom tells stories of her often tumultuous childhood, upbringing and adult life, I strive to listen to them, to remember the details, her expressions and the tone of her voice. “Heaven lies at the feet of your mother,” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is cited as having said.

As fate would have it, it was when I surrendered to my obligations to my parents and truly welcomed them that my father passed away, suddenly, just two weeks before we planned to visit him in Egypt in August during the month of Ramadan (الله يرحمه/God bless his soul).

Reaching that moment when you know in your heart that you cannot share another word or embrace with a parent is overwhelming. For me it was particularly so because I had wished to communicate my newfound understanding of my faith with him. Suddenly, all the time in the world became equivalent to an irretrievable millisecond as I realised I could not delay his soul’s return to its Creator. He died while I was in flight, rushing to see him.

Looking upon my father’s bright face and simple grin before his burial moved me. I realised I was not too late but right on time. God had opened my heart in the two months prior to prepare me for this considerable event, priming me to be patient, to pray for my father, support my mother and offer compassion to my sisters.

In the weeks that followed, I browsed through the emails my father and I had exchanged not as frequently as we should have. He always ended his concise messages with a reference to God, something I failed to notice in the hustle and bustle of life. "I pray to God every prayer to make your life very rewarding,” my dad wrote at the end of one message. “I pray every prayer to God to keep you safe and increase your wealth and make everything easy for you,” he conveyed in another. "God bring you safe to us forth and back.”

I have come to realise that being a good Muslim, that is, a person who exercises her obligations to God through prayers, fasting, regular charity and good deeds, is the greatest gift I can offer my parents. The last Prophet ﷺ said of the deceased: "When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge and righteous offspring who will pray for him”.

It has been an immense comfort for me to know that when I pray and offer optional acts of worship for my father they will benefit his soul. Virtually every day since his death, I have recited on his behalf a chapter (surah) in the Quran known as Ya-Sin, which I had memorised in Arabic years before realising its importance. Ya Sin carries crucial messages about resurrection and life after death and was described by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the heart of the Quran.

What I do for my father now far exceeds anything I did for him during his life. Recognising this has not only informed my faith, it has drawn me closer to both of my parents. 

Daliah Merzaban is an Egyptian-Canadian journalist, editor and economic analyst with a decade of experience in the Gulf region, Egypt and Canada. Her current passions are learning Arabic, and discovering new layers of her faith in God and spirituality. She started a blog this year and would be happy to share some of her articles with you.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ramadan: A wife’s perspective (and a husband’s)

My husband’s heavy breathing assures me he is sound asleep. I cautiously tiptoe out of the darkened bedroom, careful not to stub yet another toe on a piece of furniture, and make my way downstairs to the kitchen. As I begin to prepare the French toast and tea, warm smells fill the first floor of our home, but at this early hour they do not strike me as appetizing: it is 4:30 a.m. and I am putting together my and my husband’s sehri. 

As I repeatedly call over the incessant ringing of my husband’s alarm in my attempt to awaken him, I feel the irritation creeping in. The trumpet to sound the arrival of Judgment Day could not possibly create the clamor of this alarm so why is he still asleep? And here I am, standing on the stairs at the crack of dawn shouting over this blaring ringing, all the while rubbing sleep out of my eyes and fretting over whether or not his French toast remains warm and crisp. It strikes me that, at this moment, I resemble my mother. A few years ago, it was she who would impatiently call up the stairs as I lay in bed, willfully ignoring my alarm, and she who would be overly concerned about the temperature of my omelet. I miss her and I miss her omelets. 

When my husband finally makes his way down the stairs, my frustration abates and he and I sit across from each other and share our early morning meal. We speak intermittently and keep one eye trained on the clock to ensure we finish our food by the time dawn prayers begin. Despite the sparse conversation and the hurried meal, I enjoy the feeling that we are both beginning our obligatory fasts together, as a unit. 

Once I have cleared the table and said the dawn prayer, I sit beside my husband as he begins his ritual, early morning recitation of the Q’uran; I listen to his clear, seemingly effortless pronunciation and feel remorseful that I did not practice my Arabic after I completed the Q’uran at the ripe age of nine, as is customary in Pakistani culture. As an adult, I always read the English translation of the Holy Book, missing the rhythm and melody of the lyrical language in which the Q’uran was originally revealed, but finding gratification in understanding the wisdom and application of Allah’s guidance. While the Arabic language remains alien to me, I pray that through the mere act of listening to these holy words, I will earn Allah’s pleasure and through some process of spiritual osmosis, will become a more pious human being. 

Once we lay down to sleep, I guiltily recall the tinge of envy I had felt as I had crawled out of bed while my husband lay fast asleep; it is now he who, in another hour and a half, will abandon sleep and trudge downstairs to change and drive to the office to push through a long work day. As I burrow deeper under the cozy covers, I reflect on the balance Allah has created in our relationship and those of many of our equally fortunate friends. Many of the Muslim wives I know find the limits of their patience tested through caring for their capricious little ones while feeling the fatigue a fast brings on. They ignore the rumbles of their complaining stomachs while grocery shopping and set the pre-dawn alarm to prepare daily sehris. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, endure long, tiresome work days without the welcome lunch break, and make the daily drive to the local mosque to perform the special evening prayers of Ramadan. In this month, more than any other, we push though these difficulties in the hopes of cleansing our corroded hearts; we find relief in sharing our trials, small and large, with our spouses. As I drift off to sleep, I say a silent prayer of thanks to Allah for the food and the companions with which we begin and end our fasts.

A Husband’s Perspective

It is 2:00pm, and the hunger is starting to peak is it does every day at this time. It is about the time I start counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until I will be on my way home. I am imagining how sweet that lone date will taste on my parched tongue, how the cool water will feel as it rushes down my throat and fills my empty stomach in an instant. It is now 2:02pm. Clearly these thoughts are not helping to pass the time.

But eventually the clock strikes 6:30pm and it is time to rush home to discover what delights my wife has prepared for iftar. Impatient and unable to wait the 15 minutes it takes to get home, I call from the car to find out what is on the stove and to squeeze in my last minute request for rice over roti. I get home to see my wife busy cutting fruit in the kitchen while stirring something in a large pot, pausing intermittently to glance over one of many scribbled recipes in a small spiral notepad. In these moments, I envy my wife for the spiritual rewards she receives through this seemingly routine act of preparing a meal. By providing me the means with which to break my fast, she obtains the rewards for both of our fasts on a daily basis throughout the entire month. In this manner, Allah has bestowed an immense honor on any Muslim, male or female, who spends the last hours of the fast, when the hunger is most intense, standing over a hot stove, tantalizingly staring at and inhaling an aromatic blend of meat, vegetables, and spices while unable to indulge in even the slightest taste.

I peak my head in the kitchen to see if I can get a glimpse at what awaits, only to have my wife shoo me back towards the living room, reminding me to make use of the blessed time immediately prior to sunset for dua. I would let most of these golden opportunities go wasted if it were not for these not so subtle reminders. So instead of getting in her way, I take my wife’s advice and spend the last few moments of the fast in silent prayer, hopeful Allah will hear answer our prayers through the blessed act of fasting.

Finally, the time for iftar arrives. My wife places a colorful bowl of lightly spiced fruit in front of me, and we both dig in looking up only to smile at each other, not wanting to waste a precious moment that could be spent on chewing another satisfying bite. However, we hasten to finish this short culinary interlude so we can get to the main course. But first, we must lay out the prayer rug to say the dusk prayer together. I find this to be the prayer with the most impact in Ramadan. I am standing before my Lord and beside my wife, having just indulged in a few morsels of food after a long day of hunger and thirst, and I realize just how much there is to be thankful for. Unlike at other times during the year where prayers can end up being just a “going through the motions” type of exercise, this prayer offers an opportunity to give thanks for all the things that we could so easily be deprived of, such as food and companionship. Thank you O Allah for this meal prepared by the wife you picked out for me. Thank you O Allah for this month to remind me that I need to thank you for these simple, beautiful blessings each and every day.

Zehra Rizavi is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah. Yusif Akhund is a New Jersey-based engineer. This article was originally published in Altmuslimah's Relationships and Sexuality section.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Ideal Muslim Family part 4

The children should help out their parents financially should such help be needed. A young man once came to the prophet (pbuh)with a complaint that his father wanted to take his property. The Prophet (pbuh), replied:

"Anta wa-maluka li-Abika" ["You and your property are for your father (to use) "].
Obligation of the child After the death of His parents The prophet (pbuh) was once asked by a companion: "O messenger of Allah! Are there any deeds that I could do to be of service to my parents after they have passed away?"

The prophet (pbuh), replied: "Yes there are: you should supplicate for them and ask Allah to forgive them; you should carry out (fulfill) their promises; you should maintain good relations with your relatives ; and you should honour their friends." (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban)
A well known prayer for parents: "O Allah! Forgive me my sins, and the sins of my parents, have mercy on them both as they have looked after me when I was little"

A child is required to do good towards his parents who are non-Muslims except in matters which will lead to shirk or which will go against Allah --- in which case, the child must not obey the parents.
(Revere thy parents); Yet should they endeavour to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something thy mind cannot accept (as divine), obey them not; but (even then) bear them company in this world’s life with kindness." Qur’an 31:15

Good relation with non-Muslim parents should be maintained, for example, honouring them, treating them politely, helping them financially, providing food and clothing, visiting them and attending to them when they are sick. And most important, to pray that their parents receive guidance from Allah!

Allah’s Reward for the Child: Allah will give a bounteous reward to the child who is devoted to his parents. On the other hand, a child who is rebellious and goes against the wishes of his parents will incur Allah’s wrath. There are numerous hadith with regard to this:
Whoever does good towards his parents will certainly live happily and contentedly; and Allah will lengthen his life. (Al-Fath Al-Kabir).

Be devoted towards your parents so that your children may be devoted towards you.
Allah’s pleasure ceases when the parents’ pleasure cease; Allah's Wrath ceases when the parents’ wrath cease. (Al-Termidhi, Al-Hakim and Al-Bukhari)

There are three prayers which are accepted without any uncertainty; they are: the prayer of one who has been oppressed: the prayer of a traveler; and the prayer of parents for their child. (Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidhi).

The major sins are: to associate partners with Allah (acknowledging other gods besides Allah), going against the wishes of one’s parents. To kill someone, and to swear falsely. (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

The punishment of every major sin is Hell-fire unless the sinner seeks repentance from Allah; or if the sin is going against one’s parents, then the sinner must also seek forgiveness from his parents.
The punishment of every sin will be held back till the Day of Judgment with exception of the sin of going against one’s parents, in which case, punishment will take place during his lifetime before his death. (Al-Tabrani).

It has been narrated that Alqamah was a good companion of the prophet (pbuh). He was very diligent when it came to praying, fasting and giving charity. However, upon getting married, his love for his wife was greater than for his mother. As a result, when he was dying, he was not able to recite the Kalimah "la ilaha illallah." The Prophet (pbuh) asked the mother to forgive her son, however, she refused to do so. Eventually, the Prophet told bilal to gather some firewood; and told the latter to burn Alqamah. Upon seeing this, the feelings of love for her son prevailed; forgave her son, after which, Alqamah was able to recite the Kalimah "La ilaha illah" as he breathed his last.

When we realized how much our parents have done for us, every son/ daughter must love and respect his/her parents, must be good towards them and must be grateful to them.
A child who does this will be bounteously rewarded with paradise in the hereafter and will enjoy a life of happiness and comfort in this world. Insha Allah. On the other hand, a child who goes against his parents will incur Allah’s wrath.

Thus, strive to be a virtuous son/daughter. Love your parents, so that your life will be happy and blissful and you will be protected from the wrath of Allah (God).

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Ideal Muslim Family part 3


Parents will definitely benefit if their child turns out to be virtuous. A virtuous child who has strong faith and has acquired an understanding of submission (following the will of Allah {God}) which is called Islam and puts it into practice that is, he prays five times a day, fasts during the month of Ramadan, goes for congregation prayers, attends religious lectures/seminars and participates in religious activities.

Such a child will gladden his parents’ hearts while they are in this world as well as in the hereafter.

The Prophet (pbuh), said: "When a person dies, he ceases to receive reward for his deeds with the exception of the following: establishing a foundation for the welfare of the public (for example, building a mosque, school, hospital, etc.), knowledge which has benefited others, and a virtuous offspring who supplicates for him." (Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud).

A virtuous child will fulfill his obligations towards his parents, as is prescribed by Islam.
Obligations of A child Towards His parent: To treat his parents politely and gently. He must be gentle and devoted towards his parents. He should not adopt rough and coarse attitude towards them, especially in their old age. He should not utter anything that might upset them, but should always speak politely to them.

The teachings of the Holy Qur’aan for the child to follow during his life: "Your Lord (Allah) has ordained that you should worship none except Him and show kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain to old age with you, say not ‘Fie’ unto them nor reproach them but speak to them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy (defer humbly to them out of tenderness) and pray: My Lord, have mercy on them both as they nurtured me when I was little." (Qur’an 17:23-24)..

"And we (Allah) have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents: His mother bears him in weakness upon weakness.." Qur’an 31:14).

"We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth.." (Qur’an 46:59).

Children should first seek permission before entering their room The children should not enter their parents’ room until and unless they have obtained permission first.

"Yet when the children among you attain puberty, let them ask leave of you (at all times), even as those (who have reached maturity) before them have been enjoined to ask it." (Qur’an 24:59)
To stand before them (parents) as a mark of respect. And as a mark of respect, children should stand when welcoming their parents.

The Prophet (pbuh) used to stand to welcome Fatima (his daughter) when she came to visit him. And the prophet (pbuh) used to kiss her and invite her to sit. Likewise, Fatima used to stand to welcome her father whenever he came to visit her. And Fatima used to kiss him and invite him to sit. That was how Siti Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) used to show respect to her parents. (Abu Dawud, Al-Nasai ans Al-Tirmidhi)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ideal Muslim Family part 2

A father’s sacrifice is just as big. It is the father who is the bread winner in the family; he provides money for food, clothing, shelter, education, health and other necessities for the family.
Every day, without wasting time, the father has to earn and provide----- be it by using his mental faculties, or thru physical labour such as working under the scorching heat of the sun , or endangering his life by going out in the stormy seas. He goes through all these with perseverance and determination, solely for the purpose of providing the needs of the family.
The father also harbors hopes for his children similar to that of the mother, which means that his children succeed in becoming useful individuals.

Expectations of parents with regard to their children are towering. And it would make them extremely happy if their hopes become reality----: their child doing so well in his studies, their child having good and praise-worthy manners.

A child who has achieved this is a pleasure to behold; one who gladdens the heart of his parents, and like a child who is mentioned in the following Du’a (supplication):

O our Sustainer (Allah - the Creator)! Grant that our spouse and our offspring be a joy to our eyes, and cause us to be foremost among those who are conscious of thee! (Qur’an, 25/74)

Thus, every child must aspire to fulfill the desires and hopes of his parents. If he is still a student, he should study conscientiously and earnestly in order that he may perform well. If he completed schooling and gets into society, he should put into practice all that he has learnt. He should behave well at all times and should never himself be a burden to society. He should constantly strive to be a virtuous son who is always obedient to Allah's (God’s) commandments; and he should pray for his parents with good intentions and supplication.

If the son is far away from home, he should not forget his parents who may be feeling lonely. He should write to them often; visit them during his vacation time especially during the Muslim festive season. He should always try to make them happy; and he should never hurt their feelings.
If the son has made a failure of his life, and has led a life abound with sins, he should make a conscious effort to return to the Right Path. He should seek repentance from Allah. He should strive to make amends and should not cause his parents any further grief and unhappiness

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Ideal Muslim Family part 1

The Ideal Muslim Family
Mohammad Amin C. Cave finds guidance in the Holy Quran for a happy and harmonious Muslim family life.

No one can deny the supreme sacrifice and care that a mother renders to her child. The mother carries him (in her womb) by enduring strain after strain. And subsequently, at the time of birth, she is suspended between life and death. All this she faces with determination as much as patience barring any regret or anger.

After the child is born, the mother looks after him and brings him up with enormous love. She breast-feeds him for as long as two years, after which she continues to look after her child with all sincerity, regardless of the strain and travail (hard labour) that accompanies such a task. Without doubt, the mother sacrifices time, energy and much more in bringing up her child.
Because of her child, the mother is often forced to go without sufficient sleep sacrificing and forgoing much-needed rest. As a consequence, it is only but natural that she would constantly suffer from exhaustion and fatigue. But strangely enough, in reality, the opposite occurs. She is always happy and energetic.

The mother is the one who is up earliest. And at night, it is usually the mother who is the last to go to bed. It is the mother who prepares breakfast for the child and the rest of the family. And when everyone leaves the house, be it for work, for school or for any other reason, it is the mother who is left alone at home. She does not rest, but continues to work - busy with cooking and the daily household chores without stopping to rest. And when the child comes home from school, his meal is ready; and he proceeds to eat such with great relish. The mother, however, more often than not, has not had anything to eat as yet.

The mother is always energetic. She performs her chores with a feeling of elation and happiness. Why? Because of her love for her children and family. She does not feel the exhaustion that naturally comes with such work, because it gladdens her heart to know that her child’s future will be a happy and successful one.

A mother wishes that all her children will succeed ------- that is, becoming useful citizens, children who are pious, children who are devoted and respectful to their parents, who obey Allah (fearful of God) and who are useful to their family, society and country as well .
Because of her high aspirations for her children, she is always happy and in high spirit; never tired and exhausted, in spite of her heavy work load. She never sighs and complains, but is ever grateful.

Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) has described and explained a mother's feelings for her child in the following hadith (his sayings):
Truly, those feelings are a blessing (rahmah) from Allah, if it were not for these feelings, a mother would not be willing to breast-feed her child, nor would a farmer be willing to work in the fields (under the scorching heat of the sun).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Muslim Mom Money Manager

One of the three major responsibilities for Muslim wives in Islam is managing the family's wealth. In addition to caring for the children's education and overseeing the household, Muslim wives often negate their priority to manage their wealth - money, properties, belongings and investments.
Becoming a better Muslim Mom Money Manager takes time, can not be achieved overnight, but with the right intentions and determination to learn and act accordingly, Allah (God) will help you succeed, inshaAllah (God willing). Listed below are the some tips to get you started:

* Setting a Frugal Mindset for your family is an Act of Taqwa (God conscientiousness). Frugality is an intelligent lifestyle--not a cheap one! Bargain-shopping is a gift to your family, not a punishment. When a mother (and father) instills the value of earning a dollar and stretching its value, children will appreciate and even feel challenged to gain the most from your family's money. Be creative and ingenious in how to position the minds of your family members to appreciate frugality as a duty of all, and not a choice of a few. Those who are spend-conscience are more intelligent than spenders. You have an obligation to your family to be resourceful and appreciative of the worldly gifts Allah has provided your family: your wealth. Your material wealth is not an indicator of how much your faith is worth. Therefore, you should never judge your status in life with money - your status is determined by your deen - your religion and way of life. So, live your life responsibly, after all, the one who misuses and abuses his/her wealth, is guilty of possible waste and arrogance. Don't like the term: Frugal-Minded? Then, try Value-Spending.

Know The Financial Rights of Each Family Member in Islam. Your husband's obligations is to provide your shelter, food, clothing, and financial means for you to live comfortably, therefore it is your responsibility to spend wisely. Spend your money reasonably and responsibly on the necessities in life, such as clothes, education, health and hygiene for you, your husband and children. However, if your husband is misery with his money and you do not have necessities, you are permitted to proudly, not secretly, use the money to fulfil the family's needs. Keep in mind, that as a Muslim wife or mom, it is not your responsibility to bring money into the household. And, if you incur money it becomes your own wealth, which you can spend as you wish. This luxury, not afforded in many other cultures or religions, should never be under-appreciated or taken for granted. Meaning, if you have wealth and your family is experiencing difficulties, remember that charity must first start at home--so, helping your family carries great benefits for you in this life and the hereafter. On the other hand, if your husband is experiencing great fortune, and you desire to work, your duty to your family and home takes precedence. It takes a creative mom to find balance for her family - and it starts by maintaining balance herself first.
If you liked these tips, please check out "More Tips Every Muslim Mom Should Know About Managing Money".

Ponn Sabra MPH, a highly-prolific public health official, turned best-selling author, internet marketer and columnist, now focuses all her time and energy to being a Muslim homeschooling mom. Ponn and her 3 girls created the 1st and largest online community dedicated to American Muslim moms where they share their high-tech, traveling, green tips, tools, contests and more. Come grab some great freebies at today!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year.,. Revitalize the Love!

Since marital love is prone to sickness and even death, it is imperative for couples to constantly work to revitalize and preserve it.

1. They have to get in the habit of saying things that are positive, like offering compliments and like making little prayers for each other.

A husband could say to his wife: “If I were sent back to the days of my youth, I would not choose for a wife anyone besides you.” Of course, the wife can easily say something similar to her husband.

Affectionate words have an effect, especially on women. They have, indeed, often been the weapons used by unscrupulous men to gain access to what is not theirs.

Sweet words arouse a woman’s heart. A husband should take care to say them to his wife before someone else does!

Do you have any advice on how to revitalize the love in your marriage? share your tips here