Ramadan Reflection – Eat from the Good

O you who have believed, eat from the good (i.e. lawful) things which We have provided for you and be grateful to God if it is (indeed) Him you worship. Quran (2:172)
As I was reading this ayah, it made me reflect on so many things. Especially as I came across it during Ramadan a time in which we tend to feast daily.
Allah here tells us to eat from that which is good. But the arabic here isnt halal but tayub. We all know we can only eat halal but how many of us eat the “good” food within the halal? Eating deep fried food all the time is not eating good. Neither is eating junk or fast food. All of these however are halal to eat.
So not only is it important for us to eat halal food we should be eating good (tayub) food. But what is good food? Most people think of salad and fruit but I think its much deeper than that. We should eat ethical, organic food. So our fruit and veg and even our meat should be ethically sourced and organic as much as possibly. We should eat everything in moderation so having a samosa once in a while is okay! But having several daily is not good for us.
Then Allah says which We have provided for you. This again made me think. We all think that we earn the money, we buy and cook the food so we provided it to our family. But no, Allah is reminding us that He provides the food. We need to change our mindset even with what we eat and how we get this food.
Then Allah tells us to be grateful. Something that I’ve noticed that we generally are not good at. We criticize the food, we complain about whats been cooked. We hardly ever thank the person who probably spent hours making the food for us. Especially if its a family member thats made it for us. If we can’t be grateful to the people who have given us the food how will we be able to be grateful to Allah?
Allah connects being grateful to Him to worshipping Him. So if we aren’t grateful for what He has provided us then will we be able to truly worship Him in the way that He deserves?
I learnt so much from one ayah. That we should eat the good halal food that Allah has provided for us. That we should be grateful to Him and that gratitude is connected to worshipping Allah.

The Dua of Zakariyah 

(This is) a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariyah.
When he called to his Lord a private call (ie. Supplication)
He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy (ie. disappointed).
And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife is barren, so give me from Yourself an heir
Who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Yaqoob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing (to You).
(He was told), “O Zakariyah, indeed We give glad tidings to you of a boy whose name will be Yahya. We have not assigned to any before (this) name.”
Quran (19:2-7)
As I was studying Surah Maryam we studied the dua of Zakariyah and derived many lessons about making dua through the way he made dua.
The dua of the prophet Zakariyah is so amazing and we can learn so many things from him about how to make dua to Allah. Making dua to Allah is so important. So much so that the prophet (saw) said that dua is worship. Allah knows what is in our hearts so some wonder why it’s actually necessary to make dua to Allah. But it is necessary, it’s necessary because it makes our relationship with Allah strong. We should aquaint ourselves with talking to Him. 

Zakariyah made dua to Allah for a child when he spoke to Maryam about the food she had in her room. When she said Allah answers all duas, he immediately went to supplicate to Allah. 
So the first thing we can learn from his dua is that we need to have sincerity when making dua. He spoke to Allah directly and in private which shows us that making dua is a deep and personal relationship with Allah. So we should also personalise our relationship with Allah as there is no-one in between us and Allah. He did not start making dua loudly for other people to hear. He made dua silently and it shows that making dua silently is more beloved to Allah. This shows our sincerity and tawakkul that Allah can hear us and we trust Him to answer our dua. It prevents us from showing off by making others hear our dua and it allows us to keep our dua personal with us and Allah. 
The second thing we learn from his dua is that we need to have certainty in the presence of Allah that He will answer our duas. In his dua he mentions both his internal weakness and external weakness. He says to Allah that You know everything about me, inside and out. We know that Zakariyah is a very old man and his wife is unable to have children so then why would he ask for a child? Why doesn’t he just ask for another prophet to come? Wouldn’t that be more reasonable? But what we learn is that Zakariyah knows that Allah is generous so we should ask for more and He will grant it. Through this we also Learn good adab when making dua, we should be confident in our dua and not despair. He says that Allah has never disappointed him in answering his dua. So we should also have that certainty that Allah will always answer our duas. 
The third thing we learn is that we need to mention our complete dependence on Allah. That we cannot do anything without the help of Allah. The fourth thing we learn is that we should call like we really need Him. We shouldn’t feel like our dua is in any way helping Allah. Allah doesn’t need our duas, we need Him. The duas are for our benefit not for His. The more we make dua the more we should humble ourselves. Being arrogant while making dua will not benefit us at all, we can’t do anything without the help of Allah so how can we be arrogant? Allah even tells us to make dua to Him. We call out to Him, completely dependant on Him and He will respond to our call. 
And your Lord says, “Call upon me and I will respond to you.” Quran (40:60)
When we look at the dua of Zakariyah, it’s amazing that he spends so long just praising Allah. Saying how he is completely depending on His Lord to grant his dua. He shows how he is the one in need of Allah that without the help of Allah there is no way that he will be able to have a child.
The last thing we learn from his dua is that we should have good expectations of Allah. When we make dua we should be confident that Allah will answer our duas. We should never think that even though I’ve made dua to Allah, He won’t answer it or grant me what I am asking for. Zakariyah at this time was really old, in his nineties, but he still asked for a child with confidence that Allah will give it to him. We learn that straight away he is granted a child, and Allah even honours him by naming the child a name that has never been given before. We should never give up hope in our duas being answered.
The prophet (saw) said: you will be responded to as long as you are not hasty, meaning that (a person) says, “I have prayed and prayed and prayer has not been answered” Bukhari 
We should be determined in our duas being answered because Allah can do whatever He wills, nothing is difficult for Him. 
The prophet (saw) said: When one of you makes dua then let him be firm and determined in his dua and let him not say, “O Allah if you will then please forgive me” for there is no-one who can force Allah to do nothing. Bukhari 
So when we make dua we should keep these things in mind as the dua of Zakariyah was so special to Allah that He honoured Zakariyah by teaching us all this dua by putting it in the Quran. We can extract so many lessons from his dua and we should utilise them to maximise our duas. So by doing these things we can ensure our duas are answered. 

The only Certainty in Life

…He gives life and causes death… Quran (9:116)

I find it so strange that people think it’s pessimistic to talk about death. Surely if we remembered death more often we would be much more realistic people? It is better than denying what is certain. Knowing that we could die tomorrow should make us change our perspective on life. Wouldn’t we live life to its fullest everyday. We wouldn’t procrastinate on things we have been meaning to do. But we forget that we will die, instead we think we will live forever. How many people regret not doing things? The biggest regret we will have is not doing enough good deeds at our death bed, and know for sure that death is your only certainty in life.

We are taught by the prophet (saw) to increase in the remembrance of the destroyer of desires; death. He also told us to visit the graveyards to remind ourselves of death. This is a reminder we need. We should remember death. But it needs to be balanced like everything else in life, if all we think about is death we won’t be able to do anything in life but if we never remember death then we may procrastinate in doing the things we need to do. 
Before you are even born the angel in your mothers womb writes down when you will die. We need to just think about that for a moment. And we read these Hadiths and don’t even reflect on what it actually means, what is the purpose of us knowing this? What does the prophet (saw) want to teach us?
Even the dua we recite every morning as we wake up is about thanking Allah for giving us life after having taken it from us. This should be reminder to us every morning that Allah has given us the opportunity to do something good, to seek His forgiveness to change ourselves for the better.

It’s strange that when we travel, go on a holiday or move to a new place we meticulously plan every detail and decide what we need to take with us yet the journey that every single one of us is  most definately going to take we don’t prepare for. It reminds me of the story of Dawud (as), the angel of death came to him and he was surprised, saying you came without warning. The angel of death replied, saying that he had in fact told Dawud (as) that he would come. He asked him about his fathers death , his neighbours death, his friends death. People around him had died and this was his message to Dawud (as) that he will be coming for him too. So when someone we know passes away it should remind us that one day this will be us and we need to prepare ourselves for it.
So then how should we be preparing for it? There are many things we can do, we should increase in our good deeds; give more in charity, be good to our family and friends, fast, pray our salah etc. We also should increase in our seeking forgiveness for all the sins we have committed. All the haram we indulged in, the rights of others we trampled over, slander, gossip, stealing. Whatever it was that we did we need to seek forgiveness for it. Seek forgiveness all the time as we don’t know which breath will be our last. 
I will leave you with this quote from Imam Al-Ghazali: O friend, the cloth from which your burial shroud will be cut has already reached the market yet you remain unaware. 

Story Night Gems – Surah Taha

Last year I attended Story Night by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, we went through Surah Taha to learn and study some of the life of Musa (as) and I came across these gems while looking through my notes, so thought i would share them here. Hope you all benefit from these inshaAllah.

Allah could have given us endless knowledge yet He gave us limited knowledge through the Quran. So how valuable must the knowledge given to us in the Quran be? Everything is so important for us.

Everyone who takes care of us eventually has to stop but Allah never stops taking care of our every need.

We can’t truly comprehend how great Allahs love is. The closest we can see this is through the relationship He made between Himself and the womb of a mother. The child causes the mother pain day by day but she still takes care of its every need. She still loves that child. Allahs love is even greater than that.

Let the Quran and Allahs words be a way of healing against misery.

In surah Taha Allah tells us the story of Musa (as) and in ayah 10 were told that Musa (as) saw a fire in the mountain and left his family in the dessert to go to this fire. We learn so much from this about how a family should be. The husband and wife need to trust and respect each other. They have to have good family support and balanced relationship. We, however, support each other where it serves us but not what won’t benefit us.

Musa (as) was shown a fire in the night as a fire in the night shows you the way an it protects you. In the same way the Quran shows you the way and protects you.

When Musa (as) stood before Allah he was told to take off his shoes. This is normally a sign of informality amd it shows how Allah, who is the greatest of kings, standard is completely different to all other kings

To this day when we take our shoes off to stand before Allah we are continuing the conversation that Musa (as) started.

In surah Taha, ayah 14 Musa (as) is having a direct conversation with Allah. When we meet someone famous we always remember it so we all know that Musa (as) will remember this but Allah tells him that to truly remember Him he must establish the salah. So through this we learn that we can only truly remember Allah through salah.

Establish prayer so you can remember me. Surah Taha, ayah 14.
We learn 3 things:
1. If you’re really praying you will stop getting ill thoughts about Allah
2. Allah will become a dominant discourse in our culture
3. If you want to grow spiritually then pray. You won’t  ever be closer to Allah than in salah.

When we establish salah we will constantly be checking for the hour, when is it fajr etc. In doing this it will create a sense of urgency in us to look for and prepare for the final hour.

Allah doesn’t tell us when the final hour will be so we dont lose motivation in searching and striving towards it.

Allah tells us in Surah Taha, ayah 16 that whoever among us doesn’t give importance to the aakhirah to not let them distract you. Don’t let them create a mountain between you and the aakhirah. Just like Musa (as) climbed the mountain to get to the remembrance of Allah we have to continue to climb mountains and if we follow those people we will also fall off the cliff.

It is Allahs sunnah to calm people down and not to always scare them. It should be balanced with hope and fear.

Allah tells Musa (as) to throw his stick and it becomes a huge, terrifying snake. Then Allah tells him to grab it and says dont be afraid. This is Allah training Musa (as) because he will be faced with a real snake, Firawn, and he must be calm and fearless when standing before him.

The dua that Musa (as) makes shows us that only Allah can make things easy for us no matter what we are trying to do we need to ask Allah to facilitate it for us.

When it comes to asking Allah we should be optimistic and have high hopes. Never be pessimistic.

For us to understand the full message in the Quran we have to read it all and not just parts of it. Otherwise we will only have parts of the message and not the whole picture. We wont be able to properly understand what Allah is telling us.

Allah warns us not to become lazy in remembering him. To do this we need to be moderate. If we over do it then we will burn out and go to the other extreme and not remember Allah at all. We have to maintain a balance.

Allah tells Musa (as) to speak softly and nicely to firawn. From this we learn that even when we engage the enemy and we speak to them about Allah we need to speak nicely. Is this how we speak to each other today? We need to ensure our tone of voice is calm even if the message isnt. Only Allah has the right to be angry.  

People of the Cave

…We turned them on their right and on their left sides…
Quran (18:18)

It doesn’t matter how many times you read a Surah you will always learn something new or reflect on an ayah in a way that you haven’t before. This happened to me as I read Surah Kahf. As I read ayah 18 where it says that while they slept Allah turned them to the right and left, I realised how significant it is. SubhanAllah it is amazing how even an ayah as simple as this on initial reading can teach you something profound and mke you appreciate the Quran and Allah even more. 
As a health professional it’s part of my job to ensure that my patients have the best quality of life we can possibly give them. Do you know what we do for patients who are bed bound? We provide carers who have to ensure that the patient is turned on their right and left every few hours to prevent pressure sores. Even we who are able to move ourselves, while we sleep we turn on our right and left to remain comfortable and prevent pressure areas. 
SubhanAllah it is only by the mercy of Allah that he ensured they turned regularly on their right and onto their left so they would not develop these pressure areas, which are so horrendously painful and can even cause a person to end up in hospital for months or even lead to their death. Especially as sleeping in a cave would have meant they slept on the hard floor making them even more susceptible to developing these pressure areas. 
I know this is just my reflection on the ayah but still for me it’s just amazing. Allah only tells us something if it is important and will benefit us, so this is clearly something that will benefit us, and today we actually use this to help many people. 

The Youth of the Cave

In surah Kahf, Allah specifically mentions that the people of the cave were in their youth. Allah does not normally mention these types of details this so it is something significant. Allah wants us to know that they were youth for a reason. 

These were people who lived in a time where disbelief was prevalent and they were among the few believers. They were firm in their belief and did not give in to society pressure. Despite their lives being threatened they still held onto their faith. So Allah rewarded them for it. They were saved from the tyrannical ruler and when they returned home they found people who could openly practice their belief. Allah made them examples for us to follow by speaking about them in the Quran.

It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth. Indeed,
they were youths who believed in their
Lord, and We increased them in guidance.

And We bound [i.e., made firm] their
hearts when they stood up and said,
“Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens
and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have
certainly spoken, then, an excessive
transgression.

Quran (18:13-14)

The youth today should take from this and realise that they should not be worried about conforming to society, rather if they stay firm on their deen then Allah will surely save them and reward them. Just like He did for the people of the cave.