Monday, June 12, 2017

Ramadan 2017

Ramadan is the blessed month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims all over the world observe fasting from dawn to dusk. During this time, Muslims do not eat or drink anything, nor do they indulge in physical relationship. 

This year, Ramadan is expected to start on 26th May depending on the sighting of the moon.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, the five daily prayers, giving charity to the poor and the needy, and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The day starts with a pre-dawn meal called suhoor or sehri and ends with the evening meal called iftar. It is very hard to describe this month. People who read about it or hear about it on media might think it is very hard but even children have no trouble fasting as long as they have a good sehri.

Dates are eaten in abundance in Ramadan. People go to mosques to pray in congregation, give food to the poor, have community meals, read the holy book Quran and try to spend as much time as possible in prayer and worship.

Fasting is compulsory for all adult Muslim men and women but those who are too old or too young, travelling, too ill or women who are pregnant, breastfeeding etc are exempt from fasting.

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship. Some devout Muslims go into reclusion in the last ten days of Ramadan, spending all of their time in the mosque in prayers and recitation of the Quran..The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Are there any Muslims around you who are fasting?

Monday, April 24, 2017

25 Tips for a Great Childhood

You might think it is boring to be a child with endless schoolwork, tests, exams, home chores and every grownup. bossing you around but remember that childhood is a short season. These beautiful, carefree days will pass and how you turn out as an adult depends on the things you learn and experience in your early childhood. 

During your childhood, you will probably form many habits, many of which you will find harder to change later in life. Therefore it is very important that you choose a lifestyle that will help you to become a happy, healthy and responsible adult. 

Let us look at some key areas which affect you physically, emotionally and socially and learn which pitfalls to avoid and which values help you become a better person.


1. Be polite. Good manners help you get along with other children as well as with adults. Remember to say Thank you, Sorry, Please and You’re welcome whenever an occasion arises requiring these magic words. 

2. Be true to your word. Take time to think before you make a promise or a commitment. Don’t make fun of other people nor use foul language. It makes a person look unrefined and inelegant. 

3. Be considerate of others. Your grandparents might be old and may want some peace and quiet while resting in the afternoon. Do not watch TV or listen to music at an ear splitting volume. 

4. Respect each other’s privacy. Try to understand that others might not want to join in your activities because they may want to rest, study or do something else. It is not a reason to throw a tantrum or start a fight.

5. Everyday there are so many things that demand your attention that it becomes very easy to focus on only your own needs and requirements. Express your interest and concern for your parents, grandparents, siblings and friends by asking simple questions such as “How was your day?” Do you need any help?” “Can I do something for you?”

Self Care:

1) Keep yourself clean and tidy all the time. Take baths often especially in summer season, brush your teeth regularly, trim your nails and wear clean clothes. 

2) Be physically active. Whether you play team sports like cricket, tennis or football or exercise by yourself by riding a  bike, swimming or skipping a rope, find an activity that keeps you fit and healthy. 

3) Learn the importance of eating a balanced diet. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables everyday and limit your intake of junk food. Consuming too many salty and fried foods can cause pimples, make you look unhealthy and low in energy.

4) Be sure to get the right amount of sleep at night. While we are sleeping, our body rejuvenates, restores and repairs any wear and tear we might have suffered. It also promotes muscle growth and allows our brain to rest so that we face each new day with a bright smile and a fresh mind. 

5) Sometimes we want to be happy but our hair, skin, teeth and eyes decide to give us a tough time. Weight problems, dandruff, lice, pimples, weak eyesight and misaligned teeth can make us feel very dejected and target for ridicule. 

Remember you are not alone and millions of children go through these problems while they are growing up. Talk to your parents and discuss what can be done. Your family doctor can help you or you can seek help from experts such as a nutritionist, dermatologist, dentist or an optician who have plenty of ways to help you out of your troubles.  

Home and School Activities:

1. Read at least 3-5 books a month. Books open up new worlds of imagination, information and creativity.

2. Choose television programmes wisely. Limit your TV viewing to 1-2 hours daily. 

3. Take pride in your school work and always do your best. Remember that millions of children do not have the opportunity to go to school, read a book or write with a pencil. Be conscientious about school tests, assignments and homework and help your siblings in their school work too.

4. Try new activities at school or after school. Childhood is a great time to explore your talents and acquire new skills and interests. Do not be afraid of doing badly or failing. 

5. Help around the house. Keep your room clean and learn to put away your clothes, shoes, books and other belongings away every night before going to bed. This is a very important habit to cultivate as a cluttered room gives rise to stress and makes you look slovenly. 

Handling Emotions:

1. It is alright to feel negative emotions like fear, anger, stress and sadness but do not use tantrums, tears and threats as a means of getting your way.

2. Learn to stand up for yourself. Confide in your parents if something or someone is troubling you but do not expect your parents to solve all your problems for you. 

3. Learn to share and have a generous heart. It might be tempting to eat the whole chocolate bar but it is definitely better to break it in smaller pieces and share it with your siblings. Share your toys, books and food with your brothers and sisters or donate things that you do not need any longer. 

4. Learn to value money. Try to learn about budgeting and how to save money, or how you can help. Help adults in the house save money by switching off lights and fans 

5. Listen to what others have to say. You need not agree with everything that others around you say or feel but lend an ear to other people’s opinion. Treat them with same courtesy and respect as you would want for yourself.

Danger alert

1. Being adept at using the Internet is an integral part of today’s lifestyle. However it is very important to remember to practice Internet safety at all times. Never give your name, phone number, school name and address to strangers without consulting an adult first. 

2. Do not upload personal photos or information on social websites. Alert your parents if you are getting unsolicited messages from anyone or if there is anything that makes you uncomfortable.

3. Be very careful when interacting with strangers online. Remember that people online do not always tell the truth and might use number of ways to befriend you or win your trust. 

4. If you want to sign up for a website, give fictitious name and information. Similarly, do not buy products online unless you consult an adult first. Never agree to meet someone you have met online on your own.

5. Remember your parents are your best friends. If you have done something naughty, confide in them. Even if they scold you a bit, they will protect you from all sorts of troubles. 

First Published in Dawn, Young World, July 9th, 2016

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book review: Goodbye Mr. Chips, by James Hilton

Once in a while you come across a book which you read with tears in your eyes and a smile upon your lips. Among its pages, you meet characters so memorable and warm that their memories stay with you long after the last pages have been turned and the book placed back upon the shelf.

One such book that I have read is "Goodbye Mr Chips" by James Hilton.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a short novella about a school teacher affectionately called Mr Chips and chronicles his life. Mr Chips is not just a teacher but an institute and an era in his personality. 

As the teacher of classics at Brookfield School since 1870, he sees many changes in the British society, the Franco-Prussian War, the First World War and survives many headmasters at the school. 

His wife Katherine appears in just a couple of chapters but her vivacious character is as unforgettable as her memories are poignant. She had a great deal of influence on him and changes him into a mellow, gentler creature well-liked and respected by everyone at school. 

Such is the love, fondness and respect for the elderly teacher that in spite of his tattered robe, his peculiarities and his old fashioned ways that when one headmaster tries to make him resign the students, their fathers and the board of governors comprising his old students stand behind him to a man. 

It's a very lovely book that will make you cry a little and smile a lot and give you a warm feeling of having known someone precious.

Highly recommended!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Series review: Guided Through the Qur'an

“Guided through the Quran” (Bil Quran ihtadayt in Arabic) is a very inspirational series that shows brief interviews of people who have accepted Islam as their religion and their way of life.

The host, Shaykh Fahad AlKandari, has travelled to many countries like Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, UK, USA and Spain to interview people about their journey to Islam.

The videos are brief, about 20-25 minutes long. They are in Arabic and English with English subtitles and usually the following questions have been asked:

  • The life of the person before accepting Islam
  • What prompted his or her journey towards Islam
  • The time and place of Shahada (testimony of faith declaring belief in the oneness of God (monotheism) and the acceptance of Muhammad ﷺ as Allah’s Messenger) and what the person felt at that time.
  • The reaction from family, friends etc and problems faced after accepting Islam
  • And last, the verses of the Quran or the surah that affected the person most.

Guided Through the Qur'an

As a person who is born a Muslim, this show had a very profound effect on me. Watching almost 90 episodes spread over three seasons, I felt emotions like gratitude and admiration as I listened to these beautiful and courageous people.

Gratitude, because I was born in a Muslim family and never have had to face the problems that these reverts had to face such as ostracization by family, loss of job, Islamophobia and even brutal physical attacks on women who chose to wear hijab in non Muslim European countries.

And I also felt great admiration because these are the people who struggled to search for siraat-e-mustaqim or the Right Path and remained steadfast in face of all the trials.

One of the amazing thing for me was how much they endeavoured to improve their knowledge of the Arabic language and tajweed to read the Quran and be able to pray because they felt that unless they learn the language, they would forever remain dependant on other people to translate the Quran for them and their own knowledge would remain inadequate.

On a personal level I felt that stories from France were most inspirational. One was most amazing stories was of Arnoud van Doorn, a Dutch politician whose party had sponsored the anti Muslim movie Fitna. However once he read the Quran, his feelings towards Islam and Muslims changed completely and he decided to become a Muslim.

For some people just one verse of the Holy Quran was enough to change their life forever. For some, the story of Jesus in the Quran proved to a catalyst while others were impressed by the scientific facts and miracles mentioned in the Quran. Some searched for peace and some felt lost in a dark world. Whatever the reason, each person had a beautiful story to tell.

If you have never met a Muslim in your life and all you know about Islam comes via news channels, I would request you to watch a few episodes of this show on YouTube.

From Rahim Jung in UK to Yasmeen Rolland in USA, to Alessandro in Brazil to Nicola in France, you will meet some amazing new Muslims who are following their deen with humbleness and piety and are beautiful examples of Muslims which you will never see on mainstream media.

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