Bounties Unbounded

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What comes to your mind when you think of Ramazan? Some of you associate this month of fasting with lips parched with thirst and a stomach growling for want of food. Others do not find fasting as difficult and look forward to the mouth-watering pakoras, samosas, fruit chaats and other goodies mummy prepares so lovingly in Ramazan.

Only the more compassionate among us will feel a surging sense of sympathy for the less privileged around us, and how hunger for them is not an option but a part of daily life!

The holy month of Ramazan brings with it countless blessings for us. As you all know, fasting is the third pillar of Islam. Much is written and said about the spiritual blessings of this sacred month and how most of us come out of this month a better and more considerate person.

There can be no two opinions about the spiritual gains of this month, but before I write about them, I would like my friends to know about some additional benefits as well.

Physical benefits of fasting

While we all consider fasting a religious obligation, only a few of us have an idea about the physical benefits we derive from it. Fasting is a healthy practice, but only if properly implemented. It promotes elimination of toxins from the body, making the internal organs healthier.

When we are fasting, the digestive organs get proper time to rest instead of being constantly at work when we go about eating all day. The enzymes, which are required to break down the food we consume, get more concentrated as they do not have to work on the junk food most of us habitually munch on. This leads to better absorption of the nutrients in the food we eat at iftar.

Some experts assert that fasting promotes resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies. It reduces production of insulin and the pancreas has to work less. Another benefit of fasting is that it tends to bring down blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

Fasting also helps to reduce excessive body weight. The first response of the body to fasting is the breakdown of glucose. When the store of glucose is exhausted, ketosis begins. This is the breakdown of fats stored in our body to release energy. And this in turn brings down our body weight.

It has been observed that fasting reduces craving for processed foods. It promotes the desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. Fruits increase the body’s store of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E are good antioxidants, which help to boost our immune system.

Fasting promotes healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle. Although we all love the fried snacks which are usually a part of our iftar meals, we should be particular about not overeating them. Try your best to avoid too rich and oily food items and opt for natural food and a lot of liquids instead. By sticking to a balanced diet in Ramazan, we can derive the maximum physical benefits from fasting.

Moral benefits

The holy month of Ramazan comes as a blessing for us, as it enhances our moral values. We learn to be more compassionate towards the needy people around us who often go hungry. They may be fasting too, but hardly have enough food for sehr and iftar. By giving away as much alms as we can (or when our parents do so), we learn to care and share with others in need.

We also feel empathy for the fasting helpers in our home and try our best not to burden them with unnecessary workload. Out of compassion for them, we perform many personal chores ourselves, (something we do not habitually do) to make their fast easier for them.

Try to nurture these feelings of sympathy even after Ramazan, so that we are a better and more considerate person throughout the year.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Economic benefits

If you observe closely, you will find how people with financial needs look forward to Ramazan and the economical assistance it brings for them. People usually give away a major part of their zakat in this month. As you all know zakat, the fourth pillar of Islam, is a fixed percentage of our wealth, which is obligatory for all affluent Muslims to distribute among the poor on a yearly basis.

During this blessed month, even the underprivileged manage to have wholesome meals as many people give away provisions for the whole month. They happily buy new clothes, shoes and other items of necessity from the money they receive from their well-off Muslim brethren, luxuries which they cannot afford otherwise. Debts are cleared, entrepreneurs set up small businesses and hard-up parents usually plan weddings of their children from these donations and alms. NGOs doing complimentary social work also depend heavily on the funds they receive during Ramazan.

Social benefits

Ramazan is the perfect time to strengthen ties with our family. In the fast-paced lives we all lead, during the normal months, we seldom have meals together or do so in a rush.

Ramazan is the month when all gather at the iftar table before the call for the Maghrib prayers. We talk more to each other, share our day to day activities, while parents and grandparents will have some quick word of advice or stories of their own to share.

Boys are usually particular about praying with the congregation during Ramazan. They also go to the mosque with their fathers for Taraweeh prayers. This helps them to be better acquainted with the neighbours and make new friends. Some mosques have arrangements for ladies also.

Sending trays of iftar snacks to neighbours is something most of us practice. This promotes a feeling of goodwill and often becomes the reason to strike a new friendship.

Iftar parties also help us to connect with relatives and friends. This strengthens our social ties with them.

Spiritual benefits Last (but by no means the least), are the unending spiritual benefits of this sacred month.

The Holy Quran says:

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (2:183).

Fasting is not only abstaining from food and drink, it also teaches us to keep away from all bad deeds. We shun quarrels, unnecessary talking, telling lies and learn to exercise self-restraint in all walks of life.

Fasting inculcates in us a natural desire to perform good deeds. We feel closer to our creator and often take out time to ponder on the message of the Holy Quran as we recite it more during Ramazan. Fasting is a blessing in disguise for those of us who are irregular in your daily prayers. As the holy month starts, resolve that we will pray five times daily even when it is over.

The blessings of Ramazan are innumerable and I have tried my best to emphasise on those which my young friends can comprehend easily. In the end, I would like to quote two Hadiths about this month, so that you can understand the unbounded bounties of Ramazan.

“Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High Says, ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.’ For the fasting person, there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.” [Imam Bukhari]

In another Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) says, “Ramazan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.” [Imam Tabarani]

A very happy and blessed Ramazan to all of you with prayers that Allah accepts our fasts, forgives our sins, guides us to the right path and brings all of us closer to Him, not only in this month but always! Ameen.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 19th, 2018

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Allah is close to us!


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When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close to them: I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me: let them also with a will, listen to My call, and Believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way.

Al Baqarah: Ayat no 186

 

THE TRUE SPIRIT! (My article in Young World on 25th September)

Eidul Azha is just round the corner. As I step into my terrace with my evening cup of tea, I hear happy shouts of children. I peep out of my front door and see a few children of the neighbourhood having the time of their lives, as they race their goats in the lane. A group of those who haven`t yet attained this honour are participating in the celebration by running along, clapping, shouting and urging the goats to run faster.

Some have even managed to sneak twigs from their gardens and are offering it to the goats in the hope that the proud owner will allow him to race the goat for a while.

The most frequently asked questions among the children these days are, `Have you been to the mandi yet?` `When will your dad get the sacrificial animals` and the most troublesome of all `Howmuch did you (or your father) pay for this goat (or cow)? Eidul Azha is steadily becoming a competition, a rat race to acquire the largest or most expensive animal in the neighbourhood, whether it is a goat, a sheep or a cow. Those of us who have paid a hefty sum for their animals display them around proudly, grabbing every opportunity to mention the price. The people who are regular in performing the yearly sacrifice but cannot afford very expensive animals, feel a bit let down. Although they are sure to join the daily ritual of walking and racing of their goats, the feeling of embarrassment is written loud and clear on their innocent faces.

Is this display and competition the real spirit of this festival? Let us remind ourselves about the true spirit of Eidul Azha. This great Muslim Festival, which is second only to Eidul Fitr, teaches us great lessons every year. It is not about boasting how much we can spend or showing off how rich we are. On the contrary, it teaches the lessons of obedience, sacrifice, compassions and how we should share our blessings with those who are not as privileged as we are!

Apart from the religious aspects of the lessons we learn and relearn every year (total submission to the Will of the Almighty), Eidul Azha revives in us social and moral values. The lesson we learn from this festival of sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. It reminds us of our blessings and kindles feelings of compassion in our heart for the poor around us.

Last year, just to check if the meat seller in my locality was charging me the correct rates of beef and mutton, I asked my maid at what rate she was buying these commodities. She looked at me with a rueful smile, “How do I know baji? It is difficult to manage daal roti (lentil and bread) for my big family, I can’t afford to buy meat. We have beef and mutton only at Baqr eid when people like you give us some, or sometimes when a baji like you gives away her leftovers.”

My maid’s reply taught me a disturbing lesson. We have more than one dish at our table each day and one of them is sure to be of meat, whether it is mutton, chicken or beef. But if I look around with a compassionate heart, I feel that I have more of everything than what I really need. And I always took this blessing for granted.

Dear friends, this year when your parents are distributing the meat from the sacrificed animals, urge them to give away bigger packets to the needy. Instead of stuffing our fridges and freezers with the meat, let us think about those who have not been able to afford sacrificing an animal and will so happily and thankfully like to receive some meat from others. These people cannot afford to buy meat otherwise the rest of the year too. Let them have a hearty feast with their families and enjoy the meat for a few days. If possible, make some extra place in your freezers so that you can store small packets for your household helpers, which they can take away after a few days.

Festivals are happy occasions meant to bring people together. They revive in us the spirit of sharing and on Eidul Azha we are taught to do this by sharing the meat from the sacrificial animals so that there is a feast in every home, regardless of status. And you can share your extra clothes, books, toys and other items of daily use which are more than your requirements. Spread happiness among the less fortunate by sharing your blessings with them because, in the end, the spirit of sacrifice, compassion and love for humanity counts, not the size, health or price of the goat, sheep or cow we sacrifice on Eidul Azha!

Two of the main lessons we learn from this occasion are obedience and sacrifice.

Obedience: Most of my young friends know that the sacrifice of animals Muslims make from the 10th to 12th of ZilHaj every year is to commemorate the great sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. He dreamt that he was sacrificing his only son Ismail as Allah had ordained him to do so.

Both father and son had no second thoughts in complying with this Divine Order, but Allah in His infinite Mercy, replaced the little boy with a ram. The lesson we learn from this great sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. We should obey the Almighty without arguing or complaining. Our parents and our teachers are our greatest well-wishers in this world. Often young minds cannot contemplate what they ask or expect from us, but obeying without complaining always brings good results for us.

Sacrifice: Children are the most valuable assets of every parent, who leave no stone unturned to keep them away from all harm. Prophet Ibrahim’s A.S readiness to sacrifice his son on Allah’s command teaches us an important lesson. When we observe Eidul Azha and sacrifice animals, we part with a good amount of our money, but we make this sacrifice to help the people who are not as privileged as we are.

A TIME FOR REFLECTION (My Article on Ramadan in Young World, Dawn 20th June)

TIME TO IMPROVE OURSELVES!

       ramadan-greeting-cards1

      Friends we have been blessed again with a very important month of the Islamic year. Ramadan is the month when Allah gives us a new chance to become not only better Muslims, but also better human beings. This is a month which inculcates in us the good qualities of obedience, compassion, discipline and piety.

        We all are aware about the physical requirements of fasting. In the wee hour of the night, although sleepy, we get up for the Sehr meal.  But as soon as we hear the Muazzin call for the Fajr prayers, we immediately stop eating and drinking, even if at times we have to leave our meal unfinished. In the evening, we wait patiently for the Maghrib Azaan (although the Iftaar table is full of our favourite dishes) and start eating only when it is time to break the fast.

          We do all this is to comply with the requirements of a fast, because we all know that we have to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. In this way, fasting teaches us the importance of discipline and punctuality in life.

          But friends, have you ever pondered on the spiritual requirements of Ramadan and what is the true message of a fast? If we ponder upon the good qualities we can learn in this month and try to adopt them, we will avail of the full advantage of fasting. This will not only help us to lead and a better and content life, but also make the people around us happier.

Be Compassionate:

         Compassion is one of the most important lessons of Ramzan. Only when we go without food and drink for long hours, we can imagine the sufferings of the poor who often have to sleep on an empty stomach. Our abstinence is a choice, but they have no other option as their meager income is not enough for three square meals every day. When you sit in the coolness of your fans, try to imagine the hardships of laborers, fruit/ vegetable vendors and other daily wage earners. In spite of the scorching heat, even though they are fasting, they have to work hard just to make the ends meet.

Share your blessings:

       We are seldom aware of our blessings unless we witness a lack of them. During Ramadan, when we ponder on the lives of the people less blessed than us, we will learn to share our blessings. Your extra things can be very valuable for a poor child. Rummage your wardrobes for the clothes you seldom wear, the books and magazines you have already read, the extra toys you can do without! Donate all these plus a part of your pocket money in charity. The sense of serenity you will get from this act is too great for words.

Let go of all negative feelings and traits:

         Holding grudges or nurturing hard feelings only draws us towards negativity. This Ramadan, lets resolve to purge our souls of all ill feelings. If you have had a quarrel with a friend or sibling, try to sort out differences by giving a second thought to their point of view. Maybe you both perceive an issue from different angles. Discuss with them with an open heart whatever is troubling you. You can agree to disagree but still remain on good terms.

          Often children are envious or straight away jealous of their peers who are more intelligent in their class or more popular among their teachers and elders. Instead of harboring these negative feelings, try to find out the reasons behind their success. May be they are better in studies because they are more responsible students and do not waste their time in unnecessary activities. Some of them may be more popular because of their cheerful or helpful nature. Let go of negative thoughts and ponder on your own shortcomings.

        Resolve that you will never back-bite, lie or cheat. You will find yourself a much improved person by the end of the month.

Be kind to the young and polite to the elders:

         Humility, kindness and politeness are the important teachings of Islam. Remind yourself in this month how far we all have moved away from these valuable teachings. You must realize that your younger siblings and other children in your circle need your care and attention. Treating them with love will go a far way in inculcating positive traits in their personalities. It will also strengthen your bond with them.

            Resolve that you will always talk politely with elders. Being considerate and helpful towards them will not only make them happy, it will also give you a sense of satisfaction. Those of you who live in extended families should try to pay extra attention towards your aged grandparents and help them when they need your assistance. Running an errand for them, helping them use their cell phone or reading out a book or newspaper to them may take a few minutes of your time, but it will definitely make them happy.

Learn to control your temper

        A fast should be considered an exercise in self-restraint and patience! We all tend to fly into a rage more easily when we are fasting, as the hunger and thirst make us irritable. A very important lesson of a fast is to learn to be in charge of your feelings. Even if you are angry at something or someone, remind yourself that you are fasting. This may seem difficult in the beginning, but as the month will draw to its close, you will have improved your temperament to a great extent.

Do random deeds of kindness:

      Vow to be helpful during Ramadan to lighten the work load of people around you. It may be helping out the maid in her daily chores, making your bed and clearing up the clutter in your room, laying and clearing the Iftaar and Sehr table to make Mummy’s work easier or babysitting your infant sibling so that your fasting mother can have a short nap in the afternoon, offering a helping hand will make you a better and more compassionate person.

        Offering a plate of Iftaar goodies, dates or even cold water to the guard in your lane, people gathering in the mosque for food or even a stranger passing by your home are deeds of kindness which will give you immense satisfaction.

Be moderate in spending:

     The most enjoyable part of Ramadan for most children is shopping for Eid ul Fitr, the Muslim festival at the end of the fating month. You definitely deserve new clothes, shoes and toys after you have fasted for the whole month. But please do not get carried away in your expenditures. Spending in moderation will help you develop a lifelong habit which will also facilitate you when you start your practical life.  

Be regular in Namaaz and Ponder on the Quran during Ramadan:

        This is a month when we all feel naturally inclined towards prayers, good deeds and meditation. Offer your Namaaz on time and invite your siblings to do so. Often people get into a regular habit of praying five times daily during Ramadan. Set out time each day for reciting the Quran with translation and ponder on the verses you have read. You can also discuss what you have read with your parents/grandparents so that they can explain the meanings in a better way. In this way you will have an improved knowledge of the message of the Quran.

     We often witness Cleanliness Drives in schools, offices, hospitals and on a larger scale in cities. This month why not resolve to purge our souls of all impurities? We must realize that cleaning our souls is as important as physical cleanliness. We just have to ponder on our lives, our attitudes and our concepts and resolve to improve ourselves in all walks of life! This Ramzan lets resolve to make our World a better place to live in!