Islam 101

Islam 101: Salatul Tasbih

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies.

It is almost 2 am here in London and I just finished Salatul Tasbih. The Prophet (SAW) recommended for us to perform this prayer at least once during our lifetime. It’s a long one, but doing so will erase a lifetime of sins.

Honestly, after many nights of not sleeping after iftar, I am sleep deprived. Right now I can barely keep my eyes open. But tonight reminded me of the beauty of our faith. Prayer is a sort of meditation for us. It re-centers and grounds us, reminding us of what really matters. It’s coming up to 2 years since I became Muslim and I just have to be really thankful for where Allah (SWT) has brought me. This Ramadan has been a challenge but also a blessing.

Praying Salatul Tasbih reminded me of so much that I had forgotten. It brought forward a lot of insight into my own inner workings and reminded me that Allah (SWT) needs to be at the center of everything I do. It also reminded me of all the little bits of haram in my life that I need to fix. We all have these: little actions, words, thoughts that become habits that are subtly bringing us down in the background. Now, I feel in my heart an openness towards what I need to do to change and be the best Muslim I can be. I feel like I’ve been given a direction and now I know where to begin, insha’Allah.

I know it’s late and I’m getting too deep (don’t catch me in a discussion in the middle of the night, I get way too into it!), so I’ll leave you with the how-to below. It’s a little intimidating, but it’s worth it and you can do it!

Rasulullah ﷺ is narrated to have said to his uncle Hazrat ‘Abbas (R.A): O Abbas! O my uncle! Shall I not give you a gift? Shall I not show you something by means of which Allah will forgive your sins, the first and the last of them, the past and recent, the unintentional and the intentional, the small and huge, the secret and open? The Holy Prophet ﷺ then taught him the Salah al-Tasbih. Furthermore he advised him that it be offered daily, if possible. If not, then every Friday or once a month or once a year or at least once in one’s life time. (Abu Dawood)

The Tasbih that is read is: ‘Subhaanallaahi walhamdu lillaahi walaa ilaaha illallaahu wallaahu akbar’

Read here for the details on how to perform this prayer if you’re interested!

Much love,

Nahlah

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ramadan

Ramadan Countdown Day 10

Assalaamu alaikum, lovelies!

It is now 10 more days to Ramadan, insha’Allah! Today’s topic is going to be a short one.

Learn and memorize what to say for opening and breaking your fast (if you don’t already know them). You recite to yourself:

There we go, that’s it. Nothing complicated or drawn out today. These are super simple to memorize, but you can save this photo to read from as well. This is also a good time to memorize any other duas that you would like to learn! There are so many and for every situation in life, so I won’t get into that today. May Allah (SWT) make it easy for you and I will see you all tomorrow for day 9, insha’Allah!

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beauty, Series, Uncategorized

Organic Beauty: Sleep

A lot of talk surrounding inner beauty solely focuses on personality and values. While these aspects are very important, beauty from the inside also heavily relies on health, meaning diet and lifestyle. It is no coincidence that the most redundant beauty advice tells us to drink lots of water, cut down on junk food, and go to bed on time. It’s called beauty sleep for a reason.

From personal experience, I’ve come to believe that sleep is the start of it all. We are nothing without energy to go about our day and practice good habits. Our bodies need sleep in order to rejuvenate, detox, and function. This is the time that our cells get to work repairing and strengthening our bodies in ways that we often take for granted. If we discipline ourselves to get at least 8 hours a day, we ensure that we start off our days right, mentally, and physically. Keep this in mind, when our bodies are tired, they begin to shift their priorities towards the most necessary bodily functions while normal functions like appetite, sex drive, and short-term memory begin to lag behind a bit. Without proper sleep, I don’t have the energy to workout or stick to my skincare routine. My diet also tends to center around whatever is most convenient, which is rarely healthy.

So, what is ideal when it comes to sleep? Yes, 8 hours is the recommended amount to achieve ultimate rest, but the time at which we fall asleep is incredibly important as well. I’ve found that I can sleep for 10 hours straight if I go to bed past midnight but do I feel refreshed the next morning? Absolutely not. However, I can only sleep for 7 hours if I go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am feeling ready to conquer the world. This can be explained by our body’s natural circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.” Most of us have a circadian rhythm that responds to light which explains why we naturally begin to feel sleepy once the sun sets and why many of us can wake up naturally at the same time every day.

And last, but most certainly not least, how do we get enough sleep during the summer with prayer times starting so early and ending so late? My method is this: I finish all of my errands and physical activities before Maghrib as well as finish getting ready for bed (shower, skincare, teeth). That way when Isha rolls around, I can pray and fall right to sleep. I use the hour in between Maghrib and Isha to wind down for the night so that I may drift off to sleep in a peaceful state of mind. Winding down for me typically looks like reading a good book, journaling or writing drafts for blog posts (in a notebook instead of computer), and studying Quran. Now, in the morning for fajr I’ve developed the habit by the grace of Allah (SWT) of staying awake afterwards and getting my day started. I understand that this doesn’t work for everyone so by all means, go back to sleep so you can get adequate rest. But, I will say that forcing myself into becoming a morning person has been so beneficial for me in having productive and fulfilling days. I enjoy the early morning quiet that I get to myself where I can savour my tea and reflect on things before going for a good workout. It sets the mood for the rest of my day and I find that I accomplish so much more when I get started early.

Thank you so much for reading the first installment of our new Organic Beauty series! I hope that this brought something new to the table, so let me know what you think in the comments below! Also, what are your favourite ways to relax at night?

Wishing you all dewy skin and a full night’s sleep,

Nahlah

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Islam 101, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Learning to Read All Over Again

Assalamu Alaikum, everyone! One of the fundamental but perhaps most daunting tasks that all new reverts face is learning to read Qur’an. While most born Muslims are given the opportunity to learn while they are young and while their brains are still flexible, those who choose to convert to Islam may find their journey a little less simple. If you are a native English speaker or speaker of any of the Romantic languages, you may find learning to read and write Arabic quite difficult. The way this language is set up is completely different to how we are used to speaking. Aside from the obvious differences in alphabet, pronunciation is on a whole new level with sounds that I have never before had to make. This is what makes learning Arabic fun but also extremely challenging.

As my husband has so patiently told me, learning this language takes time and because the Qur’an has been spread all over the world, pronunciation will differ with everyone. An Arabic person will tell you how to pronounce a certain word much differently than how someone from Malaysia will teach you. And while the way a born Arabic speaker recites the Qur’an is typically the correct way, for almost everyone else in the world the language is so different from their own that it is a struggle to adopt the correct pronunciations for every word. You simply have to exercise patience, practice consistently, and try the best you can. The goal is to be able to ready the Holy Qur’an and to understand its teachings. And, if this offers any bit of comfort, learning to pronounce the letters once they are connected into words is much easier than learning to pronounce the letters individually.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I am having so much difficulty learning to read and pronounce Arabic. English is my first language with Spanish coming in at a close second. Spanish also happens to be in the same family of languages that I am familiar with and I began learning it when I was in elementary school so I have been able to pick it back up easily. Arabic is an entirely different ball game. I am having to learn a new alphabet, new ways of pronouncing things, and new sounds that don’t exist in English or Spanish. Combine all of this with the fact that my Qur’an teacher, who also happens to be my British husband, tends to pronounce th as f. His teaching is wonderful, he’s patient and thorough but even the cultural differences in how we pronounce certain letters has caused some confusion and frustration. He also happened to learn Qur’an the Urdu way which is slightly different. But, I think once we realized that we pronounce certain letters differently, it cleared everything up. I’m laughing right now remembering how seriously he looked at me as he pointed out thaa’ was pronounced with a th like “fhaa” and I couldn’t wrap my head around how that was possible.

It has been a challenge, and we are nowhere near finished but, alhamdulillah that we get to undertake this challenge together through the mercy and goodness of Allah (SWT). So, if you’re feeling stuck or extremely frustrated, just know that this is normal. Instead of giving in to the negative feelings, use them as motivation to conquer these obstacles. If you need to, slow it down and focus on perfecting one letter a day. And remember that there are plenty of free resources online, especially YouTube, that are fantastic (and free) which are perfect for if you are trying to teach yourself. If you can, try to find local classes or a generous brother or sister willing to help teach you. I find that practicing with someone who has gone through it themselves is so much more helpful than trying to carry on by yourself. I pray that Allah (SWT) will guide each and every one of you through this journey and that your hearts will be filled with love and praise for Him as you learn to read His words.

Thank you,

Nahlah

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Making the Most of Prayer

So, more than likely, you already know the basics of prayer. If not, there is a very helpful WikiHow tutorial that you can follow for the steps to the obligatory prayer. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I finally memorized all of the recitations and two surahs. It was such a relief not to have to glance at the words on my phone and to pray wholeheartedly, completely focused on worshiping Allah (SWT). But, as with everything, there is always room for growth. For example, were you aware that there are sunnah (recommended) and fard (required) rakats to each prayer? That’s right. The 2-4-4-3-4 rakats of the 5 obligatory prayers can be supplemented with extra rakats. It looks like this:

Fajr= 2 sunnah + 2 fard

Dhuhr= 4 sunnah + 4 fard + 2 sunnah

Asr= 4 sunnah + 4 fard

Maghrib= 2 sunnah + 3 fard + 2 sunnah

Isha= 2 sunnah + 4 fard+ 2 sunnah

Now, it’s not required to recite these extra rakats but it is highly recommended and can greatly enhance your prayer. I know that there are times where we may not feel like going the extra mile but think of much time there is in each day and then think of what you spend most of your free time doing. While some people have children and activities which make taking extra time for prayer difficult, I myself have quite a lot of free time and have found that if I can dedicate time to reading or browsing the internet, I can make more time in my life for my iman. Allah (SWT) does so much for us, asking us to willingly volunteer a few more minutes of our 24 hour day is such a small request. Here are some other steps to take to not only ensure that your prayer is valid but also, that you are making the most of this sacred time.

Disclaimer: Some of these may seem obvious to most of you, but these tips are more for my fellow reverts who haven’t grown up around Islam. The practices can be a lot to take in and certainly a lot to remember at one time.

  1. Make sure there are no photos or replicas of living things (humans and animals) in the room or if there are, make sure they are covered or turned around.
  2. Both Dhuhr and Asr are recited silently.
  3. Make sure the area and the clothes you are praying in are as clean as possible.
  4. Keep your focus on the front of your prayer mat to avoid distraction.
  5. Men should be covered from the navel to the ankles but it is customary to also cover the the torso, upper arms, and in some cultures the head. They should also make sure their trousers don’t extend below their ankles. Women should be covered with exceptions for the hands and face, and the clothing should be loose.
  6. After Fajr and Maghrib, recite “Allahumma Ajirni Minan Naar” which translates to “Oh Allah, protect me from hellfire!”
  7. When you go down to the ground, go straight into sujood. When you sit up, make sure you rest one hand flat on each thigh.
  8. You only have to recite the takbeer, Surah al-Fatiha and the following surahs aloud. Everything else can be recited to oneself.
  9. Pray as soon as the adhan is sounded (whether that is from the local masjid or the alarm on your phone) or as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Approaching prayer in a timely and enthusiastic manner not only increases your reward but also allows you to focus fully on worshiping Allah (SWT) and allows you to take your time and pray correctly and make any dua that you need to make.
  10. Take time to incorporate the sunnah prayers before the fard prayers. An easy way to start is with the sunnah prayer before fajr. Since both are made up of only two rakats, it is quick and makes for a positive start to your day. The Prophet (SAW) made sure that no matter what, he prayed the two sunnah rakats before fajr. The surahs to be recited during this sunnah prayer are Surah Al-Ikhlas and Surah Al-Kafirun.
  11. Recite Surah Ibrahim (14: 40-41) after the second tashahhud and durood sharif (As-salaah al-Ibraaheemiyyah).
  12. Make sure that toes are pointing forward when in sujood as well as hands. Keep elbows off of the ground and don’t rest your stomach on your thighs.
  13. It is so helpful to learn the meanings of what you are reciting. I find that this helps me to keep my focus and to pray with a better intention.
  14. Don’t make your intention to pray out loud, it is to be made in your heart so that you do not make a false intention. It is also considered an innovation by some scholars which would make it haram.
  15. Speaking of innovation, if you are unsure of what to do during prayer or forget something don’t make it up as you go. It is permissible and actually mentioned in a Hadith that if one makes a mistake during prayer or loses focus, they can start over.
  16. This article is really helpful if you are someone who often gets distracted or forgets things during prayer.

I hope that these little tips prove to be of some use in performing your daily prayers in the future. They are small details that I feel can be left out when first learning everything. Oftentimes, because they are so used to it, born Muslims may forget to teach you these things or you may not find the advice readily available on the internet because to most, it seems like common sense. Don’t worry or feel pressure to learn all of these at once. Take your time and focus on keeping a pure intention and praying wholeheartedly. Allah (SWT) knows you are learning and trying your best and you will make mistakes, but what matters is how you go about correcting and learning from them. As always, if you have anything to add to the list above or any corrections, please let me know below!

Thank you,

Nahlah

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Islam 101

Islam 101: Sutrah

Sutrah: “an object used by a person performing salat as a barrier between himself and one passing in front of him.” (Wikipedia)

“Abu Juhaym said, “The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, ‘If the one who passes in front of a man praying knew what he was bringing upon himself it would be better for him to stop for forty than to pass in front of him.’ ” Abu’n-Nadr said, “I do not know whether he said forty days or months or years.” (Muwatta, Malik, Shortening the Prayer, Arabic Ref. Book 9, Hadith 366; Sunan Abi-Dawud, Prayer , Arabic Ref. 701)”

“It was narrated from ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Abu Sa’eed that his father said: “The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘When anyone of you performs prayer, let him pray facing towards a sutrah, and let him get close to it, and not let anyone pass in front of him. If someone comes and wants to pass in front of him, let him fight him, for he is a devil (satan).’”(Sunan Ibn Majah, Establishing the Prayer and the Sunnah Regarding Them, Arabic Ref. Book 5, Hadith 1007)”*

I wish I had known this before I thoughtlessly stepped in front of my husband in sujood whilst attempting to get to the bathroom. In my defense, he had planted himself right beside the bathroom door, but it was a mistake and I knew as soon as I did it. Alhamdulillah, I have been blessed with a husband who is sweet and gentle. He kindly and promptly informed me that I should never walk in front of someone in prayer as it is haram (not permitted, forbidden). Doing this disturbs them and distracts them from their prayer. The Prophet (SAW) would drive a stick or spear into the ground whilst travelling or out in the dessert and pray before it. He recommended others to do the same with a similar object or by praying facing a wall. This is the best way to ensure that the prayer is not interrupted.

*Hadith and sources courtesy of islamandquran.org.

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Islam 101

Islam 101: The Little Things Series

We are never experts when we take our first steps. Islam has done a fine job of teaching me this from day one. For any of us who have grown up in religion, we don’t ever realize the complications and details of what we have been privileged to be born into. I grew up in a devout Christian family, every aspect of this religion and lifestyle permeated everything around me. When I look back at the way things were and still are for many in that particular faith, I still see it as easy and simple. Looking forward to the faith I embrace now, I am constantly confused and learning. And I can’t begin to count up how many times I’ve felt like a fraud and complete dunce. I envy those like my husband who have grown up in Muslim families. They are truly blessed! But I am also enjoying this journey as a new Muslim. I love that it still excites me, I love that I have been humbled enough to know that I don’t know it all and that I still have to seek out knowledge. Alhamdulillah, I haven’t grown complacent and I haven’t had to struggle to keep my iman high yet.

So with that said, I want to introduce a series centered around all the little things I wish I had known and am still learning about Islam. There are so many tiny details that are difficult to find in plain words. If you’re like me and living in an Islam-deficient city, it’s almost impossible to find classes or friends to help guide you along! What comes after taking shahada? That is my mission here and practically the backbone of this site. I have no clue what I’ll be tackling first but stay tuned!

Assalaamu Alaikum,

Nahlah

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