Monday, October 14, 2013

Reaping the Rewards of Ramadan

Ramadan is the annual discount days that we get for stocking up hasanaat for our aakhirah. The rate is exceedingly profitable, so it is important to consider how best to use this opportunity for everyone in the family, especially the head of the household.

Like all limited time offers, proper time management is key. A daily schedule helps in keeping focus on what is important. Wasting valuable time by sleeping away the hours should be curtailed – rather sleep should be kept to the minimum. Watching TV should be limited to only those broadcasts that are truly beneficial, like live taraweeh broadcasts from the Haramain. Similarly, all Eid shopping should be out of the way in the beginning of Ramadan, so that the last ten days can be best utilized for worship.

Time should be reserved for personal and collective worship, throughout the day. This includes the daily adhkar, Quran recitation, qiyaam, congregational prayers, taraweeh, etc. The men of the family should encourage others to participate in worship and take them with them for collective worship. Even if young ones do not participate fully, just being in the masjid, while seeing worshippers pray together in the special Ramadan atmosphere leaves a lasting impact on their young hearts and minds.

Learning is another beneficial activity of that one should establish both at a personal as well as a family level. Personally, one can use Ramadan to memorize a portion of the Quran, or understand its meaning, or daily study some ahadith, The family can also learn together. Last Ramadan while walking to and from the masjid my son who was 6 then, memorized some surahs of Juz Amma, just by repeating after me. Older kids can be asked to research the background to these surahs and report back to the family when the family is together, e.g. while driving, sharing meals, etc. The younger ones can be asked to draw and color whatever they have heard.

Ramadan is also a time for sharing whether it be sharing food, clothes, wealth, knowledge, etc. Some may disagree, but I have found that rather than arrange and iftaar parties throughout the month for the rich, where people participate in food orgies and end up missing taraweeh prayers, it is better to supply food to less privileged members of society, e.g. the needy, students, bachelors, orphans, travelers, etc. Taking your kids with you for daily rounds of food distribution engenders a love of giving and an appreciation of the blessings they have in their lives. Projects can also be developed through zakat money which many Muslims choose to pay during this blessed month.

To free up time for all the above activities, it is important to keep food shopping, preparation, presentation and consumption to a minimum. A simple meal can suffice daily for futoor as well as suhoor. Husbands can help by doing groceries quickly using a shopping list at a less crowded time of the day and not picking faults in food presented to them.

Sons, husbands and fathers play a big role is helping to maximize the benefits of Ramadan for themselves and their families. A family which is properly led to utilize Ramadan time for worship, learning and charity can hope to achieve the real spiritual goals of this month.

Characteristics of a Believing Wife

The Prophet (SWAS) has been reported to have said: "A woman is normally sought as a wife for her wealth, beauty, nobility, or religiousness, but choose a religious woman and you will prosper. " (Muslim)

Some well intentioned Muslims try to heed to this Prophetic advice in choosing a spouse and make religion the principal criteria for their selection. Soon they face problems defining religiousness or those main religious characteristics that are of greatest benefit with respect to a potential wife. Does wearing a hijab and praying regularly qualifies a Muslima in satisfy this criteria? Certainly it is an indication, but sometimes appearances are deceptive and so some deeper characteristics should be considered before making this important decision.

The foremost of these is having the right belief or aqeeda, for someone's system of belief might be different from someone else's. If one spent one's entire life in doing good works, but one's belief system is corrupted they may not gain any reward for it in the aakhirah. In terms of marriage, belief forms the basis of a worldview a person acquires, so two people having different beliefs can not easily agree on common understanding because their perspectives are different. Spouses are like a pair of eyes in a head; each has separate vision, but when they focus on common vistas they provide a depth in perception that is not possible by either one of them alone. Thus having different color eye glasses on each eye, results only in confusion. This poses more difficulties for children who are often left perplexed about how they see reality. Even among Muslims, different sects have different aqeeda, so care must be taken in choosing a mate whose belief one concurs with.

The next important characteristic may be quite difficult to ascertain. It is sincerity to Allah (SWT) which is a very private matter as it has to do with intention of a Muslim. When a wife does everything primarily for Allah's (SWT) sake, one can be sure that Islam is not just on her lips but has entered her heart. That is the essence of religion. So when she does something good to him or his relatives it is primarily to seek reward from Allah (SWT). It will make no difference to her if she is appreciated for her good deeds or not as she knows that Allah (SWT) appreciates her. Many misunderstandings and complaints, typical in marriages, can be neutralized by this great characteristic alone.

Love of the Prophet (SWAS) and his Sunnah should be another important consideration for marriage. The Sunnah provides Muslims with exemplary patterns of lifestyle which provide the context to live the most natural way that Allah (SWT) intended us to live. A wife who takes the Prophet (SWAS) as the best role model for herself will try to constantly try to improve her character according to his. She will cultivate good characteristics like patience, thankfulness, humility, devotion, truthfulness, modesty, sincerity, dependability, etc. Such characteristics are indispensable in a good believing wife. The life of someone who follows the Sunnah is characterized by perfect balance. They fulfill the rights of Allah (SWT) as well as those around them. A wife who loves the Prophet (SWAS) will follow the caring way he dealt with people. Wives play a big role in social interactions of families and friends, so a genuinely concerned and caring wife will be a source of good dawah and reform. She will constantly think about the welfare of others, in both their religious and mundane matters. She will help keep good ties of kinship. Certainly she will not forget the responsibilities she owes to her own children whose characters she is most likely to influence in life.

After the love of Allah (SWT) and the love of the Prophet (SWAS), should come the love of learning. A wife who is committed to a lifetime of learning will always look for ways to keep improving herself, both in deen and dunya matters. She will be eager in each stage of her life to learn the required knowledge to carry out her responsibilities in the best of manners. With the correct aqeeda she will always try to build up her inner vision by placing what she learns in the correct framework of belief. This will allow her to ultimately develop insights about the nature of things. This hikma (wisdom) and firasa (intuition) are rare and valuable qualities to have in a wife. Indeed the Prophet (SWAS) has been reported to have said: "…Whoever follows a path in pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise..." (bn Majah). She is also more likely to pass on this love of learning to her children

A wife can have all the above qualities, yet if she is not obedient then the family unit is prone to tear apart. Obedience should foremost be to the commands of Allah (SWT), to the Prophet (SWAS) and then to the husband. It is the nature of human societies that they need a responsible person in any situation who looks after the interests of the whole group. In a family that responsibility lies with the husband, who should seek to acquire all the above characteristics himself before demanding them in his potential spouse. There can not be two people in the family competing to lead. If the wife does not obey the husband, chaos ensues. At a macro level this leads to disruption in society, as the family unit is the basis of any healthy society.

For a successful Islamic marriage, both the husband and the wife should be committed to constantly improve themselves and acquire good characteristics that are deeper than just the apparent symbols of religion. If a wife has the right aqeeda, is sincere to Allah (SWT), loves and practices the Sunnah, is committed to learning and is obedient to the husband, then there is very little else that a wise practicing Muslim should consider.