Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Amazing Race Of Ramadan: Episode One

Published on OnIslam.net
On 22nd June, 2015

Episode One: It’s An Inside Job!

heart and brain

Thundering slamming sounds of doors locking.
Roaring noises of steel chains clatter together.

Hearts melt as the smiles fill the skies…
And the golden gates are opened, filling the universe with the sparkling scents of Heaven….
People from all around the world gather together, excited and anxious to be amongst the frontrunners. From every race, age and color, the chosen contestants hold hands in peace; awaiting further reminders before they head off for the big win.

“Listen up people! This is it! The doors of Hell are locked, the devils are chained down and the gates of Paradise are wide open. Tonight we start the 30-day countdown of the Amazing Race! Let’s make EVERY. SECOND. COUNT!”

Millions of Muslims raise their hands to the sky and chant in unity “Allahu Akbar! God Is Great!”

“The more people you help along the way, the more you raise your chances of winning the ultimate reward, so stay close and have each others backs! Now please pick up a copy of your craziest imagination before heading to Conference Room A for a staff meeting with your organs. Good luck!”

Health Benefits Of Fasting: 

All the organs take their seats, giving full attention to the Heart that stands up and speaks first.
“I’d like to welcome you all to this great event. I’ll be your team leader and I hereby make it very clear that my approval is essential before every word and action you make. That means you Mr. Brain!”
“Hey! What did I do?” The Brain looks innocently confused.
“I would rather this meeting be productive so I won’t be pointing fingers! We are one family after all” The heart replies calmly. “If you look at the white board, you’ll see a list a job descriptions and goals for the Holy month. Let’s go through them quickly…”

  • Lungs: Good news! Fasting helps remove built up toxins there. This month is for us to literally take a ‘breather’.
  • Stomach: Will be using the foodless and waterless hours to work on removing any waste matter and allowing for better digestions. Good luck!
  • Blood vessels: Since less blood will flow to the digestive system, more blood will go to other tissues, removing the cholesterol lining in our blood vessels. Well, about time!
  • Intestines: Like the stomach, will finally use this period for detoxification.
  • Kidneys: Will absorb more salt and water, which will help stabilize blood pressure, improve the organ’s functions and avoid kidney stones. Congratulations!
  • Immune System: Fasting reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body, reduces stress on the internal system so we can fight infections and starve many types of cancer cells. (Impressive, ha?)
  • Complexion: While fasting, the body has free time to focus on its regenerative energies on other systems like clearing up skin, sweat glands and preventing acne. Yeah that’s why we glow in Ramadan.
  • Liver: Reserved ‘Glycogen’ in the liver will be broken into glucose, which all of us organs can use as extra fuel or energy. Thanks pal! We owe you one.
  • Body Fat: When the supply of glycogen runs out, we turn to stored body fat, breaking it into fatty acids and converting that to useable energy. Let’s lose some of that stubborn weight this summer guys!
  • Brain: Fasting boosts the levels of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ that beats depression. It also enhances the production of proteins that activate brain stem cells, promotes brain functions, and protects it from diseases such as Alzheimer’s. We’re all counting on you this month dude!

    “Ummm Mr. Brain? Are you there?”
    “Ouch! Horrible Headache! Ahhhhh this really hurts!” The Brain screams as loud sirens shake the room.

Attention! Brace yourself while system resets. I repeat. All organs brace yourselves. This Is An Automated message.

“What’s happening?” The Kidney twins panic. “Is that an Earthquake? Oh my God we’re getting dizzy!”
“No that’s the Brain going into shock. It’s one of the expected side effects of adjusting to the new system” The Heart replies. “Guys if you’ll excuse us, I need to talk to the Brain privately please.”

Mental Benefits Of Fasting:

The Heart puts its hand on the Brain’s shoulder and speaks softly.

“Listen to me. I know the headache hurts but it will only last a day or two till the body adjusts to the fasting process. I need you to stay strong. This will pass I promise! Just breathe it out”
“I want pain killers, coffee, sweets, anything! Please!” The Brain holds its head.
“A war is raging inside coz you’re physically feeling hunger and thirst to the fullest. But I’m in charge now and I will see you through this. You’ll thank me later and here’s why…”

  • Increased focus, mental clarity and creativity.
  • Fasting is a powerful tool in maintaining a healthy mental state through clearing out suppressed ‘emotional baggage’.
  • Controlling impulsive urges which enhances wisdom.
  • Discontinuing bad habits and overcoming addictions
  • Fasting improves quality of sleep.
  • Ultimate awareness and living the ‘now’ helps you feel the ‘joy’.
  • Strengthening your will and inner power.

“You can do this. That’s the training you need to survive another year in the outside world. Together you and me, we will win this race every single day, because we have the ultimate goal in mind: Pleasing Allah and attaining the highest levels of Paradise inshAllah. You’re not alone pal”

“Oh you’re so sweet. How come we don’t spend more time together? Listening to you is really soothing… You’re so pure and genuine!” The Brain smiles.
“Tell me something I don’t know” The Heart winks back jokingly. “Now let’s catch up with the rest in Conference Room B. The ‘Soul’ will give the final speech.”

Spiritual Benefits Of Fasting

Dressed in a sheer white suit, the ‘Inner Being’ welcomes each organ with a rose. The sound of Qur’an in the background fills the room with tranquility. After the recitation is done, the ‘Soul’ stands up and asks the audience to close their eyes.

“Shhhhhhhh…. Listen to the silence inside of you. Separate from the worldly life for a moment and focus your attention inwards…

  • The body starts to feel lighter, senses are heightened and our beliefs and principles are crystalized. It’s Allah’s pleasure we are seeking.
  • This is the chance to embrace your new beginning. For even those with the worst past can create the best future.
  • The energies of the universe are bright and colorful in Ramadan. Your aura is cleansed and activated. Polish the mirror of your heart to reflect the ‘Divine Light’.
  • Feel the presence of your Lord and the angels around guarding you and recording your deeds. Allow yourself to absorb this month’s blessed glory.

    “Fasting is more than abstaining from food and water; it’s a spiritual journey towards Jannah. Let’s work as one team and promise ourselves to stay on the right path this year folks. Thank you for being here and good luck!”

I overhear the chitchats of millions of contestants on their way out of the auditoriums. Sorry, but I couldn’t help eavesdropping on some random conversations

“Man! That was impressive! It’s like all the organs are one happy family. How come we aren’t as close to our own parents and siblings outside Ramadan?”

“Tell me about it. Like my brother is so annoying I fantasize about punching him in the face sometimes.”

“I don’t remember the last time we all had a meal together!”

“My husband is married to his social media. I think if I disappear, the only way he will notice is if someone posts it on Facebook!”

Hmmmmm…I run quickly to fetch the blueprints for the next phase of the race and I chuckle with amusement!

Episode Two: ‘Joy Is A Six-Letter Word’.
Coming right up…. Stay tuned.

Lilly S. Mohsen

What No One Would Dare Say About Ramadan!

image
“Mommmmmmm! I’m so hungry! How long till Maghreb?” The kids asked for the 36th time (But you know, who’s counting!)
“Four hours and 17 minutes!” I reply in an automated-service tone.

A hot summery Ramadan and it’s like 100 degrees outside so the kids are staying indoors, and with no caffeine in my system, I feel my crankiness slowly turning me into an intolerable ‘Hulkette’! But then again, it’s the Holy month, where your heart, mind, soul and body are being purified while going through the ultimate test of patience. It’s the month of blessings and serenity. I can do this…
Yes I can.

“Mommmmmm! It’s been forever! How long till Maghreb now?”
“Four hours and 16 minutes!”

Hmmmm on second thought… I so CAN’T do this!

With Satan and all the horrible little devils chained away for 30 days and nights I’m not sure who to blame my grumpiness on.
Me? Noooooooo! Come on people I’m a very pleasant person.
Okay fine, I’ll take responsibility for my own bad mood and today I’ll be the devil’s advocate to mess with your minds a little bit (yeah I’m mean I know). As much as I like Ramadan, I’m one of those people who worry about its arrival 11 months before it’s here. Between the loss of sleep, no food or water, no entertainment, and kids whining endlessly, I must say these 30 days are challenging.

What’s So Special About Ramadan?

1- The Ultimate Delete Button

Yes you heard that right! In the Holy month, you literally start a new page and all your sins are deleted.
Aha even if you did HORRIBLE things.
Yup! Even those nasty sins too.
Yes I’m totally serious, literally EVERYTHING and ANYTHING bad you did is deleted. Listen to this:

“Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said: ‘Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of reward, he will be forgiven his previous sins.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i 2205)

The devil’s advocate starts fidgeting then suddenly gets up: “It doesn’t mean you’ll go to Jannah you know. Satan is a genius and he’ll definitely lead you to sin after Ramadan is over and you’ll hopefully die during the act and go to hell! Sorry to burst your bubble guys! What else do you got?”

2-The Big Save Button:
So if you’re worried that your fasting and prayers weren’t perfect, or that you’ll sin again, there’s another getaway that makes Ramadan extra special. It’s Allah’s extreme mercy and kindness. Check this out:

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “In every day and every night, during the month of Ramadan, there are people to whom Allah grants freedom from the Fire, and there is for every Muslim a supplication which he can make and will be granted”. [al-Bazzaar, Ahmad and Ibn Majah; Sahih]
And God Almighty doesn’t go back on His word. Once you’re granted freedom for Hellfire it’s a lifetime guarantee. Congratulations, you’ve been saved.
The devil’s advocate sweats uncontrollably and his eyes widen double their size. “Whoa easy there buddy. Careful what you say! Besides you’ll never know you’re saved for sure till Judgment Day, and it still doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in a high level in Heaven. Nah, I’m thinking that’s not enough to make Ramadan so special!
3- The Instant Multiplication Button

Alright! You want special I’ll give you special.
I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with the Holy verse 6:160 which explains that Allah multiplies each good deed by 10. And we also know that praying in Jama’a or groups multiplies the reward by 27. Not just that, but the Prophet (PBUH) also said this about Ramadan: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied for him, between ten and seven hundred times for each merit. Allah said: ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I shall reward for it.'” (Bukhari).

Now let the Mathematicians step forward please.
1 prayer X 5 times a day X 10 X 700 X 27 X 30 Days = 28, 350,000 points.

More than 28 million Hasanat for prayers alone. And Salat Taraweeh (Night prayers), reciting Qur’an (which by the way is 1 point for each LETTER you read- that’s 323,671 points) and add the charity money, acts of kindness and the sunnah prayers before and after obligatory Salat, feeding the poor, hospitality… Etc. As for the reward for fasting, God said He decides on that, and when the Most Kind and Most Generous rewards His slaves, I don’t think my brain can absorb the amount of points He’s talking about.
So yeah, put all together, that’s math I can’t even do! But I know it’s more than enough to raise your status in Jannah!

“Hmmmmm! Let’s see what the devil’s advocate has to say about THAT!” I cross my arms triumphantly.
Oh my God, wait! He’s having a seizure. Help!
4- The Humongous Power Button

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The night of nights, when thousands of angels including the great angel Jibreel himself, descend from the sky to visit our world. The once a year opportunity that’s literally worth your whole life! Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I announce the ‘Night of Power’ and its glory! But before I do that, let me ask the audience here a question.
“Sir, what do you think is the average life span of a human being?”
“Ummmm I don’t know, 80 years?”
“That is correct! And how many months would that be sir?”
“960 months?”
“Exactly! But now get this!”

The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.” (97:3, Holy Qur’an)

Also known as Laylat Al Qadr, sincere worship of the Great Lord on the Night Of Power is equal to more than a lifetime of non-stop praying. And that is every single year. So we’re talking about at least 50 lifetimes of zero sins and oceans of endless rewards!
Who’s your mama now?

Sirens of ambulances invade the sound systems and nurses with gurneys and oxygen masks run to the rescue of the poor devil’s advocate, who is now on the ground motionless after a massive stroke.

Later that evening, still chained to the hospital bed and wearing that funny green gown, the devil’s advocate lifts his oxygen mask and growls….
“I thought I could depend on you to distract the humankind! You let me down! You put the name of evil to shame!”
“Yeah whatever” I laughed
“On Eid we meet again! I will be revenged! You’ll see! You’ll ALL SEE!”

Driving home, I see Muslims handing out bottles of water and dates on the streets, helping each other and setting out iftar tables for the poor. There’s a soothing kind of serenity in the air… I can’t explain it. It’s like an 11 month tornado has gone by and kindness is all that survived. There’s still good in this world… I swear to God there is…

“Sorry kids. I had to run to the hospital. Long story!” I apologized as I walked in.
“Mommy come on! One minute till Maghreb! Oh my God we are so excited!” The kids jump happily.

Excited to eat food they eat all year long….
Eager to sit down with the family they see everyday….
Hurrying to the mosque to pray with the friends they always hang out with….
Every single ordinary moment is appreciated in the most extraordinary ways… and I can’t help but think that this is the real meaning of happiness….
Blessed light cleansing our souls like a pure waterfall on a hot burning day…
Our Lord’s mercy is overwhelming… fulfilling and recharging…
And yet that’s not even a fraction of how special and glorious this Holy month is… Compared to that, our love for it isn’t enough…
It never will be… until the angels greet us with open arms at the gates of Paradise…and we finally see the Face of our Lord…
The Owner of Majesty and Honor….
Because that was and always will be, the truest love of all….

Lilly S. Mohsen

Follow me on Twitter @lillymohsen

So Did You Talk To Your Kids About Dating Yet?

Giggle

Deep breaths everyone….

Okay now let’s talk about our youth and their eagerness to ‘date’.
I’ll give parents a minute to put down this article and whisper a prayer….
“Please God let it be a discussion about ‘dates’ as in the fruits of Palm Trees. Please God! You are the Most Merciful’…”

I know this is hard for you guys. I’m a mom, so naturally it’s hard for me too. Us parents want to stay in denial about our kids’ desires and their eagerness to start a romantic relationship because umm hello we raised them right! How can they even think of such inappropriateness before they reach the age of marriage? This is just ridiculous! When we were teenagers we focused on our studies and prayers and never allowed ourselves to fantasize about falling in love and stuff.
(Long pause… Uhmmm)

I can imagine some Muslim parents’ reaction when their teenagers ask why they can’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend:

“A WHAT???? ASTAGHFAR ALLAH!” Parent drops dishes, locks the doors, and shines an interrogative spotlight in the child’s face.
“Put your hands where I can see them! Now tell me, where did you hear that term? Who do you hang out with?! What a shame you turned out to be! Go to your room, you’re grounded for TWO MONTHS!”
Oops!

Expect The Unexpected

In a world where Miley Cyrus dances wearing close to nothing on national TV (Eww gross!) and PG movies show couples kissing and teenagers getting pregnant, it’s safe to assume we can expect the unexpected. Muslim parents probably seem uptight and old-fashioned to a generation constantly and relentlessly exposed to the media’s shamelessness. Without gradually instilling our Islamic principles in our children at a very young age, unacceptable ‘social’ values will be all they know. Yes, we teach them to pray, fast, tell the truth and the whole long list, but are we tackling the ‘hormonal’ and ‘sexual ‘aspects of adolescence? Or are we shunning the ‘taboo’ subjects all together?

The interest in the opposite sex will arise sooner or later, and if we don’t talk to our kids about it, guess who they’ll talk to? Their FRIENDS! Their non-Muslim, very-experienced-in-this-arena friends! Or perhaps they’ll get their information from the Internet and books like “Fifty Shades Of Grey!” (Now someone please mute the demons in my head so I can finish writing this piece!)

The Big Talk

God knows talking about this is our worst nightmare! We want to preserve our children’s innocence for as long as we can, and that’s exactly why many of us choose not to discuss pre-marital relationships with our kids and hope we’ll never have to. The classic answers usually hover around “We are Muslims. We don’t date”. But are the kids convinced? It’s our job as parents to explain that having romantic feelings is very normal, but acting upon those feelings is definitely not okay until one is married. (I’m sure some dads are thinking: No not even then! LOL). Being alone and/or intimate with a boy or girl is against our modest Islamic beliefs, and it’s supported by all kinds of modern studies too. Problems with attachment, low self-esteem, peer pressure, neediness, ruined reputations, broken hearts and revenge schemes…. They all arise when boys and girls interact outside the ‘permissible line’.

Yet our kids should feel they’re allowed to voice out their thoughts without being judged, criticized or threatened into oblivion, because that’s when they’ll be willing to listen and apply. And if they’re uncomfortable to ask questions, perhaps it’s time we initiate those intense and awkward conversations to get the ball rolling….

Use The Secret Ingredient: Communication

The ‘pursed lips’ and ‘changing the subject’ tactics won’t cut it anymore. (It never did actually!) Our beloved Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) communicated openly and lovingly about every possible issue we could think of. Talk to your children while they’re young and they’ll get used to listening as they get older. Use every chance you get to squeeze in those small talks about friends, school, principles and religion. A scene in a movie, a title in a magazine, the gossip you heard about last week’s party. Ask them what they think are the reasons behind teenagers engaging in inappropriate behavior and if that’s really the way one becomes ‘popular’. Subtly lay the groundwork for good manners and God’s love in their minds before they hit puberty. Let’s get them at a young age while they’re still pure and teach them in a way they can understand.

Keep Your Eyes Wide Open

Some kids will argue you should trust them. My advice? Don’t fall for that! We are not angels. Those little innocent non-haram interactions of late night texting and ‘Facebook-ing’ can pave the wrong path, especially at the ages from 7 to 14 years old. So do we watch them like hawks as much as we can? Like hell we should!

Get acquainted with the friends they hang out with, censor the TV shows they watch, the books they read, check their ‘Whatsapp’ chats every now and then and limit their unsupervised outings and internet access. They’ll think you’re strict and harsh, and you’ll start wishing there was a ‘parenting agency’ that can implement such rules instead of having your kids resent you. That’s when you need to remind yourself of the kinds of trouble your friends were up to at that age. Now times that by 700 for this generation and what do you get? A waking monstrous NIGHTMARE!

And Then We Will Pray On It

Allah gave us stories in the Qur’an about Prophet Noah’s prodigal son and Prophet Abraham’s skeptic dad. If we ponder a little bit, we’ll come to realize that even if we do everything right, our kids can still go astray, and even if we do everything wrong, our kids can turn out to be amongst the most pious. It’s humbling to remember that it’s not our genius parenting that gets the job done perfectly, rather it’s Allah’s will. Period.

Hey, where are you going? That doesn’t mean we go play golf instead and give up on trying all together. All I’m saying is, doing our best is not enough. The essence of success is in putting great effort while asking God for His blessings and guidance.

And now before I go… a final moment of vulnerable honesty….

As much as I love being a mom, it’s becoming such an excruciatingly tough job in this brazenly crazed world. I’m worried and scared for my kids ALL THE TIME! My heart sinks when they go to school or when they meet people who don’t share their values, and I wonder if they’ll be easily confused. I’m constantly scared of failing as a parent, and I don’t know how to protect the youth from what they’ll eventually face. I only have faith that giving them love, and caring for their feelings will prevent them from seeking it elsewhere till they’re ready to move on. So tell your daughters how pretty, smart and valuable they are. Tell your boys how much you admire and respect them. Fill that void for the attention they yearn for and give them what they need from you the most…

Oh our Dearest Lord, we are desperate for Your blessings….Help us raise a generation that will make You proud…. Guide us when we’re too strict or too lenient… and please take care of our kids… for they’re the precious pieces of our hearts….

Lilly S. Mohsen

Find me on Twitter @LillyMohsen