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TRP2019 | University of Birmingham Islamic Society

Ramadan can mean so much to so many people. A moment of peace, redemption, focus, the list goes on. It’s a chance to better yourself that you’ve never quite managed to grasp. But how do you maintain that oh so buttery goodness when Ramadan is over. When the shaytaan begins to whisper in your ear and all those temptations come creeping back. Well, how about we take a trip into the depths of my mindscape and see what we can find? A little disclaimer before I begin, I’m not here to reinvent the wheel. Most, if not all, of what I have to say will seem like pretty basic ideas.

So, you want to maintain that Ramadan spirit? I believe the crux of it is one simple but cardinal idea: intention. Why was Ramadan so important to you? Why was it so important that you increased in worship? If you don’t have the right intention from the get-go, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you decided you’re going to purify yourself for Ramadan and then afterwards you can go back to your old self because it’s not a “religious month” then this blog piece might not mean anything to you. And that’s fine too, I’m not here to tell you how to act. But who knows, maybe something I say will change your perspective on matters. I am but a humble servant offering what little guidance I believe I can.

I want to ask you to clear your mind and focus on why you want to keep up what you built over Ramadan. You want to be a better person, a better Muslim, you want each one of your actions to please Allah. The very foundation of every single one of your choices should be to come at the situation with the mentality of ‘which choice will please Allah the most?’. Once you have this foundation, you can begin the process of self-improvement quite easily.

Intention is not the only important aspect, though. You need to take an active effort into learning about Islam. Not to use it against other people, saying “oh you’re a bad person, you’re doing this, this and this wrong” or “This sect is bad because they believe so and so”. Remember your initial intention: what will please Allah? Personally, I was put off Islam for the longest time because of the sanctimony of others and I know many people pushed so far that they left the religion, and that’s the last thing you would want. You need your own house in order before you try and change other people’s. To start, find a source of learning about Islam that you wholly trust, someone with impeccable character who will, in turn, improve yours. In my experience, it is much easier to better yourself in religion if you better yourself in character, first and foremost. When you take an interest in what Islam is about, you’ll discover the depths of this religion are endless. I used to believe you couldn’t be passionate about a religion, “That just makes you a fanatic; It’s just a bunch of rules you’re required to follow.”, but if you were to open up your mind to all that Islam can teach, you’ll find that learning about your religion can be extremely thought-provoking and fun and this will naturally make you more practicing.

You’ve spent a whole month improving yourself. What’s stopping you from carrying on now? You just need to maintain that mindset you’ve had throughout Ramadan. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the most active pious person on the planet to be of the awliyah (friends) of Allah. Keep on top of the fard elements and do that little bit extra. Read a page or 2 of Qur’an a day, give charity, pray your sunnah. Or just smile more, that’s a form of charity AND it’s sunnah. The mere mundane acts of getting up in the morning, doing exercise, making breakfast can be a form of ibadah (worship) if you couple it with the right intention. I.e. to strengthen yourself for worship.

Maybe you slipped up during Ramadan and committed sins. That’s okay. All you can do is repent and make the sincere intention to stop it from happening again. Remember Allah’s mercy is immeasurable. You can’t comprehend his mercy. You cannot encompass all that Allah is, your dua would go on for eternity if you tried and you still wouldn’t be done. Imaan (faith) fluctuating is normal, you will have low points, at least keep up with the basics during those times and it will soon get better.

When you drop the ball, you can look at it as you being a failure or you can take the other perspective. Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up. Yes, I know your name isn’t Bruce, but my point still stands. Take it as a learning experience and move on with your life. Focus on your end goal: being the best version of yourself and reaching Jannah because of it.

Another important aspect to remember; you are the average of those you surround yourself with. Find the right group of people with a similar mindset and they can help you with your goal. For me, I didn’t have this until I was found by the ISOC. Having this group of people is extremely important, more so than you can ever know. So, hold on to them and don’t let go. They will lift you spiritually, mentally, physically to greater heights. And don’t ever settle for less than this. Fun fact: everything I have and am saying in this blog are concepts I’ve learned from Islamic education events and people from the ISOC, which by and large are pretty basic ideas. You don’t need piles of books and years of study to be a good Muslim and keep your ibadah sustainable. The small, daily changes you make to build good habits and consciously keeping that consistency are what matter. I could go on and on and into depth about what this group of people have given me, but that’s my personal experience. You need to find your own with your group. Don’t limit what you can gain from something based on someone else’s experience.

Just some final points that came to mind. Don’t allow private discretions just because of how you are in public. Yeah, people think you’re a great person because you’re really nice and you do lots of charity work, but are you maintaining those acts of ibadah in your own home where they’re not on display for everyone to see? Your private acts of worship mean more than what you do in public because you aren’t open to scrutiny in your own home and you won’t be doing things just to keep up appearances. Always go back to the foundation, what is your intention? Check yourself every now and then, even the best of us must do so.

Don’t become complacent with where you are. You can always improve yourself. It’s like going to the gym, you don’t just stop because you’ve hit a point you like, you work on maintaining it and finding ways to improve it. Well, I wouldn’t actually know since I tend to get randomly inspired to go to the gym once every other month, but you get what I mean. Keep in mind, you don’t become a sheikh overnight, it’s all about progression (not to say that you have to become a sheikh). Take your time and improve yourself where you can. If you catch on to a fault you have, make the intention to fix it and then work on said fix.

Make dua that you will be kept on the right path and you will be of the people of Jannah.

May Allah accept all your good deeds this Ramadan and thereafter. May He make them weigh heavily on your scales on the day of judgement and allow you all to reach Jannah.

-Adil Mian

Well, what can I say? The biggest event in the ISOC’s history only just came and went the other day!

The Community Iftar, over 400 people joined together to break fast under the night sky. The feeling was one of unity and celebration. The unity of people from all walks of life and a celebration of community spirit.

The hanging lights gave it all an ambient feel, despite the sun setting and the night claiming the skies, there was an abundance of Noor, light, all around. From the hearts of the people to reflections off of the volunteers’ high vis, the place was alight like no other.

The sheer number of people was amazing to see! The connection of human spirit was something else. This Iftar embodied what Ramadan is.

The volunteers who arrived hours in advance of the event, to make sure everything was just right. Tarp was spread, tables were set, food and water delivered. Our members came out in large numbers: the student body working together to make this a success. Their diligence and their hard work made the event what it was. May Allah reward them for the sincerity of the work they did for the sake of others.

The joining of the Ummah was achieved. To be together and be peaceful together. The warm hearts of the people kept the atmosphere warmly glowing.

The number of people who had arrived was breath-taking. People from all over Birmingham, people from other cities, had come for this gathering. People from different backgrounds, different cultures, different faiths, all were welcome and all were present. It was a spectacle to see such diversity and inclusion in a single place.

Words of unity and peace were spoken. Messages of achievement and amazement were given. We showed the world what we are capable of, what greatness can be achieved when we all move with one aim, one purpose.

A few lines that will stick with me for a long while from UBISOC’s Head Sister, Maryam Mahboob, was this,

‘In Islam, it doesn’t matter who your neighbour is, Muslim or not, they deserve your courtesy. Adab is Islamic good manners, but it goes beyond this. It is what you gain from praying and fasting, as it facilitates an inward transformation of the soul, one that seeks to connect to others, for their sake and the sake of Allah.’

Such a powerful message, one that encourages us to always be good to those around us, no matter who they are. One that seeks to show that generosity has no threshold. That all are deserving of it, that by praying, fasting and breaking fast together, it allows you to understand what it truly means to foster and replenish a kind human soul.

A spectacular moment of the Community Iftar and honestly the most uplifting was Maghrib Salah.

Never did I think we would see the day where the Adhan would ring throughout all of campus, where the words of the Quran would be elevated to such a level that it could be heard all around you. The words seemed to echo throughout all of Birmingham in that moment. The call united us all, it was something unprecedented here at UoB.

We made history. All of us. The volunteers who worked tirelessly to serve everyone. Our Isoc who worked months in advance to ensure this event could go ahead. To all of you who came that night to be a part of it.

The food was as tasty as it was plentiful. Nigerian chicken, chicken curry, biriyani, falafels, jollof rice, food from many cuisines made it here and showcased how diversity and culture can be expressed within our faith.

It was the joining of all that made this possible. The goodwill of those who organised it and the good company of those who came to attend.

Jazakallah Khair to everyone who came, Ramadan Mubarak to everyone and I sincerely hope the days of Ramadan were everything you needed them to be!

-Rayhan Ahmed

So that old book, the one that holds all that is true has spent days, weeks, months gathering dust on that corner of your shelf. It might be so clouded in dust that you may have forgotten it’s there.

Ramadan is a time for doing more good deeds than you may typically do and a time for asking for forgiveness for all of our shortcomings. Feeding the poor, visiting the sick, Da’wah, giving money to charity are the popular deeds that we carry through this holy month. But sometimes I feel we neglect the scripture that should be guiding our intentions to do good deeds. Picking up the Qur’an and absorbing the words into our souls should be included right at the top of that list of the good deeds we do during Ramadan. Remember the Qur’an was revealed in Ramadan!

Our Prophet Muhammad ṣallā llāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam said that:

Fasting and the Qur’an will intercede for the slave on the Day of Judgement. Fasting will say, ‘O My Lord! I prevented him from food and desires, so accept my intercession for him.’ And the Qur’an will say, ‘I prevented him from sleep during the night, so accept my intercession for him.’ …thus they will intercede.

Musnad Ahmad no. 6337 – [Sahih]

It’s profound, fasting and reading the Qur’an go hand in hand. It will intercede for us on Day of Judgement. The Qur’an itself will be the evidence for us. I want you to just take a moment and think about that. That’s the level of importance of the Qur’an in our lives. There are so many Hadith that stress this and I could go on. But just hold onto that one Hadith for the time being as we go into some tips to making sure we improve our relationship with Allah through his holy book.

Your Spot

Me personally, I don’t really like reading the Qur’an in noisy places and near loads of people. I get distracted too easily. Find a quiet place, your bedroom, the kitchen, anywhere where you’re away from gadgets and noise. It makes the reading experience all the more serene and you can concentrate on the words a lot more.

Alternatively, find some friends and read together. It can be nerve-wracking, some are self-conscious about our voice not being melodious enough, but so many people feel that way. A Qur’an circle might be your first step to overcoming that. What’s great is your friends can help you and you can help them.

It was narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh and by Abu Dawood from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (SAW) said:

No people gather in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it together, but tranquillity descends upon them and mercy encompasses them, and the angels surround them, and Allah mentions them to those who are with Him.

Dedicating Time

Yes yes, we’ve all done it when we revise. Chunk your revision into timed sessions. Not all of us can read 10 Juz in one sitting. I certainly can’t although I know some who can. Set yourself a target every day, say 15 pages and split that into 3 sessions, so you read 5 pages per session. If you like, go up to 30 pages or even down to 10. The aim is to try and finish the Qur’an at least once during Ramadan.

If you know you could be reading the Qur’an a little more, develop a habit. The Japanese have a method called ‘Kaizen’, the one-minute principle. You know where this is going. A page of the Qur’an can take anywhere between 1 minute to 5. We all read at different paces. But what is 5 minutes a day compared to 24 hours? That’s approximately 0.35% of your day. Read one page of the Qur’an every day during Ramadan and you’ll develop a habit. Soon you’ll be doing it every day and Inshallah, for the rest of your life.

Imagine, on the Day of Judgement you can honestly say that since this Ramadan, not day went by when you never read the Qur’an. SubhanAllah.

Understanding

The lessons and stories from the Qur’an can’t just be skimmed. They need to be understood. If you understand Arabic or if it’s your native language, you’re slightly better prepared. But if you don’t, then, of course, your first turn is towards a translation in your own language. As an English speaker myself, I find the Sahih international translation to be great.

Remember that a translation can never do justice to the Qur’an in its original language, so I’d absolutely recommend taking Arabic lessons to understand the jist of what you’re reading. But we all have different circumstances and a translation does a great job of understanding the lesson’s your Lord is providing you, even if you miss out on the nuances of the Arabic language. Read the Arabic, read its translation, and then write down a couple of bullet points about the lesson you learnt that day and try and apply at least one of them in your life that day.

I’d also recommend an app called Qur’an Hive. It has a variety of different translations, Arabic scripts, Tafsirs, and recorded recitation in case you want to check your Tajweed. In my opinion, it’s the best Qur’an app out there and it’s very easy to use. I pray to Allah that you found this article beneficial and that it’s inspired you to open the Qur’an.

-Hamzah Ghani

With the blessed month of Ramadhan upon us, this article hopes to serve not just as a reminder to ensure we make the most of this month but also as a means of servitude through advice in order to ensure we can gain not just spiritual healing and a greater sense of purpose and unity but also to ensure we gain the maximum physical benefits of this month too.

Now long before ‘detoxing’ or ‘intermittent fasting’ were hot topics in the health and fitness industry, Muslims have been fasting from dusk until dawn and reaping the benefits: a complete sense of rejuvenation of mind, body and soul.

First and foremost it is important to understand that whilst Ramadhan should not be seen merely as a means of losing weight; the prophet (SAW) states “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended”. So let us all ensure to correct our intentions and even if we do utilise Ramadhan as a means of improving our physical health we should do so with the intention of it creating a positive impact on our ibadah. As the better we feel physically, the more likely we are to have the physical and mental strength for greater ibadah.

Remember, any good action done for the sake of Allah is promised to be rewarded and the Prophet of Allah said “your body has a right over you” hence making sincere intention to utilise Ramadhan to improve your physical health alongside your spiritual health to then positively impact your prayers can, in fact, serve as a form of ibadah in itself!

Intermittent Fasting – The benefits:

This blessed month is bestowed upon us year after year, encasing an endless number of blessings and beauty for those who seek to find it and even for those of us, myself included, who don’t realise what our souls have yearned for. What many of us also don’t realise, however, is despite Ramadhan being a means of feeding our souls rather than our bodies, it also has several incredible health benefits.

Fasting has been proven to promote weight loss, to improve muscle building, focus and productivity. The list only seems to get better. Fasting has been scientifically proven to improve not just blood pressure but also cholesterol, insulin levels and heart disease. SubhanAllah!

Top 3 Tips and Tricks

Now, these may sound simple, but it is often the simplest of things that are the most rewarding. When it comes to fasting, this is certainly the case. Here are our top tips to ensure we all stay in the best of physical, mental and spiritual health:

1. Hydration!

Water is vital to the healthy functioning of our bodies, especially whilst fasting such long hours of the day. Aim for 2 – 2.5 litres of water between Iftar and Suhoor times. This may sound like a lot but is easily implemented and makes a huge difference! One of the easiest and highly recommended tips to improve your water consumption is to keep a water bottle with you between eating hours, in particular, beside your prayer mat whilst praying Taraweeh.
Alongside water, be sure to include foods high in water content, the celebrated watermelon is a perfect example, other fruits and vegetables high in water content would be cucumbers, apples, melons and berries.

2. Eat to fuel not to feed your body

For many of us, iftar is full of heavy, oily, carbohydrate-packed foods that leave us struggling to find room for our stomachs in sujood. One of the best pieces of advice I can give you, one I have implemented for the past three years myself is:
Cut out the fried food!

Now I understand I sound crazy, possibly even delirious to suggest such a thing, however, as someone who has stuck by this rule and reaped the benefits, I can only recommend this to you too. This doesn’t mean, however, that I eat less. If anything during Iftar and Suhoor I consume more than I ever did previously, what has changed however is the nutritional value of what I consume and the subsequent benefit these choices give me.

  • Choose ‘whole’ unprocessed foods – e.g. oats and cut out refined carbohydrates and sugars such as white bread, white pasta, fruit juices and energy drinks.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables – Blueberries, Bananas, Watermelon etc.
  • Healthy Fats – Olive Oil, Avocados, Nuts.
  • Cut back on refined sugars – These do nothing but spike up your blood sugar levels only to then drop them leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee. These have more of a dehydrating effect on our bodies and limit our water retention levels.
3. Exercise

Arguably the hardest of these tips and tricks but certainly one of the most beneficial. Fasting is not a month of standstill for our regular activities, in fact we are told to continue with our lives as we are and although for some of us exercise is not a regular daily activity, it should be!

Exercise is essential to the healthy maintenance of our bodies. In a society that is now more sedentary than ever, how can we ensure we are giving our bodies everything that they need in order to keep ourselves fit and healthy?

We can prioritise our health; this again ties into intentions. I have often been reminded that the time I spend in the gym could be spent doing Ibadah instead. To which instead on a lengthy eyeroll (I’m tempted to do more often than I should) I simply respond the intention in my heart is between myself and Allah.

Staying healthy is essential. Giving your body attention is essential. Somehow these things are barely prioritised within Asian cultures, where we should be moving a lot and eating less, we are eating denser foods and doing minimal movement and whilst we are young we may be able to get away with this without it impacting our daily lives, however, the older we get the more likely we are to suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol and even heart problems.

I would suggest at least 15 to 30 minutes of exercise daily which in retrospect to the amount of time we spend mindlessly scrolling through social media, is nothing at all.

That is it for the top three most essential tips to enjoying a healthier, happier Ramadhan. May Allah allow us all to live to experience many more of these blessed months, may He give us the strength and ability to embrace every day as a new opportunity to serve Him and His creation.

May He accept all of our efforts no matter how big or small, Ameen.
Ramadhan Kareem, dearest brothers and sisters x

-Aliyah Unia

What Ramadan means to me:

A time of anticipation, of adulation for Allah, of spiritual cleansing.

It once came at a time where I was at my lowest. Both spiritually or personally. Hardship had just passed, I was experiencing the hardest time of my life and I knew that perhaps more was yet to come.

I was reminded in Ramadan that despite the pain of circumstance, the time ahead was a time where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said,

“When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened; the gates of Hell-fire are closed, and the devils are chained.”

(Sahih Bukhari 1800)

Ramadan to me is a time where the path to Allah is more open than ever before, a guiding light is shone upon it. It is a chance for self-reflection and betterment.

Where I could reflect upon what was going right and what could be better. To face myself and be honest with what could be a better influence in my life. A quiet time, a time of understanding. A time where not only I, but the entire Ummah, was joined in revitalising it’s Imaan.

From the Sheikh at the mosque to the ones who do not consider themselves practicing, the chance was equal and open to all. It is true that no one is above making a mistake but remember it is also true that no one is above forgiveness and the acceptance of Allah.

I used that time to reconcile what I can do better but also remember what I have done right. I reflected on the good I had done for this world and the people in it and build upon that, everyone has their own path. The ways in which you can serve Allah are many.

I was reminded that Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said,

“To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity. And the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.”

Remember that through good actions and intentions you can serve Allah. Not everyone has to be a Sheikh. We do not need years of study to know we have the capacity to do good.

Remember that at a time where perhaps you may have exams ahead, Allah is with you. Where perhaps your family is struggling, Allah is with you. Where perhaps you are struggling to get up from bed in the morning and may feel completely alone, Allah is with you. Where maybe the prospect of fasting is daunting, Allah is with you.

Not only Allah, but your entire Ummah. Be reminded in the time of Ramadan that it is your Ummah just as much as it is anyone else’s. There is always someone you can reach out to, no matter how lonely you feel or how stressed you are. Take a moment to reach out, to take a break, to be away from the problems and be with good company that remind you of Allah and the virtues of worshipping Him.

I have told you what Ramadan means to me, and the beauty of the month is that it has so many meanings to so many people. Let it mean to you what it will, let yourself have that personal connection to Allah and let Ramadan be something that you cherish.

Whether you struggle to pray or to fast or to wake up or to see people or to revise or to appreciate the good in this world. Let Ramadan be the month where that changes. Reflect and appreciate what Allah has done for you and this Dunya.

Let Ramadan mean to you what you would want for your closest friends and family. You deserve happiness as well, no matter what has happened. Remember that Ramadan is the month where you can take a step towards it, whatever shape it may take.

May your life be filled with Baraka and may Allah give you continued success in this amazing month to come, Ameen.

-Rayhan Ahmed