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Hard Questions for the New Year – Imam Zaid Shakir

* Courtesy of New Islamic Directions

As we North American Muslims enter a new year it might be beneficial for us to ask ourselves some serious questions. A bit of soul searching has never harmed anyone.

The type of questions I have in mind involve a set of challenges to some of the prevailing trends which currently occupy our minds and in many ways imprison our hearts. They are not meant to be offensive or hurtful, rather to stimulate a little reflection.

First of all, what does it say about our religion if for over 1400 years Muslims did not have clarity on a series of fundamental issues which are totally disconnected from the rapidly evolving technology that defines our modern or postmodern condition? For example if we are not sure if our prayers are valid if we are flying in an airplane that confusion should be understandable as there were no planes during the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him).

However, did we as an Ummah have to wait for over 1400 years to be informed as to how to dress? Did rulings on issues like the incumbency of Hijab for women, the Sunnah of head covering for Muslims men (one would be hard pressed to find a picture of a practicing Muslim man from the 19th Century without some sort of head cover), modest attire for men and women, and related issues have to wait until our time to be properly adjudicated?
Fatwa searching, for liberation or from weakness?

What even moved us to seek “Fatwas” on such issues? Was it the strength of our quest for liberation or the weaknesses of our faith? Similar questions could be asked about our sexual mores. What are the implications for our religion if for 1400 years we did not know who it was lawful to go to bed with? Did our scholars lack the hermeneutical prowess to understand the texts related to such matters or do we lack the self-restraint for their insights to matter any more?

Are the textual foundations which inform such matters so vague or ambiguous that an alternative feminist reading of them would, by way of example, produce a drastically different set of rulings? Have we forgotten that a woman, Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her), once discouraged women from joining the prayer in the masjid while a man, Abdullah bin Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), vigorously defended that right.

Where has our confidence gone? Reflections along these lines lead to a deeper question. Why is it so critical at this particular historical juncture that the Islam which survived the Crusades, the Mongol invasions, the great Bubonic plague and other existential threats be changed to accommodate a system of thought which is responsible for the most destructive forms of ecological degradation the world has ever seen; the greatest disparities in income distribution yet known to humankind; the means (nuclear weapons) to end all life on this planet; and the deepest crisis of meaning and purpose yet faced by our species? Is it because the less ugly face of modernity is so alluring that it blinds us to these and other unsavory realities or is it because the universality of secular education among Muslims in the West has robbed us of the confident faith of the illiterate old lady who scoffed at Imam Fakhruddin Razi?

The Cause and Effect of Faith

We do not know where all of the social, ecological, cultural, political, economic and scientific experiments which currently define our age will end. Based on developments all around us only a fool would say that the prognosis is good. We do know what Islam has done and is doing for human beings all over the world. It gives Muslims who are witnessing their people brutally murdered and systematically forced from their lands and homes in places like Myanmar the will to live and to forge on. It makes the people of Niger among the most optimistic people on earth despite the fact that they are among the poorest. It renders the Palestinian people among the most hospitable people on earth despite the inhospitality they have faced from those who would remove them from their ancestral home. It gives the people of Aceh the power to view the tsunami which decimated their coastal lands as a test from God, which took their homes, livelihoods and loved ones, but only increased their faith.

I am not an overly idealistic dreamer who would deny the daunting challenges and threats we currently face. However,I am hopeful enough to believe that despite the challenges and threats we face there is much to appreciate in Islam. And so I’m offering this simple prayer for our community: may 2020 find us much more grateful for our religion.

10 Reasons Not to Make a New Year’s Resolution This Year – Sidi Tushar Imdad

10 Reasons NOT to Make a New Year’s Resolution This Year

Every year the anticipation builds before January 1st to set a new habit or a new goal. And for 2020, it feels even more important. 2020 is such a nice, round number, right? We don’t want to miss out on ‘2020 Life Vision’ (get the pun?).

I’m giving you permission NOT to set any goals or resolutions or habits this January. You can relax. Your anxiety levels are probably rising at the thought, but here are 10 reasons why it may well be better to give New Year’s resolutions a miss:

#1 – It Doesn’t Work
How many times have you set a New Year’s resolution (NYR) to exercise more, or tidy up your home, or save more money – only to give up, even without realizing – a few months or even weeks into the habit?

Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

So, this year, instead of reinforcing a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure (studies show that 92% of people fail to keep their resolutions), let’s do something different.

#2 – Resolutions are Typically Not Actionable
More often than not, resolutions are just vague intentions: ‘I will lose weight’, ‘I will make more money’, ‘I will eat more vegetables.’

David Allen in his hugely successful ‘Getting Things Done’ gives the simple example of clearing up your garage. If you give yourself the ‘task’ of ‘clear up the garage’, you’re highly likely to put it off until kingdom comes!

Instead, one should break down the task (which in this case is really a project) into much smaller actions and focus simply on the ‘Next Action.’ For example, ‘Get three boxes ready for garage clear out’.

#3 – Unrealistic Expectations
NYRs tend to be lists of hopes, wishes and vague goals. So in addition to not being actionable, there are simply too many goals to realistically achieve.

People who have achieved extraordinary results, and changed their lives around, almost always focussed on ONE habit or goal at a time. This allows you to harness all your energy on one habit and achieve success.

With multiple habits, you spread yourself thin and risk failing in all of them. Less is more with habit forming.

#4 – Weak External Motivation 
Even if you made an elaborate SMART plan for your NYR, you are still likely to fail as your motivation may well be wrong.

We tend to make resolutions because we think we should rather than because we want to. Perhaps it’s because it’s what we’ve always done, it’s tradition, or since everyone else does it, or countless articles/posts fill you with false hopes.

None of these are good reasons. These reasons rely on weak exernal motivation whereas you need strong, internal reasons for change.

No wonder that we lose steam after a few weeks when all the excitement dies and you realize, too late, that your why wasn’t strong enough.

#5 – Reverse Accountability
Habit forming experts are unanimous that accountability to a group is one of the strongest means for making your resolutions stick. There is a caveat. The group should be filled with inspiring people on a similar journey with plenty of role models.

With NYRs, you have the reverse of this: failing to meet resolutions is so common in society, you may subconsciously expect to fail before you begin!

#6(a) – Problematic Timing (1): Holidays Just Over
Ironically, the new year is actually a BAD time of year to form a goal or habit. This point is so fundamental, it expands to two reasons!

Firstly, you’ll be just finishing the holidays. Psychologically, it can be hard enough motivating yourself to return to work, let alone adding the pressure to meet a challenging NYR.

#6(b) – Problematic Timing (2): Winter
Secondly, January is in the heart of winter for most of us. Have you ever tried forming a walking habit in winter only to put it off for spring?

It’s not just with exercise. Since January is one of the most depressing months of the year, it will be an uphill emotional battle to make any major life change.

Dark, cold, wet. Sound motivating to you?

#7 – Long Year Ahead
If you start a habit in January, you can see the whole year stretching ahead of you with sunny days many months away. This makes it so easy to procrastinate as it’s hard to focus on one goal for so long.

We want lasting change, not just a short-term fix. New Year’s resolutions can often be like crash diets which rebound as soon as we hit our target weight.

If we want true lifestyle change that lasts a lifetime, then we need to be more systematic and intentional with our goals.

#8 – Unnecessary Stress
Setting an arbitrary date to set resolutions forces you to panic and think up of goals when you may not be ready – especially when there are 364 other perfectly good days to decide to change.

Furthermore, the mindset encouraged is a state of entering the new year wanting more in your life than you have right now. Wouldn’t it be great, instead, to be more grateful and present with what you have?

#9 – Tradition Divorced From its Origins
The practice of NYRs go back to the Babylonians and Romans who ‘celebrated’ the new year by offering sacrifices and pledges to their gods.

Interestingly, this is more in line with the Muslim philosophy of celebration. Eid, Jum’a, Dhul Hijjah and other holy times in the Muslim calendar are not marked with fireworks or secular goal setting. Rather, they are times for repentance (tauba), thanksgiving (shukr) and ibaadah (worship).

#10 – Distraction From the Most Effective Means of Change
Some people do nothing all year except the same lame, half-hearted resolutions every January 1st – which they inevitably break. It’s probably a deliberate ploy by our inner chimps (nafs) to avoid doing the real work of forming challenging habits.

New Year’s Resolutions can be trendy, convenient band-aids to real change. Sure, it’s possible to set realistic, time-specific, mission-driven and achievable goals in time for the new year. But for all the reasons above, you’re more likely to succeed in simply starting another time. When you’re truly ready and self-motivated.

What to Do Instead?
Having said all that, I appreciate that New Year’s Day is still a symbolic, memorable time and therefore there is emotion attached to the occasion. It’s a great excuse to do something important.

So, yes, we should leverage the beginning of 2020. But how?

That is the perfect topic for a special New Year’s Eve article to be sent only to my mailing list this coming Tuesday. If you’re not on my mailing list, sign up via the link below. You’ll get the article and access to much more.

If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up to Tushar’s mailing list for his weekly Jum’a articles, free content about Islamic Time Management as well as updates for exciting courses and services: https://mailchi.mp/5879bd7982eb/tusharimdad


Biography:
Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.  

A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.   

Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.


Begin Right, Begin Light: New Year Message by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

As 2019 begins, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani encourages us to look forward positively and see everything around us as signs from Allah.

Much is going on in the world, much that can be considered stressful, disappointing and devastating However, the believer looks at the world as a sign of Allah.

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, when he would wake up for night worship, would recite:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.  (Sura Ali Imran, 2: 190-191)

Signs in the creation point to the Creator. A believer looks from the eye of faith; everything in this world is from Allah. The struggle of servitude is figuring out how to turn to Allah in the moments where He manifests.

Life is about the Beloved, and there is one Beloved: Allah. The believer sees everything in their life as good, and reminds themselves about Allah’s call to seek Him and know Him.

When we begin something with Bismillah, we are saying, “I am doing this with Allah, for Allah, reliant upon Allah.” These are the keys to the beginning of guidance.

Let’s begin our year with light, and make our year a year of light. Let’s make everything for Allah, reliant on Allah, with Allah and conscious of Allah. If love for Allah is true, what is there to worry about? Everything else is mere dust.

However, there are things to do, so let us direct ourselves to the highest of matters in the best of ways, recognising our shortcomings.

May Allah grant us the most blessed of years, most blissful of years, a year of light, where we begin right and end right, beginning with Allah and ending with Allah. We are Allah’s and to Him we are ever returning.

Reflections on 2018 – Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

As December draws to a close, Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil gives some reflections on 2018 and the growth that she and her family experienced.

I started to write this article when my daughters were asleep. Almost a year ago, my younger one was born in January.  Now I have an 11 month old and a 3.5 year old. It has been both a wonderful and challenging year of growth, for all of us.

Childhood beliefs

I am now a lot more forgiving of my own parents, who had six children in twelve years. My mother migrated to Sydney with us while my father stayed in Singapore to financially support us. These facts alone explain so much about my childhood beliefs. From a very young age, I learned that parental love and attention are scarce, and how stressful it can feel to be part of a racial and religious minority.

Now that I am raising two little girls in Malaysia, I hope to impart different messages to my daughters. I hope that they will learn that there will always be enough love, for both of them, and that Islam is something that adds hope, meaning and direction to their lives.

Divided Heart 

When I had only one daughter, she had my undivided attention. Now, I am always torn between both of them. Part of me feels guilty that even from my pregnancy, I struggled to be present with my second baby, like I was with my first. I try to make peace with the fact that it will never be the same, and I pray that Allah will fill in the blanks.

Ups and Downs of Parenting 

The upside of having two kids is how much they love, play and laugh with each other. It warms my heart to see my eldest daughter feed her baby sister, help change her diaper, or sing to her. Watching my baby try to copy her oldest sister – from pretending to read and even to write – never fails to make me smile.

But, because we are in the dunya, it is never perfect. I am so tired, every day. There are times when I wonder if I will ever sleep well again.

The importance of self-care

My biggest lesson from 2018 year is this – when I look after myself, I can look after everyone else better. When I neglect my self-care, I am more irritable, and less able to attend to the endless needs in my household. I am not only a mother to my children, I am also a wife, a daughter-in-law, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.

Looking forward to 2019

I hope that with the gift of 2019, I will be better able to ask for help when I need it. I plan to create a better routine for myself, my daughters, and the rest of my household. I plan to exercise more self-compassion when I make mistakes. I plan to be able to spend more quality time with my husband. I plan for longer hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Most of all, I pray for Allah to accept my good deeds, forgive my mistakes, and increase me in gratitude for His innumerable blessings in my life.


Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.


Resolutions for the New Year and Beyond – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin & Sh. Faraz Rabbani

In the first week of the Hijri New Year, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin offer reflections and advise us on how to benefit from this occasion.

Ustadh Amjad reflects on the hijra of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace and its applicability in our own lives. He mentiones how the Islamic New Year marks a turning point for Islam, when the Prophet made hijra, or migrated, from his native city of Mecca to the city of Medina. Although that time period is over, we are still called upon to  make a spiritual hijra, where we migrate and move ourselves away from heedlessness, and begin to move closer to Allah. Our guide on this Hijra is none other than our Prophet Muhammad.

He advises us to begin this year with a sincere intention to draw closer to the Prophet, and learn more about him. We should aim to learn about him in a way that perfects our relationships with our family and those around us, rather than just a dry list of facts. In fact, we should intent to try to emulate him in every one of our dailty tasks. When we do this, even our small actions can become acts of worship.

Finally, he advises to set spiritual goals for 1440 AH, by resolving to become a better person by the time 1441 comes around.

Next, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani encourages us not to be afraid of making resolutions, thinking that we are full of shortcomings. Rather, we should know that our faults are an opportunity for us to get closer to Allah by overcoming ourselves. We are not responsible for attaining success, rather we are responsible for making an effort.

He closes by speaking about the event of Karbala and the martyrdom of Hussein, and how his sacrifice teaches us about love and commitment to Allah.


Resources for Seekers

Hard Questions for the New Year by Imam Zaid Shakir

As we North American Muslims enter a new year it might be beneficial for us to ask ourselves some serious questions. A bit of soul searching has never harmed anyone.

The type of questions I have in mind involve a set of challenges to some of the prevailing trends which currently occupy our minds and in many ways imprison our hearts. They are not meant to be offensive or hurtful, rather to stimulate a little reflection.
First of all, what does it say about our religion if for over 1400 years Muslims did not have clarity on a series of fundamental issues which are totally disconnected from the rapidly evolving technology that defines our modern or postmodern condition? For example if we are not sure if our prayers are valid if we are flying in an airplane that confusion should be understandable as there were no planes during the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him).
However, did we as an Ummah have to wait for over 1400 years to be informed as to how to dress? Did rulings on issues like the incumbency of Hijab for women, the Sunnah of head covering for Muslims men (one would be hard pressed to find a picture of a practicing Muslim man from the 19th Century without some sort of head cover), modest attire for men and women, and related issues have to wait until our time to be properly adjudicated?

Fatwa searching, for liberation or from weakness?

What even moved us to seek “Fatwas” on such issues? Was it the strength of our quest for liberation or the weaknesses of our faith? Similar questions could be asked about our sexual mores. What are the implications for our religion if for 1400 years we did not know who it was lawful to go to bed with? Did our scholars lack the hermeneutical prowess to understand the texts related to such matters or do we lack the self-restraint for their insights to matter any more?
Are the textual foundations which inform such matters so vague or ambiguous that an alternative feminist reading of them would, by way of example, produce a drastically different set of rulings? Have we forgotten that a woman, Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her), once discouraged women from joining the prayer in the masjid while a man, Abdullah bin Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), vigorously defended that right.

Where has our confidence gone?

Reflections along these lines lead to a deeper question. Why is it so critical at this particular historical juncture that the Islam which survived the Crusades, the Mongol invasions, the great Bubonic plague and other existential threats be changed to accommodate a system of thought which is responsible for the most destructive forms of ecological degradation the world has ever seen; the greatest disparities in income distribution yet known to humankind; the means (nuclear weapons) to end all life on this planet; and the deepest crisis of meaning and purpose yet faced by our species? Is it because the less ugly face of modernity is so alluring that it blinds us to these and other unsavory realities or is it because the universality of secular education among Muslims in the West has robbed us of the confident faith of the illiterate old lady who scoffed at Imam Fakhruddin Razi?

The cause and effect of faith

We do not know where all of the social, ecological, cultural, political, economic and scientific experiments which currently define our age will end. Based on developments all around us only a fool would say that the prognosis is good. We do know what Islam has done and is doing for human beings all over the world. It gives Muslims who are witnessing their people brutally murdered and systematically forced from their lands and homes in places like Myanmar the will to live and to forge on. It makes the people of Niger among the most optimistic people on earth despite the fact that they are among the poorest. It renders the Palestinian people among the most hospitable people on earth despite the inhospitality they have faced from those who would remove them from their ancestral home. It gives the people of Aceh the power to view the tsunami which decimated their coastal lands as a test from God, which took their homes, livelihoods and loved ones, but only increased their faith.
I am not an overly idealistic dreamer who would deny the daunting challenges and threats we currently face. However,I am hopeful enough to believe that despite the challenges and threats we face there is much to appreciate in Islam. And so I’m offering this simple prayer for our community: may 2018 find us much more grateful for our religion.
Imam Zaid Shakir
1/4/2018

Read more from Imam Zaid Shakir:

New Islamic Directions
Zaytuna

Commemorating the Islamic New Year: Timeless Lessons from the Greatest Migration in History | Nur Sacred Sciences

Commemorating the Islamic New Year: Timeless Lessons from the Greatest Migration in History | Nur Sacred Sciences

Footprints in the Desert.jpg

The Hijra is not only one of the greatest events in the history of Islam, but it is a historic milestone whose impact forever changed the course of history for all of humanity at large.  The migration of the Muslims from Mecca to Medina set the foundations for ensuring that the religion of Islam would become established in the Arabian Peninsula, the effects of which would reverberate from East to West as the realm of Islam spread.

This is why the rank of the great Muhājirūn, who left all that was dear to them in their homeland of Mecca for the sake of the freedom to worship and practice their faith in Medina is immeasurable.  All that the world has inherited today from the vast and rich Islamic tradition is owed to the sincere sacrifice of a few who undertook this momentous journey.  On the first day of the month of Muḥarram, we not only remember this great occasion that marks the first day of the Islamic calendar, but we are also reminded of its timeless lessons.

Read full article here….