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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food again

Now that Ramadzan is over it's easy to fall right back into our old habits of eating. Out come the cookies and chips and snack bars. So did nothing change? It would be wonderful if we did make some changes to our eating habits for the better, after this month of purification and improvement. We buy so many snacks thinking they are convenient and healthy. The truth is that nothing beats good old fruits and vegetables for a snack. A banana can be peeled quicker than a granola bar can be opened. It is less sticky than fruit leather. An apple, pear, plum, orange: so many fruits just need a quick wash before they make a quick, nutritious and healthy snack. We don't need to walk around with all those plastic packets. Let's be honest. Nothing really compares to the taste of fresh fruit, the sweetness gushing into our mouths. No vitamins in a bottle can deliver what Allah has prepared for us in nature. Once we get back to the "real snacks" the bars and fruit strips don't taste as good. Just as we plant seeds of goodness in this world to reap rewards in this world and the hereafter, so do we plant seeds of health in our body, to benefit in both worlds. What a delicious proposal! I'm off to peel a fresh orange.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Share the joy of Eid

Eid is a day of happiness, of sharing, or family and friends, of enjoying the blessings of Allah. Yet, sometimes happy occasions, and happy people may make some people sad, because they are away from their loved ones, or do not have good health or good friends. When our hearts are brimming with joy on Eid, we must be mindful and remember that it is Allah who bestowed the happiness on us as a special favor. It is our duty to share it with others as much as we can. Could it be that our sincere greeting and warm embrace after Eid prayers, could be the best part of someone's Eid? Maybe inviting a new family over for tea or snacks could be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. This Eid, let our own happiness not make us insensitive to the feelings of others. Instead, let our happiness and gratitude to Allah, and our prayers and efforts in Ramadzan make us the kind of people who include everyone, who spread smiles and happiness wherever they go, who greet everyone like family.

We are indeed all one big, extended family.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why not?

Chapter 71 in the Holy Quran is about Prophet Noah. I found verse thirteen very inspiring. It asks us "What is the matter with you that you hope not for greatness from Allah?" I found this verse to contain a universe of love and mercy from our Creator. Allah is the One who nourishes us to perfection, if only we make a connection with Him. All of us openly or secretly wish for greatness, for it seems that desire has been built into our minds and souls. But sometimes we might mistake that for "magazine greatness", or what the world thinks is great. It is worthwhile to remember that glossy magazines do not really represent anyone's life or achievements. It is all a show that has been put on, just like a play in a theater. Greatness in real life requires us to be humble and good in the everyday things that we do, and it leads us to be successful in all parts of our life. While most of the Prophets were not hailed as heroes in their time, they certainly are heroes now. They showed us what Allah wishes for us; to grow and flourish in all matters, spiritual and physical. To lead a complete life serving the Creator and His creations, giving love and receiving blessings.

May we all hope for greatness from Allah, pray and work for it, and be fit to receive it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lessons of Ramadzan

The blessed month is almost gone. What did we learn? It is worth taking time to think about this. Some of us may have learned that they can bear more hunger and thirst than they thought they ever could, and still be pleasant and patient in the process. This leads me to think and wonder about the hidden strengths Allah has placed within us. Who knows our full potential! This thought gives me much hope. It helps me calm my worries about future problems. It tells me that when I cross any future :'bridges', any 'gear' I may need will be certainly and surely given to me. I may not have it now, or I may have it and now know it. But when the challenge arises, I shall not be left without the skills to cope with it.

Tawakkal is an Arabic word that means trust in Allah. Once we firmly have this trust, it is easier to put doubts to rest and believe that as long as we have faith and put in an honest effort, Allah is on our side. Can there be any greater comfort?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Questions about heaven ...

Sometimes an inquisitive mind may become curious about heaven and wonder what it will really be like. What if you don't like milk or honey? What if your idea of heaven is spending an afternoon reading in bed? Will heaven really be everything for everyone? Here we have to use our faith and trust in the Almighty Allah, who gave us the brain to think about heaven in the first place. Who remembers being a tiny baby, yet to be born into the world? Could you have imagined this world as it is? I don't think anyone can claim to have done that. We all had a very limited view of our existence when we were so tiny, and could not have imagined the things we would do, the world we would explore, the things we would learn. When we think of the next life, of heaven, it is like we are still a baby in a womb and cannot see or imagine much beyond what is around us. Allah gives us clues and examples in the Quran to reassure us, that a lifetime of good deeds shall lead to a happy existence forever, yet we do not have a clear idea of heaven. Thankfully we have a clear idea of how to get there. The path is simple and straightforward. We seek the pleasure of Allah through following his commands and guidelines. We plant the seeds of heaven with our own hands and may Allah bless us all with a happy harvest.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stories of the prophets

As we all pay more attention to Quran reading in Ramadzan, we find that stories of the Prophets are repeated often, with some details added or removed each time. As I was reading the story of Hazrat Musa, I reflected that he had to face some unique trials. One of those was when he killed a man by accident. All of us make mistakes every day, both big and small and some of those are hard to get over. Killing someone by accident would be highest on my list of terrible mistakes to make. The Quran repeatedly mentions Hazrat Musa being anxious and upset by what happened. Yet Allah provided a way out for him and led him to a safe place and made him a prophet. Allah forgave him and he forgave himself. Allah helped him to overcome that terrible trial. Hazrat Musa went on to save so many lives by leading his nation away from the cruetly of Pharoah.

Mistakes happen. We need to seek Allah's forgiveness, make ammends, and move on.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Look at all the lonely people

The first day of school can be tough. For those going to a new school, or starting middle or high school, the first few days can be lonely. One can easily start thinking that everyone else has friends, if ones attention is focused on the laughing faces, the kids in groups. A different way would be to look for others who are alone, or new, and try to connect with them through a smile or friendly comment. It may be the beginning of a new, lifelong friendship. So don't forget your smile as the most important thing you need for the first day of school. Both a friendly smile and a kind word are acts of charity.

Let's start the new school year with kindness and friendship in our hearts.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bring it on

Back to school days are upon us. While many will be groaning over the loss of carefree days, it is important to keep things in perspective. How many children around the world can only dream of a chance to go to school with clean clothes, new books and sturdy shoes, books and pens and all that is needed to succeed? For so many it is just a dream. We are living the reality of someone's dream. It is up to us to make sure that we put in an honest effort and appreciate what we have been blessed with. We pray for a day when all kids around the world are sharpening their pencils and checking their backpacks. Education is a blessing. Love it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Start the day with a bang

If we want to start our day with a bang, we can. Instead of walking around mindlessly with sleepy eyes and yawns, all we have to do is open up the Quran and read a line. Yes, just one line will do. Works for the busy and the lazy and everyone else in between. One line of the Quran with translation can jump start our brains and our day. For example, take Surah Al- Asr. "By the time" it says. That is all of the first line. It can really get us thinking. Why? What about time? Olden times or new times? What do we do with our time? Why does time pass so quickly when we are playing the Wii and so slowly when we pray Zuhr? What is time exactly?

Oh, so many questions and the whole world to study and our whole life to learn. Wake up with a bang!

Problems come and go

The hunger and thirst we feel in Ramadzan can feel overwhelming at times. We wonder if the fast will ever end, yet in our heart we know that it will. Like all problems in our life, it will not last forever. If we can take this lesson to heart, and always remember that "this too shall pass", we will not be as disturbed by the ups and downs of our life. Sitting next to a mean kid in school? Not for long, for seating assignments change. Annoyed with something or someone? People change constantly. Try to think of the situation differently and watch the problem shrink. Things come and go. Life is short. Do the right thing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Keep Your Mind on the True Goal of Ramadan

When you think of Ramadan, what is your favorite part? The Eid celebration at the end and your presents? Or is it the closeness to Allah and the reading of Quran and the Tarawih prayers, and fasting? Most of you would probably pick the first one and I would too. But the second one is also good. The second one is the true goal of Ramadan. But how can we keep our mind of Eid so we can concentrate on the true goal of Ramadan? We need to remember that Eid will make us happy in this life, but won't be helpful in the next life. On the other hand, being close to Allah, reading the Quran, and Tarawih and fasting will be helpful in the next life, Inshallah. It also gives you a good feeling inside. May Allah give us all the strength we need for Ramadan, Inshallah.
Ramadan Mubarak

A practice fast

Fasting can be very hard. Especially for kids still working on a full day fast, there are many options.
How about a "kindness and patience fast", in which you focus on these two qualities all day long. Or "break that bad habit fast" which, as the name suggests, helps you focus on a habit that really needs to be put to an end. Or "take care of the fasting fast". This is when you focus on taking care of the people in your home that are fasting in any way you can. Last but not least is the "slow fast" in which you simply try to slow down and not rush during the day. Slow down for your prayers, for Quran reading, for everything you do. Slow down and focus on the beauty of life :)

Assalam Alaikum

We hope everyone is having a blessed Ramadan. Those of you who like Lighthouse Magazine, will like this blog as well, Inshallah. It's for Muslim kids who think about their religion and like to discuss Islam with their friends, or talk about new ideas, or who like to really know how Islam applies to their daily lives. Keep reading and we'll keep posting.
Ramadan Mubarak