Tag Archive | spiritual

Ramadhan Ya Habib

In just over two weeks, Muslims all over the world will be welcoming an esteemed guest….Ramadhan. A period known to many as the month of fasting. But is this really all that Ramadhan is?

ramadan-loading-wallpapers_37267_1920x1200As it turns out, Ramadan is not simply an exercise in fasting during the day, binge-eating during the night and setting the clock to the morning’s wee hours to rise for the predawn meal. Neither is it about irate drivers who feel entitled to exhibit road rage, lacklustre employees who see the month as an excuse to slack off and overworked women slaving over a stove every day in preparation for the sunset meal. Ramadan is none of those things, if done right, and instead, is the chance for a spiritual boost, with lessons to be applied long after the month is out.

The month

So Ramadan is here (almost). How do we know this? Because according to official Islamic bodies, the crescent moon will soon be sighted, marking the beginning of the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Lasting 29 or 30 days – the end date will be revealed through another official lunar sighting in the last week of the month – Muslims are to refrain from food and liquid (including chewing gum, smoking cigarettes and the like) from dawn to sunset, and instead renew their focus on prayers and increase their recitation of the Holy Quran.

Why it’s so special

It is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. As a result, Ramadan is also known as the month to recite the holy text even more eagerly and with renewed dedication to completing the task. Muslims are encouraged to complete the full recitation of the Holy Quran at least once during the month. With an average of 600 pages, this seemingly huge task can be achieved through the recitation of four pages before each of the five prayers daily throughout the entire month.

The fast

It is one of Islam’s five main pillars (the others being the belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad as His Messenger, praying five times a day, completing the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able and giving alms or “zakat”). It is mandatory for all Muslims upon reaching puberty, as long as they are mentally and physically sound. The elderly and chronically ill are exempt from fasting; however, it is incumbent upon them to feed the poor instead if they possess the financial means.

A spiritual detoxramadan_hero_2x1

The fast is not simply about denying your body food and water. It also involves arguably the more taxing challenge of avoiding ill speech, arguments, loss of temper and malicious behaviour. The whole point of the fast is to demonstrate submission to God and keep the mind focused on a spiritual plane.

The benefits

Patience and mercy, which, let’s face it, we all need more of in these harried times. Ramadan is viewed as a month-long school where graduates leave with a developed sense of self-control in areas including diet, sleeping and the use of time.

imagesThe meals

The fasting day is book-ended by two meals: suhoor and iftar. The former is the early morning meal consumed before fasting begins at dawn, while the latter is to break the fast at sunset. If breakfast is viewed as an important meal, a healthy suhoor is even more vital as it is meant to last you up to 15 hours! Slow digesting foods like barley, wheats, oats and lentils are recommended and limiting fatty and sugary products would be wise. There is a propensity to binge eat at sunset, but a balanced, moderate meal would really make all the difference, considering that the evenings are spent engaging in special nightly prayers. It is also recommended to break the fast with dates, as was the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.

The prayers

Ramadan is also defined by extra congregational prayers performed nightly after the evening Esha prayers, which are normally the last prayers of the evening. For those living near a mosque, expect your neighbourhood to be a hive of activity for the whole month.

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The finish line

Ramadan culminates with the Eid ul Fitr holiday celebrating the end of the fast. Marked by a special morning prayer, the day is a form of spiritual graduation and a chance to permanently implement the spiritual lessons learnt throughout the month. Muslims dress in their best and visit friends and relatives as a sense of community prevails.

My Unplanned Sabbatical Year

2016 turned out to be, what I now call, my unplanned sabbatical year. A year that was by far one of my best years yet.

After relocating to Cape Town from Johannesburg at the end of 2015, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. The two things that I did know was, 1) I do not want to get back into the corporate world and 2) I want to be a housewife (very ambitious, I know). The housewifery wasn’t my long-term plan, but I figured what better way to start the new year in a new city.

So how did I spend my year?

Doing the things that I love.

The Kitchen
The one room in my home that makes me completely happy. I’ve spent day in and day out cooking up a storm and experimenting with new tastes and flavours. I must admit that it didn’t always work out, but at least I’ve tried it by putting it through the test. Over the years, I’ve developed a love for cooking and it to be the most therapeutic “chore”.

Spiritual Enhancement
2017-02-17_12-45-52For many people spirituality does not coexist with religion. I consider myself to be quite fortunate as I was able to explore my spirituality through religion. Last year, I’ve experienced the best Ramadaan ever. Even though we were nowhere close to family, the whole experience was moving. I looked forward mostly to Taraweeh (special evening prayers are conducted in Ramadaan, during which long portions of the Qur’aan are recited) and I longed for it most when Ramadaan bade farewell. The highlight for me however, was a ladies programme I attended, where I was in an audience of 4000 women! Let’s just say that once I’ve left the veils from my eyes were lifted!

Me, Myself and I
When you’ve been married for as long as I have been, you never really have reason to do things alone. Besides, I was never really comfortable with it anyway. With Mr. M at work, I didn’t have a choice but to do things alone. There was no one around to grab a coffee with or take up yoga classes. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company. When I had weekends to myself, I would meander through markets by myself, as if it was the most normal thing for me to do.

Stop, Drop and Yoga
I’ve always had a keen interest in yoga practice. I’ve just never had the time to take it seriously. I’ve started under a yogi while in Johannesburg, but the enthusiasm soon fizzled out.

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With all the time I had on my hands, I decided to take up classes, which I’m pleased to say is still part of my life. In the beginning, yoga was just about the poses and trying to fold myself into pretzels. Until I realised that the goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are. But mostly, it was about going to my mat and feeling, not accomplishing.

A Book or Three
My deep love for books stems from when I was a child. The first book I’ve ever owned was “The Gingerbread Man”, which was gifted to me at my pre-school graduation. My favourite book would have to be the children’s classic “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I still sometimes dream about living in the Swiss Alps.
I’ve spent so much time reading last year, that at one point, I felt like the characters in my books were my friends. I’ve made a little reading nook in my bedroom, and winter afternoons became my most treasured moments when I was lost in a book.

Take me to Nature
There is a wealth of natural wonders to see and experience in this city. From hiking up mountains, chasing waterfalls, swimming in dams, long walks on the beach, Cape Town is definitely a city worth showing off its natural beauty. I’ve always been in touch with nature, but my first year in Cape Town really connected me to nature.2017-02-17_12-49-00

I’ve had to deal with many frustrations. Not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. Doubting whether or not we made the right decision to move. In hindsight, I should have savored every minute of that time, as I now believe that I was exactly where I needed to be. My unplanned sabbatical year prepped me for my new journey, even though I had no idea at the time what that was…..

Journey to Hijab

After spending the past two years on my version of a “spiritual journey”, I have found comfort in a place I never imagined I would……my hijab.

 Earlier days

Being born a Muslim, dad was pretty strict but we were never forced to wear hijab. We were told that it’s something we should do as Muslim girls. But of course it was in the one ear out the other. Growing up in a pretty modern society, hijab was never a first choice of clothing that I would adorn. “I’m still young” was the average response to my dad when I was encouraged to adopt a more modest form of dress. I was also never a fashion follower or trend-setter. I’ve always been and still am a jeans, t-shirt and sneakers kinda girl.

From Miss to Mrs

Thank  goodness Mr M never forced me to change my dressing. I do however remember him asking me to at least wear a scarf on Fridays, but that too never happen. Being not young anymore, I couldn’t use the old excuse any longer, so it changed to, “I’ll change when I have children”. Then five years pass by and still no children……By this time I found myself spiritually dead. Not even knowing how I got to where I was. I’ve neglected my religious practices over the years and I was nothing but an empty shell….walking dead. Two years ago I rediscovered my path back to Islam and embracing hijab has been part of my spiritual journey. …..for the best……to be my best.

Oppression vs Liberation

I recall putting my head scarf on (about two years ago) for the first time and going into public, and that was the best feeling in the world. For the first time in my life I didn’t care to “fit in”. I didn’t need to be dressed according to the standards of society. The best part of it all was being able to walk down a street and not getting any unwanted stares or attention. I now know what liberation is….I understand it. I live the life of a liberated woman everyday I step out of my house in hijab.

All too often women in hijab are looked at as if they are not normal people. It’s as if they are not living full lives or missing out on something. I had a conversation with a much older woman and we spoke about hiking. I mentioned to her that I really enjoyed it and then she asked a question……”do you hike with the scarf on?” My response was yes. The response in my head however, was far from a simple yes…..

Wearing a scarf covers my hair, not my brain. I’m able to think and make decisions all by myself. I live a normal life like every other 30-something year old woman. There’s nothing an unscarfed woman can do that I’m incapable of doing. I go the the gym, I go to the beach, I practice yoga, I go out with friends….Everyday I live