By: Sheikh Muhammad Ali Al-Hanooti
Among the entertainments, which may comfort the soul, please the heart, and refresh the ear is singing.
Islam permits singing under the condition that it is not in any way obscene or harmful to Islamic morals. There is no harm in its being accompanied by music, which is not exciting. In order to create an atmosphere of joy and happiness, singing is recommended on festive occasions such as the days of ‘Eid, weddings and wedding feasts, births, ‘aqiqat (the celebration of the birth of a baby by the slaughter of sheep), and on the return of a traveler.
‘Aishah narrated that when a woman was married to an Ansari man, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, ” ‘Aishah, did they have any entertainment? The Ansar are fond of entertainment.” (Reported by al-Bukhari.) Ibn ‘Abbas said, ” ‘Aishah gave a girl relative of hers in marriage to a man of the Ansar. The Prophet (peace be on him) came and asked, ‘Did you send a singer along with her?’ ‘No,’ said ‘Aishah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) then said, The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing, ‘Here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.’ ” (Reported by Ibn Majah.)
Ikegami akira With Dr. Muhammad Al Arifi.
By: Joe Martino
Start Spending Time With The “Right” People – Spend time with people you enjoy -who bring you up instead of push you down. Sure there are always lessons we can learn from others but you don’t need to continue hanging around with and associating with people who you know bring in an offsetting vibe. Learn what you need to from them about yourself and move on. I have found that the longer I let things linger with people simply because I feel I’m supposed to never let them bother me, the worse a situation gets as I’m not taking care of myself. You can’t change others, so focus on you and spend time with those who resonate with you the most.
Start Loving & Being Nicer To Yourself – Think about how you speak to yourself sometimes – how does it sound? What do you say? Unless you are already great at self talk and have a solid connection to the love that you are, it’s likely you say some nasty things to yourself. Whether it be about your appearance, performance on something or your ability to do something you want to do, it’s easy for us to tear ourselves down. Now imagine someone else was saying all those things to you instead. Would it be nice of that person? Of course not. So why do we choose to not be nice to ourselves? Learning to love ourselves and cut out the nasty talk is so important. Be sure to be aware of what you are saying to yourself. >
Start Being Fully Honest With Yourself – Being fully honest with yourself is so important as we can get caught up in convincing ourselves that various things don’t bother us or aren’t a challenge for us. We even be guilty to avoid admitting certain characteristics about the current version of ourselves. Honesty is needed in every aspect of our lives whether it’s with other people, ourselves, our work and so on. The more honest we are, the more we can grow from our experiences and keep things simple. You learn a lot about yourself when you are honest.
Start Facing Your Challenges Head On – We always want our problems or challenges to just go away. But most of the time it isn’t quite that simple. We need to take some sort of action steps. Choose to do something about the challenges you face as opposed to letting them linger and simply complaining about them. We have the choice and control, it’s time to embrace that power. If it helps, choose one problem or challenge you face right now, and write out some things you can do to get it moving forward.
Start Listening To Your Own Inner Voice – Whether you want to call it your inner voice, your heart, gut feelings, intuition, soul, higher self, higher perspective or any other name you give to the real YOU that is beyond your mind, listening to that voice a little more often makes a big difference in your life. It’s YOU! It’s there to guide you, show you your passions and what paths make the most sense for you at any given moment. The more you listen to it means the less you listen to the mind which can often over analyze or bring emotional patterns into your decisions. Listening to your inner voice is following your heart.
Start Living In The NOW – This was one of the most powerful things for me to implement in my life. I’m not saying I’m always in the now as certainly I get stuck thinking about the past or future in ways that cause suffering, but using this tool as much as possible is huge. Everything you have or are is all happening right now and you only have the now. Even in a future moment it is still the now. When you pay attention to what is happening now you give your whole self to what you are doing and that brings much peace and joy. The past or future can be used as a reference to make adjustments in the now, but avoid fretting or worrying about either. The dwelling will only cause suffering. There is much beauty happening now that you won’t want to miss.
Start Valuing What Your “Mistakes” Teach You – I don’t believe there are mistakes in life. Simply, we make choices and they play out experiences. Deep down we have an understanding of what is right and wrong and we live by that. When it comes to smaller choices where we make decisions and they end up in less favorable outcomes, there is a lot to learn from them. Taking risks sometimes results in a stumble or a fall, but this will teach you so much about yourself and the journey you make through each experience. We focus so much on the end goal and how it came to be defined rather than all we learned along the way. There are no mistakes. Value what you learn from every journey.
Start Being Yourself Completely – You are an awesome unique individual, no matter what anyone says. Embracing that is often so difficult because we have social pressures as well as ideas of ourselves (often based on social pressures) that get in the way of us being real. Deep down we all know who we are, what we love and how we want to be, it’s just a matter of getting used to being that when we have gotten used to putting something else “on” for so long. It can be scary for sure, we are putting ourselves out there and if people don’t accept us it can hurt. But the truth is, you will be amazed at how much people love you and are appreciative of what you resonate when you are truly being yourself. People can feel when others aren’t embracing their true selves and this is what usually creates interesting experiences.
Start Enjoying & Appreciating What You Already Have – Sometimes we get caught up in chasing things like money and other material possessions. While these things are not bad to experience or have, it’s important not to get stuck in the idea that “I will be happy once I get these things.” Too often we are waiting around for the “best” situation to play out for us, all the while missing out on the experiences that are right in front of us. Where we have food, shelter, friends, family and life. We also can get caught up in comparing ourselves to others and what they have. Before you go to bed, mid day or even when you wake up, remember all that you have and this will help to keep you out of the chase for more. After all, when you finally get the things you desire, won’t the mind just look for more if we let it?
Start Being Accountable & Creating Your Own Joy – When we look outside ourselves to create joy or peace in our lives we basically give up our own power in doing so. The truth is, you already have all it takes to feel great in your life and sometimes it’s about taking the action to make that the case. In our culture most of the time we assume that happiness will come from others and from things and when we get everything in line we will be OK -Let’s break this habit and start by finding the power inside each of us to begin creating joy now.
Start Helping People Around You – Regardless of what society may suggest is the case, we are all in this together and connected to one another. Caring about people and assisting them in their own journey, in whatever form that comes in, is a great way to connect with others and use your unique skills. On top of that you create a sharing relationship with those people so that exchanges can continue down the road. You aren’t doing it to get something in return, but rather to extend love outwards only to see it come back in whatever form it does.
Start Accepting Things Even If They Aren’t Perfect – Really, what is perfect? Sometimes we have a tough time accepting things when they aren’t perfect, but perfection is simply an idea your mind created. We can get caught up in things in our world not appearing exactly as we wish to see them, but much of it is us learning to be at peace with how things unfold. We can only take actions on things we have control over. This isn’t to say you need to settle for everything, but rather, don’t obsess over the small details and instead be at peace with where things are at in this moment.
Start Paying Attention to How You Feel About Things – Often times we might feel a particular way about something but we don’t take it seriously or voice it because we don’t understand it or don’t want to share it with others. How you feel deep down about something is important and we should certainly value that. Social pressures don’t outweigh how you feel inside about something so feel free to understand that feeling and own it versus burying it. Often we can hide these feelings inside only to later realize many others felt the same about something but didn’t say anything because they were all afraid as well. Your voice and heart can impact others. Don’t be afraid to speak.
Start Focusing On The Possibilities Of Things vs Them Not Working Out – Have you ever heard the idea that if you believe it, it will happen? Now of course this isn’t quite the full story, but believing in possibility has a big impact on not only your own effort and motivation around something but also how others will perceive it. If you want to do something in your life, believe you can do it and avoid thinking negatively about the outcome. “This would never happen to me.” Or “Good things never happen to me.” This type of self talk and lack of believing in self can quickly kill what you are trying to achieve in life. Focus on what you want to happen and how you want to go about it. Focusing on the “negative” won’t do much but make the whole situation feel “negative.”
Here is a collection of musings, reminders and recollections I penned over the course of the last two years. Most can be found on my Facebook page (here), where they were first written. They cover a variety of themes and areas, with no particular structure or arrangement. As for the title of the post, I culled it from a line in a poem written by the American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (d.1882) – widely held to be the best-loved American poet of his age – called A Psalm of Life:
During Ramadan, many of us attend taraweeh(night prayers) at the masjid. Some of us stay until the Imam leads us in witr (a final supplementary prayer). For many of us, this can amount to over two hours of prayer time and for many of us, we understand almost nothing.
Sometimes, during the recitation of the Qur’an we hear the people around us crying profusely and we wish we could understand what could be so powerful that those around us are reduced to such tears. We can sometimes make out a specific word, but within a moment, we are back to indistinguishable meanings and simply wishing we knew what was going on.
I used to have no idea what was going on in the prayer. I remember standing for lengthy time periods behind the Imam, trying to make my mind focus but finding it constantly drift off; it’s very, very hard to concentrate when the mind has nothing to contextualize. I eventually would settle on trying to think of anything for which I could possibly be grateful. But taraweehprayers are long; without understanding, my heart would simply get bored and my limbs would always fidget. Thoughts of my day, my concerns, my hopes and my food cravings after a day of fasting would all filter through my conscious while I shifted around. It’s hard to keep still for that long when one is mentally checked out and physically disengaged.
However, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) guided me to an action which changed my life and revolutionized my prayer and du`a (supplication) experience ever since. It’s simple, but it takes long-term dedication. The results, for me, were powerful and transformational. The common-sense solution that worked miracles in my life by Allah’s blessings: reading a translation.
Every single day, for a number of years, I would sit and read five pages of the Qur’an in the English translation. I would do this while both reciting and listening to the Arabic recitation, allowing my ears to become accustomed to the Arabic words associated with the English.
After a few months of this practice, the first Ramadan came. In my hometown masjid, the Imam would lead twenty rakahs(units of prayer). So I would pray eight rakahs and then sit in the back and read the translation of the verses for the next twelve. I continued this throughout Ramadan and was extremely consistent with this practice for the next year. Soon, my awareness of Arabic words increased; I realized that the Qur’an uses many of the same words over and over and I was able to recognize them. I was also becoming more familiar with the surahs (chapters); I had an introductory understanding of what themes were being discussed in certain portions of the Qur’an due to keywords and a general awareness of what thesurah entailed.
By the second Ramadan, I was praying with purpose. While I still had no idea what every word meant, I had begun to comprehend general meanings of many of the chapters and I was able to grasp the overarching messages of some of the verses. I kept up my practice of praying eight and reading the translation. I even had a few emotional moments. I started looking forward to certain verses that were my favorites. I was finally beginning to understand and I was actually enjoying it; the sweetness of the Qur’an had penetrated my heart and taken hold of my body. Praying taraweeh in Ramadan became a means of nourishment for my soul and tranquility for my limbs.
I also began memorizing the Qur’an and the more I memorized, the more my vocabulary expanded. After four years of reading the translation consistently and memorizing the Qur`an, I was enthralled with the idea of praying for hours behind the Imam. I could not wait for Ramadan; all year I waited for the last ten nights specifically, when the Imam would recite the Qur’an for an even longer period of time. My character, my life’s purpose, my Ramadan experience completely changed because I finally grasped a general understanding of the Qur’an.
Six years after I began reading the translation consistently and memorizing portions of the Qur’an, I moved to Egypt to learn Arabic. When I started, I took a practice test and was placed in an intermediary level. However, when I met my teacher for the first time, barely able to communicate a few sentences, she was shocked. “Your vocabulary is so expansive,” she told me, “but you clearly are a beginner!” Needless to say, I was re-placed as a beginner. Throughout our lessons, my Arabic teacher would express her surprise at my ability to understand certain words in depth simply because they appeared in the Qur’an, while others I struggled with at great lengths. Eventually, she told me that my Qur’anic preparation was what helped me actually grasp the language and is what had originally placed me at a level far higher than I really was.