Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Monthly Archives: July 2008

Ready for Ramadan?

Ramadan is fast approaching, evoking excitement and much anticipation about this holy month. The very thought of Ramadan conjures up images of a splendid month of fasting and guarding the soul, highlighted by extra visits to the mosque for Salat-ut-Taraweeh and a general spirit of well-wishing and generosity. And no mention of Ramadan would be complete without referring to the special foods and drinks that are prepared in this month, that have come to strengthen our cherished bond with this time of the year. Samosas, special sweets and drinks all lighten up the dinner table at Iftaar.

With the joys and wonders of Ramadan, sometimes, we also face newer issues such as excessive sleeping and eating, obesity, heartburn, constipation, lethargy, disturbed routines. These are problems that have mushroomed up in recent years due to our own mishandling of this auspicious month and they greatly reduce what we can gain from Ramadan. To help ensure our Ramadan this year is fruitful and fulfilling in all ways, spiritual, physical and even social, here are some general tips and advice.

As Ramadan approaches, prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Make an effort to unburden yourself at work in Ramadan by getting more work done in the preceding month. If that is not possible, then try to reorganize your routine ahead of Ramadan, to ease the transition and to shift the workload appropriately.

Examine your individual routine, or collectively as a family, to plan for Ramadan. In Ramadan, sleeping at night tends to become limited, to make more time for prayer and awaken earlier for Suhoor, so prepare your mind and body by trying to sleep earlier and waking up earlier as well. “Early to bed, early to rise” may be cliché but for Ramadan, it is especially important. This way you’ll save yourself from lethargy and ‘dark circles’ when Ramadan actually arrives. Tick off items on the “pending chores” list. Try to get the kitchen cabinets cleaned out in advance and fix that leaky tap before end of Shaban!

For housewives and working ladies, there’s extra work in Ramadan, related to food preparation and shopping for Eid clothes and gifts. This extra load can be lessened by preparing storable food items in advance and completing much of the Eid shopping (if not all) before Ramadan. This relieves physical as well as mental pressures and burdens on ladies in Ramadan, making more time for worship and prayer.

As Ramadan draws nearer, make a sincere effort to switch to healthier eating habits because indeed, binging on food cannot be made the focus of this month. This does not mean that one gives up good food but rather that the food is taken in the right quantity and manner. Some general meal-time advice for Ramadan:

In the time leading up to Ramadan, adopt simple Sunnah that encourage healthier food habits, like eating only when hungry and refraining from eating your fill (rather, leaving a portion of the stomach empty). This will make your body more active, light and full of energy by stimulating the utilization of internal energy stores. Your body will also store energy in the right way which will be helpful in Ramadan.

Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet that contains food from all the major food groups – cereals, poultry, meat, fruits and vegetables.

Organize your meals, especially at Iftaar. Experts say that binge eating at Iftaar – or Suhoor for that matter – has no positive effect on energy levels and an average meal of healthy foods is best. If you’re having Iftaar and also plan to have dinner later, lighten either meal and try to bring in a gap of at least three hours between the two. Also, for a more fulfilling sleep, avoid eating within two hours before your bedtime. The best recommendation would be to take an Iftaar of fruits, juices and other light snacks, including Samosas if you wish and then, if the need is felt, to take a light dinner later on (perhaps after Taraweeh).

For Suhoor, include slow-digesting foods such as foods that contain grain and seeds like barley, wheat, millets, oat, semolina, lentils, beans, wholemeal flour and unpolished rice. These last longer – up to 8 hours and provide good energy, compared to fast-digesting foods such as those containing refined carbohydrates (white flour) and excess of refined sugar. Fast-digesting foods only last about 3-4 hours, resulting in lower energy levels throughout the day and thus, should be consumed preferably at Iftaar (light sandwiches, for example).

Avoid excess of spicy and fried items as they cause heartburn, obesity, acidity and also increase thirst. So Samosas and Kebabs are fine, as long as one doesn’t binge on them! Here also, encourage high-fiber foods because they help to counter acidity, heartburn as well as constipation.

Juices and fresh fruits are a must for Iftaar as they restore essential minerals and water levels, thereby preventing dehydration, constipation, cramps, formation of kidney stones and lethargy. Dehydration and loss of calcium, magnesium and potassium will make you dizzy and fatigue easily in Taraweeh so this is something that cannot be taken lightly. Dates are a rich source of fiber, carbohydrates as well as the essential minerals just mentioned so a couple of dates at Iftaar is a truly refreshing Sunnah.

Try to cut down on caffeinated drinks and beverages in Ramadan because these drinks actually increase urine output, robbing the body of essential minerals and salts, thus actually aggravating dehydration and muscle-cramping.

Try a hand at these simple and easy tips and you’ll notice the difference. I speak from experience when I say that you’ll actually enjoy yourself more this way and even lose a few pounds by the end of Ramadan. That’s spiritual as well as physical gain that cannot be found, no matter how hard you try, in stuffing in all kinds of food at every meal in Ramadan. Here’s the key to unlocking the true joys and rewards of Ramadan, with a little extra effort. Wishing you all the best and a great Ramadan!


“Teens For Deen” – a wonderful experience


Alhamdolillah, summer vacations have finally started ans as I write this, I’ve already spent two weeks. ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’, isn’t that the popular saying? Well, as soon as I got off with my exams, I got involved with “Teens For Deen”, a summer course at Al Huda for girls 13+, that I’d volunteered for. It’s a 3-week course and two weeks have already gone by.

When the course began, I was very, very nervous. Teaching Tajweed, while being a student of Tajweed myself, to teenagers suddenly seemed like a very tough task. Besides that, the fact that I and three other girls around my age were in-charge of the course, with no-one else above us to “protect” us made me wonder if we’d manage to pull it off? Of course, the co-ordinator, Saba Paracha had experience as a staff member previously as well… but she too had not been the “co-ordinator” ever before. Thus, preparing for Tajweed classes was not the only task for me. Together, we needed to work out each day’s schedule, who would be coming in as a gust speaker, who’d arrange for the community service trips, what books and bags to give the girls, etc. I must say Saba baji had experience to rise to the challenges and with her help, Alhamdolillah, we managed to be ready for every situation.

In these past two weeks, the welfare department of Al Huda also arranged for two trips to their fields of work – a government-run children’s hospital, and this Friday, to a poor colony (“Umar colony” in Karachi) inhabited by people who’re below the poverty line. We put together gift bags for the children on both visits – chips, milk, buiscuits, coloring pencils, notebooks and toys. We also visited a madressah/school in Umar colony where cute little faces sat huddled in hot classrooms, eager to study in the limited resources available to them. Visiting these areas where Al Huda is involved in welfare, really made us realize how much we take for granted – how the poor live in haphazard, filthy colonies while we dwell in our luxuries. It’s very easy to be “depressed” and say, “I don’t have that branded shirt!” or “My parents can’t afford to take us abroad every year!” but when you look at those who’re living in such poor conditions as in Umar colony, it humbles you and makes you grateful for what you have. May Allah ease the suffering of those people! (Ameen!)

The “Quran reflection” subject in the summer course is being taught by Saba Baji. She’s just completed Surah Yusuf. MashAllah, being only 24 years old and still in University, the young girls relate to her with ease. She weaves into the discussion, issues such as Muslim identity, optimism, ‘Sabr’ (patience), spending in the Way of Allah, how to deal with mixed school parties, girl-boy relationships, apparel, etc. Bringing everything back to the Quran and Sunnah and leaving it up to the girls to decide for themselves what is right, is a strategy that has left its impact upon the students. I try to sit in whenever I am free, to learn some wisdom myself!

We’ve shown an Iranian movie “Children of Heaven”, directed by Majid Majidi. It was really popular with the girls Alhamdolillah. They even stayed in an extra fifteen minutes just so that they could watch the end! Besides this, the ‘Seerah’ teacher shows clips from “The Message” – that really improves the impact of the lectures MashAllah.

Side-by-side, we’re running group sessions, presided over by us staff members. The purpose of the group sessions is to get the girls started on their group projects – “Teens For Deen” – how can teens/youth serve the Deen of Allah? Our job as staff members is just supervision, the girls have to do everything themselves. Whether they prepare a powerpoint presentation or a role-play skit, it’s up to them. InshAllah, let’s see what they come up with on Thursday.

Besides all this, there are other small classes and lectures. A series of lectures by 21-year old Maryam Mehboob, titled “Muslim Heroes”, was very popular with the girls. There was short quiz held last week, to assess the interest of the girls and to find out if they’d learned anything so far. That also went down very well with the girls, and they received gifts to further motivate them.

I’ve learned a lot about the workings of a an organization like Al Huda, while working as a staff member for the past two weeks. There’s great discipline in everything they do MashAllah. Every penny spent is accounted for – yes, that means that whatever we buy for the course, we must keep the receipts safe, to send to the regional office of Al Huda, to account for our expenditures. Plastic must not be promoted – thus, we handed out the books in cloth bags (the bags themselves were imprinted with “I am not a plastic bag” on the front). The chain of authority is also very distinct in the organization, and so it had to be in our summer course as well – Saba baji is the co-ordinator and I’m the second in-charge, and so on. Every thing that belongs to the branch (where the course is being held) is an ‘Amanah’ (a trust) that belongs either to Al Huda, or the residents of the house (who’ve given away their ground floor in the Way of Allah, for such classes and courses throughout the year). Thus, every article in our use must be accounted for and cared for, rather than carelessly handled. It’s really a lesson in Islamic etiquette, MashAllah, that I’m really grateful for!

Heading into the last week of the course, I’m sad that it’ll be ending soon. Spending the past two weeks with the girls has resulted in new friendships and I can’t believe we’ll be saying good-bye so soon! On the other hand, I also want this course to end, so that 2nd August – the day I resume as a “student” at the same venue, under my regular teachers, with the fourth semester of the weekly “Towards the Light” course. In fact, going to the same venue daily, as a teacher, rather than as a student, made me really miss my teachers during the first few days of the summer course. I missed my friends, young and old, from the weekly class so much that I was genuinely sad for a while. Now that the summer course is ending, it’s a time for mixed feelings again.

Nevermind my complex feelings and emotions – Alhamdolillah, it’s been an experience that has taught me so much! It has also strenghtened my resolve, InshAllah, to be actively involved, to the best of my ability, with this organization… especially when I’m done with my basic medical studies. Allah knows best what course I will be taking in the future and what would be best for me. Perhaps, I’d be able to, InshAllah, work as a part-time specialist in a hospital and also teach and learn at Al Huda. I wouldn’t be saying this, probably, if I hadn’t seen people do this already so… Alhamdolillah… whatever Allah deems best!


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