The pilgrimage to Makkah and its significance.

It is almost time for the annual pilgrimage of Hajj so I wanted to share a bit of information about the history of rituals behind the pilgrimage. Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, means undertaking a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The journey to perform Hajj, has a deep spiritual and personal significance. Spiritual as in the sense, being a slave of Allah(swt) you intend to perform one of the five main duties assigned to you in this world. Personally Hajj is a time to ponder on your relationship with your creator, a time to examine your inner personality— the inner you, or your conscience. And this entire journey to the holy city, is a once in a lifetime experience for many Muslims, that shall forever remain etched in their memories.

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The Ka’baa

STORIES BEHIND THE RITUALS OF HAJJ:

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SAEE’Y: [Story of Hajra (R.A) and Ishmael (A.S)]

This pilgrimage to Mecca has a deep significance in Islam, and it dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim( A.S). The story goes as such— Ibrahim(A.S) has reached a ripe age and was childless. He prayed earnestly for progeny, as his wife Sarah( R.A) was barren. At that time on the command of Allah the Prophet took a second wife— she was the servant of Sarah(R.A), her name being Hajra(R.A).

Soon after, Hajra(R.A) gave birth to Ismail(A.S). On the command of Allah(swt), Ibrahim(A.S) left his wife Hajra(R.A) and his son Ismail(A.S) in the deserts of Mecca. At that time the infant Ismail(A.S) cried and cried with thirst and an anxious Hajra(R.A) ran between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwaah in search of water for the child, but in vain. When she returned hopeless, she saw baby Ismail(A.S) scratching his feet on the soil, from which gushed out a spring of fresh water. At that time Hajra(R.A) repeated the words Zam Zam— meaning Stop Stop, commanding the water to stop, so she could collect it for the baby to drink. The ritual of Saee’y between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwaah, is this act of Hajra(R.A), which is re-enacted by the pilgrims.

“Indeed, as- Safaa and al-Marwaah are among the symbols of Allah. So whoever makes Hajj to the house or performs Umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and knowing”.

Surah-al-Baqarah (2:158)

THE SACRIFICE OF IBRAHIM (A.S):
Allah(swt) tested the piety of Ibrahim(A.S), by asking him to sacrifice his most beloved possession— his son [the holy Quran does not explicitly mention the name of the son, but many believe it was in regard to Ismail(A.S)]. At that time Ibrahim(A.S), complied with the command of Allah(swt) and set out to sacrifice his son. Allah(swt), on seeing the firm faith and conviction of Ibrahim(A.S) sent down Jibayril(A.S) to convey the message that Allah(swt) has accepted the sacrifice of Ibrahim(A.S). To commemorate this sacrifice of Ibrahim(A.S), an animal is sacrificed on the day of Eid-ul-Adha.

“And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen a dream, that [I must] sacrifice you, so see what you think”. He said “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast”.

“And when they had both submitted, and he put him down on his forehead”.

We called to him, “O Abraham,

You have fulfilled the vision”. Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.

Indeed this was a clear trial.

And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice.

And we left for him [favorable mention] among the future generations.

“Peace be upon Abraham”.

Indeed, we thus reward the doers of the good.

Indeed, he was of our believing servants”.

Surah-as-Saffath (verses 99:111)

STONING THE DEVIL- (Rami-al-Jamaraat):
Prophet Ibrahim(A.S), on his way to sacrifice his son Ismail(A.S) was tempted by Satan near a stone-heap, asking him to drop the idea of sacrifice of his beloved son. It was at that time that angel , Jibayril(A.S) appeared and advice Ibrahim(A.S) to pelt the devil with stones from the heap. Ibrahim(A.S) pelted seven stones at the devil, after which he disappeared. Iblis once again appeared at a second heap of stones, Jibrayil(a.s) said “Pelt him!” and once again Ibrahim(A.S) did so by pelting seven stones till Iblis disappeared. Satan once again appeared at a little stone-heap to tempt Ibrahim(A.S), to which Jibrayil(A.S) once again said”Pelt him!”. Finally after pelting seven little stones, Iblis withdrew.

The three Jamraat, represent Iblis in three different forms. The first bigger one was the manifestation of Iblis tempting Ibrahim(a.s) to drop the idea of sacrifice of his son. The middle Jamraat represents the devil tempting Hajra(R.A) to stop Ibrahim(A.S) from sacrificing their son. And the smallest Jamraat represents the temptation of Ismail(A.S) by Iblis, to avoid being sacrificed. This is what’s the significance of stoning the devil during the final three days of Hajj.

On a spiritual note this ritual of stoning  involves stoning the evil within us to gain closeness to Allah(swt).

THE KA’BAA and HAJR-E-ASWAD:
Coming to the Ka’baa— it is the holiest site in the religion of Islam. It serves as a focal point, towards which Muslims turn to while offering salaat. The history of Ka’baa dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim(A.S). He along with his son Ismail(A.S), built the Kab’aa. There is a particular place very close to the Ka’baa, which contains the footprints of Ibrahim(A.S), called the Makam-e-Ibrahim.

When Ibrahim(A.S) and Ismail(A.S), undertook the construction of the Ka’baa as commanded by Allah(swt), Jibrayil(A.S) bought down the black stone from heaven. Ibrahim(A.S) placed the black stone known as Hajr-e-Aswad in the eastern wall of the Ka’baa. The process of tawaf, starts with Istilam(kissing or touching), the hajr-e-aswad.

It is believed that the entire structure of the Ka’baa is designed based on a similar structure that exists in heaven, known as Bait-ul Mamur. A fresh batch of 70,000 angels perform tawaf of the Bait-ul-Mamur, wherein no batch of angels occur twice. This was the description provided by Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), after his visit to the seventh heaven on the night of Miraj.(Based on a hadith of Sahih Bukhari).

“So from wherever you go out for prayer, [O Muhammad], turn your face towards Masjid-al-Haram, and indeed it is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do”.

Surah-al-Baqarah (2:149)

Isn’t it wonderful to know that Islam has such a long and humble past. And look where the Ka’baa stands today— within the glorious Masjid-al-Haram. It is a beauty, to feast one’s eyes on. The entire city of Mecca, has a very emotional place in the heart of every Muslim. And to those who intend on undertaking the pilgrimage— live every moment of it, recall our beloved prophets and strengthen your bond with the creator.


References: Wikipedia
Photo Credits: [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you learned it?

Oh! Yes!!!. Have you learned it? Or have you inherited it?. Confused?.

So many questions in a single line. I speak of religion here, I speak of Islam here. That’s the question to think of today. Have you learnt your religion or have you inherited it?. Many a times I come across people who have quite stopped the act of reasoning. All I hear is “That’s what my parents did”, That’s what my granny did”, That’s what my great-grandpa did”, and so on. Religion or theology is not something to be followed blindly, it’s not a legacy to be adopted. It is a thing to be learned, to be thought of, to be practiced and propagated.

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I have observed, especially in India, there are blind beliefs followed in the name of religion. From my personal experience, a talkative aunt in my family told me the story of Shab-e-Baraat (the 15th night of Shabaan). She narrated to me what has been passed on to her— that the souls of the departed returned back to earth, or rather to their homes and hid behind the doors and stared with love at their family members :-P. I found it quite funny though, as I imagined my dead granny standing behind the door. But thanks to my father, he dismissed my notions of a horror film going on in the house. And at that time he taught me— to learn and believe in what the Quran and Hadiths have to say, and not what grannies and aunts have to say.

The true essence of religion is in learning it for yourself. Islam is not some property to be inherited from your ancestors. Islam is a beautiful religion to be learnt, loved and practiced. Take a bit of interest, and a little more effort to build up a strong emaan. Do it for yourself. Validate any belief before accepting it. In this age of technology all you need is a genuine app to validate your beliefs and dogmas passed on to you. And needless to say, there is no guidance better than the holy Quran and the Hadiths. 🙂

“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim”.
                                                                                                               (Al-Tirmidhi)

The dilemma of halal food.

The term ‘Halal’ is one commonly used word in the Islamic community. It has now become so popular that the halal logo is stamped on any food item stupidly enough. Recently I received a pamphlet of some local eatery— the menu consisting of pizzas, spicy fried chicken, burgers, fries and then the highlight was pepperoni and bacon pizza. Every item on the menu was stamped halal. MashaAllah halal pepperoni and halal bacon!!!. That’s one of a kind. Pepperoni— an American variety of salami made from a mixture of cured pork and beef is what Wikipedia defines it as. Bacon— cured meat from the back or sides of a pig, is what Google defines it as.  And here this eatery is selling halal pepperoni bacon pizza. I surely should go see those halal pigs. This nonsensical fashion of printing the halal logo on each and every food-item is really ruining the true meaning of the word.

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What does ‘halal’ truly mean???
The word ‘Halal’ is of an Arabic origin. In Arabic language Halal means ‘Permissible’. And this word is not concerned only to the areas related to food. In its true sense the word halal is related to the entire sphere of human existence. Anything Allah(swt) has made permissible for mankind is halal. And that which Allah(swt) has asked us to refrain from or has made impermissible is termed as “haram”. A few simple instances— gambling, usury( interest), murder, suicide to name a few are all what Islam terms as haram. These things are not allowed in Islam. Yet such a shame, Muslims are so obsessed with halal food that the concept of halal acts pertaining to life, have all gone into complete oblivion.

What does ‘halal’ relate to in food???
Well I think even a Muslim kid might be well aware that pig or swine is a haram animal in Islam. Rest is, you eat what Allah has made permissible to mankind but in matters of meat Islam has certain rules. There are foods that are halal and haram, and in matters of meat the term halal pertains to the method adopted for slaughtering the animal. Let us explore what the holy Quran has to say about foods permissible in Islam.

“He has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah. But whoever is forced(by necessity), neither desiring(it) nor transgressing(it’s limit), there is no sin upon him. Indeed Allah is forgiving and merciful”.
Quran 2:173 (Surah-al-Baqarah).

“Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah, and (those animals), killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you are able to slaughter before it death, and those which are sacrificed on stone altars”.
Quran 5:3(Surah-al-Maidah)

Haram foods mentioned in Quran:
• Dead animals
— carcasses, carrion or any animal that has died naturally before being slaughtered, or animals killed or gored to death by other animals.
• Blood— of any animal is prohibited.
• Flesh of swine— meaning flesh of pig. (be it halal pepperoni or halal bacon) :lol:. Even if the pig is slaughtered in a halal way its meat shall remain haram.
• Meat of any animal that has not been dedicated to Allah when slaughtering it— this includes meat sacrificed and offered to idols or any other being or for any other cause.

But then again Allah says in the noble Quran that if you are driven by necessity and have been forced to consume anything haram, it is no sin and InshaAllah he shall surely forgive. But that necessity should be a genuine one. Nothing like you are famished and you see a KFC outlet and are not sure of its halal status, but still consume it. That is not necessity. That is Satan humming in your head and testing your emaan.

Halal way of slaughtering (dhabihah):
Whilst most meats are permissible to eat except for a few like pigs, boars, dogs and other clawed animals, the method adopted to slaughter the permissible meats is also important. Islamic slaughtering is what is known as ‘dhabihah’(pronounced zabeehah). This process of halal slaughtering excludes aquatic life. There are certain necessary conditions for the halal slaughter of an animal. A few main ones include.
⇒ The slaughter should be done by a Muslim most preferably but certain sects of Islam also agree on slaughters done by people of the book— Jews and Christians.
⇒ Name of Allah should be recited while slaughtering the animal. Or rather one should recite Bismillah.
⇒ The animal should be slaughtered in one sharp swipe which severe its arteries and jugular vein draining out all blood.
⇒ The head of the animal should not be decapitated until the animal is dead.

What science says about halal slaughtering:
It has been scientifically proven that the halal method of slaughtering the animal is better, where the animal feels little to no pain as the arteries are cut and hence oxygen flow to the brain is stopped. The animal shakes and writhes not due to pain but due to muscle spasms where the body is draining out blood. And once the blood is drained out there is not a chance of disease spreading through the meat.

So on a larger scale the term halal comprises of food and the manner in which this food is prepared or slaughtered. Many Muslims specially the youth of today in Western countries is  easily carried of when one says “Yay! it is halal”. And as I mentioned earlier about the halal pepperoni pizza— even if really they do serve halal slaughtered poultry or meat in a restaurant that even serves pork, does not your brain ring a bell? that the halal meat might be in some way contaminated?. And there are surely few eateries out there that serve real halal meat. All it takes is patience and dedication to one’s own religion to put into practice what has been prescribed for us.

Meats that are permissible and slaughtering the animals for meat in a permissible way are two completely different concepts. And the entire concept of ‘Halal’ is does not just apply for non-vegetarian food. It even applies to our non-vegetarian thoughts. 😆

 

And miles to go before I sleep…

still, items, things, suitcases, luggage, stack, pile, vintage, colorful, couches, travel, journey, trip

Such a mysterious one is this journey life. You begin this journey with a wail, and it ends, perhaps leaving others to wail( at least for the sake of humanity). In an endeavor to make this journey a worthwhile one, we tend to sometimes forget that this is but a temporary life. The real ride awaits us on the day of judgement. Packing, unpacking, hoarding, fretting, anxieties, uncertainties, jealousies, envies, feuds, and what not mar this beautiful journey of life. All these feelings, despite the fact that we very well know, we are not in charge of planning this journey— it is all pre-planned by the creator.

Lets spare a moment and delve into our conscience, to mend our narrow minds, thoughts and deeds and make this journey a significant one, before we return to the creator, as the holy Quran rightly says— “Truly to Allah we belong, and truly to him shall we return”.— (Quran 2:156)

The process of rectifying, repairing and improving the soul is one arduous task. That process is going to involve the entire span of human existence. But we are obliged to do that, for the one who gave us a chance to live. We are obliged to heal our souls for the sake of the Almighty.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep”.

                                            — Robert Frost

O yes! The journey of life is awesome.But better resolve matters of this duniya(world) in an appropriate way.  And await the real fairy tale life in jannah Inshallah, after the end of this transitory journey.

This post is written in response today’s one-word prompt Journey.

Halal skin care brands(U.K)

Asalamualaikum lovelies!!!. Finally back after a wonderful Eid-ul-fitr. Had loads of fun Allhamdullilah!!! Wore lovely dresses, makeup, had yummy food and enjoyed the weekend just lazying around as hubby was at home. I haven’t posted in the beauty category since long. Just remembered that long back I posted about halal skin care brands from India. Now finally did some intense research and listed out a few halal skin care brands found in the U.K. I have tried only a very few  from the London brands, as I purchase my skin care products mostly in bulk from India and also thanks to amazon and eBay for the ease with which they make anything available online. So finally here’s the list.

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PHB ETHICAL BEAUTY (Pure. Handmade. British):
An exemplary halal beauty brand, PHB Ethical Beauty has its origins in the city of Birmingham. It is a family owned business, and offers a range of skin care products, hair care products and cosmetics along with a men’s range. This brand boasts of manufacturing products that are— cruelty-free, halal-certified, organic, vegan, paraben-free and hand-made. I haven’t seen them in any of the drug stores or high-street shops, but they have a very attractive online shop that delivers world-wide at reasonable prices.

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SKIN YOGA: (Towards being a purer you)
Started by three lively and lovely sisters, the brand of Skin Yoga offers cruelty-free, preservative-free, paraben-free, halal and vegan skincare products. The company was kind enough to send me products for review, and I absolutely love them. Skin Yoga offers natural products with no chemical additions to them. The products might take time to work, but will leave the skin beautiful than ever if used persistently. I love the fact that these products are raw without much processing, and are therefore packed with the goodness of natural ingredients.  Do try them out. They sell in UK, through their online website.

SIMPLE— Sensitive Skin Experts:
Simple is a really simple brand :-P. The website states quite frankly that a few of their might contain ethyl alcohol which is haram. Rest most of their products are alcohol free and animal byproduct free, except for two products, one’s a shampoo and the other a conditioner which use animal products as the website states. Rest of their products are vegan and alcohol-free. This brand is easily available in any drug store or online. The pricing is quite classy and the products are effective from my personal experience.

MY PURE:
Yet another indigenous brand of Britian. The brand of My Pure was started in the year 2004. Their products range from body care, skin care, hair care, men’s care and also include baby care products. It’s an all-rounder in personal care products. The company website proudly claims to be vegan, vegetarian, organic, cruelty-free, paraben-free and sulfate free. Mashallah! that’s once nice brand. But not sure of the presence of alcohol in their products. So please check the label to be sure. The pricing is also quite appropriate.   

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LUSH COSMETICS:
The world famous lush is an English brand with its headquarters in Dorset, United Kingdom. I think this brand really needs no introduction, as it is a really famous one. Lush offers a variety of products that include body care, face care, hair care, makeup and perfumes. The brand is famous for being 100% vegetarian,  against animal testing, fair-trade, hand-made and for its naked packaging. But I do feel the pricing is a bit on the higher side. But the products are really worth the pounds.

SUPER DRUG ‘B’— B is for Beautiful:
Humility thy name is Superdrug!!!. I just love love love their products. Superdrug B range includes skin care, makeup, anti-aging, men’s range and also includes make-up accessories. I have used their moisturizers and sunscreens which were really awesome. Not to forget their range of essential oils is also a hit. The makeup range is really wow! as you get really impressive products at a very humble cost. The Superdrug B brand is completely vegan, vegetarian and cruelty-free as the products themselves state. This brand is a leaping-bunny certified one. As per the alcohol just checkout for ethyl alcohol or ethanol.

MONTAGNE JEUNESSE:
The Montagne Jeunesse’s is one famous British brand. I have seen many of their face-masks in the high-street drugstores, but never tried them. Their products include face-masks, hair range, eye&nose range, body range, foot range and men’s range. Have heard that their products are really effective for their ordinary pricing.This brand is vegetarian society certified, leaping bunny verified and PETA certified. Their products are made from organic ingredients and surely stand up to their claims. Alcohol as an ingredient varies in products just check out for that one.

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BENTLEY ORGANIC:
Soaps and shampoos always are at a risk of containing sodium tallowate— an ingredient derived from beef fat or pork fat. Yeww!!! So to be safe one can go for the Bentley Organic range of soaps and shampoos. This is an authentic English brand which offers body care, hair care, baby care and household cleaning products. Their products are vegetarian, vegan(except for the ones containing honey), paraben-free, organic and cruelty-free. Bentley organic is a U.K Soil Association approved brand.

In addition to these English brands, there are other brands as well that produce real good vegetarian and vegan beauty products and are available in the U.K. Ethyl alcohol OR ethanol is the only problematic ingredient to be searched for. Rest, all the above brands offer really effective products at decent prices. No mess of checking for animal fats :-P.

Insha Allah will update halal cosmetic brands soon. Till then see ya!!!. Jazakallah khayr.

Eid Mubarak and a few Post Ramdan tips.

Asalamualaikum! Peace be upon you all and Eid Mubarak in advance to all my Muslim brothers and sisters out there. Allhamdullilah for being blessed with a safe (event-free) and a healthy month of Ramadan. Hope all of you had a hearty chat with the creator, made loads of repentance, asked for innumerable duas and strengthened your bond with your creator. May Allah (swt) accept from all of us. Ameen!

This Eid— let’s make it an exceptional and memorable one. Ramadan is not the only month a Muslim should strive to attain perfection of deen. As Muslims we all should strive to impress the Almighty, until the time comes when we shall return to him. This world is but a temporary and fleeting affair. The real Eid shall be in jannah! Inshallah. And so try, try and try to be a humble slave of the Almighty.

I have transcribed a few tips to adhere to even after the end of the holy month. And so every month of the year shall be a blessed one. Be firm in your conviction to adopt, the good, in life.

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POST RAMADAN  TIPS:
• As clichéd as it sounds, but we better continue with all our righteousness of the month of Ramadan even after it has passed. One never knows how long one shall remain on this earth and has a chance to rectify those inner flaws.

• Forgive and forget about all the bad that people have done to you. I know that’s quite a difficult task to do. But what if Allah says the same to you???. Never ever forget that Allah(swt) shall forgive you in return, InshaAllah.

• Let go of all the detrimental feelings of jealousy and hatred. Never hold grudges in life. In letting go of and battling all those bitter feelings lies the biggest jihad of life.

• Do not be a angry bird. Anger is a wicked feeling that destroys all the good you have done in a matter of seconds. Cool down!!! gulp down anger and say astaghfirullah. This is a practice we all are in dire need of. 😛

• Abandon and crush the feeling of pride. Remind yourself that you are merely one among the 7.4 billion of population that spans this planet. That statistical data is enough to show how insignificant we are. There is none worthy of being proud except Allah(swt).

• Remember and recollect down from your memory lane, that someone special, who inspired you with their qualities. Include that particular trait in your own life. I think there is no person out there who is more inspirational than our beloved Prophet(pbuh).

• Learn to curb the evils of the tongue. That little thing is surely, the root cause of numerous sins. Do not let your tongue take over your brain. Hence do not speak crap that you shall later on rue.

• This year InshaAllah include certain simple sunnahs of the Prophet(pbuh) in your life. Eat, drink, sleep and for sure speak as per the sunnah. You are sure to be astonished at the beauty and benefits of incorporating sunnah in life.

• Last but never the least— Contribute to the deen in some way possible. Learn and teach something good to your fellow beings. It might end up being listed as a sadaqa-e-jariya for you. Allah(swt) loves those who spread the light of knowledge in this world.

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land. Thus the little minutes,
humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages,
of Eternity…
                                                 J.A Carney

So dear! you never know, simple deeds and a modest way of life might lead to palatial homes in Jannah, Inshallah.

And for all of us staring at the dark sky for glimpse of the crescent moon here’s a wonderful piece of writing from a fellow blogger, When is Eid?. Do read it, you shall surely be left teary-eyed.

Eid Mubarak once again… 🙂