Hush little tongue

It looks like I have been waiting for a daily prompt with the word Silence .

Tongue: the fleshy muscular organ in the mouth of a mammal, used for tasting, licking, swallowing and (in humans) articulating speech.

This amazing act of speech, which the tongue performs is one of the greatest boons Allah(swt) has blessed humans with. Speech is exclusive to the species of homo sapiens. No other species of living beings can use their tongues to speak. And humans are sure enough make the extreme use of this act of speech. We blabber on and on. We speak good, we speak bad, we speak sense, we speak nonsense, we speak the truth, we speak lies, we speak with others, we speak about others— all we want is to produce speech. And every word we speak, determines our fate on the day of judgement. A long list of the the useless stuff we spoke in this world will haunt us for eternity.

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Everyday we wake up with a sense of calm. We decide on things to be done through the day. We set out on the journey of life. And then comes the time when the tongue starts swaying in a rhythm, producing unnecessary claptrap. Men and women are equally prone to this disease of speaking unwanted nonsense. However the female species is often more vulnerable to this malady of speaking unwanted words — gossiping, backbiting, slandering, swearing, blabbering, mocking and a host of other sub evils.

Islam is, maybe the only religion, that emphasizes time and again on learning how to remain silent. The Prophet (pbuh) was known for his concise speech. He spoke only on matters that concerned him. He was a gentle speaker, never using vulgar language. He remained silent for long hours, a practice that seems impossible for the present mankind. Most of us might be aware, that this habit of remaining calm and his love for solitude drove our beloved Prophet(pbuh), to meditate in a cave on the Mount Hira.

Learning to speak only when the occasion demands is the need of the present generation. Allah(swt) despises the person who speaks too much. Nothing is as tempting to the human soul as gossiping and making fun of others. Talking without a purpose is a thing of a foolish person. A wise man listens in silence, a fool keeps on speaking. These day speaking without a purpose seems to be the fashion. Using a sharp tongue has become the trend of the generation. Westernization has led to the adopting of a filthy language. Have we Muslims forgotten what our beloved Prophet(pbuh) has advised us on?

Speak a good word, or remain silent…
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)

Islam points out on four poisons of the heart

  • Unnecessary talking
  • Unrestrained glances
  • Too much food
  • Bad company

Useless blabber tops the list of the four poisonous deeds. Why do we speak?. Just to communicate our thoughts, feelings and ideas?. Or maybe to taunt, poke fun of, criticize and ridicule others?. Talking in a hurtful manner with others is a shameful quality. The one who cannot control his tongue, has not control over his thoughts and acts. Learn to control that soft little fleshy part of the mouth, lest it controls you.

The tongue is like a lion.
If you let it loose, it will wound someone.
Ali ibn Abi Talib(R.A)

The tongue is such powerful organ. The speech it produces — can break hearts, sever relations, destroy marriages, bring about quarrels, and finally dump us in the fire of hell. The more one speaks, the more his words loose value. Silence is a practice of the dignified.

Remain silent until you are requested to speak,
for that is better than speaking
until you are requested to become silent…
Ali ibn Abi Talib (R.A)

Etiquette of conversation

  • Speak politely.
  • Speak in a sweet tone.
  • Keep you voice low.
  • Forgo criticizing and ridiculing others.
  • Do not mock others with your speech.
  • Do not indulge in self-praise through your speech.
  • Do not backbite or gossip.
  • Speak in a humble and gentle manner.

Whoever believes in Allah and the last day,
should speak what is  good or remain silent…
Sahih Bukhari

 

 

Go with the flow

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July…

Ever drifting down the stream
Lingering in the golden gleam
Life, what is it but a dream?
~~~ Lewis Carroll

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Life is really but a dream. Sometimes  a fantasy and at other times a nightmare. Can we ever have control over what we dream?. Maybe not!. Similarly we have no control over this beautiful dream called Life. As human beings we tend to plan, re-plan, scheme and operate on a series of thoughts and ideas to achieve what we desire for. But there is always a master planner — the omnipresent Lord of the worlds. His plans are far greater and of an impeccable status. Alas! the only regret is we often tend to brood over what could have been, or what should have been, thereby dwindling our faith in Allah(swt).

Worrying and fretting about impending events is an intrinsic factor of human behavior. But trying to change the flow of life as per our wish, is nothing but foolishness. There are times when we wish certain things to happen as per our planner’s list of things to be done. But nothing goes the right way. There comes a time when we struggle for things to be done the way we want. We pray to Allah(swt), we put the best effort, and try to be patient. But the results do not match our expectations. Then comes the crucial decision of accepting reality. When you have done everything you could do, then trust Allah. He will certainly do his part.

Go with the flow of life. Everything happens for a reason. If you try to go against the flow of life — challenging the omnipresent force, you will be left tried, breathless and trying to sail your boat in a direction where the force of water will leave your little boat topsy-turvy. What you resist always persists. If you place your trust in Allah(swt), surely he will help you sail through the darkest of storms. That faith in Allah is an anchor for the ship of life. Once you resolve to put the toughest decisions of your life in the hands of Allah, you will surely find inner peace. Because trust in your creator can never make life go awry. He is ever ready to listen to you. You just need to call him out. Do you know?

Allah is closer to you
than your jugular vein…
Quran (50:16)

But but, learning to go with the flow of life, does not mean to set a sail in a boat with holes drilled in it, declaring Allah is with me. That is stupidity. First do what you can, by putting the best possible effort. Finally leave the result to Allah(swt). Hope for the best. For Allah always knows and gives what is best for you. There is a wonderful hadith about putting your trust in Allah.

One day Prophet Muhammad(pbuh),
noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel
without tying it, and he asked the Bedouin,
“Why don’t you tie down your camel?”.
The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah”.
The Prophet(pbuh) said, “Tie your camel first,
then put your trust in Allah”.
(Al-Tirmidhi)

So trust Allah, plan your journey, choose a strong enough vessel and set sail for this voyage of life. Let go of your fears and worries. That is when you learn to accept the decisions of the Lord. Remember…

They plan and Allah plans,
And Allah is the best of planners…
Quran 8:30

Essential Hajj tips

I know its quite late for a post on Hajj, as most of the pilgrims might have already left for Mecca. But as the proverb says “Better late than never”. I went to Hajj in the year 2015 — the year of two great tragedies, one being the crane incident and the other being the really tragic Mina stampede. I was still in India when the crane incident took place inside Masjid-al-Haram, so I evaded the incident. But the Mina tragedy, was one which only Allah(swt) saved us from. I remember seeing a few causalities being loaded on stretchers into ambulances. I went on the pilgrimage with my Hubby and parents-in-law. That day — 24th September 2015, we were walking back from Muzdalifah, when we lost sight of our group members and went our own way, searching for our tent. My hubby had a sever case of conjunctivitis, and father-in-law was feeling nauseous. So these two were the main reasons that saved us from the stampede. Because we headed straight back to our tents, to rest for a while. We stoned the devil after our asr salah. The tragedy had taken place by then, everything was quite and calm by then. We stoned the devil very easily, as there were very few pilgrims after asr’ salah.

Heading straight to Jamaraat from Muzdalifah is one serious decision as the crowd is at its peak at that time. I do not know whether it is true or not, but I have read on some unknown site that after collecting stones, and praying Fajr’ salah in Muzdalifah and heading straight to stone the devil was a sunnah of our Prophet(pbuh). But in this age, where lakhs of pilgrims come from various parts of the world, the crowd is ever increasing. So it is better to avoid stoning of the devil straight after leaving Muzdalifah. That is a crucial time prone to stampedes and other serious incidents.

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Important tips for Pilgrims:

  • Put all the important documents (passports, visas, ID cards) in a safe and easy to reach place.
  • Do not pack unnecessary stuff. Keep your luggage light and easy to carry.
  • Remember all the duas by heart. Or take a copy of the duas with you.
  • Better choose a cotton made Ihram. It is quite hot out there in Mecca, and nothing is as comfortable as cotton.
  • Try and purchase cotton hijabs and under-scarves.
  • Under scarves really help hair from sliding out of the hijab. So try to wear one.
  • If wearing a burqa, wear loose fitting clothes inside.
  • Wear modest clothes. Avoid bright colored clothes, specifically shades of orange.
  • Opt for really comfortable sandals, or flip-flops. In Ihram you cannot wear shoes.
  • Carry an extra pair of flip-flops in case of emergencies, like snapped flip-flops.
  • Take fragrance-free soaps whenever visiting the toilet. Lest you borrow a fragrant soap from ignorant pilgrims and end up paying a dum (penalty).
  • Ladies please forgo make-up for the sake of the almighty. You never know what ingredients it has.
  • Vaseline is the best option for sandal blisters, or chapped lips.
  • Please do not dirty the toilets. There is always ample water running from bidet pipes.
  • Females for the sake of humanity, throw used pads in the bins provided outside the toilets.
  • Drink loads of water. Never worry about running to the loo. As half of the water flows out as sweat.
  • Put few ORS (Oral Re-hydration Salts) packets handy. Keep drinking ORS at regular intervals.
  • Take all the necessary medications in stock, a few indispensable ones include — paracetamol, ibuprofen, antibiotics, antiseptic creams (fragrance-free), cough-syrups, anti-histamines (Benadryl is the best), gentamicin,  anti-viral, anti-diarrhea medicines and other ailment related medicines.
  • There are medical units set up near every Maktab (group of tents). If your instinct tells you of being ill, please do not delay visiting the medical unit. They provide free of cost medicines and other necessary medical advice.
  • Eat light but healthy. There are vendors selling fruits outside Mina tents. You can refresh yourself with the best of fruits.
  • Prefer water over soft drinks. Colas and sodas give you instant energy, that droops back to low levels within few minutes.
  • Sleep whenever time permits. You will have not much time to sleep from the day of Arafat.
  • Collect enough and more pebbles. A pebble once fallen down should not be re-used.
  • Do not compete and push through crowds in Jamaraat. If you are not sure, then wait till you think the time is right to stone the devil.
  • Carry white umbrellas whenever you walk. As the scorching heat will make you exhausted.
  • You will have to walk a million steps. Be ready for real great exercise. Hajj is mostly about walking. Walk for the tawaf, walk for the Saeey, walk from Muzdalifah to Mina, walk from the tents to Jamarat. Walk, walk, walk dear pilgrims. Walk for Allah.
  • For the elderly and for those who cannot walk long distances, there is always the option of wheelchair. You can either buy them or rent them.
  • Do not over-stress your body by competing with other pilgrims. Listen to what the body says. Do not over do tawafs. Save energy for the main 5 days of Hajj.
  • Best time to do tawaf is after isha. As the crowd is slightly less.
  • If you cannot reach Hajr-e-aswad, let it be. Do not undertake a quest to reach it and push other pilgrims.
  • Be patient. Hajj is a time where you meet people from all over the world. Some may be really good others maybe annoying. Do not loose your patience. Remember, you are in the land where the greatest of great men (our prophets) have walked.
  • Do not hesitate spending money for taxis, and buses. You will be real exhausted if you walk that long back from Mina to Haram. Remember there is still tawaf-ul-wida to be performed. Save up energy for the end.
  • Taxis are lot better than buses. The hot desert winds and the bus journey will nearly dehydrate you. Taxis are air-conditioned, and help relax a tired body.
  • Always remain with your group or family members.
  • Do not panic if you loose sight of your group. There are volunteers helping pilgrims. All you need is to show them, you ID card which has the neccessary information on it.
  • Do not under-estimate the value of the Mina ID cards provided by the travel agency. That is what helps you reach your tent, once you go in the wrong direction.
  • Help fellow pilgrims, as much as possible. Do good deeds, Allah will be watching you from right above.
  • Have a small copy of the holy Quran, prayer beads and a prayer mat in handy.
  • Do not waste time. This is a once in a life-time opportunity. Ask Allah for all you want. Ask his forgiveness for all the sins you have  committed. Ask for a good life, a life which pleases Allah.

This is a million dollar trip in terms of spirituality. Time once lost will never come back. Live every moment of this trip. You will be in the kingdom of the Lord of the Worlds. Consider yourself lucky enough, as your creator has invited you to celebrate Eid in his own land. And pray for the less fortunate ones. Pray for the disunited Ummah of the Prophet(pbuh). Pray for everyone you remember. All the best, go live the journey of a life-time, soon-to-be Hajjis.

Let go of pride and arrogance

Greek mythology has the most peculiar of legends and folklore to diagnose the sicknesses of the human mind. One such legend is that of Narcissus — the hunter who fell in love with his own reflection, he happened to see in a pond. Thus, the term “Narcissism — excessive admiration for oneself or one’s physical attributes” was coined. Narcissist tendency to a minute degree is a part and parcel of the human nature. Who does not like to look and to feel beautiful, to be known for their intellectual qualities or to be famous for some particular talent?. But if this trivial quality of self-love and self-importance exceeds the prescribed limits, it tends to step up a bit further entering the realms of Obsession, Pride, Ego and Arrogance. 

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Ujub, Kibr and Takkabur are the three words that describe the process of the evolution of self-love, arrogance and pride.
Ujub — basically means vanity and undue pride in oneself.
Kibr  means arrogance and a feeling of superiority.
Takkabur — is acting as per the feelings of kibr. Behaving in a superior or high-handed manner.

Pride and arrogance are the qualities that are detested and loathed by Allah(swt) and also by other fellow humans. Pride makes one to reject the truth and to despise people. The more one feeds the ego, the more proud one becomes.
Iblees is the best example to be mentioned when the topic of arrogance comes up. He was arrogant and denied the command of his Lord, when he was asked to prostrate unto Adam (A.S).

And when we said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”;
so they prostrated, except for Iblees(Satan),
he refused, was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.
~Quran (2:34)

The feeling of Kibr makes one develop a haughty and snobbish character. The person consumed by arrogance tends to look down upon others. Was it not the same thing Iblees did?

Allah said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?”.
Ibless (Satan) said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay”.
~ Quran (7:12)

Human beings are often victims of these vices of arrogance and pride. Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), the man whom all the believers look up to as an example of good character and conduct, was undoubtedly the most modest and humble soul to have walked the earth. We as Muslims are obliged to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet(pbuh).

Looking at the present scenario, a great number of Muslims have hearts and heads that serve as an abode to their ego, pride and arrogance. People are ever ready to blow their own trumpets of beauty, wealth, knowledge and what not. Bragging and boastful talk are things that reveal a weak self-esteem. If one is really worth the praise, one need not applaud for themselves. Pride in one’s own abilities is a despicable quality. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) warned the self-conceited ones of its consequences.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“He who has in his heart, the weight of a mustard seed off pride shall not enter paradise”.
~ Sahih Muslim

The above hadith is proof enough, that the quality of kibr is one which shall prevent a believer from entering jannah. Allah (swt) hates pride and arrogance to such an extent that he destroyed communities, clans and tribes who were arrogant and proud. History has numerous accounts of the downfall of arrogant rulers and tribes crushed under the wrath of Allah. Who can forget the most notorious ruler of Egypt — the Pharaoh, an embodiment of pride, vanity and condescension. And remember the Tribe of Thammud unto whom Allah(swt) sent Prophet Saleh (A.S) to bring them to believe in the creator. Haughty people they were, proud of their construction abilities. Allah (swt) sent a wrath upon the tribe and wiped them away from this earth during a single night of his anger.

History is the best teacher. There are numerous lessons to be learnt from its pages. Pride, arrogance, self-admiration, egoism are all qualities of Satan. This life is temporary — our wealth, beauty, knowledge, abilities are all temporary as per the wish and will of Allah(swt).

  • Arrogance and pride are the qualities of Satan. You adopt these qualities, Satan adopts you for life.
  • Never despise or look down upon your fellow beings. If Allah (swt) despises you, remember no one shall ever respect you.
  • Every quality we possess is because Allah(swt) us endowed us with it. It is just a matter of a second for the creator to snatch away what he has bestowed.
  • Walk humbly, talk softly and live a simple life with not much pomp and splendor.
  • The tongue is the root cause of all evil. It is the one that blurts out a lengthy speech in awe of your abilities and riches. So put it in a check.
  • Learn from life. If you are good, there is always someone better.
  • Do not be proud of your faith and never look down upon anyone in matters of faith and belief in Islam. It is an individual affair between Allah (swt) and his slave.
  • Allah (swt) has created everyone with a different purpose in life. Do not detest anyone based on color, creed, wealth, stature or any other physical feature. And learn not to sing praises of self.
  • Every human is equal in the eyes of the creator. If anything pleases the creator, then it is the quality of humility and kindness.

Has not Allah (swt) forewarned mankind in the holy Quran about staying away from ujub, kibr and takkabur???. So it is best to remain humble slaves unto or creator.

And walk not with arrogance,
Indeed you can never tear the earth apart,
Nor can you surpass the mountains in height.
~ Quran (17:37)

Ending on a lighter note…
Do you know what finally happened to Narcissus?
He could not stop admiring his reflection. He lost his will to live. And died staring at his own reflection in the pond. 😀 .Poor fellow self-love led him to self-destruction. Anything in excess is surely harmful!!!

 

Superstitions and Omens in Islam

Islam is such a straightforward and exemplary religion. It demands nothing more than to declare— that Allah(swt) is the only God and Muhammad(pbuh) is the messenger of Allah(swt). It is the only true and perfect religion, with the best guides for its believers in the holy Quran and the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh). It is Islam that is perfect, but its followers— the Muslims have their share of imperfections. There has nevertheless been a major refinement in the quality of the ‘deen’ of Muslims— in the present generation and era due to the continuous striving of many renowned scholars.

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However, there are times when the idiosyncrasies of the human mind (the Muslim mind), get the better off his faith in the creator. Such are the times, when one is convinced by the widespread malady of superstitions. A malady so worse that it destroys one’s ’emaan’, makes one lose his/her faith in what has been decreed to them and makes one believe in things that are against the fundamentals of Islam.

Many of our fellow Muslims, especially those in the benighted countries of the far east possess a greater tendency to fall prey to this practice of believing in superstitions. On a broader scope what does the term ‘superstition’ really connote to?. “Superstition is a widely held, but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such belief”. Performing any act in accordance with such an irrational belief with the notion of it, having a link to luck and fortune leads to one being convinced by their credulous personality.

This belief in superstitions is no new to Islam. It dates back to the time of the Prophet(pbuh), when the Arabs were so ignorant, as to be convinced by silly omens as the sighting of birds—  mainly that the sight of crows and owls brought them bad luck. Thus the Arabic word ‘Tiyarah’ belief in, and acting as per the bad omens, is a word derived from the root word ‘Tayir’, which means a bird. The Prophet(pbuh) reprimanded those believing in bad omens, and acting as per this belief.

Narrated Abudllah bin Mas’ud:
That the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
“At-Tiyarah is from shirk, and none among us (it influences), except that Allah will remove it with Tawakkul (reliance).
~Al-Tirmidhi 

So the above hadith undoubtedly states that belief in superstition is considered to be Shirk. It is against the very root of Islam, where one is carried away by self-instilled fear and doubt. This is so because, once a person starts believing in omens, he starts to doubt the decree of the almighty. At-tatayyur – a feeling that something bad is going to happen leads one to change his course of action, in order to evade the concept of bad luck brought about by omens. Thereby the person commits shirk, by believing and acting as per the omen.

Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) discouraged belief in bad and evil omens. He however encouraged optimism about a situation. He backed the concept of belief in good omens. It does not necessarily mean to believe in imbecile predictions. The Prophet (pbuh) encouraged Fa’l – meaning a good word and a positive attitude towards any situation.

Narrated Anas ibn Maalik (R.A):
That the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:
There is no adwa’ (transmission of an infectious disease without the permission of Allah, no tiyarah ( belief in bird omens), but I like fa’l.
They said: ‘what is fa’l?’
He said ‘A good word’.
~ Sahih Bukhari 

Believing and passing on the concepts of superstitions, omens and luck is a grave sin. It is as if one is committing shirk and compelling the others(to those whom he has passed on the knowledge to) to be a part of shirk. Just remember.

  • There are no good days and no bad days. (Wednesday is a good day)
  • There are no good or bad months. (be it the month of Shawwal or Rajab or the month of Safar).
  • You can get married in the month of Shawwal. Do you know that the Prophet(pbuh) married Aisha’h (R.A) in the month of Shawwal. There’s is an exemplary marriage for the entire ummah.
  • Black cats pose no threat to humanity. It is just the color of the poor fellow. And  the cat was the favorite pet of the Prophet (pbuh).
  • Solar and lunar eclipses are awe inspiring events, that show the power of Allah(swt). They cannot re-write your fate or destiny.
  • Cut your nails, and broom the entire house or street after magreeb. You will remain unharmed.
  • Sandals turned upside down do not cause a crisis in your life. But it points out your uncouth habits.
  • Be it the number 786 or the number 13, it has nothing to do with change in your fate.
  • Sneezing is just an involuntary expulsion of air from the nose. Be calm if a person sneezes during an important act. Fear not the sneeze, fear Allah(swt).
  • Twitching of the eyelids is due to involuntary spasms. Nothing bad or good is going to happen based on the twitch. If the twitch continues, please visit an opthamologist.
  • Moles are formed due to excessive melanin deposit. They do not decide your luck based on their position.
  • You will not be possessed by demons if you pluck flowers from a tree after dusk. First fight against your inner demons.
    (Tried just to name a few among the sea of superstitions prevalent in the Muslim community.)

Always think of the fact that, no calamity shall befall a human being without the wish and will of Allah(swt). Was it not mentioned in the holy Quran

Say: “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us. He is our protector and on Allah let the believers put their trust”.
~Quran 9:51

So the believers are those who put their complete faith in the Almighty, and pay no heed to the stupid omens and superstitious practices. Even if one says— this is what our ancestors and elders have prescribed and followed, just remember the ‘Tawheed’ – belief in oneness of Allah(pbuh). Is it not more important for us to follow that which has been prescribed by the Lord unto whom we are slaves?.

 

Say “Cheese”!!!

Who does not love cheese???. The man who never enjoyed life, I believe :lol:. A few of my favorite foods involve cheese and pasta. My thoughts fly back to a tasty piece of lasagna I had at a potluck party. :-P. So one might be thinking what is the topic of cheese doing in the ‘Halal Food’ section. Please do check out. Is your cheese halal???

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Say cheese!!! If it is halal 😦

Yes cheese can sometimes be haram. This world is so suspicious that, at times one cannot even trust himself, leave alone cheese. I always was of the view that dairy items are spared from being quizzed about their halal status. Then came a time when I picked up some Cheddar from a local grocery story, and my hubby eyed the ingredients and declared that the cheddar was non-halal. And the reason???. It had animal-rennet.

What is meant by rennet???
Google defines rennet as “the curdled milk from the stomach of the unweaned calf, containing rennin and used for curdling milk in cheese production”. Rennet is a primary ingredient in cheese, as it helps in separating milk into solid curds and the liquid whey.

From where is rennet extracted???
Rennet is most commonly extracted from the fourth stomach of an unweaned calf. Most of the times the calves are slaughtered for veal (the flesh of young calve). And during the process of slaughter, rennet is also extracted from the stomach, to be used in the task of cheese making. In some cases rennet is also extracted from the stomach of lambs and kids.

Classification of halal and haram rennet:
Rennet is not a haram ingredient in itself. If it is obtained from the stomach of calves and lambs that have been slaughtered as per the Islamic law of halal slaughtering then there is no doubt that the rennet extracted from the animal is halal. But if one is not sure about the validity of the slaughter of the animal, then it is best to avoid the by-products of the slaughtered animal.

Alternatives to animal rennet:
The good news for cheese lovers— there is always the alternative of vegetable rennet. This type of rennet is obtained from plants that have coagulation properties— a few examples include ground ivy, nettles, thistles and mallow. Most of the times it is vegetable rennet that is used in the production of cheeses that demand to be met by the halal and kosher food guidelines.

Besides direct plant sources, rennet is also extracted from microbial sources of mold. The rennet extracted from this source is also classified under the vegetarian section. One main drawback of microbial rennet is that it gives a bitter taste to the cheese.

To overcome the defects of animal and microbial rennet, a new variety of genetically engineered rennet is often used as a replacement. In this method rennet genes derived from animals are injected into plant and microbial sources to produce the substance. This type of rennet is classified as halal, kosher and vegetarian only if it is extracted from non-animal sources that have been genetically engineered.

Finally, after much scrutiny  I have found a few brands in London that produce cheese from non-animal rennet. To name a few— B J cheeses, tesco, asda, all produce non-animal rennet sourced cheeses. The best thing to do is to assure one’s self by buying cheese that specifically states that the rennet is from non-animal source, or an even easier method is to look out for the for vegetarian symbol. Rest, Allah should guide us.


References: Wikipedia

Testing times…

Human nature is so predictable in times of pain or sorrow. The moment something goes awry, we start to whine and throw tantrums on our loved ones, or at a more intimate level we start throwing tantrums at our creator. That is all the more, an easy thing to do— as you know Allah(swt) cannot slap you right away. I have ascertained the fact that, we humans do not thank our Lord for the good in our lives as often as we huff out our anger at him. Then, are we really thanking him for the pleasurable things in life???.

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In life, we sometimes want certain things to happen so desperately, and when our plans turn out in the opposite direction, we humans are like— “what wrong did I do— it didn’t go my way?”. What if our conscience speaks —  “For all the things you are blessed with, in life— what good did you do, to achieve them?”. Does not guilt overcome the feeling of anger?. Are we really so good that Allah gave us such pleasurable lives? Allhamdullilah!!!. Then how can we be angry at him?. How silly and petty are our cries and complains compared to what our Muslim brothers and sisters in the war-torn countries are faced with.

Even at the lower kindergarten level a kid needs to go through an examination to reach the upper kindergarten level. This is but life— and tests are inevitable. These are the tests that shall determine our position in jannah. Let us not allow our emaan to dwindle with every trivial or harsh test of  life. Uphold your trust and maintain firm conviction that Allah shall never let you down. Have faith that the Almighty’s plans are way better than your’s. It’s hard at times to reassure yourself— but believe me, it’s worth the challenge. A challenge to think what you want to, a challenge to mould your thoughts as per your wish, a challenge to let not your  faith in Allah plummet at any cost. Always do remember…

Allah gives the hardest battles,
to his strongest soldiers…

 

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)