Thoughts, Uncategorized

Hijama & My First 1.5 Years as a Muslim

It has been a little under 2 years since I became Muslim, subhan’Allah. I can hardly believe it has already been that long and how much has happened. I am so grateful for what life has been like since then. The only thing I would maybe change would be to revert sooner, but then my life experiences before this stage are just as important to my development as this has been. There was so much I had to process and cleanse out of myself mentally during this time. That’s the thing about personal growth and life change, it’s never really smooth sailing. When you stay in the same place, physically or mentally, everything seems pretty great and sometimes it’s hard to see a reason for why we should change if it will be too much trouble. The more I learned about Islam and the more I adapted my life to my beliefs, the more work on myself I realised needed to get done.

Embracing Islam and diving into this trans-formative journey really brought out a lot of inner demons and muck that I had stuffed way way down over time. I couldn’t understand why I was an emotional wreck, why I felt so anxious and depressed, why I felt so messed up. There was so much dissatisfaction and shame with who I was, who my family was, what my life had been so far. So many insecurities and doubts and a general feeling of being stuck in a deep pit of failure that I was so unsure of how to climb back out. Very similar to deep cleaning your room after who knows how long. It makes you want to give up after the first 30 minutes, doesn’t it?

But I had to get this stuff all cleaned out and dealt with or it would eat me alive. I had to come to peace with so much that I was allowing to be a big deal when it was just part of reality. I had to let go of bad habits and damaging, self-sabotaging behaviour that, until I opened the closet door, had stayed hidden away under the surface always influencing but never showing itself completely. My first real relief from it all came with hijama.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure.” {Saheeh Muslim (5706)}

You know how you hear people raving about something and you think to yourself, “It can’t be that good”, then you try it out for yourself and realise, it really is that good? That was what hijama was like for me. I went into that clinic thinking that I’d just have a fun experience and probably wouldn’t do it again to walking out on air. I’m trying not to sound over-dramatic but I was literally transformed. Burdens and obsessive thoughts and feelings that I hadn’t been able to shake for years had just fallen away completely. I felt so free. I felt so normal and level-headed, that was the best part. This is something I would highly recommend doing for all new Muslims and Muslims who have never tried it. She only did my sunnah points and hormonal point but what a drastically wonderful difference it made.

And it’s lasted. With so much of the big stuff cleared out of my mind, I’m able to finally put in effective work on my relationships with those around me and myself, my deen, my goals, my interests, my health. So many passions have come back to light up my life after being bogged down. I feel like the woman who I’ve been trying to become for so long. It’s a job I have to do everyday, I don’t get to sit back and relax while perfection just rains down on me. I’m still finding things about myself that I will tweak and I’m still having to stay mindful of my thoughts and actions towards myself and others. It’s all a process but I’m finally making some progress. Of course, I have so much more to do and learn but I’m really happy right now with where I find myself.

I believe that if you really want to see transformation. you have to go through a little bit of chaos for a minute. They say it always gets worse before it gets better which I found to be so true. So don’t get discouraged if your first year as a Muslim finds you in the midst of all kinds of trials. Becoming a better person is not in the interest of shaytaan or your old self. You’ll fight yourself, you’ll face obstacles, you’ll feel like a crazy person. You never felt this way before because you weren’t trying to disturb the beast. But you have now and it’s rearing it’s ugly heard for you to get a good look at. Don’t run away from it though because it’s so much simpler to conquer than it seems. You just need to be persistent, stick to your deen, and place all of the control and trust in Allah (SWT). And go get cupping done, seriously.

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Making the Most of Prayer

So, more than likely, you already know the basics of prayer. If not, there is a very helpful WikiHow tutorial that you can follow for the steps to the obligatory prayer. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I finally memorized all of the recitations and two surahs. It was such a relief not to have to glance at the words on my phone and to pray wholeheartedly, completely focused on worshiping Allah (SWT). But, as with everything, there is always room for growth. For example, were you aware that there are sunnah (recommended) and fard (required) rakats to each prayer? That’s right. The 2-4-4-3-4 rakats of the 5 obligatory prayers can be supplemented with extra rakats. It looks like this:

Fajr= 2 sunnah + 2 fard

Dhuhr= 4 sunnah + 4 fard + 2 sunnah

Asr= 4 sunnah + 4 fard

Maghrib= 2 sunnah + 3 fard + 2 sunnah

Isha= 2 sunnah + 4 fard+ 2 sunnah

Now, it’s not required to recite these extra rakats but it is highly recommended and can greatly enhance your prayer. I know that there are times where we may not feel like going the extra mile but think of much time there is in each day and then think of what you spend most of your free time doing. While some people have children and activities which make taking extra time for prayer difficult, I myself have quite a lot of free time and have found that if I can dedicate time to reading or browsing the internet, I can make more time in my life for my iman. Allah (SWT) does so much for us, asking us to willingly volunteer a few more minutes of our 24 hour day is such a small request. Here are some other steps to take to not only ensure that your prayer is valid but also, that you are making the most of this sacred time.

Disclaimer: Some of these may seem obvious to most of you, but these tips are more for my fellow reverts who haven’t grown up around Islam. The practices can be a lot to take in and certainly a lot to remember at one time.

  1. Make sure there are no photos or replicas of living things (humans and animals) in the room or if there are, make sure they are covered or turned around.
  2. Both Dhuhr and Asr are recited silently.
  3. Make sure the area and the clothes you are praying in are as clean as possible.
  4. Keep your focus on the front of your prayer mat to avoid distraction.
  5. Men should be covered from the navel to the ankles but it is customary to also cover the the torso, upper arms, and in some cultures the head. They should also make sure their trousers don’t extend below their ankles. Women should be covered with exceptions for the hands and face, and the clothing should be loose.
  6. After Fajr and Maghrib, recite “Allahumma Ajirni Minan Naar” which translates to “Oh Allah, protect me from hellfire!”
  7. When you go down to the ground, go straight into sujood. When you sit up, make sure you rest one hand flat on each thigh.
  8. You only have to recite the takbeer, Surah al-Fatiha and the following surahs aloud. Everything else can be recited to oneself.
  9. Pray as soon as the adhan is sounded (whether that is from the local masjid or the alarm on your phone) or as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Approaching prayer in a timely and enthusiastic manner not only increases your reward but also allows you to focus fully on worshiping Allah (SWT) and allows you to take your time and pray correctly and make any dua that you need to make.
  10. Take time to incorporate the sunnah prayers before the fard prayers. An easy way to start is with the sunnah prayer before fajr. Since both are made up of only two rakats, it is quick and makes for a positive start to your day. The Prophet (SAW) made sure that no matter what, he prayed the two sunnah rakats before fajr. The surahs to be recited during this sunnah prayer are Surah Al-Ikhlas and Surah Al-Kafirun.
  11. Recite Surah Ibrahim (14: 40-41) after the second tashahhud and durood sharif (As-salaah al-Ibraaheemiyyah).
  12. Make sure that toes are pointing forward when in sujood as well as hands. Keep elbows off of the ground and don’t rest your stomach on your thighs.
  13. It is so helpful to learn the meanings of what you are reciting. I find that this helps me to keep my focus and to pray with a better intention.
  14. Don’t make your intention to pray out loud, it is to be made in your heart so that you do not make a false intention. It is also considered an innovation by some scholars which would make it haram.
  15. Speaking of innovation, if you are unsure of what to do during prayer or forget something don’t make it up as you go. It is permissible and actually mentioned in a Hadith that if one makes a mistake during prayer or loses focus, they can start over.
  16. This article is really helpful if you are someone who often gets distracted or forgets things during prayer.

I hope that these little tips prove to be of some use in performing your daily prayers in the future. They are small details that I feel can be left out when first learning everything. Oftentimes, because they are so used to it, born Muslims may forget to teach you these things or you may not find the advice readily available on the internet because to most, it seems like common sense. Don’t worry or feel pressure to learn all of these at once. Take your time and focus on keeping a pure intention and praying wholeheartedly. Allah (SWT) knows you are learning and trying your best and you will make mistakes, but what matters is how you go about correcting and learning from them. As always, if you have anything to add to the list above or any corrections, please let me know below!

Thank you,

Nahlah

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