Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Her name is a letter different from the great Persian poet, and her magic too lies in stringing poems that touch hearts.

Rupi Kaur. The first time I heard about her was through this empowering piece of writing I had the pleasure of stumbling upon on Instagram.


Milk & Honey is a book of poems that addresses abuse, feminism, love & loss. It’s divided into 4 sections – hurting, loving, breaking, healing. Her ability to turn hurt into honeyed words which hint at these universal themes has gained her legions of fans – young and old – across the globe.

Her style of writing is fragmented and rule-breaking – brief, no capital letters (which lends it a certain soft, quiet way of delivering the message), and a deliberate lack of punctuation. I’d classify her work as part of this new wave, contemporary, minimal, ‘tumblr’ poetry you see popping up these days that you either hate or love. Think Lang Leav, Nayyirah Waheed, Nikita Gill, and the likes.

There were a few poems that wow-ed me, some I bookmarked, and some others that were pretty underwhelming I think. But I’d still recommend it as the sort of good, quick read you grab to accompany you on your daily commute, or whenever you need to take a break from all the noise and complexities of life, and have someone tell you the kind of uplifting words you need to hear to make you feel better.

I’ll leave you with one of the poems I have bookmarked. Get a copy for yourselves if Rupi’s poetry is your cup of milk & honey.


Rupi Kaur
Title: Milk & Honey
Published: 2014
Format: Paperback

Me Migrant by Md Mukul Hossine


Me migrant
Live overseas
Thousand thousand miles away

Me migrant
Beyond borders
Mislaying smiles
Dawn to dusk then dawn again

Found this gem nestled amidst rows of books by familiar local writers at the Singapore Literature Book Fair held at Booktique just a couple of weeks ago. Me Migrant is a book of poems that center around the theme of loneliness, longing, and displacement. Md Mukul Hossine, a Bangladeshi migrant worker in Singapore, has been writing poetry since he was 12. His debut book of poems published by Ethos Books is a promising move in the relatively nascent field of migrant worker poetry. What I like about his writing is his ability to convey raw emotions of his struggles of leaving home and living abroad, reflected in his simple, unpretentious words, imbued within it an apparent earnestness and hope. The piece below, titled The Minaret of Sorrow, is one of my many favourites from this book.

Breaking the minaret of sorrow
Pouring a rain of ache on my heart
My drenched heart.
At the door of unsheltered frustration
The passionate soul steadily
Burns like a lamp’s flame.
But I fear it will extinguish!

Leaving behind sorrows in the darkness of the night
A procession of fireflies in every neighbourhood.
A revelry of chirping crickets.
Are they laughing out of happiness
Or crying out of sadness?

Like me?

Like birds fluttering at daybreak,
A lightning of despair comes down as snow.
Chattering, shivering, unclad,
I am alone.
I must travel this dark and directionless path.

At the port of despair I am the only traveller
I do not know where it will lead me. 

I’m excited to see new voices emerging in the local literary scene. This is a necessary step in the direction towards inclusiveness; using poetry to open up conversations and take further initiatives to improve the reality of someone underappreciated, othered, and who’s humbly eking out a living by building us homes, while being oceans away from their own.

Author: Md Mukul Hossine
Transcreated by: Cyril Wong
Translated by: Fariha Imran & Farouk Ahammed
Title: Me Migrant
Published: 2016
Pages: 68 pages
Format: Paperback

The Istanbul Intrigue by Melati Lum

When Melati Lum reached out to me on IG, I fangirled a little.

OK I lied – I couldn’t sleep for the night, wildly anticipating her book to arrive on the shores of Singapore! This Australian-based author (and Jill of all Trades), puts a refreshing twist to the oft-portrayed cool-headed, broodingly pensive, crime-busting detective, enigmatic Sherlock with an annoyingly nonchalant demeanour. See, not only is the main character of her book a female, but a young, curious, independent, kick-ass Muslim one at that! Think Nancy Drew, with a hijab on. She’s more than just meets the eye.

In The Istanbul Intrigue,  Ayesha Dean goes on an adventure with her two close friends, Jessica and Sarah, to Istanbul. When she discovered a mysterious note in a book she found at an old bookshop at the bustling Grand Bazaar, she began on a journey to find for clues and get help to decipher the message in the note. She was more determined than ever to put the missing pieces of the puzzle together. It’s a thrilling journey of staying undercover from the bad guys, gobbling up yummy kebabs for lunch, whilst exploring the beauty of Istanbul’s rich culture and history.

I personally think more impressionable, Muslim (or non) pre-teens should follow Ayesha Dean’s adventures because of its relatable content and accessible language, and The Istanbul Intrigue is a good place to start! A light, quick, page-turning read which didn’t take me more than a day to complete.

Growing up reading books largely with a western bias (Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, etc.), while there is nothing inherently wrong with it, inevitably shapes our worldview in a certain manner. I’m glad there is a rising interest amongst youths in local literature, and literature from other parts of the world these days. Being exposed to alternative narratives is always more encouraged than purely consuming eurocentric texts which have been conveniently pervading our literature platter since we learnt how to read. The novelty of this novel brings to light the modern and interesting take on this relatively untapped YA literature segment, which is definitely something I am greatly inspired by! I’m confident Ayesha Dean will pave the way for a generation of more Ayeshas – a young lady, firm in faith with her own idiosyncrasies, who’s always up for an adrenaline rush of adventures…

Largely YA with a bit of chick lit, a dash of mystery, a sprinkle of history, travel, and a hijabi heroine leading the way… and you have The Istanbul Intrigue in a nutshell. You can get a copy right over here :)

A Letter to My Fifteen-Year Old Self

Dear you,

I know there are days when you doubt yourself. Days when you wished you were prettier, smarter, funnier. When you’re exhausted from everyone’s expectations. Listen: you are enough. Shut out your doubts. Learn to build your confidence and quieten them down. You are the most intelligent, beautiful, hilarious, never-to-be-repeated person the world will ever know. Trust me, you’ll grow up to love yourself the most. Because you’ll learn that you are the only person who will dive with you in your oceans of solitude. You will discover that the only company you will have is the divine One that moves along with you. You will feel lost, but keep going, and you will be found. Along the way, you will meet people who won’t recognize your value and treat you like you’re dirt. I’m telling you that you’re diamond. You’re rock, solid, gold. They simply never dug deep enough to see how much you’re worth. You hold a world within you, girl. Never let anyone tell you you’re too heavy to be held. They’re not strong enough to handle you well. I know there are days when you look into the mirror and hate how your nose looks when you laugh. When you cried so hard after failing your maths test by half a mark. When you get puzzled seeing friends flocking towards relationships. You sit there and wonder what does all of these mean? What am I missing? What is this “happiness” that everyone’s chasing? Don’t believe the hype. Don’t exchange your values for things that aren’t worth your being.

Let me tell you that life doesn’t get easier, but trust me that you will get stronger. You will face sorrow and failures ahead of you, but along the way, you will also meet their siblings, joy and victory. Don’t worry, they come in pairs.

And listen, because I’ve been exactly where you are. When your friend looks at you weird because you wear the hijab, remember that He looks at you with love. When you excuse yourself to pray in between conversations, pray that they will join you too one day. When your friends tell you to do things that go against your morals, stand up for your rights. You are a warrior with a foresight. You know this journey will only be a moment, so make it a moment of fight, for eternal paradise. Who cares if you stumble, what’s important is this: you try, and try, and try. Keep trying. Keep moving on this path. Don’t stall, don’t quit, don’t lose your focus. Don’t waste your youth on things you’ll regret. You are special, you are wonderful. You are the kind of person that Allah loves.

So keep being that.

How to Hold an Unpopular Opinion by Joshua Becker

You might have already known by now how much I adore Joshua Becker’s articles from The minimalist view and lifestyle he advocates resonates a lot with the Islamic perspective of materialistic detachment, focusing on the inner development. Because, as we already know, the most important things in life really aren’t things.

This is one of the articles which I find extremely relevant because in an age where popular opinion is oft-seen as right, it is important to note that they aren’t always mutually exclusive. Many popular opinions these days do not typically stand for what’s right. There are plenty of much celebrated views or goals that go against our morals or beliefs. I believe it is crucial to stand with your own opinion, the one that you strongly believe in due to your religious/ social/ cultural inclinations, and hold on to it, especially in times where the media, or friends around you, might be more influential and overpower in number.

This is a helpful piece by Joshua Becker, detailing some ways on how to hold your own opinion, no matter how unpopular it is in the eyes of the crowd.

There are no unanimous opinions. Beliefs held by 100% of the population are not called opinions, they are called facts. And other than the most elementary truths (2+2=4, the sky is blue), 100% belief in anything is becoming increasingly rare.

Change, by definition, requires us to embrace a new (or contrary) opinion. Whether we are seeking to change ourselves or the world around us, there is no transformation without the introduction of a new idea. And new ideas are almost always met with confrontation on some level.

For me, this occurred just hours after making the decision to remove our unneeded possessions and pursue minimalism. I made a phone call to my mom to tell her the news. She was less than excited. She had plenty of preconceived notions about minimalism—at one point even wondering aloud how we were going to eat if we stopped going to the grocery store.

We laugh about it now, but in the moment, it was significant. Only hours into my journey, I was forced to decide if I would succumb to the pressure of popular opinion or if I would pursue what my heart was telling me to be true.

To be fair, years later, I have learned to present minimalism differently and cut off many of the most common objections before they even surface. Nowadays, rare is the individual who argues vehemently against my understanding and case for minimalism. I have learned to promote the positives of minimalism rather than the negatives of consumerism.

However, on a macro-level, the objections refuse to slow. The stakes are just too high. There are businesses and economies and governments and personal livelihoods based on the pursuit of consumption and mass production. The introduction of any idea that seeks to tear it all down will be met with confrontation. It will require us to stand firm against the sway of popular opinion.

How then, in the case of pursuing simplicity, do we hold an unpopular opinion? How do we stand firm against the sway of popular opinion in this regard or any other? Whether we are in conversation with family and friends, attempting to live in a countercultural manner, or alone battling our own thoughts, here are some helpful principles to remember.

How to Hold an Unpopular Opinion

1. Celebrate your uniqueness. Your life was never meant to be lived like everyone else. You don’t look the same, you don’t sound the same, and your deepest-held values are unique. Throwing that away just to conform to popular opinion is one of the cruelest things you can ever do. And it will always prevent you from living your fullest life.

2. Remember popularity and accuracy are not the same. As the proverb goes, “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.” Our desire should be to discover and hold the right opinions, not just the prevailing ones.

3. Count the benefits. Discover, remember, and focus on the benefits of your belief structure. Be able to quickly articulate to yourself and others why you hold the position that you do by embracing the positives. In the case of minimalism, whenever I explain my countercultural decision to others, I always highlight the benefits of owning less. It helps makes a stronger case for the lifestyle in both my mind and theirs.

4. Find strength in community. Unpopular is not the same as alone. From politics to religion to world views, there is no shortage of opinions available in our world. And almost certainly, while unpopular, there are others who believe the same as you. Find them. And discover greater resolve because of it.

5. Understand the counterarguments. Thinking critically and asking questions go hand in hand. Know your opinion, but work hard to understand the case and arguments against it. If you are right, you have nothing to fear. If you are wrong, you have everything to gain.

6. Hold opinions humbly. When discussing opinions of any kind, exercise humility with others and with yourself. We live our lives with certain assumptions and biases based on experiences. Sometimes these experiences lead us to truth, but other times they lead us away from it. Find the proper balance of humility and fierce resolve in all of your opinions.

7. Present your case boldly. I think owning less is a better way to live. Because of this opinion, I feel a responsibility to tell others and present the case for it whenever possible. Inviting others to a better way of life is an act of love. We must see it as such and stand firm in the face of opposition. This obligation remains true whether we are speaking of minimalism or countless other unpopular opinions.

Your life is valuable. It is the greatest asset you own. And it holds potential for great things.

Don’t slip into mediocrity by living your life based solely on popular opinion.

Understanding the Whys & Hows of Supplication

I was bummed when I had to miss out on the 3-day Fiqh of Du’a talk by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni… until my beautiful, selfless friend shared with me notes she took down from the talk! The takeaways have been so beneficial to me, so I’m putting it up here for you guys to read. May it be of immense benefit to you too, and may we put into practise this knowledge we have learnt. Please also make du’a for my friend, Nurul Jannah, for sharing with us all what we’ve mostly missed.

Notes from Fiqh of Du’a by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni

Du’a (supplication) is not so much as getting what you want or what you asked for, rather it is about the du’a itself, which signifies your connection to Allah and dependence upon Him. Umar al-Khattab (ra) said, my concern is not the answer to my prayer, but my utmost concern is whether I can make a good du’a or not (i.e. whether my connection to Allah is strong or not). A reminder to myself, what is the first thing you turn to when you face a problem? Is it du’a? Is the first thing that comes out of your mouth, “O Allah…”?

Who is the person who turned to Allah and Allah let him down? (No one!)

A dialogue between the righteous followers (tabi’een):

“Those who knock on the door (through du’a), soon the door will be opened for him.”

“Bless you, so-and-so! Who told you the door was ever closed?” – Rabi’atul Adawiyyah

During the Shaykh’s youth, they would identify a Muslim person as practising or not by two qualities:

(1) Whether they prayed in the masjid,

(2) Whether they did the daily dhikr (rememberance of Allah).

The companions would hold firmly onto du’a and adhkar (plural of dhikr). The Prophet S.A.W would teach his companions a du’a and ask them to memorise it as they would memorize the Qur’an.

“Since the Prophet S.A.W taught me a supplication I never missed it.” – Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra).

The Prophet S.A.W said, whoever reads ayatul Qursi after every obligatory prayer, there is nothing between him and paradise except death (Nasa’i, sahih). Ibn Taimiyah, when he heard this at around ten years old, never missed reciting it every since. Ibn Taimiyah also would engage in dhikr from fajr til mid-day, when asked about it he responded, “This dhikr is like my food. How would you go to work without eating? Your body will be weak. Just the same, the heart will be weak if it is not nourished with dhikr.”

Saying “Subhanallahil azeem wa bihamdih” plants you a tree in paradise. When Imam Nawawi learnt this he said, “We have missed so many opportunities to plant trees!” The people who came after him said, “We missed more opportunities than an-Nawawi.” Last friday, who made du’a during the last hour of it? Who read surat al-Kahf? Who made abundant shalawaat upon the Prophet S.A.W? Who took advantage of it?

Two men who came to the Prophet S.A.W and one of them said, “Who is the best man, O Muhammad?” The Prophet S.A.W said, “One who has a long life filled with good deeds.” The other man said, “Indeed, the laws of Islam are too many for us, so give us something comprehensive we can hold on to.” The Prophet said, “Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah the Exalted.” (Musnad Ahmad, sahih).

“There is nothing more dear to Allah than a servant making du’a to Him.” – The Prophet S.A.W in Sunan at-Tirmidhi.

The benefits of dhikr and du’a in the life of a Muslim

The connection between us and Allah is two-way: from Allah to us through the Qur’an, and from us to Allah through dhikr and du’a. If one side is missing, the entire connection falls apart.

The Prophet S.A.W said, “Du’a is the essence of ibadah (worship)” (Tirmidhi, Ahmad). He also said, “The mufarridun will be ahead of everyone else on the Day of Judgement.” The asked, and who are the mufarridun, ya Rasulullah?” “They are the males and females who remember Allah a lot.” (Muslim)

  1. Dhikr brings about tranquility and serenity within you; it strengthens your heart, such that you will fear none but Allah. (Qur’an 13:28)
  2. Dhikr is a form of protection from syaitan (Quran 7:200) The messenger of Allah S.A.W said, “Do not make your houses like graves, for the syaitan runs away from a house in which Surat al-Baqarah is recited.” (Muslim)
  3. Dhikr and du’a brings you success in this life and the hereafter (Qur’an 62:10). Such success can come through the clarity of mind and heart. Ibn Taimiyah through remembrance of Allah was able to accomplish more (wrote books of knowledge etc) with less effort.
  4. Dhikr is a testimony against hypocrisy. (Qur’an 9:67)
  5. Dhikr brings harmony and strengthens social ties (eg. spreading salaam – prayer for peace upon others and praying for someone who sneezes, and vice versa)


Who should you make du’a for other than yourself?

  1. Parents (Al-Isra’ 17:23-24 du’a for parents in the Qur’an)

    The Prophet S.A.W said, “When the son of Adam dies, his deeds come to an end apart from three: sadaqah jaariyah (ongoing charity); beneficial knowledge; or a righteous son who will make du’a for him.” (Sahih Muslim). A sign of your righteousness is that you pray for your parents when they’ve passed away. And it is not easy except for those who make du’a for their parents while their parents are alive.

  2. Family members (Al-Furqan 25:74 du’a for spouse & offspring)

    The Messenger of Allah S.A.W said, “Three supplications are answered without doubt: the supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller and the supplication of the parent for his son.” (Tirmidhi)

  3. Your friends and those who benefited you and did good to you in your life

    The Prophet S.A.W. said, “If good is done to someone and then they say ‘jazakallahu khairan’ to the one who did good, they have indeed praised them well.” (Tirmidhi). For a whole year, Imam Abu Hanifah never missed making du’a for his teacher. Abu Darda’ (ra) would make du’a for 70 people by name in his witr prayer. “I don’t know how you claim someone to be your sister/brother in Islam and yet not make du’a for them. – Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal (some narrations said he would pray for 100 people by name every day).You do not know how a du’a can benefit another or come back to you. A man whose father had passed away saw his father in a dream in a good state (happy & well-dressed/ fed) and asked, oh father what were those deeds that led you to such a good state? The father replied, no but it through the du’a of this man and the father mentioned his name. The man woke up and asked around for this man, it was neither family nor friend. When he asked in a congregation a man later came and said, I am that man. He never knew the other person’s father. But when he prayed jenazah on father that day, he said, “Oh Allah, this man is entering Your world, so be generous to him. If he were to come to my house, I would be generous to him. Oh Allah, He is your guest now so be generous to him.”

  4. Praying for all Muslims and asking forgiveness for them (Muhammad 47:19)

    The Messenger of Allah S.A.W. said, “Whoever asked forgiveness for the believing men and women, Allah will give such person hanasah (reward) for each believing men and women.” (Tabarani in Mu’jam’il Kabir). Imagine, more than a billion believers, more than a billion rewards! Making du’a for the believers is indeed the sunnah of the Prophets; Prophet Nuh, Ibrahim, Muhamas (a.s.).

  5. Praying for your country and its leaders

    If now Allah tells you, you have one request and I will grant you, Al-Fudayl ibn Iyad said he would ask Allah to guide the leader. Ibn Mubarak said regarding teader, this, only Al-Fudayl would say this (how selfless he is, naturally most people would make du’a for themselves to enter paradise and such). This is because when you pray for the leader, the ummah is guided (through the leader). Pray for their guidance (even for non-Muslim leaders – pray that Allah guides their actions).It is permissible to make du’a for non-Muslim’s guidance while they are alive, but it is not permissible to make du’a for them when they have passed away (do not make du’a for or against them). Rather one can pray for their family members and give them his/her condolences. “To Allah belongs what He takes and what He gives, and when He takes He takes in a perfect manner so be patient.” (Variation of a hadith in Bukhari and Muslim).Allah ordained du’a to request for good things to happen and anything else. So every time we make a du’a for something bad to happen or for something that incurs the wrath of Allah, it goes against the purpose of du’a (Ibn Qayyim). One of the worst things is to make du’a against oneself (e.g. by saying “I wish I was dead.”) The person who you pray against is one of two: the transgressor or the victim. It is permissible to pray against a transgressor in the area where he transgresses. Still, forgiving and praying for their guidance and forgiveness is better.The Prophet S.A.W. said, “When a person curses somebody or something, the curse ates are goes up to the heaven and the gates of the heaven are closed. Then it comes down to earth and its gates are closed. Then it turns right and left, and if it does not find an entrance to go anywhere, it returns to the person or thing that was cursed if he or it deserves to be cursed, otherwise it returns to the person who uttered it.” (Abu Dawood) i.e. if someone prays against a victim, the du’a goes back to them.Cursing a believer by name is NOT allowed. Allah’s Messenger S.A.W. said, “Cursing a believer is like murdering him.”


The etiquette of dhikr & du’a

(a) It must be done with sincerity (Qur’an 40:65) and according to the sunnah of the Prophet S.A.W.; the closer you follow the sunnah, the more likely your du’a will be accepted.

(b) It is recommended for the person to be in a state of wudhu’ and to purify the tongue with the siwak or any other method that can make the mouth smell good as the angels come close to a person who is making du’a.

(c) It is recommended to face the qiblah.

(d) Choose the times, the location and the situation where the du’a and dhikr is most likely to be answered – From the sunnah, e.g. on Friday when the imam sits during the khutbah or at its last hour, in Ramadhan, in the masjid, in Makkah, when it’s raining or while travelling, etc.

(e) Have khushu’ while making dhikr and du’a – “If our istighfar needs istighfar, then we are in big trouble.” i.e. When we are seeking forgiveness from Allah we do so hastily or without paying any attention to our words, that is not how we would apologize to anyone so how can we do that to Allah?

(f) Lower the voice – Do not make du’a or dhikr silently (in your mind) you should still be able to hear yourself but what is meant is supplicating softly as in Qur’an 7:205

(g) Make dhikr individually or alone, away from people – The Prophet S.A.W. said that Allah said, “I am just as My slave believes e Mto be and I am with him when he remembers Me. So if he remembers Me within himself, I too will remember him within Myself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

(h) One should perform a good deed prior to making the du’a e.g. after reading the Qur’an, close to breaking fast is a time where du’a is accepted for those who fast, at the end of prayer i.e in sujood and after the tashahhud; some people make a lot of du’a after the prayer but not during the solah itself, making du’a in solah is better! Also, charity and tawbah are among the best deeds to offer prior to making du’a (and Qur’an 94:7-8)

(i) Praise Allah and convey prayer (salawat) upon the Prophet S.A.W. in the beginning and end of du’a.

(k) Making du’a with conviction. The Prophet S.A.W. said, “Let not any of you say, ‘O Allah have mercy on me if You will, O Allah have mercy on me if You will.’ Let him be resolute in the matter, whilst knowing that no one can compel Allah to do anything.” (Bukhari and Muslim). Being resolute meaning say, ‘O Allah forgive me’ knowing that Allah is Most Forgiving and will forgive. This is also why when someone makes du’a for you or says a du’a we should say ameen instead of insyaallah, because ameen means “Oh Allah accept” or “Oh Allah give me the same”, while insyaallah which means “if Allah wills” should be said with regards to the future and such.

(l) Make an encompassing, general du’a where possible.

(m) Mention the Names of Allah and His Attributes that are suitable to the request or du’a that you are making e.g. when asking Allah for knowledge make du’a to Al-Aleem the Most Knowledgeable, Al-Fattah the Opener to the doors of knowledge and ease and Al-Hakeem the Wise.

(n) Raise both hands during du’a. There are more than 100 narrations that the Prophet S.A.W. raised his hands in prayer. His hands were always touching each other (not apart). However it is not reported that the Prophet S.A.W. wiped his face after supplicating, rather he raised his hands in supplication then put them down.

The best dhikr is the Qur’an

It is never too late to learn the Qur’an. Ibn Abbas was teaching Qur’an as a teenager and amongst his students were the elderly like Abdur Rahman Ibn Auf, one of the first ten to embrace Islam. Your struggle with learning (to read/ understand/ memorize) the Qur’an doubles your reward.

Another important thing to note is that at the end of the day, it is not about the amount of Qur’an one memorized but how much of it is loved, honoured, and lived by. One of the companions of the Prophet S.A.W. would recite Surat al-Ikhlas in every prayer and when asked why, the man said because I love surat al-Ikhlas very much. This was related to the Prophet S.A.W., who said, tell him that Allah loves him too.

All the verses of the Qur’an are equal in their perfection, as they come from a Perfect Source, but the verses of the Qur’an are not all equal in virtue, i.e. from the perspective of subject, verses describing Allah hold more virtue than verses describing the earth. In authentic narrations some surahs have been mentioned their virtues or recommended to recite regularly such as Al-Fatihah (mother of the Qur’an and the best surah, Hadith Bukhari) and Surat Al-Baqarah and ayatul Qursi, Surat al-Ikhlas (1/3 of the Qur’an, Bukhari), Surat al-Imran, al-Mulk.

If you read 10 verses of the Qur’an everyday (night), you will not be recorded amongst the heedless (ghafileen). If you read 100 verses, you will be amongst the righteous (qaniteen). The Messenger of Allah S.A.W. said, “Whoever recites ten verses at night will not be recorded as one of the heedless.” (Sahih according to al-Albaani). The Messenger of Allah S.A.W. also said, “Whoever prayers qiyaam reciting ten verses will not be recorded as one of the heedless. Whoever prays qiyaam reciting one hundred verses will be recorded as one of the devout. Whoever prays qiyaam reciting one thousand verses will be recorded as one of those who collected a great deal of reward.” Classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Sahih Abi Dawood (1264).

So let’s try to make the Qur’an a habit, insyaallah.

The Best Dhikr after the Qur’an

The Prophet S.A.W. said the most beloved words to Allah are four: subhanallah, wa alhamdulillah, wa la ilaha illAllah, wa Allahu akbar (Muslim).

The Prophet S.A.W. said that these words are more beloved to Allah than anything the sun will reach (Muslim) i.e. anything the world has to offer.

World leaders never for a summit except for something that is really important. So imagine, a summit between the two great leaders of the ummah, our Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. and Prophet Ibraheem (as), in the highest of Jannah during Rasulullah S.A.W.’s isra’ and mi’raj. Prophet Ibraheem (as) said, ‘O Muhammad, tell your ummah tah Jannah, a huge portion of it is empty, so you plant therein with seedlings and trees and foliage, and the deeds that you plant in paradise with are subhanallah, walhamdulillah, wa la ilaha illAllah, wa Allahu akbar. And the summit ended (Ibraheem met with the Prophet just to tell him that).

The echo of your voice saying these four tasbeeh will be heard around the throne of Allah. So heavy in your scale on the Day of Judgement are five things: the four tasbeeh, and number five, a child dies on you while you are still alive and you are patient.


This Life is Temporary

I’ve been thinking about what Muhammad Ali said during one of his interviews. A boy asked him what he’d do after he retires from boxing. He did a breakdown of the years – most of the hours we have we’d spend it on sleeping, schooling, commuting, so whatever time we have left, that’s the amount of years we get to really live. Makes us realize just how short that is.

I have always thought of it this way: Most of us are already in our twenties, so if we were to live another lifetime, basically multiplying by two, you’d already be about half a century old. If we can still remember our childhood like it was just yesterday, then surely when we reach that stage, we’d think that our youth was just a few years ago. Anyway, who’s to guarantee that we’d still be alive by then? Like he said, some of us are gonna die in 20 years time, some in 30 years, 5, 10, 50, all these numbers, who knows? Only He does. We musn’t withold our obligations as a Muslim til we’re older because nobody guarantees us old age. So many of those who have left us are young people. Death knows no age & escapes no one. Think about it, is it worth disobeying Him for this brief period of time in exchange for eternal pain? Or live this life obeying Him and be rewarded with eternal bliss?

This life is temporary. How scary yet comforting is this word? That means all the happiness in this world won’t last, but so does all the sorrow and calamity you see in every corner of this earth. Everything in this life will perish including ourselves… except God. So it only makes sense when Muhammad Ali answered the boy’s question in a nutshell, “[I’m gonna] get ready to meet God.

What I Think About When I Think About Running

I think a lot when I run. Second to showering, I am utterly convinced that running is the time when the most random, and sometimes most interesting thoughts will come to mind.

Recently, I thought about how similar running was to life, in seeking truth. If you have read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, you’ll know that he parallels much of this activity to that of writing a book. And by that extension, life too. More specifically, anything which we have set goals for in life.

The thing about any endeavour is that the journey is what matters. It is the journey that makes it worthwhile.

And for us to embark on a journey, it is crucial to take the first step.

When I was running in the park, I thought, hey, the fellow runners I see, including myself, wouldn’t be there if we didn’t take the first step to put on our running shoes and get out of the house. Similarly, if we don’t take that first step in bettering ourselves as a Muslim, we would still be sleeping, procrastinating, wasting our time doing things that displeases Him and thinking we have all the time in the world, when we don’t.

The first step is always the most important step to make.

“If he comes near to Me a handspan, I come near to him the distance of a cubit. If he comes near to Me the distance of a cubit, I come near to him the distance of two outspread arms. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (6856) and Sahih Muslim (4832)

Doesn’t matter if it is to don the hijab, stopping a bad habit like smoking, attending your first religious class, etc. Whatever that initial step is that you take in pleasing Allah, once you’ve done it, Allah will ease your affairs and open you doors in places you never imagined. All it takes is that first step on the path of sweetness and struggles, towards Him. You will look back in awe and eternal gratitude to Allah for moving you.

My friend shared with me how she had always wanted to learn more about the deen and has been contemplating to wear the hijab for years now. When she finally did during last year’s Ramadhan, she never looked back. She then encountered opportunities on top of opportunities in attending religious classes. She was close to tears when she recalled to me her story, and I could see all at once the initial struggle and the effort she placed in taking the first step. Now she feels the endless love and mercy Allah has showered upon her.

When you begin to jog to warm up, you will see other runners in the park, running past you like bullets. But this is inevitable. You might be slightly jealous, but you’ll realize that this is a good kind of competition. So instead of letting envy and helplessness fester in your heart, you turn this competitiveness into motivation. And you must be glad that they cross paths with you because they make you want to run faster. Be better. You aim to be like them. To run at their pace. To be steadfast in your journey towards your goal.

When you gather your energy and keep going, day by day, you will find your balance, and you’ll notice your stamina improving, your speed increasing. You want to keep moving forward and never stop. Along the way, you will also realize that there are others who are simply walking, trailing behind you. Don’t ever mock, or think you are better than them. Remember that you once started out by walking too. We all start somewhere. Smile when you cross paths with them. Don’t think you are way ahead. Instead, be the source of motivation for them. You will never know, one day they might be running at your pace. And don’t be complacent, some might even overtake you one day!

Wherever we are in our journey, it’s important to keep track of our own pace and not be too bothered about who’s in front or who’s behind. We all come from different places, we arrive at different stages, but ultimately, our destination is the same. Be motivated by those ahead, be helpful to those trailing behind, but never once think we are better than the other runners. The only person we should be competing with is the person we were yesterday.

اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ

“Guide us to the straight path.” [1:6]

When we recite surah Al-Fatihah, we ask Allah to keep us on the straight path. Islam is this path. We need to strive to increase our iman for we need it to light up our way. Without it, we’d be lost in darkness, we won’t be able to see where we’re going, and we won’t know if we’ve veered away from the path we’re on. Hence, we ask Him every day to make us of people who never lose focus, and who remain constant on this journey. Allah wants to see progress, not perfection. He wants us to keep trying. Doesn’t matter if it’s a jog, a walk, or even a crawl… as long as we take that first step towards the right destination, His promise is true – He will always guide us through.

How Alike Are We to Earth?

How alike are we to earth? We need nurturing. We need time to grow. We plant within us intentions and goals. We reap what we sow. Too much heat dries us up, yet too much water will stunt our growth. We don’t grow flowers overnight; it takes years. Of patience, strength, perseverance. Until one day, we will see the seed we once planted finally coming to fruition. Every drop of sweat and sacrifice would be worth it. The taller we see ourselves standing, the lower we must bow – humility our clothing. We are rooted. Grounded.

How alike is our nature to earth?

There is no difference. We are home to soil. Eventually, when our souls leave, our bodies will return. Be part of earth again. So I wonder, what’s the use being egotistical and proud? Hasn’t He fashioned us all from the same clay? Isn’t arrogance the trait of the ones made form fire? Shouldn’t soil extinguish flames? Like soil, we bring benefit. We emanate softness, patience, growth. Sometimes all we need is a daily reflection. That we are but from the same earth.

High Performance Ramadhan by Brother Mohammed Faris of Productive Muslim

It’s that time of the year again – the month of forgiveness and mercy, where the gates of heaven are wide open and the gates of hell are locked shut, where the Qur’an was sent down for all humanity, fasting was prescribed, where rewards for every act of ibadaah is multiplied, suhoor, iftar gatherings, taraweeh, early nights… What a time to be alive, isn’t it?

A few days ago, I attended this amazingly motivational talk by Brother Mohammed Faris,  founder of Productive Muslim. I have always been a fan of PM’s works in giving da’wah through short videos and insightful articles. So when the opportunity was presented to me to attend his talk, I grabbed it. And it was probably one of the best talks I’ve attended. Brother Faris was comprehensive, clear, and engaging in his presentation. He shared many useful tips for maximizing this blessed month, all of which I am currently implementing for Ramadhan this year. I believe these tips and reminders will hugely benefit more, so here are my notes, thoughts, few added tips, and takeaways from the talk.

Interestingly, research on the correlation between Ramadhan and productivity has shown that workers’ productivity decreases during Ramadhan. As a result, Ramadhan gets a bad name. There is a whole Ramadhan <-> Productivity debate that is going on, but one thing we need to understand is this: It is not the fasting, it’s the people’s attitudes and beliefs towards our work ethic this month that is the problem. Somehow, many enter this month with the mentality that work isn’t as important. People would instead use Ramadhan as an excuse. Hey could you complete this pile of work by afternoon? Sorry bro, I need to conserve my energy, it’s Ramadhan. Do you mind delivering this item to so-and-so’s place? Sorry bro, I’m fasting.

This is the complete opposite of what is supposed to be happening – that of all months, this is the month when we are supposed to be at our most productive and proactive. Ramadhan should not be an excuse for dwindling productivity.

We have perhaps misunderstood the purpose of our fasting.

What is the purpose of us fasting?

It is so we can achieve Taqwa. We increase our god-consciousness, develop piety, hence involving ourselves in more acts of worship. Think about it – when I am more god-conscious, I would want to do my best in everything I do, so instead of being lazy and doing less work “because I’m fasting”, I would be more productive in my work and contributing more because I’m fasting. Allah tells us to show Him our best in our every role.

You know the typical equation for productivity? Where the ratio of output should be more than input?

I don’t like that definition. It makes us seem like we are machines. To me, this is how productivity should be defined:

Productivity = Energy x Focus x Time

And with this equation, keep in mind that we are working towards a beneficial goal.

In Ramadhan, our basic goal is to reach Taqwa!

Living a productive lifestyle is all about making smart choices continuously with our energy, focus, and time, to maximize our performances in each of our roles, be it as a daughter, a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a teacher, a son, an employee, a boss, and so on.

We have to change our mindset from:

  1. Stress to challenge

    We must make Ramadhan as not something to be stressed over, but a challenge. Have a clear why; this will drive you to take the extra step. Want to be better than we were yesterday? Then we need to set goals for ourselves. Set STRETCH goals – goals that are a stretch for you, but entirely possible. Make them SMART. What are STRETCH goals? To give an example, this Ramadhan, I have a simple goal of perhaps, doing light, stretching exercises every morning. But my STRETCH goal, would perhaps be, to avoid eating rice and fried foods the whole month. Gasp! Right? So these are stretch goals – goals that would excite you and make you think, wow, this is going to be interesting… think of a few exciting goals that you wish to achieve this month. Then make a plan to achieve these goals. Put your thought to paper and paper to action. Walk the talk. See if you can achieve them by the end of 30 days. Make it a challenge! See if you can make the, what you think was impossible, possible. (Read the end of this post to see my examples).
  2. Scarcity mindset to barakah mindset

    It seems like we have this limiting belief in our minds. That what we get or what we invest in doing, will not yield the best returns. We forget that Allah is our Giver, our Sustainer. In order to change our mindset, we need to understand the concept of Barakah well. Barakah means a divine attachment to something (e.g. time, work, etc). It is an increase, it is continuous, it is stable. To better illustrate, here are sources of Barakah during Ramadhan:

    Barakah of Fasting

    Fasting will boost our willpower and discipline – the number one ingredient in achieving success in this life and the next. Fasting increases this, and as a result we gain taqwa. There are many immense benefits hidden in fasting. That’s the barakah in this act of worship.

    – Barakah of Charity

    Charity does not decrease wealth, instead it increases it. In the raw, technical aspect, this does not make logical sense, but this is what it’s called Barakah. When your salary might be meagre in number, but enough for the family. When you donate a huge sum, then realize at the end of the month that you have more money than you calculated you’d be left with. That’s Barakah.

    Barak of I’tikaaf

    I’tikaaf is to disconnect ourselves from whatever we are doing, to just be with God. The few moments before waiting for the next prayer in the mosque, instead of idling or doing things that don’t bring benefit, we sit quietly, at peace, to reorganize our thoughts and have a timeout to reflect.

    – Barakah of Qur’an

    We need to be like the Qur’an, think like the Qur’an, and be a walking Qur’an. We need to understand and implement the Qur’an in our lives. With this goal in mind, we need to put in the effort in studying this book. As a result, there will be barakah in our lives.

    – Barakah of Du’a

    Du’a comes when you take action; it’s a spiritual booster. You do, then you make du’a. You show effort, than you ask Allah.

    – Barakah of Taqwa

    And finally, as a result, you will achieve taqwa, god-consciousness, whenever and wherever you are carrying out your role.

  3. Surviving to striving

    As Muslims, we need to think like an athlete. We need to manage our sleep, nutrition, and fitness. It is our responsibility to build sustainable habits and mental models, so we can perform our best.

Managing Focus During Ramadhan

So referring back to the productivity equation, we need to manage these three things intelligently, in order to be at our most productive during Ramadhan. We need to manage our energy drain, interruptions, and time constraints.

Energy Drain

  • Nutrition

How do we manage our energy drain? We need to fix our nutrition, fitness, and sleep. How do we fix this? AVOID fried foods, added sugar, refined carbohydrates, etc. These are the kinds of foods you want to avoid because they slow you down and make you lethargic. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables, food with a low GI (eg. oats, avocados, nuts, sweet potatoes, etc). You can just Google to research on effective, healthy Ramadhan meal plans which you can incorporate into your diet.

Remember, our bodies are like machines – if we insert the wrong fuel, it will give us a bad performance. If we feed it the right fuel, it will give us a good performance.

  • Fitness

We basically need to move more. It is not only for the betterment of your body, but also for your brain. You know there’s a saying that says ‘Sitting is the new smoking’? If the nature of our work is sedentary, then we need to find ways to move more – take the stairs instead of the escalator, do light stretching exercises in between work. If you own an iPhone, then you can check your ‘Health’ app and see how many steps you take per day. If on an average, you take about 10,000 steps, then you’re healthy. Anything lesser than that, you’ll have to work on moving more!

  • Sleep

We need to maximize our sleep – the more you sleep, the better you perform. Simple. Get to bed early. Don’t get into a food coma and then find it hard to wake up the next day for sahoor, and as a result, because you skipped your important pre-dawn meal, you’ll feel sluggish because you won’t have energy to last you through the day. After taraweeh, skip all the late night suppers with friends, just go to bed and make the intention to wake up early for sahoor, so you’ll have energy to fast the next day.


  • External distractions

Stop notifications, switch off your phones, hide your phones, do whatever it takes to make you forget that you have a phone. Only check it when necessary. Limit it to a certain amount of time. If you used to check it every few minutes, try to check your phone only 10 times per day. Or something like that. Again, set a personal target for yourself. Same thing applies to the internets – mute notifications, turn off the internet, download distraction-free software (eg. writeroom). For me, on the social media platforms that I have, I simply unfollow accounts that I don’t find beneficial to me, or just delete the app entirely if I find them a tad too distracting sometimes.

  • Internal distractions

Sometimes you find yourself having loud thoughts at the back of your mind, which can disrupt your inner peace and focus. Or your emotions might be stirred, because someone might have said something to you, or wronged you. Instead of keeping it inside, you can use the method of Writing Therapy – where you write from a third person perspective on what has happened to you. Sort of like a journal, but instead of ‘I’, you write ‘she/he’. This is a method that’s been proven to improve our psyche, and helps in dealing with trauma.

Time Drain

We need to build a mental model for Ramadhan. Schedule our tasks according to our energy levels. Use a timer to beat procrastination and get things done. Tip: Schedule analytic tasks when you feel the most energetic, schedule creative tasks when you feel the least energetic.

I’ll leave you here with some of my personal #ramadhangoals and #ramadhanstretchgoals, so you may understand what these mean and perhaps set your very own. (It’s not too late! We still have 28 more days to go)

Ramadhan Goals:

  • Do light stretching exercises in the morning and before iftar every day
  • Wake up before suhoor to perform tahajjud prayers
  • Be consistent in my sunnat rawatib prayers

Ramadhan Stretch Goals:

  • Memorize Juz 30 of the Qur’an
  • Avoid listening to music entirely (replace it with Qur’an recitations & Islamic lectures)
  • Go for a run an hour before iftar

This is simply a glimpse of useful tips and techniques to maximize our Ramadhan by Productive Muslim. For more, check out Productive Ramadan.

May we make the most out of this beautiful month of Qur’an. Have a meaningful and productive Ramadhan this year, folks!