Quran On Controlling Anger

I absolutely love this teacher, and this reminder. The Quran is full of practical advice, that instantly enhances the quality of your life, when you apply it. Here is Br Noman’s understanding of Allah’s guidance on the psychology of controlling your anger…

What is the deepest insight you got from these Quran verses? Post below.

Quran Converts Hilarious Ozzie Bro

There are like a million conversion stories on Youtube, but this one caught my eye because it was on my brother’s FaceBook page, and I was cracking up all the way through.

What I really loved about it though, was the role the Quran played in the story – it inspired me to go pick it up and have a read…

Check it out below, and let us know what your favourite part was in the commentsūüôā

It Is Incomparable

“And nothing is equivalent to It” (112:4)

Imagine ‘God’. Go ahead, close your eyes right now, and imagine “God” or “Allah” or whatever you’re used to calling It. What do you see? When you really concentrate, and attempt to visualise the One that created all that is, what do you see? A bright light? The Ka’aba? The letters that spell out ‘Allah’ in Arabic? A combination of these? Does It have a face, or hands as you imagine it? Is it male or female? Got the image as clear as possible? Great.

Now, here’s an obvious truth that you probably already know… the image in your mind that represents “God” or “Allah”, that you may well have been praying to your whole life is not God or Allah. To imagine this image and pray with it in mind, regardless of how abstract it is in your mind’s eye, is tantamount to blasphemy. In fact, in the Islamic tradition, and using Quranic vocabulary, the closest word we could use to describe you praying to this image is “shirk” ¬†– worshipping something other than God.

Acknowledging this gives us a great and deep insight that will immediately enhance your ability to pray or meditate, and bring you instantly closer to the All-Loving Creator. Here it is…

“The closest you will ever be to ‘The Incomparable’ is to free your mind of any image or thought. For a few quick ideas on how you can do this, and how doing this is the quickest way to ‘master your ego’, click here.

The connection I want you to see here, that may have an instant effect on your spiritual development is that believing in One, who is Eternal & Incomparable forces us to free our minds from any thought forms. It is impossible to ‘remember Allah’ unless we do so in a way that doesn’t limit Allah in any way. The only way a human can do this is to be free from thought forms of this world, and thought forms that limit Allah (like imagining It with 10 fingers & 10 toes). There is of course an immense side benefit of doing this – experiencing instant “ihsan” – the Quranic word for spiritual excellence, goodness, and beauty… or perhaps even “enlightenment”.


It Definitely Isn’t A Man

So, why do most Quran-readers use the pronoun ‘He’ to describe the Almighty?

Well, there are a few reasons I can think of – perhaps you can comment below to give me your take on this.

The first reason¬†we’ve made ‘Allah’ into a ‘He’ is that the earliest translations of the Quran into English had an on-going theme of trying to sound as biblical as possible. In the Bible, God is a ‘He’ – the ‘Father’ figure for humanity. Imagining God as a father figure creates warm, fuzzy feelings inside you, especially if your father is emotionally and spiritually absent.

However, personalising the Incomparable to this extent has a down side: in the minds of millions of people the Almighty Creator has somehow become a cheerful chap with a Father-Christmas-like beard sitting on a cloud up in Heaven. Even though most Muslims would reject this image of Allah, they wouldn’t reject it strongly enough to not use the pronoun ‘He’ to describe It. (Although I imagine if we started referring to Allah as a ‘She’ it would cause some kind of out-cry, even though the word ‘Ar-Rahman’, The All-Loving and ‘Ar-Raheem’ The Most Kind, both share the same 3 root letters in Arabic as ‘womb’, which is surely feminine.)

The second reason¬†Allah is referred to as ‘He’ in English is that Arabic grammar does not have a neutral gender, and when referring to something neutral of gender, the masculine is used. And, because most translators are just looking for the easiest equivalent in the target language, the pronoun ‘He’ or ‘Him’ is used instead of ‘It’ throughout most (no, all) English translations of the Quran.

The 3rd reason, people use ‘He’ to refer to Allah is that they hear other people, particularly scholars and people of knowledge referring to Allah as ‘He’ when talking about Islam or Allah in English. No doubt such scholars have their own reasons for referring to Allah as ‘He’ rather than ‘It’, but at this point, I couldn’t justify it. I’m guessing most scholars just do it because they’re translating the Quran from Arabic to English in their minds as they speak, and they hope their audience knows enough about Islam to know that “He” isn’t a male.

The 4th reason¬†is that the best alternative to ‘He’ is probably ‘It’, which doesn’t feel good for some people. I can understand that – ‘It’ is so much less personal than ‘He’. ‘It’ sounds like some kind of an alien character in a horror movie. However, the more I use ‘It’, the more I feel close to ‘It’. Besides, when talking about the Indescribable, I’d vote for an Alien Force for Good over a Father-Christmas sitting on a cloud any day.

I also feel like I can use the term ‘It’ to communicate to a broader audience, from different religious, non-religious, and spiritual backgrounds, and maybe help us all see that we probably believe in the same Divine Force, although the words we use to describe It may be different. That’s harder to do if I think and talk about ‘It’ using a male pronoun.

The 5th reason is probably one of the most practical. When translating the Quran accurately, it’s very difficult to refer to Allah as ‘It’ because the ‘It’ could be referring to just about anything else in the sentence. Here’s an example:

“There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear book by which Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure – the way of peace – and brings them out of the darkness into the light, with His permission, and guides them to a straight path” (5: 15-16)

The above verses make a lot more sense, and are easier to read than my preferred translation:

“There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear book by which Allah guides those who pursue Its pleasure – the way of peace – and brings them out of the darkness into the light, with Its permission, and guides them to a straight path” (5: 15-16)

In the 2nd ‘It’ version, the ‘It’ could be referring to ‘a clear book’ in the 1st use, or ‘the light ‘ in the 2nd use. Hmm… tricky. Whilst this happens less with the personal pronoun ‘He’, it still happens. That’s why it’s capitalised. If throughout the translation, ‘It’ is used to refer to Allah when capitalised, using ‘It’ still makes sense. And something awesome happens…

When you read the Quran, replacing the “He’s” with “It’s”, you get a sense of Allah’s Awe, Magnificence and Incomparable nature. You’re referring to Something when you’ve never seen, heard or touched It. Read the second version of the verse again, accepting that ‘It’ (capitalised) refers to Allah. Go ahead. Then, let me know how it feels to you in the comments box below.

The reason I wrote this piece is to let you know that throughout the rest of this blog and in other writings, I’ll be referring to Allah using the equally inadequate, but at least gender-free pronoun, “It” insha’Allah. If you can think of a really good reason not to, let me know below and I’ll judge for myself, with the True Judge watching me.

Exactly How To Set And Accomplish All Your Quran Goals This Ramadan

As I write this, Ramadan is approaching and I want to give you a gift this Ramadan. Think of it as an early Eid present. My gift for you is the exact process I go through in order to set and achieve my Quran goals every Ramadan.

Now, I didn’t always have successful Ramadans when it came to my Quran studies. In fact, since I started practising Islam, my first few Ramadans were so un-successful Quran-wise, that I almost gave up on the Quran altogether! Let me tell you about…

The Ramadan I Gave Up On The Quran

It was a few years back ‚Äď I was in my first year of had studying Arabic seriously at university, but was nowhere near the point where I could understand the Quran.¬†I was so motivated this year, and so excited to actually be studying Arabic full time, that I decided to make the most of Ramadan.¬†I got together with a friend who lived with me in our halls of residence, and we decided we were going to ‚Äėkill it‚Äô this Ramadan.

The plan was simple…

We were going to meet up after Suhoor & Fajr every day in my room or his and we were going to read one entire Juz of the Quran. Because there were two of us, we figured that would increase our accountability and we could motivate each other. And, because neither of us were particularly good at reciting the Quran, we decided to enlist the help of Imam Shatiri via CD. For the first time in my life, I was excited because I thought I was about to actually complete the Quran during Ramadan.

But Allah had other plans for us…

The first day we did it, and we both felt great about it. And of course, I missed my 9am Arabic lecture.¬†The second day, we were still on track but both showing signs of fatigue ‚Äď but we were determined to push through it.¬†By the fifth day, we were both dreading each other‚Äôs phone call, and we had that awkward conversation of‚Ķ ‚Äúyou know, I don‚Äôt think it‚Äôs a good idea for us to do it today, but maybe we can catch up tomorrow‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

By the end of Ramadan, we hadn‚Äôt even come close. In fact, the longer Ramadan went on, the more I kept changing my targets‚Ķ and missing them. The truth was, I had failed. Miserably.¬†Towards the end of the month I decided to just let this year go, and hope to do better next year. I was so upset I almost blasphemously went down a path of thinking‚Ķ ‚Äúwhy did Allah make it so difficult for us to study the Quran?‚ÄĚ

I now realise the Quran was never ‚Äėdifficult‚Äô ‚Äď my plan was ineffective.¬†When life doesn‚Äôt go according to your plans, here‚Äôs a great question to ask yourself‚Ķ¬†‚ÄúWhat is the most valuable lesson I can learn from this, that will save me from making much bigger mistakes in the future?‚Ä̬†After some reflection, and training, I later realised where I went wrong. And, the more I reflect on it, the more I see how it was a doomed-for-failure plan from the out-set.

Now I’ve mastered a system I use with all my personal Quran Coaching clients to help them create plans that actually work in the build up to Ramadan. The plan outlined below will give you immense clarity around your Quran studies for this Ramadan, but you need to actually open up a document and write out the answers. If you want, you can answer the questions in the comments box below this article, to get feedback & support from other Quran Fans.

Exactly How To Set & Achieve Your Quran Goals This Ramadan

Get your Quran Journal out & brainstorm answers to each of these questions…

1. What can you learn from previous Ramadans’ mistakes that will help you succeed in future Ramadans?

Your past is not your future. Brainstorm 3-5 ways you can improve on your past efforts

2. If you could wave a magic wand, what would you ideally achieve with the Quran during an ideal Ramadan?

Recognise that you may not be ready to achieve this ideal target this Ramadan, and commit to improving yourself over the next year, so you can do it NEXT Ramadan, not this one.

3.a. Set up ideal & minimum time targets for each day of Ramadan.

Take a look at your calendar right now & mark off the dates of Ramadan. Now ask yourself…

a. When during the day is the best time for me to recite?

b. Will I have more time on weekends than weekdays?

c.  Which healthy weekly/daily commitments am I willing to cut out during Ramadan? Perhaps cutting out gym, or other healthy normal activities, like TV will create more time for Quran.

d. How much time will you ideally, comfortably have each day for the Quran? (eg. 1 ‚Äď 2 hours)

e. And if you don’t make that ideal target, what will be the bear minimum you think you can comfortably do each day? (eg. 15-30 mins)

3.b. When Can I Use Passive Audio ‘NET’ Time (No-Extra-Time)?

I like to think of Ramadan as having 2 types of productive Quran time: passive audio listening time; versus sitting & studying the Quran time. The great thing about passive audio time is that it can be whilst you are doing something mundane that requires no conscious thought, such as taking the train or doing the laundry.

4. Where are you at right now in your Quran studies? Eg. Fluency, English, Memorization, etc.

Check out this this ‚ÄėQuran Progress Tracker‚Äô tool that you can use to measure your progress before and after Ramadan‚Ķ

http://www.quranforbusypeople.com/quran-assessment

(You don’t need to send me your personal information – just read the questions and make a note of the answers yourself in your Quran Journal).

5. Of all the areas of Quran study, which is the most important for you to improve on during this Ramadan to set yourself up for a great year with the Quran?

For some people, the best use of Ramadan may be to learn to understand the entire Quran in Arabic. That way, for the rest of the year, they can connect more deeply with the Quran. For others it may be improving fluency of recitation, so that for the rest of the year they can read 2 pages each day in Arabic & English to feel that constant connection. For others, the best use of this month may be to simply learn how to recite the Arabic script, so they can go on to achieve all their other Quran goals. There are many more options than just these, and each individual has to decide for him/herself what is most important to improve this Ramadan.

6. Use these practical Quran strategies with the suggested time-frames, and decide which one suits your abilities, free time & goals.

The great news is, wherever you are in your Quran studies, you’re not alone! In this article are some great resources students & Islamic organizations have recommended, that help you immediately achieve some of your Quran goals…

https://quranforbusypeople.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/5-essential-ramadan-resources/

For loads more advice, tips & strategies for achieve all your Quran goals, visit www.quranforbusypeople.com and enjoy the free articles, live webinar invitations & videos.

How To Master Your Nafs – Part 1

Part 1 – The Nafs And The Mind

The human being has 4 enemies, according to the Islamic tradition: your ‘nafs’ (lower self), your desires (hawa), shaytan (satan), and the ‘dunya’ (this temporary material world). In this article, I’m going to define the ‘nafs’ as it has traditionally been defined, in the Quran and Sunnah. Then I’m going to share with you how this relates to your mind and emotions. Then, I’ll give you some techniques you can use to literally ‘master’ your nafs, or at the very least, prove to you that you can.

Much has been written about the nafs by Muslim scholars throughout the ages, and much has been discovered more recently in Western psychology, and by leaders of the ‘human potential’ movement. This series of articles intends to bridge that gap, and set you up with a new understanding that will literally empower you to ‘master your nafs’. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that the Arabic term for ‘psychology’ is ‘ilm an-Nafs’ – knowledge of the ‘self’.

The first thing to clarify is that there are several definitions that can be given to the nafs, and the several ways in which the term is used throughout the Quran and in Islamic literature.

1. The Nafs as the ‘Lower Self’

Start by thinking of the human being as having a ‘heart’ – a psycho-spiritual heart – the essence of what makes us human. According to the Islamic tradition, this ‘Qalb’ or ‘heart’ contains 2 parts of us. The ‘nafs’ – the lower self and the ‘ruh’ – the higher self. There is a precedent in the Islamic tradition to avoid over-questioning what the ‘ruh’ is, because by essence its true nature cannot be understood by the human mind. It suffices to say that it makes up the best part of us.

For those of you into psychology, this definition of the nafs is comparable to Freud’s understanding of the ¬†id (lower self, nafs), super-ego (higher-self, ruh), and ego (self – the balance between the two). However, what Freud writes about the id and super ego does not necessarily equate to what the Quran and Sunnah teach about the nafs and ruh. (The Islamic understanding of the ‘ruh’ in particular is very different to Freud’s theories about the super-ego)

2. The Nafs as the ‘Level’ of your soul.¬†

Throughout the Quran, references are made to the nafs and from these scholars have deduced that there are 7 distinct ‘levels’ of the nafs. The first and lowest is “nafs al-ammarah” ¬†the inciting soul (see Surah¬†Yusuf¬†vs 53)¬†which is completely unconscious and unaware and so inclines towards evil. The highest is “nafs al-kamila”, the perfect soul, believed by some to be a station attained only by the Prophets (see Surah Nahl, vs 91).

The 2 definitions above will give you much more clarity when you read Islamic writings on the soul, where the term nafs is either being used to describe the ‘lower self’ or the current ‘level’ of your soul.

With these definitions in mind, I would like to let you in on a theory that allows us all to understand the connection between our mind, thoughts, emotions and soul, in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah.

3. A Psychological Definition Of The Nafs.

My contention is that the ‘nafs’ is a word used to describe our thinking mind. This includes every thought you have or are having right now of the past and the future, and the emotional patterns triggered by your thoughts. If you want to master your ‘nafs’, the most effective way to do this (as is done automatically by all the pious people who have mastered their nafs) is to let go of your thoughts. If this makes absolutely no sense to you right now and you’re thinking…

“But aren’t thoughts… good?! Aren’t we meant to think? Isn’t it ‘I think, therefore I am’?”

…then hang in there, because you’re about to have a spiritual insight that, insha’Allah, will bring you much closer to Allah (swt), improve the power of your Salah, and put a smile on your face for the rest of the day by allowing you to master your nafs, right now.

The reason your mind, (or your nafs) has a strong reaction to this understanding is that your whole sense of your “self” is based around your thinking mind. You think you are your thoughts. You are not. You are much more than your thoughts. You are the consciousness, the space, within which the thoughts exist.

Often your thoughts rush through your mind so thick and fast that you can go for an entire day without ever having peace of mind Рa peace which can only come by quieting your thoughts. And sometimes, perhaps during Salah, or the few moments after a Salah, you will have been in a state where there was silence, not just around you, but inside you. Silence inside your mind. You were free from thought. Free from your nafs.

When your thoughts are completely quiet, you are fully conscious. When a thought enters your mind, just notice that the thought entered. Observe the thought. By doing this, you do not identify with it. You realise that you are the consciousness that observes the thought, not the thought itself.

Play this game as you read this article. And rest assured that once you ‘get’ the point of this article, you can be in a state of ‘no-mind’, or ‘no-thought’, if only for a few seconds to start with. Then, you can move on to the following articles and train your mind (your nafs) so that you control them, rather than allowing them to control you.

First you must simply notice your thoughts, and realise that you are not your thoughts. The moment a thought comes up, observe it, and you are outside of it. You realise that you are more than it.

Mind And Emotions

It’s well established in different areas of psychology that your mind and your emotions are linked. In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the aim is to realise which thoughts came up when you felt a negative emotion, then write out the distortions in that ‘automatic’ thought, and think about the situation in a different, more realistic way. This frees you from the negative emotion, and allows you to improve your well-being.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a central tennet is that you control your mind, therefore your emotions and your results. NLP teaches you to direct your focus or ‘internal representations’ (ie. the pictures and words that make up your thoughts) and to direct the way you use your physical body in order to get into any emotional state you want. This is very cool, and very powerful, and I’ll show you how in a future article, insha’Allah.

Both these methods are good for helping you direct your mind and control your emotions. In other words, they help you master your nafs. However, the deeper spiritual state I want you to enter is to be completely free from your thought-emotion reactional patterns. You can do this instantly, by simply noticing your thoughts as they enter, and noticing the feelings inside your body when they come up.

Some great questions to ask yourself consistently to help you enter this state are:

“What’s happening in my body right now?”

“Is my body at ease right now?”

“Am I at ease right now?”

…and notice what is happening inside your body. By asking yourself these questions, you will interrupt the thought/emotion pattern and for a moment you become present and fully conscious (free from your nafsy-thoughts).

Here’s another great question I want you to ask yourself right now. Ask yourself…

“I wonder what my next thought will be…”

Read that question again, close your eyes and pause before continuing.

What happened? Did you have millions of thoughts rushing through your mind right away, or did you experience a few moments where no thoughts came up? Most people, myself included experience the latter.

Now that you’ve experienced the state of no-mind for a few moments, commit yourself to doing it for a few seconds before the ‘Allahu Akbar’ at the start of every Salah you pray today. Then tell me what happens, and read the subsequent articles to discover the real impact of being in the state you just experienced.

The Quran Versus YouTube

“Except for those who have faith and do good deeds – for them is a reward, never ending”

You may have been lead to believe that knowledge is power. This is incorrect. In the information age, knowledge is potential power. How that knowledge is used and the action that results from it is ultimately what determines whether it empowers or is merely stored. The early Islamic thinker al-Ghazali said it most concisely:

“Knowledge without action is insane. Action without knowledge is in vein.”

However, there is a missing link in this equation. What does it take to go from having knowledge on a matter to taking action, and so becoming ‘powerful’, in the purest sense of the word?

You cannot go from knowledge to action, without first passing through a level of emotion. It’s emotion that drives us to action, not knowledge.

We all have a practically infinite supply of information at our finger tips, courtesy of Google, however this doesn’t make us all instantly all-powerful.

If I ‘Google’ fitness, even though I’ll come across an abundance of information on how to get fit, the outer world (my body) will not change. At least not until something ‘clicks’ and I tap into the power of my inner driving force.

The same is of course true for your Quran studies. You can Google & Facebook all you like, but until you tap into a sense of your inner inspiration and motivation, you won’t take action.

This is probably what brought on one of the biggest challenges standing between you and understanding the Quran in Arabic: YouTube. It’s much easier to scan through YouTube than to actually study the Quran. On YouTube you can watch videos of people who seem to already be ‘powerful’. People who follow their reading with action. People who are inspired and inspiring.

The only problem with this approach is that the nature of YouTube is that it becomes addictive in and of itself. Whilst you might be entertained for a while, and whilst your spirits may be lifted for a short time, ultimately you are in the Zone of Delusion.

You are not achieving anything worthwhile, but you are deluding yourself into thinking that you are. If you manage to spend hours watching YouTube Islamic lectures, but not even minutes studying the Quran itself, something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong.

YouTube lectures are a quick-fix of emotional buzz. For the few minutes you’re watching the video you may be inspired, but unless you use that inspiration to fuel your real goals – your Quran goals – it becomes time wasted. (Not to mention the chances that you’ll soon skip from an Islamic lecture to a video of a cat urinating in a toilet.)

I want you to have a better, longer lasting source of true motivation. It’s within you right now. It’s the power Allah (swt) gave you to control your mind, direction, focus, and emotional state. Of course, your mind didn’t come with an instruction manual. But intelligent humans have done their best over the ages to create one.

When you learn to master your emotional states, you’ll no longer be watching Islamic lectures on YouTube. You’ll have empowered yourself to study the Quran enough to actually deliver them.

How To Memorize The Quran

To read this article on our new, updated, all-round better website, please click here. 

In this post, you’ll learn one of the most effective strategies I’ve ever come across for doing your hifz of the Quran and building a very close relationship with Allah (swt) in the process…

+++++++++++++++++++++

If you want TONNES of more effective strategies to achieve each of your personal Quran goals, check out…

www.time-for-quran.com

+++++++++++++++++++++

So, this hifz technique was taught by the Algerian Shaykh Zakariya al-Siddiqi who teaches at the Institute of Human Sciences in France and is one of the foremost scholars of Quran today.

He¬†memorised¬†it by the age of 9 and¬†dedicated his life to studying and teaching¬†it, and he once told us the story of one of¬†his friends. His friend was an engineering¬†student, who was¬†a¬†‘Fresher’ about to¬†embark on¬†a¬†5 year degree. Let’s call¬†him Ahmed…

Ahmed was an intelligent¬†student¬†who followed one of the oft-forgotten Sunnah’s¬†of Success…

Quran Memorization Tip 1: Wake Up Early

He woke up earlier than most people. In fact, he woke up on time to get to the Mosque to pray Fajr every day. When he got home from the mosque, instead of busying himself with the internet or watching television, he spent the first few minutes of each day memorising the Quran.

Quran Memorization Tip 2: Each Day Memorise Less Than You Think You Can

Ahmed made a firm commitment to memorise the Quran, but instead of rushing in and trying to memorise one or two pages each day (like his friends who gave up before long), he confined himself to learning 5 lines per day.

This worked out to be about 20-30 minutes per day for him.

Quran Memorization Tip 3: Get Familiar First

In order to overcome the initial unfamiliarity with the new verses, he spent the first few minutes each day actually writing out the 5 lines of that day onto a small sheet of paper.

He spent the next few minutes reciting them over and over, and then attempted to memorise them.

Quran Memorization Tip¬†4: Keep Today’s Verses Close At Hand

As Ahmed went about his day, he often¬†found that he had¬†a¬†few chunks of time ‚Ästseveral minutes each. During these times,¬†such as waiting for the bus, or waiting for¬†a¬†teacher to turn up to¬†a¬†class, Ahmed¬†would try to remember the 5 lines from¬†that morning.

To aid his memory, he kept the sheet that he wrote out that morning folded in his pocket, and would pull it out if he was struggling.

Quran Memorization Tip 5: Use What You Memorise In Every Single Salah

To further support his memory, every¬†prayer he prayed that day, he would¬†recite the same 5 verses of¬†Quran¬†that¬†he learned that morning. In each aka’,¬†he would alternate between the 5 lines¬†from that day, and the 5-10 lines he learned¬†the previous days. And remember…

Quran Memorization Tip 6: Keep Track Of Your Goal

With the Uthmani script of the¬†Quran,¬†there are exactly 15 lines per page.¬†So, by the end of the week, Ahmed¬†had not only¬†memorised¬†2 whole pages¬†of the¬†Quran, but he had written them¬†out in full, too…¬†a¬†very blessed act if¬†ever there was one.

Quran Memorization Tip 7: Perfect Your Tajweed As You Go

On the weekend, Ahmed would visit a local scholar of Quran recitation, and would revise with him the 2 pages he had just memorised, and have a go at the 2 pages he would be working on the following week. This way, he was certain to learn the Quran with accurate tajweed and beautiful recitation.

There was one other secret to Ahmed’s¬†success.

The Spiritual Secrets Of Successful Memorisation…¬†

Once a week, on a weekend evening (usually on a Friday night), Ahmed would wake up in the middle of the night, and pray Tahajjud. During his special Tahajjud prayer, Ahmed would recite the whole two pages he had learned that week, and consolidate them.

At this point, the Shaykh mentioned¬†that perhaps one of the reasons so¬†few people manage to wake up and¬†do this special prayer, which is highly¬†recommended by the¬†Quran¬†and by¬†our beloved Prophet (saw), is that we¬†don’t have anything to recite.

We have so little¬†Quran¬†memorised¬†that there’s no fun or enjoyment in¬†the challenge of waking up for Tahajjud,¬†and we often find even the fard prayers a¬†‘chore’¬†instead of a pleasure.

The Results…

You can imagine Ahmed’s excitement¬†and feeling of achievement and success¬†3 months after he started, when he had¬†memorised¬†the entire 1st Juz!

It’s not just the feeling of success and¬†empowerment that the Quran¬†gave him,¬†but also the deep connection with Allah¬†(SWT) he felt every single day.

You can only imagine how proud he must have felt of himself, when upon graduation Ahmed not only received a 1st class degree in engineering (he was 3rd in his class), but he had also officially memorised the entire Quran. He was a hafidh.

Shaykh Zakariya pointed out a final lesson from this blessed brother.

The biggest achievement he made was not to memorise the Quran. The biggest achievement he made was to be deeply connected with the Quran every single day for 5 years.

That connection with Allah (SWT) is what made Ahmed so special. That deep link with the Creator is what keeps life in perspective and is what helped Ahmed to keep on track with the little weekly targets he set for himself.

One can only imagine what happened¬†to Ahmed’s levels of personal fulfilment, Iman and taqwa, as he went back every¬†single day to develop this ritual of ihsan¬†(spiritual excellence). Each day he woke¬†up for Fajr and wrote out another 5 lines¬†of¬†Quran, his self-esteem and self-confidence¬†soared…

“Can the reward for excellence be anything¬†other than excellence?” Surah Rahman (55: 60)

How To Wake Up For Fajr – Days 6 – 12

Day 6 ‚Äď Monday 24th January

On Day 6, I got woken up by some random noises at about 5:30am. This was very annoying and although I continued to rest, I don‚Äôt think I actually slept much at all before the alarm went off at 7am. This was bound to happen at some point during this 30 day trial, and I‚Äôm glad I got it out of the way early on. I was grumpy for about the first hour of the day, but after waking up fully & showering, the day continued as normal. I‚Äôm going to blame the grumpiness for why I didn‚Äôt manage to get myself to my 10:30am Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, which I‚Äôm meant to take on Mondays & Fridays. Finally, I taught Module 3 of the ‚ÄúTime For Quran‚ÄĚ program tonight.

Day 7 ‚Äď Tuesday 25th January

I knew Tuesday would be a challenge (not in the morning ‚Äď I woke up completely fine), but at night. As well as a pretty full day of work, I had a tele-conference at 1am on Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning. It was at this ridiculous time because most of the online marketing guru types live in California. I slept 1.5 hours, from 11:30pm to 1am, got up (shattered) and made it to the conference. It was worth my while ‚Äď I got some valuable tips on blogging & ideas on where to go next in my online business.

After the tele-conference I hit the sack, and woke up at 7am sharp the next day…

Day 8 ‚Äď Wednesday 26th January

I was quite pleased with myself on Day 8, because I would have allowed myself to sleep in until 9am, due to last night’s activites, but when the alarm went of at 7am, it felt easy & natural to react to it as normal. I had meetings from 10am onwards, and was doing Quran Coaching until about 9:30pm

After that I was well & truly shattered, and crashed.

Day 9 ‚Äď Thursday 27th January

On Thursday 27th Jan 2011, everything ran quite smoothly. I woke up very refreshed at 7am, and it seems that sleeping for a solid 7.5 hours makes up for any ‚Äėglitches‚Äô or erratic sleeping on previous nights. I kind of took the day off from work, which seems to naturally happen after the ‚Äėhard-core‚Äô day of non-stop Quran Coaching on Wednesday. Besides, I had to get stuff from IKEA, which is more ‚Äėwork‚Äô than anything I do at my desk¬†;)

Day 10 ‚Äď Friday 28th January

Friday was great ‚Äď I always take Fridays off and do a Tajweed class, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, followed by Jummah, and then spend the afternoon/ evening chilling with Erika, my wife. Sometimes after Jummah I spend a couple of hours sorting out my priorities for the upcoming week, and doing the ‚Äú7 Steps To Maximize Relaxed Productivity‚ÄĚ, a variation of the GTD Weekly Review Process, explained in Module 3 of the ‚ÄúTime For Quran‚ÄĚ program. It‚Äôs a nice way to wrap up the week.

Day 11 ‚Äď Saturday 29th January

Saturday was ridiculously productive. I jumped out of bed at 7am, had a good breakfast, showered & was coaching from 9am ‚Äď 11am. I then took an hour break, and returned to work from 12pm ‚Äď 2pm. This is my optimum working pattern ‚Äď 2 hours of un-interrupted focus time, with 1 hour breaks for recovery, meals, prayer, etc. If you have freedom in your schedule I‚Äôd highly recommend giving it a go. It fits in with our natural circadian rhythms, and keeps you in the ‚Äėzone‚Äô for as long as possible.

I think knowing that I don‚Äôt have to work, makes me feel like doing it more. It‚Äôs probably related to my personality type (Type 9 ‚Äď Mediator). When stressed for time, I tend to become reflective; when in a phase of ease, I tend to be extremely productive.

Day 12 ‚Äď Sunday 30th January

Woke up at 7am. My wife and I started to watch the TV show 24, from the very first episode yesterday. Last night I was very tempted to stay up late watching it ‚Äď it‚Äôs sooooo addictive. Instead we agreed that she would stay up and watch an episode, and I‚Äôd catch it up in the morning, which I just did¬†;)

This is where most people (including me, a couple of years ago) would probably slip up in installing the wake up from Fajr habit. By trying to wake up and forcing yourself to be super-productive first thing in the morning, you restrict yourself from meeting certain emotional needs. The needs that get met the night before when you‚Äôre hanging out with friends and family, watching a show, or just talking. If in your mind you ‚Äúhave to‚ÄĚ go to bed because you ‚Äúhave to‚ÄĚ wake up early and you ‚Äúhave to‚ÄĚ do productive things, you‚Äôre much more likely to stay up late, because in reality you¬†need to¬†emotionally connect with your loved ones and¬†want to¬†enjoy the next episode of the TV show or read the next chapter of the book. Don‚Äôt be in denial or fight these natural desires ‚Äď work with them.

By allowing yourself to take it easy when you wake up, and do what you would have done the night before, waking up early becomes easy, and before you know it, it will be a habit. At that point you can gently start introducing new habits, such as using the first waking hour productively.

How To Wake Up For Fajr Habit: Days 1-5

If you want to wake up for Fajr every day of the week, you need to know 2 things. First, how to install a new habit. Second, how to train your mind and body to react when you first wake up, so you don’t stay in bed or fall back to sleep. Both of these will be covered in other posts. This one jumps ahead a little and give you an insight into how I’m installing the Fajr habit personally.

You see, about a week ago, I decided that 2011 would be the year I consciously decide to improve my personal self-discipline, using 30-day new habit trials. ¬†I’ll explain how you can install any habit in 30 days in a future post. This post is going to explore the first 5 days of the first 30-day habit trial I do this year – waking up and staying up from Fajr.

This is something I’ve done consistently in the past, but in all honesty it’s been a bit rocky since summer 2010. When you work from home and only have deadlines you set yourself, there’s no real reason to wake up early. Well, except for all the baraqa, blessings, and productivityūüôā

Anyway, since I’m re-installing it, I thought it would be beneficial to share the experience with you, so when you do it yourself, you know what to expect.

Defining the Habit

In order for this new habit to work, I decided not to put any ‘rules’ on what I have to do when I wake up. Some people advise having a morning ritual, which is a good idea usually. However, the morning routine I want to ultimately put in place is quite gruelling, involving dhikr, exercise, Quran and other stuff, and it will instantly collapse if I don’t wake up early. So, my only goal for the next 25 days is to wake up every day at 7am and stay up.

By the way, if that seems ridiculously easy to you, bear a couple of things in mind: first, I work from home with a completely flexible schedule, so no-one’s going to tell me off, or fire me if I don’t get up; second, I selected 7am because that’s the ‘sweet spot’ – the time when I can pray Fajr every day for 3/4 of the year, without missing it. In the UK the ‘sweet spot’ is probably 6am, depending on where you are (I live in Spain).You can check prayer times to find out what the ‘sweet spot’ is where you live. Finally, we’re talking about doing this every single day, including weekends. Waking up for Fajr is a life-style change, not a habit done in a zombie-like state.

Also, training myself to wake up at 7am is the same difficulty as waking up at 5am, from where I am right now. But that would just create 2 extra hours in the morning that I’m awake and my wife is asleep, and 2 extra hours at night when the opposite is true. That seems pointless to me right now, but I might try it in the future – some people I know swear by it.

Days 1 – 5

Because there are no ‘rules’ about what I have to do when I wake up, I’ve basically done whatever I wanted over the last 4 days. Day 1 was difficult waking up but by the time I had prayed Fajr, I was wide awake. Although I probably still would have gone back to sleep if I hadn’t made a really strong commitment to do this 30 day habit thing. I really took the biscuit on Day 2, when I woke up and just played Mario on the Wii for about an hour, in order to stop myself from falling asleep.

I’m on Day 5 today, and I woke up with no problems and no hesitation. I also had no thoughts of going back to sleep in contrast to the previous 4 days. It appears my nafs is getting used to the idea that when I wake up, there is no going back, so its learning to just deal with it.¬†This is a stark contrast to days 1 & 2 when all I thought about was going back to bed!

Alhamdulillah, I think I’ve passed the first threshold now though – most of the mornings have unintentionally been quite productive. I’ve spent them: cleaning up; doing admin work; today I re-invented this blog; catching up on email (although that was a bad idea first thing in the morning, as it put me in ‘reactive’ mode all day); and creating content for upcoming Quran Coaching programs.

The biggest motivating ‘boost’ is seeing the blue A4 sheet on the pin board to the left of my desk with the month to view, and 5 days in a row crossed off. Because I’m taking this year slow, and tackling one habit at a time, it’s doing wonders for my self-esteem. That’s because I know I’m doing my best, and if I keep going, I’ll be a much better version of me by this time next year, insha’Allahūüôā