Tawheed and goodness to our parents

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

I do not take credit for the contents of this post. It is an almost word-by-word transcription from a tafseer class given by a student of knowledge that has encouraged me to share the benefits without ascribing them to her. She calls to Allah and not to herself  (may Allah preserve her) and teaches the tafseer of senior salafi scholars and this is the origin of what follows.

 وَإِذۡ أَخَذۡنَا مِيثَـٰقَ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ لَا تَعۡبُدُونَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَ وَبِٱلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَانً۬ا وَذِى ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰڪِينِ وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنً۬ا وَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُواْ ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيۡتُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً۬ مِّنڪُمۡ وَأَنتُم مُّعۡرِضُونَ (٨٣)

And remember when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, saying: Worship none but Allah Alone and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and the poor, and speak good to people [i.e. enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, and say the truth about Muhammad Peace be upon him ], and perform As-Salat, and give Zakat. Then you slid back, except a few of you, while you are backsliders.

[Surah al-Baqarah 2:83]

In this ayah, Allah commands: 1) Fulfil your Tawheed and 2) be dutiful to your parents.

First comes the right of Allah to be singled out with all worship. After this come the rights of the parents.  Why do they have this great right upon us? Because they were the reason for a lot of good for us. My mother carried me, fed me, spent time and resources on me; she cared for me. Allah is the One who gave you all these bounties, yet, because our parents were a means for us to receive them, we have to be thankful to them as well. We relate every bounty to Allah and every provision is from Him, but if Allah makes someone a reason for this provision to reach you, you need to be thankful to this person as well. If a doctor was a reason for your life to be saved, you should thank Allah and also the doctor, because the granting of life was from Allah but the doctor made an effort. Similarly, the parents made great efforts in the upbringing of their children. Especially the mother. Allah is All-Aware and Appreciative. He knows all about her pain in pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and so on. He is the All Knowing, the Thankful. Out of this knowledge He possesses, He commands us to be thankful to our parents.

Being thankful to our parents doesn’t just mean saying “thank you”, ” jazakum Allahu khayran.” Allah commands وَبِٱلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَانً۬ا {… and Ihsaan (excellent behaviour) to parents}, but He does not specify exactly what to do, He doesn’t say exactly what ihsaan means in this case. This is because Ihsaan to parents varies according to the situation and the state of my mother as opposed to another person’s mother. Being good to my mother is different from being good to your mother. Maybe my mother likes me to spend time with her, another person’s mother likes to have help in the house and what really makes her happy is for her child to go and help her; another may care for and be touched by presents and other forms of financial help. Ihsan is not to do what *I believe* pleases her. I need to find out what actually pleases her the most and do it. Don’t say “I’m busy so I can’t come to see you, but I’ll buy you a nice present because I love presents!” if actually your mother doesn’t care for presents and all she wants is someone to talk to. When she calls you respond. If she wants your company sit with her. Goodness to one’s mother is one of the greatest acts of worship in Islam.

A killer went to Ibn Abbas (rady Allahu ‘anhuma) and asked if repentance was possible for him. Ibn Abbas said yes and asked him if his parents were still alive. The man said they were and Ibn Abbas told him that goodness to one’s parents is one of the greatest reason for sins to be forgiven.

One of the women of the salaf used to pray all night. Her son used to collect firewood for her and stand besides her to keep the fire going  and adjust it so it wouldn’t be too hot, go out or make too much smoke. She used to tell him to go to sleep but he was pleased with doing that for her because that was what she loved to do. Another of the salaf carried his mother all the way from Yemen to Makkah and did tawaaf carrying her. He then asked Ibn Umar “Have I now compensated her for what he did for me?” Ibn ‘Umar (rady Allah ‘anhuma) replied “No, the pain of delivery is more of what you are doing now!”

Imam Abu Haneefah (raheemahullah) was very good to his mother. He was the imam and the faqeeh, but his mother was not convinced and she would tell him that she wanted to ask a question and that she wanted to be taken to so and so to get a fatwa from him. This person was in fact Abu Haneefah’s student!  and he would say yes and take her. He would not say “There’s no need to go to him, I am the imam and the faqeeh!”… he humbled himself to her.

Another of the salaf was also an imam and was in the masjid teaching the people. While he was teaching in the halaqah, suddenly his mother calls him “My son, go and feed the chickens!” He would say “Yes mother” and he would go and feed the chickens and then resume the lesson.

Whatever you do for your parents, do it willingly.

Don’t show that you are bored or burdened. Show her that you are willing and pleased to sit with them and talk about their memories if that is what pleases them. Even if they keep talking about the same incident, they might repeat it every week, or every day. Listen attentively, don’t show that you heard it 200 times before. They must feel that they still have a role in your life. Ask their opinion about something, consult them. They should feel they still have a use in this life, that they are worthy.

They should never feel that you don’t need them.

Show you need their expertise and opinion. If it pleases your mother that she prepares a meal and you go and eat with her, don’t say “No, don’t cook! take it easy, you are too old.” She likes to do that, let her and show your utmost pleasure with what she cooked, show that it made you happy and reminded you of the days of your childhood! Make her smile. Make her life happy. Whatever you do for her, do it with enthusiasm. We need to find out what pleases them, of course within the limits of obedience to Allah. You cannot do something wrong for their sake. Never. If they commanded you with something wrong you would say “I am sorry mother but I cannot do this, but I can do anything else for you.”  Don’t tell them things like “I don’t care if you are angry or not! My Lord has commanded me so you suit yourself!” Don’t say this. Out of mercy lower yourself to them.

Don’t be busy with your mobile, if you are sitting with her look at her, engage with her, don’t look at your mobile.

If you are facing problems or you are not feeling well, don’t tell her. Don’t go and tell her “I am suffering such and such severe pain…” or “My husband did this and that to me…” because this will give her great sorrow and sadness and she would not be able to tolerate that you are in this situation. So, as much as possible try not to tell her about your hardship. Handle as much as you can handle without making her sad about your problems; unless you need her help to solve it, in that case let her know but otherwise don’t tell her just to vent or to get her sympathy. You have to appreciate her weakness and her love for you and the fact that not being able to do anything for you would make her suffer and make her really stressed. We must show mercy and spare her this worry if we are able.

This is part of what it means to have ihsaan towards our parents as Allah commands, and to be grateful to them after being grateful to Allah. Let’s not allow the business of the life make us neglectful of the rights we owe them.

And if our mother is not Muslim or she is not on the correct manhaj, then the greatest form of ihsaan is to do du’a for them and do da’wah to them. This must be done in the most gentle manner: showing your love and concern, trying to give the proofs in a very simple and pleasant way. Tell her “This pleases Allah,” teach her to love Allah. Use encouraging words to her, like “You love Allah, let’s do what pleases Him.” Don’t tell her that if she doesn’t abide you will cut her off. On the contrary: whatever she does – even kufr – show that you are always her daughter and that you have affection and concern for her. This is very important because we are doing this for Allah’s sake and sometimes mothers can be very bad. If your mother is kind to you, being good to her would be easy, but some mothers can cause a great deal of pain.Doing it only for Allah will extract the sincerity from your heart. The reward in case of the mother being bad will be much higher, because Allah knows you are doing it only in obedience to Him and you are not getting anything pleasant out of it in this life.

After their death, you still have a chance to be good to them by making du’a, and Allah forgives a Muslim mother due to the du’a of her son or daughter. Make du’a for them in each and every one of your prayers. And stay in touch with those friends and relatives they loved.

When homeschooling hurts

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

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Sometimes mothers do themselves no favours. Sometimes we let our expectations – of our children, our life and ourselves – run wild (because we won’t ever be heard saying things like “they are just children“, right?). Sometimes we fall into thinking that what we see on homeschooling blogs or on Pinterest is actual reality. It is at that point that Shaytaan packs a picnic, because he knows he is going to have a nice day out with us. Or a week. Or a month…

Then homeschooling hurts.

All those voices of family and acquaintances – or indeed strangers – that absolutely don’t get home education become our voices. “You are messing them up. They won’t know how to behave in the outside world. You are depriving them of first hand experience of life. They are lonely…”

Mom cries herself to sleep, maybe even after having a disagreement with dad about the kids. Shaytaan pops the champagne open.

Sometimes we feel precariously perched on the edge of a cliff. Any minor setback is enough to push us over the edge: from the firm land of “I know why I am doing this. It is the right thing to do. I can do it, bi idhnillah” into “What are you doing? This is madness! send them to school! You can’t do this!”. Freefall. Blind panic.

The weight of our responsibilities crushes us.We feel numb and we don’t want to talk about it. But, inside, we are screaming. We cannot think about anything else: *the future of our children* (reads the inside of our eyelids, in gigantic tridimensional gem-encrusted golden block letters.)

It hunts us in our dreams.

Each and every day we cope. The dark stormy sea engulfing us, we paddle furiously to keep our head above the water, gasping for breath.

*The future of our children*- booms a voice in our head – but what about their present? When we realise (thank you there Shaytaan) that our all consuming concern with their future has made us a nervous, tense, dry, unavailable and chronically exhausted wreck of a mother, we fall even deeper. “I am failing them. On. Every. level.”

We don’t know what to do. We are too fed up and hopeless to search the internet for a solution, too tired for books, too ashamed and negative to reach out to people.

We might be of those who wait for it to settle on its own (but will it, really?) or we might be of the blessed ones that Allah helps out of the fog, maybe thanks to a friendly voice saying “Go back to Allah.”

When homeschooling – and/or parenting – hurts, go back to Allah.

If inside one is rolling his or her eyes at this, or they feel they would have preferred the link to some life planning expert’s free consultation site, then their need to return to Allah is very great and a very urgent matter.

Going back to Allah seems like something very abstract to people that really need to go back to Allah. It feels to them as something that they don’t have enough time or energy to do. Something for people whose kids go to school, right?

We truly are in desperate need.

So – go back to Allah, you say – where do I start?

For starters, remember Allah as you can. Remembering Him means exactly that: think about Him behind whatever you notice in His creation; say His Name. Sit after your prayer and invest those 40 seconds that it takes to say your astaghfirullah, subhanallah, alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar, even if you have to start off with one and build from there. Mean it. The next step after remembering His greatness, all encompassing power and complete ability, is to ASK. It is a natural succession, in sha’ Allah.

Ask Him because He can. Ask Him because you believe and now is the time to show it.

By taking these simple little steps you will soon find yourself back to doing what you do for His sake. We have read it and heard it countless times, now it is the time to let it affect our life:

The Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Allah the Most High said, ‘I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”

[Sahih Al-Bukhari]

Doing your chores with love, for His sake. Bearing with patience whatever little challenge or setback you encounter. Slowing down. Lowering your voice… At times it will still be overwhelming and you will probably still feel as though you are slightly drowning… but by the mercy of Allah  you will not let it go as far or affect you as deeply; and you will recover quickly.

When it comes to raising children Imaan is key: Our Imaan.

When you find yourself about to enroll your kids in a boarding school in another continent, take a look at your Imaan and take some quick and simple steps:

  • Whatever it is that you are fighting to achieve, stop it (obviously it is not working that way).
  • See the bigger picture: You are struggling with homeschooling and that is a struggle. Now imagine bigger struggles, such as not being able to find anything to feed your children, living in a war zone, having to flee your home, being afflicted by illness, by family break-ups, losing your children… (may Allah protect us).
  • Remember that Allah never burden a person beyond her scope. If Allah put you in this situation, then you can handle it.
  • Do your best with what you have, in terms of your situation, time resources… this is key to gratefulness.
  • Remember that a woman’s duty is that of creating a positive atmosphere in the house (and I mean something deeper than a bunch of flowers here and there and some scented candles!!!). The wife and mother is the “home maker”, you put her in a building and she – with her caring for others –  makes it a home. If we find ourself overstretched to the point that we are less than pleasant to be around for our husband and children, then it is time to re-assess our priorities. If we are feeling angry, empty and, most importantly, disconnected from our Lord, what kind of home are we making?
  • Think “We are a Muslim family”. Whatever that means to you, make it a reality.
  • Remember that you are not alone in your struggle. I cannot say all, but at least some of those homeschooling moms online who inspire – as well as intimidate – us so much have dowloaded admission forms to enrol their offspring in that boarding school far far away!…

Everybody has his or her own challanges and hardships in this life. Many parents and home educators sometimes feel as though they are stranded, with their children, on a  desert island (yes! the tiny one with a single palm tree sticking out from the middle) surrounded by shark infested waters that seem to have no end. The Muslim, however, is a particular kid of “castaway”: he or she is certain that Allah’s help is never far from the believer and, by His mercy, all things can happen. Barren little islands can be made into comfortable gardens, bridges can be built and sharks can be tamed (or made into sushi!).

Boarding school in another continent is hardly ever the answer. May Allah help us return to Him wholeheartedly, that is the only thing that will truly heal us when homeschooling hurts.

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Fasting is a shield – a Ramadan chart

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

There wasn’t a pressing need for a Ramadan chart. There is lots of them around. However, my boys are into a bit of a castles/knights/medieval weaponry kind of phase. We are planning to design our own coats of arms tomorrow insha’Allah. I thought I could take advantage of this interest of theirs to tie in this very important and beautiful concept regarding the fast; I made a little chart with shield shapes for the child to colour one in (or fill it with a pattern) everytime he/she completes a fast, insha’Allah.

Fasting is a shield CHART

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May Allah grant us all a beneficial, peaceful and thankful month of fasting. May our fasting shield us from sin and from the Fire. Ameen.

Tafseer notebook – Juz’1

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

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When I thought of the Bitesize Tafseer of Surah al-Baqarah activity, I thought I would print out pages of the mushaf and stick them on a A4 notebook. Then I realised it would be a lot of sticking and a very fat notebook. It would be better to have the mushaf page printed in the corner of the notebook page.

I very simply put together these pages. It’s not very neat and crisp I’m afraid, but it will do the job insha’Allah. I did not find a ready made notebook online or a hard copy I could buy from somewhere for this part of the Qur’an (for other sections, like juz’ ‘Amma, you can download a Juz’ ‘Amma workbook from A Muslim Homeschool or buy a hard copy here for juz’ 30 and 29, masha’Allah). If someone out there knows where I can buy one for Juz’1, please let me know insha’Allah! So here it is:

Tafseer notebook – Juz’1

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I ask Allah He makes it of benefit for my children and myself and whoever else uses it. Ameen.

 

…and what is Ummi going to do this Ramadan?

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

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Us mothers, we tend to be very concerned with our children’s education and development into strong and sincere Muslims – and rightfully so. But do we give at least the same amount of thought and care to our own growth, strenght and sincerity?

This post is NOT about me. I am not going to sit there and expose my shortcomings. It is about people in a situation similar to mine: Muslim women that are at a stage in their life in which they are (intensively and extensively) caring for others.

Let’s take a hypothetical sister which we will call Umm ‘Abdullah. She is feeling somewhat apprehensive  at the thought of Ramadan approaching. That could be due to a low point in her Imaan, to the fact that she knows one should do so much more in Ramadan but the reality is that she doesn’t do much even outside of it.  Not much there to build on.  She might also feel overwhelmed by her committments and poorly equipped to make her Islamic education a priority in her life.

Wouldn’t it be great if we also had someone staying up late in the evening to prepare us a Ramadan calendar with daily treats? Maybe some Ramadan themed party games and a treasure hunt? or a month long “craft-athon”???? … maybe. But Allah has put us in charge of ourselves (among all the other people we care for). Each of us will not have to respond to Allah about little ‘Abdullah as much as she will have to respond about herself.

So, basically – and by Allah’s leave – it is down to us to take action to benefit ourselves.

Let’s ask for guidance: Allah is All Able to sort out the universe and everything in it so He can most certainly help us up on our feet and beyond. We must remember to ask.

Let’s take a look at ourselves: Right now. Not the way we used to be and do things before having kids, nor the way we envisage life when they will have all grown and moved out. Now. What do we need to learn about the most? In which area are we most deficient?

Let’s consider our individual skills and inclinations: What comes easy and what do we enjoy learning that can bring us closer to our Creator? What is the most efficient way for us to increase our knowledge of Him, ou love for His Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), our connection to His Qur’an…

Let’s take into account committments and time constraints: We must be realistic and flexible and don’t set goals that are to high and/or strictly connected to Ramadan. Leaving our husbands and kids to have to find their own dinner on a regular basis while we study all day is not a good idea. At the same time,  thinking that the children/babies/husband/work/mum/dad/chores/you name it make it impossible to take a little time to study something beneficial is simply not true.

I think a small and steady start is a beautiful thing. For example:

  • Choose a book to study or a set of lectures to listen to (plenty of very beneficial lessons on salafisounds, masha’Allah). Take notes. Draw mind-maps. Even better: pair up with a friend! you don’t have to meet up  necessarily (which could be difficult to keep up) but you can quiz each other, exchange notes and just share the benefits that each has found, as well as ideas to apply them to our life. Do what it takes for you to actually learn what is in the book/lecture.
  • Pick 4 ahadeeth (40 Nawawee is a great place to start) and memorise one each week of Ramadan, as well as studying the explanation. List benefits. List ways in which the hadeeth does (or should) impact on your life.
  • Attend Umm Mujaahid’s FREE daily class for sisters on WizIQ (to be notified about the course, create a Wiz IQ account and add Taalib Al-Ilm in your contacts); it is based on the book Fasting from Alif to Yaa, or just go through the book on your own or with your friends.
  • Dust off your Arabic books for the sake of Allah. Maybe conjugate a verb a day. Make flashcards. Use Memrise! It is such a wonderful tool for learning vocabulary and you get to use your competitive side to the advantage of learning (there is a score chart)! By the mercy of Allah, the Memrise course Arabic Through The Quran (based on the Alan Jones book) changed my relationship with the Qur’an because all of th Qur’anic vocabulary I learned. Alhamdulillah.
  • Try to speak Arabic. Maybe read a children’s book in Arabic everyday to your kids. Even the same one. Everyday.
  • Pick up your copy of Thalaathatul Usool or another core classical work. One of those things you never read enough, masha’Allah. Read the Arabic text and colour every word you understand. Try to memorise it. Learn the explanation. Teach it to your kids.

In fact, share any of the above things with your kids. Delivering what we have learned to others is one of the steps in consolidating that knowledge. Tell your husband/parents/siblings/friends what you have learned.

This is of course NOT meant to be an exhaustive list. Just a few ideas off the top of my head. Things that appeal to me personally.

Insha’Allah, let’s do something. Let’s take a step and may Allah grant us to please Him.

Of course, if anyone also wants to prepare a Ramadan calendar with a daily treat for me…. I like my chocolate dark. Barak Allahu feekum.

 

 

 

Summer : Thinking outside the bucket

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

I have learned what a “bucket list” is from Pinterest. I kept coming across them and, since me and the boys keep talking about what we should do in the Summer (only because the UK weather is likely to be less rainy then, we don’t really take Summer holidays…). I thought it would be fun to make our own. Especially today: baby H and myself have a cold and – alhamdulillah – last night was rough and I woke up feling a bit overwhelmed by my unwritten to-do list. For once I prioritised fun with the boys over the washing up. I did the most urgent jobs and left the dishes while we painted.

I let the boys pick the summery element we would use to write each item of the list. They picked ice lollies. I wanted pineapples (or t-shirt hanging on a string washing line… but I feared it would make the poster too heavy). I got to choose the technique: of course watercolour. Masha’Allah. Minimum skill, maximum splendour. I think most mammals with opposable thumbs could achieve a good result with watercolours!

You litterally just have to teach the child to use strokes rather than the back and forth motion we use to colour with pencils or felt tips. Masha’Allah. The beautiful layering of shades and transparency of watercolours creates a brilliant rendition of juicy ice lollies melting.

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I cut a template of the main shape from thin cardboard, we filled a few watercolour friendly sheets and coloured them without minding the lines (we were going to cut them anyway). Then we cut the sticks out of a brown envelope I had lying around. TA-DAH!

So here it is:

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(This lovely font is called “KG love you through it”)

I put it up in our usual poster display spot in the entrance after the boys’ bedtime. I can’t wait to see their reaction tomorrow morning insha’Allah.

Initially we kept it really simple and easily achievable, with entries such as these (even B had a go at writing on his own masha’Allah!):

Then Y started becoming much more ambitious…(the left photo below refers to archeological research, expressed is Y’s characteristically coincise style! … he has been digging up the garden in search of an ancient town…)

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Until, when we were about to finish and I had popped upstairs to change H, Y shouted up to me to ask whether he could write this entry and I though “yeah sure, why not?!”

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If our Summer is as fun as it was to make this poster, insha’Allah, it will be wonderful. We probably won’t need to go that far.

Ramadan:Art ideas on standby

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

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As I mentioned in a previous post about the upcoming Ramadan, this year there will be no painstakingly planned and organized arts and crafts for each day. Rather, I will have some ideas prepared. Ideas that can easily be realised with materials that I already have in the house or that are cheap or free (headed for the bin/recycling bag).

I will use this post to list my favorite art techniques and ideas that I collected from Pinterest AND to put together a little “shopping list” insha’Allah, just to make sure I have what we need to make something fun a purposeful if and when the boys feel arty (or hungry! …eh eh)

  • Watercolour techniques x7 (whatever scholarly opinion you follow about rubbing alcohol, I would most definitely not go for that technique. No need really.)
  • Tape-paint-splatter
  • Circle art
  • Tissue transfer art
  • Water gun painting (I am probably going to have them put some dried watercolour on the paper and then just squirt water on it)
  • Watercolours splodges
  • Abstract kitchen paper painting
  • Print, print, print! I mean print with anything. And I mean anything. I need to start keeping the off cuts of some vegetables in the freezer to use as stamps (the bases of celery and lettuce, halves of gone bad citrus fruits, gone bad potatoes: potatoes can easily be cut into very very beautiful stamps, masha’Allah. As always I am against the use of foodstuff that is suitable for human consumption for creative or play purposes. That’s just waste). Other interesting materials to use with paint are sponges, bubble wrap  and small balloons.
  • Washi tapes art
  • Raid the cupboards collages. I love food packaging: so many colours, interesting fonts and prints!

This is not an exhaustive list. We might just go with the flow (especially if the weather allows us to “flow” outside so we don’t have as much cleaning up to do insha’Allah!)

It might be clear from my list, but I am after a specific type of art. A flat type. I will encourage the boys to create some decorative paper that will be used for BOOKMAKING insha’Allah. And it won’t be just a random book: It will be an aid to immerse ourselves in the tafseer this Ramadan. Watch this space insha’Allah.

Below is the list of the things I plan to use if the need for art arises, insha’Allah. All I need to do really is to be aware of their exact location, insha’Allah.

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