Food For My Soul: Zikr (#2)

Assalamoaliqum everyone! I hope you all are doing well? As we all know we are reaching almost to the end of this Holy month of Ramadan and I’m kinda sad but it has to end –  you know all good things must come to an end, anyhow so before it leaves us I won’t miss this chance to write something which you can benefit from In’Sha’Allah (If God wills) and in return I can fill my bucket of good deeds as every act of goodness in this month is multiplied by 70. So today I am going to talk about the second most important ‘food for our souls’ and that is “Zikr” – yes –  “Remembrance of Allah”!
As Muslims, we all believe that we are like a traveller in this world and have to leave this world one day but still we work so hard for this worldly life, and do so little for the life Hereafter. We should try to spend more time for worship and do something in this Duniya that can be helpful for us in the hereafter. Zikr is the best thing to do even if we are busy with our worldly affairs. We lose nothing if we remember Allah (Zikr) for a little while or whenever we get free time, even if we are cooking, doing house chores, we can make ourselves busy with zikr and it will count as an Ibadah (act of worship).
Recently I got this noble oppurtunity  of meeting few sisters in Deen, they came all the way from South Africa to Perth and Allahamdullilah we had some real heart to heart conversation and I felt so great and spiritually uplifted in their company. All this for the sake of Allah –  SubhanAllah – the amount of sacrifice they do for ALLAH and on the path of Allah, it can not be explained in words. May Allah reward them for their efforts. I had a beautiful experience with them and most interesting part is they gifted me this book named as “Faza’il – e – A’maal” by Maulvi Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi. This is a beautiful gift I could ever have, may Allah reward them for this. So I started reading this book which is divided into different sections, as I was turning pages I reached a section on “Virtues of Zikr”, out of curiosity I started reading this section. SubhanAllah, I was amazed to see that there are multiple benefits of doing zikr and I have realised that how important it is to include Zikr in our day to day life to gain more Barakah. So, I thought of sharing it with you guys.
Hafiz Ibn Qayyim, a well known Muhaddith has written an authentic book, named, ‘al – Waabilus Sayyib’ on the virtues of Zikr. He has stated therein that the virtues of zikr are more than 100 and he has listed 79 of these. I am gonna share few of these with you not all of them …
  1. Zikr keeps away the satan and weakens his strength
  2. It is the cause of Almighty Allah’s pleasure
  3. It relieves the mind of anxieties and worries
  4. It produces joy and happiness in the heart
  5. It brightens the face and the heart
  6. It attracts one’s sustenance
  7. It invests the zaakirs (person who does Zikr) with awe and sweetness so that the seeing eye is filled with awe and pleasure at his sight
  8. It is the key to nearness to Almighty Allah; the greater the Zikr, the greater the nearness to Allah, and greater the indifference to Zikr, the greater the difference from him.
  9. Zikr of Allah causes one’s mention in the court of Allah, as Quran says “Remember me, and I will remember you”
  10. It gives life to the heart. Hafiz Ibn Taimiyah says that Zikr is as necessary for the heart as water for the fish. Imagine the condition of a fish out of water
  11. It is food for the heart and the soul; depriving them of Zikr is like depriving the body of its food
  12. The words of Zikr keep on moving round the Arsh of Almighty Allah as stated in a Hadith
  13. If one remembers Allah in happiness, Almighty Allah remembers him in his afflictions
  14. It causes Allah’s peace and mercy to descend, while angels surround the person engaged in Zikr
  15. It saves the tongue from indulging in backbiting, loose talk, lies and abuses. It is a common experience that a man whose tongue remain engaged in Zikr does not commit these absurdities. On the other hand, the tongue that is not used in Zikr, falls an easy prey to all kinds of useless talk
  16. By virtue of Zikr, the Zaakir is blessed, as also the person sitting by him.
  17. If Zikr is shared by tears and repentance in loneliness the Zaakir (a person who does zikr) will be blessed under the shadow of Allah’s throne on the Day of Judgement, when hearts will jump to lips due to agony of intolerable heat of that day
  18. The noor of Zikr remains with a person in his life as well as in his grave. It will go infront of him on the Siraat in the Hereafter.
  19. There is a sort of hardness in the human heart, which is not softened by anything except Zikr
  20. Almighty Allah grants His grace to those who do Zikr, and the angels pray for them (Imagine angels are praying for you, Isn’t it worth it.)
  21. By Zikr one is blessed with divine help that associates in all one’s doings. That is why some time man’s achievements surpass his powers, and he attains what was seemingly beyond his reach. This is perhaps the reason why our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) advised his daughter Hazrat Fatima (Radhiyallaho anha) to recite SubhanAllah – Allhamdullilah 33 times each and Allahu Akbar 34 times before going to bed at night, when she approached him for a helper, complaining that she was over-worked by the labour of grinding wheat and doing other house-hold jobs. The prophet (peace be upon him) further said, “The recitation of these Kalimahs is better for you than a servant”
  22. The faces of those who do Zikr remain bright in this life, and will carry a special radiance in the Hereafter
  23. One who does Zikr at many places will find many witnesses in his favour. Our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whatever deed is done, good or bad, by any man or woman on the face of the earth, the earth will describe it all, with date, time and place”
  24. Zikr dispels every fear of the heart. It has a special hand in inducing peace of mind and for relieving the heart of its fear. The greater, therefore, the amount of Zikr, the greater freedom from fear
  25. Gatherings of Zikr are also the gatherings of angels

After knowing all of this who wouldn’t want to do Zikr. I specifically found these virtues so inspiring. So my last note would be: get yourself engaged with Zikr and other kinds of worship, especially in this last portion or Ashrah (ten days) of Ramadan. These days are signified by increasing devotion to worship and increased good deeds. For this reason I have taken these last days of Ramadan off from all social media because I believe it’s important to recharge our souls, connect ourselves to Allah and to get ourselves spiritually uplifted so that we can face the challenges this world has to offer with powerful souls for the whole year. And Ramadan is the best time to do that, to discconett ourself from the social media. That’s all for now, Remember me in your prayers. See you after Eid In’sha’Allah! 🙂

Till then take care and eat healthy! 🙂

Food For My Soul: PRAYER (#1)

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said:
“Coolness of my eyes lies in Salah (prayer)”
(Ahmad, An-Nasa’i)
Muslims are ordered to pray five times a day; to keep renewing their connection with Allah throughout the day and to keep themselves on track. Prayer is like a freedom of the soul from all worldly attachments and materialistic things. And the idea that prayer (salah) could be the coolness of our eyes is something that seems sooooo beautiful.
Prayer has tremendous benefits both physical and spiritual. It energises the souls and help us transcend to a higher level of awareness. Studies show that engaging in regular ritual activities helps us relax, which in turn adjusts our blood pressure and heart rate, and harmonises our breathing. Relaxation reduces the over-secretion of adrenaline resulting from the constant stresses of life. By reducing stress, one empowers the immune system, protects the heart and adjusts one’s blood pressure and circulation. This regular act not only harmonises the soul, but also heals our physical ailments and helps us cope with the tensions of everyday life. Many studies now show the evidence of reduced rates of depression, sorrow and pessimism among individuals who perform their prayers regularly. I actually have experienced this in my life, from the day I started getting regular with my prayers I felt more in peace, more happy and contented.
 
From The Life Of Our Beloved:
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a role model for all humanity. And we should take his life as a role model for us in every affair of life and should mould our character and day to day life according to it. After performing my first Umrah, I started learning about my deen (religion), wanted to develop a true love for our beloved Rasool Allah (peace be upon him) so I started this quest for Seerah books. When I started reading about him I got more curious and wanted to know more about him; how he used to do Ibadah (worship), what he used to eat, how he used to spend his day and all that balance of Deen and Duniya he brought into his life so I continued reading about his life and I have learnt few things (still learning) and I’d like to share it with you guys, you know just a little bit of his prayer routine mixing with our current routines.
If you study the life of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), you will get to know how the Prophet (peace be upon him) turned to prayer when he had any worries or problems. Allah says in Qur’an:
“And seek help in patience and prayer, and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for those who have true humility {those who obey Allah with full submission, fear His punishment, and believe in His promise(Paradise) and in His warnings (Hell)}”.
Quran 2:45
Allah also says:
“O you who believe! Seek help in patience and Prayer. Truly Allah is with the patient ones”.
Quran 2:153
Prayer Routine: Early in the morning, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to wake up, drink a cup of warm water with one teaspoonful of honey dissolved in it, and then pray. After Fajr prayer, he rested for meditation and morning Dhikar-Allah (Remembrance of Allah) till sunrise, when he prayed Duha prayer (a non obligatory prayer in the forenoon). This habit is very beneficial for increasing concentration and mood elevation throughout the whole day. Waking up early and drinking a honey tonic enable the brain to secrete enough serotonin to boost one’s mood for the rest of the day. Always try to keep this thing in mind that the 2 hours after sunrise are the peak production time of serotonin, the hormone responsible for a feeling of well being and for uplifting the mood.
After Duha prayer, It is time to start work till noon, when we take another short break to recharge our souls with an extra boost of energy while praying the midday prayer (Dhuhr). Our beloved used to take a short nap (Qailoola) before Dhuhr. You can take 5 to 10 min nap minimum and 30 to 40 min maximum, It’s a power nap and will recharge you for the rest of your day. Then after Dhuhr we resume work till Assar (afternoon prayer) time, about which we are specifically ordered by Allah to respect its timings:
“Guard strictly the (five obligatory) prayers, especially the middle prayer (the Assar prayer). And stand before Allah with obedience (and do not speak to others during the prayers)”.
Quran 2:238
The middle prayers are believed to be Fjar and Assar prayers. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“The angels descend to you in succession by night and by day, but they all gather together with you at the dawn and afternoon prayers. Those who have passed the night with you ascend to Heaven and Allah asks them, although He is well aware: “How did you leave my servants?” The angels reply, “They were praying when we left them and when we arrived we found them praying”.
Bukhari
SubhanAllah!
In order to respect ‘Assar prayer timing‘, people should not sleep after lunch time. This is beneficial to health, as sleeping directly after eating slows down digestion and weakens the body. After Assar Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to take another few minutes for meditation and evening Dhikar-Allah. After this little rest, the body is fully reenergised for resuming work till sunset (Maghrib) prayer, after which comes dinner time, followed by some gentle physical exercises such as walking, which aids digestion, benefits the metabolism, strengthens the heart and boosts blood circulation. At the end of the day it is time for the evening prayer (Isha), then a early to bed for a good night’s sleep.
How To Improve Our Salah:
To be able to pray five times a day, to truly enjoy it and find such an intensity of happiness in it that you call it the coolness of your eyes, seems like such a blessing and something to truly aspire to. There are a number of things that we should do to improve our salah and through it our lives in’sha’Allah …
  • So first things first, We should learn more about salah – I will talk about myself here, I really want to review my recitation in salah and whether the movements and positions are accurate.This may seem very basic but whenever I reflected I found out every single time there has room for improvement. Sometimes I perform salah with full speed and worldly thoughts in my mind especially when I am in social gatherings, or in the market, sometimes in the middle of the daily chores. I really need to improve this.
  • I would also like to study a little more about the benefits of salah and also the punishments for leaving salah. I believe that these are the things that will help to inspire and motivate me in’sha’Allah.
  • Reflect on salah – I want to spend a little time reflecting on the words and the meanings in salah.
  • Dedicate more time to salah – I often miss the Nawafil part of my prayers. I really need to work on that. Ramadan is the best time to offer Nawafil and to get into the habit.

So, that’s about it. I will end my blog here but before I leave I’d like to share something which inspired me: In autumn, usually the leaves of the trees fall in large numbers, so much so that on some trees not a single leaf is left behind. The same is the effect of salah performed with sincerity and devotion. All the sins of person offering salah are wiped off. SubhanAllah, Isn’t it amazing? Of course we all want to get rid of our sins, don’t we? I can not even try to explain the marvellous effects of a true prayer. One who practices it will soon feel and learn for himself; it is enough to mention this Hadith here:

 “If one prays two Rakah with full concentration, Allah forgivers that person for whatever sins were committed before”. 
Bukhari & Muslim
So, just try to perform your prayer with a complete sense of humility and submissiveness to Allah. Put all worldly thoughts behind you, in prayer you are directly addressing Allah. You should try to sense the meanings of each word and verse you are reciting; contemplate these meaning as deeply and sincerely as you can to keep you away from whispering of the devil (Sheytaan). Let’s make our prayers better and full of devotion. I will try to follow it as well because all of this is a reminder for myself first and foremost.

‘Food For My Soul’ – New Series

In our religion (Islam) we believe that Allah (God) created human beings with both a body and a soul; the body was created from clay and a soul was a breath from the spirit of the Almighty. Throughout our daily life we eat, drink, work, learn and rest; while we are nourishing our physical bodies, we rarely remember the food of the soul: It’s connection with its creator – ALLAH, how it craves for Allah’s pleasure, compassion and satisfaction. The soul is a specific creation sent by Allah is also satisfied and fed through something that Allah specifically sent, like the Quran (Holy book)

In this day and age, it’s very common to see the imbalance of our spiritual bodies. We spend hours and hours to feed our physical bodies but forget to nourish our souls. The imbalance of the spiritual body actually occurs when the soul disassociates itself and disconnects from Allah; when it strays away from the straight path. We get so much busy in this material or physical world that somehow we lose this connection from our lord. Submission to Allah, connecting back to Him is the only saviour of the soul: It is the only spiritual healer. This is the fact that is well known but intentionally ignored by human beings who vainly search for their happiness and peace of mind in worldly gains and transient trivial pursuit.

To cut the story short, just like we feed our physical body with food everyday, we need to feed our souls as well. This is the food which is very essential for the survival of our souls. Now the question is what exactly is the food for our souls? I believe anything that connects you to your Lord is the food for your soul, either it be the holy book ‘QURAN’, Prayers, Zikar/Remembrance of Allah, or a spiritual lecture, spiritual gatherings or even connecting to nature and remembering Allah. Because Allah has created this world for us to ponder and praise His glory.

Keeping all this in mind I came up with the idea of starting this new series ‘Food for my soul’  in which I will try to draw your attention towards the intake of spiritual food and will try to connect myself first and then you guys with our Lord the most high, the merciful. May Allah help me and guide me in this. So be with me and keep reading this new series “Food for my Soul” to nourish and keep your soul alive. If you have any suggestions for this new series or any spiritual writings please do share with me on my Facebook page ‘My healthy Life’ and I will share it on my blog with your name, In’sha’Allah!

Cheers xx

Pics were taken at the Silver Sands Beach, Mandurah

My Suhoor Today:

Assalamoaliqum friends (Muslim greetings)!

I hope you are doing well and having a productive Ramadan. Today is the 6th day of fasting in Perth, Western Australia. And it is going really well, Allhamdullilah (praise be to God). I have so many things in my mind these days, loaded with so many ideas for my blog and my Facebook page 😉 I wish and pray that I can benefit you guys with little knowledge that I have, and  of course you will get to know them soon, In’sha’Allah but for now I have something to share. The idea of sharing my suhoor and Iftar meals struck my mind today. So here I am with my suhoor meal … this morning for Suhoor I had this bowl of nutrition goodness with 3 Ajwa dates. This healthy delish light breakfast includes fresh fruits with a large dollop of organic yogurt and a sprinkle of chia seeds and cumin seeds on the top. This bowl is packed with a massive amount of nutrients and will give me a boost of energy for the day.

 

 

Chia seeds: These tiny chia seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch. They are thought to be the richest provider of omega 3 fatty acids, and soluble dietary fibre that we can add to our diets. The protein content is enough to meet the full amount of daily protein required in our diet. This tiny seed also provide us with vitamin B, C, E and calcium.

Cumin seeds: The health benefits of cumin include its ability to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, give you a clear and glowing skin and what not.

Yogurt: Yogurt is full of protein plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium. But one of the important thing regarding yogurt is “probiotics.” I use Jalna’s biodynamic organic yogurt which is full of probiotics.

 

 

Apple and Grapes: Who doesn’t know the benefits of fruits. We all know that they are a very good source of fiber, antioxidants and other minerals and vitamins. Obviously you can use whatever fruits you fancy – I used pink lady apple, red and green grapes. (two of my absolute favourites). You can use banana, blue berries, strawberries, mangoes or any seasonal fruit – it’s completely your choice.

I really hope that you find this blog useful and I would love to know what did you eat today in Suhoor? 🙂

 

Five family friendly snacks – click on the picture above

Healthy Eating In Ramadan

Why is that we spend a whole month of fasting, yet rather than losing weight we actually put on weight? I tell you why? It’s because we take this month as a month of food and forget the real essence of fasting and we overindulge ourselves, instead of eating less we actually overeat. Overeating has been frowned upon in our religion as it is thought to increase worldly appetites and cause sluggishness, thereby ”dulling the soul”. Ghazali said that satiety results in laziness and sluggishness of the heart; it slows down perception and awareness, while hunger clears the mind and purifies the heart. So, the whole purpose of fasting here is to have a lighter body in order to free the soul and focus on more important spiritual matters.

BENEFITS OF FASTING:

Fasting has lots of physical and spiritual benefits. I’m going to discuss some physical benefits here. Accordingg to Dhahabi in his ‘Medicine of the Prophet’, it was thought that the stomach was ”the seat of disease”. Fasting gives the digestive system a rest and makes the body feel lighter. The energy usually consumed in digestion and food metabolism will be directed towards body detoxification, tissue repair, and system healing.

Leon Chaitow recommended fasting in his book ”Natural Alternative to Antibiotics” as an effective way to ‘supercharge’ the immune system. He states that fasting boosts the activity of essential parts of the body’s natural defence mechanism. During fasting the ability of the lymphocytes and other blood cells to encounter any bacterial attack is much improved, and since the level of free radicals in the body is reduced by reducing food intake, the activity of the antioxidants is retained for better cell protection. Fasting also boosts the detoxification powers of the hepatic (liver) cells, cleans the kidneys and colon and purifies the blood. Furthermore, it helps overcome obesity, aids in ridding the body of any excess water, and clears the blood from extra fats, which in turn frees the tissues from stored fat-soluble toxins such as pesticides or drug metabolites.

In this month of Ramadan, we should aim and plan to gain the full benefits of fasting by eating healthy and controlling our portions of food. Always remember our body is a gift from Allah; He trusted our bodies to us to take care of for a fixed period of time. Taking care of it in the best way possible is our responsibility. The prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“God has a right over you; your body has a right over you …”

While we focus on our spiritual upbringing in this month, we also need to focus on our physical well being. To strike a balance between the needs of the physical body and your spiritual needs, you must consume the right type and amount of foods. Now let me share a few tips on what to eat and what not to eat during Ramadan.

 

 

WHAT’S FOR SUHOOR?

The prophet (Peace be upon him) strongly advised people not to skip suhoor (the meal before dawn). He recommended eating this light meal as close to dawn as we can, to be able to keep our full strength during the day. If you skip out on suhoor, you are putting your body in starvation mode and actually only going to cause yourself to overindulge at Iftaar time. So, eat sahoor. The prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“There is a blessing in eating sahoor so do not skip it. Atleast drink a sip of water, for Allah and his angels give their blessings to the people who eat their meal before the break of dawn”.

Ahmed 

List Of Food You Can Eat:

The best foods for suhoor are:

  • a light meal of bread and cheese or
  • A slice of bread with an omelette
  • Whole grain toast with all-natural peanut butter/almond butter top with berries/banana slices or
  • Museli/Quinoa with almond milk/full fat milk/yogurt, raisins, cinnamon, organic honey and banana/other fruits. Don’t forget the dates to spread on the top
  • 3 or 5 dates with water melon, depending upon the size of the dates (Sunnah)
  • 3 dates with milk

Basic rule applies here : ‘Do not overdo it’, when you eat less, you are less prone to becoming hungry quick and remember the purpose of fasting is to empty the stomach and lighten the body to free the soul.

WHAT’S FOR IFTAR?

List Of Food You Can Eat:

  • Dates: After a long day of fasting it is wise to break the fast with a light and healthy meal. Start with dates if possible. I personally don’t question any food that was eaten by our beloved Prophet (Peace be upon him) or recommended by him. Anas Ibn Malik RA (may God be pleased with him) narrated:

“The messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to break his fast before praying with some fresh dates, but if there were no fresh dates, he took some mouthfuls of water”.

Sunan Abu Dawud

 

 

Dates contain a high percentage of simple sugars that are easily and quickly absorbed by the body, giving an immediate boost of energy and restoring normal blood sugar levels (BSL) after a long fasting day. Dates also provide the energy necessary for food digestion, assimilation and absorption, thus preventing the sluggishness often felt after the Iftar. Dates are rich in vitamin A and B, in addition to magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. In addition to simple and easily absorbed sugars, they contain fibre, which relieves constipation, aids in cholesterol reduction, fights colon cancer and rapidly gives a feeling of satiety (fullness).

  • Fresh fruit juice/Milk: I will highly recommend that you break your fast with dates and fresh juice. This is the healthy combination and  if you can’t prepare it daily then make your life easy and have plain water or even milk with dates. Milk with dates at Iftar is a tradition which is applied in many Arabs and Muslim countries. Muslims break their fast on dates pre-soaked in milk before performing their sunset prayer. Milk is rich in proteins, calcium, vitamin B2 and fat soluble vitamins. The high glycemic index of dates is counteracted by milk. The fatty nature of milk slows down the absorption of the sugars in dates, preventing a sudden rush of insulin.
  • Other option would be Dates and Fruit salad

Basic rule applies here: Eat three or more dates with milk/fresh juice or any other healthy drink. Take it as a snack time, offer Maghrib and then have your dinner post Maghrib.

Dinner Meal Options:

  • Fresh salad: Eat lots of fresh salad, it is both healthy and filling, but avoid the ready made dressings. You can prepare your own healthy dressing from olive oil, apple cider vinegar, thyme, basil and oregano.
  • Chicken/lentils/beans
  • Rice/Chapati/Bread/Pasta

I recommend you follow the plate method for dinner. If you want to know how much food should we eat from the food items mentioned above, check out my blog which I wrote about portion control.  Click here for the blog on Portion Control

Basic rule applies here: Eat salad first and then the rest of your meal. Salad will fill you up. Check out your portion sizes, Don’t overeat.

 

Drink Plenty of Water:

Water is the most purifying drink. It cleans out toxins from your body, prevents you from getting headaches (especially when you are not drinking or eating all day). So drink plenty of water between Iftar and Sahoor.

FOODS TO AVOID:

  • Avoids fats and fried foods as much as you can. Please, a humble request, don’t eat those samosa, pakoras, chips and bla bla. Frying foods creates unnatural fats called trans fatty acids (trans fats) which studies have shown to be involved in many heart and circulatory disorders. So avoid it.
  • Skip the soda. Drinking soda with your Iftar will only make you thirstier, and dehydrate your body more than it already is.
  • Break your coffee and tea addiction. If possible, regulate your body to get rid of your caffeine addiction before Ramadan starts. If you are drinking 3-4 cups of coffee/tea daily, and on the first day of Ramadan you don’t drink any, you may get headaches and lack energy. So start reducing your tea/coffee now.
  • Don’t eat empty calorie desserts. Replace them with fresh or dried fruits.

Furthermore, do not sleep after Iftar. Be active and take a walk or 15-20 min of exercise would be good. It will help your body to digest the food. And how can we forget our voluntary prayer – ‘The Tarahweeh prayer’ is the best form of exercise guys. Be aware that if you fast properly (no overeating), you may experience some natural symptoms of detoxification as the toxins are slowly withdrawn from your body, especially in the first few days. These symptoms can be anything from fatigue to headache and may be bad breath. These are totally safe and natural symptoms which you will soon overcome (as long as you are getting enough fluids). I hope that you find this blog helpful. I assure you that making these small healthy changes in your Ramadan and even regular diet, will substantially improve your overall health and fitness.

My last note would be: Make a good intention for all of your actions. For instance, instead of praying Maghrib and rushing to eat, set your intention to eat to nourish your body so that you can stand and pray. Set your intention to eat suhoor to have energy all day so that you can worship properly. In this way, you make eating an act of worship and get rewarded for it In’sha’Allah (If God wills).

May you all have a happy and healthy Ramadan. Remember me in your dua’s. Take care and eat healthy! 🙂

RAMADAN – A Month of Self Discipline!

Hello friends … hope you all are doing really well. “Ramadan” is coming … yaaay I’m excited 😉 It’s unbelievable how fast this blessed month flies by every year. For those of you who don’t know much about Ramadan (my non muslim readers), it’s the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Muslims fast every single day from around just before sunrise to sunset. Most muslims offer the extra prayers called ”the Taraweeh” prayers which they pray after the night time prayers. Muslims pray five times a day. Those are the obligatory prayers that practicing muslims pray on a daily basis and in Ramadan we have some extra prayers (voluntary prayers) after the final fifth prayer at night. Fating is something that most major religions of the world part take in. For muslims its different in that sense we don’t eat anything whatsoever from pre dawn till sunset. People who are ill they are exempt from fasting. For instance women who are pregnant and in their lactation period, old people – people who are weak all of those are exempt from fasting. Apart from abstaining from food, muslims also abstain from sexual relations during fasting period and also from being bad people. Fasting teaches us patience, tolerance and how to discipline our body and souls. Ramadan is a special time where we make an extra effort to truly be fully conscious of how we are behaving and the vibes that we have not just on ourselves but also on the people around us. This month is actually a training period for us so that we can continue doing good deeds through out the year.

There are so many wisdoms behind fasting but for me it is actually to pull myself out of this material world and to put myself in touch with the spiritual dimension, the spirituality that we all have inside us but we tend to forget on day to day basis. And abstaining ourselves from food really does do that. You feel that empty stomach, you become extra sensitive towards people, you feel the pain for people who are deprived of food. Hunger reminds me that I am so blessed to have food on my table everyday whereas there are many who are dying because of hunger because they don’t have food.

With less than a few days to go to Ramadan, I am trying to take my own advice and prepare for the blessed month as well as I can. This month of 29 or 30 days is the best time to change ourselves and to make or break a habit. I believe Ramadan is the best time to discipline ourselves physically and spiritually. So, that’s why I thought of writing about Self discipline. It’s really unfortunate to see that we Muslims have forgotten the traditions and made this month a month of over indulgence, a month of food and Iftar parties and sleepless nights. Yes, lets talk about filling our stomachs, its vital to talk. Every time when I see muslims filling their stomach it reminds me of a very well known hadith:

“The prophet (PBUH) said: The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach; for the son of Adam a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. If you must fill it, then one-third for food, one-third for drink, and one-third for air”.  Al Tirmidhi

 

 

We truly ignore this saying of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) and do the opposite. Especially in Ramadan when we can easily discipline our eating habits we simply overeat, and eat all the crap like fried stuff – samosas, pakoras, junk food and bla bla. So, in this Ramadan we should make this goal to attain discipline, to change our bad eating habits In’sha’Allah (If God wills). In Imam Al- Ghazali’s “Breaking the two desires” book 23 he explains the following four duties as a method of discipline. I am going to share these with you and will add few more useful tips for additional benefit and guidance which you can follow throughout this Ramadan and after Ramadan of course.

Eat what is lawful (halal) and pure (Tayyieb):

  • Make intention for the sake of Allah
  • Avoid packaged and processed foods
  • Avoid fizzy carbonated drinks
  • Eat organic whenever possible and seasonal food
  • Support local farmers, I normally use this notion “Eat Local & Think Global”

Limit the quantity you eat:

  • Eat when truly hungry
  • Discipline gradually
  • Let food digest before eating again
  • Reduce intake gradually
  • Stop eating before you are full
  • Be consistent, have balance.

Delay when you eat:

  • Fasting is good for self discipline (fast Mondays and Thursdays other than Ramadan)
  • Feel hunger (without hurting health)
  • Determine what is the least you can eat safely

Which varieties of food you eat:

  • Incorporate prophetic foods into your diet
  • Introduce healthy food choices
  • Eat nutrient dense foods
  • Avoid diet trends, gimmicks, and quick fixes
  • Limit meat consumption
  • We are individual (it must be convenient, accessible and available)

This is not about attaining self discipline only in Ramadan, it should be with the intention of changing one self for the whole year. Also, this is not only for our health and good nutrition but we want to follow the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) and gain more rewards.

Before I finish my blog, I feel the need to talk about this but first I’d like to ask this question … If you knew that this would be the last Ramadan you had left, how would you spend that Ramadan? Would you be in the kitchen for 3 hours cooking? Would you? Hello sisters, I’m talking to you 😉 Answer would be ”Probably Not”. I am aware of the fact that women spend hours in the kitchen during this month. You should be spending that time for lectures, reading Quran, anything else than just wasting time in the kitchen. If you wanna cook that’s fine, but don’t overdo it, you know what I mean. Make enough, don’t overdo it. If you ask me, honestly I’d love to have cooked the night before extra, this way I get another hour and a half to get more stuff done. Eat left overs, eat less. It’s the month of sacrifice, so eat less and give more. Last thing on our mind should really be food.

Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to the real purpose and spirit of Ramadan. Ramadan is not only about omitting food, It’s not about eating and overfilling our stomachs, it’s not about indulging all night and sleeping all day and waking up an hour before sunset to prepare a meal. Rather, it’s about you and your relationship with Allah. It’s about connecting with your lord, it’s about growing spiritually, doing extra ibadah (worship). Its about sitting with your kids, teaching them the importance of Ramadan and going together as a family to the mosque to offer Taraweeh prayer. Eat healthy so you have more energy to do the right things that you need to do in this month.

That being said, I’m done with my topic today. My next blog would be about what should we eat for Iftar and Sheri, its coming up soon, so stick around. Till then take care and eat healthy! 🙂

FIND YOUR GIFT!

Hey friends! How have you been? You may have noticed a lack of activity from my blog these last few months. I apologise for the lack of blog – Personal things have taken over rather. But I am back and hopefully will be blogging regularly again, In’sha’Allah (Arabic word which means: If Allah wills). Ohhhh man I seriously missed it. I loooooovvveee writing. But to be honest I have been enjoying extra time with my baby love and hubby! They are my life and I am grateful I get to spend quality time with my beautiful family. Allhamdullilah! (Praise be to Allah)
 Okay, by the way if you guys still wondering about what I will be discussing today under this topic “Find your Gift”, then continue reading please 😉 Today in the morning when I was reading my daily routine stuff with a cuppa of my favourite Green tea, these two beautiful quotes drew my attention which I am going to share with you guys. They literally touched my heart. First one is by Jalaluddin Rumi (Muslim poet & Islamic scholar) and the second one is by Zig Ziglar (Motivational speaker). I was admiring these quotes and then I thought why not write a blog post about it. So here I am with a new blog post on the following quotes:
“Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put into every heart”. 
Jalaluddin Rumi 
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away”.
Zig Ziglar
Aren’t these words so beautiful and profound? I am truly in love with these quotes because I am a strong believer of this notion. I believe every human being on this planet is blessed with some kinda gift, something which he/she loves doing the most or enjoy doing the most. I also believe that if you do what you love is important for long term career, satisfaction and success. Ask yourself these questions …
Do you love to draw/paint/write/explore?
Are you a people/nature lover?
Did you always know that you were good at making others feel at ease or feel good about themselves?
Are you good at helping others and wanting to make a difference in someone’s life?
All these things are gift from Allah and can be used for benefit of the self and for the people around you. It can be anything, you just need to find your gift.
How will you know what is the gift for you? I suggest you take some quiet time to sit and think deeply about what you love doing and what you are good at? Nature keeps on calling you towards your God given gift, you just have to pay an attention and don’t ignore the pull it has on you. Spend some time in pondering and then implementing a way to do good with your special gift –  and if you carry this out with sincere intent for Allah swt and concern for the world – and if you do it all with joy and gratitude – then the result will be His drawing you closer to Him and your life will be full of barakah & of course the contentment will follow.
But it’s really sad that in today’s society people have moved a long way away from such lofty mindsets. Every job or work have become a means to material gain or to building egos. We have lost the soul and the real essence and become a money making machine. What I am trying to explain here is whether your God-given talent becomes a career or remains a hobby, it is your intent and joy in it that matter. Don’t pursue money, pursue your vision, your dreams and your ideas with passion and money will be a by product.
  
So find your talent and find your place with your lord and see what He has given you to do. Nurture it with love and then take it a step further and think how you can better the world with it or how your knowledge or skill can be beneficial to the world. Put these quotes up on your wall as a reminder and begin. The journey is guaranteed to be joyful and fruitful. 🙂

Turkish Food! Voilaaaa ;)

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Hi guys, how are you all? I welcome you to my food diary. Check this pic guys, my mouth has just started drooling after posting this yummylicious food pic 😀 Well, today in my food diary I present to you this delish dish of “Chicken Shish Plate” which is a plate of marinated chicken cubes served with a bed of Turkish rice with a side of Shepherd Salad, Turkish bread and my favourite Jajik dip (which is made of shredded cucumber with crushed garlic, dill, mint and home made yogurt) Yummmm! Isn’t it tempting? You might have eaten this kinda food before, If you haven’t then let me introduce this Turkish dish to you. ‘Chicken Shish Plate’ – Voilaa! Turkish cuisine is one of my favourites that’s why I’ve decided to know more about it and find out why is it healthy? I’m going to share all this info with you …

Food History: 

Did you guys know that Turkey is one of only seven countries in the world that can produce enough food to feed its people. This advantage gives the Turks access to fresh, locally grown ingredients that help to create some of the freshest dishes available. Turkish cuisine is often regarded as one of the greatest in the world. Its culinary traditions have successfully survived over 1,300 years for several reasons, including its favorable location and Mediterranean climate. The people of Turkey enjoy a Mediterranean diet, (which has been promoted as one of the healthiest diets on Earth) with emphasis on: vegetables, legumes, grains, oily fish, seafood, nuts, fresh fruits and olive oil. Contrary to common belief, Turkish cuisine is generally not spicy (though this varies throughout the seven regions). Seasonings and sauces, although frequently used, are simple and light and do not overpower the food’s natural taste. The most popular seasonings include dill, mint, parsley, cinnamon, garlic, cumin.

Why is Turkish Food Healthy?

I believe most Turkish food is healthy because of healthy ingredients and the use of healthy cooking methods. Let’s discuss few of them in detail …

Healthy Ingredients: 

Yoghurt – is a staple ingredient in Turkish cuisine and is included in many forms. Yoghurt is used in many marinades for chicken and lamb. It is also widely used to make many dips such as humus. It is used as a dressing for salads and as a sauce for grilled vegetables or even eaten on its own as a snack.

Olive Oil – Olive oil is a very healthy component of Mediterranean diet due to the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and high level of antioxidants. In Turkish cuisine olive oil is used for salad dressings, and for preparing a wide range of dips and vegetable dishes.

Healthy Cooking Methods:

Grilling and Barbecueing  – Grilling and barbecueing meat and vegetables is a long established tradition in Turkey. Red meat, chicken and fish along with an array of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and various bell peppers are all grilled. This is a very healthy way to eat vegetables. Grilled vegetables are generally served sprinkled with dried chilli powder and with some garlic. Grilling is a healthier cooking method than frying and choosing a mixed Turkish grill is a very healthy option.

 

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Shepherd Salad

Healthy Salad:

Often a salad is included as a side dish. A typical salad is shepherd salad, made from cucumber, parsley, tomato and green onion with olive oil and lemon juice dressing. And sometimes they serve it with yogurt dressing as well. Ask for the dressing to be served on the side, because you can then control the amount of oil in the salad to control the calories.

Turkish Rice:

If you’re familiar with Turkish food, you’ll know that rice features quite heavily in the eating process. A lot of Turkish recipes end with, ‘serve with rice’. If you go to a Turkish Restaurant, whichever dish you choose from the menu it’s highly likely that you’ll be asked whether you would like a side serving of rice to go with it. Turkish rice were new to me, when we were in restaurants, eating meals, we always wondered what those ‘brown bits’ were in our servings of Turkish rice. I became curious and did some reasearch and found out that those ‘brown bits’ are orzo (şehriye) and are a type of pasta, as you can see in the photo below.

 

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Rice with Orzo

Some Turkish rice recipes will use vermicelli, instead. Both are quite common and healthy. Turkish rice are made with very few and simple ingredients like rice, şehriye (orzo or vermicelli), butter, hot water or stock. I must admit that Turkish rice (şehriyeli pilav) is very tasty & nutritious – It’s rich and buttery and is indeed delicious on its own and definitely one of the most famous dishes in Turkey!

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Rice with vermicelli

I hope you enjoyed Turkish food talk today and this chicken shish plate. 😉 I will catch you guys with another topic soon. Till than take care! 🙂

Addicted To Sugar?

“Sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine”.

Mark Hyman, MD

Yes, you read that right! Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine and many food products industries have perfected the right combination of sugar, fat and salt to provide our brains and bodies with a buzz we can’t resist. I have heard some of my friends say that they crave sugary foods so badly that they must have some everyday. There are many theories that attempt to explain the craving for sugary foods but my theory is this: It tastes and looks soooooo good! 😉

If you go into any Coffee shop/cake shop or even any store now a days, you will find they are all loaded with beautifully decorated cakes which are always on the display to catch your attention — all those pretty cup cakes, creamy chocolates, light sponge cakes, muffins, fluffy marshmallows, chocolate fudge cake and the list goes on … in fact, just about everything sugary looks and smells delicious. Isn’t it? Hands down, I have a sweet tooth and I like all these too. 😉 Having said that, I am also aware of the fact that giving myself a sugary treat once a week is not going to harm me. But if I am going to over indulge then that is something my body is not going to like. I’m sure most of you love sugary stuff but, in reality there is nothing to love about refined sugar. Why? Because it makes us put on weight, increases the size of our liver, makes us unwell and ages us inside and out, leaving us tired, fat, old-looking and wrinkled. Most importantly it makes us addictive and drags valuable nutrients out of our body. So today, let’s find out in detail why sugar is sooo addictive and sooo bad for us?

Over the last fifty years, the Western world has doubled its consumption of processed sugar (the type found in biscuits, soft drinks, and ice cream, for instance) and during this time, rates of obesity and heart disease have soared. Of course, sugar is not solely responsible – but it is largely to blame. If you feel that I am over exaggerating, then Google ‘Harmful effects of processed sugar’ and  you’ll get about 32,500,000 links. Millions of people (especially in America and the UK where processed sugar consumption is highest) are fat, unwell and living uncomfortably, taking all sorts of medication just to keep their overloaded bodies going.

WHY IS SUGAR BAD FOR US?

We all know that sugar is bad for us but let us just remind ourselves of a few reasons here:

Sugar makes you fat: Your body can not process too much sugar, so it gets stored as a fat. Plus it also makes fat burning even harder – if you are eating too much refined sugar every day, you’ll always struggle to lose weight and you’ll never have a flat tummy.

Sugars lowers energy levels: Processed sugar causes a huge and damaging increase in your blood sugar levels, giving you a quick burst of energy, which is soon followed by a long, hard crash, leaving you tired, hungry and eventually fat.

Sugar leaches your body of Vitamin B: It leaches out Vitamin B from your body, causing exhaustion; any mental and phyiscal or emotional stress does the same. If you add sugar on to the end of a stressed out day, you’re getting a double disaster of vitamin B depletion. Vitamin B keeps your metabolism healthy, boosts your energy levels, keeps skin, hair and nails healthy and keeps your immunity strong.

Sugar, not fat, is making us fatter: Burning body fat has a lot to do with controlling your insulin levels. But sugar spikes raise your insulin levels, leading to faster fat storage, and this is the real reason why so many of us are either overweight or obese. Sugar, not fat, is making us fatter. In a healthy slim person, 40 percent of the sugar they eat is converted straight to fat; in an overweight person, up to 60 percent is converted straight to fat and stored right around their stomach, hips and thighs. Think about it: up to 60 percent of that delish cupcake is heading straight for your tummy, hips and thighs, where it will remain for a very long time. Scary right! 😦

Effects our immune system: Too much sugar depletes vitamin and mineral stores in the body, which may impact on the immune system. So you become ill more frequently and for longer.

Sugar wears out your organs: It forces your internal organs to cope with changes in your body chemistry, which means that your kidneys and pancreas can become worn out long before you stop needing them. Hence the increase in late-onset Diabetes. 

Kick Your Sugar Addiction card with colorful background

WHY IS SUGAR ADDICTIVE?

Some people experience powerful cravings for sweets – internal messages telling them to eat sugar even though they know it’s bad for them says Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Centre at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Centre. “These people get strong urges to consume sweets, and these cravings border on addiction”, he says. “When they eat sugar, just like when someone ingests cocaine, some people get that feeling of well-being, a rush that makes them feel good for a period of time. When the sweets are taken away, the people just don’t feel right”.

An article was published on BBC News which explains that sugar can be a mood-booster as it prompts the body to release the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin into the blood stream. The instant ‘lift’ we get from sugar is one of the reasons we turn to it at times of celebration or when we crave comfort and reward. However, the pleasant sugar rush triggers an increase in insulin as the body strives to bring blood glucose levels back to normal. This has the knock-on effect of causing a ‘sugar crash’ and makes many crave yet more sugar, which can lead to a cycle of binge-eating. So, once you start eating it, it’s very hard to stop. I guess this is why you very rarely find a packet of half finished biscuits. 😀

Emotional Addiction:

For most of us, when we were growing up, sugary foods were used as a ‘reward’ by our parents and grandparents. Isn’t this the truth? If we get good grades at school, we’d be given sweets on the way home, to say, ‘well done’. On different occasions like ‘Eid ul adha’ and ‘Eid ul Fitr’ (religious festivals celebrated by Muslims) we’d be given different sweets like mithai’s and halwa’s. As for our birthdays, we ‘d get a huge cake, drenched in sugar, to celebrate. So is it any wonder that, by the time we reached our teens, we’d learn to associate sugary foods with happy times and making ourselves feel better?

Physical Addiction:

As mentioned above, sugar has a similar effect on the brain to that of pain killing drugs like morphine and other opiates such as heroin. These types of drugs produce almost instant feelings of pleasure, calm and satisfaction, making them incredibly addictive. Many of us turn to something sugary for ‘energy’ and technically, it is a form of energy, but it’s a bad type. So, yes, you’ll get a quick burst after eating a chocolate bar, but about ten minutes after that you’ll feel even more tired than you were before. (That’s because sugar quickly hits the bloodstream, creating a rapid rise in blood sugar or we can say a spike. However, just as quickly, you then crash as a result of insulin being produced from the pancreas, leaving you exhausted). And you might grab another bar of chocolate for that quick burst of energy again because of the vicious cycle that has just started. So, stop the cycle by not starting it.

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Conclusion:

So what do you do if you have a sweet tooth? The best you can do is ”don’t ever use sugar as a reward”. Ask yourself this – how is giving yourself early wrinkles, a bloated stomach and fat around your waist line a ‘reward’? See sugar for what it is – a nasty toxin that’s dyed a pretty colour to lure you in, and which then makes you fat and unwell. Reward yourself with something else instead like a beauty treatment or spend time in nature or read a good book or find comfort in other things like have a cup of camomile or green tea or some fruits with yogurt, nuts etc. Go for a brisk walk, phone a friend – anything to distract your mind from having more sugar.

And if you really wanna indulge in your favourite sugary stuff then make it once a week but again be careful with the portion size. Don’t over do it. You can also make something at home with natural sugars like honey, pure organic raw sugar, cane sugar, molasses etc. There’s enough healthy stuff there to satisfy the sweetest sweet tooth. It’s time to get back to a healthy lifestyle, eat foods which are real and remember that sugar is a nuclear fat bomb exploding all over your body. If you eat it everyday, you’ll always struggle with weight loss and overall health.

So, ”Let’s Say Good Bye to Processed Sugar and Hello to Natural Sugars”.

 

SPIRULINA – My Favourite Superfood!

Hey Guys! I am back. 🙂 Today I am gonna talk about SPIRULINA — Natures perfect multivitamin and my favourite super food!!! I am sure you all have heard a lot about this super food and have seen it as an ingredient in green energy drinks, smoothies and natural supplements, but do you know that spirulina benefits are so amazing that if taken on a daily basis they could restore and revitalise your health.

It’s a very good source of vitamins like (B6, B1, B2, B12, Biotin, Niacin, E, Folic acid, Inositol, Pantothenic acid, Carotenoids, Beta carotene) and Minerals like (Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Phosphorus, Selenium). Another good thing is spirulina will be from 65% to 71% protein, depending upon growing conditions. This protein content is said to be biologically complete. That means that all 8 essential amino acids are present in their correct ratios. Plus 10 non essential amino acids as well. How amazing is this? 🙂

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Nature’s way is the best brand when it comes to superfoods!

Now I am going to share some of its health benefits with you guys:

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, “A number of animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection fighting proteins and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer”. 

I am sure you all know that foods which are high in protein promote weight loss and low fat stores because it requires more energy to metabolise. As I mentioned earlier that Spirulina is an excellent source of protein which makes it a great food to speed up weight loss.

Helps in lowering high cholestrol. A recent animal study published in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology took rabbits, fed them a high cholesterol diet (HCD) containing 0.5% cholesterol for four weeks, and then fed them a HCD with 1% or 5% spirulina for an additional eight weeks. After the eight-week trial was complete, LDL levels decreased by 26% in the group eating 1% of spirulina and 41% in the group eating 5% spirulina, which heavily suggests that the more we eat the more benefits we will receive! Serum triglycerides and total cholesterol were also significantly reduced.

Researchers also discovered that the spirulina supplementation lowered intimal aorta surface by 33% to 48%, which suggests that it can prevent atherosclerosis and subsequent stroke. Click here for detail study.

Spirulina lowers high blood pressure and it also boosts our energy. In short there are sooo many health benefits of spirulina. I will highly recommend you add this superfood into your daily diet. You can find this in the health section of your local grocery store or in pharmacies. You can add spirulina in your salads or fresh juices. I love to add 1-tsp of spirulina in my juices, smoothies or salad dressings. Preferably in my juices or green drinks as it has a pond like taste. And if you wanna read more about healthy drinks and how to incorporate them into our diet then check out my article here.

I am gonna share two of my favourite recipes here. I call it ‘Green Energy Drink’ as it looks sooo green and gives me energy 😀 kidding! You can create your own recipe with fruits and veggies of your choice.

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‘Green Energy Drink’

Ingredients:

2 green apples

1 cucumber

1 stalk celery

2 stalks kale

2 handfuls of lettuce

Few leaves of coriander or mint

4 medium carrots

1tsp spirulina

Method:

Add everything into a blender. Blend it. So simple and easy, and way better for you than a can of energy drink.

‘Coconut Drink’

You can also add 1 tea spoon of spirulina in 2 cups of coconut water, stir it & your drink is ready. Easy peasy!

That’s all for today, Subscribe for more! Take care xx