Shaad Hamid

Oxford SEO and PPC Consultant/Blogger

June 7, 2014
by Shaad Hamid
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Making this Ramadan your best ever!

The ultimate objective of Ramadan is to get closer to Allah.

Getting closer to Allah is relative, I don’t care if you perform salah only on Jumuah, I don’t care if you pray 3 times a day and miss Fajr and Isha during other days, and I don’t care if you’re someone who wakes up everyday to pray Qiyam. Whatever your level of Emaan is, ensure that at the end of this Ramadan, your relationship with Allah is better than when you began the blessed month of Ramadan. This is the least you can achieve in this blessed month.

The second objective is to earn Allah’s forgiveness. The month of Ramadan is full of bounties and blessings. Don’t miss out on Allah’s extended mercy toward those who fast in this month. Constantly seek forgiveness and ensure that at the end of this month, you are forgiven. Imagine concluding the month of Ramadan being fully cleansed and forgiven and you come out of it sinless like a new born baby?

The third objective is to earn protection from the fire. This is the highest objective for those who want it. what this means is that on the day of Qiyama (judgement) when everyone will be worried about their destiny, you will be stood there, given VIP access into Jannah because Allah Al-Kareem released you from the fire of Jahannam. Also, in the Shariah, there are instances where you can’t go back on your word even if you were joking. For example, if you say “I divorce you” to your spouse even as a joke, you can’t go back on your word. It means you have divorced the person (or given your first thalaq for those who want to be more technical!). Also when you have said “I release you” to your slave, even as a joke, you cannot go back on your word from the point of the Shariah. So my dear brothers and sisters, would you think Allah the Most High, would ever go back on His word when He has given you freedom from the hell fire? If He says this Ramadan that “you, O My servant, I have freed you from the fire”, Allah Most High would never go back on His word! Can you imagine what a huge achievement that is? SubhanAllah, only a fool will let this month pass away without trying to earn the freedom from hell fire.

Having said that, I am aware not everyone’s motivation will be the same. So in order to achieve at least the minimum goal this month, let us put together an action plan.

This is aimed at those wishing to go for the lowest objective in this month of Ramadan. May Allah Azzawajal make me among those who have gotten closer to Him even by a foot-span. Ameen!

1) Make sincere intention that this year, you will connect with Allah in a deep and meaningful way. Actions are judged by intentions, so make sincere intention.

2) Set a target of attending Fajr and Isha in congregation. This one is for the men. Please don’t be among those who miss Fajr and Isha in congregation but pray all of the prayers of tharaweeh in jamath. Your 5 fardh salah is your first priority. The tharaweeh is to add to the 5. If you offer Fajr and Isha in congregation, then ensure you also pray tharaweeh. I don’t care if you pray 4 rakath, 6 rakath, 8 rakath or 20 rakath. The important thing is to pray Fajr and Isha in congregation. You ask why? Because Habibina Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam said that the one who prays Fajr and Isha in congregation, will get the reward of praying the whole night. So even if you went to sleep and didn’t pray tharaweeh, you will get the reward of praying all your tharaweeh and more! Also imagine that you slept through the laylathul Qadr, based on this hadith of our beloved Nabi sallallahu alaihiwasallam, you will still get the reward of praying the whole night of laylathul Qadr just by offering Fajr and Isha in the masjid in congregation. Sounds like cheating right? This is how important these two fardh salaths are in the Shariah. The Ummah has lost focus on priorities, so aim to offer these two fardh salath in congregation!

3) Use this month to memorise 60 ayath of the Quran. This would amount to memorising 2 ayath a day. I don’t care if you have never memorised an ayath of Qur’an before. Trust me, memorising 2 ayath a day is extremely easy! Allah Himself promises that this Qur’an has been made easy to memorise! Just imagine getting 2 ayath a day closer to Allah’s book? By memorising the ayath of Allah, you are taking the Quran which is preserved in the Lauwhul Mahfooz which is above the seven heavens right into your heart? SubhanAllah, there is no relationship with Allah Most High without a relationship with His book. Also, when you start memorising know that for every letter you recite you receive 10 good deeds recorded. So when you try to memorise an ayath, you end up repeating an ayath over and over again. This means your rewards are multiplied by 10 good deeds PER LETTER every single time you repeat it. Also, you will notice that when you are going about doing your daily routine, you will still recite the ayath you memorised in the morning, so throughout the day you will be earning ajr (rewards). It’s amazing how the rewards for memorising Qur’an are multiplied during a regular day; so can you imagine the rewards during the month of Ramadan? SubhanAllah! So please don’t ever let this month go by without being able to look back and say this month, I have gotten closer to Allah’s book in a meaningful way.

For those of you who have never memorised, here’s a quick tip on how to. Recite the first ayath 10 times while looking at the Qur’an’s text and once you have done that, then recite the ayath 10 times without looking at the Qur’an’s text. Once you are able to recite this ayath without looking at the text, then go to the next ayath and recite it 10 times by looking at the text. Then recite the first ayath and the second ayath together another 10 times. That’s it! Wallahi it’s that easy. Now just like an annoying song stuck in your head throughout the day, you will automatically be repeating these two ayath throughout the day without even trying. It really is a miracle that Allah Most High has made memorising the Qur’an easy. 2 ayath are obviously the bare minimum, so if you can do 3 instead, go for it. Trust me, you yourself will realise that memorising 2 ayath a day is a joke and is super easy. Try it!

 4) Makes lots of dua. Fasting is enjoyable when you make lots and lots of dua. Allah promises to answer the dua of the one who fast right up until she breaks her fast. So make dua abundantly. When you make dua our Habibina Muhammad sallallahu alaihiwasallam siad three things happen. The first is that his dua is answered. The second is that a calamity that was meant to befall the person is averted, and finally if it is not answered in this world then Allah Most High keeps it until the day of qiyamah in order to protect you from the hell fire! The sahaba radhiallahu anhum who heard our beloved nabi say this replied by saying “By Allah! This is amazing! No dua is ever lost so we will make dua abundantly!” Also Allah is Al-Hayyiy! He is the One who when His slave raises his hands to ask Him something is “shy” to return him empty handed. Imagine, when someone asks you a favour and you are in a position to help (if you have a heart) you will feel bad turning that person away without helping that person right? Imagine Allah Most High – who is above any example – the one who has power and control over all things, how “shy” would He feel to not respond to your dua? It is important to stress that the word Habibina Muhamad sallahllahu alaihiwasallam used was Al Hayyiy when describing Allah swt’s characteristic here. Hayyiy comes from the word Hayah which means shyness. But shyness in English is a sign of meekness. However, this particular shyness of Hayyiy, does not come from a position of meekness but from a position of power and honour. It is like a ruler who has power to help his subjects and doesn’t do it, is considered a bad ruler, Allah Most High takes it upon Himself to answer your dua because not answering your dua does not befit His Majesty. I hope my attempt at trying to explain this word was successful and Allah is above all examples.

So please do ask Allah for everything and anything you can imagine (which is halal obviously!). If you want a Lamborghini, ask Allah, if you want to pass your exams with flying colours, ask Allah, if you want a righteous spouse, ask Allah, if you want your debts to be repaid, ask Allah, if you want to go to Jannah ask Allah, if you want to go on Hajj ask Allah, if you want pious kids and progeny ask Allah, you want world peace, ask Allah, you want forgiveness, ask Allah, you want hidaya for your brothers, sisters, uncles aunties, neighbours, colleagues, ask Allah, you want barakah in your work, in your time, in your health, in your wealth, ask Allah. Ask Allah if you don’t have salt in the house, ask Allah if your shoe broke, ask Allah if you want to migrate to another country. Wallahi no dua is too small for Allah and no dua is too great for Allah azzawajal!

I hope the above 4 tips will help you make this month of Ramadan your best ever! Also when you make dua, please don’t forget to remember me in them too!

Baarakhallahu lee walakum!

Thaqabballahu minna waminkum!

Wasaalamu alaikum warahmathullahi wabarakathahu!

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May 12, 2014
by Shaad Hamid
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Barakah – What is Barakah?

We all ask Allah for Barakah, we all want Barakah, but what exactly IS Barakah?

In English we translate it to mean ‘blessings’. Unfortunately, this is a highly problematic translation as such a translation limits it’s actual deep and beautiful meaning.

Arab linguists break down the word Barakah into three main parts or meanings.

The first part of the word Barakah is to do with increase and growth:

Annamaa’ooh waz-ziyadah, fawqa thawaqqua” – Don’t worry I’ll explain what they mean one by one, insha’Allah.

It means for something to grow (numoo) and increase in number or volume (ziyadah).

So when something has barakah it grows and it increases.

Fawqa thawaqqu“: above and beyond expectations.

So part of what Barakah means is that logic says when you plant one seed in the ground, you expect one tree to come out of it; but in return you get ten trees! Or after 10 years you come back and you get a forest in return! That is barakah…

You may have heard people say “I remember I started my business in my garage with only 5 thousand rupees my dad gave me, today after 15 years I have branches of my company in 5 different countries”.

That is barakah.

You may hear some people say “in my first year, I struggled to find one student to come to my classes, but today my school has grown so much that I have to turn away students because I don’t have capacity even though I have expanded three times already!”

That is barakah.

The second part of Barakah is “Ibtharakath as-sama” – it’s like when something keeps coming continuously, like when the rain keeps on coming and it keeps on coming and it doesn’t stop. So continuity is also part of the meaning of barakah. It’s not something that is temporary.

Usually when something grows or increases such as a huge building that keeps growing, or the economy suddenly improves beyond expectation, the fear is that the crash is also around the corner. Economies that grow too fast are at a risk of crashing fast too. Or what was fashionable yesterday is outdated today! The companies yesterday have gone bankrupt today!

However,  the third part of the meaning of Barakah has something to do with camels. The Arabs call a camel that kneels or sits down as Barakah. This is because anyone who has had any experience with a camel will know that when a camel sits down it’s very difficult to get the camel to stand back up again, and when the camel has sunk in the sand, the camel is extremely stable and stays in its place. Meaning, there is no risk in the camel or the rider falling down, it doesn’t go anywhere.

Similarly, Barakah is something that is stable. It’s not like an economy that rises and crashes, it’s not like the fashion that comes and goes, it is something that stays.

In Surah Ar-Rahman, the first ayath of that Surah is “Ar-Rahman“.

In the last Ayah of that Surah Allah says something about that name.

Allah Rabbul Izzath says “Thabarakasmu Rabbika zil Jalali wal Ikram“, which directly means “The name of your Rabb is full of Barakah, owner of Glory/Majesty and Honour!”

So anything that we do, invoking Allah’s name will have Barakah… Because the name of Allah is full of Barakah.

Finally, when Barakah from Allah comes, know that there is no end to Allah’s Barakah…

May Allah grant you Barakah in your time, in your families, in your health, in your work, in your income, in your food, in your clothes, in your studies and in all endeavours that you pursue… Ameen!

BaarakAllahu lee walakum,

Thakabbal Allahu minna waminkum,

Wassalamu alaikum Wa-Rahmathullahi Wa-Barakathahu!

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March 17, 2014
by Shaad Hamid
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Aam-ul-huzn – What did our Nabi (Sal) Lose?

Bismillah wassalathu wassalamu ala rasoolillah

When reading the story of the life of our beloved nabi-e-kareem sallallahu alaihiwasallam (sal), it really saddens me when people just go over his blessed life as if it’s some story or a series of events. I’m especially talking about the Aam-ul-huzn…

This was the year that Rasul sal named Aam-ul-huzn.. Or the year of sorrow.

Why? Because he sal lost his beloved wife and uncle.

But then the storytellers just fast forward on to Al Isra Wal Mi’raj..
SunhanAllah, that’s an amazing journey no doubt!

But can we please stop and pause for a moment and just ponder over why our nabi sal was so sad and heartbroken?

Can we please stop for a moment and ponder on what habinina nabi Muhammad sal lost?

Let’s rewind the story for a bit…

Let’s go back to that wondrous day when our Nabi sal received Waheeh through Inzaal.. We know he sal ran back to his home trembling in fear. Many messengers before received revelation too, but he sal just received the Qur’an… The most powerful and the most amazing revelation ever!
So he’s understandably trembling after this whole experience.. So he sal runs home and says to Kadija ral “zammilooni zammilooni,” (cover me up, cover me up – wrap me up in a blanket)

Then when he sal related what happened to Seyyidah Kadija radiallahu anha, what does she say to him sal?

15 years of marriage,
6 children later,
death of two of those children,
everything they’ve been through together
Listen to what she says… Listen to what our mother, ummul mo’mineen seyyidah Kadhijathul Kubrah Radiallahu tha’ala anha says about her husband.
This is her summary of her husband (sal)
She says:
Kalla! Wallahi!
I swear by Allah,
You have nothing to worry

La Yuhk’zeeka Allahu abadan
God will never ruin you… He will never abandon you

Why am I so confident in saying this?

What do I know about you? After 15 years of sharing morning and evening, day and night, after sharing a life with you what can I say about you?

Innaka la thaseelul raheem
You are a great family man, you take care of your family, you love your family.

Wathakree addhaif
You honour your guest
Somebody shows up at your doorstep you go above and beyond any type of social obligation, to honour somebody who comes to your door.

Wathahmilul kalla
You look for people, you go out searching for people, who have fallen through the cracks, who are overlooked and neglected, and downtrodden by society, and you go and you grab them by the hand and you lift them back up

Wathaqsimul ma’doom
You take care of people who can’t take care of themselves and you look out for those people.

Wathu’eenu ala nawaibil haqq
You’re always the first person waiting, standing there, ready, whenever there’s a good cause.

That’s who you are!

There’s no way that Allah would ever abandon you, that God would ever forsake you, and I refuse to believe that.

Think about the conviction she has? What is her husband telling her? That he sal hears voices and that he sal saw an angel speak to him? He has doubts about himself, but here is a woman who is ready to follow him to the moon!

He sal asks “yes, but who will believe this message”? Who will believe me?

She says “I believe in this message” -

Asshadu anlailaha illallah wa’ashhadu annaka rasoolillah

My brothers and sisters, THAT is who our Nabi sal lost…

So whenever you hear of the Aam-ul-huzn, don’t ever think of it as some phase our nabi had to go through and move on.. Wallahi, our nabi sal never got over Kadija radiallahu anha’s passing away even as the years passed.

She is the wife of the greatest man to ever walk the earth, mother of the leader of the women on the day of Qiyamah, Fathima Az Zahra Bint Muhammad Radiallahu anha, Grandmother to Hasan and Husein ibn Ali radiallahu anhum and mother of the Ummah of Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam, our mother..

That was who our Nabi-e-kareem sallallahu alaihi wasallam lost in the year Aam-ul-Huzn Sallallahu alaihi wasallam..

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January 17, 2014
by Shaad Hamid
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Letter to my nieces and nephews

Bismillah wasSalatu was Salaamu ‘ala Rasoolillah – In the Name of Allah, I begin by asking Allah to send Greetings and Peace upon our Messenger (Sal).

My darling nieces and nephews, masha’Allah I can’t imagine how fast and how much you all have grown. Some of you are already adults and more mature than I ever was at your age, some of you are in your teens (may Allah help your parents :) ) and some of you are at the age I’m not too embarrassed to say you’re a niece or nephew of mine :) (you guys make me feel so old!).

First of all, know how awesome you all are! I thank Allah for blessing me with nieces and nephews who have so much concern, care, love and affection for me. Know that you all are in my duas and that each and every one of you is special to me. In every storm I’ve faced, you guys have been the shade that’s eased my pain (whether you guys know it or not). I ask Allah to grant you pure hearts and to keep your hearts filled with concern, care, and love for others in a way that truly pleases Allah.

I don’t know what made me put these following words together for you, but I had a deep urge to share them with you and I pray that these words will be a part of you as long as you may live. I must warn you that this letter is slightly long and may be boring, but I hope and pray that you will stick along till the end, I promise it gets better :)

My darling children, know that there is only One God. I know you already know this, but I want you to truly know this. I want you to truly know who our Allah is. How loving He is, how caring He is, how perfect He is, how powerful He is. That He alone is our best friend, that He alone is our protector, He alone is our provider, He is the Creator of all things big and small. Out of nothing, He, subhanahu (Most Glorious), made everything. He has knowledge of all things, not even a seed in the ground grows without His knowledge. He, subhanahu, knows what was, what is, what will be, and what would be. He is the one who opens doors for you when you think there is no way out. He is the one who mends hearts and feelings that are broken. Know that His door of mercy, love and forgiveness is always open, no matter how far away you feel you may be from Him.

No matter what you do in life or how busy you feel, ensure that you establish your prayers regularly and with humility. Nothing in your life is more important than your salah. It is a gift from Allah from above the seven heavens and is one of the greatest gifts Allah has ever given us. Prayer is your connection to Allah. It is your weapon. There will be times when your faith fails and your salah begins to slip away from you. Know that this is normal and that every single one of us goes through such dips (even the scholars). But when this happens, return to Allah quickly and make up that which you miss. Do not let shaithaan deceive you. I pray for your success in this. For if you’re successful in this, then Wallahi you will be successful in everything else in this life. Without salah, life itself is meaningless.

My darling children, if we are prosperous now, thank and praise Allah. Tomorrow may not be the same as today. If you are less fortunate in days to come, be patient and equally thank Allah and praise Him. Put your trust in Allah and work hard as taught to us by His Messenger (Sal). Give to others from what Allah has given you, treat your mother and father well, and spend your money in only that which is permitted (halal). Give loans to those who ask, and repay quickly those you owe. All the while, be content with whatever little Allah has given you and be generous with whatever in excess Allah has given you. Speak well of all the gifts Allah has given you and be charitable to your neighbours, family and community. Ask forgiveness from those you harm and do taubah to Allah regularly.

I pray that Allah grants you a true appreciation of Allah’s Book – the Sacred Truth. It is through the Qur’an that you must see the world. It will lead you upon the straight path. The limits you set for yourself and the boundaries you need to set yourself are of that of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is Truth. Know that a time will arrive when you may try to fill your heart with something, be it your work, your sporting careers, your children, your husband/wife, etc. but also know that the only thing in this world that can truly fill your heart is the Qur’an, so make extra effort to learn it and make it a huge part of your life. You will never ever go wrong…

My darlings, as you mature you will come to realise that life is not easy and Allah will test you every so often. He has tested me in many ways, He has tested your parents and maybe even yourselves too. When you are tested, make sure you read of the life of the Messenger Muhammed (Sal) and seek to follow his tradition of life. This will help you be more resilient and strong in the face of trouble. Any kind of hardship you can imagine was shouldered by him, Salaa allahu ‘alihi was Salim. He experienced, in his 63 years of blessed life more tribulation than you and I can ever imagine. He, Salaa Allahu ‘alihi was Salim, was an orphan, a widower, battle scarred, and unjustly outcast. He outlived many of his children and buried some of his grandchildren. His uncle, Hamza, may the Mercy of Allah be upon him, was martyred and his body desecrated. He, Salaa allahu ‘alihi was Salim, was defamed, mocked, lied to and about. He was poisoned, stoned, and had to witness his companions tortured on account of their faith in his Message, Salaa allahu ‘alihi was Salim. So know that whatever trial you go through, it could always have been worse and thank Allah that our tests are easier than that which He tested those that came before us. Also never forget to send our master, our nabi-e-kareem (Sal), salawath everyday at least once. Know that your salawath reaches our Nabi and Allah makes sure that he knows it was sent from you :)

My darlings, know that our Islam is not in the books we read, not in the Qur’an we memorise, not in the number of classes or bayans we attend but in our character. Our Islam is in how we deal with people and how we portray ourselves to others. Speak the truth always, even if against yourself. Avert your eyes from immorality, pornography and junk TV. Keep your chastity and guard yourself from any stage of immorality. Know that a friend is a window to your soul, so choose your friends wisely. Follow your heart and be true to your firasah (instinct). Be just, firm and gentle in your dealings. When you are hurt, recover quickly and thank Allah for the difficulty that extinguishes sin. When you are well and all seems to be at peace, don’t relax, be on guard and anticipate a brewing storm.
When you err, repent to Allah. The greatest lessons you will learn will be through your naive misjudgement of peoples’ character, your over confidence and because you did not heed our advice as your parents and elders :) . When you err, we are there. As bad as you may think it is and as embarrassing as you may find it, step up to your parents and they will come running over to you. If you want, I’m only a text message or an email away :)

My darlings, remember that your mother carried you and sustained you in her own body. For nine months she protected you and nurtured you. She loved you with an amazing intensity all throughout. The day of your birth and all that days that followed have only increased that love. Your illness is her illness, your success is her success. Know my dearest darlings that your mother and father possess nothing of the dunya that is equal to you. They love you and will continue to love you as long as they live. Eventually, insha Allah, you will have children of your own. Make sure you write them a letter too :)

I ask Allah to forgive you, guide you, and protect you. I ask Allah to put love in your hearts for humanity and to use you in the assistance of others. I ask Allah to protect you and honour you with the Qur’an. I ask Allah to increase your rizq, lifespan and allow you happiness in this dunya and in the akhira. I ask Allah to make you the coolness of your parents eyes. I ask Allah to make you role models for others to follow; may Allah through you guide others. I ask Allah to grant you all palaces in Jannah. If palaces sound boring, may Allah grant you awesome theme parks in Jannah so you will never get bored :) May the theme parks have no long queues, and May all the rides be better than the last! :)  May Allah grant us bowling alleys in Jannah where we will all be awesome however much we sucked in this world :) May Allah grant you children and spouses who will be the coolness of your eyes. May your children be on the straight path up until the day of Qiyama. May your children be among those who will fight in the army of Hadhrat Easa alaihissalam. I ask Allah to protect you from a heart that does not tremble in the fear of Allah, from a dua that will never be answered, from a self that will never be satisfied, from an eye that does not cry for Allah’s sake and from knowledge that does not benefit. I ask Allah to reunite us all in Jannah and may He make us from those who are truly successful!

Ameen!

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December 25, 2013
by Shaad Hamid
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Lessons & Reflections From 2013

May God’s peace, blessings, mercy and guidance be upon you, your family, your children and upon your progeny up until the day we meet our Lord.

I begin by praising and thanking God for all that He has bestowed upon me and my family. He is independent of all need; whether we praise Him or not, He is the one on whom all praise and all thanks are due. He is the reason my mother loves me and cares for me. He is the reason my father and my brother love me and care for me. He is the source of real peace, real contentment, and real success. So I thank God that He granted us the opportunity to recognise Him, praise Him and thank Him for all that He has bestowed upon us. We praise and thank Him for all the victories, the failures, the sweetness of success and the pain of loss; and for all the good and all the bad, for we praise Him and thank Him in all situations. And we say, we are of those who are to Him, grateful.

O Allah! Shower your peace and blessings upon our beloved prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam, upon his household and upon his descendants up until the day of judgement. He is Your most beloved, the greatest soul to ever walk this earth, the teacher, the mercy and the guide to all mankind. He called us to your path and those who followed him have held on to a handhold that will never be broken. O Allah! Grant us his intercession, on a day where no intercession will be granted except by your permission.

Ameen!

As we bid farewell to another year, I thought it befitting that I paused for a moment to reflect on all the lessons that Allah has taught me during this past year. For me, personally, this year began as a year of sorrow, a year of despair and loss. But through the deceptions and the drama of this life, this year has truly ended as a year full of guidance, patience and success. Alhamdulillah!

These lessons I hope I can etch them in my heart so that I continue to grow and continue to uphold them and take these lessons through to 2014 and beyond insha’Allah.

The lessons:

  1. Everything in the heavens and on the earth is owned by Allah. This includes your own selves, your siblings, your parents, your spouse, your children, your house, your car and all that your eyes can see and all that your mind can imagine. Whatever that you ‘have’ and all that you ‘own’ is a gift directly from Allah. The place of a gift is to be held in the hand, not in the heart. The only thing the heart can truly be filled by is the giver, the owner of your hearts. Not by the gift. Never make the mistake of putting the gift in your heart and leaving Allah in your hand. So your children, your parents, your spouse, your job, your house and all that you own are His. He has given these to you as a an amanah (a trust) for a period of time so that you will recognise Him. Also since He is the owner of all things, He has set a timeline on all things. Our time with our parents, our grandparents, our children, our jobs and our time on this earth are limited. Indeed our lives are limited and of that none of us disagree on. Upon His will, He gives and upon His will He takes. So truly understand what it means when we say: to Allah we belong and to Him is our final return. If you can truly grasp the essence of it’s meaning, you will be liberated from the shackles of deception and your eyes will truly open to the ultimate reality. The reality that time is running out and with every second that passes by, we are at loss. Except those who recognise that they are at a state of loss, who try to rectify their paths and who help others to the truth. They are also patient, persistent, and consistent in their pursuit toward their Lord. These are those who will have real happiness in this life and eternal bliss in the hereafter, these are the truly successful and those who are truly guided.
  2. Guidance is a gift from Allah, it is not something that enters the heart upon whom you will. You can wish it upon as many people as you like, but if Allah hasn’t willed guidance upon them, and if they are not willing to open their hearts in order to allow the light of Allah to enter, then they will never receive guidance whether you like it or not. Be grateful that Allah has given you the gift of guidance, the gift to see the reality of this world for what it really is; but don’t expect everyone you meet, that all your loved ones will have a share of Allah’s guidance. Your job is not hidaya (guidance), but to convey. Nothing more, nothing less. So don’t despair.
  3. Improve your relationship with Allah’s book. If your Qur’an has gathered dust on your shelves, weep for yourselves. This book is a hope for those who are in despair, glad tidings to those who are doing good, a guide for the lost, a mercy for the suffering, a warning to the heedless, and an act of true love from Allah. This book is a gift from above the seven heavens, a real gift of the highest value. No price could ever be placed on the benefit that a single verse from it brings upon the heart. So make extra effort in learning the teachings of the Qur’an and may the Qur’an be the light of your life.
  4. The weapon of the believer is dua and tawakkul. The one who has placed his trust in Allah has entrusted his affairs upon the greatest waqeel (disposer of affairs). Allah is the one who parted the ocean for Moosa alaihissalam (Moses pbuh), cooled the fire for Ibraheem alaihissalam (Abraham pbuh), let the sleepers sleep for over 300 years, reunited Yusuf alaihissalam (Joseph pbuh) with his father (Ya’qoob alaihissalam or Jacob pbuh), who saved nabi Yunus alaihissalam (Jonah pbuh) from the belly of the whale, who sent the angels down to support the believers at Badr. He is Al- Mujeeb, the one who responds immediately to the one who calls out to him. When you ask Allah (swt), it means you know Him. Knowing He responds means knowing that He is All-Seeing (As-Baseer), All-Knowing (Al-`Aleem), All-Hearing (Al-Samee`), that He is the Most-Loving (al-Wadud), that He gives us even if we don’t deserve it (al-Wahhab), that He is not in need of anyone or anything but we are in need of Him (al-Ghaniyy). If we don’t ask, then we truly do not know Him, and we are missing out on an amazing act of worship. So ask Allah, ask Him wherever you are, whatever you do, whatever the state of your imaan is, keep asking for indeed, He is truly the one who responds.
  5. Listening to shaithan’s whispers (waswasa) even in minor things (why pray an additional nawafil prayer? You have prayed all your fardh and sunnath muakkadar’s so relax) gives him power over you. To truly be free from the deception of shaithan is to continuously seek Allah’s refuge against the chief deceiver and to keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of you Lord for it shames him and breaks his back. Be on guard at all times, he has lost hope in deceiving us in great things so be conscious of the little things.
  6. Allah is Al-Fatthah – We need to know al-Fatthah when we feel that things are impossible or too difficult because Allah (swt) necessarily invites you to know Him by this Name in those circumstances. When you feel as though all doors are closed, when you see no way out of your predicament, when you have no options, the one who opens new doors for you, doors you think are impossible to open or doors that you never thought existed, is Al-Fattah. He is the one who sends you solutions to problems you think are too great. And when Allah sends us a solution, He gives us that which exceeds our expectations. When Hajar salamun alaihima (Hagar pbuh) was running between Safa and Marwa, all she hoped for was some nourishment for her baby, or to see people who could help. And she didn’t give up, going back and forth 7 times. So Allah did not just give her nourishment for the day or week or month – He gave her the well of zamzam, which we still drink from today. Zamzam brought people to settle in the area and this was where the Ka’aba was built. That is an opening from Allah! Subhana Rabbiyal a’ala!
  7. Allah is Khabeer – Not only do we refer to this attribute everyday of our lives, but, when truly understood, it is a Name that brings tranquillity and confidence to every person who is overwhelmed. It is a Name that reminds us of our priorities, of where true greatness lies and who is ultimately in control. Another Name from the same root is al-Akbar (the One who is Greater). Al-Akbar simply calls us to understand that Allah is greater than whatever we can imagine. So it is no coincidence that the words used to call us to prayer are “Allahu akbar“—basically telling us to drop whatever it is we are doing because God is greater. We are told to come to what really gives us success (hayya ala al-falaah). Allahu akbar! The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) tells us that one of the most beloved deeds to God is to pray on time. Because we are prioritizing: God is greater.
  8. Ya Latheef! Sometimes there is that one moment when someone says something that you need to hear. Perhaps you are sad, and your friend texts you randomly saying, “You know, I really wish you the best,” for no apparent reason. Or you are going through a difficulty and attend a talk, and the sheikh says something that particularly resonates with you. How did these people know to say these things, to remind you of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (may He be glorified and exalted), when they had no idea what you were feeling or going through?That is Allah al-Lateef—He who is Benevolent, Gentle and Subtle with His servants.
  9. Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. The light with which you see things for what they really are. When the light of Allah enters your heart, everything makes sense! You experience ‘Noorun-ala-Noor” – Light upon Light. Where you came from, where you’re heading, the purpose of your life and existence, the dramas of this life, of loss or victories… it will all makes sense. When you experience this level of ihsan, Allah becomes the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear and the tongues with which you speak. May Allah grant us such a high station in our imaan. Ameen!
  10. Salah the ultimate protection – man has walked many paths and on many journeys, even to space and up to the moon! Alhamdulillah! But there is one journey no man has ever taken. No man, but one. On a vehicle no man has ever seen and to a place no creation has ever set foot before. This was the journey of a man who went from the lowly earth to the highest heaven. A feat no man has ever achieved. This is Isra-wal-mi’raj (the magnificent journey). Where our beloved prophet Muhammad ﷺ was taken by Allah to give him a commandment. A commandment so great that instead of sending Jibreel alaihissalam (Archangel Gabriel pbuh) down with it, Allah jalla jalalahu brought our nabi-e-kareem ﷺ up to Himself. That commandment was salah. It was a gift to us from the highest heavens. This is a treasure that whosoever unlocks will find victory and success in it.
  11. Everything shall perish – if you are going through a tough time or a calamity, rejoice with the knowledge that this calamity is not permanent. Verily, with difficulty comes ease. And the promise of Allah is true! If you are going through good times, Alhamdulilah! Be grateful and know that this too shall perish. As the seasons come and go, Allah teaches us through nature that after the toughest winters is spring and after the most beautiful summers comes autumn. Tests don’t merely come in the form of calamities. Sometimes success and wealth is given as a test to see if you are of those who are grateful.
  12. What’s the message? – Know that nothing in this life that you experienced was ever meant to miss you and nothing in this life that was missed was ever meant for you. Allah speaks to us every single day through His creation and through His signs. In every situation get into the habit of asking yourself what’s the message for me? Your friend may have lost his mother, but what lesson is Allah teaching you? Your cousin may have died unexpectedly at an extremely young age, but what lesson or lessons was it meant to teach ME? Everything you experience in your life are lessons and messages from the Most High. Make sure to clean your hearts and prepare to receive these messages.
  13. The best way to overcome calamity is to look at serving others. It may be that you are finding it difficult with finances, but even when times are tough, give. Give of your wealth, give of your talents and give of your time. Be of service and benefit to your community. In the act of service to others you will earn Ajr (reward) and you will earn purification. Give so that your wealth gets purified and give so that Allah blesses you with soft hearts.
  14. The path to God is not linear. One day you will feel your salah was amazing! Every word you uttered meant something to you. You felt Allah’s rahma enshroud you. On another day you may have felt as though you never had it. We all go through such spiritual ups and downs and they are normal. The challenge is to continue making the effort no matter how you feel.
  15. All the ibadah that we do, all the Qur’an we learn, all the Arabic that we try to learn, all the hifdh, the dhars and the tafseer classes we go to and the salah we try to perfect (salah with khushoo) are all meant to help us with one thing. And one thing alone. You would have heard the cliché answer whenever someone asks you what’s the point of going to a bayan or getting closer to the Qur’an or memorising the Qur’an etc. the usual answer is so that we get ‘guidance’. But what IS guidance? From what I’ve learn’t, true essence of Salah, learning Qur’an etc. are all so that it will help you make better CHOICES. Every single day you will be presented with choices, “should I go to the office party or not? Should I look down or should I catch that secret gaze? Should I wake up for fajr or stay asleep a little more? Should I post this picture on FB or should I not? Should I say what I am about to say or not? Should I go to the concert or not? Should I go to the movies or not?” and many many more choices. How you respond to them will show your true level of understanding and imaan. If the bayans, the blogs you read, the Qur’an you read and the very many salats you offer don’t help you make better choices, then there is a problem inside your heart that needs mending.
  16. The morning glory – the sun is beautiful in the early morning, it does something to the trees that you don’t see at any other time of the day. It almost feels like all of creation, at this time celebrate the praises of their Lord. All of creation in submission and worship to their Lord, Cherisher, Provider, Sustainer and Protector. I think we all want the same thing, a quiet peace. Maybe just a single moment of it. To close our eyes and just be OK. For even a single second, to not feel worried about something, sad about something. To crave about something we don’t or can’t have. Just to be there, OK. Still. Silent. On the inside. Maybe that’s what’s so beautiful about this time of the day. The absolute stillness.
  17. Not for nothing - 

    Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): ”Our Lord! not for nothing have You created (all) this! Glory to You! (Subhanak!) Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.
    And that’s just it! All of this, the sadness, the accidents, the smiles, the peace, the pain, the love, the loss and the sacrifice: it’s not for nothing. It’s not a mistake, some sort of oversight, or a random course of events, it’s certainly not without purpose.
May Allah instil these lessons in me in the years to come and may it be a catalyst for you to get to know your Lord and your life’s true mission. May we be among those whom Allah describes in Surah A’ala :
(To the righteous soul will be said:) “O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction!
“Come back thou to thy Lord,- well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him!
“Enter thou, then, among My devotees!
“Yea, enter thou My Heaven!
May Allah grant our souls the above station of ‘Muthma’inna’! For nothing else really matters…
Ameen!
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December 20, 2013
by Shaad Hamid
1 Comment

How to obtain khushoo in salat – practical tips

Assalamu alaikum warahmathullahi wabarakathahu

May Allah open your heart and mine to His light, to the truth and to the ultimate reality. We seek refuge in Allah from a heart that does not tremble in fear of Him, from knowledge that does not benefit, from an eye that does not shed tears for His sake, from a dua (prayer/supplication) that will never be answered and from a self that will never be satisfied.

In the previous blog post we discussed the six qualities of a believer from Surah Mu’minoon as decreed by Allah subhanahu wa’athala (swt). The first of the six qualities is khushoo in salah. So I thought I’d spend some time today trying to come up with some strategies to increase the khushoo in my salat and hopefully yours too insha’Allah.

The word khushoo can’t really be translated into English as it is difficult to capture all that this word means within one English word. But a glimpse of what it means is ‘humility’ and/or ‘submissiveness’. In the context of salah (prayer/worship), it is to be in complete focus and complete awareness that you stand before your Rabb (Lord). To feel His presence, to really experience the words you utter and to increase your sincerity in your physical actions of standing, bowing and prostrating.

Among the reasons why khushoo in salah is important, one of the greatest is that it protects you from al-fahsha. Fahsha, in layman’s terms means ‘shamelessness’. It also means indecency, lewdness, obscenity etc. Anything that leads toward zina (notice how I didn’t say the act of zina itself, but the road that leads to zina) is filled with al-fahsha. I don’t have to explain to you, dear reader, about how shameless today’s society is. There is Ijma (consensus) amongst ourselves that we live in shameless times. From the TV programmes to the movies, to sporting events to adverts/billboards, Facebook statuses, websites, music videos, newspapers, magazines, stand up comedians, mobile devices and what you see, what you hear, from what is in front of you, from what is behind you, from your right and from your left.

Wallahi these times are tough. Especially if you are among the youth and you are trying to hold on to your imaan. Whether you are a man or woman, a Mu’allim (teacher/scholar) or a thaalib (student), the fitnah is really great and I fear for myself, my family, my friends, my children and grand children who aren’t even born yet, our Ulama (the scholars) and for you my dear reader. Protecting our deen and Imaan is like trying to protect the light from a candle on an extremely windy day.

In today’s world, Wallahi! You are attacked with fahsha, from all directions, but this shouldn’t be something that the believer is surprised by. Because our Rabb (Lord) has already informed us of what Iblees said:

“(Iblees said) Because you (O Allah!) have sent me astray, I will sit in ambush for them (humans) on the Sirathal Musthaqeem (Your straight path)”. 

In other words even the ones on the straight path (let alone those who are already astray), I will get them, I know how to get them, I will wait for them, I am patient, I have all the time in the world to wait for the right moment, I will wait till they slip, till they put their guard down. In that very moment of weakness, I will ambush/attack them.

“And then I (Iblees) will come at them from the front, from behind them, from their right and from their left. And you will not find most of them thankful and obedient to you”.

In other words, they will be on the straight path, but I will stand in front of them without letting them pass. When they are walking towards You on the sirathal musthaqeem, I will be pulling them from behind not letting them make progress. I will be there with him even if he is with people on the right (such as righteous people or good company) and even if he is with people on the left (bad company/ignorant people/bad influence) I will be with him misleading him constantly. And I can guarantee You O Allah! that these creatures You created, that you commanded me to bow down to, they will not be obedient to You and they will not be grateful to you and I have made my life’s mission in proving that to You.

But Allah the Azeez (the almighty in power) the Hakeem (the source of all wisdom) has taught us how to protect ourselves from Shaythan’s onslaught. Allah says:

 

“Recite what has been revealed to you from the book (the Qur’an) and establish Salah (Iqamat-as-Salat). Verily/indeed/surely Salah prevents you/preserves you/restrains you/keeps you away from Al-fahsha (shamelessness, indecency, lewdness, anything that leads toward zina) and Al Munkar (disbelief, shirk, injustice, and every other evil deed). And the remembrance (and praising) of Allah is greater without a doubt! And Allah knows all that you do”.

Allahu Akbar! What an Ayah (verse)!

Allah guarantees the one who offers salat protection from al-fahsha and every kind of evil deed (munkar). Dear reader, what is astonishing here is that the word “munkar” encompasses all evil deeds. Munkar includes al-fahsha. But Allah decided to separate the sin of Fahsha and placed it ahead of Munkar. There is a reason. The one who is shameless, the one who is shameless enough to look at something he/she shouldn’t be looking at without lowering their gaze, the one who enjoys spending time on the phone with a person of the opposite sex who is non-mahram to them, the one who in secret, who browses through filthy websites and then whose heart is so corrupt that they look at people as nothing more than animals, they only feed their own nafs and begin to only concern themselves of fulfilling their desires and lusts. A person in such a state finds it almost impossible to wake up for fajr. Such a person’s heart becomes so hard that when the message of Allah is conveyed to them, it doesn’t move them. They can go through an entire month of Ramadaan and their lives are not changed. When the recitation of the Qur’an is heard in the car, they ask you to turn it down or switch it off. A person who is lewd and shameless becomes easy pray for Shaythaan to lead man towards munkar – shirk, murder, injustice, and all forms of bad deeds. It all starts with removing our shame and that is Shaithan’s ultimate goal. To take away our shame from us. That’s how he got to our Father and Mother (Adam alaihissalam and Hawwa salamun alaihima). So we must be vigilant, we must stay on guard at all times. Wallahi, protecting yourself from al-fahsha is a jihad you have to fight constantly.

And the only way to protect yourself from shaythan’s constant ambush is to protect your salah. Not just offering the five daily prayers, but really holding on to it tight and really experiencing the prayer. This type of salah is the salat with khushoo and this is what Allah refers to above.

This will also answer the question of a person who asks, “I know a person who prays five times a day but he deals with interest” or “I know a person who prays five times a day but he lies and cheats”, “I know a person who prays five times a day but he can’t stop watching porn” etc. etc. the only answer I can give, is that that person thinks he is praying. Allah guarantees, notice how Allah (swt) says, verily, indeed, surely the salah protects from al fahsha and Allah’s promise is true. So if he is still engaged in those deeds, then he isn’t really praying. This is not meant to discourage you my dear reader, but it is a reminder for myself first and foremost that my salat is my fort, it is my protection from all evil. So I need to take care of it and take it very seriously and give it it’s due attention.

So insha’Allah with that very long preamble, let’s look at some practical strategies in instilling khushoo in our salat. The following strategies are not fard. This is not a fatwa that you must abide by, but it is a lifestyle that I am trying to implement into my life and I hope that this naseeha aimed at myself will be of benefit to you too insha’Allah.

For the sake of ease in explaining, let’s focus on perfecting the salathul fajr and making it more sweeter insha’Allah. In order to gain khushoo for salathul fajr here is a list of steps to follow:

Kushoo in Fajr starts the night before

The most obvious yet most ignored advise is if you want to wake up for fajr, then you will have to sleep early the night before. In order to obtain khushhoo, you need to be at your psychological and physical best. It is difficult to do this when you feel drowsy or half asleep. I am someone who requires between 7-8 hours of sleep everyday. Therefore, if I have to wake up at 4:30am or 5am I must sleep at 9.00pm-9:30pm. This is so that not only will I feel refreshed, I am also ready to start my day insha’Allah.

Also let’s make an effort to have dinner early. 7pm is ideal as it gives us about 2 hours to digest our food before sleeping. Also make sure that the food is easily digestible, and make sure that it is food that does not require the body to exert additional energy to digest. This is not only easy on the stomach, this will help you wake up for Fajr a lot more easily. Foods to avoid for dinner will be oily food (anything that is fried), foods that have high amounts of starch, basically don’t overeat is what I’m trying to say; so ensure dinner is light.

When going to bed early, fight the urge to watch TV, stare at the computer screen or scroll down your Fcaebook newsfeed on your mobile devices. These activities make your brain tired and they actually prevent you from falling asleep. Also I have noticed waking up becomes so much harder after a good session of browsing the internet before sleep. So avoid these at all cost!

Going to bed

Before sleeping ensure that you are in wudu, supplicate ‘Subhanallah 33 times, Alhamdulillah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times”. This was advice given by our nabi-e-kareem sallallahu alaihiwasallam to his most beloved daughter Fathima rabhiallahu anha. I am not going into detail about the context of the hadith, but know that this zikr is meant to rejuvenate your body the following morning. Then recite Ayathul Kursi for this ensures an angel is appointed for you to ward of shayatheen who will disturb you in your sleep. Then recite surah ikhlas, Falaq and Nas 3 times. Then make dua to Allah asking Him to wake you up for fajr the following morning and make intention that you will wake up to pray fajr in imam jama’a at the masjid.

Set the alarm

My preparation before salat takes about half an hour. So if adhan is at 5am, then I set my alarm to 4:30am. If you sleep in a room which has an en suite bathroom a great tactic will be to place your alarm in the bathroom. This way you will have to go straight to the bathroom to switch it off and since you’re in the bathroom and out of your bed, you can ensure that you don’t go back to bed for a quick snooze (which is always dangerous!).

Relieve yourself

Once you are up, make sure you go to the toilet and relieve yourself well. I know this is funny, but this is really important because if you haven’t gone to the toilet in the morning first thing, you are going to fight your stomach from trying not to pass wind. This in turn spoils the sweetness of your salat. Make sure you don’t offer your salat until your bowels are fully cleared. This is also another reason to ensure your food is rich in fibre, so you are able to relieve yourself easily. So eat vegetables, fruits and other food high in fibre.

Brush your teeth before prayer

This is especially important for men who go to the masjid to offer salat (it’s still important for the sisters!). Please ensure you go to the masjid having brushed your teeth. Not brushing your teeth can not only offend the other musalli’s who have to bear the stench of your mouth, but it will also drive away the malaaika (angels) whom Allah has sent to make dua for you. So please do yourself and the other musallis a favour and brush your teeth before going for prayer it really only takes 5 minutes! It also makes your mouth feel fresh and you really feel as though you are fully awake.

Dress for success

When the adhaan is called, we are told to come toward success:

If you are to go toward success, then maybe you should dress for success too!

Allah says:

O Children of Adam! We have bestowed clothing upon you to conceal your shame (private parts) and to beautify yourselves. But the clothing of ‘at-Taqwa’ (righteousness or God-consciousness) is best. Such are the signs of Allah that they may leave falsehood and follow truth (i.e. receive admonition).

This ayah teaches us that clothing is a gift from Allah. Contrary to anthorpology class, clothing isn’t something we learnt along the way as evolving monkeys and apes. Instead clothing was a gift from Allah so that we may cover our shame and to beautify ourselves. So unlike Iblees’s waswasa, where he promises us that you need to take your clothes off to look beautiful, or you need to wear tighter clothes to look beautiful, Allah says We sent down clothing for you to look beautiful. So when you stand before your Lord beautify yourself and adorn yourself with nice clothes.

Which also means taking care of your clothes and dressing nicely is an act of worship. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihiwasallam used to name each of his clothes. That’s the reverence and respect that he (sallallahu alaihiwasallam) used to give his clothes. So ensure you are dressed nicely before you go in front of your Rabb and take care of your clothes that you own. This means that you can’t go praying fajr in your pyjamas. Or in t-shirts so short that when you go into sujood the musalli behind you can see what branded underwear you wear. The litmus test to use is “would I go in front of my CEO in this clothing?” and if you work for an agency like me where the dress code is a little more relaxed, I’d ask “would I go in front of the CEO of my biggest client?” the CEO of the company that pays us 10 million dollars or 20 million dollars or whatever a year. If the answer is no then how dare I stand before my Allah, Rabbul A’alameen (Lord of all the worlds), the Jabbar and Malik, (the king of kings) so if you were to dress up to see the president of your country, to go to a job interview, to go to your US green card interview or your British citizenship interview (you get the point?) then it is only fair that you dress up nicely to stand before Him. The clothes don’t need to be expensive. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie to go in front of Allah, but make sure the clothes are clean, ironed, neat and simple. If it isn’t too much hassle, I would recommend allocating separate salat clothes like a shalwar kameez or a kandura (thobe, jubbah whatever you call it). I would also recommend the men to wear an imamah or a tholapa (basically the turban) to the masjid. This is a sunnah and it is said even the angels wear an imamah. Trust me, by the process of ironing your clothes and putting on your imamah for Allah’s sake, you get in to the psychology of actually preparing to meet your Lord. Also make sure you are in wudu before you leave the house.

On  your way to the masjid

Ensure that you do zikr (it’s good practice to recite the 3rd and 4th kalima) also make sure your gaze is lowered, and don’t let your eyes wander. Constantly seek refuge in Allah up until you get to the masjid. Also know that Allah says that the one who walks to the masjid is witnessed. The funny thing is “witnessed by whom?” The whole world is asleep except a few. So who is Allah referring to when He says that the one going to the masjid is witnessed? Well firstly, obviously Allah Rabbul Izzath is the ultimate witness, but He is also referring to the Angels who will be accompanying you all along your way to the masjid. They will be constantly making dua for you and that my dear reader is a gift a ni’ama of Allah for us. Alhamdulillah. Also every step that you take to the masjid, Allah raises your rank in His sight! SubhanAllah!

The following is a fantastic dua to learn and memorise and say on your way to the masjid:

‘O Allaah, place within my heart light, and upon my tongue light, and within my ears light, and within my eyes light, and place behind me light and in front of me light and above me light and beneath me light. O Allaah, bestow upon me light.’

Now, let us finally come to the actual Salah :)

Before saying the thakbeer, make sure you turn off all distractions. This means you turn off your mobile phone. It still baffles me how people pray while their phones are switched on. I have also noticed that everyone has this one friend who always happens to call you exactly at the time of salah. I don’t know how he does it, but I have experienced this myself and I know others have too. So please ensure that your mobile phones are either left at home or if you brought it with you please turn it off. Also make sure your heels are in a straight line and you stand shoulder to shoulder with the musalli next to you. Never ever leave spaces between you for shaithan comes between you. There are people who leave such a big gap that you can actually fit another person next to you. Also if a musalli next to you tries to touch your toe with his toe don’t be so arrogant and rude that you move your foot away from him. What’s wrong with his toe touching yours? The important thing is to ensure that you do not let shaithan do waswasa (whisper) to your ears while in salah (why does he have to touch my toe, why is he shaking his finger, why does he not do qunoot, why does he not raise his hands when rising from ruku, why doesn’t the imam recite dua out loud after salah, why are they leaving after 8 rakaths during tharaweeh etc. etc.) Do not let shaithan deceive you with his whispers. Focus on yourself and don’t concern yourself with things that aren’t relevant to you. Wallahi the Salah is your moment to connect with your Lord so do not let shaithan deceive you in to thinking you’re so great that the musallli praying next to you is wrong. Have the attitude of Imam Shafi (rahimahumAllah) who said I believe I am right but concede the possibility that it may turn out to be incorrect. I believe that the those who have a view different from mine is incorrect, but concede the possibility that it may turn out to be correct. SubhanAllah! Those who came before us have shown us the way, so let’s not disunite over petty things especially in the masjid and especially during the salat. There is no khushoo if you get distracted by these petty things. So be vigilant of Shaithan’s waswasa!

When you are attacked by shaithan’s waswasa during salat, immediately seek refuge in Allah. Allah says:

“And if an evil whisper from Shaitan (Satan) tries to distract you (from doing good, etc.), then seek refuge in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower”.

“Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious, the ones who fear Allah), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan (Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright)”.

And this is why we seek refuge in Allah when we begin the prayer. Ibn Al Qayyim said that it is narrated that when we commence the prayer, Allah orders for the barrier between us to be lifted and we are directly facing our Rabb (Lord), yet if we turn away (i.e. get distracted) the barrier is brought back down. And it is in these moments of heedlessness that the shaitan tries to make one thought lead to another but when the barrier is removed, shaitan does not dare to distract us.

Thus, let us seek refuge in Allah from the shaitan, truly think over the meaning of that supplication, and guard ourselves from shaitan throughout the prayer.

Before the salah, say your niyyah and immediately imagine that you are standing in front of Allah subhanahu wa’athala’s Arsh and feel how worthless and helpless you are in His presence. If you can’t imagine Allah in front of you imagine that Allah tha’ala al Baseer (the all seer) al sami’er (the all hearer) sees you. Humble yourself in front of Allah’s power and might. The salat is where you cut all your duniya activities and give Allah your complete attention. Imagine that although you are praying in jama’a you have a private audience with Allah rabbul izzath. The salat is between you and Him most high. The barrier is removed, and while in salat, talk to Him with the speech He has taught us through his messenger sallallahu alaihiwasallam. Make sure your eyes do not wander during your salat. Make sure your eyes are fixed on where you forehead would touch the ground and don’t raise your gaze for any reason.

Next I would highly recommend learning the translations and the tafsir on the surahs that you recite during salah. Knowing what you say has a massive impact in improving the quality of your salat. Please see below two really good tafsirs of Surah Fathiha:

One is a long video by Mufti Ismail Menk while the other is short and concise. But I urge you to listen to both insha’Allah:

 

Also try to learn all the meanings and tafsir of all the short surahs that you regularly recite during salat. Here are some tafsir on some short surahs which I believe are really powerful and will help you in your salat the next time you recite them. Please take a moment to go through them all insha’Allah:

 

During Ruku, bow down to Allah as if you see yourself bowing down to Allah the Lord of all the worlds.

In sajdah, imagine you being one of the few humans who will be blessed to go down in sajdah to Allah on the day of Qiyamah along with our nabi sallallahu alaihiwasallam. The ones who didn’t offer their salat in this world will not be able to do sajdah on the day of Qiyamah so picture that. Imagine the scene of Qiyamah, imagine how close and near you are to Allah in your sajdah and be thankful to Allah that you are blessed enough to do Sajdah to Him.

Once you have finished your salat, ensure that you do all your zikr after the prayer. Make sure you ponder over every glorification of Allah that you make. Don’t be like the bani israyeel who made their religion into pure rituals and stopped pondering over the signs and power of the words they were uttering. So know what you are saying. There are many aleems in our masjids, if you don’t know go to them, sit by their feet (massage their feet if you want) but ask them to teach you what the ayah’s mean if you don’t understand. Wallahi the whole process of learning beneficial knowledge such as this will increase your rank in Allah’s sight. Don’t be lazy, don’t just Google for answers or get all your deeni knowledge through FB. Sit and listen to an Ustadh or an Alim and you will benefit immensely. If this isn’t practical, then I would strongly recommend subscribing to Ustadh Nouman Ali khan’s online tafsir classes. It is only $11 a month so give up going out for coffee with friends and invest that money in learning Qur’an. Wallahi it will be the best investment you could ever make for yourself. If for whatever reason you may not be able to afford the subscription but you are keen on following the lessons please get in touch with me and I will happily sponsor you inshaAllah.

Make lots of dua.

Finally make sure you make dua in your own language. I find making dua in my own language (silently) makes me obtain khushoo and it helps me feel connected to Allah rabbul izzath. When making dua, make sure you praise Allah first, then send salawath upon our messenger sallallahu alaihiwasallam then call out to Allah with His most beautiful names. If you want forgiveness call out to Gaffar (the one who forgives), Gafoor (the one who hides your sins from others and removes your sins from your record), Afoow (the one who loves to forgive sins), Thawwab (the only One who can accept repentance), if you want Allah’s mercy call out to ArRahman, ArRaheem, If you want something call out to al Kareem (the most generous), if you have hit a dead end and you see no way out of your troubles or problems call out to al Fatthah the one who opens doors that you think can never be opened. If you want increased Rizq, call out to arRazzaq (the provider), if you want gifts or children, call out to al Wahhab the one who constantly gives gifts. If you are suffering from a broken heart, or you lost someone due to death or separation and you feel your heart is wounded call out to al Jabbar (the one who restores all things, and the one who fixes that which is broken). If you want a friend call out to Wali the bestest ever friend you can ever ask for, If you want someone to protect you call out to mawla the protector, if you are desperate that your Lord answers your dua or even hears your dua call out to Mujeeb the one who responds to anyone who calls out to Him.. I can go on and on.. What is it that you need? Peace? Call out to As-salam the source of all peace, you want light illuminating your heart? Call out to Allahu-noorassamawathi wal ardh (Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth) the source of all light. Whatever you need know that our Allah can give you and it is easy for Him! He is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He is always near!

Call out to your Lord and seek forgiveness for all your sins past and present, known and unknown, both open and secret and major and minor. Then ask Allah for whatever you want, then make dua for your parents, your family, brothers and sisters, immediate family, friends, colleagues, fellow musallis at the masjid, the scholars of our deen, the muslims in your country, ask Allah to grant guidance to all the people in your country, to all the muslims who are suffering and striving all across the globe, to all those who came before us and who are now spending time in the grave. End by praising Allah once again and send peace and blessings upon our nabi sallallahu alaihiwasallam.

Other activities to help increase khushoo in salat

  • Read lots of Qur’an: try to read at least one aiyn before leaving the house to work in the morning and read Qur’an whenever you get an opportunity, during lunch break, when travelling on the bus etc.
  • Try to memorise all the short surahs in the last juz (the 30th juz). Wallahi the memorisation is such a blessing every single time you utter the same ayahs over and over again you get rewarded. Simply by trying to memorise a short surah you earn yourself so many more sawab. Also this helps you to recite more Qur’an when you are out on the street.
  • Reduce the amount of sins you commit. Wallahi everyone sins. From the alim to the layman, from the king to the commoner, young and old and both men and women. But make a conscious effort to reduce your sins. It could be, “I am going to cut down the time I spend on social networks”, or “I will cut down my need for posting selfies on facebook”, “I will reduce the time spent watching TV series”, “I will ensure my gaze is always lowered when walking the streets”… I don’t know, you know yourself best and you know what your greatest weaknesses are. So start by making a conscious effort to give up sin. Wallahi, by giving up sin and by reading more Qur’an you open up doors for Allah’s baraqah to descend upon you.  Take my word for it and try it. Just try it for a month insha’Allah. Make a conscious effort to minimise your sins and wallahi you will find the sweetness in your salat and in all aspects of your life.

May this be a reminder to myself first and foremost and may it be of some benefit to you too. I ask Allah that He protect us from the onslaught of al-Fahsha. May He protect us from all shameful deeds that earn His wrath and displeasure. I ask Allah that He grants us the courage to do jihad against our own nafs, our own desires, our bodies and against Shaythaan. May Allah grant us baraqah in our lives, May Allah guide us to the straight path and may He forgive us when we forget or falter. May Allah bless you and myself in this world and the next and may He protect us from the torment of the fire.

May He grant us the gift of Khushoo in our salat and may He accept all our salat. May He grant us the courage and the strength to fight our inner battles with our nafs and shayatheen. And may He reward us with Noorun-ala-Noor. Light upon light. Ameen!

Rabbana thaqabbal minna innaka anthas samee-ul-aleem..

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December 14, 2013
by Shaad Hamid
1 Comment

Ultimate success – the qualities of the believers from Surah Mu’minoon and Surah Furqan

Assalamu alaikum warahmathullahi wabarakathahu!

This post is dedicated to the seeker. The one who is seeking guidance to a path that is not crooked nor leads astray. The path that will lead you to your Lord and all that He promises.

Glad tidings to you, for your Lord has revealed qualities and characteristics that will lead you toward your ultimate success.

This post will list the 6 qualities that a believer possesses as mentioned by Allah (swt) in Surah Mu’minoon (the believers) and the 12 qualities that Allah (swt) mentions in Surah Furqan (the criterion).

Most or all of us will be falling short in one or more of the qualities. May we identify where we need to make improvements and may Allah grant us the gift of implementing these qualities into our lives.

Qualities of the believers - Surah mu’minoon

  1. when they are in salah they pray with full Kushoo (complete focus, concentration and humbleness – they feel that they stand before their Lord while in prayer)
  2. they avoid vain talk (anything that does not add any value to their lives in this world or the next – such as gossip, back-biting, lewd and indecent conversation etc.)
  3. they are active in doing zakah (notice here that the emphasis is on doing zakah as opposed to giving zakah? So the implication is that these people (the believers) don’t just give charity when asked, but they are proactive in searching for people in their localities or within their own families to help. This could also mean people using their God given talents for the service of mankind, such as volunteer doctors who use their own money, their skills and expertise, to help as many underprivileged patients as they can, or the lawyer who helps as many people fight injustice pro bono etc.)
  4. they protect their private parts. They don’t commit fornication or adultery or go anywhere near fahsha (lewdness) or anything that would lead toward zina.
  5. they keep their promises and trusts (if they say they will meet you at a certain location at 5pm, they will meet you at that location at 5pm and not 5.01pm. Also they can be trusted with your wealth and belongings).
  6. And finally: they strictly guard their 5 daily prayers (notice how Allah comes back to salah? The first quality refers to Khushoo or the quality of your salah, here Allah refers to the number or the quantity of the salah. So these people protect their daily salah no matter what).

And Allah promises these people that they will be the ones who will inherit Jannah and they will dwell therein forever! What a beautiful reward? Alhamdulillah!

My dearest reader, please note down the above six qualities and ask yourself in which areas do you need further improvements in? Insha’Allah let’s work toward rectifying this and make small but daily improvements in at least one area that we are lacking.

Now let us move on to the qualities of the believers in Surah Furqan

1. They walk on the earth in humility

2. When the ignorant address them with harsh words they respond with peace (Salam)

3. They spend their nights in adoration of Allah in prayer.

4. Those who make the following dua:

(Surah furqan:65-66) the nearest meaning – “our Lord! Avert from us the wrath of hell, for its wrath is indeed an affliction grievous. Evil indeed is it as an abode, and as a place to rest in.” (Dear reader, I would like you to keep this dua at the back of your mind, I’ll come back to this in a bit insha’Allah).

5. When they spend, they are not extravagant and are not stingy but hold a balance between these extremes.

6. They do not invoke anyone other god or deity (they don’t commit shirk).

7. They don’t kill innocent people.

8. They don’t  commit fornication (and adultery).

9. They don’t witness falsehood (I.e. they don’t give false witness, they don’t lie and they don’t help with anything that implies fraud, cheating or falsehood).

10. When people are engaged with vain talk, bad jokes, useless show etc. they don’t walk away in an arrogant or fussy fashion but they withdraw from such people in a dignified and honourable way.

11. Those when they are admonished with Allah’s signs they don’t ignore the message or act as if they are deaf or blind but are those who take heed.

12. Those who make the following dua:

(Surah furqan:74) nearest meaning “our Lord! Grant unto us spouses and offspring who will be the coolness of our eyes, and make us leaders of the pious”.

Allah Rabbul Izzath summarises with the following -

“Those (the ones who have the above qualities) are the ones who will be rewarded with the highest place in heaven (Jannathul Firdous) because of their patient constancy: there they will be met with salutations and peace. Dwelling therein – how beautiful an abode and place of rest” (Surah Furqan:75-76)

Dearest reader, remember I asked you to keep the first of the two duas mentioned here in mind? Please go back to it (point number 4 above) and have a quick read. What does the believer ask protection from and how does he/she describe hell? He says it is a place evil to rest in. Now what does Allah say these people will get as a reward? Allah says they will get Jannathul Firdous and how does Allah describe Jannah as? He says how beautiful an abode and place of rest :)

Alhamdulilah!

May we strive to implement each of these qualities into our lives and May we be able to inculcate all of them before we die so we meet our Lord saying “ya Allah we have heard and we obeyed!”

May Allah grant us hidaya and sabr in order to be this person that Allah talks about in both Surah Furqan and Surah Mu’minoon.

Ameen!

Barakallahu lee wa lakum fil quranil kareem

Wa nafa’nee wa iyyakum bil aayaati wa dhikril hakeem

Innahu jawaadun malikun barrun rabbur ra’oofur raheem

May Allah bless me and you through the guidance of this noble Quran

And may its teachings and remembrances benefit me and you

Truly Allah is the possessor of wealth, the sovereign,  the all good, the one who has authority and power over us,  the loving and infinitely-merciful.

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December 7, 2013
by Shaad Hamid
2 Comments

To the broken hearted, meek and the weak

This post is dedicated to the broken hearted, the soft-hearted, the meek and the weak… It is from the heart to the heart. If you are in pain, I urge you to say Alhamdulillahi ala kulli haal – we praise and thank Allah in every situation. With eyes filled with tears, look toward your Rabb and say with sincerity ‘Alhamdulillahi ala kulli haal’.

This is the first step in knowing and understanding the mercy of your Lord. Whatever you’re going through, know that this was never meant to miss you. This trial or test that you’re experiencing right now has already been ordained over billions of years ago (even before the universe was created). The pen is dry, so don’t despair. If Allah has decreed this upon you, know that you have the strength to overcome it. Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear.

Whenever you feel sad, I invite you to read Surah Duha (the 93rd surah).. This is a Surah that was revealed to console our dear beloved nabi-e-kareem sallallahu alaihi wasallam (sal) at a time when he was feeling a similar emotion to what you’re feeling right now. The context to the surah was that Allah (swt) withheld waheeh (revelation) for a period of time which gave the unbelievers enough time to taunt and hurl abuse at our nabi (sal). The wife of Abu Lahab who was an Aunt of our Holy Prophet (sal) and whose house adjoined his said ”It appears your satan has forsaken you.” Nauzhubillah!

The taunting of the people our Nabi (sal) can bear, but the withholding of revelation from Allah distressed him. Many thoughts came to his mubarak mind that made him extremely sorrowful. In all the chaos, the struggle and the strife, his only source of strength was Allah. When revelation was delayed, our Nabi felt sad and alone. Does this situation somehow sound familiar to you? Do you feel alone, lost and hopeless? Sometimes do you feel as though Allah hates you or that He may be angry with you?

My dearest reader, Allah Rabbul Izzathi wal Jalal consoled our Nabi (sal), and through him, all of us..

1. By the glorious morning light

It’s not all doom and gloom.. There is sunshine, there is light, there is beauty. In other words, look at the bright-side dear brother/sister*.

2. And by the night when it is still (or darkens)

Is your worrying and sadness keeping you from falling asleep at night? Know that when the night is still or at its darkest, that’s when you will find Allah closest to you, so despair not*.

3. Your Lord has neither forsaken you nor hated you.

Do you think Allah hates you? Do you think that what you’re going through is somehow a punishment? Know that Allah does not hate His servants nor does He ever forsake those who seek Him.*

4. And indeed the Hereafter is better for you than the present (life of this world).

Whatever you’re going through, know that it is very brief. The nature of this world is that it is temporary. This will pass. Soon this too shall pass. But the life of the hereafter is eternal. Indeed, rejoice that the hereafter is far more greater than what you can imagine, so despair not and don’t be sad!*

5. And very soon your Lord will give you, and you will be pleased.

Be patient my dearest brother/sister, very soon Allah will replace your sorrow with good; and He promises you that you will be satisfied with what He gives you. And the promise of Allah is true!*

6. Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter and care?

Dear reader, notice how the first 5 verses of this beautiful surah is about hope? It’s not all doom and gloom because there’s sunshine, and when the night is darkest you will find Allah near, the hereafter is far greater than this life, so don’t sweat the small stuff (i.e. everything in this life is small stuff), very soon Allah will compensate for you something that you will be super duper happy with. All of these are to do with hope. Now Allah diverts your attention toward what He has already done for you. Here in verse number 6, although the reference is directly to our Nabi (sal), have we not experienced some form of abandonment in our lives? Maybe someone dear to you died, maybe you left your family and friends and lived abroad with no one for support or comfort. In those times that you felt you have no one, who do you think was looking out for you? Dearest reader, know that it was Allah who was sheltering you all along. So what makes you think He will forsake you now?*

7. And He found you lost and guided you

At one point weren’t you also lost, wandering with no guidance (hidaya)? Has He not blessed you today with guidance?*

8. And He found you poor and made you self-sufficient.

 At one point in your life you were dependant on others, maybe you didn’t even have money for food, but today has he not made you self sufficient? Who was it that brought you to where you are now?

Therefore, dear reader, count your blessings and be grateful to your Lord for all that He has already blessed you with*.

Now Allah tells us what we can do by action to help rid our sadness (instead of moping around feeling helpless):

9. Therefore, don’t treat the orphan with oppression or harshness

In other words, look after the orphans, be good to them and look after their needs. In a hadith our nabi (sal) was asked by a man what he could do to soften his hard heart. Our nabi-e-kareem (sal) replied “Be merciful with the orphan, pat his head and feed him from what you eat. This will soften your heart, and enable you to get what you need.” [At-Tabarani & As-Silsilah as-Sahihah] What is it that you want? Peace and contentment? Happiness? Freedom from oppression? Then go ahead, look after the orphan!*

10. And as for the one who requests for your assistance (and help) do not repel him;

Don’t ignore the ones who are in need of help. Always look to help those in distress, it could be the aunt you never get along with, or the cousin who gets on your nerves; but if they are in need and you know they are in need and you are in a position to help them then go out of your way to help them. Not for them, but because Allah told you so. By the action of helping others, you will find solace and comfort and also Allah will go out of His way to help you when you need Him the most*.

11. But as for the blessings and gifts (ni’mah) of your Lord, proclaim it.

In this state of sadness, make sure you verbalise all the good Allah has done for you. Most often in our counsel with friends and loved ones we go into negative mode and only talk or focus on the negatives, plunging us deeper into despair. Instead Allah commands you to verbalise (proclaim) all His favours and gifts that He has given you. This is the ultimate deed that will deflate the feeling of sorrow and despair*.

Alhamdulillahi Rabbil A’alameen!

*And Allah knows best.

Let’s recap the lessons in this surah:

  1. Stay hopeful for Allah’s help and good times are near
  2. Remind yourself of all the times Allah took you out of difficulty in the past
  3. Don’t just sit there moping around, but go out of your way to help those in need
  4. And finally, proclaim the praises and thanks to Allah
Let me end by sharing an email I sent out to a couple of people who were feeling sad due to a temporary condition of mine, I sincerely hope that this will be of some help to you too:

Alhamdulillahi ala kulli haal
(we praise and thank Allah in every situation)

Allah is al-Jabbar the one who restores all things to its original form and who fixes all that is broken. Will He then not mend my broken heart?

I have complete trust and faith in Him that He will not only restore but will grant me something better.. He is Kareem (the most generous) al-Latheef (the gentle and kind) and he is al-Wahhab (the one who loves to constantly give gifts) so why should I feel sad?

Our Allah is the most loving (wadood), the bestest friend forever (al Wali), the greatest protector (Mawla) and the one who immediately responds to the call of the Caller (Mujeeb).
I know He’s got my back :-)

Allahul musta’aan! Allah is the one whom help is sought! 

I rejoice because my Allah is the one who split the ocean for Moosa Alaihissalam, cooled the fire for Ibraheem Alaihissalam, let the sleepers sleep for over 300 years in the cave, sent down angels from the heavens to fight at Badr etc.. I rejoice because my Allah never forsakes those who seek Him.. I also thank Allah that not only has He taught us His most beautiful names, but He is letting me experience His attributes first-hand also and so I rejoice!

SubhanAllahi wabihamdihi SubhanAllahil Aleem
Allahumma salli ala sayyidina Muhammad wa’ala Aali Seyyiduna Muhammad kama sallaiytha Ala seyyiduna Ibraheema wa’ala Ale Seyyiduna Ibraheema innaka hamidum majeed…

Ya Rahman, Ya Raheem, Ya Kareem, Ya Latheef, Ya Fatthahu, Ya Mujeebu, Ya Allah! Please grant peace and contentment to all those suffering in silence across the globe!

Ya Fatthahu! Ease our paths and open new and better doors for us.

Ya Mujeeb! Fix and restore our broken hearts.

Ya Mawla! Take away our sorrows and ease our burdens. Make us depend on you and only you so we become unbreakable, because your handhold is unbreakable.

Ya Wali! May we find true happiness only through you so we become unconquerable, because you can never be conquered Ya Allah!

Ya Quddus! Ya Salam! Ya Noor! Illuminate our hearts with your light so we will never become empty, because you are the source light, source of peace and fulfilment. Your light never diminishes and your support never ends.

Ya Kareem, Ya Raheem Ya Allah! Make the broken hearted, the meek, the weak and the sad, inheritors of all that you have promised!

Allahumma Ameen!

Barakallahu lee wa lakum fil quranil kareem

Wa nafa’nee wa iyyakum bil aayaati wa dhikril hakeem

Innahu jawaadun malikun barrun rabbur ra’oofur raheem

May Allah bless me and you through the guidance of this noble Quran

And may its teachings and remembrances benefit me and you

Truly Allah is the possessor of wealth, the sovereign,  the all good, the one who has authority and power over us,  the loving and infinitely-merciful.

Image credit: topislamicwallpapers.com

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November 28, 2013
by Shaad Hamid
1 Comment

20 Digital Marketing Trends for 2014

  1. It’s almost 2014 and we’re all convinced of the value of mobile as a key channel in a user’s multi-screen and multi-channel journey.  However, deployment and implementation has still been slow due to various reasons (lack of expertise, budget, and inability to prove ROI etc.). But with increased levels of mobile penetration, and Matt Cutts estimating that mobile searches on Google are set to surpase desktop search volumes next year, I expect 2014 to really be the year of deployment.
  2. Mobile specific marketing strategies will be a core customer acquisition channel, especially for local and small businesses.
  3. We will see the lines of paid search and organic search blur. We are seeing this already, but in 2014 Google will enable more and more bidding options in order to win ‘moments that matter’ (think location or proximity bidding when people are searching closer to your store, or when people search outside an airport etc., device bidding, app promotions etc.).
  4. Last year I predicted Google will get better at understanding complex questions (Hummingbird). This will mean websites will need to be user focused in terms of content strategy. Content will need to fall under the following stages of the buying cycle: problem recognition, solution comparison, supplier comparison and validation. If you won’t supply this information to your users, someone else will.
  5. Other major search engines will move to ‘secure search’ making a keyword-less world a reality. SEOs in particular will be forced to use paid search advertising, first entry page analysis and multi touch attribution in order to prove value.
  6. With deeper smartphone penetration, email marketing will continue to be an important customer nurturing channel. Far from being dead, the channel will continue to grow and thrive. What will be dead though is ‘batch and blast’ emails.
  7. We’ll see best-in-class organisations go beyond understanding their customers from purely demographic data to unifying their view of customer behaviour. Organisations will need to go beyond their CRM systems to mine data from sources such as accounting and order processing systems in order to unify their view of their customer.
  8. HTML5 becomes mainstream. Switching to HTML5 won’t be as easy for many organisations. But this will move from a fad to ‘mainstream’ in 2014.
  9. Linkbuilding will merge alongside PR and creative, making asset creation the only viable linkbuilding method to provide long lasting results.
  10. Perception of visual content (video, image, custom illustrations, illustrative animation, and infographics) will change among marketers from “it’s a ‘nice-to-have’ marketing collateral”, to a key strategy in acquiring and increasing customer engagement and influence within target audiences.
  11. With the increase in devices that content is consumed, websites designed in 2014 will largely incorporate ‘responsive web design’.
  12. Users will continue to have contradicting needs. On the one hand, they want personalised and customised service and product offerings, but on the other, will be increasingly uncomfortable over the amount of personal data being mined.
  13. More and more companies begin to dedicate a greater proportion of their marketing budgets towards going beyond online contact-level web analytics to incorporating important off-site social behaviours. Marketers will begin to make a greater effort to place estimates of digital impact in proper proportion and context of broader marketing strategy and the market environment.
  14. Marketing teams, typically in slower moving industries, will graduate from digital experimentation (via pilot tests) into actually defining their digital marketing strategy.
  15. Marketing teams that have gone further than that will look to approach the more sophisticated tasks of aligning and integrating activities across organizational siloes to deliver a more cumulative impact on their audience.
  16. We all know that increased digital marketing efforts demand continuous and collective management, something few companies are designed to support at this point in time. The value destroyed by this misfit approach—although hard to quantify—is potentially very large. Several companies will be looking to take steps to restructure internal teams as a result.
  17. Companies looking to make structural changes will begin to look for individuals who can take ownership in executing processes and bringing the following disparate functions together: paid search, online community, corporate website, advertising, social media and blogging, and SEO.
  18. There will be an increased push for social marketing among businesses. Companies will look to align their brands with social causes.
  19. Facebook will start to get serious about search in 2014. They will find a way to personalise entity search with social interactions thereby providing an ‘alternative search engine’ based around ‘friend recommendations’.
  20. And finally, television advertising is far from dead. On the contrary, television ads will begin to incorporate more and more social integration. Television advertising will also incorporate “second screen experiences”, where a TV programme’s tablet app, mobile app, and even discussions will be promoted and encouraged on social media platforms. Content creators will need to create assets that can live across multiple screens seamlessly.

What are your predictions for 2014? Feel free to share your thoughts within the comments below.

Enhanced by ZemantaImage credit: One Way Stock
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December 28, 2012
by Shaad Hamid
1 Comment

Is Google testing and cherry picking rich snippets?

I’m not entirely sure if this is something new, but I’m seeing Google display weird listings on the SERPs lately. OK let me try and be a bit more specific. I was manually monitoring rankings for a website I’m helping out with and noticed they were ranking on the first page today (for their most competitive keyword phrase). What was weird was that the site’s set up the following schema on the same page:

  • authorship,
  • ratings, and
  • location schema,

Before today Google would usually override all other rich snippets opting to only display authorship on the SERPs. Sadly I don’t have a screen-grab of how wedding belles photography used to render on the SERPs, but this is how it appears when using the Structured Data Testing Tool.

Continue reading “Is Google testing and cherry picking rich snippets?” »

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