• How to Transform Your Marriage from “Meh” to “Wow!”

    Your marriage can be your gateway to paradise or hellfire. If it is a beautiful marriage, it can be a means of increasing your energy, productivity and happiness in this life. It can also be a means of salvation in the next world. On the flip side, a broken marriage is one of the biggest stressors on your life and it’s also the destroyer of your happiness and life in both worlds. In this article, I share nine qualities that can help you transform your marriage from “meh” (i.e.mediocre) to “wow!” (i.e. superb and successful), bi’idnillah!

    When coaching 100s of people around the world, I’ve found that people who are enjoying a healthy relationship with their spouse are better able to achieve their health and fitness goals. They also tend to lead a satisfied life. I think that’s because the satisfaction of their marriage motivates them to push beyond their comfort zone and try new things in life. Increased motivation along with a supporting partner facilitate them to achieve things that are usually seen as “impossible”.

    While a blissful marriage is a blessing for everyone around them, a broken marriage is a misery not only for the involved couples but also for the children and the people around them. So, a broken marriage can cause havoc not only in your relationship but also in every other area of your life.

    Or to be blunter: A happy married life is like a ladder that helps you to climb over the hurdles you face in your life. A broken marriage is like a big massive wall in your way. It’s a hurdle itself for all your happiness, achievement and success in both worlds.

    I sincerely hope that the nine qualities I share will be of great benefit for anyone who is looking to improve their marital life. These qualities I share in this article are based on Islamic teachings, the latest scientific research and things that I’ve implemented successfully in my own life. They’re advice that I’ve taught to many around me, alhamdulillah!

    Ok, before we continue, here is a little disclaimer: I’m a nutrition and exercise coach, not a marriage therapist or relationship coach. So, please don’t contact me for any of your marital issues. Instead, to help you with your marriage, turn to the books and resources I share at the end of this article.

    Nine qualities to transform your marriage from “meh” to “wow!”:

    1. Start by finding your “why”!

    If you know me well, then you know that I always talk about how important having a purpose is. If you want to change anything in life, the first step should be finding the purpose or the true “why.” Why do you want to transform your marriage in the first place? What do you want to achieve with this transformation?

    So, I suggest that you start with this question: “Why do I want to transform my marriage from “meh” to “wow!”?

    Knowing why you want to transform your marriage from mediocre to great is the first step towards a successful marriage.  To help you understand the process of finding your why, read this. This article explains to you how you can find your real why.

    Once you know your true why, it will motivate you to make your marriage a great success.

    I mean, if you aren’t willing to save your marriage and you aren’t truly committed to it, then nothing in the world is going to help you, right?

    So, start with finding your why and that’s pretty much the first step towards progressing to a marriage that leaves you saying “wow!”, bi’idnillah!

    2. Utilise your best weapon – Du’a

    With the why, you know which direction to go. However, this first step is pretty much useless if you don’t get the Divine assistance to attain the outcome that you seek.

    So, it’s time that you utilise your best weapon to implore Allah for help. Yep, I’m talking about the power of du’a.

    Allah subuhanawuta’ala says in the Qur’an:

    “When my servants ask you concerning me, (tell them) I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on me.” (Al-Quran, 2:186)

    It’s as if Allah is giving you a blank cheque and asking you to ask for anything that you want. And, of course, He promises that He’ll attend to it.

    Subhanallah, who else is better to help you than your own Creator?!

    If you are truly determined, and you are ready to put the work to make your marriage the most beautiful one, then Allah’s help isn’t far from you. So, beg to Him, because, for Him all matters are easy and all He has to say is “Kun” and it is!

    In Surah Furqan, Allah subuhanawuta’ala even teaches us how to make du’a for a successful marriage.

    And those who say, “Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” (Al-Quran, 25:74).

    Use this du’a from the Quran to help you formulate the right words to ask for what you need. And beg to Him with all of your heart believing that He will, indeed, respond.

    3. Provide unconditional love

    How can you happily spend a lifetime with a person, if you don’t cherish and love that person unconditionally?

    Loving unconditionally? Yep, what I’m saying is that you should love your spouse regardless of his/her flaws and mistakes. You love that person with all their imperfections.

    That may sound hard but think about your own flaws. Don’t you expect that your spouse loves you regardless of your mistakes?

    The reality is this: except for Prophet Muhammed (SAW), no human being is perfect and each and every one of us has our own shortcomings. So, if we were to love a person based on a condition, (“he or she should be like this” and “he or she shouldn’t be like that”) then you’ll never come across a person whom you can love.

    So, one of the most important qualities that helps you to transform your marriage is that you love your spouse unconditionally.

    That unconditional love should also reflect on your duties towards your spouse. Do your duties with ihsan (perfection) and don’t be too demanding of your own rights.

    On the Day of Judgment, Allah would ask each of you about your rights and obligations towards one another. And you want to make sure that you excel in your duties towards your spouse and that you are forgiving with the rights that are due to you. That’s certainly a safer position for your success in this world and in the Aakhira (Hereafter).

    Here are a few ways how you can excel in showing your love in words, emotions and in actions:

    1. Say I love you frequently, even if you had an argument just before. As I said, your love should be unconditional.
    2. Kiss your spouse often. Create 100s of opportunities to kiss. Has she or he just entered the house? Kiss. See him/her in the kitchen? Kiss. Here is a good exercise for you. Brainstorm and write down at least 5 opportunities you can use to kiss your spouse daily
    3. Give a lot of compliments. Say things like,“Wow, you look great in this dress” and “masha Allah, you’ve cooked an excellent dinner”,
    4. Spend a lot of time in very fulfilling and beautiful intimacy. Though this subject is rarely discussed in Islamic circles, lack of intimacy is one of the leading causes of marriages falling apart.

    As a married couple, you need to frankly talk about this issue. You need to inform your partner about your likes and dislikes in intimacy.

    In the Quran, Allah says, “… your wives are your garments, and you are their garments” (Al-Quran; 2:187). So, part of being his/her “garment” is also to protect his/her chastity by giving them the ultimate satisfying sex life in your marriage.

    4. Consider your in-laws as your family

    How can you truly love your spouse, if you don’t even love and respect the persons who brought your spouse to this world? I mean there is a reason why we call them “parents-in-law”. They have almost the same rights and duties as your biological parents and these rights and duties are now given to them by the legal pact of marriage.

    So, part of loving your spouse is also loving his/her family.

    Abuse or disrespect towards in-laws is one of the biggest reasons for a broken marriage. If your relationship with your in-laws is sound, your marriage will be sound; otherwise, it may look like sound from outside, but it’s NEVER really sound!

    When you fix your relationship with your parents in law, you’ll most probably fix your relationship with your spouse. That’s what I call killing two birds with one stone!

    5. Connect through unconditional service

    The more connected you are towards your spouse, the better your relationship becomes. But you might be wondering what I mean by “connecting”.

    Connecting is finding ways to help your spouse whenever possible. Every act of service counts.

    And what’s most important is, that you don’t categorise the chores at home or the errands outside home as “mine” or “his/hers”.

    Being the bread-winners of the family, most men have this strong belief that they don’t need to help their wives, since their responsibility is to earn money. They believe everything else should be taken care of his wife.

    But this is totally against the Sunnah.

    When asked what did the Prophet (SAW) used to do in his house, Aisha, (RA) replied, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it” (Al-Bukhari).

    This sunnah helps men to strengthen their romance life too.

    In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman says it beautifully:

     “…romance is strengthened in the supermarket aisle when your partner asks, ‘Are we out of butter?’ and you answer, ‘I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,’ instead of shrugging apathetically.”

    6. Showing Gratitude 

    John Gottman, the man that I mentioned before, is a psychologist, scientist and an expert in marital relations. In the book I mentioned earlier, he says that unless a couple is able to maintain a high ratio of positive to negative affect (5:1 or greater), it is likely that their marriage will end.

    He gives us a simple way to increase this positivity ratio. According to him, the best way to boost your positivity ratio is to practice gratitude in your marriage.

    Showing gratitude is basically thanking your spouse for every little help and favour they do. That’s it.

    In a separate article, I’ve discussed in detail how to practice gratitude towards your spouse. It’s one of the most read articles. So make sure to read it.

    But the most important thing to remember is this: Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said, “He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah” (Ahmad)

    7. Spend a lot of quality time with your spouse

    The greatest gift you can give to your spouse is your own mindful presence, i.e. you give your full attention without any distractions. Yeah, that means you PUT DOWN YOUR SMARTPHONE and engage with your loved ones.

    So, what do you do in your quality time? If you have nothing to say or do, at least just hold your spouse hands. According to the latest research from the University of Gothenburg, “long-lasting gentle touch decreases stress hormones and decelerate heartbeat frequency. It also activates brain areas commonly linked to reward

    John Gottman, the renowned psychologist from the University of Gothenburg further elaborates in his book, how spending time with your spouse will both save your marriage and health:

    “I often think that if fitness buffs spent just 10 per cent of their weekly workout time—say, twenty minutes a day—working on their marriage instead of their bodies, they would get three times the health benefits they derive from exercise class or the treadmill.”

    8. Be the first to say “sorry”

    Happy marriages aren’t devoid of problems or arguments, but what makes these marriages different from the rest is that couples in these marriages don’t linger on the arguments or problems that they have.

    So, if you have an argument with your spouse and regardless of who initiated the argument, be the first to say sorry.

    The simple sorry will diffuse the tension and will help you to garner the respect of your spouse, insha Allah.

    Moreover, the forgiving of your spouse is a means for you to receive forgiveness from Allah subuhanawuta’la. Allah says “. . . and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Al-Quran, 24:22)

    9. Save your best treatment for your spouse

    “The most complete of the believers in faith, is the one with the best character. And the best of you are those who are best to their women.” (At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

    “The best of you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best of you to my family.” (At-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani)

    There is so much wisdom behind these narrations. One of the most important aspects to understand is that it’s easy to be the best to everyone outside your home. That’s because they are oblivious of most of your weaknesses and flaws. All they see is the well-dressed and well-mannered person in front of them.

    However, at home the story is different. You family knows everything about you and your flaws. For you to be recognised as the best to your family by your own family members, despite your imperfections, is indeed one of the greatest of achievements.

    So, trying to claim the title “the best to your family” is truly an uphill battle. You seriously need to work on many fronts to achieve that state. But it’s a struggle that’s really worth it. Not only it will grant you joy, happiness and contentment in this world, but it will also be very heavy on your scale on the Day of Judgement.

    Here are a few ways how you can start implementing this aspect into your life:

    • Treat your spouse, as if you would treat a noble guest at home. Just as you wouldn’t shout at your noble guest and would always present your best side, treat your spouse likewise.
    • Dress up beautifully for your spouse. No one deserves to admire your beauty more than your spouse does. You should impress your spouse not only through your character but also through your appearance. In this, we have beautiful examples from our salaf. It has been narrated, that Ibn Abbas (RA) used to beautify himself every time before entering his house. In response to those who laughed at him, he replied: “I like toembellish myself for my wife, just as I like her to beautify for me”.
    • Choose compliments over criticism. Whenever you find positive behaviours of your spouse, compliment them. Never criticise your spouse. Criticism never helps to improve your relationship.

    Final Words

    No article, book or therapists can solve all your marital problems immediately. But by incorporating these nine qualities in your marriage, you can change the course of your relationship, bi’idnillah! Sometimes a small change can bring huge benefits over time.

    So, here’s what I suggest. Among these nine qualities, choose the two easiest ones and try to implement in your life for the next two weeks. Remember to be as consistent as possible.

    You’ll, insha Allah, notice tiny improvements in your relationship. Then choose another quality and practice it for another 2-3 weeks. Over time you’ll be able to practice all these nine qualities with ease and then you’ll realise how much your relationship has improved.

    If you are committed and ready to put the work, you’ll see improvements down the road.


    I hope the following resources will be of great benefit for you.

  • How to Instantly Achieve Calmness and Increase Your Energy

    We often want to achieve a lot while doing very little work, and this usually happens by looking for some shortcuts. Though I’m not a fan of shortcuts, as there are rarely any shortcuts to success, what I’m going to discuss today is an exception. There is indeed a scientifically verified shortcut that will help you to achieve instant calmness and which will increase your energy. This hack will also optimise your health. So, what’s that shortcut? Taking some simple breaths!

    There’s something that you can’t live without. Yes, you may last for weeks without food, days without water, but what you truly can’t live without is oxygen. You can only last a few minutes without oxygen. However, humans rarely appreciate this automatic act. Breathing is taken for granted and that’s why we hardly ever stop to think about the importance of it.

    If you’ve been reading my articles, you know that I often talk about four fundamentals for a Lean & Healthy life; these fundamentals are praying, eating, moving and sleeping. Nevertheless, knowing what I know now, breathing is definitely on top of my list.

    So, get ready to discover the most undervalued, underappreciated fundamental of all fundamentals: breathing!

    Oxygen = Cell fuel

    “What if I said I had a medicine that would keep you calm but alert? That would relax and energize you? That would help you recover, boost your immune system, lower the oxidative stress that causes ageing, power you up, and fuel every cell in your body, from your frazzled brain to your taxed muscles? You’d say, ‘Give it to me,’ right? Well, here it is. And no side effects. Take it every day—doctor’s orders” (Vranich, 01).

    Dr Belisa Vranich, a leading clinical psychologist and one of the world’s leading experts on how to breathe talks about the importance of breathing in her ground-breaking book Breathe!

    In her book, Vranich emphasizes that oxygen equals cell fuel.  Quoting Dr Arthur Guyon’s research, Vranich writes, “all chronic pain, suffering, and disease are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level . . . Proper breathing nourishes the cells of the body with oxygen, and optimizes the functioning of the body on all levels” 

    The importance of oxygen stretches far beyond your imagination. Take your brain for instance. Your brain utilizes 20% of the oxygen, you breathe. This means that your productivity, memory power, decision-making ability and mental health all depend highly on the oxygen you inhale.

    Let that sink in for a minute.

    So, if you’re not breathing properly you’re simply not performing optimally. Full stop.

    So, finding it difficult to focus? Breathe properly. Finding it difficult to make a decision? Breathe properly. Feeling anxious and stressed out? Breathe properly. Annoyed with a loved one? Breathe properly.

    Does breathing properly sounds like a panacea? To some extent it is! Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Dr Kelly McGonigal says in her book, The Willpower Instinct:

    “You won’t find many quick fixes in this book, but there is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath—slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode. A few minutes of this technique will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges”.

    The Art of Slow Breathing

    Now, science is unequivocal about this. If you want to breathe properly, breathe less! Yes, just like overeating is unhealthy for you, over breathing is unhealthy for you too.

    My job as a coach is to simplify the science so that you can take immediate action. Here are three simple rules to remember to breathe less.

    Rule #1: Breathe through your nose

    Now, this may sound obvious, but the fact is most people, unbeknownst to them, inhale through their mouth. Breathing through your mouth, in general, is bad for you (except for when you’re running hard from a dog chasing you 🙂

    According to Dr Vranich, “Mouth breathing can also disrupt the pH balance of the blood, making it too alkaline. Alkalosis can lead to feelings of apprehension, anxiety, and chronic pain conditions.

    Nose breathing, on the other hand, has its own benefits, including increases of CO2 saturation in the blood, which creates a calming effect”.

    So, what’s the easiest way to breathe through your nose? Keep your mouth shut.

    Allah (SWT)created your mouth to eat and talk and your nose to breathe and smell. And there is wisdom in each of Allah’s creation. Science now says that when you breathe through your nose, the air you inhale will be filtered and humidified. This means that there are fewer chances for harmful pathogens to enter into your body.

    Rule #2: Breathe into your belly

    When you take deep breaths through your nose, you’ll eventually breathe into your belly. Here is a simple way to check whether or not you are breathing into your ageing. Keep your right hand on the belly and take a deep breath through your nose (while keeping your mouth shut). Is your belly expanding while breathing? If the answer is yes, then you’re doing it right.

    Check out this video from Dr Vranich on the correct way to breathe in.

    Rule #3: Exhale slightly longer than you inhale

    When you exhale slightly longer than you inhale, you are in fact turning on your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you to relax.

    But exhaling has another extremely important function. Your exhaling is responsible for 70% of your body’s detoxification! That’s right, if you are not correctly exhaling, you are not detoxifying correctly. Squeezing out the air out of your diaphragm also means that you’re detoxifying your body. Subhanallah, what an inexpensive way to detoxify!

    5+2+7 = Magic

    Now here is a simple way to implement all these three rules easily.

    What does 5, 2 and 7 stands for? They stand for seconds.

    1. Inhale for 5 seconds (obviously through your nose),
    2. Hold your breath for 2 seconds and
    3. Exhale (again through your nose) for 7 seconds
    4. Repeat these steps 5 times

    The instant calm and increased energy I talked about is just achieved through this simple exercise. All it takes is just a minute, you can do this anywhere, and anytime you like.

    Here is how I use it:

    • Just after waking up
    • Before going to sleep
    • Before my nap
    • Before I start to write
    • Before I start to do any productive work
    • When I feel annoyed
    • When I find it difficult to focus
    • When I feel anxious and stressed out
    • When my kids push me to my limits 🙂

    As you see, you can use this simple technique in many areas throughout your day. The more you use it, the better you become at this technique and the better you’ll feel throughout your day, bi’idnillah!

    Increase Your Gains Exponentially

    If you want to increase your gains exponentially, do this breathing technique along with sending Salawath upon the Prophet Muhammed (SAW).

    Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) saying: “Whoever supplicates Allah to exalt my mention (i.e., send salah), Allah will exalt his mention (i.e., send salah) ten times and remove from him ten sins and raise him ten degrees.” (Muslim)

    Just imagine what will truly happen to you when Allah Himself sends blessings upon you.

    Something to Reflect

    Recently, I was in a high-stakes meeting. Just before the meeting, I was very nervous, so I decided to make this breathing technique and eventually spent time on sending Salawath upon the Prophet Muhammed (SAW).

    After the meeting, one of the high-ranking officers asked me how I managed to be so calm despite being scrutinized by four people with endless questions. My answer was just a smile; I didn’t want to explain to him what I had prepared beforehand 🙂

    My point in sharing this story is that you can always make an act that’s beneficial to you a good deed by incorporating aspects of the Deen. So the next time you feel stressed out or tired, remember the steps that I mentioned and try the breathing exercise. It will definitely change your mood.

  • How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You a Better Person

    In part one, we discussed the five undeniable rewards of being a thankful servant of Allah. In this part, we’ll explore what the latest science has to say about gratitude and how practising this noble act can make you a better person.

    Practicing gratitude is one of the utmost fundamentals of Islam. In our previous article, we discussed the importance of it and also the rewards we get from Allah subuhanawuta’ala.

    In this article, I would like to explore the latest research about gratitude and show you how practising gratitude on a daily basis can make you a better person.

    Enter Thanks!

    Dr Robert Emmons is a professor at the University of California, and he’s one of the world’s leading experts on the science of gratitude.

    In his outstanding book Thanks!, he deciphers why gratitude can literally be one of the few things that measurably change peoples’ lives.

    Based on scientific research, this book validates what the Quran and Sunnah teach us about gratitude.

    Here are five things from this book I’ve learned and implemented in my life:

    #1. Gratitude Boosts Happiness

    From a scientific angle, Emmons argues that gratitude is a key to happiness. And as human beings, we all want to be happy, don’t we?

    And there are lots of benefits of being happy and here are some based on recent researches:

    • Research shows that happy people have a higher income, a greater productivity and have a higher quality of work
    • Happy people also have larger social rewards (such as more satisfying and longer marriages, more friends, stronger social support, and richer social interactions)
    • Happiness also improves your immune system, lowers stress levels and improves your overall physical health
    • Happy individuals are also more creative, helpful, charitable, have better self-control, self-confidence and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities.

    Wow! So much goodness in just being happy! You can boost your happiness just by practising gratitude to Allah subuhanawuta’ala and the people around you. Now, isn’t that awesome?

    #2. Gratitude Wards Off Your Negative Feelings

    Gratitude not only boosts your happiness, but it can also ward off your negative feelings when you are clouded with them.

    Psychologists refer this fact to emotional incompatibility. In simple language, this is what they mean: You can’t experience both positive emotions and negative emotions at the same time, i.e. you can’t be happy and sad at the same time.

    By practising a positive emotion such as gratitude during a difficult time, you are in fact warding off negative emotions instantly.

    #3. Practice Gratitude When Things Go Hard and Challenging

    This point is something similar to #2, but it’s not the same. In #2 we discussed negative feelings, and here we are going to discuss situations that are hard and challenging.

    You see, it’s fairly easy to feel grateful when everything’s going well, but it’s not easy to be grateful for our blessings when we face challenging times.

    But here is a little secret: It’s during our challenging times we grow the most! Prophet (SAW) hints on this in the following hadith:

    “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affairs are good, and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him, he is grateful, and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient, and that is good for him” (Saheeh Muslim)

    So how can you practice gratitude when things go hard?

    Here is a simple way to implement:

    Whenever you are faced with a hard and challenging time, think about just one positive outcome in that hard time. The truth is, regardless of how worse the situation is, there is always a positive outcome.

    That’s one of our fundamental beliefs as Muslims. Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) embodied this behaviour while reacting to calamities. He said,

    “If Allah strikes me with calamity I will thank Allah for four things:

    1. that the test was not in my deen (my religion)
    2. the calamity could have been worse
    3. it is an expiation for my sins
    4. any loss after losing the Prophet (PBUH) is nothing.”

    #4. Practicing Gratitude Towards Your Spouse Improves Your Relationship

    Leading psychologist John Gottman is an expert in marital relations. In his two decades of observational research, he concludes that unless a couple is able to maintain a high ratio of positive to negative affect (5:1 or greater), it is likely that their marriage will end (or at least the marriage won’t be a satisfying one).

    So, according to Gottman, the ratio of love is 5:1, i.e. you got to have at least five positive interactions with your spouse for every negative interaction.

    Gottman has become so good at spotting the strengths and weaknesses of a marriage, he can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether the marriage will end in divorce or not, often after just three minutes of observation in his marriage lab.

    Guess what; there is a way to boost your positive to negative ratio instantly: Practicing gratitude in your marriage.  

    Here are few ways how I practice gratitude in my marriage:

    • I thank my wife for EVERY meal she prepares for me
    • I always look for opportunities to say “Thank you” even for the little things she does for me
    • I take few minutes every day (sometimes just before I go to sleep) to share at least three things I appreciate about her

    Simple practices such as these can transform your marriage. Don’t trust my words?  Implement them in your life and see how your marriage life transforms instantly, bi’idnillah!

    Now, what one thing you can do to practice gratitude in your marriage or your relationship with others?

    #5. Writing a Gratitude Journal Before Bed Improves Sleep Quality

    Emmons says:

    “It may sound simplistic, but the evidence cannot be ignored: if you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.”

    He says, people who jotted the blessing before bed, slept more time, spending less time awake before falling asleep, and feeling more refreshed upon awakening.

    And I can testify to this. Since I’ve read this book, I’ve been writing “Alhamdulillah Journal” just before I go to sleep and feeling a difference in my sleep.

    I keep a simple notebook next to my bed and scribble five simple things I’m grateful for on that day. It looks something like this

    • Alhamdulillah for the cool, clean water
    • Alhamdulillah for the nice warm bed
    • Alhamdulillah for the healthy meals
    • Alhamdulillah for my three little princesses
    • Alhamdulillah for the beautiful view from my balcony

    As you notice, I mention both the small and big blessings. That’s because I want to be a thankful servant of Allah and thank Him for every little blessing and don’t want to take things for granted.

    I also write different blessings every day, as I want to avoid “gratitude fatigue” by counting fresh new blessings every day. This way you train your brain to look for new blessings, instead of focusing on new problems.

    Few Other Ways to Practice Gratitude

    Part of being a thankful servant of Allah, we should increase our good deeds as much as we can and avoid the bad deeds to the best of our ability. That’s the most fundamental part of being thankful to our Creator.

    Apart from that, here are few more ways how we can show gratitude to Him and the people around us:

    • Each of us has been blessed with the different type of blessings. We got to practice mentioning them verbally. Al-Hassan said, “constantly mention these favours, for mentioning them is giving thanks”. We can mention these blessing to our close family members in order to remind all of us about Allah’s countless blessings.
    • While reciting the frequent supplications such as after eating, drinking, dressing etc., be extra mindful of the meaning. When you praise Allah, feel it from your heart. Don’t just parrot the words, feel the thankfulness in your heart.
    • Practicing gratitude from your heart is a noble act. Remember this hadith very often: Allah is pleased with a man who eats food and praises Him for it, and takes a drink and praises Him for it. (Sahih Muslim, No. 6932)
    • Part of showing gratitude to Allah is showing gratitude to people. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), said, “He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi) Perhaps, we should start this from our own homes. Are we thankful to our parents, spouses, siblings for all their help? How often we thank our spouse for the daily chore they do?
  • 5 Undeniable Rewards for Being a Thankful Servant of Allah

    If we were to count the blessings of Allah, we would never be able to do it. Yet, we take most of the blessings for granted and do little to be thankful for those blessings. However, being a thankful servant of Allah is a fundamental thing in our religion. In this article, we’ll explore five undeniable rewards for being a thankful servant.

    A few years back, I saw a documentary that depicted people’s struggle to get water. These people would spend one-third of their waking hours searching for water! And most of the time, a family of four members have as little as 5 litres of water to utilise for the entire day!

    Imagine this; you expend more water while flushing the toilet!

    I live in a country where the tap water is equally good or better than bottled water. For most of my life, I took that blessing of cool, clean water from the tap for granted!

    However, my attitude dramatically changed when I came across an excellent book by Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahumullah). In his book, Excellence of Patience & Gratefulness, he states that showing gratitude for the blessings of Allah subuhanawuta’ala is half of our faith.

    He further argues that the purpose of our creation is that we give thanks to Allah subuhanawuta’ala.

    “And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect that perhaps you would be grateful.” (Al-Quran, 16:78)

    Shaytan, our biggest enemy, knows the position of gratitude in Islam very well and that’s why he took it upon himself to turn people from this highest and loftiest act. His encounter with Allah subuhanawuta’ala is recorded in the Quran:

    “Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful (to You).” (Al-Quran, 7:17)

    Virtues of Being Thankful

    “A person who eats and is thankful is like the person who fasts and is patient” (Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi)

    Being a thankful servant of Allah brings us immense virtues both in this and the next world. In this article, I want to share five remarkable rewards I’ve extracted from the fantastic book of Imam Ibn Al-Qayyum. I hope this article is a reminder for you and me to be a more thankful servant of Allah subuhanawuta’ala.

    #1. Allah Increases Our Sustenance

    We spend most of our waking hours looking for ways to increase our sustenance. However, we mostly forget that there is also one simple but effective way to increase our sustenance, i.e. by thanking Allah for His endless blessings.

    Allah says, Your Lord proclaimed: If you give thanks, I will give you an increase (Al-Quran, 14:7)

    The essence of this beautiful ayah is captured by Ali bin Abu Talib’s (RA) advice to a man. He said, “bounty is attached to the giving of thanks, and being thankful is linked with an increase; they are bound together. Therefore, the increase from Allah will not cease unless the gratitude of the servant stops.”

    So, let us strive to say “Alhamdulillah” from our heart for each and every tiny blessing of Allah.

    We know from the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), that he would say, ‘Al-hamdu Lillaahi ‘ala kulli haal (praise be to Allah in all circumstances)’ even if he came across something he disliked. (Saheeh Ibn Maajah, classed as hasan by al-Albaani)

    #2. Being Singled out for Allah’s Favour

    Out of His infinite mercy, Allah subuhanawuta’ala singles out His favour upon those who are thankful to him.

    “And thus We have tried some of them through others that the disbelievers might say, “Is it these whom Allah has favoured among us?” Is not Allah most knowing of those who are grateful?” (Al-Quran, 6:53)

    This high status belongs to those who are thankful to his Lord. I mean, what a greater blessing is out there than to be singled out as a receiver of His favour?

    #3. Showing Gratitude Protects Your Existing Blessings

    Al-Hasan al-Basri said, “Surely Allah grants favours as He wishes, but if it is not acknowledged by giving thanks, He returns it into torment.”

    So, your best “insurance policy” is to give thanks to Allah. Every time you acknowledge and thank Allah for His blessings, you are also protecting your existing blessings He has bestowed upon you.

    Umar bin Abd al-‘Aziz (rahimahumullah) put this succinctly:

    “Tie the favour of Allah by giving thanks to Allah”.

    #4. Gratitude Gets Rewarded Without Any Conditions

    Allah subuhanawuta’ala made many of His rewards conditional to His will. For example, He says “…Allah will enrich you from His bounty if He wills.” (Al-Quran, 9:28)

    When mentioning about the provision, He says, “Allah provides for whom He wills without account” (Al-Quran, 3:37) and in the same Surah, when He talks about forgiveness and punishment, He says, “He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills.” (Al-Quran, 3:129)

    Likewise in many other instances, He mentions His rewards are conditional to His will. However, when it comes to gratitude, He says He will reward the thankful ones, without any conditions, “And we will reward the grateful.” (Al-Quran, 3:145)

    Subhanallah, what a blessing is that!

    #5. Allah Is Pleased with a Person Who Shows Gratitude

    Allah is pleased with a man who eats food and praises Him for it, and takes a drink and praises Him for it. (Sahih Muslim, No. 6932)

    Look at the eternal mercy of Allah subuhanawuta’ala. He provides us with food and drink out of His mercy, and when we thank Him for that blessing, although He is no need of our gratitude, He is pleased with us. Subhanallah!

    What greater reward can we wish for then receiving His pleasure? After all, it’s His pleasure that causes us to enter into the eternal Jannah.

    So, let us strive to be of those who are grateful for all of Allah’s blessings. May Allah subuhanawuta’ala make us among those few who are thankful to Him. Allah warns us, “And few of My servants are grateful.” (Al-Quran, 34:13)

    Next Up

    In part 2 of this article, we’ll explore what the latest science has to say about gratitude and the simple ways we can be more grateful to Allah subuhanawuta’ala and the people around us.

  • 3 Ways How Transforming Your Body Impacts Your Life Positively

    “Is it really worth it?”. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight and get into shape, then this is something that you’ve most likely asked yourself. In this article, I talk about three ways how transforming your body impacts your life positively. I use Islam and science to show you why you should invest in your body.

    Every morning, I reflect on the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon my life. And undoubtedly, the biggest blessing of all is that He has gifted me with Islam.

    Alhamdulillah, being a Muslim means that I have been given simple and clear divine instructions through the Quran and the Sunnah to lead an abundant life. I’m not left to my own devices so that I have to figure out what the “true purpose” of life is or how to lead a meaningful life because I already know through the Quran and Sunnah what a good life is and looks like.

    On that note, the following hadith is one of my favourite hadiths because it lays down in a succinct manner what my priorities should be and how I can live as Prophet (SAW) said, Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death.– Shu’ab al-Imān 9575, Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani.

    Well, what about you? When you think about how you can be successful, do you use these five factors to your benefit? Do your actions show that your biggest priority in this life is to prepare yourself for the Afterlife? And there can be nothing more important than entering the Highest Paradise, right? After all, the Prophet (SAW) said: 

    “In Paradise, there are a hundred levels, what is between every two levels is like what is between the heavens and the earth. Al Firdaus is the highest level, and from it, the four rivers of Paradise are made to flow forth. So when you ask Allah, ask Him for Al-Firdaus.” -Jami at-Tirmidhi 2531, Sahih (authentic).

    If you want to achieve this goal, then you need to work on two things: health and wasting time. That’s why Prophet (SAW) said, “There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) Health and free time for doing good.” – Sahih al-Bukhari 6412. So, if you really want to maximise your life, then you need to reflect on how you use these two blessings.

    How Improving My Health Was a Game Changer

    When I was overweight, sick and deprived of energy, I was leading a mediocre life. Though I was constantly trying to improve my life, my overweight body wasn’t very helpful in getting the results I wanted. Most importantly, I had very low-energy to be consistent with anything.

    However, things started to change dramatically, when I finally learned to eat healthily. Healthy eating coupled with exercise and deep sleep helped me lose my excess weight. I was also stronger and energised.

    And that newly-won energy in my life was a catalyst for a long list of achievements in my life, alhamdulillah! Now as nutrition and exercise coach, I see the same pattern in my clients too.

    I’ve helped countless people in more than 30 countries around the world to achieve the best shape of their lives while improving their health and energy levels. Transforming their bodies inevitably transformed many aspects of their lives. Specifically, I’ve noticed three particular characteristics that emerge from my clients when they go through this body transformation:

    #1. Increased Energy

    This is perhaps the biggest win for most of my clients.

    To level up your life so that you can achieve success in this world and the Aakhira, you first need to harness your energy levels.

    The truth is, there’s no real way for you to manage your time wisely; you can, however, manage the tasks you complete during a given time. And managing your tasks invariably depends on your energy level. So, if you’re energised throughout the day and if you use this energy to your advantage, you’ll achieve the success that you’ve always dreamt of, bi’idnillah!

    That being said, here are five practical tips to maintain an increased energy level throughout the day:

    1. Improve your khushu (focus) in your prayers. You should also increase the amount of dhikr you do throughout the day.
    2. Eat nutritious foods at every meal and make sure to include plenty of vegetables, protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. You are what you eat. So there is a lot of truth to this saying, as the food you eat has a humongous impact on your mind and body.
    3. Exercise intelligently at least 4-5 times a week. By intelligently, I mean really use this time to lift and sweat. And do it in the morning hours!
    4. Sleep at least 7 hours and include a short-nap during the afternoon. In particular, at 1-3 pm every day.
    5. Drink plenty of water. Hydration plays an incredibly important role in managing your energy level. So, drink at least eight glasses of water.

    #2. Increased Confidence

    Because I’m a fitness and nutrition coach, I love seeing my clients succeed in all areas of their life, especially mentally! That’s why I’ve read plenty of books on how to boost self-esteem. There are lots of theories how to do it, but what helped me most in my life was when I achieved the best shape of my life. I went from fat to fit! The experience I gained from my unbelievable body transformation made me believe that I can achieve anything I want in my life if I follow an already trodden and well-founded path, bi’idnillah!

    I’ve noticed this pattern repeatedly in my clients too. Just a few days back, one of my clients, who lost around 20 kg of weight following my Lean & Healthy coaching Programme, wrote this to me:

    “Also I was invited to speak at an investment forum (….), and I accepted – this is partly down to my new found confidence to get on stage and do this. 

    Thanks so much Rushdie, May ALLAH Bless everything you do brother. You are doing amazing work for the Muslim Ummah.”

    As you probably know, anything worthwhile happens just out of your comfort zone. The boost in your self-confidence helps you to dare to step out outside of your comfort zone and try new things. Or more importantly, tackle your existing challenges in a different way. And that’s the first step towards an abundant life!

    #3. Increased Engagement in Personal Development

    Many people are passive spectators in their lives. They go to work every day, come home, sleep and repeat this routine for the rest of their lives. While this fixed routine helps them to live a decent life, it doesn’t really entice them to live an abundant one. One that’s rich, vibrant, and full of potential!

    However, there are many other people who are very active in what they want in their lives. They aren’t spectators; instead, they make things happen. That’s because they dare to disrupt their routine to make it better and worthwhile. They’re poised to improve their lives, and they plan to make sure their tomorrows are better than their todays. They also work hard to make their todays better than their yesterdays. And yes, this shift in their mentality helps them improve in every area of their lives.

    These are the people who constantly develop themselves so that they can be a better parent, spouse, employees, employer and most importantly a better slave of Allah subuhanawuta’la. So, these are the people who have an increased engagement in personal and spiritual development.

    Most of my clients report to me how transforming their body helped them to increase their engagement in personal and spiritual development. Some of my clients even reported to me how their behaviour changed towards their children, and how less annoyed or angry they felt when talking to others.

    This may sound very strange, but the truth is, when you start to implement a strategic system in order to achieve better health or to lose weight, you also end up transforming other areas of your life, knowingly or unknowingly.

    Maximising the Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Your Goals

    The first reason that you change other areas of your life is because of the mind-body connection. Your mind and body are interconnected: any positive (or negative) change in your body will be an improvement (or setback) in your mental state. So, as cliché, as it may sound, when you attempt to transform your body, you transform your mind and in that process transform your life forever!

    The second reason is linked to this mind-body connection: any positive type of discipline or regiment that you incorporate into your life requires some willpower, a change of mindset, and, of course, positivity. So, when you start working out or eating healthily, you make this connection stronger because you’re working towards a goal.

    So, anyone who tells you that your weight loss and fitness goals are superficial hasn’t truly learned or experienced how exercising and eating right can make you mentally fit, resilient, and positive! And yes, these are noble goals to have that you should keep working toward. Remember, great health isn’t a one-stop affair; it’s a lifestyle!

  • (Part 2) 10 Scientifically Backed Tools to Boost Your Brain Health

    Like your body, your brain needs to be trained so that it can achieve its full potential. In part one, you read about two of the most important tools to boost your brain health. In this article, I talk about the rest of the 8 tools that will help optimise your brain.

    “Train hard and push yourself.” This is the advice that you’ll typically get if you’re a regular at the gym (or wherever it is that you work out).

    Why? Because as time goes by, your body tends to adjust to the workout. The same routine that was making you sweat is no longer as effective because your body’s gotten stronger.

    I mention this because like the rest of your body, your brain can (and should be!) be trained so that you can achieve your full potential. I’ll tell you exactly how.

    Last week, I covered how to fuel your brain. This week, I’ll go over the last 8 strategies that will transform your brain.

    Tool #3: Exercise

    When our body moves, our brain grows! That’s why exercise is an excellent brain health booster!

    As I’ve mentioned previously, our body has been designed to move and not to sit for a long time. You can observe this in you daily life: whenever you move, you feel mentally and physically better. That’s because you don’t get an adrenaline rush when you sit for a long time. You also don’t get the accompanying feeling of having accomplished a goal.

    So, moving or exercising is one of the best ways to improve all of your cognitive abilities!

    Working out

    • improves your mood,
    • lowers your blood pressure,
    • lowers your blood sugar levels,
    • reduces your overall stress levels, and
    • improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain

    Given the benefits of working out, it’s no surprise that 100s and 1000s of studies have found that cognitive abilities are best in those who exercise.

    Any movement or exercise is beneficial to your brain health. However, make sure you strike a balance by adding strength exercise, interval exercise and moderate cardio to your exercise regime.

    Even mindful exercises, such as yoga, help reduce anxiety and increase your focus.

    Tool #4: Get Some Sleep!

    One of the quickest ways to hurt your brain is to get less than 7 hours of sleep at night.

    Studies show that getting less than 7 hours of sleep impacts our memory and learning ability negatively. Those who had less than 7 hours of sleep recalled more negative rather than positive thoughts during the day.

    In a previous article, I’ve detailed the dangers of skipping or reducing sleep.

    Apart from these dangers, there’s one more crucial connection between sleep and optimal brain function.

    In one of my favourite TED talks, neuroscientist Jeff Iliff reveals the findings of his latest research. He says that our brain’s waste clearance happens when we sleep.

    At the end of talk, he leaves us with a powerful reminder; he says:

    In your house, if you stop cleaning your kitchen for a month, your home will become completely unlivable very quickly. But in the brain, the consequences of falling behind may be much greater than the embarrassment of dirty countertops, because when it comes to cleaning the brain, it is the very health and function of the mind and the body that’s at stake, which is why understanding these very basic housekeeping functions of the brain today may be critical for preventing and treating diseases of the mind tomorrow.

    You can watch the 11-minute talk here:

    Tool #5: Declutter Your Space

    Clarity comes through focus. And focus doesn’t emanate from a place of chaos.

    If your environment is cluttered, your brain’s ability to focus and process information is highly restricted.

    Researchers from the Princeton University found that a cluttered environment competes for your attention and leads to wearing out your mental resources. So, you’re not only distracted in a cluttered environment, you may also feel more agitated.

    Consequently, if you want to increase your focus and boost your brain’s ability to process more information, then you need to first start decluttering your space.

    For more information about this topic, I highly recommend the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

    Tool #6: Remember to Pray/Meditate

    Every commandment and prohibition from Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (PBUH) is a mercy to humankind. Following the principles that have been outlined for us is not only beneficial for us in the Aakhira (afterlife), but they’re also highly beneficial for us in this world.

    We know that salah (prayers) is the key to our Ultimate Success, i.e. Jannah (paradise)! But salah can also be an equally powerful tool for success in this world, if and only when we perform our prayers with khushu (humility)!

    Keep in mind, salah is a form of meditation. And recent scientific researches unequivocally suggest that meditation helps us to achieve many spiritual and medical benefits, including optimising brain health.

    Meditation helps us:

    Besides prayers, here are other forms of meditation mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah:

    • make adkhar (words of remembrance) in a quiet space, and
    • take the time to sit and ponder over Allah’s creation.

    Tool #7: Embrace Optimism

    We know from the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) that no matter how difficult things were, he was always an optimist. Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported that the Messenger of Allah liked optimism and detested pessimism. (Musnad Ahmad).

    So, optimism is a beautiful Sunnah! In fact, we have been frequently reminded to be an optimist and assume the best about Allah:

    ‘None of [us] should die except while assuming the best about Allah’ (Sahih Muslim).

    In a recent study, scientists have shown that optimism – especially positive emotions – can improve our health positively.

    For example, Dr Amen, a brain expert, talks about Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT) in his groundbreaking book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Health”. He says those ANTs are great at robbing our joy and happiness.

    He says, “every time you have a mad thought, an unkind thought, a sad though, or a cranky thought, your brain releases negative chemicals that activate your limbic system and make your mind and body feel bad.”

    On the other hand, a good thought can release chemicals that make your body feel good. So, kill your negative thoughts and be an optimist like the Prophet (PBUH)!

    Tool #8: Learn New Things

    Have you heard the saying, “be useful to be youthful”? This applies to your brain too. If you want your brain to be young and dynamic, make sure to use it to learn new things.

    That’s because new scientific discoveries in neurogenesis and neuroplasticity indicate that we can grow our brain cells until the day we die. Yes, you heard that right! As long as we continue to learn, our brain never stops growing.

    I know some Islamic scholars who are in their late 80s but still write new books and issue fatawas. They continue to sharpen their intellect and memory by constantly learning new things.

    Here’s how you can be a lifelong learner:

    • Spend at least 15 minutes a day learning something new.
    • Break your routine. For example, are you a right-hander? Try using your left hand the next time you brush your teeth.
    • Memorise the Quran, even if it’s a few verses a day.

    Tool #9: Your Circle of Influence

    You are whom you spend time with. That’s why Prophet (PBUH) advised us about the type of company we keep.

    In an authentic Hadith, he (PBUH) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look to whom you befriend.” (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

    Good companionship provides you with benefits in this world and in the Hereafter. Likewise, bad companionship derails your success in both worlds and will make you miserable. After all, misery loves company!

    That’s because your friends’ healthy or unhealthy habits can be contagious. In an interesting research, scientists found that a person’s chance of becoming obese increased by 57% if he or she had a friend who was obese. If that friend is a close friend, then that figure shot up to 171%.

    If you aren’t surrounded by good companionship, consider replacing your circle of influence with people of goodness.

    Tool #10: Protect Your Head

    Our brain, which has a consistency of a soft butter, is housed in a hard skull. This hard skull protects us from the outside. But inside the skull, there are many sharp ridges that point towards the brain. So, if there’s an accident, even if you don’t break your skull, you’ll most probably experience internal brain damage.

    This is evident in the large-scale study of professional NFL players’ brain injury and brain rehabilitation. The study, conducted by Dr Amen, shows that although all of the players were wearing helmets while playing, almost all of the players had experience different degrees of brain damage.

    The football “headers” aren’t spared from this too. Latest research from scientists in the UK suggests that football headers could lead to brain damage.

    So, why am I talking about this? Whether or not you play sports or ride a bike, make sure you to protect your head.

    Your Brain’s Health

    Your brain’s valuable and the way you take care of it should show this. Whether you fuel your brain through proper nutrition or by learning new things and working out, remember that it can do a lot more that you think it can!

  • 10 Scientifically Backed Tools to Boost Your Brain Health!

    Complex. Intricate. Amazing. Our brains are one of the most amazing and most complex creations of Allah (SWT). But are you really taking care of it? In this article, I give you 10 tools to boost your brain health so that you can win at every stage of your life, bi’idnillah!

    Your brain is the most amazing supercomputer in the universe. And just like any other supercomputer, the brain’s energy consumption is also humongous.

    That’s because although your brain makes up just 2% of your body’s weight, it uses 20-30% of the calories you consume and 20% of your total oxygen. Unbelievable!

    Your brain has 100 billion nerve cells, trillions of synopses and it has more connections inside of it than the number of stars in the universe. So, it’s truly a complex masterpiece.

    The tragic thing is that most of us don’t give our brains the attention and care it needs. Our neglect of it is why we have trouble focusing, learning and memorising new things. So, if you’re memorising the Quran, a student, or someone who wants to level up in his or her life, then you need to pay attention to these ten tools.

    Tool #1: Brain Nutrition

    This, if nothing else, is the most important tool.

    As I’ve mentioned, your brain consumes tons of energy. It’s true that it makes use of any energy you intake, just like it’s true that both an avocado and a juicy burger contain fats. But are the fats of the same quality? Of course not. So, if you want your brain to work at its peak level, then you need certain, essential nutrients.

    Here’s a list of those nutrients:

    Vegetables and fruits

    You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ll say it once again: vegetables and fruits are nature’s medicine cabinet. They are high in nutrients and antioxidants. And antioxidants not only protect your body and brain but they also help you stay young – both physically and mentally.

    The best type of veggies are green and leafy. Specifically, spinach and most other green leafy vegetables are rich in antioxidants and magnesium. Magnesium dilates blood vessels, and boost blood flow to the brain.

    Although, I’m emphasising green, leafy veggies, all fruits and veggies are beneficial for your body and brain. It’s just that some have an edge because they’re full of certain nutrients. And the more colourful produce you can add to your diet, the better it is.

    So, here are some fruits and vegetables that are very high in antioxidants:

    • Avocados
    • Beets
    • Broccoli
    • Berries (all sorts of berries)
    • Cherries
    • Kiwi
    • Oranges
    • Red grapes, and
    • Spinach

    Broccoli: Broccoli is rich in choline, vitamin K and has some sizeable serving of folic acid. All these nutrients are shown to improve memory and reduce the risk of depression.

    Blueberries and most other berries are super beneficial to your brain. A study cited in the Annals of Neurology associates berries with slower rates of cognitive decline, i.e. as you age, eating berries will help you stay mentally young.

    So, eat your berries along with other green leafy and colourful vegetables. Get at least 5 servings of these types of veggies every day!

    Healthy fat

    Dietary fat forms our nervous system and builds our brain. In fact, our brain consists of at least 60% fat. This means that healthy fats are crucial for most of our brain functions!

    While all healthy fats are essential for an optimum function of our body and brain, within this category of health fats, omega-3 stands out as more beneficial for the brain. So, get your omega-3 from foods such as wild-caught salmon, organic, free-range eggs, and walnuts. Walnuts are great for protecting your brain’s neurones.

    That being said, here’s a list of healthy fats you should definitely have on a daily basis:

    • Wild-caught salmon fish
    • Organic, free-range eggs
    • Walnuts
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Avocados, and
    • Coconut oil

    Dark chocolate

    Cacao beans, which are what dark chocolate is made from, are loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids. Flavonoids are beneficial substances that increase the blood flow to your brain. These tender beans also increase your happy neurotransmitter, i.e. “serotonin”, in your brain.

    However, cacao beans are very bitter to eat. That’s why I recommend eating dark chocolate that is high in cacao beans. Look for dark chocolates that are 70% or higher in their cacao beans content. So, the higher the content, the better!


    Turmeric is touted as one of the most beneficial herbs in the world. It’s full of goodness and excellent in reducing inflammation. Turmeric provides a lot of benefits to the brain, from regenerating your brain stem cells to improving brains oxygen intake.

    A quick and easy way to get the nutrients your brain needs

    Sometimes, it’s easy to be carried away with too much information. That’s why I’m keen on providing practical examples.

    Here’s my typical breakfast that has most of the brain nutrients I need to conquer the day:

    Egg omelette with smoothie

    I fry my 3 organic eggs within 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. I add 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder along with some fresh herbs.

    Brain smoothie:

    Blend all the ingredients in a blender and here you have a great brain smoothie to start your day.

    • 1 glass of water
    • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
    • 1 cups of blueberries
    • 1/2 an avocado
    • 10 walnuts
    • A small piece of dark chocolate

    Tool #2: Water

    Did you know that three-quarter of our brain is made up of water?

    Being dehydrated is one of the biggest hurdles to optimal brain function. Therefore, proper hydration is the key to improving your focus, learning, memory and energy.

    Whenever you want to study, learn or memorise the Quran, make sure you have some water first. It’s a simple but powerful tool to boosting your brain’s focus and energy instantly.

    Insha Allah in part 2, we’ll discuss the rest of the 8 brain tools.

    But before that…

    What you can do!

    1. Look through the lists of food I’ve mentioned in this article
    2. Choose one (or more!) foods that you like
    3. Incorporate this food into your daily diet and lifestyle


  • 3 Powerful Prophetic Lessons for a Peaceful Life

    We all seek peace and serenity in our lives. Without peace, our lives are broken and miserable. For a meaningful and rich life, pursuing peace is crucial. In my pursuit of peace, I’ve learned the following three key lessons from the story of prophet Adam and Hawwa. This post is all about how you can attain a peaceful life with these three principles.

    As human beings, we love stories. Stories captivate us, let us transcend space, body, and time, and are a powerful way of delivering important messages. In the Quran, Allah (SWT) uses stories to deliver eternal and universal messages. Scholars of Islam say that almost one-third of the Quran contains stories.

    But these Quranic stories aren’t just there to captivate us. They are for us to reflect, to contemplate, to learn lessons and to be guided. That’s because every story (actually, every detail) contains within it numerous gems.

    One story that always stands out in my mind is that of Adam and the Shaytan. After creating Adam and Hawwa, Allah (SWT)commanded them not to approach a certain tree in Paradise.

    And We said, “O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers.” (Al-Quran, 2:35)

    However, Shaytan seduced Adam and Hawwa to commit the mistake:

    “… he (shaytan) said, “Your Lord did not forbid you this tree except that you become angels or become of the immortal.” (Al-Quran, 7:20)

    With his whisperings, the Shaytan was able to have Adam and Hawwa commit a mistake that would have them removed from Jannah. But let’s stop here.

    There are numerous beneficial lessons to be drawn from this story; personally, I’ve found three important lessons that are essential for a peaceful life:

    1. Greed and unchecked ambition can destroy our lives
    2. Lies and liars attract us when we look for shortcuts
    3. Seeking shortcuts can lead us to failure

    I believe these three lessons are very relevant to the era we live. Let’s look at them in more details and see how they can contribute to a more peaceful, serene life, bi’idnillah!

    1) Greed and unchecked ambition can destroy our lives

    It’s normal to want more and to be ambitious. That’s why despite being in Jannah and having everything they could want on hand, Adam and Hawwa were susceptible to the Shaytan’s whisperings. That’s also why our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said, When human beings have a valley of gold, he would wish for another” (Bukhari and Muslim)

    The Shaytan knows human nature and uses our inclinations to misguide us. In the story above, he tapped into our desire for immortality and led our father, Adam (PBUH), to err.

    When we start to act upon all our greed and if don’t reign in excessive ambition, we are setting ourselves to a vicious cycle that never ends. Even valleys of gold, expensive cars or huge mansions don’t satisfy us. As soon as we see another bigger valley of gold, more expensive car or bigger mansion, we want that. And that’s a recipe for a miserable life!

    So, instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to shift our mindset to what we do have. That way we can make the most out of what we have while still striving for a better life. That’s because the goal isn’t to not have desires or wants; it’s about not letting those desires or wants misguide us.

    Our religion recognises that we can be ambitious and have all types of goals. These are essential, as long as our purpose and means of achieving such goals are legitimate and meaningful.

    Let me give an example to clarify this! Our desire to become a millionaire, because we want to live a certain posh lifestyle, vs. our aspiration to become a millionaire because we want to live a decent life while helping others who are in need. Which millionaire would have more peace and satisfaction in life?

    A peaceful life starts on the day we give up our greed and check our ambition! `Ali (RA) expressed this beautifully, “Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”

    2) Lies and liars attract us when we look for shortcuts

    I know this title sounds harsh, but when we’re looking for shortcuts, false promises are enticing. One of the ways that the Shaytan deceived prophet Adam (PBUH) was by repeatedly lying to him! It wasn’t just one time that he came to Adam (PBUH), he came to him repeatedly and told him the same lie again and again. You see that when a lie is repeated, people accept it as a truth (welcome to a Trump-led USA).

    In our era, the Shaytan comes to us with his lies mostly in the form of media and, particularly, social media! The amount of junk and lies these media contains is simply overwhelming. That’s because they tap into our desires and weaknesses.  Unfortunately, the masses accept what they see and start to believe it.

    The only way to safeguard ourselves is to block these lies from coming to us in the first place. We may not be able to block it fully, but a good place to start is by reducing our social media consumption.

    Don’t get me wrong, not all the things in social media are bad. But the truth is, 95% of the things we read and watch are pretty useless. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll use science to explain how the constant consumption of social media reshapes our brain, insha Allah.

    As for now, if you’re serious about increasing your knowledge, don’t turn to social media. Instead, read a good book, meet a scholar in person, attend a halaqa or follow an online or offline program.

    Here are a few simple techniques that can help you reduce your social media consumption:

    • Start your day with a meaningful activity. Don’t spend any time on social media until you’ve finished this particular activity.
    • Turn off all the social media related notifications.
    • Schedule a certain time (example: at 14:30 every day) during your day to check your social media status. That way, you’re not checking your social media haphazardly.
    • Schedule another important task that you can’t miss after the time you blocked out. If you have to pick up your children at 15:00 hours, you have no choice than to cut short your social media consumption.

    The less time you spend on social media, the more control you’ll have on your life. And this will eventually lead to a peaceful life.

    3) Seeking shortcuts can lead us to failure

    The Shaytan is very aware of our weaknesses! And he uses our weaknesses to mislead us. In the Quranic ayah mentioned above, the Shaytan offers Prophet Adam a shortcut to becoming an angel. And acting upon that shortcut made all the difference for Adam and Hawwa. That’s a difference between Paradise and earth! Just reflect on this!

    Most of the time, we fail miserably in life, because we prefer shortcuts to achieve our aspirations. We don’t want to put in the time, sacrifice and hard work that our goals require.

    Instead, we become gullible and start to believe anyone who offers a shortcut to success. Talking about weight loss, I know how many people go down this path: “Want to lose weight? Take this magical pill for 30 days, you’ll look 50 years younger”! Or, “become financially free tonight, by doing xyz…” Ridiculous, right?

    Listen, the hard truth is, there aren’t any shortcuts to success. You’ll need to put your efforts and work hard (but in a smart and strategic way). There isn’t any feasible shortcut to achieving anything meaningful in this life.

    Once you realise this and free yourself from this “shortcut” mind-set, you’ll start to work hard and plan your life to achieve meaningful life! And that certainly gives you peace!

    Question: What other lessons you can learn from this story for a peaceful life? Share your wisdom with us!

  • The Quran is Uplifting and Here’s Why

    Turning to the Quran as a way to improve our health is crucial. This is because while the Quran is the most important guide for our Ultimate Success, it’s also an incredible cure for most of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical diseases. This post discusses the uplifting nature of the Quran on our minds!

    It’s not surprising that there are different layers to our overall health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This is so true; however, our religion takes a much broader and a holistic approach to defining health.

    The Islamic definition of health isn’t just related to our physical and mental wellbeing; instead, it also includes our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And these two factors tend to be neglected in discussions and definitions of health. However, our real long-term health heavily depends on a holistic view of health.

    The Quran as a Cure

    Allah subuhanawuta’ala mentions the Quran as As-shifa – a cure for mental, physical and spiritual diseases.

    “And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.” (Al-Quran, 17:82)

    And we also know from the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the Sahabas recited the Surah Fathiha to cure a man who was bitten by a snake. The Prophet (PBUH) would also recite verses from the Quran at night, spit on his hands and then run his hands all over his body as a protection before going to sleep. Aisha (RA) would sometimes do this for him when he couldn’t.

    But what the previous Ayah from Surah Isra is telling us is the Quran is also a spiritual and psychological cure. When you’re feeling down, upset, or disappointed, the Quran can be the companion that uplifts you.

    New Scientific Evidence

    We certainly don’t need ANY scientific evidence to believe that Quran is a cure for all our mental, physical and spiritual diseases. The pieces of evidence from the Quran and Sunnah are crystal clear on this.

    However, we live in a scientific era and sometimes looking at the scientific proof can increase our faith; it can also strengthen our deen.

    The Impact of The Quranic Recitation on Our Minds

    In a study conducted by the University of Technology in Malaysia, the scientists researched the psychological and emotional benefits of the recitation of the Quran.

    To measure the brain activities during the recitation of the Quran, the researchers used an Electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that is used for capturing brainwave signals.

    Brainwave signals indicate the status of one’s mind. From the five categories of brainwaves such as alpha, beta, gamma, delta and theta, the alpha wave is attributed to a calm, peaceful mind.

    Science has proved that by reducing our brainwave frequencies to alpha and theta, we can enjoy loads of benefits:

    • We are more spiritually connected, and more at peace. This makes us enjoy life more.
    • We are healthier due to lower stress levels
    • We can control our mind to focus completely on the present
    • We can remain calm even while under pressure
    • We can accelerate our learning
    • We can go into the state of deep relaxation, which is important to our health and emotional wellbeing

    And the mind that is operating at alpha waves is also linked with creative and lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is the ability to look at a problem from many angles instead of tackling it head-on. Additionally, an alpha level mind can memorise up to 1500 words a day, as is the case with small children.

    We know that mediation, which the recitation of the Quran is similar to, helps us to bring down our brain waves to this beneficial alpha and theta waves.

    The conclusion of the research shows that reciting just a page of the Quran reduces our brain waves to alpha, thereby leading to a rested and calmed mind. Subhanallah!

    The Impact of the Quranic Melody on Our Memories

    Our memory is a mental system, which stores and process information for crucial cognitive tasks, such as learning, understanding, thinking and reasoning. Hence, improving one’s memory is directly correlated to one’s ability to perform these cognitive tasks better.

    Many types of learning disabilities are a result of glitches in the memory functioning. So, memory is an essential factor in learning.

    Due to the importance of memory on learning, scientists all around the world are pursuing the goal of finding a way to improve memory. They have found that some research suggests that certain types of music have positive effects on memory, learning and improved students’ educational performance.

    Scientists from the University of Mohaghegh Ardabili in Iran took this research a step further in a study by trying to find out whether the Quran’s melody provides a similar positive effect on the memory of 5th grade students.

    The results were amazing. Just by listening to Quran for only 15 minutes a day, without using any other skill or training, our memory can be improved significantly. How wonderful is that?

    However, it’s important to note that the research participants were listening to the Quran actively by using a headphone. As you probably know, it’s a commandment from Allah subuhanawuta’ala for us to listen to the Quran attentively:

    “When the Qur’an is recited, listen to it and be quiet so that hopefully you will gain mercy.” (Al-Quran, 7:204)

    The primary objective of listening to the Quran is to get guidance from it. And along from that guidance, we get numerous benefits that lead to our success in this world and more importantly in the Aakhira.

    The Quran and You

    Now, how can you put these things into practice?

    • Start your day with the recitation of the Quran
    • Before an important exam, listen to the Quran attentively for 15 minutes
    • If you are stressed out, take the mushaf and recite at least a page
    • Recite a page after every Salah

    Question: Re-evaluate your relationship with the Quran. Is the Quran your companion? Do you attempt to recite it at least once a day, or even a week?