Planning for Ramadan

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Planning for Ramadan

It’s coming once again! The Grand Sale! – “Buy one, get seventy free!” That is how a friend enthusiastically described it.

Yes, I am talking about the blessed month of Ramadan. Every moment of this month carries great treasures of excellence and blessings. Voluntary good deeds (Nawafil) reach the ranks of obligatory good deeds (Faraiz), and the reward for the obligatory acts becomes seventy times greater. And that is not all. There is yet another treasure more valuable than a thousand months of effort and all the wealth we could amass therein: the great night of Laylat-ul-Qadr.

The amount of benefit we gain from the blessings of this month depends on how ready we are and how much effort we make. Just like a farmer has to prepare the land for absorbing the rain, so that he can reap the best harvest, we must pray to Allah (swt) for the opportunity to reap the greatest benefit, and then do our best.

To make the best of this Ramadan, we must, therefore, make Dua, plan and then act.

Make Dua

Make Dua to Allah (swt) that you are in good health, when Ramadan comes. Pray for the energy and time to be able perform all the Ibadah and do all the things you aim to do. And above all, pray for the acceptance of the deeds you perform in Ramadan.

Outline your goals

Let’s play a little game: let’s take a trip into the future…

Imagine it is the Eid. You are walking or driving to the Eid prayers. As you happily recite the Takbeer, you mentally evaluate the Ramadan that has just passed. You are filled with immense joy and satisfaction. Apart from the few natural shortcomings, this was the best Ramadan of your life. The Eid truly feels like Eid, and you eagerly anticipate celebrating your success…

Now think: What was it that made this the best Ramadan for you? What happened? What did you do? Was it the building of a stronger relationship with Allah (swt)? Greater concentration in Salaah? More quality time spent with the Quran? The achievement of a purer heart and a greater Taqwa? What was it?

Come back into the present and write all those things down. These will be your goals for the coming Ramadan.

Set achievable targets

Once you know what you want to get out of this Ramadan, you must set some definite achievable targets that are in line with your goals. These targets will translate your goals into practical day-to-day activities, against which you can then check yourself. For example, if you want to build a better relationship with the Quran this Ramadan, your target could be “read the translation and Tafseer of one Juz a day”, or if you want to achieve a greater Taqwa and a purer heart, your target could be “avoid thinking ill of others and avoid backbiting.”

Similarly, you could decide on some sins you want to clean yourself of and make it a target to avoid them for a week. Or you could choose some good deeds or Sunnahs that are not a habit and try to perform those for a week.

Make a Dua list

One highly effective idea I came across in a lecture by Shaikh Muhmmad Al-Shareef was to make a Dua list for Ramadan. Often, we are so much in a hurry to get back to our activities after Salaah or recitation of the Quran that many things we wanted to pray for just slip out of our minds. Therefore, it is best to take a few minutes for writing down everything we want to ask Allah (swt) and read that list, while making Dua before Iftar, after Salaah, after Quran recitation and especially in the last ten nights in anticipation of Laylat-ul-Qadr.

Organize – unclutter your life

Ramadan is a very special time and you would not like to waste a moment of it in useless activities, such as clearing up that bookshelf, getting your books and tapes in order, sorting out what food items you will need in the coming month, shopping for Eid, etc. If possible, decide your Ramadan menu beforehand. Plan to make quick and healthy meals that provide you with the essential nutrients and avoid lavish Iftars. If possible, prepare and freeze some food items beforehand. Remember, Ramadan is not the month of feasting or self-indulgence. Practice self-control even at Iftar time.

Additionally, adjust your work, school, sleep and meal schedules in such a way as to make the most time for Ibadah and other good deeds. Plan out at what time you will go to sleep, wake up, study, work and do Ibadah. If you have any pending work, for which deadlines may be in Ramadan, try to get over with it as soon as possible before Ramadan, so that you can get the most out of this month.

Plan out Ibadah and other religious obligations

Do you want to go for Taraweeh and Quran study circles this Ramadan? Find out about places, where classes are offered and go with your family. Make travel arrangements, if the venue is far from your house, and check around, if there is anyone else, who might want to go but does not have transportation. Wouldn’t you want to join in the reward of their Ibadah as well by taking them along?

Also, arrange for other activities to learn and teach the Quran and Hadeeth. Furthermore, calculate the Zakah you will be paying in Ramadan. Find out about places, where you can contribute in social welfare activities with your wealth and time.

Prepare your soul

Attend and listen to Ramadan lectures and other talks on spiritually uplifting topics to soften your heart and renew your motivation.

Be ready to absorb the blessings that rain down in this great month. But remember at the same time that Ramadan is not just a one-time vacation, after which you pack up and return to your previous life. Ramadan has been called a ‘training school’ by some; so make sure you graduate from this school with flying colours – colours that should brighten up your entire life.

Islam in Albania

By Inga Strautiņa

Small whitewashed mosques dotting mountainous scenery; chalk white Muslim graveyards scattered along the road, elderly Muslim women and men on the way to their prayers in peaceful villages – this is the image so typical of Muslim territories in the Western Balkans and the image I pictured, when crossing the Albanian border. However, despite my extensive travelling in this region, I was not sure what to expect, as Albania had so far been an ‘unknown territory’ for me.

As I was driving closer and closer to Tirana, I had a persistent nagging feeling, a certain discomfort. When I entered Tirana centre, I realized the cause, and it grew to an outright shock—there were hardly any mosques here and hardly any women in Hijab. Aren’t Albanians supposed to be Muslims? Was the famous Albanian poet Pashko Vasa right, when he wrote: “Churches and mosques you shall not heed, the religion of Albanians is Albanism”?

Islam in Albania has been shaped mostly by two historically significant events. The Ottoman Empire introduced the religion of Allah (swt) to this remote part of Europe. Then, during the 500 years of the Turkish rule, the majority of the population converted. A 1930 consensus declared 70% of the Albanian population to be Muslim, though Islam was experiencing turbulent times. In 1923, Albania’s Muslim congress decided to break off from the Caliphate and establish independent practices of prayer as well as banned polygamy and the obligation of Hijab.

The 20th century totalitarian regime of Albania had the most devastating impact on Islam and any religion in general. Mosques were closed and turned into secular culture centres, all religious practices were forbidden, Imams were imprisoned and forced to renounce their faith. Yet, it was not until 1967 that this communist country officially became the first atheist state in the world. Children were not taught religion due to safety reasons. A possession of a copy of the Quran or any other Holy Book could land one in prison.

Now Albania is a democratic state, but the legacy of its communist past still looms over the minds and lives of the Albanian people. There is religious freedom, but people seemed confused as to what religion can offer. 70% call themselves non-religious, and many others are seduced by foreign missionaries of various sects, who have grasped the opportunity to entangle unsuspecting minds. However, Islam is recovering. And as it often happens, the positive change comes from younger minds.

On the second day of my very short stay in the capital of this otherwise amazing and inspiring country, I decided to find some other mosques apart from the pretty Et’hem Bey in the central square. Until the Zuhr Adhan, I was wandering through busy alleys, contemplating the invisibility of Islamic culture in this city. It led me straight to a small mosque in a narrow side street. And suddenly I saw young Muslim brothers gathering for the prayer. I saw young Muslim sisters in Hijabs. “Alhamdulillah!” I thought.

That day I was graced with an experience of true Muslim sisterhood. These young women showered me, a complete stranger, with unbelievable warmth and attention. They told me about their way of returning to Islam and obstacles they occasionally encountered as Muslims. Throughout these stories I felt the enormous strength of their Iman. These young Albanian Muslims are knowledgeable, energetic and devoted. They are unwavering. They know the light and peace of Islam. May Allah Almighty (swt) bless the sisters and brothers of this beautiful country and strengthen them in spreading the message of the truth, Ameen!

Depression: the Elephant in the Room

cover-depression - CopyLife has its highs and lows – the cycles of happiness and sadness. Sometimes, however, despite having everything we need for being happy, most of us experience ‘the blues.’ As if the chaos and mayhem we face communally is not enough, personal problems keep cropping up to curtail our happiness. This could be the death of a near one, a debilitating illness, familial conflict, financial difficulty, lack of a satisfying job or career, misbehavior of children, difficulty in getting married, marital strife, divorce, infertility, old-age weakness, workplace tensions, or other problems, just to name a few. Such events leave us feeling low.

At times, we find ourselves feeling hopeless and forlorn also for other reasons. Nowadays, even after reading the news, we feel confused about the traumatic events happening in the world: bomb-blasts, killings, wars, natural disasters. Sometimes we search for the purpose of life, asking ourselves: “Is this all there is? Why were we born?” At other times, it’s our monotonous daily routine we get tired of. Also, despite loathing it, we find ourselves inadvertently trapped in the incessant rat-race for a higher standard of living – the stress of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ Constant bombardment of branded material products through the media makes us yearn for a slower, more genuine life – one that gives us time to sit back and relax, to ‘smell the flowers.’ It’s no surprise then that stress, anxiety and depression abound as the rampant new-age afflictions.

Stress is defined as any change in a person’s environment that triggers a ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Any environmental, physical or social change that causes one to worry or fear is a stressor, such as an upcoming marriage, a new baby, emigrating to a new place, unfavourable weather conditions, traffic congestion, etc.

Depression is a state of temporary sorrow. A depressed person loses interest in previously enjoyed activities, is irritable and restless, lacks energy, feels worthless and finds it difficult to sleep, concentrate and make decisions. Eating patterns change, leading either to obesity or extreme weight loss (eating disorders), and the person also becomes socially isolated.

If gloominess continues over a long period of time, so that the intensity of sadness disrupts a person’s normal functioning, it becomes a condition called ‘clinical depression,’ and is actually a mental illness. Psychiatrists recommend a treatment, which consists of a combination of medication and counseling. If clinical depression is left untreated, the patient might attempt suicide.

According to official statistics, about a million people die by suicide annually; more than those murdered or killed in war. (WHO Sites, “Mental Health,” February 16, 2006)

Studies show a high incidence of psychiatric disorders in suicide victims at the time of their death with the total figure ranging from 87.3% to 98%. (“Psychiatric Diagnoses and Suicide: Revisiting the Evidence”)

September 2, 2007, issue of “DAWN” magazine states: “Stress related disorders are now larger in number than infectious diseases, but not sufficient attention has been paid to them. Many sophisticated tests and costly medicines have been developed, but not much importance is given to stress relieving techniques, which are necessary for patients.”

The incidence of depression is not on the rise just among non-Muslims, but also among Muslims, both young and old.

“I got married and went abroad but was very homesick. For three years, I tried doing everything to keep myself busy, but nothing worked. Finally, I got divorced and returned to my country. I used to take medication and lie in bed all day, depressed. That changed after I joined the Quran course at “Al-Huda.” Now, I am happy and at peace, and do not take any medication,” says a woman above thirty.

“When the USA invaded Iraq, I tried not to watch the news on TV, as it would make me depressed and I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my studies. I tried reciting Duas for anxiety and depression,” says a young student in the USA.

Since our body and soul are intertwined, any negative effect on one influences the other.

There are several physical ailments caused by depression. It is, therefore, important to remember that some illnesses are actually a result of emotional recession, and taking medicines for just the physical effect will not eradicate the root problem – the soul will have to be treated to revive mental and physical health.

A Muslim with strong faith in Allah (swt) can never suffer from chronic stress or prolonged depression. The Islamic way of life provides remedies for any distress caused by life’s tribulations. It is human to be sad once in a while. The following remedial steps can get us back on track in no time at all.


“O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly! Allah is with As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

One of the most difficult good deeds to practice is Sabr in the face of adversity. Patience, or Sabr, means maintaining righteousness of tongue and deeds even during severe calamities. Abstention from complaining, blaming others, being wishful and throwing tantrums is part of Sabr. Remaining constant in prayer, thinking positive thoughts about Allah (swt) and incessantly hoping for imminent relief is also Sabr.


Prophet Muhammad (sa) prayed two units supererogatory prayer, whenever he was sad or worried. When depressed or worried, we should follow this example, until relief comes.


Even the Prophets, being human, went through bouts of Huzn, or sadness, caused by events in their lives – and they taught us, how to deal with such phases. They always turned to Allah (swt) for help. Examples of this, as mentioned in the Quran, are:

  • Prophet Yaqoub (as) going blind with grief, when his son Yusuf was separated from him for many years;
  • Prophet Yunus (as) being swallowed by a whale;
  • Prophet Ayub (as) being afflicted by a prolonged illness that mutilated his body;
  • Prophet Muhammad (sa) being persecuted and exiled from Makkah – after a long, strenuous decade that dealt him severe blows.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) also experienced the death of many his near ones during his life, including his wife Khadijah (rta) and most of the seven children he fathered. He was chased out of Taif by being pelted with stones. He lost three minor sons in an era, when a man’s worth was measured by the number of his sons. He had to fight several battles with arch-enemies. At each such event, all the Prophets turned to Allah (swt) with supplications, humility and hope, trusting Him to get them out of their miserable situation, whence no apparent means of relief existed. And Allah (swt) always responded to their sincere calls.

Our troubles do not even come close to what the Prophets suffered. We should, therefore, learn to make Dua to Allah (swt) in times of sorrow, hoping for His mercy. Istighfar, or sincere Dua for seeking forgiveness, is also a means of making a way out of every difficulty.

Quranic Qirat

Regular and correct recitation of the Quran in a loud, clear voice brings peace to the agitated soul. “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Rad 13:28)

Productive work

An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Idleness breeds negative thoughts. One should, therefore, always keep busy in doing productive work, even if it is something as inconsequential as stitching a torn garment or scrubbing the floor. An occupation gives one a motive to work for, and the sense of having accomplished something of benefit during the day fills the soul. It is even more desirable, therefore, to work for the benefit of others. Any selfless work, such as teaching others, volunteering for charity or caring for the sick, refurbishes the soul.

Physical exercise

The body needs activity to maintain its health. Sloth or laziness automatically sets gloom on the soul and fat on the body. A negative self-image dampens one’s self-esteem. Therefore, walking, climbing stairs or working out every other day is recommended, in order to chase away depression.

Change of environment

Temporarily going somewhere gives an immediate stress relief – even if it is a stint to the supermarket to buy groceries, visiting a friend or relative for the sake of Allah (swt), picking up a child from school or going to the park. Those, who stay cooped up in the house all day, are more prone to getting bored and depressed.

Social/community involvements

Islam has enjoined community involvement among Muslims: the five daily congregational prayers, Jummah and Eid all require Muslims in a community to meet and greet each other. Islam discourages individuals to lead isolated lives. This is to ensure that everyone is kept involved in a social circle and never left alone to face life’s problems. Muslims should, therefore, attend circles of knowledge-seeking, weddings, funerals and other permissible social engagements. They should call on others and invite families over for creating strong social bonds.

Eating right

The adage ‘you are what you eat’ is quite true. Eating a balanced diet, avoiding harmful foods and eating a bit less than one’s appetite leads to physical plus mental well-being.

Understanding the purpose of this life

Last but not least, each Muslim must endeavor to understand, why the mankind was created and what happens after death. This can only be achieved by understanding the Quran deeply, preferably from a learned scholar. This fuels the flame of Iman that helps in facing trials and difficulties.

“Verily, along with every hardship is relief. Verily, along with every hardship is relief (i.e. there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs).” (Ash-Sharh 94:5-6)

Combating Depression the Prophet (sa)’s Way

role modelThe most popular fictional stories of today speak of people, who braved humiliation and personal loss and arose from the ashes of depression to take on the world and march towards success. As inspiring as these stories may be, they offer little practical advice on coping with our own personal pain. For learning to deal with real grief, we must look at the stories of real people; and such is the story of our Prophet Muhammad (sa).

Sahabahs have recorded the many afflictions our Prophet (sa) faced and how he endured them for the benefit of all Muslims. Just like us, he also bore the loss of his loved ones. In fact, his beloved wife Khadijah (rta) died early in his mission of prophethood. At that point of his life, he was already struggling with continual physical and emotional harassment by his townspeople and soon faced the challenge and helplessness of seeing his strongest supporter Abu Talib die a Kafir. Rather than wring his hands in despair, Allah’s Messenger (sa) entrusted himself to Allah (swt). His daughter once wept, seeing him being harassed by insolent Kaffars, and he in turn tried to comfort her by saying: “Do not weep, my daughter – Allah will verily protect your father.” (Bukhari)

Later, our Nabi (saw) suffered the anguish of witnessing the death of his young son Ibrahim, the only son, who did not die in infancy. He wept, yet mourned by simply saying: “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord. Oh Ibrahim! Indeed, we are grieved by your separation.” (Bukhari)

Our Prophet (sa) also endured the pangs of starvation, the humiliation of being labelled a magician, a liar and even a mad man. He was stoned by disbelievers in Taif, and his blood glued his sandals to his feet. He was wounded in the battle of Uhud and even spat on by his enemies. Unable to shake him from his determination to continue his mission, they attacked his family by spreading slander about his youngest wife Ayesha (rta). In each case, he called out to his Lord and asked for mercy and patience.

Our Prophet’s (sa) entreaties and Duas to Allah (swt) are lessons for us to follow in our own cases of pain. Our Prophet (sa) bore more than what we, his humble followers, ever could endure, as he himself explained: “Those, who are most afflicted among the people, are the Prophets…” (At-Tirmidhi) Although he was an exceptional man, Muhammad (sa) was a human being. Being orphaned at an early age, he was known to be a very sensitive person. We would be mistaken to assume that because of his prophethood, he could shrug off his grief and continue to strive for his mission, just like our mythical comic book heroes do. Sahabahs claimed they had never witnessed the Prophet (sa) weep, as he did when his cousin Hamza (rta) was assassinated. Though he gave no orders to search for the assassin, it became known that a slave named Washi had done it. Much afterwards, when the Prophet (sa) met him, he asked Washi to hide his face from him (Bukhari) – the pain of losing Hamza (rta) was still felt by Muhammad (sa).

It was his unshakeable faith in Allah (swt) that provided Muhammad (sa) with the healing balm for the wounds cut by the tests of life. We will also be tested to see, if we are worthy of Paradise. We will be able to pass our tests of life only if we turn to Allah (swt) as our Prophet (sa) did.

Optimism – the Beauty of Islam

optimismThe tumults arising here or there in the Ummah have led the majority of the Muslims towards a defeatist attitude. It is not to say that Muslims shouldn’t realize their shortcomings, which are further exploited by their enemies, but they shouldn’t dwell upon pessimism, which only adds to the overall sense of despair and apathy. Rather, they should co-ordinate all their efforts towards a workable solution to overcome the problems.

Our beloved Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah teaches us remarkable optimism; maybe because he had an unshakeable faith in Allah (swt), which many of us lack today. We have forgotten who has control over everything in this universe; instead, we keep fearing Islam’s worst imaginable end.

When the intensity of trials increased and the enemies allied against Muslims everywhere, the Prophet (sa) was eager to give glad tidings to his companions and to inspire the hope that Islam will prevail. What was required was a constant and consistent struggle through patience and perseverance.

Khubab Ibn Al-Arat (rta) said: “We complained to the Messenger of Allah (sa), as he was sitting in the shade of the Kabah. We said: ‘Will you not pray for victory for us?’ He said: ‘One of those, who came before you, would be taken, and they would dig a hole in the ground and put him in it; then, they would bring a saw, which they would bring on his head and cut him in two. Or they would use an iron comb and separate his flesh from his bones, but that would not make him give up his religion. By Allah (swt), Allah (swt) will complete this matter (i.e., Islam) until a rider will be able to go from San’aa to Hadramot (cities in Yemen), fearing nothing except Allah (swt) and the wolf’s attack on his sheep. But you are trying to hasten matters.’” (Bukhari)

This also occurred during the campaign of Al-Ahzab; when the enemies were invading Madinah from all sides, once again the Prophet (sa) revived this concept. This was when the companions were unable to break a rock, while digging the defensive trench around Madinah. The Prophet (sa) struck it three times and it crumbled. Following the first blow, he said: “Allahu Akbar! I have been given the keys of Syria and, by Allah, I can see its red palaces this hour.” Then he struck it a second time and said: “Allahu Akbar! I have been given the keys of Persia, and, by Allah, I can see the white palace of Al-Maad’in (the capital city of Persia at the time).” Then he struck it a third time and said: “Allahu Akbar! I have been given the keys of Yemen, and, by Allah, I can see the gates of San’aa, from where I stand this hour.” (Ahmad, An-Nisai)

The Quran mentions situations such as these: “They said: ‘This is what Allah (swt) and His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) had promised us; and Allah (swt) and His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) had spoken the truth.’ And it only added to their faith and to their submissiveness (to Allah).” (Al-Ahzab 33:22)

Abdul Aziz A.Saleh explains: “The hearts of the companions were filled with so much pain and fear, but those promising words came to offer consolation and peace of mind to them.”

Ibn-ul Qayyim said, commenting on the story of Ka’b Ibn Malik: “In the race between the horse-rider and the one, who climbed the hill of Sala to tell Ka’b the good news, we see evidence of the people’s eagerness for good news, and how they raced and competed to break good news to one another.” (Zaad Al-Ma’aad, 2/585) And what news could be greater than that of the victory of Islam?

Muslims today should be of good cheer. They should highlight the good efforts of one another and try spreading hope within the Ummah. This will help others to come back to the straight path. Optimism will brew further optimism. A true believer knows that ultimately only Allah’s Deen will stand victorious.

Once, Leaders of Civilization

The Past and the Future

By Sabaa Ali

The Muslim world today is characterized by crisis upon crisis. It is weak, divided and reduced to being pawns of the game of today’s super-states. Its economies are weak. Poverty is rife, and as a result, basic health care in a majority of areas is either unavailable or unattainable to the general population. Many in the Ummah are illiterate and uneducated.

On September 26, 2001, in Minneapolis, chairman and chief executive officer of “Hewlett-Packard” company Carly Fiorina gave a speech describing in detail a civilization that was part of a ‘super-state’ and a beacon of knowledge and progress for the rest of the world. The following is an excerpt from Fiorina’s speech entitled “Technology, business and our way of life: what is next?”

“There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world.
It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion, lived hundreds of millions of people of different creeds and ethnic origins.
One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything – by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories – stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I’m talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and such enlightened rulers as Suleiman the Magnificent.
Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Such Sufi poet-philosophers as Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Such leaders as Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.
And, perhaps, we can learn a lesson from his example: it was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population, which included Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions.
This kind of enlightened leadership – leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage – led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.
In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus on the importance of leadership – bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership.”

In our schools today, our children are taught about Galileo, Newton and John Louis Stevenson. There is hardly a mention of the outstanding personalities of Muslim scientists. It is rare for our children to learn that the Muslims brought paper from China, and it is the Muslims, who developed this art form into a major industry. The impact of Muslim manufacture of paper paved the way for the printing revolution. Contrary to the popular belief, it was Ibn Al-Naphis (Ala Al-Din Abu Al-A’la Ali Ibn Abi Hazm Al-Quraishi) of Damascus, an Arab Muslim physician of the thirteenth century, who explained the basic principles of the modern theory of pulmonary circulation nearly three hundred and fifty years before Sir William Harvey of Kent, England, who is wrongly credited with this discovery. Christopher Columbus relied on Muslim charts and possibly even navigators. Magellan’s success in the Indian Ocean owes nearly all to Ibn Majid’s guidance and nautical legacy.

The question that subsequently comes to mind is: how did Muslims fall to the level they are at today? It is quite apparent that there is no lack of intelligence or talent within the Ummah. On the contrary, Muslims are leaders in many fields outside their countries, especially in western countries. On close inspection, it can be ascertained that Muslims lost their high position in the world the day they relegated Islam to their personal affairs.

The above described Glorious Era of Islam occurred at a time, when Islam was implemented at all levels of society.

For society to progress it is vital that the system supports and encourages talent and hard work, unlike what occurs today under nation-state rulers in the Muslim world. A truly Islamic System is a meritocracy, where Islam plays a leading role. It did not matter whether you were an Arab or a Persian, a former black slave or a woman – all were equal under the law and all had equal opportunity to reach their potential based on their abilities. Children were given the correct education from the start and were inculcated with a love for understanding the world, as given to us by Allah (swt). They would develop environmentally friendly technologies that would be funded and supported by the state. Teachers, who played such an important role in the raising of the young generation, were high-paid professionals. Scientists, writers, inventors were given encouragement and financial rewards.

In the current scenario, Islam has taken a back seat. In the era, when Muslims were a part of a super-state and their discoveries were ground-breaking, the state implemented Islam at all levels, including domestic policies, international relations, economics, politics, the social systems and education. Muslim scientists were driven to their discoveries by their desire to understand the system that Allah (swt) laid out for us. It is said that the Muslim mathematician Al-Jabr founded Algebra, because he wanted to explore and understand the inheritance laws described in the Quran.

We have allowed our rich and unmatched heritage to be buried under the sands of time. Superficial as we have become, we cherish only the visible – the domes and the minarets, the crumbling forts and mausoleums. We as individuals and as a nation, but more importantly as the Muslim Ummah, fail to draw strength and seek guidance from the unique intellectual reservoir our ancestors had left us. It is time for us to turn a new leaf in our life, regain self-respect and confidence, shed defeatist and apologetic attitudes and assert by deeds and not just by words. Moreover, we must understand the causes for the decline of the Ummah and vouch to work towards its uplifting.

It is only when Islam will be the sole judge in all affairs (from our government to our homes) and the motivation for achievement that Muslims will be able to rise once again, and, Insha’Allah, become the vanguard of the new scientific, economic and cultural rebirth for the entire world, as it once did in history.

Ruling on Celebrating the Middle of Shaban

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Ruling on Celebrating the Middle of Shabaan

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “This day, I have perfected your Deen for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:3)

“Or have they partners with Allah (false gods) who have instituted for them a Deen which Allah has not ordained?” (Al-Shoora 42:21)

In As-Saheehayn (Bukhari and Muslim), it is reported from Aisha (rta) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it, will have it rejected.”

In Saheeh Muslim, it is narrated from Jabir (rta) that the Prophet (sa) used to say in his Friday Khutbahs: “The best of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The most evil of things are those, which are newly-invented, and every innovation (Bidah) is going-astray.”

This clearly indicates that Allah (swt) has perfected the Deen of this Ummah. He did not take the soul of His Prophet (sa), until he had conveyed the Message clearly and instructed the Ummah about everything that Allah (swt) had prescribed for it in words and deeds. He (saw) explained that all the words and deeds that people would attribute to Islam after he would be gone, all of that would be thrown back on the one, who invented it, even if his intention was good. The companions of the Messenger of Allah (sa) knew this, as did the scholars of Islam after them. They denounced Bidah and warned against it, as has been stated by all those, who wrote books praising the Sunnah and denouncing Bidah, such as Ibn Waddah, Al-Tartooshir, Ibn Shamah and others.

The Daeef (weak) Ahadeeth concerning the acts of worship can only be acted upon in the case of acts of worship, which are proven by Saheeh evidence. This important principle was mentioned by Imam Abul-Abbas Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah.

Among the Bidahs that have been invented by some people is celebrating the middle of Shaban (Laylat Al-Nusf min Shaban) and singling out this day for fasting. There is no reliable evidence (Daleel) for it. Some Daeef Ahadeeth have been narrated concerning its virtues, but we cannot regard them as reliable. The reposts, which have been narrated concerning the virtues of prayer on this occasion, are all Mawdoo (fabricated).

In his book “Lataif Al-Marif,” Al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab said: “Laylat Al-Nusf min Shaban (the middle of Shaban) was venerated by the Tabieen among the people of Al-Sham, such as Khalid Ibn Midan, Makhool, Luqman Ibn Aamir and others, who used to strive in worship on this night. The people took the idea of the virtue of this night and of venerating it from them. It was said that they heard of Israeli reports (reposts from the Jewish sources) concerning that most of the scholars of the Hijaz denounced that, including Ata and Ibn Abi Maleekah. Abdur-Rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn Aslam narrated that view from the Fuqaha of Madinah, and this was the view of the companions of Malik and others. They said: ‘This is all Bidah. No comment from Imam Ahmad concerning Laylat Al-Nusf min Shaban is known of. Concerning spending the night of the middle of Shaban in prayer, there is no sound report from the Prophet (sa) or from his companions.’”

The scholars are agreed that it is obligatory to refer disputed matters to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sa). Whatever ruling both or one of them give is the Shariah, which must be followed, and whatever goes against them must be rejected. Therefore, any acts of worship, which are not mentioned in them, are Bidah, and it is not permissible to do them, let alone call others to do them or approve of them.

Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (sa), if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” (Al-Nisa 4:59)

In every case, where there is no sound Shariah evidence that something is prescribed in Islam, it is not permissible for a Muslim to innovate things in the Deen of Allah, whether these are individual acts or communal acts, whether he does them in secret or openly.

‘Allamah Al-Shawkani has ruled against Laylat Al-Nusf and has said that the rewards regarding the prayers in this night are all fabricated, and their narrators are all Majhool (unknown) and Daeef.

Other scholars, who have ruled against singling out the night of the middle of Shaban, are Al-Hafiz Al-Iraqi, Al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab in his book “Lata’if Al-Ma’arif,” Iman Al-Nawawi in his book “Al-Majmoo” and Shaykh Al-Imam Abu Muhammad ‘Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Ismaeel Al-Maqdisi wrote a very valuable book providing that these (reports) are false.

From the Ayahs, Ahadeeth and scholarly opinions quoted above, it is clear that celebrating the middle of Shaban by praying on that night or in any other way, or by singling out that day for fasting, is Bidah denounced by most of the scholars. It has no basis in the pure Shariah; rather, it is one of the things that was innovated in Islam after the time of the Sahabahs.

In Saheeh Muslim, it is narrated that Abu Hurairah (rta) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: ‘Do not single out the night of Jumuah (Friday) for praying Qiyam and do not single out the day of Jumuah for fasting, unless it is part of the ongoing regular fast of any one of you.’” (Muslim)

If it were permissible to single out any night for special acts of worship, the night of Jumuah would be the most appropriate, because the day of Jumuah is the best day, upon which the sun rises, as stated in the Saheeh Hadeeth narrated by the Messenger of Allah (sa). The fact that the Prophet (sa) warned against singling out that night for praying Qiyam indicates that it is even more prohibited to single out any other night for acts of worship, except where there is Saheeh evidence of a particular night being singled out (for example, Laylat Al-Qadr and other nights of Ramadan). Similarly fasting on the day of Jumuah is also prohibited.

If it really were prescribed to single out the night of the middle of Shaban or the night of the first Friday in Rajab, or the night to the Isra and Miraj for celebration or for any special acts of worship, then the Prophet (sa) would have taught his Ummah to do that, and he would have done it himself. If anything of the sort had happened, his companions would have transmitted it to the Ummah, for they were the best and most sincere of people after the prophets.

We ask Allah (swt) to help us and all the Muslims adhere firmly to the Sunnah and to beware of everything that goes against it, for He (swt) is the Most Generous, the Most Kind, Ameen.

(Adapted from “Majmoo Fatawa Samahat Al-Shaykh Abd Al-Azaz Ibn Baz,” 2/882.)

Who is the Most Deserving of Zakah?

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Who is the most deserving of Zakat

Piping-hot Nihari at Suhr, crispy Pakoras at Iftar, touching recitation of the Quran during Taraweeh prayers and the excitement surrounding the preparations for Eid are some of the sights and sounds associated with Ramadan. In-between the prayers, fasting and recitation of the Quran, we must also remember an obligatory duty that we have to perform – paying Zakah (obligatory charity). Contrary to popular perception, Zakah can be paid throughout the year. However, most people wait until Ramadan to dispense with this duty, so as to gain the blessings of the month.

Different Forms of Charity

We can gain the blessings of Allah (swt) by giving other forms of charity as well. In the Quran, there are five words used for charity:

  1. Zakah (or Zakat-ul-mal): obligatory charity paid on wealth that exceeds the prescribed limit. The amount differs according to the type of property – on gold and silver, for instance, one has to pay at the rate of 2.5%;
  2. Sadaqah: voluntary charity;
  3. Khairat: good deeds;
  4. Ihsan: kindness and consideration;
  5. Infaq Fi Sabil Allah: spending for the sake of Allah (swt).


In addition to the above, there is what we refer to as Zakat-ul-fitr or Sadaqat-ul-fitr, which is paid onlyin Ramadan or before the Eid-ul Fitr prayer. On the other hand, Sadaqah (translated as voluntary charity) does not have to be restricted to certain people, as is the case with Zakah. Moreover, the word ‘Sadaqah’ also has also a wider meaning. The Prophet (sa) said: “Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.” (At-Tirmdhi)

Imposition of Zakah

The word ‘Zakah’ means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth.’ The Quran points out the due recipients of Zakah. It is stated in Bukhari that during the lifetime of the Prophet (sa), some greedy people expected him to give them a share of the alms. However, the Prophet (sa) ignored them, so they defamed him. Upon that Allah (swt) revealed:

“And of them are some who accuse you (O Muhammad (sa)) in the matter of (the distribution of) the alms. If they are given part thereof, they are pleased, but if they are not given thereof, behold! They are enraged!

“Would that they were content with what Allah and His Messenger (sa) gave them and had said: ‘Allah is Sufficient for us. Allah will give us of His bounty, and so will His Messenger (sa) (from alms). We implore Allah (to enrich us).’

“As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakat) are only for the Fuqara (poor) and Al-Masakin (the poor) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause (i.e. for Mujahidun – those fighting in a holy battle), and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.” (At-Taubah 9:58-60)

The revelation of the above verses clearly pointed out the recipients of Zakah, thereby putting an end to all unlawful claims on this type of charity.

Recipients of Zakah

According to the above verse, eight categories of people are entitled to receive Zakah:

  1. The poor (Faqeer): the person who does not have anything.
  2. The needy (Miskeen): a person who has something, but it is not enough for meeting his needs.

Dr. Monzer Kahf, a scholar in Islamic economics, suggests that we may resort to the following four criteria to help select between the poor and the needy:

a. The degree of need: a starving person must be given priority.

b. The person’s relation to the payer of Zakah: a relative is preferred over a non-relative. The Prophet (sa) is reported to have said: “Charity given to the poor is charity, and charity given to a relative is charity and maintaining of family ties.” (Ahmad, An-Nasai)

c. The degree of religiosity of the receiver: this is within the spirit of the advice of the Prophet (sa): “And let your food not be eaten except by a pious person.” (At-Tirmdhi as narrated by Abi Saeed)

d. Availability of other sources for a specific poor/needy person.

Moreover, according to general scholarly consensus, one cannot give Zakah to one’s dependents (parents, wives and children). A wife can, however, pay Zakah to her husband, if he is in genuine need, as we learn from a Hadeeth narrated by Zaynab (rta), wife of Abdullah, and reported by Bukhari and Muslim.

  1. The collectors of funds: those, who are appointed by the Imam (leader) to collect the Zakah. They are to be given an amount that matches their efforts, even if they are rich.
  2. Attracting the hearts of those, who have been inclined (towards Islam): this refers to those, whose hearts the Prophet (sa) wanted to soften, so that they would become Muslims, or so that he could ward off their evil, or those, whose resolve he wanted to strengthen and help them to be steadfast in Islam. These are the three types of people, whose hearts were to be softened.

According to Sheikh Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee: “The majority of scholars are of the view that non-Muslims should not be given from the money of Zakah, except those, whose hearts are inclined to Islam, though there is a difference over whether such stipulation is still relevant or not and the permissibility of giving them of the Zakah money is haunted with controversy.”

  1. The captives: this refers to slaves, who had drawn up a written contract with their masters to purchase their freedom; or the amount needed to purchase their freedom, without a prior contract.
  2. The debtors: it refers to the debtors, who are unable to pay off their loans.
  3. For Allah’s (swt) cause: it refers to the soldiers, who are devoted to waging war for the sake of Allah (swt) and making the word of Islam prevail.

A number of modern jurists, such as Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida, Maulana Mawdudi, Amin Ahsan Islahi, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and some Fatwah organizations in Kuwait and Egypt, are of the opinion that the phrase, “in the cause of Allah” covers a broad category, and it should not be restricted to Jihad only; rather, it should be applied to all those situations, where there is a need to serve Islam and Muslims. They say that the expression, “for the poor and needy” can also mean “for the benefit of the poor and needy.” Such scholars consider it permissible to use Zakah money to finance Dawah and public welfare programmes, such as building mosques and schools, Dawah institutes, activities concerning Dawah objectives, etc.

  1. The Wayfarer: this means a travelling stranger, who is cut off from his wealth; he may be given whatever he needs, even if he is rich in his own land.

Ultimate Purpose: Allah’s (swt) Pleasure

Any believer would wish to see that his hard-earned money reaches the deserving, light up a sad face or fulfill a need. No matter how hard we all try to do just that, we must remember that our intention should be to gain Allah’s (swt) pleasure and reward. Therefore, we must pray to Allah (swt) with great sincerity that He may accept our efforts and clarify our intentions. After all, it is not Allah (swt), Who needs our wealth; rather, we need Him.