Ramadan – Solely for your Souls

Vol 6 -Issue 2 Ramadan solely for your souls

For most of us, Ramadan starts with mouth watering savories and ends with shopping sprees for the Eid. It is impossible to fathom beyond delectable Pakoras, let alone understand the blessed month’s meaning to a Muslim.

Let us try to understand the logic and benefits behind Ramadan’s fasting.

Allah (swt), our Nourisher and Sustainer, has two types of creations. The first one is mandatory Muslims, such as animals, plantation, planets, mountains, etc. They all prostrate before Allah (swt) and praise Him, as mentioned in verse 41 of Surah Nur. These compulsory Muslims also fast.

Some animals are known to hibernate for a part of the year and emerge with renewed energies at the end of their hibernation period. Similarly, plants shed their leaves in the Fall and appear feeble. But as Spring approaches, they bloom. This is also a form of fasting.

Allah’s (swt) second creation, which is also His best, is the mankind. Humans are voluntary Muslims. They have been granted freedom of choice, whether to submit themselves in humility before Allah (swt) or disobey. Simultaneously, they have also been informed of the consequences of their conscious decisions.

Allah (swt) has not left His creation misguided. He has clearly mentioned in a Hadeeth the five cardinal pillars of Islam leading to success, both now and in the Hereafter. They are: belief in the oneness of Allah (swt) and that Muhammad (sa) is His last messenger, observation of Salah (prayer), giving of Zakah (charity), performance of Hajj (pilgrimage) and keeping Saum (fasting). (Bukhari)

It is His mercy that through offering us a way of life, He has also endowed us with physical benefits. Scientific research proves that fasting enhances health. It gives our livers a break, so as to improve the digestive system. It reduces blood volume, which is good for the circulatory system. It stimulates our bone marrow, thus producing blood. Fasting also helps the effective function of pituitary glands, thyroid glands and the pancreas. Besides that, Allah (swt) also rewards for this act of worship. Thus, Ramadan offers multiple benefits to those who fast.

In the ignorant days of Makkah, people had deviated from monotheism; however, there were still remnant, although distorted, practices of Hajj and Salah as practiced by Ibrahim (as). However, the concept of Saum (fasting) was completely alien to them. The closest you could get of the practice was when they would starve their horses in the scorching heat to train them to survive the severe conditions of war – a practice, which was called Siyam. History tells us that Musa (as) fasted, before the Torah was revealed to him. Similarly, Isa (as) fasted before the Injil. The number of days and mannerisms were different, but the concept of fasting did exist in previous nations, too. Thus, the Makkans were informed about it.

Allah (swt) commanded them: “O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).” (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

Fasting is a means of self-control, especially in the face of vain desires. The foremost quality that one can attain through fasting is Taqwa (God consciousness). And it is the condition of Taqwa that leads people to Paradise.

When Allah (swt) prevents His creation from what is permissible, such as food, drink, sexual relations, etc., He helps them develop self control in the face of what is forbidden the remaining eleven months. In Ramadan, Muslims submit to this command voluntarily and give up permitted blessings willingly, to please their Creator.

Ramadan means scorching or burning. Some scholars state that in this blessed month Allah (swt) burns the sins of His slaves, who sincerely fast and pray to Him, renewing their states as pious Muslims.

Allah (swt) further commands: “[Observing Saum (fasts)] for a fixed number of days, but if anyone of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast is better for you if only you know.” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)

Allah (swt) is Just and, hence, provides options to the sick and old. This may include diabetics, patients with heart conditions, pregnant or lactating women, menstruating women, or women undergoing post-partum bleeding.

Another significant mercy of Allah (swt) is the lunar calendar that Muslims follow. Though Ramadan is the ninth month of the calendar, it shifts each year – Muslims residing in all parts of the world are offered an opportunity to avail this month in varied seasons. Sometimes it falls in winters, when the days are short and the nights are long, and sometimes vice verse. In thirty-three years of a lifetime, a Muslim has fasted in every season. This is another sign of Allah’s (swt) justice.

This also highlights how a Muslim is eager to please his Lord in all seasons. His prayer and submission is not time specific but perennial.

Lastly, all year round we are occupied with our physical existence – our body and its needs. We not only neglect but also forget about the vessel of our life – our soul. Ramadan is in reality an annul check-up of our soul. As Allah (swt) has breathed His soul into our bodies, our soul can only be nourished by the Quran revealed by Allah (swt). Ramadan is that month, when Muslims commit a great deal of their time to the understanding of the Holy Book.

Just as the moon is present during the day but not visible, so is the soul hidden within our physical body. The soul is supposed to be the master and possessor of our body. However, in this world, our vain desires and Shaitan’s whispers alter this arrangement. Our physical needs supersede our spiritual needs. Our body misbehaves like a demanding, spoilt child, and the soul gets house arrested. The body takes over as the master.

We can test the condition of our soul by simply analyzing our inclinations. If, in Ramadan, our routine doesn’t differ much from what we do during the remaining part of the year, such as performing Salah and Dhikr, staying away from the forbidden and fearing Allah’s (swt) watch, and we just need to do some more of it, Alhumdulillah. Our souls are healthy.

However, if Ramadan feels like a sentence, and we wait for it to get over, so we can return to our life of sin, we need to take serious caution. The soul is sick and needs to be treated.

The soul is Allah’s (swt) ambassador. It is pure and thrives only on purity. A sage once said: “Conscience is thorough bred. It stops talking to those who don’t listen to it.” If, all along, your conscience, the inner voice of your soul, has been preventing you from disobedience but you have been neglecting it, your soul will stop speaking up.

Our soul is like a pristine pearl, and its carrier is our physical body, acting as a velvet pouch. If we keep cleaning the velvet pouch unaware of the invaluable pearl inside, we have suffered a grave loss. Ramadan is here to make up for that loss and start anew. For on the Day of Judgement, Allah (swt) will not talk to our bodies; it will be the souls that will be held accountable. Allah (swt) will reverse our condition, as one wears a dress inside out showing the hem. The facials and the hair dos all will be discarded. The spiritual glow of the soul will lead the way.

Muslims should avail this golden chance offered by Allah (swt) in Ramadan to train the body and bring the soul back to life. This is when the soul is in command and our body is in submission, which should be the case for us all year long.

Chills in Summer

By Naheed Ansari

Fruit Yoghurt

What you need

  • Yoghurt – 1 kg
  • Condensed milk – 1 can
  • Pineapple/mango jelly powder – 1 packet
  • Pineapple/mango cubes – 1 can
  • Cream – 1 box
  • Gelatin – 1 tbsp

What you do

1)      Mix yoghurt, condensed milk, jelly powder and cream. Beat well.

2)      Mix gelatin powder with pineapple juice.

3)      Add gelatin powder and pineapple juice mixture to yoghurt mixture and mix well.

4)      Place it in a mould or dish and put it in the freezer or refrigerator for cooling down.

5)      Serve with pineapple/mango slices.

Blue Colada

What you need

  • Castor sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Blue colour – few drops
  • Pineapple juice – 8 oz
  • Vanilla essence – 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla ice-cream – 2 scoops
  • Crushed ice – 1/2 cup
  • Cream of coconut – 8 oz tin OR
  • Coconut powder – 2 tbsp

What you do

1)      Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend well.

2)      Serve with pineapple slices.

Thai Fruit Salad

What you need

  • Leeches
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Honeydew melon
  • Papaya
  • Cherries
  • Bananas
  • Lemon juice

For coconut sauce: mix together coconut milk (thick) with 2 oz castor sugar.

What you do

1)      Cut mangoes in half centre side of the stone. Peel and slice in finger style.

2)      Cut bananas diagonally into chunks and toss in lemon juice.

3)      Arrange fruits on a serving platter and pour coconut sauce over them. You can also serve sauce separately either in a bowl or a jug.

4)      Chill before serving. Sprinkle zest of lemon.

Review: Road to Paradise

Reviewed by Asma Imran

Compiled by: Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan

Publisher: “Darussalam”

Language: English

Pages: 208

Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan is currently teaching at the Islamic University in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah. By gathering together Quranic verses and Ahadeeth related to the concept of Paradise, under the supervision of Abdul Malik Mujahid, he has produced a book that enlightens us about Jannah and what should be done in order to achieve it.

Reading this book has brought to me immeasurable surprise and delight, as it mentions the delicacies and pleasures of Paradise promised to the believers by Allah (swt). However, this book is also liable to make one shudder and wince at the descriptions of the punishments, which await the wrongdoers in the torment and pain of Hell.

The volume has been divided into seven chapters: ‘Introduction’, ‘Road to Paradise’, ‘The Characteristics of Paradise and the fact that it has been created (and does exist now)‘, ‘Who will enter Paradise and who will enter Hell fire’, ‘Deeds that will lead to Paradise’, ‘Message to the Disbelievers’ and ‘Conclusion’.

The first chapter stresses the fact that the road to Paradise is full of hurdles. Patience, self-control and unwavering faith are the virtues a Muslim needs for travelling along that path and finding a reward befitting the pains he has endured. It also briefly mentions the apostles and prophets Allah (swt) sent to various nations and tribes for their guidance.

The second chapter lightly touches the deeds that one needs to perform, in order to gain entry in Paradise. The third chapter contains the holy Prophet’s (sa) account of Ascension and all the things related to Paradise that Muhammad (sa) or Allah (swt) have ever mentioned.

The fourth chapter contains the differences between the dwellers of Paradise and the dwellers of Hell, and how their lifestyles will differ in those abodes. The deeds that the pious believers performed are also mentioned along with their efforts and hardships braved for the sake of Islam. Basically, the fourth chapter describes everything that Allah (swt) wants Muslims to do, in order to attain Jannah.

Most of the fifth chapter is comprised of the verses of Surah Maryam, which Jafar Ibn Abu Talib recited to the Abyssinian court on the occasion of defending the refugee Muslims against the claims made about them by the Makkan pagans. This is an appeal to the disbelievers that the differences in both religions are those of alteration and refinement.

The last and shortest chapter in the book summarizes all the discussed content and gives a true and accurate account of the deeds that a Muslim needs to follow to enter Paradise.

The book has made me wonder, how people can afford to go astray, if they are fully aware of the pain that they will have to endure in the Hereafter, and how people can abstain from doing good, even if they know that unimaginable delights and pleasures are present in Paradise. Free will has been given to the mankind and Jinn, so that they may choose their ways. According to the lives they lead, they will be presented with their achievements in the form of eternity in Paradise or pain in Hell.

Nowadays, Muslims seem to have forgotten that their accounts will be made according to their own deeds. They seem to be under the delusion that all that has to be cherished is in this world only; or, perhaps, they live with the illusion that it is enough for them to be Muslims to gain entry into Paradise. This book can change our very perspective of life and can alter our lifestyle. Dr. Khan himself mentions that he has written this book for the salvation of the mankind and Jinn.

Whose Moon is it Anyway?

Every year on the 29th of Shaban, Shawwal and Dhul-Qadah, Muslims all over the globe turn their heads towards the mighty skies for that blessed glimpse of a thin sliver outline of the new moon. Or in case of cloudy skies, we sit fixated in front of our television screens, awaiting the decision of the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, while getting phone calls with news of moon being sighted in northern Pakistan. In case the decision of the committee is otherwise, a nasty game of pointing fingers and labelling the detractors as Kafirs begins.

Moreover, non-believers from all over the world pick up this opportunity to spread discord amongst the Ummah by saying things like ‘Muslims can’t even decide on a single moon’. Just last year, Eid-ul-Fitr was observed on four different dates across the globe. This, plus the fact that we have been observing two Eids in Pakistan for a number of the past years, has left everyone wondering about the real story behind the moon fiasco.

To understand the issue, first, it is important to get some basic facts straight:

  • In Islam, the sole purpose of moon sighting is to begin or end the Islamic lunar month.
  • The Islamic moon is different from the astronomic new moon. The new moon is described in the Wikipedia as the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon, in its monthly orbital motion around the Earth, lies between the Earth and the Sun, and is, therefore, in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth. At this time, the dark (un-illuminated) portion of the Moon faces almost directly toward the Earth, so that the moon is not visible to the naked eye.
  • The Islamic moon needs to be sighted by the naked eye. There were no eye-glasses or optical aids in the days of the Prophet (sa) for sighting a moon.
  • Each locality has to go by its local moon to begin or end an Islamic month. This only makes sense, as no sophisticated means of communication existed in the days of the Prophet (sa) to get the news across.

There is a great deal of Hikmah in setting the moon as the deciding factor for the Islamic month, if we delve into it for a while. It is only the moon, which travels across the globe and is usually visible to the masses, without any complicated aids. Moreover, this method requires no communication satellites to spread the news, as every area can set their calendars by whenever the moon is visible to them. It also does not prefer one region over another, in order to prevent possible discord.

Sadly, with the passage of time and the advent of modern technologies, moon sighting has become a politically messed issue. Without going into complicated and confusing details, we will here try to determine, whether it is scientifically possible for a moon to be sighted at two different dates within a single country. Likewise, we will investigate the evidences our religion provides in support of this argument.

A narration of Ibn Abbas in Sahih Muslim indicates that local moon sighting alone was the prevailing method in the time of the Prophet (sa) and was a part of his teachings.

“There is a sighting of the moon for every town, the sighting at one town cannot be held valid for the other town situated at a considerable distance from it.” (Muslim)

Kurayb narrates that Umm Al-Fadl sent him to Muawiyah in Sham for something.

Kurayb says: “I went to Sham and finished the job. I was in Sham, when the month of Ramadan began, and we saw the moon the night of Friday. When I reached Madinah at the end of the blessed month, Ibn Abbas asked me about Sham. (After answering him), he then asked me, when we saw the moon. I said: ‘We saw the moon the night of Jumuah.’ He asked: ‘Did you see it as well?’ I said: ‘Yes, I saw it too and many others saw it, and we all fasted and so did Muawiyah (that is according to that moon sighting).’ Ibn Abbas said: ‘But we saw the moon on Saturday night; therefore, we will keep fasting for thirty days according to that, unless we sight the moon on the 29th.’

I asked: ‘You don’t think the moon-sighting of Muawiyah and his fasting is enough for you?’ Ibn Abbas replied: ‘No, this is how the blessed Prophet (sa) taught us.’” (Muslim)

This Hadeeth clearly shows that sighting of the moon in another locality should not be the determining factor; rather, a locally sighted moon is what sets the beginning or ending of a month. For example, if ample evidence suggests that the moon has been sighted in some parts of the country but not the others, common sense (and also in the light of the above mentioned Hadeeth) tells us that a locality will follow its own locally sighted moon, and no one else is obliged to follow it.

Scientific evidence is also in agreement of the above quoted argument. When asked about this, Dr. Shahid Qureshi (In-charge Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics, University of Karachi) said it is indeed possible to sight a moon on different dates in the same country.

The problem arises only when a certain area or province (NWFP in our case) decides to follow Saudi Arabia and takes their moon to set its own dates. This practice is a Biddat, as no evidence from the Quran or Ahadeeth can be found to support a global moon sighting. Many other countries are also indulging in the same practice, instead of following the Quran and Sunnah. Asking for a global moon sighting would be akin to asking people to pray at a universal time.

Whether or not to employ technical aids in sighting a moon, pre-determining moon’s visibility and developing a computable calendar all are sticky issues. Muslim jurists, scientists and politicians have been debating about these matters for decades, without reaching a solution acceptable to all. For the time being, understanding the basic fact that every area should follow its own moon would greatly help in easing the confusion, which arises every year.

Instead of resorting to fist fights and pointing fingers, we should get to the depths of the issue and avoid being misled by the propaganda to spread discord in the unity of the Ummah. Allah (swt) knows best!

For a Better Neighbourhood

This Ramadan, let’s resolve to improve our relationship with our neighbours, writes Rym Aoudia.

“Neighbours? I don’t even know who my neighbours are!”

I mull over my friend’s reply, whilst I remember how often homemade food and moments of happiness and sadness are shared in my neighbourhood.

My friend probably represents those, who are too engrossed with their daily routines to remember their neighbours. Assuming their neighbours are in the same situation as they are, they say: “I do not want to disturb them.” Another group of people are in a better situation and have a ‘hi-bye’ relationship. But only a minority is able to establish strong and lasting bonds with their neighbours.

There was once a pious man named Ibn Mubarak, who was loved dearly by his Jewish neighbour. So much so that when a time came for the Jew to sell his house, he overpriced it by two thousand Dinars. When the buyer asked why, he replied: “The extra two thousand Dinars are for having Ibn Mubarak as your neighbour.” Ibn Mubarak was a true Muslim, who followed the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth: “The best of companions to Allah (swt) is the best to his companions, and the best of neighbours to Allah (swt) is the best of them to his neighbour.” (At-Tirmidhi) In another Hadeeth, he said: “Angel Gabriel continuously recommended kindness towards one’s neighbour, that I thought he would assign them a share of one’s inheritance.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Islam also teaches us that neighbours are not simply those living next door, but also those living up to seven doors away.

We all agree that there are diverse neighbourly relationships. But no matter how diverse one’s attitude towards one’s neighbour is, or who one’s neighbour is for that matter (Muslim or non-Muslim, friendly or unfriendly), the Islamic principle is to express kindness towards them with no exception. Islam teaches us to think ‘out of the box’ and treat others, as we would like to be treated. In return, this kindness nurtures a comfortable, supportive and safe community for all.

Some of us might have grumpy neighbours, and establishing good relationships may prove challenging. But know that a smile from you could one day kindle the beginning of a good relationship. If that is not the case, know that you are still setting a good example for others.

In his “Treatise on Rights”, Zayn Al-Abidin says: “It’s your neighbour’s right that you guard him when he is absent, honour him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged. Do not pursue his shame or reveal any evil you know of him. If you know he will accept your counsel, counsel him in that, which is between you and him. Do not forsake him during trying times; instead, offer support. Forgive his sin and be generous in your exchanges with him.”

Remember that apart from improving society and people’s relationship with one another, Allah (swt) will greatly reward you for showing kindness to your neighbours.

Take a quiz to find out, what kind of a neighbour you are:

  • Do you litter in your neighbourhood?
  • Do you eavesdrop or spy on your neighbour?
  • Do you share homemade food with your neighbour?
  • Do you stay in contact with them and exchange visits now and then?
  • Do you believe that you deserve whatever good they have?
  • Do you participate in gossip against them?

Tackling the Glitches

In the second part of the home business series, Noorjehan Arif discusses how to tackle the problems, which inadvertently crop up every now and then

Running any business from home is never a smooth sailing, to say the least. There are a myriad of problems which pop up, and at the end of the day, you might start wondering, if you have bitten off more than you can chew. The good news is you can manage it. What’s important is to know the issues and how to tackle them.

Kids, Kids Everywhere

A business cannot be run from home, if you are constantly involved in why Ali snatched candy from Sarah. However, it is helpful if you entertain the idea of employing your own children in your home-run business. Have you ever played house with your siblings? Then why don’t you teach your own children to play office? Children love to act like elders and mimic them. If you pick up the newspaper during your morning tea, will Ali do the same? Hasn’t Sarah always yearned to pour tea for you? This is, then, the best time to teach your children some business management skills.

In cases, when you do not want your personal and professional life to clash, because Ali is misbehaving, while you are discussing a critical project with one of your customers, you can bring them as partners instead, or ask your spouse to take some of the work responsibilities. Even your maid could work part time for you, filing and taking some phone calls you want to avoid, or you can take in young interns, who are ready to do all sorts of odd jobs for you.

If all else fails to enlist good help, technology can be your next best friend, or perhaps in this case your secretary and employee all in one. You can use an answering and caller identification machine to capture your calls, a laptop to take your work along when you have to wait for your child’s school to be over, a personal digital assistant (PDA) to keep track of meetings, reminders, calls to make and other odds and ends. You have several other options available as well, like a virtual assistant online that can do all sorts of documentation and typing work.

Take the example of Shahnaz, who had a partner in her business, and, hence, responsibilities could be shared. However, in partnerships one needs to be careful and vigilant, particularly in cases, where money is directly involved. Irfana had her sister working with her, who eventually took over the management of the parlour, while Irfana could be more proactive in terms of the strategic planning of the business. But Irfana was still extremely careful, as she used an auditor friend to audit the revenues of the parlor every year.

Once the business is running, the autopilot is set and all things are smoothly proceeding, with everyone knowing their responsibilities, it becomes easier to take on the ‘curveballs’ in a more headstrong manner. Curveballs, such as Ali being down with fever, or Sarah sick with measles, can easily be overcome, if things are running smoothly. However, there are several problems that need to be addressed, before a newly launched business can be run smoothly.

Financial Glitches

Financial aspects of the business have to be well thought out and a complete budget needs to be set, before embarking on the business. The primary reason for a budget is the fact that financial elements make or break the business. Improper management of cash and revenues may result in bankruptcy in an adverse scenario, and micro managing cash to meet expenses in a less adverse condition. The Internet offers several books and websites with templates and help material for the purpose of creating a budget and evaluating it.

Demarcating Work and Personal Life

 

Another problem one encounters, when running a business from home, is juggling work and personal life. Boundaries tend to merge, when, for instance, Ali has to be picked up from school and a customer wants to have a meeting at the same time. Time management is often an important and, at times, the most critical element. Shahnaz and Irfana both had a separate business outside of their house, but their overlapping suggestion was to have defined time blocks for work that takes higher priority. If one has a driver to pick up children from school, then the next priority is the customer’s meeting. But if a driver is out of the question, the priority will be the children. Such times can be blocked and made non-negotiable on the table, when dealing with customers.

Stress, motivation and efficiency problems can also result in cases, when a loved one is sick, or when children have vacations or when other personal and family issues crop up. Defining a time boundary, when you plan to work solely on your business and allocating the rest to personal life, can help define and set limits to the interruptions that are allowed during ‘business hours’. It can also reduce the amount of stress and guilt that one may feel about neglecting family life.

Moving on to issues regarding setting up the business, incorporating it, registering brands and trademarks, there are quite a few organizations that one has to go through and deposit guarantees and cash in order to get things going.

Marketing your Business

Marketing and publicity are another element in one’s business that involves a lot of effort and hard work. Even though Ali, Sarah, the spouse and the nosey neighbour mean well, when they go around claiming your business and your work to be top class, marketing is much more detailed and hectic than that. Networking comes into play, when one has to promote the business and make it top notch.

Shahnaz and her partner are socialites and love to socialize with all sorts of people. They decided to put their networking skills to good use, when they opened their boutique, and promoted it with the use of the business cards, which they sent out to each and every person they knew. In a very short time, the boutique had customers raving about their clothes and handbags.

Irfana, on the other hand, utilized the locality in her favour and sent each and every house near the parlour a flyer to market the services being offered. Marketing worked – the place was thronging with women of all ages. Depending on the circumstances and the type of business, there are various elements of marketing and publicity one can employ, from publishing an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, to utilizing a social network, to simply putting up a web presence. Using a small website, or even marketing through online advertisements can bring in a good amount of sales and publicity.

In the next issue, we will take the financial aspect of a home business a little farther and discuss how to make a business plan