Fidya: A Relaxation

Jul 10 - Fidya

By Qainaf Najam

At the sales company where I work, my boss has the following rule: if I break a glass by accident, I have to replace it with a new one. However, if out of anger I hurl a glass across my office, I’ll be fined or punished. Leafing through the Quran, I stumbled upon some verses that appeared to reveal the inspiration behind my boss’s ingenious rule.

Following are the verses regarding the obligation of fasting. Allah (swt) says: “Observe Saum (fasts)] for a fixed number of days, but if any 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, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskin (poor person) (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him…” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)

In the pre-Islamic times, the believers were either required to fast or give a fixed amount of food or money to the poor to make up for a fast. This was called Fidya, and usually the rich used to give Fidya to escape the hardships of fasting.

With the advent of Islam, this ruling was abrogated – only the physically unfit were allowed to pay Fidya. This ensured uniformity between the rich and the poor. If the rich never fast and keep paying Fidya, they can never understand the trauma of an empty belly. Also, it inculcates in them pride and love for their wealth, as they start to believe that they can escape religious obligations merely by paying a certain amount of money. Thus, the fact that every rich person cannot pay Fidya is actually a blessing from Allah Almighty, as it allows them to stand in line with the unprivileged of the society and bridge the gap separating these two socially different classes.

If a person misses a fast due to a valid reason, he has to offer its Qada by fasting an equal number of days, whenever he is able to do so. However, if he is physically unfit for fasting, he has to pay Fidya for each missed fast. This basically includes the elderly and the sick people suffering from a chronic illness. According to a Hadeeth in Bukhari, in his last years Anas (rta) used to prepare some meat with bread and give them to the poor, as he was too weak to fast himself.

The scholars vary in opinion over the case of a person, who has paid Fidya and later finds out that he is able to keep fasts. Some say it is Wajib (obligatory) upon him to offer the Qada fasts, while others argue that since he has paid the Fidya, it’s not obligatory. However, all agree that it’s preferable (Mustahab) for him to offer Qada fasts as well. For a poor person, who can neither fast nor pay Fidya, the ruling is that he must invoke Allah’s (swt) mercy. That will, Insha’Allah, exempt him from offering the Qada or paying Fidya.

“If a pregnant woman fears for herself or a feeding mother is scared for her child, then it is no sin upon them, if they do not fast. And they should both offer Fidya and there is no need to offer the Qada that is to keep an equal number of fasts later.” (Muslim)

Most of the scholars term this Hadeeth as authentic, while some argue that the relaxation of Fidya is only for the physically unfit – the rest must offer Qada fasts. In such circumstances, it is Ihsan (better) for a woman to offer Qada as well, if she is able to do so.

Fidya can be paid in two ways: the person has to either feed a poor person with the area’s main staple food for each missed fast, or give an equal amount of money. The amount of food to be given for each fast is called Mudd. One Mudd is defined as the amount one can hold in both hands, when cupped together, which is equivalent to ½ Saa of the staple food or 1.5 kg in common terms. It amounts to approximately PKR 2000 for a month, almost PKR 67 per fast. It is better, in the eyes of Allah (swt), if it is paid with a little oil or meat, as that shows the individual’s sense of responsibility towards Allah’s (swt) creation. The concept, however, is to give away the food or equivalent in cash to the poor, that is, to give him the Tamleek (ownership) of the food or money. It is not sufficient to merely invite them to a feast and feed them.

Allah (swt) uses the word Miskeen in Al-Quran for those to whom Fidya can be paid. It literally translates to the English word ‘impoverished’. In Islamic Shariah, it refers to a person, who falls short of the basic necessities of life. According to some scholars, it is particularly used for those who are entitled to receive Zakat.

One point to consider in making up the missed fasts is that one should make haste. It is preferable to make up one’s missed fasts before the arrival of next Ramadan. Some scholars go as far as laying down a ruling that says that the amount of Fidya keeps mounting with each passing year.

The option of Fidya is another reason for us to glorify the beauty of Islam that lies in its perfectly comprehensive nature. Even though Allah (swt) places fasting in the category of Fard, He (swt) also considers our human weaknesses and provides us leeway in the form of Fidya and Qada if we fall short of our obligations. This shows us the infinite wisdom of Almighty Allah (swt)!

Allah (swt) says: “… He … has not laid upon you in religion any hardship…” (Al-Hajj 22:78)

The words of Prophet Muhammad (sa), as recorded in the compilation of Imam Ahmad (rta), confirm this verse: “Allah’s (swt) Deen is not of difficulties…”

May Allah Almighty (swt) give us all the ability to carry out our religious obligations sincerely and dutifully, Ameen. Happy Ramadan!

Itikaf: A Forsaken Sunnah

Jul 10 - Itikaaf

Ramadan for most people is a festive time. I remember when my brother used to plead with my parents to spend the night at the local mosque, where his friends were observing Itikaf. Together they had plans to enjoy themselves – away from the watchful eye of their parents. Being children, they can be forgiven for taking Itikaf as a time to have fun. However, it is distressing to find adults observing Itikaf and yet not realizing the seriousness of the Ibadah. Moreover, many people have simply given up this Sunnah. Through this article, we hope to encourage Muslims to observe Itikaf and to clarify some of the misconceptions, which might be preventing them from observing this Sunnah.

Itikaf in the Quran and Ahadeeth

Itikaf means staying in the mosque to worship Allah (swt). It has been prescribed by Allah (swt) in the Quran and is a Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). In the Quran, Allah (swt) says: “…and We commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael) that they should purify My House (the Kabah at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it, or staying (Itikaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves (there, in prayer).” (Al-Baqarah 2:125)

There are many Ahadeeth, which tell us that the Prophet (sa) observed Itikaf. According to a Hadeeth of Aisha (rta), the Prophet (sa) used to observe Itikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan, until Allah (swt) took his soul. His wives observed Itikaf after he was gone. (Bukhari and Muslim)

What is the purpose of Itikaf?

One of the greatest aims of this form of worship is to seek the Night of Power (Laylat ul-Qadr), which is one of the odd-numbered nights in the last ten nights of Ramadan. It is also a time for conversing with Allah (swt) by offering Salah, reading the Quran and engaging in Dhikr.

When can we observe Itikaf?

The best time to observe it is during the last ten days of Ramadan. We know from the Hadeeth of Abu Hurairah (rta) that the Messenger of Allah (sa) used to observe Itikaf for the last ten days every Ramadan, and in the year, in which he passed away, he observed Itikaf for twenty days. (Bukhari) However, it is also proven that the Prophet (sa) observed it during ten days of Shawwal (Bukhari). Therefore, one can observe it at any time of the year. Being in a state of fast is also not a condition for observing Itikaf.

Length of Itikaf

There are differences among scholars regarding the minimum length of Itikaf, ranging from a moment to one day. We can find the grounds for this in a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa), where he allowed Umar (rta) to observe Itikaf for one night in Masjid Al-Haram, in order to fulfil a vow. (Bukhari)

The maximum number of days that the Prophet (sa) observed Itikaf was thirty. We know this from a Hadeeth narrated by Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (rta): The Messenger of Allah (sa) observed Itikaf during the first ten days of Ramadan, then he observed Itikaf during the middle ten days in a small tent, at the door of which was a reed mat. He took the mat in his hand and lifted it. Then he put his head out and spoke to the people, and they came close to him. He(sa) said: “I observed Itikaf during the first ten days seeking this night, then I observed Itikaf during the middle ten days. Then someone came and said to me that it is in the last ten days, so whoever among you wishes to observe Itikaf, let him do so.” (Muslim)

Where do we stay for Itikaf?

According to the scholars, Itikaf is only valid if observed in a mosque, where congregational prayers are held, because Allah (swt) said: “And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in Itikaf (i.e., confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:187). Being in a mosque cuts off a person from worldly activities and allows him to focus on worship.

Women must also observe Itikaf in the mosque. However, it is not necessary that congregational prayers be held there, for it is not obligatory upon women to offer prayers in congregation. According to Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Saalih Al-Uthaymeen, a woman may observe Itikaf so long as there is no fear of Fitnah (temptation), such as happens in Masjid Al-Haraam because there is no separate place for women there.

Taking breaks during Itikaf

According to Aisha (rta), “The Sunnah is for the Mutakif not to visit any sick person, or attend any funeral, or touch his wife or be intimate with her, or to go out for any purpose, except those which cannot be avoided.” (Abu Dawood) Ibn Qudamah says that for everything that he cannot do without and cannot do in the mosque, the Mutakif may go out. This does not invalidate his Itikaf, as long as he does not take a long time to do it. He is, therefore, allowed to leave the mosque for food and drink, and to relieve himself.

How do women perform Itikaf?

Women will perform Itikaf in the same manner as men. However, married women need to seek permission from their husbands to perform Itikaf. We know that Aisha (rta) asked Prophet (sa) for permission to observe Itikaf and he gave her permission; then Hafsa (rta) asked Aisha (rta) to ask for permission for her and she did so. (Bukhari)

Itikaf: a forsaken Sunnah

It is sad to note that in this day and age, many Muslims have forsaken this Sunnah. It seems that we find it very difficult to cut ourselves off from the world even for a short time. It is time we ponder on our keenness for Paradise and reassess our faith.

Zakat-Al-Fitr

India Eid al FitrBy Alia Adil

Obligation

The payment of Zakat-Al-Fitr before offering the Eid prayer is obligatory upon every Muslim, who is self-supporting. Ibn Umar (rta) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) enjoined Zakat-Al-Fitr, a Sa of dates or a Sa of barley, upon all the Muslims, slave and free, male and female, young and old, and he commanded that it be paid before the people went out to pray.” (Bukhari)

A Muslim should give Zakat-Al-Fitr on his own behalf and on behalf of those, on whom he spends, e.g., wife, children, parents, if they cannot give it on their own behalf. If they are able to, then it is better for them to give it themselves.

Imam Shafi said: “Who I say is obliged to give Zakat-Al-Fitr, if a child is born to him, or he takes possession of a slave, or someone becomes one of his dependents at any time during the last day of Ramadan, then the sun sets on the night of the crescent of Shawwal,

he has to give Zakat-Al-Fitr on that person’s behalf.” (Al-Umm, Bab Zakat-Al-Fitr al Thani)

Hikmah (Wisdom)

The wisdom behind Zakat-Al-Fitr is that it makes up for any errors unintentionally made during Ramadan, and it also serves as a means to feed the poor on Eid.

Ibn Abbas (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) prescribed Zakat-Al-Fitr as a purification of the fasting person from senseless and obscene talk, and as food for the poor. Whoever fulfills it before the (Eid) prayer, it will be an acceptable Zakat, and whoever fulfills it after the prayer, it will be counted as a Sadaqah (voluntary alms).” (Abu Dawood)

Wakeel Ibn al Jarrah said: “Zakat-Al-Fitr for the month of Ramadan is like two Sujood-As-Sahu for the prayer. It makes up for any shortcomings in the fast, just as the prostrations make up for any shortcomings in the prayer.” (Al-Nawawi, Al-Majmoo, part 6)

Amount

The amount to be given as Zakat-Al-Fitr is a Sa of any kind of staple food. What is meant by a Sa here is the Sa of the Messenger of Allah (sa), which is four times the amount that may be held in the two hands of a man of average built. Hence, one Sa is equal to four Mudd, where one Mudd is equivalent to two hands cupped together.

Sa is actually a measure of volume. In modern weights this is equivalent to approximately three kilograms. This is corroborated by Sheikh Ibn Baz on Islam-QA.com

In What Form

In Al-Saheehayn, it is narrated that Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (rta) said: “At the time of the Messenger of Allah (sa) we used to give it at a rate of one Sa of food, or one Sa of dates, or one Sa of barley, or one Sa of cheese, or one Sa of raisins…”

A number of scholars interpreted the word Tam (food) in this Hadeeth as referring to wheat, and others explained it as referring to the staple food of the local people, no matter what it is, whether it is wheat, corn or something else. Therefore, it may be in the form of raisins, barley, dates, wheat, lentils, dried curd, rye, etc.

Scholars disagree, as to whether money can be paid in lieu of food. The majority of scholars hold the view that Zakat-Al-Fitr cannot be paid in cash. It must be given in the form of food, as the Prophet (sa) and his companions did. This view is the one adopted by the Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali schools of law. The Hanafi school of law follows Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinion that it is permissible to pay Zakat-Al-Fitr in cash.

Timing

Zakat-Al-Fitr is a kind of charity that is obligatory at the time when the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan.

It is reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Umar (rta) that he said: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) ordered that Zakat-Al-Fitr be paid before people go out to the (Eid) prayer.” (Bukhari)

It is reported that Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (rta) and Abu al Aliya (rta) said: “He (the Prophet (sa)) paid Zakat-Al-Fitr, when he went out for the prayer, i.e., Salat-ul-Eid.” (Al Jassas, Ahkam Al Quran, part 3, Surah Aala)

There is a time when it is Mustahab (preferable) to give it, and there is a time when it is permissible to give it. It is Mustahab to give on the Eid day. The time when it is permissible to give Zakat-Al-Fitr is one or two days before the Eid.

In Sahih Al Bukhari it is reported that An-Nafi(rta) said: “Ibn Umar (rta) used to give on behalf of the young and old. He would give it to those who took it (those who were appointed by the Imam for its collection), and it would be given a day or two before (Eid- Al-Fitr).”

It is not permissible to delay it until after the prayer, because of the report narrated by Ibn Abbas (rta), according to which the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever gives it before the prayer, it is accepted as Zakah, and whoever gives it after the prayer, it is a kind of charity.” (Abu Dawood)

Hence, Zakat-Al-Fitr may be paid a day or two in advance but not after the Eid prayer.

Eligibility

Zakat-Al-Fitr should be given to the poor and needy Muslims in the land or city, where it is given, because of the report narrated by Abu Dawood from Ibn Abbas (rta), who said: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) enjoined Zakat-Al-Fitr to be paid in Ramadan to feed the poor.”

Imam Al Shafi(rta) said: “Zakat-Al-Fitr should be divided among those, to whom Zakat-Al-Mal is divided, and it should not be spent anywhere else… It should be shared out among the poor and needy, slaves who have made a contract to purchase their freedom from their masters, debtors, those who are fighting in the way of Allah, and wayfarers.” (Kitab Al Umm: Bab Dayah Zakat-Al-Fitr qabla Qasmiha)

And Allah (swt) knows best.

Shaping up Your Finances. Go Budgeting!

Jul 10 - Shaping up your finances Go budgeting

Budgeting is a mechanism, which helps you to be financially in shape. Too often people make purchases without considering the financial consequences. Some people shop compulsively and then wonder why their wallet is empty. Living in moderation is the only way to earn financial security; it is a concept stated in a number of Quranic verses and Ahadeeth.

“And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty.” (Al-Isra, 17:29)

“And the slaves of the Most Beneficent (Allah) are … those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes). (Al-Furqan 25:63-67)

Budgeting is a comprehensive financial plan that helps you to:

  • live within your income,
  • spend your money wisely,
  • reach your financial goals,
  • prepare for financial emergencies,
  • develop wise financial management habits,
  • establish financial discipline,
  • feel financially secure about your present and future.

The budgeting process can be divided in four major phases.

The first step is to determine your current financial position regarding income, savings, expenses and debt obligations, if any. Estimate your sources of cash from the given time period, for which the budget is prepared. A common budgeting period is a month, since payments, such as school fees or utilities bills, are due monthly. In estimating available income, you should include only the money that you are 100% sure to receive. Bonuses, commissions, gifts or unexpected income should not be considered, until the amount is actually received.

Budgeting income may be difficult, if your earnings vary according to season or your income is irregular. In these situations, attempt to estimate your income conservatively based on past year and your current year expectations. Estimating your income on the low side would always help in avoiding situations that lead to overspending.

Budget allocations, with regards to expense categories, would depend on your life situation (whether you’re single, a parent with dependent children, or widowed with independent children, etc.).  Maintaining a detailed record of your spending for several months is a better source for understanding your spending habits and patterns.

Carefully analyze your expenses in your spending record. Review the records of your previous months’ expenditure. Using this as a starting point, write down your historical monthly expenses. Determine which ones of them are fixed and which are variable expenses. Fixed expenses are compulsory needs. Variable expenses are wants and desires and will fluctuate according to your household income, time of the year, health and a variety of other factors.

Through this you will be able to estimate your monthly expenses for the next month, which will help provide an adequate yardstick in gauging your future expense. Each expense category can be totaled and a percentage to total expenses can be calculated for it. If some categories appear too high, the decisions can be made to control spending in them.

Once you have estimated your monthly income and expense position, you have made a budget plan for the month. Now, you would need to record your actual monthly incomes and expenses in the budget sheet. The actual income and spending might not always be the same as planned; the difference between them will tell you whether your budget is on the track or going in a deficit. It may be necessary to review and revise your budget and financial goals on weekly basis.

The result of the budgeting exercise can be: 1) having extra cash in your hand at the end of the month or 2) falling behind in your saving plan by making extra expenses and so on.

On a quarterly and yearly basis, prepare a summary to compare your actual amounts with budgeted amounts and to determine if you are moving towards your targets. The summary would help you see where changes in your budget may be necessary. This review process is vital for successful money management and long term financial security.

Budget is a circular, on-going process. You, therefore, would need to revise it on a regular basis. You need to judge for yourself, whether you are making progress towards achieving your objectives. You need to evaluate, whether you have to change your financial goals due to changes in your personal or economic conditions.

What should be cut when a budget shortage occurs? The answer to this question is not easy and would depend on your individual household situations.

Having a budget would not eliminate your financial worries. A budget will work only if you are serious about following it. Changes in income, expenses and goals will require changes in your spending habits. Money management experts advise that a successful budget should be:

1. Well-planned

A good budget takes time and effort to prepare but is simple to manage. Planning the budget should involve everyone in the household who would be affected by it. Children should be involved, so that they learn the important money management lessons, while helping to develop and use the family budget. The estimates should be stated specifically and in measurable terms and have a definite time frame.

2. Realistic

If you have a moderate income, don’t expect to save enough money immediately for an expensive car or a lavish vacation. A budget is designed not to prevent you from enjoying finer things in life or to live miserly but to help you attain what you want most in life. An old saying goes: “If you don’t know, where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else and not even know it.”

3. Flexible

Unexpected expenses or emergencies will require an immediate revision of your budget. Hence, budget needs to be such that it can easily be revised. Special situations, such as illness, pregnancy and arrival of a baby or guests coming to stay, may increase certain types of expenses.

4. Clearly communicated

The budget plan will only be implemented if you and others contributing to the household budget is aware of it and can understand it.

5. Simple

The budget needs to be simple to manage; otherwise, it would be discarded in the litter. It should not be time consuming and painstakingly difficult to implement and follow.

In the end, creating a budget may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but it is vital in keeping your financial house in order. It is important to realize that, in order to be successful in making a budget, you have to decipher as much detailed information as possible. Ultimately, the end result will show you where your money is coming from, how much is there and where it is all going!

Budget worksheet samples are available at:

http://office.microsoft.com

http://www.vertex42.com