Reaping the Rewards of Ramadan

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Annually, Ramadan gives us the greatest discount to stock up Hasanat for our Akhirah account. The rate is exceedingly profitable, so it is important to consider the best ways of using this opportunity for everyone in the family, especially the head of the household.

Time Management

Proper time management is the key in order to avail limited time offers. A daily schedule helps stay focused on what is important. Wasting valuable time by sleeping away the hours should be curtailed. Rather, sleep should be kept to the minimum. Watching TV should be limited to only those broadcasts that are truly beneficial, like live Taraweeh broadcasts from the Haramain. Similarly, ensure that all Eid shopping is out of the way prior to Ramadan, so that the entire family can utilize the last ten days for worship in the best possible manner.

Worship

Time should be reserved for personal and collective worship, throughout the day. This includes the daily Adhkar, Quran recitation, Qiyam, congregational prayers, Taraweeh, etc. As the head of household, encourage your family to participate in worship. Take the younger ones with you for the prayers, especially Taraweeh. Even if they do not participate fully, just being in the Masjid and seeing worshippers pray together in the special Ramadan atmosphere leaves a lasting impact on their young hearts and minds.

Learning

Learning is another beneficial activity that one should establish both at an individual as well as a family level. Personally, one can use Ramadan to memorize a portion of the Quran or understand its meaning, or study some Ahadeeth daily. The family can also learn together. Last Ramadan, while walking to and from the Masjid, my son, who was six, memorized some Surahs of Juz Amma just by repeating after me. Older kids can be asked to research the background of these Surahs and report back to the family when the family is together, for example, while driving, sharing meals or sitting down for a family study circle. The younger ones can be asked to draw and colour whatever they have heard.

Sharing

Ramadan is also a time for sharing, whether it is food, clothes, wealth or knowledge. Some may disagree, but I have found that rather than arrange Iftar parties throughout the month for the rich, where people participate in food orgies and end up missing Taraweeh prayers, it is better to supply food to the less privileged members of society, for example, the needy, students, bachelors, orphans or travelers. Taking your kids with you for daily rounds of food distribution engenders a love of giving and an appreciation of the blessings they have in their lives. Projects can also be developed through Zakat money, which many Muslims choose to pay during this blessed month.

Simplicity

To free up time for all of the above activities, both for us and for our families, it is important to keep food shopping, preparation, presentation and consumption to a minimum. A simple meal can suffice daily for Iftar as well as Suhoor. Husbands can help by doing groceries quickly using a shopping list at a less crowded time of the day and not picking faults in food presented to them. They can go for a simple Iftar of dates and water and have dinner after Magrib prayers. This will ensure that the ladies of the house get sufficient chances to reap the benefits of these days and do not have to spend extra time in the kitchen.

Sons, husbands and fathers play a big role in helping to maximize the benefits of Ramadan for themselves and their families. A family, which is led properly to utilize Ramadan time for worship, learning and charity, can hope to achieve the real spiritual goals of this month, Insha’Allah.

Resolve in Ramadan to Set Smart Goals

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“Ramadan is the month for which all other months pass. It is the season of budding. In Ramadan, Taqwa can no longer remain hidden in the seed – the fleshy sheaths of your heart. The sun is on you and what is to become of you finds its moment, its moment in the sun. Do you have what it takes to reap lasting gains from it?” (Hassan Haidi)

Opportunities are seldom labelled. Ramadan is one. It is an opportunity to:

  • Profoundly think about the purpose of your existence.
  • Understand the part you need to play in the bigger picture.
  • Work upon the areas that you have been neglecting.
  • Nourish the soul and in the process, strengthen it.
  • Resolve personal improvement and communal change for the next eleven months.
  • Charge yourself with passion and enthusiasm for gearing towards a crisp and clear goal.
  • Chalk a strategy to carry out the above.
  • Befriend Allah (swt) and prepare to meet Him ultimately.

“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)

Attaining Taqwa itself has a higher purpose.

“Say: ‘Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things?’” (Al-Anam 6:164)

“The Forgiver of sin, the Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower (of favours), La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)…” (Ghafir 40:3)

“…Allah will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return.” (Shura 42:15)

Ramadan is not about losing weight. It is not about mindless starving and uncontrollable feasting, or about shopping and endless planning for the Eid-ul-Fitr. It is indeed the best time to renew intentions and to set resolutions for the remaining year. Yes, for Muslims it is not January or Muharram but the blessed month of Ramadan that is divinely designed to help them achieve specific goals. Today’s scientific research proves that it takes thirty days of constant practice to break a bad habit and instill a new desired one. How Merciful and loving is our Lord towards the sinners to bestow them with Ramadan as a golden opportunity to turn a new leaf and be rewarded for it, Alhumdulillah.

Abdullah Khan shares: “It is customary among people to set new year resolutions. However, the majority of people lose their newfound resolve within just a few months. This is mainly because few of us know how to set goals for our self-promises. Even less have an action plan to achieve it.”

In order to grow closer to the Lord of the worlds, you have to push yourself to rise to a level of performance beyond the comfort spheres of faith you have already achieved. This requires a SMART goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

  1. Specific

When you have a vague or unclear goal, it has little chances of being accomplished. Narrowing it down to an exact target that needs to be achieved doubles your chances of attaining it. You must work out the 6 ‘Ws’ when setting your goal. For instance, if the task at hand is to establish the Sunnah prayer along with the Fard prayer (which you are already offering), the following should be answered:

  • Who is involved? (You: a Muslim, who is firstly a servant of Allah (swt).)
  • What do you want to accomplish? (You want to establish your Sunnah prayer on a regular basis.)
  • When do you want to achieve it? (During Ramadan and carry it forward after the month ends.)
  • Where do you want to attain it? (At home, at college, at your work place, etc.)
  • Why do you want to achieve it? (It has uncountable rewards and benefits in this life and the hereafter.)
  1. Measurable

Abdullah Khan offers: “Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goals.” You may chalk out the following questions for yourself

  • How much? (The number of Rakahs of Sunnah I will begin with, for example, 2 or 4 in Zuhr prayer.)
  • How many? (How many Sunnah Salahs will I begin with? Fajr and Maghrib as Sunnah Mukadah and then build on that, or all five Sunnah Salahs together?)
  • How will I know when it is accomplished? (Maybe you can prepare a chart that helps you mark the daily Sunnah Salahs performed, until you fall into the habit of praying without having to chart it.)
  1. Attainable

A far-away goal comes closer, if you plan your steps, prioritize and demonstrate determination to achieve it. The goal doesn’t shrink; you grow and expand to match what it takes to meet the expectations.

Shaitan, as usual, will intercept and try to weigh you down, reminding you of past sins and causing you to despond of Allah’s (swt) mercy. But Allah (swt) expedites the attainment of that servant’s spiritual goal, who exerts himself or herself spiritually. The Lord (swt) states in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “I am as my servant thinks I am. I am with him, when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly better than it. If he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Realistic

A realistic goal means an objective that you are both willing and capable of achieving. It does not mean something easy. Rather, it means something doable. Similarly, it also does not mean something that is next to impossible under present circumstances. For instance, one cannot set a goal to scale the mountain with no prior training or expertise; it spells failure to begin with. You are bound not to achieve your goal, as you do not possess the skills required to do it. Hence, the goal should be to train first. Similarly, goals set with half-heartedness and under coercion are highly unlikely to be attained, as your heart and soul are not into it.

Abdullah Khan advises: “One way of knowing if your goal is real is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past. Also, ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to achieve this goal.”

  1. Timely

When you bind your goals to a timeframe, it will give it a sense of urgency. “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah some day” will not work as well as “I will start praying the Sunnah Salah from the 1st of Shaban.”

This due date will serve as a motivation for you to get started and stay on track. It will also help you determine whether or not you have fulfilled your goal.

All super goals can be broken down into smaller and smarter goals, in order to aid with assessment. For example: From the 1st Shaban until the 7th, I will pray Sunnah Salah of Fajr. Once that is in place, I will begin from the 8th of Shaban to the 14th to pray Zuhr Sunnah Salah as well and so on. In time, I will be ready to offer all the Sunnah Salawat in the blessed month of Ramadan and carry it on, Insha’Allah.

A life without a plan is a plan for certain failure. A devout worshipper and believer is never ad hoc, mismanaged or unplanned. He realizes that the time he has been spared in this world is of very high value and about which he will be questioned. Recharge your Iman and set up SMART goals for yourself without further delay. Ramadan is the perfect time for change. And change begins with you.

Inspired from a series of articles titled “R is for Ramadhaan and resolution”, written by Abdullah Khan.

[Free Poster] Hiba’s Ramadan Schedule

Hiba Magazine presents an exclusive Ramadan poster cum schedule. Download today, print, or use as a wallpaper to have a productive Ramadan. Designed for Hiba by Urooj Khan. Based on Dr. Farhat Hashmi’s Shahru Ramadan.

Ramadan Schedule - Free Poster

Ramadan Schedule – Free Poster

The Doors to Mercy

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  1. The Quran. Allah (swt) has termed the Quran as Rahmah (mercy) in about twenty places in His Book. It is the consoler of hearts that accompanies us throughout the journey and will be there when everyone will forsake us. It is the only key to eternal success. Therefore, let us make a sincere effort this month to befriend the Quran. Go beyond the speedy recital and read with deep understanding, deducing lessons for a lifetime. Set achievable goals from one Ramadan to the next for the recitation and understanding of the Quran. If you learn the word by word translation of three Ayahs daily along with their Tafseer, you will cover the first six parts by the next Ramadan.
  2. Muhammad (sa) – mercy for mankind. His words, commandments, and even the smallest of his Sunnahs, bring about tranquility and ease for those who abide by them. Allah (swt) says: “And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) that you may obtain mercy.” (Ale-Imran 3:132) The most effective way of connecting with the Prophet (sa) is to start reading a book of Seerah in the month of Ramadan. You can also select a number of Sunnahs and try your best to follow them throughout the blessed month.
  3. Striving for the cause of Islam. Playing or watching cricket matches, watching movies, reading novels, and sleeping: these are the much-loved time killing tools we employ in Ramadan. Jihad (or struggle) is one of the most rewarding acts in the sight of Allah (swt) and a definite source of His mercy. Allah (swt) says: “Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s religion) and have striven hard in the way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s mercy.” (Al-Baqarah 2:218) Think of what you have done to uphold the name of Allah (swt) in your home and community. What portion of your health, wealth, time, and capabilities are you using for Allah’s (swt) sake?
  4. Asking for forgiveness. Prophet Salih (as) said to his people: “Why seek you not the forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?” (An-Namal 27:46) Believers are advised to ask for forgiveness in the last hours of the night. Wake up ten minutes earlier for Suhoor, pray two Rakahs, and invoke Allah (swt) for mercy and forgiveness. Keep your tongue occupied with the Duas of forgiveness throughout Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights. Indeed, we have an example in the Prophet (sa), who used to make Astaghfar more than a hundred times every day.
  5. Ihsan and Taqwa. Beautify your acts of worship with Ihsan. Instead of worshipping in a habitually rushed manner, make an effort to adorn your prayer with attentiveness, your fast with staying away from sins, and all your actions with sincerity. Want a double portion of mercy? Taqwa will get you there! Allah (swt) says: “Fear Allah and believe in His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)); He will give you a double portion of His Mercy.” (Al-Hadid 57:28) Taqwa is to tame the galloping heart, stop wherever Allah (swt) wants you to stop, and race forward wherever He wants you to – all of that comes with practice and Duas!

This Ramadan will be a Different One!

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After breaking the fast, while still on my prayer mat, I was secretly hoping and praying that it wouldn’t be the last fast of Ramadan. Somehow I wasn’t that thrilled about Eid this time. I was rather withdrawn and passive. Obviously, Eid was not the reason for my distress; instead, it was the fact that Ramadan was ending.

Having understood the virtues and experienced the numerous blessings of Ramadan, I was anxious that I had not gained enough from the blessed month. “But there is always next Ramadan,” I reassured myself. “What makes you so sure that you will live that long?” a part of me responded. The growing debate between my conscience and Nafs (lowly base self prone to sin) made me more uncomfortable. The ticking of the clock made me desperate, and I felt like grabbing every second of the passing time.

I started having flashbacks of what little I did the entire month, as opposed to all that I could have done to seek the pleasure of my Rabb: the voluntary deeds I could have performed in addition to the regular rituals. I felt guilty, realizing that the enemy resided within me, and that enemy was my own Nafs.

“Forget it! You don’t have what it takes to be pious. If you couldn’t take charge of yourself in Ramadan, when Shaitan was chained, then what chance do you have for self-purification after Ramadan?” my Nafs condemned me. Tears of regret and remorse rolled down my cheeks into my hands raised in Dua. I promised myself that if I would be allowed to witness next Ramadan then it would have to be a different one and definitely a better one.

The first step towards attaining a goal is to be prepared. Therefore, I devised a pre Ramadan checklist. “This Ramadan will be a different one!” clenching my Ramadan checklist, I announced to myself in a resolute tone.

I thought of sharing it with you all, hoping that it will be of benefit to you as well, Insha’Allah.

My Ramadan Checklist

  • Make lots of Dua to be able to witness Ramadan with Hidayah (guidance), Hikmah (wisdom) and Aafia (well-being) as well as to be blessed with Barakah in your time, so that you can make the most of each day.
  • Regulate Your Routine. Try giving up on late nights and late mornings at least two weeks before Ramadan, in order to set your routine for Taraweeh and Qiyam-ul-Layl.
  • Quran Recitation. Start your Quranic recitation with understanding and contemplation at least ten days before Ramadan, so that by the end of the blessed month you do not feel the urge to rush the completion of the Glorious Quran.
  • Memorization of Duas. A month before Ramadan, you can try to memorize at least one new Dua every week. This way you will be able to gain more Khair during the month of forgiveness.
  • Grocery Shopping. Make sure that you have organized and stored all your groceries at least a week before Ramadan.
  • Ramadan Menu. Pre-planned menus will help you focus on more important tasks. Keep the menu as simple as possible, as it is a Sunnah to do so.
  • Adequate Eating Habits. Do not consume too much fried food, as it tends to lower your energy level.
  • Iftar Parties. If you invite people for Iftar, avoid mixed gatherings and extravagance.
  • Eid Shopping. Ramadan is a golden month for attaining Khair for our Akhirah, not for grabbing the best bargains at shopping malls. Do not lose this opportunity and focus on satisfying your Nafs instead. Complete your shopping before Ramadan.
  • Daily Checklist. Prepare a daily checklist of ‘things to do’ for the next day. This way, you will not be preoccupied with thoughts of mundane tasks and will be able to focus on your worship.
  • Supererogatory Acts. Form the habit of performing voluntary acts (prayers, fasts, charity, etc.) after your obligatory worship, in order to earn extra rewards.

Abu Hurayrah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah said: My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties (obligatory acts) I have enjoined upon him. My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works, such that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask (something) of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (Bukhari)

  • Daily Dhikr. Set your practice of the morning and evening Adhkar two weeks before Ramadan. Try to keep your tongue moist with Dhikr, for example: Astaghfirullah, Subhan Allah, Alhumdulillah, Subhan Allah e Wabihamdihi, while doing routine things like cooking and cleaning. This way your ordinary tasks will turn into acts of worship, Insha’Allah.
  • Duas before Fajr. A month before Ramadan, try to get up just ten to fifteen minutes before Fajr. This is that part of the night when Allah (swt) descends to the lowest heaven and accepts the Duas of His slaves. How can we miss such an opportunity, such an honour?
  • Spiritual Boost. Assign a specific time during the day for listening to Quranic recitation or an Iman-boosting lecture to help you stay high-spirited throughout the busy day.
  • Lessons for Children. Invest at least thirty minutes in sharing Deen-related material with your children. Make the lesson interesting and interactive. For example, read a story from the Quran or stories of the prophets; tell them a Hadeeth and try to act on it with them; switch on a short talk by a scholar, listen to it with them and discuss what you have learned.
  • Sharing Blessings. Arrange your cupboards a month before Ramadan and separate the items that you have not used for over six to ten months. Neatly sort and stack them in boxes to give away in charity.
  • A few months before Ramadan, get your children to help you make a little charity box, so that they can learn the importance of Sadaqah and start collecting money in it. When you go for your pre-Ramadan Eid shopping, buy a few gifts for the poor and wrap them nicely to give them out a day or two before Eid. Charity expiates sins and its virtues increase in this blessed month.

Ramadan offers excellent opportunities for reaping the utmost Khair (goodness). Imagine if you were told about a clearance sale at the best mall in town; wouldn’t you want to grab every valuable item in your reach? Definitely! Then why should we waste this opportunity to attain the pleasure of the One Who loves us beyond our perception?

May Allah (swt) help us make the most of our life, until we meet Him in Jannat-al-Firdaus, Ameen.

 

Maintaining Productivity while not Praying

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Being a Muslim means submitting to Allah’s (swt) laws, as He chose them to be. Some women tend to go into depression as their monthly cycles start or when postnatal bleeding begins. Not being able to pray or fast, they think there is nothing they can do to get closer to Allah (swt) and a sense of spiritual deprivation creeps in.

But what if we change our thinking? What if we accept it as Allah’s (swt) decree? If this is part of Allah’s (swt) plan, then it must be beneficial for us. He would not be pleased by our complaining, would He?

Monthly cycles and postnatal bleeding indicate that our bodies are working exactly the way nature intended them to. It shows that we are normal, and good health is a blessing we should not underestimate. Reflect on the following Ayah from the Quran: “…and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah Knows but you do not know.” (Al-Baqarah 2:216)

Having accepted the inconvenience as part of Allah’s (swt) decree, let us now shift our attention to the ways we can make this time productive.

  1. Permissible Acts of Worship

Only Salah and fasting is not allowed. You can still do a lot of other Ibadah that will take care of your spiritual needs.

  1. Dhikr

Let us begin with the lightest deed. The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever says: ‘Subhan-Allahi wa Bihamdi’ (How far from imperfections Allah is, and I praise Him) a hundred times during the day, his sins are wiped away, even if they are like the foam of the sea.” (Bukhari)

This neither takes much time, nor requires a state of ritual purity. Yet, the reward is amazing and keeps you connected to Allah (swt). There are several other similar short words of remembrance that do not require opening the Quran. Some other examples are: ‘Subhan Allah’ and ‘La Illaha Illa Allah’. What about Istighfar? We are always in need of seeking forgiveness from Allah (swt), aren’t we?

You can also recite the daily morning and evening supplications. If you do not know these Duas, this might be the time to memorize them.

  1. Listening to the Quran

While there is a disagreement over whether or not it is allowed to touch the Quran during menstruation, you can certainly listen to the recitation on a CD, cell phone or online. If you are trying to beautify your recitation, Allah (swt) has provided you with the time to focus on it now.

  1. Tahajjud

Performing Tahajjud Salah is not the only way to get your Duas answered or to seek nearness to Allah (swt). If you are awake at this hour but cannot pray, get up, make Wudhu and just sit and talk to Allah (swt). Talk to Him like you would at the end of prayer. Why miss out on this splendid opportunity? He listens when you call upon Him.

  1. Voluntary Charity

Invest the time you save on Salah and fasting by focusing on Sadaqah (voluntary charity). Is there any relative of yours that needs assistance? Maybe it’s a neighbour, an orphan child, or another needy person? Find out and be of assistance to them in whatever way you can. Charity is not limited to financial assistance only. For example, some women volunteer to babysit for other sisters to allow them some free time to focus on their Fard (obligatory) worship.

  1. Acquiring Knowledge

Islam lays great emphasis upon acquiring beneficial knowledge. This is evident by the numerous Duas that the Prophet (sa) taught us. In the Quran, knowledgeable people have been addressed as Ulul-Albab, meaning ‘the people of intellect’ or ‘people of understanding’. They are distinguished from those who live their lives mindlessly and deny the signs of Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) says: “Shall he, then, who knows that what has been revealed unto you (O Muhammad (sa)) from your Lord is the truth, be like him who is blind? But it is only the men of understanding that pay heed.” (Ar-Rad 13:19)

Sisters, utilize this time for gaining knowledge. We will not identify reminders unless we have the wisdom to understand them. Read Islamic literature. Read about the life of the Prophet (sa), his companions, and those after them.

  1. Attending Religious Gatherings and Lectures

Umm Atiya narrates: “We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and veiled women in the religious gatherings and invocation of Muslims on the two Eid festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from their Musalla (praying area).” (Bukhari)

By attending religious gatherings or lectures, you will not only gain knowledge but also boost your Iman. Moreover, when the angels will be making entries in their journals, regarding who strove in the cause of Allah (swt), your name will also be added to that list. Isn’t it a ‘win-win’ situation?

You could have been sitting in front of the television and catching up on the latest drama episode but you chose to give this time to Allah (swt).

  1. Other Activities
  1. Cooking

For you as daughters, wives, or mothers, family is your first priority. One of the requests that men in our lives have is nicely cooked food. It does not mean you should not cook otherwise, but now you can try out that special recipe, which you have been setting aside due to shortage of time. Cook simple but nutritious meals for your family. However, avoid excess. Control your budget, because we are answerable for our wealth on the Day of Judgement. If Allah (swt) has given you beyond your needs, spend on those who are less privileged. It is their right upon you. Somebody might be starving to death while you are preparing expensive gourmet to satisfy your Nafs.

  1. Shopping

Have you been thinking of buying some household items but were held back by the long, strenuous hours in the shopping malls? Check that off your to-do-list now. Use this time to do those important or not-so-important tasks of the worldly life. Why give up some time from your worship, when Allah (swt) gives an opportunity to do so in another way? However, always recite the Dua prescribed to us by the Prophet (sa) before entering the market. This will protect us from over-indulgence and wastefulness, Insha’Allah!

These are only some of the ways for making your time productive. Do not be emotionally stressed by this natural phase of life. It was decreed by Allah (swt).

When we understand the Hikmah (wisdom) behind Allah’s (swt) plans, our perspective changes; we become more internally content and at ease. Moreover, it allows us to submit willingly and practice our Deen confidently. Which of Allah’s (swt) favours can we deny?

May Allah (swt) bless us with the Hikmah to make the most of our Ramadan. Ameen.

 

In Focus: The Blessings of Ramadan

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Fasting in the month of Ramadan has been enjoined for all mankind in the Quran. We fast because it is an act of devotion and faith and because it is beneficial for our bodies and minds. As we bid farewell to Ramadan, there are also other blessings from Allah worth remembering and reflecting over them may help us be grateful to Allah for making us experience Ramadan this year, plan for the year ahead, and of course, ponder over how to make it even better next year.

The blessing of health

This year, fasting has not been not easy, especially during the hot summer months, and we have all experienced fatigue and discomfort at some point.  However, fasting has had a positive impact on our health, and we should be grateful to Allah to be included among those who have been able to fast. Good health is a blessing that we often tend to forget until we are afflicted with some ailment. This year, instead of complaining about aches and weaknesses as a result of fasting, we should simply say Alhumdulillah, and be grateful that Allah gave us the ability to fast along with good health that we enjoy daily without realizing its importance.

The blessing of family

Ramadan has many joys and one of its delights has been to share it with your family and friends. Fasting is a solitary act of devotion, but together we share the experience and we take pleasure and comfort from each other’s company. The feeling of hunger and physical stress may put us on edge, but fasting tests our patience, self-restraint and control of anger. Keeping in mind that the presence of our loved ones – our parents, spouses, children, siblings, other relatives and friends in our lives – is an Amanah from Allah should help us be more patient towards their shortcomings, act with more love and respect, and be grateful to Allah for their being there, for the days to come. Just imagine a Ramadan with one of your loved ones missing…

The blessing of comfortable homes

Ramadan in the summer months along with tests like loadshedding compel us to lose patience at times. Electricity, gas, clean water running from the tap – we take it all for granted and think our lives would be impossible without these conveniences. Fasting in a cosy, air-conditioned house is certainly easier than fasting in a mud hut without running water not to mention other comforts. If you have been without electricity this Ramadan and felt the brunt of it, let it be a reminder that it is another blessing from Allah to enjoy living in a comfortable house with modern amenities and that not all members of our Ummah are so lucky. Just as we empathize through fasting with those who suffer from hunger, we can show compassion with those living in less fortunate conditions by exercising patience and contentment and being grateful to Allah for what we have.

The blessing of literacy

One of the most memorable events of Ramadan is the revelation of the first verse of the Quran: “Read! In the Name of your Lord who has created (all that exists).” (Al-Alaq 96:1) The ability to read and write is a blessing we take for granted, forgetting that many miss the chance to acquire these essential skills. We forget how privileged we are and we forget to make best use of our advantages. For many of us, the Ramadan experience is not complete without daily recitation of the Quran. It is the best habit worth continuing throughout the year, as incorporating the Quran into our everyday life is sure to enrich it.

Today is an odd night in the last ten days of Ramadan – there is another one to come, Insha’Allah. We search for Laylat-ul-Qadr which is indeed the night on which the Quran was revealed. Let us contemplate over this blessing of Allah to guide humankind to the straight path.

May Allah (swt) enable us to remain thankful and patient, make the most of this Ramadan and continue our best practices of the Deen throughout the year. Ameen!

7 Practical Tips for Praying Qiyam al-Layl

salatBy Muhammad Nasir ad-Deen al-Albani and Shaykh Salih al-Munajjad

1. Ikhlas (Sincerity) – the key to Allah’s Help and Blessings

Help of Allah is needed to accomplish and achieve success in all our affairs. And Allah only helps those who are sincere in their hearts. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “If you are truthful with Allah, then Allah will deliver to you what you wish for.” (An-Nasai and al-Hakim) Therefore, one should have a sincere intention to pray Qiyam al-Layl; seek the Pleasure of Allah Alone and avoid the desire of praise or fame. Allah says: “And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone…” (Al-Bayyinah 98:5)

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said: “The degree to which a person is helped and aided by Allah depends on the degree of his intention, drive, aim and hopes. Help from Allah comes to people in proportion to their drive, intention, hopes and fears, and failure comes to them in like manner.”

2. Knowing the Virtues of Qiyam al-Layl

Knowing the virtues and rewards of performing worship produces willingness and desire to perform the worship. We have previously mentioned numerous virtues of regularly praying Qiyam al-Layl, here we mention the excellence of praying Qiyam al-Layl particularly in the great month of Ramadan. Abu Hurayrah (rta) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) encouraged the people, without making it an absolute command, to perform Qiyam during Ramadan. He used to say: “Whoever stands (in Qiyam) in Ramadan out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward), all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Muslim)

3. Taking a nap in the daytime

Taking a nap before or after Dhuhr Salah will dismiss the stress and thus, enable one to get up in the night and stand in front of his Lord. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen (Satans) do not take naps.” (at-Tabarani)

4. Sleeping according to the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (sa)

(a) Sleep early: Sleeping early is a healthy habit and it was the practice of Allah’s Messenger (sa) to sleep directly after performing the Isha prayer. Abu Barzah al-Aslami (rta) said that the Prophet (sa) used to prefer to delay Isha, and he did not like to sleep before it or talk after it.” (Bukhari)

(b) Sleep in a state of Taharah (purity): Ibn Abbas (rta) reported that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Purify these bodies and Allah will purify you, for there is no slave who goes to sleep in a state of purity but an angel spends the night with him, and every time he turns over, [the angel] says, ‘O Allah! Forgive Your slave, for he went to bed in a state of purity.’” (at-Tabarani)

(c) Choose a suitable bed: Excessive luxurious or soft bed provokes laziness and makes one sleep more and become negligent. A’ishah (rta) narrates that the pillow of the Prophet (sa) on which he slept at night was made of leather stuffed with palm fibres.” (Abu Dawood and Ahmad)

Once Umar Ibn al-Khattab (rta) entered upon the Messenger of Allah (sa) when he was lying on a mat of palm fibres that had left marks on his side. Umar (rta) said: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you not get something more comfortable than this?” He (sa) said: “What do I have to do with this world? My relationship with this world is like that of a traveller on a hot summer’s day, who seeks shade under a tree for an hour, then moves on.” (Ahmad and al-Hakim)

(d) Cleaning the bed and lying on the right side: Abu Hurayrah (rta) reported: “The Prophet (sa) said: “When any one of you goes to bed, let him clear his bed by hitting it with his garment, for he does not know what may have come onto it. Then let him lie down on his right side…” (Bukhari and Muslim)

(e) Reciting the Adhkar (supplications) mentioned in the Sunnah before sleeping

There are a number of Adhkar prescribed in the Sunnah before going to bed; amongst them are reciting the last verses of Soorah al-Baqarah, reciting Soorah al-Falaq and Soorah an-Nas and Soorah Ikhlas; blow in the palms and wipe as much of the body possible, starting from the head, face and then the front of the body doing it three times. (Bukhari and Muslim)

5. Avoid too much food and drink

Too much food or drink is one of the main obstacles that make one lazy and negligent of Qiyam al-Layl. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to have a few mouthfuls to give him the strength he needs. If he has to fill his stomach, then let him leave one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air.” (at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

6. Striving against oneself

Striving against oneself to get up and pray and suppressing one’s desires bring about Allah’s help and His Pleasure for the slave. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And as for those who strive hard in Our Cause, We will surely guide them to Our Paths. And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinoon (good-doers).” (Al-Ankabut 29: 69)

The Prophet (sa) said: “The Mujahid (one who strives in way of Allah) is the one who strives against his own self for the sake of Allah.” (Reported by at-Tirmidhi)

7. Rebuking one’s self for not praying Qiyam al-Layl

Qiyam al-Layl is a great blessing from Allah, the Exalted, and He has placed in it numerous spiritual benefits and rewards for the believer. Therefore, one should rebuke one’s self, if he misses this great opportunity of achieving rewards and Pleasure of Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” (Al-Hashr 59:18)

Adapted from As-Sunnah Islamic Newsletter Issue 15

 

Ramadan – A Time to Improve and Sustain Yourself

RamadanAbdul Azeez Qari invites all Muslims to make the most of the blessings of Ramadan

The Prophet (sa) used to give glad tidings to his companions, upon the arrival of this month. Allah made it a time of action, when believers should strive for four things: fasting, Quran, worship, and righteous deeds. These are the most obvious gifts of Ramadan.

Why does evil diminish in Ramadan?

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Heaven (in another narration – the gates of Paradise) are opened, the gates of the Hellfire are sealed, and the Shayateen (devils) are chained” (Bukhari and Muslim)

He (sa) also said: “On the first night of Ramadan, the Shayateen and the leaders of the Jinn are chained.” (Ibn Majah)

This means that during Ramadan, their ability to tempt people diminishes. Evil and disobedience decrease, because, although the causes of disobedience are many, the greatest factor of all is the whispers of Satan. However, narrations prove that during this month only the leaders of the Shayateen are chained. This is why the evil does not come to a complete halt.

There also are many other sources for evil, one of them being the human soul, which is naturally inclined towards evil. Human devils are another reason for immorality in addition to man’s own lusts and desires. Yet another reason is that the remaining devils, which do not get chained, continue to misguide people. Nevertheless, all of these sources of evil have a lesser effect on the fasting people, because fasting bestows upon them a certain blessing.

What are the mercies of Allah during Ramadan?

Allah ordained fasting during this month, whereby people refrain from food, drink, and conjugal relations from dawn until sunset. When the sun sets, a fasting person can eat, drink, and have marital relations. The nations that came before us were not allowed to touch their spouses even at night. Likewise, if a person from them fell asleep before he had the chance to eat or drink, he was restricted from food and drink until the end of the next day.

However, Allah has made it easy for this nation. He says: “…Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (wants) for you to complete the period and to magnify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful” (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

One of such signs of ease is that an ill person and a traveller can break their fasts and make them up at a later time after Ramadan. Also, the elderly who cannot bear fasting, as well as the people, who have no hope for a cure (i.e., the chronically ill), instead of fasting, can feed the needy – they do not have to make up their missed fasts. In these mentioned cases, the believers should make use of the permission Allah has furnished for them, because He likes, when people take heed of the mercy He has endowed.

O, Muslims! Know that fasting is a protection from wrongdoing. This month is an opportunity for you to purify yourselves. During Ramadan, a Muslim has fewer burdens, as his desires are diminished and he acquires more goodness from being involved in fasting. One can rid himself of bad habits, such as overdoing matters, which are lawful – overeating, talking too much, and being over indulgent in sexual relations with ones spouse. We must stop the awful habit of going to extremes in fulfilling these desires.

What about hypocrites during Ramadan?

Some people fail to understand the reality of fasting. They spend their mornings hungry, while their evenings are full of sin. They spend the whole night watching television with their families, eating all night long to make up for the food they have missed while fasting. Therefore, fasting means no more to such people, but a change in the times of eating.

A Hadeeth states: “A man by the name of Abu Ghazwan came to visit the Prophet (sa). This was before Abu Ghazwan had become Muslim. The Prophet (sa) was the most generous of all people. He milked seven sheep for him, so the man drank all of the milk. Then the Prophet (sa) said to him: ‘Is it not time for you to become a Muslim?’ He replied, ‘Yes’ and became a Muslim. The Prophet (sa) then stroked his chest (while supplicating for him). The next day, the Prophet (sa) milked only one sheep for him, but Abu Ghazwan, was not able to drink all of the milk. So, the Prophet (sa) asked: ‘What is the matter, Abu Ghazwan?’ He, responded: ‘I swear by the One Who sent you as a Prophet, I have had enough.’ So the Prophet (sa) said: ‘Last night you had seven stomachs, while you were a disbeliever, and today you have only one stomach’ (At-Tabarani)

A believer can eat less and control his desires more, since he does not eat to enjoy nor to fulfil a desire, but rather to stop hunger and become stronger, so that he can worship Allah. The disbeliever, however, who does not believe in the Day-to-come, eats with a strong desire and the lust of animals, as Allah describes him in the Qur’an, saying that which means:

“…But those who disbelieve enjoy themselves and eat as grazing livestock eat, and the Fire will be a residence for them.” (Muhammad 47:12)

What about the marketing strategy for MORE?

One type of cooked food is enough; let us not be like the Children of Israel, who would not settle for only one kind of food. O, people, who observe fasting! When you put these different types of foods on the table in front of you, before you begin to eat, remember that the Prophet (sa) would remain without lighting a fire in his house (i.e., without cooking) for one or even two months: “He and his family only ate dates and drank water” (Bukhari)

This was not because he could not have obtained it. It was merely because he stayed away from worldly pleasures, living a simple life and aiming to draw ever closer to Allah. Even though Allah offered him control of the treasures of the earth, the Prophet (sa) chose to live in poor conditions, eating as a slave eats, sitting as a slave sits. He used to say: “O Allah! Let me live as a Miskeen (humble servant) and resurrect me with the Masakeen (humble)” (Tirmidhi & Baihaqi)

How does Allah reward fasting?

Allah says as reported in a Hadeeth Qudsi: “He left eating and drinking and his desires for My sake. Fasting is for Me and I give reward for it – one blessing (for fasting) is multiplied ten times.” (Bukhari)

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.

Ramadan – Scriptural vs. Cultural

ramadan

How does Islam manifest itself in Ramadan today? We witness a struggle between two forces – the traditional version or the cultural baggage versus Ramadan as it was brought and enforced by Muhammad (sa).

Abu Umamah (rta) has reported: “A man came to the Messenger (sa) and asked him to advise the man about something that would lead him to Paradise. The Prophet (sa) instructed him to fast.” (An-Nasai) It is generally misunderstood that fasting begins and ends with Ramadan. In the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah, fasting was perennial.

According to the scriptural perspective, the greatest challenge of the fast is not to give up food, drink or sexual relations during the daylight hours. Rather, it is a means to train the human will. When we give up the Halal (permissible) for a month to seek the pleasure of Allah (swt), it should then become possible for us to give up Haram (forbidden) for the remaining eleven months of the year.

Hence, the simplest definition of an acceptable fast would be to do what Allah (swt) loves and to forsake what Allah (swt) hates.

How much of tradition can a believer incorporate in his fast without marring Ramadan’s original essence?

A customary element, which has emerged, is that Ramadan is the month of feasting. Actually, fasting and feasting are two different worlds. During Ramadan, Muslim around the world indulge in eating as if there will be no tomorrow, whether that later results in cholesterol issues, diabetes, acidity, etc.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported ten years ago that there were more obese people recorded in human history than starving people. The three meals an average American partakes in one day is equivalent to what 25 poor individuals eat in one day in certain African and South Asian countries.

This is an extreme way to look at life; if life is not pleasant or enjoyable, it is not worth living. For this very reason, we hear people committing suicide or wishing they could end their lives if they contract a terminal illness. We even hear of doctor-death going around, facilitating death for these patients as they find no joy in life. This mindset of over-indulgence and feasting destroys the human will. Fasting, on the other hand, disciplines it.

Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “They are like cattle, nay even more astray…” (Al-A’raf, 7:179)

We need to understand that Allah (swt) has created angels with intellect and no desires. He has created animals with desires and no intellect. Human beings are the only creation with intellect and desires. But if humans give up their intellect and fall for desires, they start to behave like animals. Animals can’t fast. They only know how to feast. Similarly, when humans give up their desires and only work with their intellect, they become angelic.

It is a well known Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) that “the worse container a human can fill is his stomach.” (Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

On another occasion, he mentioned: “We should eat one-third food, drink one-third water and leave one-third room for air/breathing.” (Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

During Ramadan, our test begins at Sahoor (pre-dawn meal) and determines whether we lay a foundation of feasting or fasting. If we have eaten to the brim, our system will take nearly ten hours to digest all that. By the time the digestive system has taken care of the Sahoor, we are ready for Iftaar (fast-breaking meal), when we reload our stomachs. We travel from one excessive point to the other. According to research, the highest number of cases of digestive disorders stream into the emergency wards during Ramadan.

Where does the fault lie? Is it in traditions such as piling up a guest’s plate even though he categorically refuses anymore, and thinking that it is a Sunnah to over-feed your guests? Or, do we think that over-consumption of food is a means of expressing gratitude to the Lord? How do we sift the real Islam from the cultural one?

If we do not carry authentic knowledge, we automatically start depending on traditions. Traditions, at times, lead us to innovations. And all innovations will end up in Hellfire. So, if fasting, which is meant to be our vehicle to Paradise, is not taking us there, where are we headed?

We have a choice. If we didn’t, Allah (swt) would have removed this responsibility from us. Allah (swt) never burdens any soul beyond their capacity.

We should commit and change our Ramadan pattern. Begin by making an intention to fast in the night before the dawn. One who does not make an intention has no fast. This helps us reflect upon the reason of the meal, which is not to celebrate. It will remind us that we are now boarding the vehicle that will take us to Paradise. How did the Prophet (sa) drive this vehicle? We will be encouraged to study the Sunnah. We will be living the life of Ihsan – a life that is conscious of Allah (swt).

An official statement or Dua is not necessary. However, it is important that we focus and prioritize our mind on the fast and plan that this is not going to be a feast; rather, it will be a fast. We will experience hunger pangs during the day. How else will we appreciate the blessings of Allah (swt) and feel the pain of the destitute? So, pause for a moment to check your intention. Then take a light Sahoor such as olives, egg, brown bread, etc. Pray Fajr in congregation.

The second part of the test will be at the time of Iftar. Will we board that cultural feasting train that we can’t control and head down the misguided path? Or, are we going to make Dua, eat a few dates, drink water, pray Maghrib in congregation, and then take a moderate meal?

The Prophet (sa) said that Allah (swt) says: “Every act of Adam’s descendants is for themselves, except fasting. It is meant for Me alone, and I alone will give the reward for it.” (Sahih Muslim)

Place your fast on the prophetic scale. What and how much did he eat? Did he prevent over-indulgence? Did he ever advise us to fast for 30 days and end up gaining 5 kg at the end of Ramadan? Muslims were meant to be a balanced nation with moderate behaviour. We were warned not to fall victim to extremism, like the People of the Book. Feasting is extremism.

May Allah (swt) help us to fast the way He has prescribed. Ameen.

This article is based on a lectureshop organized by “LiveDeen” in 2011. It has been transcribed for Hiba by Rana Rais Khan.

Top Five Ways to Prepare for Laylat-ul-Qadr

laylat ul-qadr

The Night of Power and Destiny – Laylat-ul-Qadr – is almost here. We all know that worship done in this night is better than that done in a thousand months! Can we think of any other night or day in our lives that could be more special than this one night? Yet, it is our birthdays and anniversaries, the hyped up mother’s and father’s days that take up all our attention and tireless planning! And here is Laylat-ul-Qadr, the perfection of all nights, and what is it that we do?

The righteous predecessors would prepare for the last nights of Ramadan and for Laylat-ul-Qadr. Here are the top five things we can also do in order to prepare for the Night of Destiny:

1. Clean up – on the outside

Take a Ghusl and make sure you are completely clean. According to Ibn Jareer, the righteous predecessors “used to prefer Ghusl every night of the last ten nights, and an-Nakha’i used to make Ghusl every night of the last ten nights. Some of them would make Ghusl and get perfumed on the nights when it was most hoped to be Laylat-ul-Qadr.”

2. Put on your best perfume

Perfume yourself! It is time to meet the Lord and the King of the Worlds in prayer – nothing should stop you from looking and smelling your best. Some of the righteous predecessors would even perfume the Masajid on the nights they hoped would be Laylat-ul-Qadr. We can even do this in our homes. (A note of caution for the ladies: If you are planning to go out to the Masjid or a congregation for Taraweeh, then do not perfume yourself. However, there is no reason you can’t look your best, while avoiding anything Haram.)

3. Take out your best dress

Tamim ad-Dari (rta) had a garment he had bought for 1000 dirhams, which he would only wear on the night which he hoped would be the Laylat-ul-Qadr. We don’t need to spend beyond our means to buy expensive clothes for this night, but if you have a dress you’ve been saving for a special occasion or a dress that you absolutely love, this is the night to wear it! Who has more right to your beauty than the very Creator, Who gave you this perfect form?

4. Clean up – on the inside too

Aisha (rta) asked the Prophet (sa): “O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?” He replied: “Say: ‘O Allah, You are the One, Who pardons greatly and loves to pardon, so pardon me.’” (Ahmad, Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

It’s time not only to be our cleanest and best on the outside, but also on the inside! Ask Allah’s (swt) forgiveness for all your wrongdoings – intentional or unintentional. Let go of all your grudges! Forgive those who have hurt you, and hope for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness in return!

5. Make the best of this blessed opportunity

It sounds almost unbelievable that one night could be equal to one thousand months! But this is Allah (swt), our Lord, promising us! He is giving us an unparalleled gift on this special night, and we should make the best of it. Spend this night in Qiyam (standing in prayer) and beg Him for forgiveness. Make a list of what you want in this world and the next and ask Him for everything this night.

Remember, Laylat-ul-Qadr is THE event of the year! Don’t miss it!

Five Easy Habits to Pick up this Ramadan

July 11- 5 easy habits to pick up this ramadan

By Ruhaifa Samir

With Shaytan locked up for the month of Ramadan, we all find it easier to do good deeds compared to other months around the year. We all do extra Ibadah in the form of reciting the Quran, doing extra Nawafil, performing our prayers on time, etc.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed that amputees took, on average, twenty-one days to adjust to the loss of a limb. From further research, he established that people take twenty-one days to adjust to major life changes and form habits. We engage ourselves in productive activities throughout Ramadan for thirty days, by the end of which we perform extra Ibadah almost habitually! So why not consciously continue them, so that these habits last us not only during Ramadan but for our whole lives?

Here are some easy habits that you can pick up this Ramadan:

Block a slot for the Quran every day

Choose a time during the day, when you find it easiest to sit and recite the Quran and ponder over its meaning. For some, it might be before Fajr and for others, after Maghrib. Choose a time that best fits your schedule and block it for the Quran for the rest of the year.

Plan life around your Salah, not the other way round

Allah (swt) has promised great rewards for those who perform their Salah in their earliest times. Most of us get into the habit of praying Salah on time during Ramadan (especially Fajr and Maghrib). Continue the trend. Set your biological clock to Salah time and plan all other things you need to do around it!

Choose three to five goals every month

A Muslim must constantly strive to better himself. Choose three to five goals to achieve this Ramadan and for every subsequent month afterwards, so that by the time Ramadan rolls around again, you are a stronger, better Muslim. Use these goals to get rid of some of your bad habits, such as procrastination, anger, gossiping, etc.

Use the time before and after Fajr

We all diligently wake up for Fajr during Ramadan; in fact, some of us wake up with enough time to perform Tahajjud as well. By the end of Ramadan, our bodies are wired to wake up early. Don’t let Shaytan dissuade you from continuing this once he is set free at the end of Ramadan. Remember, Allah (swt) waits for us to invoke Him for our needs before Fajr; He has put great blessings and mercy in the time after it. Make it a habit to use this time wisely after Ramadan as well.

Continue fasting after Ramadan
Our bodies get used to fasting during Ramadan, and it gets easier as the month progresses. Don’t let go of this habit. The Prophet (sa) used to fast every Monday and Thursday, and on the 13th, 14th and 15th of every Islamic month. Other special fasts include those of the six days in Shawwal, 9th and 10th of Muharram, and on Yaum-e-Arafa (the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah). Remember, the gate of Ar-Rayyan in Jannah is reserved for those who fast.

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.