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Jul 31, 2013

Ways to Maximise Ajar in the Last 10 Days

By M


Bismillah


So the search by many for Laylatul Qadr ensues during the last ten nights, primarily during the odd ones.

So how do we maximise on this opportunity?

· The most beautiful way to start is with intention. This may be the easiest and the hardest endeavour.

Sincerity. Maximum benefit is derived when the deeds lie in the nest of truth and sincerity.

I recently heard this statement: ‘Islam is a gift’. It’s never too late to ask ourselves “Do we really believe this?” and “How do we align ourselves with this belief?”

When we get a gift, should we say thank you and appreciate that it was truly given with love and respect and derive total use of it to benefit our daily lives?

It’s really okay to ask ourselves these questions on many occasions throughout our lives.

· We should also try to act out of love, in the actions we choose to do.

· Try to complete the Quran.
This is advice to me as it is to everyone who reads this: approach the text with love, and read to understand and allow it to transform us internally, rather than trying to get through the chapter. We should all strive to complete the Quran, and to do so with a desire to understand.

· Wake up for Suhoor. Get the blessing from it. It’s best to partake in it close to the time of fasting. So as challenging as it might be in the last nights, push yourself to wake up.

· Give up the negativity that holds you back.
An example of this may be false speech and evil actions. An interesting hadith :

Abu Hurairah (Allah is pleased with him) narrated: The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink. (that is his fast is not accepted by Allah)". (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 31, Hadith no. 127)

We’re all human, so we all falter. How about giving ourselves a chance to get our blessings by putting aside the actions that hold us back?

· Practice Sunnah that are easy for you to perform.
Start small with something that can be done consistently.
Try to do something that you know you will continue to do after Ramadan, after all Ramadan is a period of training for the rest of the year. Maybe we should try.

· Try to give charity, in time and money. Spend time doing something that benefits your parents, your loved ones, your family, your friends, your community, and your neighbours. Start with your parents, because all deeds fall short if one is not good to ones parents.

· Start small. We have to start with ourselves, before we can change the world. So try look internally, look at what needs to be changed, or what may need to be accentuated in terms of our good conduct.

· Increase Istighfaar. There is no amount of ill conduct that cannot be forgiven by Allah, so just ask.

· Ask Allah for Guidance and anything else you want. Make Du’aa.

· And say thank you. Try increasing your attitude of gratitude by thanking Allah.

· Most of all, be honest, and adopt the habit of speaking in truth. For there is one thing that will lead to goodness and that is truth. Seek it, speak it, be it. Love it. Submit to it. Let’s try.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)

Jul 30, 2013

Ramadan the Time for Resolutions and Change

By Yasmin Ahmed            

Bismillah

Often in Western society we talk about resolutions during the New Year, we set fitness goals, join the gym etc. but by the end of January our resolution soon dwindles and then we forget about this until the following year and start with full force again. Yet Resolutions are something that are made throughout the year by many successful people and organizations. It is through resolutions and goal setting one can achieve goals and ambitions, and this is the same with our spiritual goals.

Ramadan is one such special month where we can really make a difference and set some really important and even life changing goals. There are many benefits in Ramadan, Abu Huraira radiAllahu anhu narrates:

Allah's Apostle said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained." [Bukhari] [i]

As the devils are locked in this month it is less of a battle to develop habits which at other times of the year you would be struggling to maintain, especially those religious – spiritual goals, such as refraining from gossiping, backbiting etc.

To really benefit from the blessings of Ramadan one needs to understand, some of the blessings of the month (some of which I have already mentioned).

1. Gates of heaven are opened
2. Gates of hell are closed
3. Devils are locked up
4. The holy Quran was first revealed in this month
5. Sawm - Fasting in Ramadan
6. Zakah – Giving a certain percentage of wealth to the needy
7. Night of Power
8. More opportunity for duaas to be answered
9. Eid ul Fitr

Note : Two of the pillars of Islam take place in Ramadan.

Also do not forget most if not all of the Muslim community is striving for the same goal during this blessed month.

The thirty days of Ramadan appear long thinking about it, yet when the month actually starts it is actually a month that flies away with such speed, that before you know it you are actually mourning the eventuality of the month (which in itself is evidence of just how magical Ramadan is).

To attain utmost benefit from such a spiritual and positively charged month we must plan how to spend Ramadan, otherwise we will be left on the 29th / 30th night of Ramadan, wishing we had made the effort. Here are a few suggestions on how to prepare for this miraculous month.

Set the scene 
How we approach Ramadan will set the scene for Ramadan. If we approach Ramadan as we approach any other month then that is exactly what it will be for us. We will not benefit from the spirituality and enlightenment and instead will see the fasting, Suhoor, and Taraweeh as a hindrance.

It is important to approach Ramadan with open arms, just as you meet a welcome guest. Mentally prepare yourself to enjoy every moment of this blessed month and you will. Open your heart to receive the benefits of this month and InshaAllah you will. If you want this Ramadan to be extra special then prepare to make it special.

Start Planning / Set Goals  
Think about what you would like to achieve this Ramadan.

How are you going to make Ramadan more spiritual? Would you like to complete the Quran? Complete all the Salahs on time? Maybe even pray all 20 rakahs of Taraweeh? You may want to start really concentrating in your salah? Etc.

What about your children? How are you going to make Ramadan special for them? You might want to spend more time with them. Organise Ramadan activities etc.

Think about your past Ramadan’s - what have you enjoyed about them? What have you regretted? For example it might be that you over indulge at Iftari time and might want to control your eating. You might cook rich fatty foods and this time you might want to eat healthily. You may have been going to bed late and struggle with waking up for suhoor in the past, and so this year you may want to pray Taraweeh and immediately go to bed so you can wake up etc. Whatever it is you want to achieve – Write it down!

Get Organised  
Once you have written your goals the next step is to get organised. If you are working full time and looking after your family you may need to think about how you are going to fit your goals into your schedule.

This Ramadan you might want to complete the Quran at least once, so you might decide to pray half to one chapter after suhoor before Fajr, and pray the next half as soon as you get in from work. You might even want to consider

…each part consists of twenty two pages. If one were to read four pages during the daily obligatory prayers, it would facilitate the completion of one part every day.

Abdul-Malik Mujahid p 43[ii]

You might decide this Ramadan you are not going to spend hours slaving over the kitchen stove and instead spend that time on ibadah, so you might want to cook less extravagant meals or prepare everything in advance and freeze it.

Also remember the last ten days of Ramadan they are very special with Itikaf, Night of Power and Eid, you might want to make the most of this time. Get your children’s clothes sorted sooner maybe even now so that in the final days you are not rushing around and start buying presents now.

How much time are you going to spend with your children every day? Will you be reading books? Making things? etc. Start researching and getting things together now. 

Get started
To achieve your Ramadan goals start to put your goals into practise now. This will help with tweaking your goals and help with ensuring they are realistic. Do not do everything all at once but stagger your goals, so you are more likely to put all your goals in to practise once Ramadan is here, for example, you might want to get into the habit of praying Isha and immediately going to bed, but if you are in the habit of watching TV before going to bed you might want to work on this for the first week. The following week you might want to start praying Tahujjud, so you can get into the practise for suhoor etc.

I have included a planning sheet of the points made above to help you get started, on it I have included a reward section for those of you who might need a bit more motivation to stay on track.

Click Here For Ramadan Planner

Finally please share how you have achieved your Ramadan goals in the past. Why not post your achievements and fears in the comments section so we can encourage each other to really achieve their goals this year, motivation is important in goal setting so come on lets help each other and make this Ramadan truly memorable.

Below I have included a list of websites that may help with your Ramadan planning.

http://www.happymuslimah.com/2008/08/eid-and-ramadan-planner_04.html
http://www.productivemuslim.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011_ProductiveRamadan-.pdf
http://ramadhanplanner.wordpress.com/
http://www.slideshare.net/ipping/ramadan-plan?src=related_normal&rel=1864408
http://soundvision.com/Info/ramadan/r.plan.asp
http://sunniforum.net/showthread.php?t=11366

References:
[i]http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/results.php5
[ii] Mujahid, Abdul-Malik (2003) Gems and Jewels – Wise Sayings, Interesting Events & Moral Lessons from the Islamic History: Darussalam

I'd love to hear your views on this topic.  Please post in the comments section below! :)

Jul 29, 2013

Thanking Allah for Blessing us with Ramadan

By Amina Edota

Bismillah

The date for my journey was drawing closer, yet I had not decided on the appropriate gifts for my cousin and her three children. I was very excited and mentally doing a countdown but knew I couldn’t travel without any gifts. It has been almost two years since I last saw them, so I wanted to get them something simple yet special; which they will love and find meaningful – a little token to show that I was thinking about them even across the miles.

On arrival, I was delighted to watch them opening their gifts with pleasure and even trying them out and feasting on their all-time favourite; chocolates. Alhamdulillah, their joy made it worth the effort in addition to praying that it pleases Allah and strengthens the ties of kinship.

Would you agree that gifts – no matter how small or inexpensive, proclaim that someone is thinking about you? And this can serve as an effective means of expressing love that transcends the boundaries of time and place; leaving behind a trail of warm feelings & memories to last for a while or even a lifetime.

Thinking further, why would that ‘someone’ chose you to give such a gift? Could it simply be out of a feeling of love or because you deserve it; therefore must be given one? Perhaps in many cases, it is more of a gesture born of kindness, thoughtfulness, care and love rather than that of being deserving.

As the recipient, what kind of feelings do you experience when receiving a gift, and afterwards that keeps you attached to it or the giver? This may easily stem from emotions such as love and feeling special/remembered rather than reasoning about the quality and quantity of the gift.

Most times, we try to choose gifts that the other person will appreciate and connect with meaningfully; and also something to elicit a favourable response rather than a dull one. What will come to mind easily when choosing a gift is the recipient’s age, interests, career, likes and other personal qualities. So while cards and chocolates would be suitable to people of different ages and interests, a toy car or cookery book would be meaningful to fewer people.

And what better gift than from someone who knows you thoroughly! Now imagine, who will you truly like to receive a gift from? And what is your dream gift?

You earn when you fast 

Neither cash nor gold 
But bounties from the Almighty 
Lasting to the hereafter 
A month among many others 
Yet so many blessings 
How many thanks can you give?
For this priceless gift of Ramadan 


Allah created us with knowledge of our needs and emotions. His love and mercy encompasses us in all phases of our life. His favours and bounties are limitless; with a promise of everlasting peace and happiness in the hereafter.

Amongst these favours, Allah offers us opportunities to repent and turn to Him through worship in various ways. One of such opportunities is the month of Ramadan, where we not only benefit spiritually but at all levels.

Is there any gift with all its accompanying blessings and mercy that is comparable to that of the month of Ramadan? A gift from the Creator to His creations, Master to His slaves, Beloved to His servant; a private yet communal form of worship.

Abu Huraira Allah be pleased with him reported that Allah’s Messenger peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said: Allah, the Exalted and Majestic said: Every act of the son of Adam is for him, except fasting. It is (exclusively) meant for Me and I (alone) will reward him for it. (Agreed Upon)

Ramadan is a month of compulsory fasting which goes beyond simply restraining from food and drink. Rather, it is a way of life affecting every Muslim holistically and at all levels within and beyond the month. It is truly a divine gift, eliciting waves of positive feelings – ultimately leading to consciousness of Allah and gratefulness to Him.

Now let us look closely at this gift. What do we expect to find? Any surprises?
We know that Ramadan is a month of…
- Qur’an
- Forgiveness & Mercy
- Patience
- Generosity
- Laylatul Qadr (Night of power) ~ better than a thousand months of worship

Wait…there is more. Yes! It is also a month of Seclusion (I’tikaf), Striving, Self reflection, Multiplication of good deeds, Answering of supplications and protection against hell-fire. Devils are locked up and doors of paradise opened. There is also the festival of Eid after 29 or 30 days of fasting; a prescribed celebration for breaking of the fast. What other gift can compare to this?

The Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) addressed his companions on the last day of Sha`ban, saying, "Oh people! A great month has come over you; a blessed month; a month in which is a night better than a thousand months; month in which Allah has made it compulsory upon you to fast by day, and voluntary to pray by night. Whoever draws nearer (to Allah) by performing any of the (optional) good deeds in (this month) shall receive the same reward as performing an obligatory deed at any other time, and whoever discharges an obligatory deed in (this month) shall receive the reward of performing seventy obligations at any other time. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Heaven. It is the month of charity, and a month in which a believer's sustenance is increased. Whoever gives food to a fasting person to break his fast shall have his sins forgiven, and he will be saved from the Fire of Hell, and he shall have the same reward as the fasting person, without his reward being diminished at all."  [Narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah]

Undeniably, these blessings affect us at all levels – whether it is spiritual, psychological, emotional, physical, social or worldly wise. How is that possible? Well it is! Whether it’s through the discipline and commitment in worship, change of habits, communal worship, doing extra good deeds or remembering worship is not just fun or routine but a way to success.

In what ways can we strive to enjoy this gift of Ramadan; utilise its blessings during the month and beyond? How can we show gratitude and be thankful in ways befitting the Majesty of the One who has blessed us with this gift? How can we take this gift with its fruits to the next level beyond this transient world, to the hereafter – our everlasting abode?

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (S) said : "The time between the five prayers, two consecutive Friday Prayers, and two consecutive Ramadans are expiations for all that has happened during that period, provided that one has avoided the grave (major) sins." [Muslim]

For all the wise, it would be good to reflect deeply about the enormity of this gift, knowing that it is one given out of mercy from the Most Merciful and love of the Most Loving each year. Or do you think you deserve such a gift by virtue of being a Muslim?

True gratitude would mean preparing to receive and utilise the gift so as to make it into a wise investment as the companions used to do; Acknowledging and appreciating its blessings, relating it to the One who has given it. It is also a form of submission in worship by having sincerity and seeking the pleasure of Allah alone.

The big goal should be to gain His love and rejoice knowing that you are very special to be blessed with such a priceless gift that will only lead to more blessings and joy in this world and the hereafter.

Or what price tag would you put on this gift of Ramadan?

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)

Jul 26, 2013

Importance of Intention


Bismillah 

Every book, article, lecture on self-help/improvement emphasises on the importance of making goals or intentions and trying to adhere to them. As this is the first step towards your achievement. Why is it so important after all? These formed goals gives us a sense of purpose, keeps us on a focused track and sense of accomplishment when we achieve it!

The practicality and beauty of Islam is it is in tune with the inherent nature and need of humans. So many people all over the world ask themselves this question “what is our purpose in this world?” The answer is a simple -  to worship the One and Only Allah! This purpose has a method called Islam and followers are called Muslims! We worship Allah and we do it in many forms. Praying, fasting, giving to charity, helping others – all comes under worshipping Allah.

Fasting is one type of worship which is done exclusively for Allah. Allah the Exalted and Majestic said:

Every act of the son of Adam is for exclusively for him except for fasting. It is (exclusively) meant for Me and I (alone) will reward it. [Muslim] 

We are promised of great rewards of Jannah when we strive to establish His Deen in our lives. Allah is so Kareem and Rahmaan that He rewards us just for making an intention for doing a good deed!

Ramadan is the spiritual self-improvement month appointed by Allah for all Muslims. In this month we all fast from dawn till dusk i.e. from Fajr to Maghrib. In this blessed month Allah’s mercy is showering upon His slaves day and night!

We have been given the honor of Ashraf-ul-Mukhloqaat (the best of all creatures).Yet we disgrace our status by wasting away our lives by living aimlessly. In Ramadan by Allah’s mercy we start our journey towards spiritual nourishment by fasting and reciting Quran, duaas and praying Taraweeh.

For me this was the usual beginning for my first Roza (fast). I wake up for suhoor, recite the duaa and then prayed Fajr. By reciting this duaa I intended to make an intention by tongue for fasting for that day. During the course of the whole month sometimes when I was rushing to finish my suhoor I forgot to recite this duaa. During the day I remember that I forgot to recite this duaa there is a rush of panic! Whether my fast will be accepted or not? When I researched about it I found it much to my surprise that making an intention by tongue is not a requirement at all!

Majority of ulema conclude that we do not have to make an intention EVERY day before Fajr. As fasting in Ramadan constitute as a continuous form of worship it does not need daily renewal. Only if there is a break in this continuous cycle for example a traveler came back from his travels or a woman after her periods. In these situations a renewal of an intention is necessary or the fasts will be considered void.

Addressing another misconception a lot of South Asians Muslims have that the above mentioned words are a “dua’a” for starting the fast in Ramadan. According to Sheikh Muqbil bin Hadee (rahimahullahu Ta’la) there are no specific words for intending to fast. Instead the intention is made in the heart and there is no need for verbal affirmations. On the other hand, there are Sahih (authentic) supplications when breaking the fast.

When we make honest intention to improve our spiritual well-being this Ramadan Allah will help us in achieving those goals. The key is to set realistic and achievable goals. We make intention and then lots of duaa that Allah helps us meet those goals - be it memorizing one verse, chapter or the whole Quran.

May Allah help us become better Muslims and soak up His blessings in this holy month of Ramadan.

Ameen!


I'd love to hear your views on intentions and their importance, in the comments section below :) 

Jul 25, 2013

Importance of Qiyam ul Layl in Ramadan

By Sabeen Mansoori

Bismillah

It is the blessed month of Ramadan. The scent of spirituality hangs in the air and the masajid are overflowing with people. There is a young woman who comes to the mosque every night to pray Taraweeh. She has a small baby with her who wails at the smallest provocation. The car seat is heavy but she dutifully lugs it to the masjid. Arms weary from cleaning, and cooking and carrying the baby all day she persists dreaming of a Tarweeh where she can stand in prayer and immerse herself in the soothing sounds of Allah’s majestic Words and earn His forgiveness. It rarely goes as planned. Usually the baby starts crying after a few rakaa’at and after some dirty looks from the aunties and scowls from the uncles, she is banished to the dreaded ‘children’s room’ where slippers fly through the air and rowdy children wrestle each other to the ground. As she wearily makes her way to the back room, she passes groups of people who she feels do not fully appreciate the value of the Qiyam ul Layl being performed in the masjid.

A group of men sit and enjoy coffee as they discuss the politics of a far away land. There is the persistent chatter of women talking and raising their voices, drowning out the recitation of the Quran. A group of young men pass a basketball back and forth commenting on the latest basketball game. She feels a deep sadness at their negligence of the prayer, but she consoles herself, “At least they are in the masjid…” She wants to walk up to them and remind them of the value of Qiyam ul layl. She wants to remind them that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said,

“Anyone who offers the night prayer in Ramadhaan with belief and seeking Allah’s reward, all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol. no. 3, Book of Taraweeh, Hadith no. 2010

She remembers reading in the books of hadith the first time people gathered behind the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam to pray Taraweeh.

Narrated 'Urwa: 
That he was informed by 'Aisha, "Allah's Apostle went out in the middle of the night and prayed in the mosque and some men prayed behind him. In the morning, the people spoke about it and then a large number of them gathered and prayed behind him (on the second night). In the next morning the people again talked about it and on the third night the mosque was full with a large number of people. 
Allah's Apostle came out and the people prayed behind him. On the fourth night the Mosque was overwhelmed with people and could not accommodate them, but the Prophet came out (only) for the morning prayer. When the morning prayer was finished he recited Tashah-hud and (addressing the people) said, "Amma ba'du, your presence was not hidden from me but I was afraid lest the night prayer (Qiyam) should be enjoined on you and you might not be able to carry it on." 
(Sahih Bukhari Vol. No. 3, in the Book of Taraweeh, Hadith no. 229) 

They came to the masjid seeking the pleasure of Allah and following the lead of their Messenger sal allahu alihi wasullum. He had not even sent a message for them to come. They did not ask, “It’s just a Sunnah isn’t it? It is not a fard? We don’t really have to do it.” The opposite was true. So many came that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam did not come out of his house for fear that it might be made fard (obligatory) upon them. They raced to follow his example but the Messenger of Allah (saws) did not wish to burden his people.

The sahabah and the sahabiyat would not have dreamed of coming to the mosque to drink coffee and share gossip while the words of Allah were being recited. Heaven and earth hold their breath and the forgiveness of Allah descends upon the people, the doors of Jannah are opened and the Shayateen are chained. Every good deed receives ten times the reward that it receives out of Ramadan. The angels however stop in their tracks when they realize the believers are discussing the fate of tyrants, local and foreign, instead of humbly lining up in prayer worried about their own fate.

The Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Whosoever stands (in prayer) with the Imam until he completes it, Allah writes for him (the reward) as if he has prayed the whole night.” It has been reported in another wording, “…the remainder of the night.” Hence, it is better for the one who can and is not sick or feeble, to perform the prayer with the Imam until he completes it, whether it consists of eleven, twenty-three, or any other number of raka’aat. (Concerning Taraweeh …Fatawaa of Sheikh Abdul-Azeez bin Baaz pg 13)

Qiyam ul layl literally means ‘standing at night.’ It refers to the voluntary prayer whose time extends from Isha prayer until dawn. It is also commonly referred to as Salat-ul-Layl (the night prayer), Tahajjud (from hajada, meaning remained one who awake at night), and Taraweeh (resting). It was the permanent practice of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in and out of Ramadan. 

Aisha narrated to Abdallah inb Abi Qays, "Never stop praying qiyaam ul-layl, for the Messenger of Allah never stopped it. If he was sick or felt tired, he would pray sitting down." (Ahmad)

The earliest believers in Mecca were praying at night for a whole year before verse 20 of Sura Muzzamil was revealed making it an optional but desirable practice. They were told:

“…So recite what is easy from it and establish prayer and give zakah and loan Allah a goodly loan…” (Sura Al-Muzzamil 73:20)

The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to review the whole Quran with angel Jibrail in the month of Ramadan. There is no specific command from the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam to recite the whole Quran in the Taraweeh, but it is important that the recitation be performed in a manner which enables the congregation to follow and if possible understand the Quran that is recited in the Taraweeh.

As she slowly makes her way to the back room, the sound of the recitation fades away slowly amid the noise:

“Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding.” (Az-Zumr 39:9)

At least it is not one of the odd nights, she tells herself. Inshallah, Allah will make a way for me to pray the entire Taraweeh with concentration during the odd nights. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to exert his utmost during the last ten nights of Ramadan.

Narrated Aisha:
With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work hard) and used to pray all the night, 
and used to keep his family awake for the prayers.
(Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 24) 

The crowning glory of the month of Ramadan is the Night of Qadr in which the angels descend and which is equal to a thousand months. Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "Search for the Night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 234)

It becomes easier to pray in the last ten nights of Ramadan, if the habit of praying has been established from the very first day of fasting. It is easier for the regular worshipper to increase in devotion during the last ten nights. He is like an athlete who has increased his stamina gradually so that on the day of the competition he can give his best performance.

The young woman yearned for the month of Ramadan to come and she made a firm, sincere intention to fast in its days and pray in it nights. Are you waiting breathlessly for Ramadan to start? Have you decided to devote the nights of Ramadan to the Lord of the World so that you can be enveloped by His Mercy and receive forgiveness for your sins?


I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)

Jul 24, 2013

Got Ramadan Blues?

By Nur 


Bismillah

This year by the permission of Allah, Ramadan reach us during the warmest times of the year, the time where that ice cream sundae or frozen yogurt looks delightful, the time where the warm summer sun will be shinning through our windows, the time where we have more fans in the house then ever before. During such a time not only is it exceedingly warm and sunny, the days can last up to 18 hours (that’s more than half the day) as human beings we can become weak at such a time, and may lack motivation to continue Ramadan exceeding in good deeds. So here are some benefits you cannot afford to miss out on. If you ever have the “Ramadan Blues” do not be sad, review these precious rewards and benefits we have been guaranteed by Allah and don’t give up!

1. Gain the reward of multiple fasts!
If you are the one in your house who will be cooking the food for your family during Ramadan, do not grieve, you’re just gaining an ample amount of ajr.

Zayd ibn Khaalid AlJuhanee narrates that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said: 

"Whoever gives a fasting person (food) to break his or her fast, he (the one providing the food) will get the reward equivalent to the (fasting person’s) reward, without diminishing anything from the reward of the (fasting person)." 


2. Enter the VIP gate in Jannah: Al-Rayyan 
The Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu Alayhi Wa Salam) said: 
“ In Paradise there is a gate called al-Rayyaan, through those who fast will enter, and no one will enter it except them; when they have entered it will be locked, and no-one else will enter through it.”(Al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 1797). 

3. Have your previous sins forgiven!
The Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu alayhi Wa Salam) said: 
“Whoever fasts Ramadan out of faith and with the hope of reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 37) 

4. Have fasting intercede for you on the Day of Judgment
The Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu alayhi wa salam ) said: 
“ Fasting will intercede for a person on the Day of Judgement, and will say, “O Lord, I prevented him from his food and physical desires during the day, so let me intercede for him.” (Reported by Ahmad, 2/174. Al-Haythami classed its isnaad as hasan in al-Majma’, 3/181. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/411). 

5. Have a smell that is better then Musk!
The Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu alayhi wa salam) Said: “The smell that comes from the mouth of a fasting person is better with Allah than the scent of musk.” (Muslim, 2/807). 

6. Enter Jannah if the day you are fasting is your last
The Prophet Muhammad (Sallahu alayhi wa salam) said: Whoever fasts one day seeking the pleasure of Allaah, if that is the last day of his life, he will enter Paradise. (Reported by Ahmad, 5/391; Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1/412). 

7. The dua of a fasting person will not be refused!
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: ‘Three men whose dua is never rejected (by Allah) are: the fasting person until he breaks his fast (in another narration, when he breaks fast), the just ruler and the o­ne who is oppressed.’ [Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi - Hasan] 

So don’t feel bad due to the balmy weather, for what Allah has is far better then any blueberry slurpee on a hot summer day, think about all the precious rewards you can enjoy in the hereafter which are nothing compared to what Allah has in store for us.

“ And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous” (Surah Ali Imran 3:133)

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)

Jul 23, 2013

Salaf in Ramadan

By Shazia Arif

Bismillah.

Bath & Body
Imagine you fell into a puddle of mud. Your skin is dirty right down to the pores, you cannot see the original colour of your clothes anymore. You stink. The first thing any person would do in this situation is, take a bath, but not just an ordinary bath, rather one with an amazing smelling body wash, and then after the shower they would still put on scented body lotion to make sure they do not smell like the dirt, and then they would put on a fresh clean pair of clothes to feel the cleanliness. Similar is the case with our souls,all year round we are constantly dirtying it with sins, sins and more sins. But alhamdulilah, Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala has not left us to live with the filth; He has given us the blessed month of Ramadan wherein we can bathe from our sins. But is bathing enough? Or does one also need to make their soul smell good and clothe it nicely after being soiled with filth for an entire year? How does one go about doing that?

When one bathes their soul in Ramadan, it is by doing the basic ‘I will fast, pray 5 times a day, and read some Quran’. But to give it a pleasing scent you need to go the extra mile. And how do you do that? What to do in that extra mile? There’s no better way to learn (that) than from the pious predecessors, the Salaf, who followed the way of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam diligently.

Quran Recitation
Recite the Quran excessively throughout the month. The Quran is a huge blessing for the entirety of the Muslim Ummah, it is a manual on how to lead one’s life. This blessed book was revealed in the month of Ramadan, and Jibrael would visit the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in this month to review and recite the Quran with him. If the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam had to review it every Ramadan, then what about us? Now reciting it for a few minutes, every other day won’t get your soul that beautiful scent. Rather reciting it every day, will!

Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the Night of al-Qadr.
(Surah Qadr:1)

During this month the Salaf also read the Quran profusely. But how were their ways of reciting it?
  • Uthman bin Affan radia Allaahu ‘anhu used to finish reciting the Qur’an once every day.
  • Imam ash Shafii’ used to recite the whole Qur’an 60 times, in other than his prayers.
  • When Ramadan would begin, az-Zuhri used to run away from reading books of hadith and (didn’t) stopped attending the gatherings of scholars. Instead he used to engage himself in reciting the Qur’an from the Mushaf.
  • Sufiyan ath-Thawri used to leave all (voluntary) acts of worship and engaged himself in reciting the Qur’an.
  • Al-Aswad used to recite the whole Qur’an every two nights of Ramadan. 
  • Qatadah used to recite the whole Qur’an every 7 nights and in Ramadan every three nights, and every night in the last ten nights of Ramadan.
Note: Although it is disliked to finish reading the Quran in less than 3 days, it is of the opinion of many Imams such as Ahmed and Ishaq that: Ibn Rajab said: “It is prohibited to recite the whole Qur’an in less than three days continuously [through the whole year] but in blessed times and places such as Ramadan or Makkah, for those who enter it from other than its people, it is preferable to recite the Qur’an profusely taking advantage of the blessing of the time and place.”


Qiyam
Qiyam refers to two things - taraweeh prayer, and tahajjud prayer in the third part of the night before Fajr. In Qiyam one stands for a long while reciting the Quran either in jama’ (congregation) or alone. The act of performing Qiyam in Ramadan is very virtuous. The Qiyam is not mandatory of course, however if you do want that pleasing scent on your soul to remain, this is definitely something we must strive to do. 

The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said:

Whoever establishes (nawafil, voluntary) prayers during the night of Ramadan, faithfully, out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah Rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven.” 
(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 2, Hadith no. 36)

Of course, our amazing Salaf were not behind in wanting to attain this amazing barakah either. In fact they would even involve their families in this act, so that they could gain the reward themselves. Want for your brother what you want for yourself!
  • Umar bin al-Khattab Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu used to offer the late night prayer till (the) midnight; then he used to awaken his family to offer the prayer, and he would tell them,“the prayer, the prayer,” 
  • Narrated Alqamah bin Qais: “I spent one night with Abdullah bin Masud Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu (in his house). He (Ibn Masud) woke up in the early portion of the night and offered the late night prayer. He used to recite the same recitation of an Imam (slowly with the Telawah) till a little before dusk (before dawn), then offered the Witr parayer.”
  • Narrated as-Saa’ib bin Zaid: “The Imam used to recite hundreds of verses in the late night prayer, such that we were supporting ourselves with sticks, out of long standing (in prayer), and they used to leave at dawn.”
SubhanAllah, as always the Salaf went not one extra mile but two! Why? They understood the importance of cleansing the soul during this month and this is the reason why they were the Salaf.

Charity
Giving something to someone else from your own wealth is a very noble act to do especially in Ramadan. Why? Well first, everyone LOVES their wealth. They put in so much time and effort in acquiring it, that they become very careful in how they spend it, sometimes to the point where they become stingy, and that is going to an extreme. But Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala has told us that when we give money for the sake of Allah, our wealth will not decrease! But remember wealth is not only money; it is also feeding others, spending your time and energy, as well in the way of Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala. With that being said, let us relate to how it will beautify our souls
  1. Once we get in the habit of giving, we won’t have that stingy feeling in our heart.
  2. If we start giving in Ramadan, we will start giving outside of Ramadan as well. 
  3. When you give, you’ll notice more room in your heart for others.
The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: “The best charity is the one which is given in Ramadan.”  (At-Tirmidhi, Book 4, Hadith no. 599)

The Salaf preferred the act of feeding others, whether it was a hungry person or a righteous person (example iftar) over many other acts.
  • Abu as-Siwar al-Adwi said: “The men of Bani Adi tribe used to pray in the Masjid. Never one of them breaks his fast alone. If he finds someone to eat with him, he will eat, otherwise he takes his food to the Masjid and eats it with the people and the people eat with him (i.e. share his food with the people.)

I’tikaf
I’tikaf is when one leaves all the worldly distractions and busies himself in the worship of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala for a certain number of days, in our discussion during the last 10 days of Ramadan. I’tikaf is observed in the mosques. We can see many examples of this from the life of the Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam. When one engages himself in constant worship and remembrance of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala, they are adding more and more perfume to their soul.

Narrated Abu Hurairah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu): 
"The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to perform Itekaf every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death , he stayed in Itekaf for twenty days.” 
(Sahih Al-Bukari, Book 33, Hadith no. 260)

Of course this act is not mandatory, and it should be done with the approval of his/her family members. It is of the opinion of many of the Salaf that I’tikaf is mustahab (preferred) while fasting.

Searching for Layla’tul Qadr
Layla’tul Qadr is the night in which the Quran was revealed, it is the night in which the decree is written for the entire year! Yup ... the ENTIRE YEAR! One is to look for this night in the last 10 nights, especially the odd ones: 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 29th. This is that golden opportunity to make sure the perfume you have been spraying on yourself for the entire month remains throughout the year, and this can only be done with your duas.

What to do during these nights?
  • Aisha (Radia-Allaahu ‘anha): I said, “O Allah’s Messenger, tell me, if I know which night Lailatul-Qadr is, what supplication should I say on it?” He said:“Say,“Allahumma Innaka ‘Afowwon Tuhibul-’Afwa fa’fou ‘Anni (‘O Allah, you are forgiving and love forgiveness, so forgive me’)" (At-Tirmdhi, Book 48, Hadith no. 3435).
  • The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to keep his family awake for the salat (prayer) in order to get the blessing of Laylatul-qadar (Sahih Bukhari, Book 32, Hadith no. 241).
  • The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to pray harder and earnestly in the last ten nights of Ramadan than he did in other nights of this month. (Multiple hadith in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim).
Now imagine, after putting in so much effort to get rid of the mud, would someone consciously step into a muddle puddle again? So after putting in so much effort to clean your soul and beautify it, will you let all your efforts to go to vain? Here are some practical tips on how to keep a clean soul even after Ramadan
  • Make it a goal to give something in charity every Juma’.
  • Wake up 10-15 minutes before the time of Fajr starts and pray two rakah Tahajjud.
  • Fast every Monday and Thursday as it was the Sunnah of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
  • After Isha sit in your room and have some alone time with Allah, and think about His blessings upon you; show your gratitude.
  • Always, always, always repent from your sins, every single one of them; be it big or small, a sin is a sin.
Reminder for all of us: Make the best out of the time you have, because death is closer than we think, and who knows if we will be able to make it to the next Ramadan.

Jul 22, 2013

My first Ramadan: A revert's journey

By Tara Delancey

Bismillah

It was September 2006. I was a second year university student who had just converted to Islam, returning to school with a mixture of giddy enlightenment and nervous panic. Alhamdulillah, my first Ramadan was a whirlwind of baraka that kicked off my journey into Islam with a huge boost of eeman. This was due to a series of chance encounters and fateful events throughout the blessed month - all of course judiciously ordered and destined by Allah himself. There are also many lessons to be observed from my first Ramadan experience that we can all benefit from inshaAllah. Some of the highlights include:

Joining the Muslim Community:
When I converted to Islam, I said my shahada on a sunny, summery day to the trees outside my house. As quaint as this may sound, this was not only due to the fact that there was no Muslim community to speak of in my home town, but because I was absolutely terrified of coming out to other Muslims. I was afraid they would judge me unfit to be a real Muslim. Thus, when I got back to the University with Ramadan just days away, I had no idea that the holy month was about to begin. Alhamdulillah, Allah led me straight to the Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) first meeting. There I found a lively, diverse, and passionate group of people that welcomed me into their fold without hesitation or judgment. Later that same evening I was invited to the house of two converts who had recently married, Ryan and Alexandra, where we had a lovely dinner and discussion about Islam.

''وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا''

''And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers'' (Quran 3:103). 

Ramadan truly is a time for community and sisterhood. As a community we need to go out of our way to make a place for the converts and make them feel welcome during this holy month. Don’t just give a convert sister your cell phone number. Take hers! Then call her the very next day. It is actions like this, that build strong bonds of friendship and sisterhood between new converts and other Muslims, that are critical for their “survival” as a Muslim. Just being friendly isn’t enough. As for you converts, don’t cut yourself off from ni’amat, or good things brought to you by Allah, by withdrawing from the Muslim community at this time of year. Put yourself out there! Yes, I can tell you right now, you will always be “different” in some ways, but it’s what makes you a beautiful and valuable asset to the Muslim community.

Meeting my best friend for life:
As I walked into the tidy but humble little MSA office for the first time, I came face to face with a girl who looked strikingly familiar. I had the uncanny feeling that I had known her all my life. Remarkably, she had the same sensation. We met up later and started talking as if, indeed, we had been friends for many years. As it turned out, we had both converted at nearly the same time; we had nearly identical family backgrounds, as well as similar tastes, interests, and personalities. It was a match made in heaven. Allah brought us together at exactly the right time in our respective lives to support and encourage each other at the beginning of our journey into Islam. Having her in my life, especially throughout that first Ramadan, was the relief for my suffering and an anchor for the drifting ship of my life.

فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا-إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا 

For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease (Quran 94:5-6)

It is no coincidence that Allah repeats this verse twice. It is so important for us to remember that it needs double emphasis. If you are a convert experiencing difficulties, however extreme, meditate on this verse and find its truth in your own life. Make du’a for Allah to guide you and support you, to create peace in your life, and to strengthen you with patience and forbearance throughout your trials.

Praying at the Mosque:
At Ryan and Alex’s house, after we had finished dinner and the conversation was dying down, they asked me, “Do you want to go to taraweeh?” “Tara-what!?” I replied. Turns out, the same day I joined the MSA was also the first night of Ramadan. Feeling pretty ridiculous in a borrowed jalabiya, we all set off for the mosque. All my anxieties went out the window when we began my first prayer in jama’ah. Like drops of water, we were all individuals reciting the silent supplications, and like the ocean, we moved up and down together through waves of blissful worship of the One. It is the feeling of both unity and singularity. Submerged in sujood, the material world was thrown upside down and the mind came to rest on the single, sacred though: Subhan rabi al-a’ala. Subhan rabi al-a’ala. Subhan rabi al-a’ala.

'' وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ يَضِيقُ صَدْرُكَ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ- فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَكُن مِّنَ السَّاجِدِينَ '' 

''And We already know that your breast is constrained by what they say. So exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord and be of those who prostrate [to Him].'' Quran (15:97-98) 

Praying taraweeh is like working out: no matter how reluctant you feel about it beforehand, you will always come out feeling energized, though exhausted, and glad you went. Thus I urge you, make every effort this Ramadan to attend taraweeh at your local mosque. If you have kids, why not organize some kind of babysitting arrangement with the other masjid moms? I personally endorse taking turns as babysitter throughout the month, but do whatever works for you. The reward you get for sacrificing your taraweeh so that others can attend will be at least the same as if you attended, inshaAllah, and it will bring your community as a whole closer together.

Attending an Eid party:
There was something special about that first Eid; even the air itself seemed to hum with joy and celebration. My new BFF and I skipped class and spent the day together. Riding the bus and counting in Arabic, eating sandwiches and enjoying simple pleasures, we felt as if the universe was having a secret carnival - like a cosmic festival that only we were aware of while those around us tended, obliviously, their daily affairs. Later we were invited to a children’s Eid party where I was once again impressed at the generosity of fellow Muslims whom I had never even met before. Unfortunately, this Eid was the exception to the rule. Almost every Eid thereafter was an anticlimactic, average day, one where I couldn’t help but think “it’s still not better than Christmas”.

Regarding Eid, the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam is said to have narrated:

''On the morning of Eid Allah sends down the Malaa’ikah (Angels) to all the lands of the earth where they take their positions at access points of roads, calling out with a voice that is heard by all except man and jinn, “O Ummah of Muhammad (S.A.W), come forth from your houses towards a Lord that is noble and gracious, who grants much and pardons the major sins.” (As reported in Targheeb) 

My experience demonstrates a point that I think all Muslims living in the West are acutely aware of: that our holidays face some serious competition, especially with the bombardment of holiday marketing around Christmas, and we are under pressure to make our Eids a more memorable experience. Things for the kids like carnivals and big group parties are excellent. However, something more is needed to make these two holidays more clearly defined. After all, what’s a party without any theme? We need to get into the habit of sending Eid cards, cooking special Eid meals, wearing special Eid clothes, singing special Eid songs, etc., to make the holiday more pronounced and defined in the memories of our children. In other words, we need to create traditions. There are, of course, Eid traditions from all over the Muslim world that Western Muslims can draw from. I have faith that, with a little creativity, it is entirely possible to build on these and create our own Eid traditions without stepping into the realm of bid’ah (making unlawful innovations in the religion), inshaAllah.

I credit the awesome spiritual and emotional power of my first Ramadan first to Allah, and second to the Muslim community that Allah brought me into. A convert’s first Ramadan sets the foundation of how they understand their deen and their place (or lack thereof) in the community and can be a maker or breaker for their Islam. With the help of Allah, let’s make this next Ramadan a month to remember for our new convert sisters!

I'd love to know about your experiences of Ramadan as a revert or otherwise in the comments section :) 

Two occasions of joy for the fasting one

By Anum Ali

Bismillah

Last year at one of our iftaars, I asked my younger brother who is very fond of sweets and treats, “What are the two occasions of joy for those who fast?” and his somewhat correct and humorous answer was, “Suhoor and iftaar!”

Prophet Mohammad sal Allahu alayhi wa aalayhi wasallam conveyed to the Believers:
The fasting person has two occasions for joy.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 6, hadith no. 2566)

Sheikh Riyad Al-Musaymiri, a professor at Al-Imam University, Riyadh, explains that Iftaar, the fast-breaking meal, is the first joy for the fasting believer. The second is the greater part of the deal gifted to us by Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. It is experienced when the Believer meets Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala, after fasting during the course of his life, as an honorable Muslim worthy of great rewards. The two occasions are auspicious for a Muslim because they signify some of the greatest achievements known to Mankind. Iftaar is a Muslim’s victory over the evil of his/her nafs (psyche or self), a victory over Satan, and attainment of his Lord’s Good Will. And meeting the Lord Himself on Judgment Day, as His noble guest, is a merit beyond imagination.

The Joy of Obedience
Allah  subhaanahu wa ta’aala is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, and the beauty of His Gifts could be assessed from the fact that He has promised great joys in exchange of obedience. In exchange for holding oneself from food, water, sexual desires, and evils, Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala has promised the expiation of all sins and limitless bounties in this world and the next. He exalts His obedient Believer to such great levels that the smell from his/her mouth, of stale breath on a hungry stomach and thirsty mouth, is called to be more fragrant than musk.

The Prophet Mohammad sal Allahu alaayhi wa aalayhi wasallam said:
Allah said: “The fast is for Me and I will give the reward for it, as he (the one who observes the fast) leaves his sexual desire, food, and drink for My Sake. Fasting is a screen (from Hell) and there are two pleasures (moments of happiness of joys) for a fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord. And the smell of the mouth of a fasting person is better in Allah’s Sight that the smell of musk.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 93, hadith no. 584)

So, at suhoor time, when the fast is over, a Muslim has all the reason to believe that he/she has been blessed by Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. A Muslim has all the reason to believe that his/her good supplications will be granted, his/her rewards shall be multiplied, and sins would be forgiven.

Victory over Nafs-i-Ammara
I have been writing Habibi Halaqas’ Self-Esteem Series for two years and I have discovered a lot about personal psychology and spirituality during the process. From research I have learned that the greatest of all struggles is the struggle with the self. I have referred to the nafs as a ‘raging bull’ in my article ‘Train the Bull that Satan Rides’ simply because it is the very loophole that becomes the striking point for Satan.

Ramadan is about putting a leash on nafs-i-ammara, the inciting nafs, which provokes a person to commit wrong. As a Muslim makes an intention after suhoor, the meal before starting the fast, that he/she is committing to fast the day of Ramadan in the way of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala he/she submits wholeheartedly to controlling his/her sinful desires.

The entire day is a struggle, in Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala's way , to tame that inciting, provoking nafs that keeps urging a person to commit major or minor sins. A Muslim fights the urge to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and other felonies that seem to be okay in routine life. At the end of the day when the obedient servant of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala sits down to break his/her fast, the nafs-i-ammara has been defeated for the day.

Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala conveys to the Believers, in the Quran:

O! You who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 183)


Successful Activation of the Nafs-i-Lawwama: Attaining Taqwa
It is very easy to stand up against others. But it is very, very challenging to stand up against one’s own self. Nafs-i-Lawwama is the self-accusing nafs in which a Muslim snaps out of self-denial, confronts his/her ego, and commits to self-improvement. Fasting triggers this nafs on and puts the believer in the self-correction mode in obedience to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. The fear of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala anchors itself in the hearts of believers and it keeps them steadfast in their duty.

Great prophets of Islam, may Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala's blessings be upon them, worked strenuously and tolerated great pains to switch this mode on in people of the dark times. Very few true Muslims were able to question their own selves and were able to embark on a journey towards attaining Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala's great rewards. Only Prophet Mohammad sal Allahu alayhi wa aalayhi wasallam’s Ummah was gifted with Ramadan to help them stay on the right track, the sirat-i-mustaqeem. Only a Muslim has the ability to trigger his/her nafs-i-lawwama. And at the end of the day, the joyous occasion of personal victory awaits him/her who has fasted successfully.

The Greater Victory
As a Muslim fasts dedicatedly for 30 days of Ramadan, incorporates the Ramadan lifestyle in his/her routine life; without fasting even, and continues to commemorate Ramadan fasts each year in full spirit and obedience to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala, then he/she is heading for the greater victory. Nobody is perfect and not everyone can achieve the state of absolute peaceful and perfection of faith as the auwliyaa (people who became very close to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala and attained His friendship) did. However, each Muslim has the ability to reach the stage of nafs-i-mutma’inna, the peaceful nafs, to some extent. These are the Muslims who are entitled for the greater of the two joys, the joy of meeting Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala as His friend, His noble guest, in Paradise.

Stand Up! For the Champions, Stand Up!
That’s the spirit with which the champions of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala - the ones who have fasted and maintained the dignity of their worship, will be greeted by all the angels of Paradise on Judgment Day. 

Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala, Prophet Mohammad sal Allahu alaayhi wa aalayhi wasallam said:
The fast and the Quran are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: “O! Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.”” (Musnad Ahmad, Book 5, hadith no. 6337)

Therefore, a fasting Muslim will stand as a victorious warrior over Satan, having shunned his/her worldly desires, having attained taqwa and nafs-i-mutma’inna, and having attained the two joys of fasting.


References
Al-Musaymiri, R. (n.d.). The fasting person has two occasions for joy. Retrieved from http://nur-ar-ramadan.tripod.com/id160.html

Jul 18, 2013

This Ramadan - take it easy - advice for Muslim professionals

By Khadeejah Islam


Bismillah

As Ramadan approaches, most of us are planning to “increase our acts of worship.” However, Muslim professionals may find this idea impractical. After hours of manual work, meetings, presentations, research, and training in the workplace, and chores at home, where is the time really to devote oneself to worship?

In my case, being enrolled in a degree program, during Ramadan, I will have to attend classes, sit for exams, submit assignments, undertake research, listen to lectures, and read a lot of books. In addition, I will be working diligently for Habibi Halaqas and Productive Muslim, and doing my share of household chores, such as tidying my room and helping to prepare iftaar.

Is Ramadan really about increasing the quantity of good deeds? In general, yes, we should do as many good deeds as possible. However, does that mean we will compromise on the quality of our deeds? Does that mean we will over-burden ourselves to a point where we will not be able to achieve the desired results that we expected to see in ourselves and in the community?

“Stress can cause sleep deprivation, which can lead to an interruption in insulin regulation and weight gain. High stress levels can also have adverse effects on memory and can compromise your immune system. Decision-making, common respect, and collaboration go out the window. If you’re stressed out because you’re not managing your day properly, you won’t sleep well. When you’re sleep deprived, negative events and emotions are magnified and recalled with ease, while positive event recall is decreased” (Scott Halford, Top Tips for Managing Stress).[i]

This Ramadan, I would advise Muslim professionals to take it easy and to focus on the following aspects to enhance the quality of their deeds:

Habit
Train yourself during the month of Sha’ban. If you cannot allocate a month for developing a Ramadan routine, then dedicate the last 10-15 days. Within that period, you can make a plan, test what works for you, and make changes to the plan accordingly. That way, most of Ramadan will not be spent in a trial mode. Instead, you will have a smooth routine. In the plan, include:

· The number of projects you can handle without adversely affecting your spiritual obligations. Add or reduce the number of projects accordingly.
· The number of hours that you will dedicate to each project / action. Put them in specific time-slots.

“The better you plan your activities in advance, the easier it will be to get the results you desire. Bring together all the people and resources you determined you will need in the planning process. Set specific, measurable standards for the results you require” (Brian Tracy. Million Dollar Habits: Practical, Proven Power Practices to Double and Triple Your Income).[ii]

Excellence
Many people are satisfied with minimum efforts and average results. Although we are imperfect, we must aim to be the best in everything that we do. Therefore, whatever you do, do it with excellence. For instance, while fasting, refrain from food, drink, and intimacy, as well as idle talk, lying, cheating, and vain arguments.

Excellence also means giving your utmost attention to the task in hand. For instance, if you are offering your obligatory prayers, concentrate on your invocations, and do not think of anything else, such as a meeting. If you are attending to guests, do not think of voluntary acts of worship, such as charity or voluntary prayers. If you are spending time with your family, put aside work-related documents. If you are in a meeting, focus on the meeting’s objectives, contents, presentations, etc. Performing one deed with excellence is better than performing several deeds in a rush, with poor or average outcomes.

Intention
Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “All actions are judged by motives, and each person will be rewarded according to their intention.”[iii]

Furthermore, he sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “If he is working to support his small children, then it is for the sake of God. If he is working to support his elderly parents, then it is for the sake of God. If he is working to occupy himself and keep his desires in check, then it is for the sake of God. If, on the other hand, he is doing so to show off and earn fame, then he is working for the sake of Satan.”[iv]

“Work ethic is defined by the Quran itself, which mentions the word ‘amal in 360 verses. A closely related concept of fi’l (also translated as work) is mentioned in an additional 109 verses. All these verses stress the need for work and action by human beings. Man is called upon to utilize time in pursuit of work by declaring that God has made the day as means of seeking sustenance. A person who through hard work seeks God’s bounty – which includes all appropriate means of earning one’s livelihood – is most highly praised. All able-bodied persons are exhorted to work in order to earn their living.” [v]

Therefore, deeds in the workplace (which are usually excluded from the list of acts of worship) may actually earn you rewards, if you have the correct intention of pleasing Allah.

Conclusion
There you go! Muslim professionals, you need to worry about three aspects only. You do not need to overwhelm yourselves so much that you get either exhausted or frustrated, and then, end up doing absolutely nothing! Whether you do a few good deeds, or many, you will be entitled to rewards depending on your intentions and efforts.

Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Everybody has his time of energy, and every time of energy is followed by a time of lethargy. But if a person tries to follow a moderate path, then I have hope for him, but if he becomes one who is pointed out (in the street), then do not think anything of him.”[vi]

“But if he becomes one who is pointed out (in the street)” means if he strives hard and goes to extremes in doing good deeds so that he will become famous and people point him out to one another for his worship and asceticism.[vii]

[i] Scott Halford. Top Tips for Managing Stress. Retrieved: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217583
[ii] Brian Tracy. Million Dollar Habits: Practical, Proven Power Practices to Double and Triple Your Income. Retrieved: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/69238
[iii] Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim
[iv] Narrated by al-Mundhiri and as-Suyuti
[v] Work and Wealth, Retrieved: http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/295/
[vi] Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2453
[vii] Retrieved: http://islamqa.com/en/ref/22877/moderation


I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)

Strengthening the bond with our Lord

By Ruby

Bismillah.

Ramadan is quickly ending, faster than we could have ever expected it to. And did it not seem like last Ramadan was just yesterday? As the days go by faster and faster, it is a reminder that one day, we will no longer be alive. Every single day that goes by is one day closer to our deaths. Yet, as Muslims, what exactly are we doing to prepare ourselves to meet our Lord?

One of the simplest and most straightforward ways to prepare ourselves for death and the afterlife, of course, is to strengthen the relationship with the One that we will meet on the Day of Judgment. Strengthening the bond with Allah, my topic for this piece of writing, has been covered by many people. However, a reminder, first for myself and then to all my dear readers, is always beneficial.

The bond between a slave and his Creator is unlike any other bond that can exist, and no other perfect time can come to begin this strengthening process than the month of Ramadan.

As Ramadan approaches, prepare your mindset and willpower. Resolve that you will start fresh, as all humans have chances to begin anew. Many people assume if they are down one path, it is not worth it to begin fresh.

However, Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala is Ever Forgiving and the chance is always present to begin all over again, after seeking repentance and renewing one’s intentions.

No other time presents a better opportunity to strengthen one’s relationship with Allah subhaana wa ta’aala than the blessed month of Ramadan does. Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala mentions in the Quran, in Surah Baqarah, ayah 186:

"And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided."

As is seen in the above ayah, Allah is near, responding to our every call and prayer, every time we turn to Him. Does it not make sense for us to turn to Him with every aspect of our lives, seeing that it is He who has given us everything we value, including our very presence!

Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala is always there for us, and it is solely up to us to realize this. We ourselves need to be ready to strengthen the relationship because if we don’t, who will? To put it simply, I will give some tips on how to strengthen the relationship with our Lord, especially in the month of Ramadan.
  • Those closest to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala are those who put Him first in their lives. Remember that Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala knows us, seeing that He is our Creator, after all. He knows what we think, what we do, what we plan, what we feel; thus, only He is deserving to be always present in our minds, actions, and thoughts. 
  • One seeking to strengthen the bond with Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala should increase himself in ibaadah, worship. This is the closest he can get to His Lord, particularly in the position of sujood. Thanking Him, praising Him, and glorifying Him while in sujood is truly a beautiful way of getting close to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. Thus, prolong your sujood in your prayers and remember this is the closest you ever are to Him. In this humbling position, you are aware that only Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala is worthy of being worshipped and only He can answer your dua. It is easier, then, to turn to Him, increasing the bond between yourself and Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. 
  • Read the Qur'an, but don’t read just the Arabic text (unless you fully comprehend Arabic). Ramadan is the month of the Qur'an, the month in which Allah’s book was revealed. The Qur'an should be read, and while there is great blessing and reward for reading it in Arabic, there is benefit in understanding what you’re reading as well. Make a commitment in Ramadan to read the translation, or better yet, tafsir of certain ayat or surahs. This way, the guidance that Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala has delivered through his Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is more understood and implemented in our lives. Through the direct words of Allah subhaana wa ta’aalah,it is easier to strengthen the relationship with Him. 
  • Make a habit of doing righteous deeds, because even the smallest or seemingly insignificant of them is valuable. Ramadan is a great time to start, because we automatically increase our good deeds, knowing we will be rewarded multiple times for them. For example, make it a habit to pray Salat ad-Duha every morning after the sun has risen. 
  • In Surah al Waqiah, Allah subhaana wa ta’aalah says in ayahs 10 and 11,
    And the forerunners, the forerunners –
    Those are the ones brought near [to Allah ] 

    The forerunners described in Surah Waqiah are those who race to accomplish and perform good deeds solely for the sake of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala. As is seen, these are the ones close to Him subhaanahu wa ta’aala. Thus, in Ramadan we should make it a goal to strive to be among these forerunners, and make dua that Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala can give us guidance to do so. 
Becoming closer to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala is not as difficult as it may seem at first. It is not that one has to be the most pious person on earth to deserve Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala’s love. The struggle and striving that we put ourselves through, with the intention to become closer, is what matters. Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala knows our hearts and what we want.

When we turn to Him alone, we strengthen that bond between an abd (slave) and the Rabb (Lord). When we read His book, we strengthen that bond by seeing the guidance He has sent down as a mercy. When we prostrate ourselves on the floor, putting our foreheads to the ground, we close the gap between ourselves and Allah subhaana wa ta’aalah.

Remember that when Ramadan comes around, our good deeds are multiplied several fold. Good deeds, right intentions, and seeking forgiveness are ways to increase our ways, to increase our bond with Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala and attain our ultimate goal, Paradise.

Jul 17, 2013

Productive period during Ramadan

By Khadeejah Islam

Bismillah

Menstruation is a normal phase in every woman’s life. Apart from certain rituals, such as prayer and fasting, most of the other acts of worship are permissible and can be performed as usual during menstruation. However, due to the emotional and physical difficulties which accompany menstruation, many women prefer to undertake tasks which either provide relaxation or involve less effort. This article aims to suggest few acts of worship which can be performed easily during menstruation.

  • Patience: Since menstruation is a stressful time for women, it is indeed a challenge to practise patience. However, remember that the Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “The greatest reward comes with the greatest trial. When God loves a people, He tests them. Whoever accepts this, wins His Pleasure.[1]
  • Supplication: (Surah Ar-Ra’d 13:28): “...Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” By supplicating to Allah, you will not only gain rewards, but you will also notice that your level of stress has subsided. You can choose various supplications from the book – Fortress of the Muslim (http://www.islamawareness.net/Dua/Fortress/).
    Furthermore, Aishah (radiaAllahu anha) said, “The Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) used to remember Allah in all circumstances.[2]
  • Reading translation of Qur’an: This will ensure that you are constantly reminded of the commands of Allah (subhaana wa ta'aala). (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:55): “And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.” 
  • Reading books: Apart from Islamic books, you can also read beneficial religiously-neutral books which provide tips on time management, creativity, confidence, home-gardening, etc. This will not require you to spend out of your budget because most of these resources are available online in PDF for free-download. 
  • Watching beneficial videos/channels: Gone are the days when we did not have enough Islamic channels. Peace TV, Huda TV, Guide Us TV, etc. have provided us with many options of halaal channels. Islamic videos are widely available online for free. You can also watch beneficial religiously-neutral programmes on current affairs/news, cooking, education, etc. 
  • Listening to halaal audios: You can listen to lectures of renowned scholars or soothing nasheed for relaxation. All of these resources are widely available on the Internet for free. 
  • Upholding ties of kinship: (Surah At-Tahrim 66:6): “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones…” Anything beneficial that you do for the family may earn you rewards even during menstruation. This will also distract your mind from the discomfort of menstruation. After breaking the fast, you can enjoy intimate moments (excluding sexual intercourse) with your husband. Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Do everything except intercourse.[3].
    You are also responsible for your children, as the Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.” [4]. Therefore, impart beneficial knowledge to them in a creative way. For instance, you can read a book with illustrations together. You can organize a private study-circle for the family.
    In addition, do not neglect your parents as well as in-laws. (Surah Al Isra’ 17:23-24): “And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.’
    Remember your other relatives, too! 
  • Engaging with the wider community: Visiting your neighbours should not be too difficult for you during menstruation. (Surah An Nisa’ 4:36): “Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away…” Moreover, you can catch up with your friends as well as invite guests at home for tea-and-snacks (you do not need to prepare anything elaborate).
    Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his neighbour; whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his guest as he is entitled.[5]
  • Seeking knowledge: (Surah Fatir 35:28): “...only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge.” It is indeed a mercy from Allah that we do not have to travel far and wide, on foot or on camels, in search of authentic knowledge. Alhamdulillah! Various courses and Islamic events are taking place everywhere. In addition, nowadays, many websites offer free online courses. 
  • Pampering yourself: You can wear nail-polish as you like throughout the week, and you will not have to worry about removing them for ablution! You can indulge in extra grooming. All of these acts can earn you rewards insha’Allah if your intention is to please the husband or even to please yourself, to be healthy, to increase concentration, and/or to relax from the stress associated with menstruation. 
  • Community involvement: There are many activities of community-service which do not require much strength. For instance, planting a tree or feeding a cat is indeed simple. Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “If any Muslim plants a tree or sows a field, and a human, bird or animal eats from it, it shall be reckoned as charity from him.[6]. Furthermore, in some organizations, you will be required simply to contribute an article/photograph or to manage a site. 
  • Developing hobbies: You can pursue halaal hobbies, such as gardening, reading, writing, sewing, cooking, etc. Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “If he is working to support his small children, then it is for the sake of God. If he is working to support his elderly parents, then it is for the sake of God. If he is working to occupy himself and keep his desires in check, then it is for the sake of God. If, on the other hand, he is doing so to show off and earn fame, then he is working for the sake of Satan.[7]
  • Administration: You can be in charge of many things even while you are sitting at home during menstruation. Many of these acts will not require too much strength. For instance, you can calculate the zakat. You can monitor your official work. You can direct those who work for you in the home to complete certain chores, such as preparing iftaar, properly. If you have a lot of e-mail and Facebook comments to reply to, then this is the time you can do them all. You can make a note of your future plans. 
  • Shopping: Complete your Eid shopping. If you have to buy gifts, do it now, instead of disrupting your prayers and fasts later. To avoid exhaustion during shopping, you can shop for less than an hour everyday, visit stores nearby, or take frequent breaks for sitting, eating, and relaxing. 
  • Charity: You can donate from home and earn great rewards. (Surah Ali Imran 3:92): “Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love...
  • Inviting people to Islam: You can organize a small gathering at home, explain the basics of Islam via phone, e-mail, or social networking sites, write Islamic articles, manage Islamic websites, and distribute Islamic books and tapes. The options are endless! (Surah Fussilat 41:33): “And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims.’” 
  • Refrain from sins: Even if you do not engage in any act of worship, the least you can do to achieve rewards is to refrain from haraam activities.
    Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “When one of you sleeps with his wife, it is an act of charity.[8]. If you look at this hadeeth, you may not notice any apparent act of worship which Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam had commanded. However, if you analyze it, you will realize that the fact that the man channeled his God-given ability into something halaal and positive, and the fact that he refrained from channeling it into something haraam, such as adultery or fornication, gained him rewards. 

Conclusion

The list above is by no means a comprehensive one. There might be many other simple tasks which, if combined with the correct intention, can earn you rewards easily during menstruation.

Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Helping a person or his belongings onto his mount is an act of charity. A good word is charity. Every step taken on the way to performing prayers is charity. Removing an obstacle from the road is charity.[9].

What do you do to have a productive period during Ramadan?


Footnotes:
1. Narrated by At-Tirmidhi.
2. Narrated by Muslim, al-Hayd, 558.
3. Narrated by Muslim, 302.
4. Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 583, and Muslim, 1829.
5. Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5560.
6. Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
7. Narrated by al-Mundhiri and as-Suyuti.
8. Narrated by Muslim. Narrated by al-Bukhari