Isn’t Ramadan a nafs-killer?
When you want to eat you cannot eat, and there is blessing in eating at a time when you’d rather not eat! (sahoor)
When you want to sleep you push yourself to stay awake and when you’d rather be awake you know you have to get some sleep so you can remain sane…
It almost feels like you have no control over your life any more… you cant do what you please, its all about what Allah wants. This is exactly what we have signed up for:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ اشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ
Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. [9:111]
And this is what is expected of us:
التَّائِبُونَ الْعَابِدُونَ الْحَامِدُونَ السَّائِحُونَ الرَّاكِعُونَ السَّاجِدُونَ الْآمِرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَالنَّاهُونَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَالْحَافِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
[Such believers are] the repentant, the worshippers, the praisers [of Allah ], the travelers [for His cause] / those who fast, those who bow and prostrate [in prayer], those who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and those who observe the limits [set by] Allah. And give good tidings to the believers. [9:112]
O Allah, accept from us our lives, and give us Jannah. Ameen.
– Taimiyyah Zubair
A few years ago, sitting at the iftar table at an uncle’s place, I found the lady of the house toiling away in the kitchen, around Maghrib time, to put together an intricate meal for breaking fast. We devoured the meticulously prepared delicacies as the aunt stayed back in the kitchen to serve some more smoking hot fritters. ‘Won’t aunt join us?’ I enquired. ‘She does not fast,’ the uncle said. ‘Besides, she earns her reward through serving us, people who are fasting. She doesn’t need to fast.’
Ramadan is the month of fasting. Paradoxically, it has become the month of food. Lots and lots of it. It is when consumption of food goes up and you find yourself thinking more about what you will feast on at iftar and suhoor. It is that time of the year when our mothers and wives take their roles as ‘kitchen queens’ too seriously and the above scenario — of the mother/wife slaving away in the kitchen up until the Maghrib azan becomes a common one.
The truth is women also have the same spiritual needs as that of men. They are as much obligated to fast, pray, read the Holy Qur’an, and perform all other acts of worship as men are. Why then should they be burdened solely with increased cooking, which results in them missing out on the bounties of the blessed month?
Moreover, eating like there is no tomorrow at iftar is not from the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to prefer breaking the fast with simple foods such as dates, and water. He is reported to occasionally enjoy dishes such as Sawiq (a coarse mixture of ground wheat and barley), Tharid (meat mixed with bread), Talbinah (a sweet), soups, vegetables, roasted meat and dishes prepared with cheese and refined butter, but he never demanded for special dishes to be made.
Sadly, today the time, energy, effort and money that women should spend in worshipping Allah SWT is instead spent in preparing, consuming and clearing up multi-course meals, all in the name of keeping up Ramadan ‘traditions’. Not many seem to remember that charity, fasting and prayer are the actual prophetic traditions of Ramadan.
While mostly women are expected to rustle up elaborate meals, sometimes, they themselves are to blame for their state. Exerting oneself to cook elaborate meals, a favorite dish for every member of the family, and setting up tastefully done iftar party tables with at least two more dishes than the neighbor’s iftar party table, are not unheard of.
While it is rewarding for women to cook for their families, women who spend every day of their lives preoccupied with housework and/or child care will tell you that it is endlessly tiring and even dispiriting. Even an hour’s break a day to immerse oneself in spiritual acts can be a luxury.
What should you do in Ramadan?
From the lives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Sahabah, we understand the concept of Ramadan to be:
— A month of obedience, righteousness and learning
— Days of activity, production and good deeds
— Nights of prayer, supplication and more good deeds
— Recitation and study of the Qur’an
— Avoiding sin and seeking forgiveness from Allah
— Simple meals
— Visits to relatives, the ill, the distressed, etc., that are pleasing to Allah SWT
— Efforts to help the needy and the poor
— Patience and caution in speech, with tongues fasting from gossip and dispute, thanking and praising Allah, advising and comforting others
— Additional acts of worship, such as attendance of Taraweeh prayers, especially during the last ten nights.
How can you do it?
— Men, help your mothers and wives in the kitchen. And maintain that practice for the rest of the year. There too is a reward.
— Plenty of food stalls and restaurants across the city sell tasty ‘Ramadan special’ treats in reasonable rates. It’s a good idea to get a few food items from outside to take some load off home cooking.
— Think about the less fortunate ones to arouse compassion in the hearts. It will help you avoid gluttony.
— Focus on the spiritual aspect of Ramadan and busy yourselves with acts of worship, allotting minimum time and thought for eating. Be thankful that Allah SWT has blessed you with another Ramadan, another opportunity to seek His forgiveness.
— Ponder over this Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “The offspring of Adam fills no vessel worse than his stomach. Sufficient for the child of Adam are a few morsels to keep his back straight. If he must eat more, then a third should be for his food, a third for his drink, and a third left for air?” (Musnad Ahmad)
— One good deed that women ignore is the Taraweeh prayers. Many mosques, especially the bigger ones, across the Kingdom allocate specific areas for mothers and children. Even if your toddler makes it impossible for you to pray, you can still enjoy the cool, spiritual ambiance of the mosque while reading the Holy Qur’an, a blessing that many women who are unable to go to mosques in certain parts of the world are deprived of.
One needs to look beyond women’s role as cooks and caretakers in Ramadan so as to enable them to entirely benefit from this blessed month. Men and other family members should introspect if their culinary expectations are depriving the women of doing more important good deeds and seeking rewards. Women’s spiritual needs and their obligations are not second to those of men. It’s high time we realize and let not this Ramadan be wasted away.
-Written by my friend Afifa Jabeen Quraishi
Originally published in Arab News
Allah Almighty has made human beings weak; they need to be guided and are prone to making mistakes and committing sins. Some do so out of ignorance of the laws set by Allah while; yet there are some, who even though blessed by knowledge, are led to sins because of their desires, emotions or the conditions around them. When a person sins and realizes that he has done something wrong he is overcome by remorse and an overwhelming feeling of guilt. If not dealt with in the correct manner, these feelings of guilt can greatly affect one’s self-esteem, may weigh him down and make him lose interest in doing good deeds.
Fortunately, one of the many treasures of Islam, is that Allah doesn’t leave His servants to rot in their remorse and guilt, once they realize their sin. Mentioned as Al-Ghafoor (the most forgiving) in more than 90 places in the Glorious Qur’an, He offers every sinner chances of redemption and repentance. He says: “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning), do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful’.” (Qur’an, 39:53)
Al-Ghafoor comes from the root ‘ghafara’, which means to cover, conceal, and shield. Some of us might have committed sins that are too many, and at times too shameful, to even think about. But when Allah forgives a sin, He covers it and conceals it. Al-Ghafoor is the One who does not expose the sins of His servants. He protects His servants from the consequences of their sins, screens them and forgives them even though He is All-Knowing of the wrong they committed.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) clarified this when he narrated in a Hadith Qudsi, “Allah the Exalted said: ‘O son of Adam, if you call upon me and place your hope in me, I will forgive you without any reservation. O son of Adam, if you have sins piling up to the clouds and then ask for my forgiveness, I will forgive you without any reservation. O son of Adam, if you come to me with enough sins to fill the earth and you meet me without associating a partner with me, I will come to you with enough forgiveness to fill the earth’.” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, 3540)
For the one who believes in the mercy of the Almighty, guilt is a powerful means to direct his heart back to the one whose doors of tawbah (repentance) are always open. Allah says: “O you who have believed, repent to Allah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow…” (Qur’an, 66:8)
Even if a person commits sin time after time, his sin is forgiven every time if he follows his sin with repentance – if his repentance each time is sincere. There are three conditions of sincere repentance: Giving up the sin, regretting it and resolving never to go back to it. If one of these three is missing, then one’s repentance is not sincere.
It was said to Al-Hasan: Shouldn’t one of us feel too shy to ask his Lord to forgive his sin, then do it again, then ask for forgiveness, then do it again? He said: ‘The Shaytaan wishes that you would have this attitude so do not tire of asking for forgiveness. I do not think this is anything other than the attitude of the believers, i.e., every time a believer sins, he repents.’
Umar ibn Abd Al-Azeez said: ‘O people, whoever commits sin, let him seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent. If he does it again, let him seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent, and if he does it again, let him seek the forgiveness of Allah and repent. For it is sin, which hangs around a person’s neck, and doom comes from persisting in sin.’
Knowing that Allah forgives should give us much hope. But we should balance fear and hope so that we do not purposefully disobey Him and say that we will repent later. We need to stop doing wrong deliberately and rush to repent from the greatest sins which are disbelief, polytheism and hypocrisy, as well as sins like neglecting religious duties like prayer, charity, obedience to parents, spreading the message of Islam and also for sins like backbiting, slander, envy, suspicion, cheating and wasting time in useless things.
The Prophets and Messengers being so righteous and pure used to acknowledge their mistakes too and turned to Allah in repentance all the time. Prophet Adam and his wife accepted their mistake and said: “Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers..”” (Qur’an, 7:23). Similarly Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) said: “My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me.” (Qur’an, 28:16) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and ask Allah for forgiveness one hundred times a day.” (Muslim, 2702)
If this was the practice of the messengers of Allah (peace be upon them all), then what about the rest of us, whose lives are full of shortcomings and sins? Certainly we have a greater need to accept our mistakes, stop and turn to the One who loves the repentance of his disobedient servants and invites them to seek forgiveness every single night.
Indeed, Allah is the Most Merciful and Most Kind. He gives respite even to the worst of sinners so that they realize their mistakes and turn back to Him. His rights are too great for His servants to be able to fulfill them. And indeed, His favors and blessings are too many for them to be able to enumerate them. The only way to safety and relief then, is for us to wake up from our sinful slumber, and let our guilty hearts lead us to repent to Al-Ghafoor every morning and every night.
Originally posted in Arab News
I struggled to make space for the four of us as I spread our prayer mats and took out the dates that I had got on the way to the masjid from my hotel room. It was another calm and tranquil Ramadan evening in the courtyard of Al Masjid Al Haraam in Makkah. Other than the usual shouts and yells of the volunteers distributing snacks for iftar, I could hear people around me beseeching the Almighty in the precious moments just before Maghrib (sunset) Prayer. Taking cue, as I started whispering my du’as (supplications), I felt sudden drops of water on my raised hands. Looking up I noticed unusual dark clouds covering the horizon beyond the beautiful minarets of the masjid before hearing cries of happiness around me as it started drizzling and then suddenly pouring. Being an ardent lover of rain, I was elated but what surprised me most was that very few of the people ran for cover and hardly any left their places of prayer. Most of them just stood up raising their hands high, saying Allahu Akbar (God is Great) in unison and then making their own different du’as while the rain came down in buckets. And when the Adhan (call for prayer) resonated across the whole place, I witnessed a precious scene, where the servants of Almighty broke their fasts with whispers of thanks and du’as while rejoicing over His gift – the gift of rain. I did not notice any irritated face that evening nor a word of complaint when everyone had to pray and prostrate in puddles of rain water. I remember the strange tranquility in the air as the rain poured over us and the imam while leading the Prayer, recited beautiful verses about the blessing of rain.
Allah says: “It is Allah who sends the winds, and they stir the clouds and spread them in the sky however He wills, and He makes them fragments so you see the rain emerge from within them. And when He causes it to fall upon whom He wills of His servants, immediately they rejoice.” (Qur’an 30:48)
As believers, we need to reflect on this great blessing that Allah sends to us. Rain is a great miracle of Allah – a miracle that is often taken for granted and sometimes often detested. Perhaps such people should take a look at the places deprived of rain, where drought has taken the people and other living things into its deadly embrace.
Rain is one of the most important factors for the permanence of life on earth and it plays an essential role for the continuation of activity in a region. It is mentioned in various verses of the Qur’an, where Allah gives substantial information about the formation of rain, its proportion and effects. Rain, as it pours down on us every once in a while, here in Saudi Arabia and ever so often in some other parts of the world, shows us proof of the existence of Allah and reminds us of His Mercy and compassion towards the creation. Allah says: “And it is He who sends down the rain after they [people] had despaired, and spreads His mercy. And He is the Protector, the Praiseworthy.” (Qur’an 42:28)
Very few might know the fact that spending time in the rain was a practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and His Companions. Anas narrated: ‘We were with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) when rain fell upon us. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) opened up his garment a bit so that the rain could touch his skin. We asked: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you do this?” He (peace be upon him) replied: “Because it has just recently come from its Lord.”’ (Muslim, 898)
The scholars have taken proof from this hadith that it is Sunnah (recommended) to expose your body and clothing to the falling rain. Out of happiness that Allah is sending down his blessing and moreover rejoicing that it is pouring down on us. And the meaning of the phrase (in the hadith): “Because it (the rainfall) has just recently come from its Lord.” is mentioned in the explanation of Sahih Muslim of Imam Nawawi by saying: ‘That the rainfall is a mercy which Allah has just created, therefore use it as a blessing.’
It is narrated by Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) that once when the rain fell from the heavens, he told his servant to bring out his mattress and saddle so that the rain may fall on it. Abu Jawzaa’ then asked Ibn Abbas: Why are you doing that, May Allah have mercy on you? Ibn Abbas then said: “Do you not read the book of Allah: “And we have sent down from the heavens water that is blessed” (Qur’an 50:9)…Therefore I would like the blessing to fall (incur) on them.” (From Imaam As Shafii’s book, Al-Umm)
It is narrated by A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that, when it used to rain, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to pray for beneficial rain and say: “O Allah, bring beneficial rain clouds.” (Bukhari)
He (peace be upon him) also used to say: “We are given rain by Allah’s mercy, Allah’s providence, and Allah’s grace.” (Bukhari)
The time of the rain is a time of mercy from Allah so; one should take advantage of this time when Allah is having mercy on His slaves and make lots of du’aa. There are many times and places where du’aa is answered and one of them is when rain falls, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Two will not be rejected, Du’aa when the Adhan is being called and at the time of the rain.” (Abu Dawood)
As believers, the closer and more intimate our relationship is with nature, the stronger and certainly healthier an impact such an affiliation can have on our faith and our relationship with the Creator. Allah invites us to look around us and above us, to observe when He sends us His mercy in the form of rain, to reflect and give thanks to Him. So let’s appreciate this great gift of rainfall and use this blessing to turn to Him with sincerity and be of His beloved ones.
Originally posted in Arab News on the 8th of April 2016