Ramadan – A Precious Gift

Fast Ramadan
The fragrance of the blessed month of Ramadan is already in the air and almost everyone has started feeling the slight sensation of excitement that this blessed month brings with it. Isn’t it amazing how we look forward to this month with such excitement and anticipation? A month where we spend more than half of the day – in the scorching summer heat – without eating or drinking and the nights in reading or reciting the Glorious Qur’an. For Muslims, Ramadan is a month filled with so much meaning and goodness that on the final day even the children do not want it to end. How can the believers not rejoice at the coming of this blessed month when Allah ‘opens up the gates of paradise, closes the gates of Hellfire, and chains up the devils?’ (According to hadeeth in Bukhari)
To reach the month of Ramadan and strive in worship in it is one of the greatest blessings from Allah. This has been explained in a narration by Talha ibn ‘Ubaydallah who reported that there were two men who had accepted Islam at the same time. One of them used to strive in good deeds more than the other, but one day he fought in a battle and was martyred. The other remained behind him for another year, and then he also died. Talha said, ‘I had a dream in which I saw that I was at the door of Paradise and the two men were with me. Someone came out of Paradise and allowed the man who passed away later to enter first. Then he came out again and allowed the martyred one to enter. Then he returned and said to me, ‘Go back, for your time has not come yet.’ Talha woke up and informed the other companions about this. They were all surprised and eagerly went to inform and ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) about it, who said, ‘What are you surprised about?’ They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Out of them both, this one strove harder (in Jihad) then he was martyred but this other one entered Paradise before him?’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Did he not remain behind him for one year?’ They said, ‘Yes (he did).’ He said, ‘Did he not reach Ramadan, fast and pray with such and such number of prostrations in the year?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘So the difference between them is greater than what is between the heavens and the earth.’ (Sahih Ibn Majah 2/345, 346 – Al-Albani’s ‘al-Silsilah al-Sahihah)
What a gift and what an honor Subhan Allah! This is why the Muslims of the early generations used to ask Allah six months before Ramadan to grant them long lives so that they could reach Ramadan and they used to ask Allah the Almighty six months after Ramadan to accept from them. Do we do the same or do we take this blessed gift for granted, wasting away its precious days and nights?
Allah says: “The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Qur’an 2:185)
According to scholars, the word ‘so’ (fa) in this ayah leads to the following paraphrase of one aspect of its meaning: “Fast this month because it is the one in which the Qur’an was sent down.” We celebrate the Qur’an in Ramadan by reading, reciting, listening to it while pondering over it day and night. Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated from her father (peace be upon him) who told her that Angel Jibreel would rehearse the Qur’an with him (in Ramadan) once every year, and he did so twice in the year of his death. (Bukhari).
Fasting and spending time with the Qur’an is what reconnects us to our Creator hence nourishing the souls and recharging faith in the blessed month. Since the body is restrained from food and drink and the soul is fed with its divine nourishment, we feel peaceful, satisfied and re-energized in Ramadan. This is what pushes us to hold ourselves accountable, to repent and reform before it gets too late. It helps us in bringing positive changes in ourselves for the sake of Allah and be foremost in the race of drawing closer to Him by doing good deeds.
It is said in Tafsir Al Qurtubi that: The name Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word ramida or ar-ramad, denoting intense heat and dryness, especially on the ground. It is so called because Ramadan burns down the sins with good deeds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan out of faith and seeking reward, then Allah will forgive all of his previous sins.” (Muslim) He also said: “Verily, Allah has people He redeems from the fire at the time of breaking fast, and that is during every night. (Ibn Majah)
It is indeed from the extreme mercy and love of Allah, that He gives us the opportunity to increase in good deeds and be of the forgiven ones in this blessed month. Let’s make sure we don’t make it a month of laziness and sleep, or of practicing the art of cooking and planning lavish meals, or of shopping and entertainment. Rather, let’s prepare to welcome Ramadan by trying to learn all its virtues and rulings. Let’s make sincere intentions to do our best and prepare our Ramadan goals with detailed, realistic schedules for each day. According to a hadeeth, we will be rewarded for our intentions to do good deeds, even if we fail to actually do them. (Bukhari and Muslim).
Let’s sincerely repent from our sins and learn to forgive, forget and pardon others. It’d be wise to make a massive du’aa list and note down the times from the sunnah when our du’aas have higher chances of being answered e.g. while breaking our fast, in sujood and in the last part of the night before Fajr.
This could be our last Ramadan so let’s plan well and make arrangements to have the best one ever. It truly is the month of great gains and profits. The smart trader is the one who makes the most of this special occasion to increase his profits. May Allah make us witness Ramadan in a state of good health and strong faith and help us to be among the smart ones who do their best to gain maximum rewards. Ameen.
-Written by Mariam Anwer
Originally posted in Arab News
AN Gift Ramadan

Breaking the Mountain this Ramadan

About three years ago I was listening to a lecture on the Magnificence of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). The lecturer came upon this verse:

“If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.”(Quran 59:21)

The scholar, Mirza Yawar Baig, then stopped for a moment, and said, “If Allah had revealed the Qur’an onto a mountain, it would have crumbled out of the awe of the words of Allah. Then what mountain has crept up into our hearts that our hearts do not even tremble at the remembrance of Allah?”

Allah (swt) Himself asks a similar question in Surah Hadeed:

“Is it not time that those who believe, that their hearts be submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has been revealed of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.” (Qur’an 57:16)

Allah (swt) is asking a question that should tug at the heart of every believer. Is it not time that the believer is moved by the words of Allah? Is it not time that when the believer comes across the mention of paradise, the believer cries to Allah seeking it? Is it not right that when the believer hears of the mention of the hellfire, the believer humbly seeks protection from it? How is it that a movie can bring believers to tears (which is fine), but the mention of the heart-breaking story of Yusuf `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) keeps us stone hearted? Allah (swt) then gives the example of the people who were given a book themselves earlier and mentions what happened to them. A long time passed and their hearts hardened. And a hardened heart leads to a defiantly disobedient soul.

quran tears

It has been a long time since the last Ramadan. Sadly, for most of us, it has meant that the quality of our good deeds has gone down. We make du`a’ (supplication), but there is no longer that fervour, that neediness that we displayed in front of Allah (swt). We were so conscious of sinning back then. Now, we let so many of our sins slide. Heart-breaking it may be, but the truth is that for many of us, over the past year our hearts have indeed gone hard. A mountain has crept up that is not humbled anymore at the remembrance of Allah (swt). But we are believers after all. While the ayah (verse) above is reprimanding us, it is still calling us believers. And in that very word lies the hope. Allah (swt) continues in the next ayah:

“Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs; perhaps you will understand.” (Qur’an 57:17)

The nature of the words of Allah (swt) is such that after every warning there is hope. After every reprimand there is advice. Allah doesn’t tell us about His anger or about our weaknesses such that we feel a serious bout of low self-esteem and wallow in the ocean of self-pity. Rather Allah gives warnings, mentions His punishment and scolds the believers to only remind them of their purpose and bring them back to Him. After Allah reprimanded us for the hardening of our hearts, He gives a very clear coded message. Allah (swt) is the One who gives life to the dead earth. Similarly, He is the One who can give life to our dead hearts.

Both the land and the heart are revived by what Allah (swt) sends from the sky. For the land, Allah sends rain; “And who sends down rain from the sky in measured amounts, and We revive thereby a dead land – thus will you be brought forth,” (Qur’an 43:11). For the hearts, Allah sent down the Qur’an; “O mankind, there has to come to you advice from your Lord and healing for what is in the chests and guidance and mercy for the believers,” (Qur’an 10:57).

The Qur’an is to our heart what the rain is to the land. Just like the land is revived by the rain, so are our hearts revived by the Qur’an. And what is the only thing that can actually break through a mountain? Water.

Water breaks through a mountain not because of its power, but because of its persistence. In front of us lies Ramadan, the month in which was revealed the Qur’an. There is no better time than now to start hammering at the mountain that has crept into our hearts with the water that has been sent.

The best time of the year to revive our dead heart is now. This Ramadan, let us irrigate our hearts with the Qur’an. Wherever we are with the book, let us improve our relationship with it. Perhaps we struggle to read the Qur’an. Make time to read the Qur’an more this Ramadan. Perhaps we read fluently and want to start reading a good translation of the Qur’an. Perhaps we might enroll in an Arabic course to understand the Qur’an better.

Let us heed the advice of the narration of our beloved Prophet ﷺ (peace be unto him):

“O people of the Qur’an, do not go take the Qur’an lightly. Recite it during all hours of the night and day. And spread it, beautify it and reflect upon it so that you may be successful.” (Narrated by al-Bayhaqi in Shu’ab al-Iman)

Written by Raiiq Ridwan

Source: Virtual Mosque

I will get closer to Al Qur’an…

quran closer

Dear Book of Allah, sent down specifically for my guidance and for the guidance of humanity; dear Words of my Lord:

I weep for my negligence towards you, for my long absence from reciting your ayahs and flipping through your pages, for my distance from poring over your meanings, powerful and moving, soothing and comforting, full of knowledge and wisdom. I weep for having been sent to school to learn you at a young age, reciting and memorizing a good portion of you, and then slowly, as I grew towards independence and autonomy, having distanced myself from you until you were no longer a part of my routine. Some part of me felt that, having recited you once in my life from cover to cover, I had done my duty, I had done enough.

But here is the month you were first sent down in, it has come again. And as the believers remove their copies of you from their bookshelves during this month, racing to finish you once or twice, or many times more, I find myself returning to you, too.

This Ramadan — the month of the Qur’an — I vow to set different goals, ones which I pray will last beyond this sacred month.

Dear Book of Allah: This Ramadan, I will open my heart and mind to you. I will ponder deeply over your words, for your words were meant to be pondered over: “Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?” [47.24]. Even if I don’t fully understand the Arabic of your verses, I will open you up to read from you daily, to let my eyes fall on the pages of your sacred text.

This Ramadan, I will fall in love with you. I will engage with you, dear Words of Allah, as words that are talking specifically to me, guiding me to what is right and what is wrong. I will not read you passively. When Allah speaks of His Glory and signs, I will stop to ponder. When He speaks of His Hell-fire and His punishment, I will reflect upon my own self and my actions and weep. When He speaks of His reward and the people He has favored, I will yearn to be of those blessed with meeting Him in Paradise.

In my heart, I know you are my favorite book, because no words are more powerful and beautiful than His. Because you are His words. How blessed! How blessed I am to have access to you, the only book on the face of this Earth containing the unchanged word of the Divine, ‘azza wa jall.

This Ramadan, I will memorize from you. By Allah’s permission, I will go back to first re-learn those surahs I had in my memory from a young age, but which were made to fade over time. I will read these newly memorized surahs in my salah, renewing my prayers with fresh verses and not reciting the same short, four or five surahs I often recite. Dear Book of Allah, there is such an expanse and such a depth to you, and I want to begin to explore your treasures.

This Ramadan, I will explore your tafseer, your explanation, understanding that the English translation doesn’t even come close to what Allah is actually saying in you. Behind every ayah is a deeper meaning, a miracle. There is nothing like attending live tafseer classes; but if I don’t have access to those, I will fully utilize the resources available to me. I will exhaust my efforts in trying to learn as much about you as I can. I will listen to more lectures about you and to more audio of you being recited, all the while remembering that these activities are no substitute for my own individual recitation and memorization of the Qur’an.

Dear Book of Allah: This Ramadan, I will make du’aa to Allah to help me understand you, His Book, the way you are meant to be understood. I will ask Him to help me implement your teachings in my life. I have been away for far too long, and the journey back towards you is just beginning. I will ask Allah to forgive me for neglecting you, for not appreciating your beauty and your teachings. I will ask Allah to make you, the Qur’an, my companion in this world and on the Day of Judgment.

I will pray to Allah that beyond Ramadan, I will still be able to push away the laziness and the distractions of this world that grip me. I will ask Allah to make it easy for me to recite, to learn, and to memorize you, to make you always a part of my existence. I will ask Allah to make the Qur’an such a significant part of my life that I am moved by your recitation, that I weep upon hearing you, that you become the most prominent source of guidance and inspiration in my life.

Dear Book of Allah: Allah says, in describing you, that you are an honorable, respected, mighty Book [41:41-42]. No matter how long I spend reciting you, your beauty will never fade; and no matter how long I spend studying you, your treasures will never be fully uncovered. And so, to get some small portion of you, something so vast — to be blessed with carrying you in my heart and having my mind begin to comprehend you — I will give myself to you, entirely.

This Ramadan, I will give myself to the Qur’an.

-Originally published at I Got It Covered.

What’s the Point in Studying Islam?

By AFIFA JABEEN | Saudi Life

DRIVING back from my last final exam of the semester, my thoughts were quickly arranging themselves into a list of all the ‘to-do’ things and ‘to-read’ books that I can now give attention to. But before that, the elder with whom I was riding home had a very peculiar question for me. It all began with him simply enquiring about how I did my paper, when do I have my next semester and then, how long is the course. “Four years?” was his startled response on being told the course duration. Then came the bomb. “Why are you studying this? Will it get you a job?”

I have found myself in this spot a few times before, having to explain to people what good a four-year Bachelors degree in Islamic Studies would do for me. I fail to understand why the answer to this—which appears as rather obvious to me —is not so easily comprehensible for others. Clearing my throat, I gave him two answers, one to convince him and another to convince myself. “Of course, you could get a job. Any school would be ardent to get me on board as an Islamic Studies teacher,” I said quietly, remembering when a few months back I ended up in a small school for an interview for an Islamic Studies teaching job. I hadn’t brought along my CV, but on learning that I was doing a course in Islamic Studies, the school’s owner looked sufficiently pleased at her discovery and handed me books to prepare myself for class next day. I never returned the next day, given that I considered teaching as “not my cup of tea.”

Next, I stated the obvious to my relative, who by now appeared slightly more convinced. “See, when you are studying such wonderful subjects like Aqeedah, Seerah, Hadith, Tajweed, isn’t it great to derive so much knowledge about Allah SWT and His religion out of it?”

More often than not, we measure the suitability of an academic program in terms of profit and loss – financial at that – and/or our own interests. Will it get me a good job? What does the industry look like in the next 10 years? Does the subject interest me? Is it my passion?

Talking of interests, Islam is our Fitrah, which we are born with. So by default, we should be naturally inclined to improve our practice of the Deen by studying and perfecting it.

As for profit and loss, Ibn Al-Jawzi رحمه الله said: “It happens that a person has good health, but does not have free time because of his being engaged in earning his livelihood; or he is rich but has no good health. So, if these two (good health and free time) are gathered in a person, but laziness overtakes him from fulfilling his duties, then he is a loser. (Know that) this world is the harvest field of the hereafter; and in it there is business, the profit of which will be visible in the Hereafter. So, whoever utilizes his free time and good health in the obedience of Allah, he is the blessed one. And he who utilizes them in the disobedience of Allah, he is the one who is unjust to himself, because the leisure time is affected by business and health is affected by sickness.” [Fath al-Bari 11/23]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) made seeking knowledge an obligation upon every Muslim. (Ibn Majah and Bayhaqi) It is true that gaining detailed Islamic knowledge is a responsibility of a few in society (Fard Kifaayah), and when they (scholars) pursue it, others are not obliged to. However, it is in the interest of each one of us to study the practical aspects of our Deen – be it ourAqeedah (The Prophet (peace be upon him) preached only matters of Aqeedah for thirteen years in Makkah, this is how important Aqeedah is!), or Fiqh issues, such as those related to our prayer (Can we pray Isha after midnight? Or knees first or hands first in Sujood?), or just who wouldn’t want to acquire a beautiful Tilawah (recitation) of the Qur’an, knowing where to pause at the right places and with the right intonation and teach it to our children?

These issues are even more important to most of us because our belief systems, methods of prayer, Qur’anic recitation, and so on are so culturally influenced that they may contradict true Islamic teachings. Therefore, this is all the more reason to strive to correct ourselves.

The contemporary seeker of Islamic knowledge is probably seeing one of the best times in recent history, as authentic knowledge is now easily available at the click of a button and just a website away, no matter in where he or she resides. Every now and then I receive online invites to ‘live sessions’ by well-known scholars on Aqeedah, Tajweed and various other Islamic sciences. The best part is that most of these are free and short-term, making it easy for busy individuals to take advantage of them.

I see a lot of interest among my friends, some working mothers, some stay-at-home moms, and some students, who whenever I share an update on Facebook or Twitter about an impending exam or an assignment, enquire about the course.  It pleases me that so many find the prospect of studying Islam in a well-organized academic manner as practical, yet I don’t know how many of those queries actually translate into enrolment. I have now drafted a document with all details of my course of study so that whenever someone asks me about it, I simply copy-paste the document to share with them—and I add that I would be more than happy to share more if they like.

However, some of these Islamic university programs may not be accredited (though many are in the process of gaining accreditation). I went into one such program knowing this, and so are many other seekers of knowledge, who enrol in these courses only for the wealth of knowledge that can be gained even without any ‘official’ recognition.

It is important to remember that your intention to study is to please Allah SWT, for He will ask about the knowledge you attained and how you used it (in your actions) and not about your worldy ijaazahs or certificates.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah), one of the great Islamic scholars, said: “Seek knowledge because seeking it for the sake of Allah is worship. And knowing it makes you more God-fearing; and searching for it is jihad, teaching it to those who do not know is charity, reviewing and learning it more is like tasbeeh (glorifying Allah). Through knowledge, Allah will be known and worshipped. With knowledge, Allah will elevate people and make them leaders and imams, who will in turn guide other people.”

How do we know if a Sheikh is holding an online course or if a university is open for admissions now? A common grumble among many is that they simply are not aware of online classes, institutes or schools that they can benefit from. Well, to be acquainted with all the necessary information, I say surround yourselves with (i.e. “friend” and “follow”) all the right people on Facebook and Twitter. Just like a friend would share a latest Rihanna song, these friends love to share with you beneficial information. And it goes beyond copy-pasting Qur’anic verses andahadith with or without pondering over them. So when I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed, it’s not unusual to find myself tagged in a sisters’ Tajweed class or an Islamic lesson taking place somewhere in the city and so on.

Thus, there remains no excuse to deprive your soul of its essence – enrich it with the knowledge of your Deen, of your Lord. It is sweet and gratifying. Alhumdulillah.

As for my elder relative who asked what’s the point of me studying Islam, despite his busy schedule, he continues to volunteer to take me to my exam center, which is on the other end of the city. Perhaps, if I am able to show signs of better behaviour (READ: more humble, patient, respectful and less-ranting), then I am sure he would see the good in furthering his Islamic knowledge. After all, knowledge that is not acted upon is non-beneficial knowledge—and actually becoming a better person is the point of studying Islam.