The Quest for True Happiness


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HAPPINESS is the ultimate goal in life for almost all of us. It is the motive behind every action that is taken in this world. People eat, shop, study, work, marry or sometimes fall into forbidden relationships, go on vacations, throw lavish parties and sometimes go to weird, forbidden extremes just for the pursuit of happiness and delight. Eventually, there comes a time when they realize that these feelings are short-lived, temporary and bound to end at some point. So the question that arises is; what is it that gives one the feeling of everlasting happiness? What is it that would tend to make the heart content and at ease despite the day to day tests and hardships that life throws our way?
Simply put, true happiness is in realizing the purpose for which we were created. It is in worshipping the One who created us, that gives the hearts contentment and delight. It is in doing every action with the sole intention of gaining Allah’s pleasure, avoiding His Anger while following in the footsteps of His beloved Messenger (peace be upon him).
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim, said, “In the heart are disorders that cannot be remedied except by responding to Allah. In it is a desolate feeling that cannot be removed except by intimacy with Him in solitude. In it is sadness which will not leave except by happiness of knowing Him and truthfulness in his dealings. In it is anxiety that is not made tranquil except by gathering for His sake and fleeing to Him from His punishment. In it is a fire of regret which cannot be extinguished except by satisfaction with His commands, prohibitions, and decrees, and embracing patience with that until the time he meets Him. In it is a strong desire that will not cease until He is the only one who is sought. In it is a void that cannot be filled except by His love, turning to Him, always remembering Him, and being sincere to Him. Were a person to be given the entire world and everything in it, that would never fill the void.” (Madarij Al-Salikeen)
No doubt, this is the only reason our hearts are so much at peace and our souls so exuberant during Ramadan. It is because we spend the whole month busy in doing what we were created to do! We feel happy despite staying without food and water all day and despite exerting ourselves for extra prayer and worship.
We can actually maintain this state of peace and contentment throughout the year if we persist in continuing all the good acts that we do during Ramadan. The Creator and Master of everything that exists says in His Glorious Book: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find contentment in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.” (Qur’an 13:28)
The contentment and openness of the heart are aspects of happiness which are achieved through keeping up the remembrance of Allah and through following the teachings of the Qur’an. It is something that instills happiness in us not just during the moments in which it is done but also later on. This is because; every type of pleasure is enjoyed only once, except for (the acts of) worship, which is enjoyed three times: when you do it, when you remember it, and when you are given the reward for it. (Abd-Allah ibn Wahb)
Allah tells us in more than one place in the Qur’an that the faces of the ones who believed and did righteous acts for His sake will be glowing with happiness and delight. He says: “(Some) faces, that Day, will be bright — Laughing, rejoicing at good news (of reward and Jannah).” (Qur’an 80:38-39).
“Faces, that Day, will show pleasure. With their effort (they are) satisfied. In an elevated garden (Jannah)…” (Qur’an 88:9-11)
As believers we need to know and have strong belief in the fact that life will not be a bed of roses for long and that we will be tested and tried till we reach our graves. If we look at the people around us, we will see people who are being tested in one way or the other. It will be either by missing out on something that they like, or going through that which they dislike.
Ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) rightly said: For every moment of joy there is a moment of sorrow, and no house is filled with joy but it will be filled with sorrow.
Beautiful is the dua that the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us. He said, “If any Muslim is afflicted with distress and makes this dua, then his supplication will be answered:
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‘O Allah, I am your servant, the son of your servant, the son of your maidservant. My forelock is in your hand, your command concerning me prevails, and your decision concerning me is just. I call upon you by every one of the beautiful names with which you have described yourself, or which you have revealed in your Book, or you have taught to anyone of your creatures, or which you have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with you, to make the Qur’an the delight of my heart, the light of my chest, the remover of my sadness and dispeller of my anxiety.’”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If he says this, Allah will remove his affliction and replace it with joy and happiness.” His They said, “O Messenger of Allah, should we not learn it?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Yes, whoever hears it should know it.” (Ahmad 3704)
Lastly, we need to understand that happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute doing good for the sake of Allah, it is in being grateful for whatever we have and in utilizing it all in being of service to the creation of Allah. May Allah grant us the happiness of this world and the next. Ameen.
-Written by Mariam Anwer
Originally published in Arab News

Ramadan – A Nafs Killer


Ramadan to Ramadan sins

 

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

The Earth will testify


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Imam Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Abu `Abdur-Rahman An-Nasa’i all recorded a Hadith from Abu Hurayrah — and in the wording of An-Nasa’i’s version it states — that he said,

“The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) recited this Ayah,

﴿يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا ﴾

‘That Day it (the earth) will declare its information.’ (Surah Al Zalzalah 99:4)

Then he said, «أَتَدْرُونَ مَا أَخْبَارُهَا؟» “Do you know what is its information?”

They said, `Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said,

«فَإِنَّ أَخْبَارَهَا أَنْ تَشْهَدَ عَلَى كُلِّ عَبْدٍ وَأَمَةٍ بِمَا عَمِلَ عَلَى ظَهْرِهَا أَنْ تَقُولَ: عَمِلَ كَذَا وَكَذَا يَوْمَ كَذَا وَكَذَا، فَهَذِهِ أَخْبَارُهَا»

Verily, its information is that it will testify for/against every male and female servant, about what they did upon its surface. It will say that he did such and such on such and such day. So this is its information.

-Tafsir Surah Al Zalzalah from Tafsir Ibn Katheer

The Blessed Day of ‘Arafah


Praise be to Allah alone, who guides His servants to worship Him and blesses them with special seasons, days and nights as opportunities to draw closer to Him and His Pleasure. The 9th Day of Dhul-Hijjah is one such day and it is known as the Day of ‘Arafah. It is the day when millions of pilgrims gather at the plain of ‘Arafah as an obligatory ritual of Haj.
Almost anyone who has performed Haj agrees that the standing on ‘Arafah is the greatest part of Haj, as it is the place where a person can begin to truly know himself, his deficiencies and weaknesses. And in acknowledging his faults he also can come to know of the presence of His Creator in his life, of His limitless forgiveness and generosity. He recognizes that all he can do at that moment is turn to Allah, seek His mercy and forgiveness.

Just as those on Haj are blessed with the opportunity to turn to Allah, repent and “come out as sinless as a newborn child” (Al-Bukhari), the ones not on Haj also get a somewhat similar opportunity.

fast-9th-dhThe Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fasting the Day of ‘Arafah (9th Dul-Hijjah) is an expiation for (the sins of) the previous year and an expiation for (the sins of) the coming year.” (Muslim)

Not all of us can perform Haj, but almost all of us can race for Allah’s pleasure and forgiveness by fasting on the Day of ‘Arafah which is the day of salvation from the Fire. Allah frees from the Fire those who gather in ‘Arafah, as well as those Muslims in their home cities who can’t gather there. However, the day which follows is an Eid celebration for all the Muslims in the world, whether they were on Haj or not, because they were still included in the salvation and forgiveness of the Day of ‘Arafah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There is no day on which Allah frees more people from the Fire than the Day of ‘Arafah. He comes close and expresses His pride to the angels, saying, ‘What do these people want?’” (Muslim)
The Almighty made the Day of ‘Arafah the best day of the year just like He made the Night of Qadr the best night of the year. While no one knows for sure which night is the Night of Qadr from the last ten nights of Ramadan, Allah has made the Best Day of the year known and this is His special favor on His believing servants and a chance for them to improve their relationship with Him by way of doing all kinds of good deeds and du’a.
‘Arafah is a day of acceptance of du’as and du’a is the cord that connects the human to the Almighty and according to a Hadith: “The best of du’a is du’a on the day of ‘Arafah.” (Hasan Al-Albaani in Saheeh Al-Jaami’1102)
1238382_10152035760762652_955815536_nThe Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “The best of du’a is du’a on the day of ‘Arafah, and the best that I and the Prophets before me  said is ‘Laa ilaaha ill-Allah wahdahu la shareeka lah, lahu’l-mulku wa lahu’l-hamdu wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadeer (There is no god but Allah alone, with no partner or associate; His is the dominion, to Him be praise, and He has power over all things).” (Tirmidhi-3585)
Another Hadith also mentions that whoever says these words with a sincere heart, attesting to the truth of that with his tongue, then Allah will surely tear open the sky until He looks at the person from amongst the people of the earth who said it. And the right of the servant whom Allah looks at is that He grants him whatever he asked for.” (An-Nisaee – Saheeh Al-Albani)
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So make a list of the du’as closest to your heart and then pray to Allah on the best day of the year with sincerity and humility. Talk to Him like you would talk to a friend and confess your fears and expectations. He is Al-Sami (The Hearer) and Al-Mujeeb (The One who responds) so He will surely listen and respond to what He Knows is best for you. Imam Shawkani (rahimahuAllah) rightly said: “To know your du’a is accepted is to have your heart ready, cry and shed tears to Allah, being persistent, and after that feeling, a burden taken off your shoulders.”
The day of ‘Arafah is among the most blessed times of the year in Islam. It commemorates the finality of revelation (Qur’an 5:3) and the completion of the Ḥaj pilgrimage. It is also the day when the Prophet delivered his last khutbah — A gem and a reminder of our responsibility and accountability to Allah, so read about it, reflect and strive to implement the advice. Main guidelines from the last khutbah included:
• Sacredness of a Muslim’s life and property
• The importance of propagating this message to all others (A Muslim’s responsibility thus does not end by following the religion)
• A reminder that everyone is fully accountable for their deeds and Allah (God) will take every person into account. If everyone heeded to this fact alone, the world would be a much better place today.
• “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.” These words of the prophet are self-explanatory.
• The prohibition of dealing with interest (Numerous accounts in Qur’an and Hadith prohibit taking, giving or being a part of any transaction dealing with interest).
• “You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.” These words of the prophet are self explanatory.
• The awareness of shaitan and how he can work to deviate us from the right path and doing evil things.
• Rights of women over men and rights of men over women.
• Treatment of women with kindness.
• Modesty and chastity in women.
• The importance of worshiping Allah (offering the five daily prayers, fasting Ramadan, giving charity (Zakat) and performing Haj.
• Equality among all (blacks, white, Arabs, non-Arabs, etc.)
• The need to establish justice.
• Islam is the final divine religion (Last Prophet and Last Book).
May Allah guide us in doing our part in following the Prophet’s message and propagating the message to everyone we know and accept from us the tiniest of good deeds that we do on the best of days! Ameen.
-Mariam Anwer
Originally posted in Arab News

Special Days of Special Worship


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It is that time of the year again when we see millions of people from every corner of the world gathering together in Makkah, for Hajj which is the largest annual religious gathering that humanity knows. It is not just the sheer number of people, but also the diversity that is stunning. Indeed, the heart of every believer soars with joy and the eyes well up when they watch the live transmissions being aired from the Holy sites and every single one of them wishes that he/she was one of the blessed ones performing Hajj this year.
 
As the same feelings sweep over me, I can’t help but remember the time when it all started. The time when Allah commanded Prophet Ibraheem to build His House, purify it and then call people to it for pilgrimage. I remember and I wonder how our father Ibraheem must have felt at the honor and how he must have made the call. Allah talks about this, in Surah Al Hajj and says: “And when We designated for Ibraheem the site of the House, [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate. And proclaim to the people the Hajj; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” (Qur’an 22:26-27)
 
Ibn Katheer said in his commentary on these verses: “This means: Allah says, Proclaim (O Ibraheem) the Hajj to the people, calling them to come on pilgrimage to this House which We have commanded you to build. It was mentioned that Ibraheem said, “O Lord, how can I proclaim it to the people when my voice does not reach them?” He said, “Call and We will convey it.” So he stood in his maqaam (Station of Ibraheem) – or it was said, on the rock, or on al-Safa, or on Abu-Qubays (a mountain) – and said: “O people, your Lord has taken a House, so come to it on pilgrimage.” And it was said that the mountains lowered themselves so that his voice could reach all parts of the earth, those who were still in the wombs or in men’s loins also heard. And everything that heard him, cities, nomad encampments and trees, and everyone whom Allah has decreed should perform Hajj until the Day of Resurrection responded, (saying): ‘LABBAYK ALLAHUMMA LABBAYK’ (HERE I AM, O ALLAH, HERE I AM). (Tafsir Ibn Katheer)
 
Praise be to the One Who has made His House “a place of return for the people and [a place of] security.” (2:125).The hearts of those who love Allah are naturally attached to the House of the Beloved. Every time they see its image from afar they long for it and every time they are away from it they want to return. Although this narration amazes us, it also saddens many who are unable to undertake this amazing journey, either due to financial reasons, family obligations, or any other reason that may exist. Allah knows the state of hearts and He is especially Merciful towards His believing slaves when He decrees that whenever one resolves to do an act of worship but he is unable to do it because of some excuse, he will be granted the reward of one who does it. This is proven by the incident when the Messenger (peace be upon him) came back from the campaign of Tabook and when he drew close to Madeenah he said: “In Madeenah there are some people who, whenever you marched or crossed a valley, were with you (gaining similar rewards).” The companions said: “O Messenger of Allah, but they were in Madeenah.” He said, “They were in Madeenah because some excuse kept them back.” (Al-Bukhaari-4423)
We can also get the ultimate rewards of Hajj, from right where we are. According to a hadeeth, whoever prays Fajr Prayer in congregation, then sits and remembers Allah until the sun rises, and then prays 2 rak’ahs of voluntary prayer (Al-ishraq), he will gain a reward equal to that of performing a perfect, perfect, perfect Hajj and Umrah. (Al-Albaani, Saheeh Al-Jaami’-6346)
Furthermore, Allah has made the month of Hajj, Dhul-Hijjah blessed, and the first ten days of this month have been made the best ten days of the year so all good deeds done in this season carry extra rewards. The evidence of this has been reported in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Allah says: “By the dawn. And by the ten nights.” (Qur’an 89:1-2) The ten nights refer to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah according to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and others. (Tafsir Ibn Katheer)
The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “There are no days in which righteous actions are more beloved to Allah than these ten days…” (Al-Bukhari, 2/457)
 
Therefore, for those of us who are unable to be in Makkah right now for Hajj, let’s value these special days of the year and maximize our efforts to excel in various good deeds. We can:
• Pray all Fard prayers on time and try to pray extra nafl prayers for extra reward.
• Fast as the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah. (Saheeh Abi Dawood-2/462). And when the he (peace be upon him) was asked about fasting on the 9th – The Day of ‘Arafah, he said: “It expiates (sins) for the past year and the coming year.” (Muslim-1162)
• Keep our tongues moist with Takbeer (Allahu-Akbar), Tahmeed (Alhamdulillaah), Tahleel (La ilaha ill-Allah) and Tasbeeh (SubhanAllah)
• Try to read the Qur’an as much as possible as ‘every letter earns us more than ten rewards’ (Tirmidhi-2910).
• Increase in our worship, repentance and du’a during the day and during the night.
• Give charity and help those who are less fortunate to prepare for Eid.
• Restrain our tempers and our tongues from evil or idle talk, try being patient in upholding ties with relatives even if they are rude to us.
• Share sacrificial meat with the poor and be cheerful with everyone.
 
These ten days are truly special days of great gains and profits. The smart traders are those who make the most of this special season to increase their profits and seek nearness to their Master, whether there are at Makkah or far away. Perhaps Allah will accept from them as He accepts from the Hujjaj, because of their sincere intentions.
 
-Mariam Anwer
Originally published in Arab News
 AN DhulHijjah

Racing to Good Deeds in Ramadan


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Praise and thanks to Allah who has made us reach the blessed month of Ramadan yet again this year. He made it a month of mercy, forgiveness, du’aa and multiplied rewards. Every night of this blessed month, He invites the fortunate ones who witness it, to race and compete with each other in doing righteous deeds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “On the first night of the month of Ramadan, the devils are chained, the jinn are restrained, and the gates of Hellfire are closed and none of its gates are opened. The gates of Paradise are opened and none of its gates are closed. A caller announces: O seeker of good, come near! O seeker of evil, stop short! Allah will save them from the Hellfire and that is during every night of Ramadan.” (At-Tirmidhi-682)

How amazing is that? Could our names be among the ones whom Allah removes from the list of people going to Hell? Insha Allah, Yes! With the devils being chained and the entrance to Paradise made so easy, racing to do all that Allah has commanded and trying our best to avoid all that He has forbidden has been made easy for us in this blessed month. Ramadan is without doubt a golden opportunity for all of us who hope to be saved from the Hell fire and yearn to dwell in Paradise, where we will have all that we desire. This is not a month of socializing and feasting even though it is common to see this around us. This is a month of competing with each other in improving our relationship with our Creator – A month where we ignore all distractions and race to him by doing lots of good deeds. Allah says, “And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden [i.e. paradise] as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:133)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There has come to you the month of Ramadan, a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with grace, sending down mercy, forgiving sins and answering supplication. Allah looks at your competition in doing good therein, and boasts of you before His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for truly the wretched person is the one who is deprived of the Mercy of Allah during this month.” (At Tabarani)

The Messenger (peace be upon him) and his companions would pray, fast, spend time with the Qur’an and be obedient to Allah all year round but in Ramadan, they would maximize their efforts to excel in various good deeds. Nothing can be better for us than following their footsteps in this world and then being rewarded by having their company in the Hereafter. The Messenger (peace be upon him) mentioned many actions which, if performed sincerely, grant us great rewards.

The best of such actions in Ramadan is fasting, which has been made obligatory by the Almighty. The exact reward for fasting has not been specified but it is expected to be tremendous because of the way this hadith describes it: “Every deed of the son of Adam will be multiplied between ten and seven hundred times. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, said: Except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it. He gives up his desires and his food for My sake.” (Muslim-1151) SubhanAllah! We need to perfect our fast by not just avoiding food and drink but also false and hateful speech and deeds so the rewards can be maximized. According to another hadith, there is a gate to Paradise that is called Ar-Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection it will say: ‘Where are those who fasted?’ When the last [one who fasted] has passed through the gate, it will be locked. [al-Bukhari and Muslim].

The blessed month of Ramadan is a celebration of the Qur’an as the blessed Book was revealed in it. Striving hard to spend the month in reading, reciting and listening to the Qur’an carries huge rewards. Regarding reciting it, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward, and this reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that ‘Alif, Laam, Meem’ is a letter, rather I am saying that ‘Alif’ is a letter, ‘Laam’ is a letter and ‘Meem’ is a letter.” (Tirmidhi-2910)

While for the one who listens to the Qur’an attentively (in prayer at the masjid or elsewhere), it was said that mercy does not come quicker to anyone than the one who listens to the Qur’an according to the words of Allah: “So when the Qur’an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.” [Qur’an 7:204] The words “you may” make it mandatory for Allah! (Tafsir Al Qurtubi)

In addition to studying the Qur’an, there is a narration by Ibn Abbas that emphasizes the need to be generous in giving all kinds of charity in Ramadan: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people and he was the most generous in the month of Ramadan, when Jibril would meet him. Jibril used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an.” (Bukhari-1716, Muslim-4268)

Speaking of charity, you can also easily get the reward of fasting not just 30 fasts in the blessed month, but 60, 90 and so on! Surprised? Well, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Whoever gives a fasting person (food or drink to break their fast), they will have similar to the reward of the one who fasted, without any decrease for the one who fasted.” (At-Tirmidhi-Authenticated by Al Albani) Buy some dates and hand them over at some masjid, for the worshippers at the time of breaking the fast or hand over bottles of cold water and small packets of dates on the road sides at the time of Maghrib. If you are unable to do any of that, then just helping out in the kitchen and setting up Iftar with dates and cold water for your family will bring a similar reward insha Allah.

Making extra voluntary prayer along with the 5 obligatory ones is another way to race to Paradise according to the narration of Rabi’a b.Ka’b who said: I was with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) one night and I brought him water and what he required. He said to me: ‘Ask (for anything you like)’. I said: I ask for your company in Paradise. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Or anything else other than it?’ I said: That is all (what I require). He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Then help me to achieve this for you by devoting yourself to frequent sujood [prostrations].’ “(Muslim-990) Let’s rush to the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise by spending the nights of Ramadan in prayer as whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer.”  (Hadeeth classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)

According to a hadeeth, performing an Umrah in Ramadan is like accompanying the Prophet (peace be upon him) on Hajj.” (Bukhari-1764) But as for those who live far away from the blessed land of Makkah and feel sad because they cannot perform Umrah in this blessed month, well you can get the ultimate rewards of Hajj and Umrah, from right where you are. According to a hadeeth, whoever prays Fajr Prayer in congregation, and then sits and remembers Allah until the sun rises, and then prays 2 units of voluntary prayer (Al-ishraq), he will gain a reward equal to that of performing a perfect, perfect, perfect Hajj and Umrah. (Al-Albaani, Saheeh Al-Jaami’-6346)

“Race to [all that is] good.” says Allah in the Qur’an (2:148) and one can think of no better time to do this except in the blessed season that we find ourselves in. Restraining our temper and our tongues from evil or idle talk, helping those in need, being patient in upholding ties with relatives even if they are rude to us will make us gain not just tremendous rewards but also the pleasure of Allah and His Paradise in this blessed month. Some short but beautiful and meaningful phrases of praising, glorifying and exalting Allah taught by the Prophet should also be recited in Ramadan to get those extra rewards. He (peace be upon him) said:

  • “Whoever says Subhaan Allaah il ‘azeem wa bi hamdihi (Glory and praise be to Allaah the Almighty), a palm tree will be planted for him in Paradise.”(Tirmidhi)
  • “There are) two words which are dear to the Most Merciful (Allah) and very light (easy) for the tongue (to say), but very heavy in weight in the balance. They are: Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan-Allahil-Azim (Glory and praise to Allah, and Glory to Allah the Almighty)’. (Bukhari)
  • “Glorify Allah a hundred times by just saying Subhanallah (Glorified is Allah) and a thousand good deeds will be written for you, or a thousand sins will be wiped away.” (Muslim)
  • “Say ‘Laa Hawla Wa Laa Quwwataa Illaa Billaah’ (There is no might or power except with Allah) in abundance, for indeed it is from the treasures of Jannah.“ (Bukhaari) This means that this phrase is a treasure that will be preserved and rewarded to the servant in Jannah if he utters it.

How Merciful is our Lord, Who enlightened us to countless good deeds that lead to His pleasure and Paradise – Alhamdulillah! Regardless how much we do and how much we offer we will always fall short fulfilling Allah’s rights upon us, therefore we must increase in seeking His forgiveness and always seek His guidance and help in doing good for His sake. He says: “And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways (the means to attain the acceptance and pleasure of Allah). And indeed Allah is with the doers of good.” (Qur’an 29:69)

May Allah grant us the strength and tawfiq to make the most of this blessed month and be winners in this race to be among His beloved ones. Ameen.

– Written Mariam Anwer

A condensed version of this article originally published in Arab News

Ramadan is literally Mubarak!


Mubarak Ramadan

“This Ramadan, I am afraid I won’t be able to do much Ibadah…”

Did you find yourself saying this to yourself or someone else? Perhaps it continued like this “… because I have exams”, or, “… because the fasts are super long and I have work”, or may be “… because kids have school” …or something else?

I know, Ramadan is exciting, but the fear is also real. However, before you decide not to set any goals for yourself this Ramadan, or allow yourself to take it easy, read on:

1. Ramadan is a month whose every day and night is Mubarak – in fact EVERYTHING about this month is Mubarak, including the food we eat at suhoor. Simply explained, mubarak is something that has barakah in it, and barakah is ‘when you get more out of what appears to be little’.
So while you may be genuinely afraid about your limited capacity and time assure yourself of Allah’s special aid this month, and take comfort in knowing that even the little will suffice inshaAllah.

2. Allah loves deeds that are consistent, even if they may be small. Ramadan is an opportunity we really don’t want to miss no matter what is going on in our lives, because it is unlike any other time of the year. So aim for something, even if it may be small. The nights are short for many of us, but Allah’s mercy and generosity is great. If we can stand in prayer for a few minutes only, lets do it.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Would any one of you like to return to his family and find there three large, fat, pregnant she-camels? We (the sahabah) said: Yes. Upon this he (ﷺ) said: Three verses that one of you recites in his prayer are better for him than three large, fat, pregnant she-camels. [Muslim: 1908]

Perhaps you can do more?

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Whoever recites ten verses in the night, a heap of reward will be recorded for him, and that is better for him than the world and whatever that is in it.” [Saheeh at-Targheeb a at-Tarheeb: 638]

And of course, the reward for Ihsan is nothing but Ihsan.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Whoever recites a hundred verses in the night, then the worship of the entire night will be recorded for him.” [Musnad Ahmad: 16958]

May Allah allow us to worship Him in the best way that we can this Ramadan, consistently and beautifully. Ameen.

– Taimiyyah Zubair

What’s cooking this Ramadan? Less dishes, more prayer!


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)

dates

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

 

Sincerity and Correctness in Worship


The purpose of our life is a topic that we seldom think about or it is a discussion that is put aside after occasional brief reflection. But it is extremely critical for us to know about this topic as it is having a purpose in life that pushes us to use our intellect and abilities in the right direction and it serves as a core factor to success and happiness. As Muslims, we believe that the great purpose for which we exist in this world is to worship our Lord, our Creator – Allah, Who says: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51:56)

Indeed Allah created the creation so that they could worship Him alone, without associating any partner with Him. Whoever obeys Him will be completely rewarded, whereas whoever disobeys Him would be punished with a severe punishment. And He has informed that He is neither dependant, nor does He have any need for them. Rather, it is the creation that is in dire need of Him, in every condition and circumstance, since He is the One who creates, sustains and provides for them. Imam Ibn Katheer said: “Ibaadah (worship) is obedience to Allah by acting upon what He commands and abandoning what He forbids; and this is the reality and essence of Islam. And the meaning of Islam is: ‘istislaam’ (submission and surrender) to Allah – the Most High – along with the utmost compliance and submissiveness to Him.”

Whatever a servant of Allah does to seek His pleasure, in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah is Ibaadah. As Muslims we need to realize that from the conditions of our worship to be accepted by Allah, is that it needs to be sincerely for His sake. Allah says: “So whoever hopes for the meeting with His Lord let him work deeds of righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of His Lord.” (Qur’an 18:110). Similarly, the Messenger (peace be upon him) said “Indeed Allah does not look at your faces nor your wealth but He looks at your hearts (intentions) and your actions.” (Muslim) Also there is a Hadeeth Qudsi where the Messenger (peace be upon him) said that Allah said, “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having partners. Thus, whoever does an action for someone else’s sake as well as Mine, will have that action rejected by Me to him whom he associated with Me.” (Muslim)

After sincerity the second vital condition of worship is that it should be correct and therefore acceptable to Allah. Our worship of Allah should be as He and His Messenger (peace be upon him) have commanded us. Allah says: O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and do not invalidate your deeds.” (Qur’an 47:33)

The Messenger (peace be upon him) said regarding this: “Whoever does an action which we have not commanded will have it rejected.” (Muslim) He (peace be upon him) also said “Whoever does an action (of worship) in a way different from ours will have it rejected.” (Abu Dawood)

Action Rejected

It has been narrated that `Umar Al-Khattab once passed by the monastery of a monk. When the monk came out, `Umar looked at him and began to weep. When people asked him why he was weeping, he replied: “I remembered the statement of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, in His Book: ‘Working [hard] and exhausted. They will [enter to] burn in an intensely hot Fire.’ [Qur’an 88:3-4] So that is what has made me cry.”  (Tafsir Ibn Katheer)

Hence, if an act of worship is correct but not sincere, it will not be accepted and if it is sincere but not correct it will not be accepted until it is both sincere and correct. Sincere means that nothing but the Face of Allah is sought by doing it and correct means that it is in conformity with the Sunnah.

Unfortunately, when we look around us today, we see a lot of people ignoring these two conditions; using worship as a tool to get worldly benefits or taking the way of their fathers, ancestors and other people as the yardstick of right and wrong. There exist in Muslim communities, several innovated cultural practices and beliefs which have no basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Innovated practices are actions like specifying words of Dhikr that are not prescribed in the Sunnah, or to say that a particular du’aa, a certain chapter/verse from the Qur’an or a specific Name of Allah should be recited a fixed number of times without any proof from the Hadith. These innovated actions also include singling out a day or night for worship and religious celebration that the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his companions never did (like the day of 12th Rabi’ ul Awwal, nights of 27th Rajab and 15th Sha’ban).

Yet, when these misunderstandings are brought to the attention of people, many respond in the exact words of the disbelievers of old times, “This is what our forefathers used to do so we will do the same.” People who make such statements should think about whether they are following the guidance of Allah or the way of the disbelievers. One of the key characteristics of Islam is the importance given to verification of information and to the prohibition of blindly following practices which are proven to be unislamic.

Islam is a complete way of life. All acts of worship that we need to get closer to Allah have already been revealed and explained to us by the Messenger (peace be upon him) who said, “I have left you upon the clear path, its night is like its day and no one deviates from it after me except that he is destroyed.”(Ahmad) This hadeeth should push us to acknowledge and accept the facts and not be careless, making our actions vain like Allah has mentioned regarding some people: “And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.” (Qur’an 25:23) Rather let us become cautious and send something foreword for the Day of Judgment, the Day when we will be in great need for good actions, i.e., our sincere and correct Ibaadah.

-Mariam Anwer

Originally Published at Arab News

AN Sincerity

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