“Fasting Has Been Prescribed for You”

During Ramadan of 2021, the scholars of SeekersGuidance Arabiyya held daily lessons on various topics throughout the month. The lessons have been translated for the benefit of our English-speaking audience. Shaykh Muhammad Badhib gave the third lesson. You can view the video here.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah. May the best blessings and perfect peace be upon the one who was sent as a mercy for all creation: our master and prophet Muhammad. May the best blessings, greatest greetings, and most perfect peace be upon him, his family, and his companions. 

This is one of many blessed lessons from our Ramadan lessons in Ramadan. I ask Allah to place benefit in it for whoever watches and listens to this. He is most generous and kind. 

Our discussion today in this blessed episode is about the ayah: “O You who have believed, fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may attain Taqwa,” and Allah’s speech is most truthful. 

In this beautiful ayah, Allah informs his believing servants that fasting the month of Ramadan has been obligated and prescribed for them. Imam al-Tabari says in his tafsir, “in this ayah, “O You who have believed,” refers to those who believe in Allah and His Messenger, and affirm them. The phrase, “fasting was prescribed for you,” means that fasting was made obligatory for you. The word for “prescription” means to legislate, establish and mandate. The word “siyam” is a verbal noun for a verb that is used to mean to hold back from something. Both “sawm” and “siyam” are verbal nouns for the same verb. What it means to us is to hold back from that which Allah ordered us to hold back. 

There is a linguistic meaning to the word “sawm,” like when someone uses it for a horse to mean that it stopped travelling. One poet used it in describing his horse as “not sa’im,” meaning it was unrestrained in its prowess while others were held back by reins. That is an example from classical poetry by al-Nabighah al-Dhibyani, one of the poets whose work is used as a reference for language use. Another example of the word “sawm” being used in its linguistic sense is when Allah quotes Mary saying, “I have vowed sawm to the Most Merciful,” referring to her vow of silence. The word “sawm” was mentioned on time in this way in this ayah, while the word “siyam” comes repeatedly in more than one ayah. 

Imam al-Baghawi (Allah have mercy on him) says in his tafsir called Ma’alim al-Tanzil that the verse, “O You who have believed, fasting was prescribed for you,” means that Allah mandated and obligated fasting on you, and that fasting means to restrain oneself, and was used to refer to the time of the day when the sun appears still in at its peak in the sky. For when the sun reaches the sky, it looks as if it stopped in its tracks for a moment. And also the verse, “So say, ‘I have vowed sawm to the Most Merciful,” meaning silence, as it is restraint from speech. Then he mentioned the fiqh scholar’s definition of sawm in the religion. Imam al-Baghawi said, “In religious terms, sawm is restraint from eating, drinking, and intercourse with the proper intention during a specific time.” 

Imam Ibn Kathir (Allah have mercy on him) says in his commentary on this blessed ayah, “Allah addresses the believers of this nation and orders them to fast, which is to restrain from eating, drinking, and intercourse with a sincere intention for Allah because of the spiritual purity it contains, and because it cleanses one of lowly and ignoble manners. And He mentions that just as He obligated it for them, He also obligated it for those before them, and so they are a model for them. These believers must strive hard to fulfill this obligation more diligently than those before them. Just as He also says, “To each of you We have ordained a code of law and a way of life. If Allah had willed, He would have made you one community, but His Will is to test you with what He has given ˹each of˺ you. So compete with one another in doing good.” [Surah al-Maidah]. 

This is why our Lord says in this ayah: “O You who have believed, fasting was prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may attain Taqwa,” This is because fasting is a purification for the body and a means of blocking the path of Satan. 

In the two Sahih books it is reported that the Prophet ﷺ said, “O young men, whoever among you has the capability should get married. Whoever cannot must then fast, for it will be a means of abatement for him.” He also made clear how much one should fast, and that it shouldn’t be every day so as not to be too difficult on ourselves and end up incapable of continuing. Rather, Allah said “it is in a short number of days.” This was the case in the beginning of Islam. They would fast 3 days each month. Then that ruling was replaced with fasting the month of Ramadan, as will further be made clear. It was reported that fasting at first was like how it was for the nations before us: three days out of every month. This was reported from Muadh, Ibn Masud, Ibn Abbas, Ata’, Qatadah, and al-Dahhak bin Muzahim. One scholar added that this has been the case since the time of Noah (peace be upon him) until Allah replaced it with fasting the month of Ramadan. 

In this beautiful Ayah are shades of the Quran’s linguistic miracle. One is that the ayahs of fasting come in the context of Allah speaking about the difficulties that came down to one of the previous nations. Then the ayahs of patience come straight afterwards, and then come the ayahs of Hajj—all in one context in Surah al-Baqarah. 

Another linguistic miracle is in Allah choosing the words “fasting was prescribed for you,” instead of saying “Allah prescribed fasting for you,” or “We prescribed fasting for you,” Another linguistic gem is that He said, “prescribed,” and not “obligated.” That is because fasting is a difficult form of worship in which we restrain ourselves from life’s basic components and the body’s necessities. And so the use of the passive form of the verb here contains a beautiful secret, as part of the Quran’s linguistic prowess is that whenever a command involves some level of difficulty and effort, it is made in the passive form. Another example is when Allah says, “The enjoyment of desires was made attractive to people.” These subjects are not enjoyable to the soul. Fasting is repulsive to the soul because it is difficult for it. The enjoyment of desires, on the other hand, are attractive to the soul, but Allah is not pleased with it as it distracts one from worshipping him and occupies them with the worldly pleasures and passions. 

We also find the Quran speak about things that are good and pleasant for the soul, the verbs are in active form. Allah says, for example, “He prescribed mercy for himself.” In another ayah he says, “Those are the ones in whose hearts He etched faith.” Now we learned something about this miraculous wording of the Quran in using the passive form in the verse, “Fasting was prescribed for you.” 

Also as part of the linguistic gems in this ayah is the use of the word “siyam” instead of “Sawm.” The word “sawm” only appears in the Quran in reference to the statement of Mary, “I have vowed Sawm to the Most Merciful.” This is a “sawm” in the linguistic sense, meaning silence, while the word “siyam” was reserved for the act of worship, and also used to refer to the period of time during which the Muslim refrains from food and drink during a specific time, i.e., the month of Ramadan in general, and the daily act of fasting between the time of dawn and Sunset in specific. 

And so we ask Allah to open for us and those listening the doors of understanding, and to teach us the knowledge of the religion. And we ask Him to make the Quran the spring of our hearts, and the remover of our distress and grief. And we ask Him to make reciting the Quran during the day and night easy. He is the All-Capable and All-Powerful. 

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and may Allah send peace and blessings upon our master Muhammad, and upon all of his family and companions.

Our Character: Living Faith – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

This article series is based on the course delivered by Ustadh Amr Hashim – Our Character. Refining the self, improving one’s character, and beautifying one’s practice of Islam are quite daunting tasks for the average person. However, there is no need to strive on this path alone, when one can benefit from a great work that will explain all of this and more.

Our Character is a text by Habib Umar bin Hafiz. In this class, Ustadh Amr Hashim will explain and summarize this text and the practical implementation of it in on’s day-to-day life.

This class is an ideal weekly check-in as to one’s state of the heart, and the state of one’s progress in becoming a better believer from week to week. You can access all lessons here.

Wakefulness

Has not the time come for us to awaken from our sleep? Has the time not arrived for us to arise from our heedless state? It is upon us as servants of God to realize what it means to stand beneath the banner of: “There is no deity but God” for by God, it is not mere words uttered on the tongue – rather it is a pledge between us and our Lord. 

Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an: “And fulfill the covenant. Surely, the covenant shall be asked about [on the Day of Reckoning].” [Qur’an, 17:34]

Meanings and Words

When you and I read a book, when we speak, when we listen to people speak around us; we don’t seek out the empty words. Rather, we seek out the meanings behind those words. When we read a book on the virtue of reflecting on the Qur’an, we don’t blankly read the words whilst ignoring the meanings, rather, we seek meanings through the means; words.

In the same way, when we remember God through our remembrance (dhikr), we should be focusing on the meanings and not just the words themselves. Words are for conveying meanings, when we say “al-hamdu lillah” (all praise is Allah’s), we should mean the meanings and not just say it out of habit.

The Banner of “No Deity except God”

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, struggled earnestly for many years for the sake of conveying this very meaning; “verily there is no deity whatsoever except God,” only for his people to openly refuse to utter it! If it were just a simple sentence that they had to utter, they would have done so, and the matter would have reached a swift conclusion. 

However, his people realized the true extent of its meaning and the reality and visionary intent such that it became difficult for them to say and acknowledge it – even though they didn’t believe our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to be a liar! Indeed this statement means submitting and surrendering to the true One God in everything that he commanded and warned us against. 

Yes O, Muslims! Understand properly what you profess for verily in “La ilaha ila Allah,”  “there is no deity but God,” lies hidden the secret behind our strength! Lies hidden the life force of our greatness! Verily it is perfect freedom from any type of submission and surrender to any other than Allah, the Independent. And who else has any ability free of dependence? What a beautiful surrender is the surrender of a believer to Allah!

Allah Most High tells us in a hadith qudsi, “‘there is no deity but God’ is my fortress, so whoever says ‘there is no deity but God’ has indeed entered my fortress. And whoever enters my fortress is rendered safe from My chastisement.” 

Giving Victory in the Qur’an

“La ilaha ila Allah” – “there is no deity but God” calls us to give victory to it and to give victory to its meanings in ourselves. Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an: “(They are) the ones who were expelled from their homes without any just reason, except that they say “Our Lord is Allah.” Had Allah not been repelling some people by means of some others, the monasteries, the churches, the synagogues and the mosques where Allah’s name is abundantly recited would have been demolished. Allah will definitely help those who help Him (by defending the religion prescribed by Him.) Surely Allah is Powerful, Mighty.” [Qur’an, 22:40]

“O you who believe, if you will help (the religion prescribed by) Allah, He will help you, and will stabilize your footings.” [Qur’an, 47:7] Allah Most High tells us of the virtue in our supporting his way and religion. Of course, none of these verses (ayat) indicate God needing our help, God is exalted above all creation! How could the creator be in need of creation?

Giving Victory to Allah’s Religion

Contained within this banner is the meaning of the entirety of religion and what it entails. But we need to ponder and delve deep into understanding its meanings. When we uphold the meanings of this banner, we give victory to the religion of Allah Most High and his Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and it means to give victory to the way (sunna) of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.

How do we give victory to the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)? We stand firm on his teachings and character traits and we don’t do that which contradicts the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This is the way of true victory.

Togetherness with the Prophet

Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an: “Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is the messenger of Allah, and those who are with him…” [Qur’an, 48:29] How many of us are willing to give ourselves and our entireties to be of those that are described by Allah Most High in the Qur’an as “Those who are with him”? With him in this life and with him in the afterlife.

The verse (ayah) continues, “…those who are with him are firm on the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves” [Qur’an, 48:29] “Firm in the sense that they do not compromise their beliefs and values for trivial things that will displease their beloved. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was of the most merciful of people to others.

What Have We Done in the Name of this Banner?

When people around us are immersed in all forms of wrong, we should rally to the standard. If we are invited to places where there are sinful acts, we politely decline. This firmness allows us to be entrenched in our standards. These standards and values enable our ability to be better human beings; these standards make us dignified, these standards ensure our honor and ultimately, they make us acceptable to our Creator and Lord, Allah. What could be better than that?

These standards and guidelines were placed by our Lord, the Wise. His telling us of what is good and bad and what is dignified and what is not supersedes all other imaginations of what is good and bad. We may not understand the wisdom, but we do know that Allah is the All-Knowing, he knows that which we don’t! He is the Creator of us and this world, how could the Creator – exalted is He, not know what is better for you and I, his creation?

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari, Allah have mercy on him, said, “He’s made it obligatory for you to serve him but in reality, he didn’t make anything obligatory for you except to enter his paradise.” He’s given us these guidelines so that we know any obligation that is given to us has a reality. Its reality is his pleasure and Paradise (Jannah). And on the contrary, the reality of engaging in any of the prohibitions and wrongdoings is Allah’s Most High displeasure. 

We should witness this meaning whenever we stand up to pray; the reality of that prayer is Paradise (Jannah)! How? Because you understand that doing these obligations is the manifestation of our reward to come.

The Way of the Best of Creation

The way (sunna) and character (khuluq) of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has wisdom behind it, wisdom that we may not perceive. But it is the pinnacle of truth and superiority. Its superiority is due to the fact that it came with him, the best of all creation, peace and blessings be upon him, and due to the fact that he was sent by our Lord, Allah.

We should have absolute confidence in the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and we should love it. To the people of Allah, there can be no affirmation or support to any word of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). No amount of research changes or surprises the people of Allah – He is the pinnacle of truth.

“O you who believe, what is wrong with you that when it is said to you, “Come out in the way of Allah,” you turn heavy (and cling) to the ground. Have you become happy with the worldly life instead of the Hereafter? So, (remember that) the enjoyment of the worldly life is but trivial in (comparison with) the Hereafter.” [Qur’an, 9:38]

 

Virtues of Taqwa in the Qur’an – Birgivi’s Manual 02

Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explainedprovides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa.

There are over one hundred and fifty verses of the Qur’an that relate to taqwa, and over forty verses that have explicit commands that call to taqwa. This article will cover a few of these verses arranged thematically by Imam Birgivi. Some of these verses are accompanied by brief commentary and advice. Allah Most High says in the Holy Qur’an: 

  1. “The most noble of you in the sight of Allah are the most mindful.” [Qur’an 49:13] These are the people highest in rank, closest in proximity and most ennobled in virtue with Allah. 
  2. “And Allah is the Guarding Friend of the mindful.” [Qur’an 45:19] Not only are they brought near to Allah, but He is also their Patron, Supporter and Carer. 
  3. “Do not [falsely] deem yourself good, for it is Allah alone Who truly knows who is mindful [of Him].” [Qur’an 53:32] Look inward, for taqwa is only found in the heart. Always question the sincerity of your actions and ask yourself, “Am I truly mindful of Allah when I do good acts?” Perhaps it is a facade put up when others are around, and once they leave, the good action goes with them.
  4. “And the mindful people will certainly have a good return.” [Qur’an 38:49] Remember that there is something after the insanity of this world – something to yearn for and look forward to.
  5. “And rush towards forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden vaster than the heavens and the earth, prepared for those mindful [of Allah].” [Qur’an 3:133[ Allah has invited you, so come. If you miss this opportunity – despite the constant spiritual and existential reminders – you declined the invitation. You’d have nobody to blame but yourself, for Paradise is already prepared and waiting for you.
  6. “And those who were mindful of their caring Lord will be taken to Paradise in groups until they arrive at its [already] open gates. And the guardians of the gate greet them with “Peace be upon you! You have done so well, so come in, to stay forever.” [Qur’an 39:73] True taqwa is not merely doing ritual action because you’re “supposed to.” This entails being mindful of a worldly thing [your action], but not of Whom the action is for. 
  7. True taqwa is recognizing the Omnipotence, Mercy, Care, Beauty and Awesomeness of your Lord. It is to have careful restraint in this world by being perpetually aware of your Creator and Sustainer. Us entering Paradise “in groups” indicates the importance of keeping good company. Cultivate taqwa by spending time with, emulating, and serving righteous people. 
  8. “And truly the [eternal] abode is far better for those who are mindful [of Allah]. Will you not then understand?” [Qur’an 12:102] Which do you prefer: a fleeting, whimsical pleasure or an eternal abode of ease? Pause and reflect upon the fact that your desires are fleeting, and refraining from them has eternal consequences. Be clear about the delusional reality of this world. The honored servant of Allah considers the consequences of matters. If a person doesn’t pause to reflect, they’re no different than an animal.
  9. “…And Allah shielded them (the people of taqwa) from the punishment of Hellfire – As a complete bounty from your lord. That is [truly] the ultimate triumph.” [Qur’an 44:51–57] The word shield has the same Arabic root as the word taqwa. You are shielded from Hell in the afterlife because you shielded yourself from the displeasure of Allah in this world.
  10. “…And be mindful of me, O people of reason!” [Qur’an 2:197] Reflect and reason with yourself: Allah tells us that He is the One Who created everything from nothingness. You didn’t have to exist. The fact that He took you out of absolute nothingness into existence is a gift. Someone remaining in Hell is better than non-existence in the first place (in an existential sense)! The One Who took you out from nothing and then sustained you is calling and warning you to reflect. 
  11. “The best garment is mindfulness.” [Qur’an 7:26] In a time when many are worried about their appearances and outfits, we forget to cloak ourselves with the garment of taqwa. If you beautify yourself with the attire of something outside the standard of taqwa, you won’t find any good in it. 
  12. “Whoever venerates the distinguishing signs of Allah, that is indeed from mindfulness that is in hearts.” [Qur’an 22:32] Respect for any symbol of our religion is respect for Allah due to its relationship with Him. Scholars have the guidance of Allah. The Prophet is the emissary of Allah. The Qur’an is the book of Allah. The Ka‘ba is the house of Allah. Increase and cultivate your mindfulness of Allah through the veneration of these symbols.
  13. “My Mercy encompasses all things…” All of creation is an expression of Divine Mercy. Our mere existence is mercy, life is mercy, being human is mercy, and every moment we live in is mercy. And there’s the potential for attaining even more mercy. How do we get it? The remainder of the verse tells us.
  14. “…And I shall write it for those who remain mindful.” [Qur’an 7:156] Make mindful choices, even in the seemingly trivial things. And even when you fall short, Allah’s mercy encompasses it if you respond with mindfulness. From sin, repent. From temptation, turn away. From heedlessness, return to consciousness. From whims, refrain. From folly, desist.

Implications of Closeness to Allah – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

On this journey of Hope and Closeness, Shaykh Faraz throws light on diverse ways a believer can strengthen the connection with the all-sustaining and ever-living God, the ultimate purpose of life and religion, and the means to draw closer to Allah.

God bestows His closeness only unto those who understand His endless blessings – those who are entirely dedicated to Him and lost in His love. Man’s success lies in Qurb-i-ilahi (closeness to Allah), which indeed is the greatest fortune and blessing. On the other hand, Allah responds to the circumstantial refusal and insistence in disbelief in God by insisting that the believers “prostate and draw closer [to Allah].” [Qur’an 96:19] This underscores the importance of utter submission (taslim) and devotion to our Creator.

On this point, Imam Razi says: “Seek through your prostration a rank with your Lord.” And Imam Qushayri writes in his Lataif al-Isharat: “Prostate and draw close to behold the realities of Allah’s lordship. Stand on the carpet of submissiveness to Allah in your entirety.” Understand, then, the need to prioritize your pursuits in this world. The highest thing you can seek is the subtle reality of eternal closeness to Allah.

Repentance Is the Way

You must be aware of Allah (muraqaba) and increase awareness to navigate your journey in this world rightly. A journey that brings us closer to Allah Most High. Not in terms of distance, but in terms of awareness, for He is already near. As He says in the Qur’an: “We have created the human being and know what its own self whispers. And We are closer to it than its jugular vein.” [Qur’an 50:16]

Given the centrality of repentance in Islam, choosing the path of repentance opens ways for you to seek the pleasure and closeness of Allah. Repentance eases the way to righteousness for the believer and is drawn closer to Allah, who says: “Seek His forgiveness and repent to Him. Truly, my Lord is close and answers.” [Qur’an 11:61]

This verse makes it clear that repentance opens doors for a sinful person. It leads a person from a relative distance to a personal relationship with Allah. Note also that seeking forgiveness is not self-flagellation. It is to ask that Allah grant one the means to remain close to Him.

Supplication and Being Guided

It is pertinent to mention that seeking guidance ultimately works as a medium for the traveler to inch closer to the destination. Quran is clear in identifying the destination of seeking closeness to God: “If my servants ask you about me, I am close. ” [Qur’an 2:186] Being rightly guided brings human beings closer to Allah.

You also need to understand the role of supplication as a means to seek closeness to Allah. At the heart of calling upon Allah is recognizing your utter need for Allah. Supplication is, in fact, not only the spontaneous outpourings of your heart before your Lord, but an expression of your sense of nearness to Him, of His Might and Power, of confidence in His mercy, grace, and blessings.

Again, the fundamental reality is that God is always closer to you than any other existent thing. Realize the closeness of Allah and fill the vacuum and the emptiness in your lives. The Qur’an says: “We are closer to them than you are, but you don’t realize.” [50:16]

The consequence of this realization is expressed by Shaykh al Islam Ahmad Zayni al-Dahlan, who calls upon Ibn Ata’illah, when he says: “All bliss and all rejoicing in all its manifestation, in reality, is drawing and being closer to Allah. The actual torment amid the myriad of manifestations is being veiled from Allah, and the epitome of bliss is beholding the countenance and closeness of Allah.”

Reality of Closeness to Allah – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

On this journey of Hope and Closeness, Shaykh Faraz throws light on diverse ways a believer can strengthen the connection with the all-sustaining and ever-living God, the ultimate purpose of life and religion, and the means to draw closer to Allah.

Just as the Being of God is limitless, the pathways to His love and nearness are innumerable.  Likewise, the ways and means of the nearness of Allah are multifarious, and these ways are frequently mentioned in the Qur’an and hadith literature. Drawing close to Allah is, however, the central theme of the Qur’an. Allah Most High says: “And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near.’” [Qur’an 2:187]

Ibn Ajiba’s tafsir Al-Bahr al-Madid argues that the entire underlying guidance of the Qur’an focuses on realizing the closeness to Allah. Also, while engaging with the questions such as “What do we mean by God?” and “Why is he worthy of worship?” beings must realize that we are dealing with a God who is all-merciful.

He Who Brings into Being

We owe our existence to Him who sustains and nourishes us and is closer to us than our jugular vein. One of the sense of him being all-merciful is mentioned by Habib al-Hasan Jifri who defines God as “al-Rahman bi l-Ijad” who brought everything from the darkness of non-existence to the light of existence. We owe our existence and submission to the All-Sustaining (al-Qayyum) and Living God. The One who needs none to Sustain Him in any way. The one who sustains everything, in every moment, in every way.

Ayah al-Kursi beautifully unravels the transformative power of engagement with our Creator. Likewise, Sura al-Ikhlas manifests God’s self-disclosure as the All-Independent (al-Samad), All-Sustaining (al-Qayyum), trans-conceptual Being.

Our Dependence on Allah

Imam Sanusi defines Allah being, thus: “al-ilahu huwa l-mustagni amma-siwa/al-muftakiru ilayhi ma ada” – “God is absolutely free of need of any other/ Who all are in absolute need of.” This is the way to comprehend the existence of God. The ideas of closeness [2:186] and mercy [1:1-2] mentioned in the Qur’an underscores His never-ending care for creation. Likewise, in Dhikr, every statement of remembrance (Subhan Allah, Alhamdulillah, and Allahu Akbar) affirms Allah’s transcendent majesty and glory. Dhikr, therefore, cultivates our sense of the reality of His nearness.

Understand, then, that the essence of religion is to recognize God. The freedom of choice given to us by our Lord should help us to choose goodness. Goodness is to choose closeness to God. Pharoah’s wife, sayyida Asiya, in her supplication exhibits this yearning for closeness to God: “O Lord! Build for me a house near you in Paradise”. [Qur’an 66:11] Ibn Ata’illah also testifies to in his Hikam where he writes: “O God! What has anyone lost who has found you and what has anyone found if they lost You?”

The Purpose of Existence – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

On this journey of Hope and Closeness, Shaykh Faraz throws light on diverse ways a believer can strengthen the connection with the all-sustaining and ever-living God, the ultimate purpose of life and religion, and the means to draw closer to Allah.

The Qur’an asserts: “If My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed close. I answer the call of those who call on Me.” [2:186] This ayah attests to God’s presence in our lives and equally serves as a beacon of hope amid the sea of hopelessness.

The only requirement to begin this journey of closeness is to remind ourselves of God’s presence in our lives. As Allah says, “Let them truly believe in Me, so that they may be rightly and truly guided.” [Qur’an 2:186] The ways of attaining this closeness are through our acts of devotionprayer, recitation of the Qur’an, and other acts of devotion. Realize also that our relationships – human and transcendental – are a means to achieve the true purpose of life as Allah says: “Lord! You have not created this without purpose.” [Qur’an 3:191]

The Qur’anic injunction of the purposefulness of the creation directs our hearts to a meaningful engagement with religion. That is, to identify the purpose of this life amid the myriad of material gods of this world. It is for us to inquire about the beginning and end of our journey in this world, and to do this takes thought and consideration.

Allah Most High says: “Truly in the creation of the heavens and earth and the change by night and by day there are signs for those of insight.”  [Qur’an 3:190] This ayah points to the evidence of God, and these numerous changes in creation point towards the origin of human beings and, hence, to the Originator. All these signs point to God and make it clear that life – existence – has a purpose.

The Purpose of Existence

Allah says: “I have not created Jinns and Human except to Worship Me.” [Qur’an 51:56] This is a matter of identifying the often forgotten reality of life – that we owe our existence to God, that our existence (wujud) is a mercy, and that mercy expects us to respond to God with gratitude and devotion. Failure lies in reducing religion to mere social or cultural markers of identity instead of seeing it as the only transcendental path (way of life) acceptable to God. [Qur’an 39:3] Identifying the place, purpose, and importance of religion is to recognize our role in this world.  To recognize the role of devotion and sincerity of that devotion as a rightful responsibility of the creation towards the Creator.

Imam Jurjani wrote that religion “is divine guidance, revealed through prophets, calling those of intellect to choose what is good for them, towards their ultimate good in this life and the next.” This alludes to the fact that religion is a purposeful metaphysical reality communicated through Prophets with demonstrable proofs. Our duty is to rightfully identity the metaphysical truth of religion amid the created reductionist false narratives of truth. To explore the beauty of this transcendental truth meaningfully manifest in the Prophet’s life, blessings and peace be upon him.

The eternal good religion invites us is to secure our place at the actual and ultimate destination – salvation or punishment in the hereafter. For this, we should have a living relationship with this beautiful religion and remind ourselves that material status, comfort, joy, fulfillment in this life are all fleeting. The ultimate joy is the joy waiting for the dwellers in Paradise.

We should keep in mind that everything has a purpose in this world, and religion is the only way to meaningfully navigate this journey from the fleeting good of this life towards the eternal good in the afterlife.

The Importance of Good Character – Habib Umar Bin Hafiz

This article series is based on the course delivered by Ustadh Amr Hashim – Our Character. Refining the self, improving one’s character, and beautifying one’s practice of Islam are quite daunting tasks for the average person. However, there is no need to strive on this path alone, when one can benefit from a great work that will explain all of this and more.

Our Character is a text by Habib Umar bin Hafiz. In this class, Ustadh Amr Hashim will explain and summarize this text and the practical implementation of it in on’s day-to-day life.

This class is an ideal weekly check-in as to one’s state of the heart, and the state of one’s progress in becoming a better believer from week to week. You can access all lessons here. 

The Author: Habib Umar bin Hafiz

Habib Umar bin Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafiz grew up under the communist government in Southern Yemen, which meant it was very difficult to seek knowledge. Many scholars were kidnapped and tortured, the students would have to seek knowledge secretly. 

This did not deter Habib Umar from seeking knowledge, even after his father was kidnapped when he was just nine years old. Many people thought that he would not be able to study and be like his father or the scholars of his family.

His upbringing revolved around him growing up as a scholar, his parents and forefathers were all scholars. But none of this prevented him from his study of religion. Habib Umar traveled to Bayda’ around age 19 to study under Habib Muhammad al-Haddar and this is when the author wrote this book.

The Goal of This Book

This book sparks our interest and desire in seeking out good character. The author wrote this work at his young age during difficult times; politically and personally as an orphan. This work reminds us to live with good character, in the good times and the bad times, in the times of ease and in the times of difficulty – in all states. 

We see this through the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, even when people tried to inflict distress and hurt on him; he did not let their actions impact how he treated them in return.

The Signs of Good Character

Of the most manifest and clear signs in following the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is having excellent character traits and qualities. This is because good character is of our inner garments. Unlike our outer garments when we pass from this world we take our inner garments with us and leave the former in this world.

If the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has come for our next worldly salvation, then he is preparing us inwardly to be in high stations, and this is done by being inwardly sound. Good character traits are the inner garments that last forever and go with us into our graves. 

And so their consequences is that if our inner garments are beautiful and pure, then our next worldly result will be beautiful and pure. If our inner garments are filthy and dirty, then what can one expect in their next worldly result?

The Importance of Good Character

Imam Haddad would nurture and teach his students one character trait at a time over several years. He would wait patiently, why? Because instilling good character traits in oneself is worth the work and struggle; it brings change to one’s actions and lifestyle.

Why is instilling character traits important? We possess positive traits that are easy to implement and negative traits that we cannot easily implement. We selectively implement traits when it is simple, convenient, or easy.

For example, a person may only give charity when life is going well but may forget when they enter financial strain. Or a person may give some time to worship when they feel “spiritual” or when they feel bored, but they forget when they have something entertaining to do.

Would anyone consider the person who gave charity when it was easy to be “generous” in of themselves? Is that the reality of generosity? 

Instilling good character traits means we go above and beyond what is merely convenient and go towards what is more pleasing to our Lord most high. As we learn from the author’s own example; he forgave the people who killed his father just as our noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, forgave those who killed members of his family and followers.

When one has a character trait instilled in them, it has become their nature. It is not a periodical or occasional trait. One of Imam Malik’s students sat at his feet for twenty years. He spent eighteen of those twenty years learning good character traits from Imam Malik, and the last two years learning law (fiqh) after which Imam Malik passed from this world.

After his passing, the student said “I wished I spent all twenty years learning good character from Imam Malik.” The special nature of learning good character at the feet of our teachers, we observe and learn from their example. The goal is to have these traits embedded and imprinted into our hearts.

One of the objectives of sending the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to us was for his purifying us and to teach us how to act. Allah says in the Qur’an: “Our Lord! Raise from among them a messenger who will recite to them Your revelations, teach them the Book and wisdom, and purify them.” [Qur’an, 2:129]

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “I have only been sent to complete the virtues of character.” [Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad; Bayhaqi, Shu’b al-Iman] If we are the followers of the Prophet, and he calls us to follow his character, should we not follow him?

The sign of true love for one’s beloved is to do whatever they say and to try to be like them. 

Points of Self-Reflection

Where is our character in regards to who he was, peace and blessings be upon him? Did we try to embody his traits? Did we try to carry ourselves like him? Did we try to be patient, kind, and generous as he was? Where should we be? 

When was the last time we gave in the way of God when it was hard to? When did we control our anger when we wanted to explode? And this is one of the greater areas of inheritance from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and one that is open to all of us!

May Allah grant us the strength to seek his character, peace and blessings be upon him, and act upon it.

 

 

The Definition of Taqwa – Birgivi’s Manual 01

Taqwa is the concern within one to refrain from what is displeasing to Allah and preserve what is pleasing to Him. It manifests itself upon our limbs, but it begins from the heart. This article series—based upon Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s course The Path of Muhammad: Birgivi’s Manual of Taqwa Explainedprovides an overview of what Muslims must concern themselves when seeking the attainment of taqwa.

We live in a time where people claim to be religious but are unconcerned about the sunna of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and about cultivating taqwa. Religion has been stripped down to a set of ritual actions, empty in form, and devoid of life. Almost as if our devotional acts are just a chore that we have to check off in order for us to claim to be “religious”. 

As Muslims, we have all heard about the term “taqwa” and how we must be mindful, aware and conscious of Allah at all times. Yet what is taqwa precisely? And when you know what it is, how can you go about cultivating it? 

Religion has two distinguishing fruits:

  1. The realization of faith (having iman)
  2. The active actualization of taqwa (mindfulness of Allah)

It is the second that will be focused on in this article series. Taqwa is the foundational theme of the Qur’an and is the key to unlocking its highest aim: realizing and attaining closeness to Allah Most High. The actualization of taqwa will fill our otherwise meaningless ritual acts with life and essence. 

Defining Taqwa

Taqwa linguistically means to shield or carefully guard something. But it is not a passive sort of watchfulness, but rather a full, complete, careful and comprehensive guarding of a thing.

In religious matters generally, taqwa means to carefully guard oneself and to avoid everything that harms one in the hereafter. The bare minimum amount of taqwa that one could have is to keep away from associating partners with Allah Most High. On the other hand, the highest level of taqwa is when one guards their innermost against being distracted by other than Allah. It is to be devoted to Allah with your absolute entirety. It is to be utterly in love with Allah Most High, for love is to give your entirety to something such that nothing of it remains for you. It is a love that renders the lover thoroughly heedless of the world around them, focused wholly upon their Lord, Creator and Sustainer. This is the type of mindfulness that Allah means when He commands us to have mindfulness of Him as He deserves. 

In religious matters specifically, taqwa means to carefully guard oneself—in action and speech—against anything that makes one deserving of punishment in the hereafter. The bare minimum of which is to avoid committing major sins, while the maximum is to avoid coming even remotely close to the “grey area” in matters of religion. 

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear. And between them are unclear matters that most people are unaware of. Whoever is wary of these unclear matters has safeguarded their religion and honor. And whoever indulges in them has indulged in haram.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Ideal taqwa is to heed these words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Being wary and avoiding acts that may not necessarily be haram, yet can potentially lead you to haram. A person of taqwa will seek clarity when facing these unclear matters. And only the light of knowledge can overcome the darkness of ignorance—so continue seeking knowledge and expanding your insight.

 

Fasting Six Days of Shawwal – Ruling, Whether Consecutive, Combining Intentions, Wisdoms, and What if Unable to Fast? – Faraz Rabbani

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fasting Ramadan and following it with six days from Shawwal is like continual fasting.” [Muslim, on the authority of Abu Ayyub (Allah be pleased with him)]

This is because the reward of actions is multiplied (at least) ten-fold. So Ramadan is like fasting 300 days, and the six days of Shawwal like fasting 60 days. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself stated this explicitly: “Fasting Ramadan is like fasting ten months and fasting six days [of Shawwal] is like fasting two months. That is like fasting a full year.” [Ahmad; Nasa’i]

1. Religiously recommended. Based on the outward purport of this hadith, the majority of the scholars—including Imam Shafi‘i, Imam Ahmad, and Imam Abu Hanifa consider it a recommended sunna to fast six days in Shawwal. There are narrations from Abu Hanifa indicating that it is disliked, but these are understood to relate to considering it a duty to fast these days. [Nawawi, Majmu‘; Ibn Qudama, Mughni; Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir ‘ala al-Hidaya; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

2. Consecutive or not? Some of the scholars considered it recommended to fast these days consecutively after Eid al-Fitr, including Imam Shafi‘i. They based this on a hadith related by Tabarani and others in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, “Fasting six consecutive days after Eid al-Fitr is like fasting the entire year.”

Dates and man.jpg

Other scholars, including both the Hanbalis and Hanafis, considered it the same to fast consecutively or not—because they deemed the above hadith to be excessively weak.

However, they caution that one shouldn’t put it off such that one ends up missing the great reward of fasting six days. It is also a consideration that avoiding difference of opinion is religiously recommended—so trying to fast the six days consecutively would appear to be superior.

3. Combining intentions with missed fasts. It is valid to combine the intention of making up missed Ramadan fasts and the sunna of fasting the six days of Shawwal, though performing both separately is greater in reward.

4. The wisdom of fasting these six days. Among the benefits of fasting the six days of Shawwal is:

  1. Sign of acceptance. It is a sign of the acceptance of one’s Ramadan fasts. This is because a sign of Allah’s accepting a good deed is to be granted the success to perform similar good deeds, with consistency.
  2. Consistency itself is beloved. The actions most beloved to Allah and the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) are those done most consistently.
  3. Sign of thankfulness. Fasting these six days is an expression of thankfulness for the reward of fasting that Allah grants on the day of Eid. Continuing to fast is a sign of being, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) described himself, “A truly thankful servant.” Thankfulness is the key to increase, and a means of securing one’s blessings and good.
  4. Sign of commitment to continue. Fasting these six days is a sign of one’s commitment to continue in worship and submission to Allah, willingly—and not merely out of obligation.

5. If unable to fast the six days of Shawwal due to some genuine excuse, one should make the firm intention that if this excuse didn’t exist one would have fasted. If one is sincere and true in one’s intention, then one will—by Divine Grace—have the full reward of fasting these days, because, “Actions are by their intentions, and each person shall have whatever they intended,” as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained. [Muslim] The signs of being true in one’s intention is that if one’s excuse is lifted, one hastens to fulfill the intended matter.

[Ref: Ibn Rajab, Lata’if al-Ma‘arif; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Hamawi/Ibn Nujaym, Hashiyat al-Ashbah; Nawawi, al-Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab; others]

And Allah alone gives success.

 

Faraz Rabbani

 

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Fasting, Prayer, Qur’an, Ihsan: A Ramadan Reader

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful. The Seekers’ theme for this Ramadan is Hope and Closeness. This Ramadan Reader has been compiled for your benefit and in the hope that it may strengthen your hope, your closeness to Allah, and help make the blessings of this Ramadan sweet and lasting.

 

Fasting:

A Complete Guide To Fasting (Hanafi)

A Complete Guide To Fasting (Shafii)

Breaking One’s Fast Due to Weakness

Does Watching Pornography While Fasting Break One’s Fast

Worship in Ramadan For a Menstruating Woman

Overview of the Fidya Payment

Applying Medicine to Teeth While Fasting

Types of I’tikaf

Can I Pray Eight Rakats for Tarawih

When is Laylat al-Qadr

Worship During Laylat al-Qadr

Preparing for Ramadan

40 Hadiths on Ramadan

Fasting Its Principles and Virtues: Imam Ghazali from al-Arba‘in

Inner Dimensions of Fasting: Imam Ghazali

Practical Tips to Fasting

Prayer

Illuminating the Heart in Prayer

The Prayer of the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him

Nine Keys to Prayer

The Power of Prayer

Transformative Effects of Prayer

Virtues of the Prayer

Qur’an

Our Relationship with the Qur’an

Can I Touch my Iphone Without Ablution

Touching the Qur’an and Menstruation

Placing the Qur’an on the Floor: Not Permissible

Rights of the Qur’an and Completing It in 40 Days

Beautifying One’s Voice When Reciting the Qur’an

Ihsan or Works of the Heart

Marvels of the Heart

What Does it Mean to be Sidq (True)

The Path of Taqwa

Good-Character is not Becoming Angry

Thankfulness

The Sound Heart