Turning Difficulty into Ease: Reflections from Surah al-Balad

 

The basic message of Surah al-Balad (Qur’an: 90) is that we’re in a life of difficulties. The human being has been placed in such a life in order to be tested.

The tests of people may vary; the difficulty of these tests varies too. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that the Prophets have the hardest trials, then those who resemble them the most, then those that are most like the second group. (Tirmidhi)

 

Profiting From the Difficulty

If that is the case for everyone, then what are we expected to do? The surah provides the perfect answer in a succinct way. It encourages us to live in a way that will lead us to have ease after this life of difficulty – not a further difficulty. How? Through good deeds directed towards ourselves and the neediest of people.

This disbeliever, however, who doesn’t heed this advice goes from a life of difficulty to a life of much greater difficulty. This is due to his own choices. The message of the Qur’an was sent to warn and guide one and all of this pitfall.

So what is this elixer that turns difficulty to ease?

 

The Trifecta of Good Actions

Three actions are particularly highlighted in the Surah:

  1. Iman.

Belief in Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) is one of the greatest of deeds, and a manifestation of gratitude to Him for creating us and providing us with guidance. Believe in Allah, and work on deepening and developing that Iman you have been blessed with. This is the biggest key to the promised, unending ease in the Afterlife.

  1. Encouraging Each Other To Be Patient.

Seeing as everyone is in some form of difficulty, everyone needs some form of support, encouragement, and direction. Many a time, directing someone to the wisdom underlying their trials can make the world of difference to them and their attitude towards life and it’s tests. 

Provide them with a comforting statement. A reminder of Allah’s care for His servants. Lessons from the trials of others. Listening. Being with someone in difficulty. All these matters, when used to direct someone to Allah, can help someone embrace their tests and the benefits that come from them.

Those who give this reminder and just as in need of it as those who hear it.

  1. Encouraging Each Other To Be Merciful.

If everyone is in difficulty, make your interactions with them a source of comfort, mercy, and kindness for them. Be a person of compassion.

Alleviate their difficulties through your kindness as best you can. It may be difficult in your own difficulties, but the benefits return to you from Allah.

Promoting such mercy also makes it part of the common discourse. It doesn’t remain as an ideal mentioned in a book somewhere. It becomes part of people’s understanding of life. A goal to achieve. A way of life to embody. This connects one to Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) in a way many other deeds do not.

 

This is the beautiful message of Surah al-Balad. We cannot escape the difficulties that life is woven from, but we can improve the quality of our lives and the lives of others now – through kindness and support – and in the future, forever – through belief and good deeds.

And all praise belongs completely to Allah, the Lord of all being.

 

Quran Series by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

The curriculum is a comprehensive approach to understanding and studying the Qur’an. The introductory Qur’anic Understanding certificate is a one year course consisting of six modules. Three modules provide a detailed tafsir of the last 30th of the Qur’an, and the other three cover the wisdom behind some of its laws, its preservation and proof of it being from God, and building a lasting connection with the Qur’an.

The Introductory Quranic Understanding certificate consists of six courses.

The second element of the curriculum is a complete tafsir of the Qur’an. This is not as detailed as the former, and its lessons are restricted to approximately half an hour. Based on some authoritative tafsirs, it is a comprehensive study of the Qur’an, its themes, message, some of its rhetorical features, and philological nuances. It is sufficient to equip laymen with a thorough grasp of the Qur’an, and students of knowledge with a firm foundation.

The complete tafsir curriculum consists of 30 courses over three years: 10 courses per year.

 

About the Author

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with erudite scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic with teachers such as Dr. Ashraf Muneeb, Dr. Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr. Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr. Mansur Abu Zina, and others. He was also given licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabir and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

 

Reflections on Surah Taha – Dr Hadia Mubarak

Dr Hadia Mubarak reflects on Surah Taha and how it can provide us with ease and comfort in these current times of difficulty and confusion.

At times of great distress, I find my heart naturally gravitating to Surat Taha, the twentieth chapter of the Quran. Its emotive energy is powerful, taking its reader through one of the most captivating sagas of prophetic history. It puts on display the spectrum of human emotion, beginning with fear, followed by hope, then a life of privilege and access, followed by one of exile, then a sense of complete vulnerability and destituteness to God, followed by blessing, stability and gratitude. 

One of the chapter’s many appeals to its readers is the realization of converse human experiences: betrayal and loyalty, cunning enmity and trusting affirmation (i.e. the magicians), fear and love, doubt and faith. Its verses capture a depth of love that outrivals the best of human love poetry. As a mother, the words “and we returned you to your mother so that her eyes may find coolness and she may not grieve” play on the strings of my heart like music. God identifies this act of divine grace – returning Moses (peace be upon him) to be nursed by his own biological mother – as a favor to Moses’ mother, an unnamed woman whose status is so high that God wants to console and comfort her grieving heart.

The narrative of Moses’ life, from his birth to the final exodus from Egypt, can be found in many junctures of the Quran. Musa (peace be upon him) is the most mentioned prophetic name in the Quran, appearing 136 times in thirty-three chapters of the Qur’an. Yet it is chapter 20, Surat Taha, that tell us a story of love: God’s divine and tender love for Moses (peace be upon him) and Moses’ loyal and yearning devotion to God.

God proclaims His love for Moses in a literary masterpiece that combines eloquence and etiquette. In the Quran (20:39), God declares, “I have cast my love over you so that you may be reared in My eyes” and in Quran (20:41), “I have fashioned/chosen you for Myself.”

Moses is eager to reciprocate God’s love, to be worthy of this divine favor. When the Israelites have neared Mount Sinai, Moses is overtaken by his longing to hear God and rushes to Mount Sinai, leaving behind the Israelites with his brother Aaron (Harun). At this point in the chapter, God asks, “Moses, what has made you come ahead of your people in such haste?” (20:83). The insertion of Moses’ name here reflects God’s gentle tenderness towards Moses. Moses responds, “They are treading in my footsteps. And I rushed to You, My Lord, to please You.” (20:84).

Muslim exegetes interpreted this verse as a sign of Moses’ longing (شوق) to meet God, his love so intense that he could not help but run to meet His lord. In his response to God, Moses reciprocates a high level of etiquette, addressing God directly as “my Lord” and affirming his devotion to God.

Finally, the Arabic-speaking reader might notice the double appearance of the term “أوحينا” (“We have inspired”) in this chapter, first in (20:38) and then in (20:77). It is in the juxtaposition of these two verses that the saga of Moses, his mother and the Israelites comes full circle. The first time this term is used, God inspires the mother of Moses to cast him in a basket in the Nile; she must muster the courage to do the unspeakable for the sake of saving her infant, who would inevitably be killed by Pharaoh’s men if left at home. The second time the term is used, God inspires Moses to flee with the Israelites and to strike a path in the Red Sea for them. Like his mother, Moses must muster the courage and faith that God will not let him down, that he and his people will not drown, that the waters of the Sea will transform into a sanctuary for them, just as the waters of the river became a sanctuary for Moses as an infant.

The juxtaposition of these two terms  (أوحينا), side by side, reveals a deep connection between the two stories. In the first instance of inspiration, the life of one soul is saved; in the second instance of inspiration, the souls of 620,000 people are saved, according to Muslim traditions. Yet the second rescue is dependent on the first. It is only through Moses that God chooses to release the Israelites from a life of slavery, turmoil and death. The Quran’s use of the phrase, “We inspired,” in these two distinct instances threads together one woman’s courage to rescue her infant son with one man’s courage to save an entire nation.


Dr. Hadia Mubarak is an assistant professor of religious studies at Guilford College. Previously, Mubarak taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Davidson College. Mubarak completed her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Georgetown University, where she specialized in modern and classical Qurʾanic exegesis, Islamic feminism, and gender reform in the modern Muslim world.


 

Ramadan 2020 Reminders | Episode 11: It Is You We Ask for Help | Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Ramadan is a time of worship. Most of it is communal worship, which makes it easier. This Ramadan is an opportunity to connect with Allah without the distraction of people and to ask to be strengthened without the boost we gain through others.

SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary offers structured learning and inspiring religious guidance, completely free. We also offer over a dozen classes with scholars from around the world streamed live this Ramadan. View the full schedule and tune in daily at https://www.seekersguidance.org/live.

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Support Seekers Spread Clarity in Confusing Times with Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat

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Jewels of the Quran Playlist – Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al – Azhari

Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al-Azhari, explains and summarizes Imam Ghazali’s “Jewels of the Qur’an” (Jawaher al-Qur’an). Through it, he explains the different messages, themes and purposes of the Qur’an and shares keys of connecting to Allah through the Qur’an. This series was recorded in 2015.

Draw Near to Allah in Ramadan Through Service – Ustadha Umm Umar

Ustadha Umm Umar reminds us of incorporating the aspect of service in Ramadan as a means of drawing near to Allah Most High. She advises to not make Ramadan just revolve around one’s self, rather to also be concerned with others and their needs. Ustadha Umm Umar gives key advice and practical methods on how to engage in service through Ramadan.

I wanted to talk about another aspect of Ramadan that sometimes we forget. Often people think of Ramdana as my month. It‘s between me and Allah. Then they sort of annihilate the idea of doing goodness to others. It’s about me and my time with Allah. About how much time I can put in with the Qur’an. And then when we talk about service some people get a little bit bitter.

Especially the sisters. They’re like, well, why do I have to be the one to do this? why do I have to be the one to cook the iftar? I’d like to spend all day reading Qur’an. It’s sort of losing sight of what Ramadan is really about. And what the the scholars today talked and emphasized a lot is the love of Allah Most High. And rectifying the self. Turning to Allah and asking for His forgiveness.

But these two concepts do not contradict each other. Rather they run in parallel. Because it’s when we turn help each other, help fellow believers, and it’s all done out of love for Allah, that we manifest that love. That we love to have His creation turned to Him. And if there is anything we can do to help other people turn towards Allah we should run to that opportunity. Whether that be to people in our own family, whether it be our children, whether it be members of our community. We should be avid to do what we can to help other people.

Balance Service and Self

That being said, it needs to be balanced of course, because you can’t just spend all of your Ramadan running around serving other people with neglect to oneself. One needs that personal time where you’re turning to Allah. Reading the Qur’an with reflection and understanding. Spending time reading other beneficial material or listening to beneficial lectures. Benefiting the self.

But there are a lot of things, there is a lot of extra time in the day, in which one can do things for other people. And as our teachers say, it’s almost as if there’s a sale during Ramadan, because now actions that you do are multiplied. Good actions that you do, even reading the Qur’an – all the good things that you can think of doing are multiplied. So it is best to take advantage of this time .

And doing what you can to help other people is also part of making the most of one’s time. It is not that one spends a little time in intensive worship and then closes the book and goes to relax, and just sort of vegetate for part of the day. Or one decides to go to sleep for another part of the day. One strives to make the most of every moment. As we should on every other day of the year.

We should make the most of all parts of our day on a daily basis. Even when we get up from this gathering we should be striving to make the most of our lives as believers. To make all of our moments count for us and not against us.

Primary Benefits of Service

There are three primary benefits of service. One is that it erases your past sins. When you do things for other people these things get erased. So there is nothing better you can ask for. We’ve all made mistakes in the past and would do anything to not face Allah with those on our record. And by His mercy He can forgive a lot of those things when you’re serving other people with that intention.

Another benefit of doing service at this time is that you get the dua of fasting people. When you’re doing things to benefit them you’re earning their dua. And Allah knows whose dua is accepted. When you’re doing it for a number of people, that includes even small children, know that when we do things for other people they make a dua for you.

The Hidden Secret of Service

And perhaps that single dua from one single person, child or adult, known or stranger, is the reason for your success. It might not be all of these customs that you’ve done in the past or all of these other things. It might be the dua of one elder in the community that you helped in a real time of need. Allah has this knowledge. It is with Allah Most High.

It’s a hidden secret in our service to other people that we don’t know where where our ultimate success will lie. And with what action and with what person. That leaves us continuously striving to do our best at every moment.

And finally the third aspect of service is that the deeds are multiplied during Ramadan. So one might be doing things for other people at other times of the year but in Ramadan these deeds are actually multiplied. They weigh heavier on your record. So strive in this regard and in sha Allah the reward for your service will be multiplied.

 

Draw Near to Allah in Ramadan Through Service

 

Ramadan Seminar Q&A Session – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

* Originally posted on May 8, 2018

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers questions on the fiqh of fasting, including the nullifiers of fasts, expiation for broken fasts, and the spiritual retreat.

Among the many questions and points Shakyh Faraz addresses, he mentions that if one breaks fast deliberately or by accident, the time of fasting is not over, and one is able to fast, then one refrains from everything a fasting person refrains from until fasting ends. This is a sign of contrition and remorse.

Hasten to Break Fast

The Shaykh also mentions that one should not delay breaking fast excessively out of a mistaken sense of piety or fervor. Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said:

قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَحَبُّ عِبَادِي إِلَيَّ أَعْجَلُهُمْ فِطْرًا

Allah Mighty and Majestic said: “The most beloved among my servants are those who hasten to break their fast.” (Tirmidhi)

Be Tactful and Considerate with Others

But one must also remember that when in a group of people who believe they are in the right to delay, one must be discreet about the matter and not make disagreement a point of contention or rancor. If you consider breaking it in such a situation do it tactfully.

These and many others points and rulings are covered in this session. And you should listen to it even if you know all the answers as there is no harm and abundant good in reviewing what one knows and strengthening one’s knowledge.

May Allah grant us eternal success in the blessed month of Ramadan and in all the months He has decreed for each and every one of us until we are brought before Him. Amin.


Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al Kallas, may Allah have mercy on him, as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersHub in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

Support SeekersGuidance in our effort to bring the light of Prophetic Guidance to Muslims everywhere completely free of charge.


 

10 On-Demand Courses for Ramadan

We are blessed to reach another Ramadan. Let’s make the best use of our time. These On-Demand courses will help you to focus and get maximum benefits from this month of the Qur’an.

Each course contains a downloadable lesson set which you can listen to at your convenience.

1. Preparing for Ramadan: Lessons and Advice from Leading Scholars

This series of lessons by various scholars revolves around Sura al Baqara 2:183.

“Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may have taqwa.”

Each scholar unfolds the meanings of this and related verses, the practical aspects, and the hidden spiritual depths and heights one is called to attain in the blessed month of Ramadan.
Central to it all is Allah’s call to love Him and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace.

Scholars included in this course: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Imam Zaid Shakir, Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, Habib Umar ibn Hafiz, Shaykh Rami Nsour, Shaykh Naeem Abdul Wali, Ustadh Abdullah Misra, Ustadh Ali Ataie, Habib Kadhim al Saqqaf, Shaykh Ahmed Saad al Azhari, Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi, Ustadha Umm Umar

2. Renewal by the Book: Daily Qur’an Tafsir Based on Imam Ghazali’s Ihya

In this series, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other scholars and teachers will be looking at points of reflection from key verses in the Qur’an. The series follows the thematic order of Imam Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al-Din (Renewing the Religious Sciences). The aim is to connect the key verses of guidance from the Book of Allah with the blueprint of renewal, the Ihya so that we experience renewal by The Book.

3. Renewing Religion: Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya

This overview of Imam Ghazali’s great work, Ihya Ulum al-Din (Renewing the Religious Sciences) will serve as a blueprint for how the believer can bring their religion to life. It will aim to help the believer to not just practice the outer form of the religion properly, but to also to bring its spirit to life and practice it with excellence.

Lessons by: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Riad Saloojee, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

4. 30 Sacred Acts to Transform the Heart

Our scholars in residence explore 30 simple deeds that could have a far-reaching spiritual impact on our lives – and the lives of others. Whether it’s forgiving someone who’s wronged us or sharing a meal with a neighbor, these powerful lessons will remind us of the great gift the Prophet ﷺ‎ gave us: the best of character. The scholars also remind us to make the intention to put each teaching, each sacred act, into practice.

Lessons by: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Imam Amin Muhammad, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, Dr. Ingrid Mattson

5. Giving Life to Surat al Kahf – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

In this seminar, Shaykh Walead Mosaad explains this key Sura of the Qur’an – a Sura the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, urged us to recite every Friday. In eight videos Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura Kahf; the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent – the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power.

6. Ramadan Explained: Virtues and Fiqh of Fasting (Hanafi) – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

This preparation course teaches the fiqh of Ramadan and fasting, according to the Hanafi school.

This essential four-part course is designed to

    1. Remind you that Ramadan is a true blessing from Allah Most High.
    2. Teach you the proper way to approach this blessing.
    3. Motivate you to make the most of this blessed month.
    4. Ensure that you understand and implement all key aspects of Ramadan, including the Prophetic sunnas according to the Hanafi school.

7. Ramadan Explained: Virtues and Fiqh of Fasting (Shafi‘i) – Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan

This preparation course teaches the fiqh of Ramadan and fasting according to the Shafi‘i school.

This essential four-part course is designed to:

    1. Remind you that Ramadan is a true blessing from Allah Most High.
    2. Teach you the proper way to approach this blessing.
    3. Motivate you to make the most of this blessed month.
    4. Ensure that you understand and implement all the key aspects of Ramadan, including the Prophetic sunnas according to the Shafi‘i school.

8. Ramadan Explained: Virtues and Fiqh of Fasting (Maliki) – Shaykh Rami Nsour

This preparation course teaches the fiqh of Ramadan and fasting according to the Maliki school.

This essential four-part course is designed to:

    1. Remind you that Ramadan is a true blessing from Allah Most High.
    2. Teach you the proper way to approach this blessing.
    3. Motivate you to make the most of this blessed month.
    4. Ensure that you understand and implement all the key aspects of Ramadan, including the Prophetic sunnas according to the Maliki school.

9. The Tafsir of Sura al-Hujurat with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Religion revolves around respect and reverence. Sura Hujurat summarizes the keys to true religion by outlining the right adab with Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him), and with Allah’s creation. In just 18 verses, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gives believers a clear roadmap on how to walk the Straight Path with excellence in conduct and attitude.

10. Living the Quran: Ghazali’s Manners of Qur’an Recital with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this lesson set Shaykh Faraz Rabbani will guide students through Imam al Ghazali’s work on the adab of the Qur’an and aims to inspire the student to bring the book of Allah into their life fully.

 


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Celebrate the Gift of Ramadan – Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi

Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi gives advice on how to enter Ramadan and how to make the most of it through the idea of celebrating this blessed month.

Praise be to Allah who granted us the health and the well-being so that we can come today and attend one of the circles of knowledge and remembrance. Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds, for every bounty that He has embraced us with, whether we are aware of it or not. Once a person reflects on the bounties and gifts that Allah Most High bestows upon each one of us every day, they see that every day there is a flood of a new gifts that Allah bestows upon us.

We just need to open our hearts such that we can witness them. One of the gifts today that He has given all of us is that He allows us to establish a means towards fulfilling one of His obligations, which is fasting the month of Ramadan.

They say that someone who establishes the means hopefully they will also establish the ends. If somebody is enlightened at the beginning, most likely they will also be enlightened towards the end. So if Allah gives you the tawfiq that you make good wudu, you come early to the Masjid, you walk and do not drive – these are means towards the end – then most likely your prayer is going to be good. That is how what we think of Allah Most High.

Be Grateful for Reminders

One of the beautiful aspects of our Shari‘a, our tradition, is the concept of a reminder. Many of you have attended many sessions about how to prepare for Ramadan. And if you did not attend one of them you wish you had. The imam might have given you some advice about how to prepare for Ramadan. So it’s a challenge for each one of us when we come to such topics which we are well acquainted with, or that we think, we perceive, we are well acquainted with – not to gain benefit, but to be interested. It’s a bit difficult to be interested in these topics become like a routine.

Now looking at the concept of a reminder and our Shari‘a can help us survive a reminder.Allah Most High ordered his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to always give reminders. A reminder is not teaching you something, but for you be reminded of it. You know it already. It is not like learning from scratch, but yet Allah ordered the prophets to continually give people reminders, because that’s our nature.

We are humans. We forget. Actually we forget much much quicker than we even think. In the morning, your parents tell you to do something. Your spouse tells you to do something or get something. And at the end of the day you forgot to bring that thing. We get lost in routine.

How to Receive Gifts from Allah

It is from Allah’s mercy that we need continuous reminders. Now people receive it in two ways. One might say, “Well, you told me the first time. Are you being pushy?” Another person might say, “I am bored.” That is one way to look at the reminders, but the interesting part is that the Qur’an says:

يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding. (Sura al Baqara 2:269)

Those who have the core of intelligence. Those who are really, really smart. These are the ones who look at the reminders and say: “I need the reminder. Without the reminder I probably cannot survive.” These reminders are from Allah. These are His words:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا

And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind. (Sura al Furqan 25:73)

This is how Allah describes the believers. Every time they are reminded of one of the gifts, one of the signs, one of the verses of Allah Most High, they don’t receive it with deaf ears and blind eyes. So we ask Allah to let us benefit from His reminders.

Celebrating the Gift of Ramadan

We should celebrate Ramadan. I started hearing this term celebrating Ramadan – Muslims celebrating Ramadan – honestly, I started hearing this more when I came to the West. In the East we don’t hear that term. The most commonly used term is a Qur‘anic term, which is “shuhud al shahr,” to witness the month. Allah says in the Qur’an:

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

Whoever witnesses the month, let him fast it. (Sura al Baqara 2:185)

Normally, whether it’s in the media or it’s in the writings, they use the term witness. Now, here, we started hearing the term celebrate. The term is not actually chain overriding that term witness, but it has an extra element. It’s actually a very beautiful element, which is the element of joy. There is some joy and happiness.

It’s not like month of Ramadan is coming by, I’m just passing that passage of time. Rather I am now in a ceremony. I am in a celebration. I am celebrating this month and the celebration of the month can be with the outward ceremonies. Our master Umar ibn al Khattab, Allahe be pleased with him, was passing by the masjid and he saw that it was full of people at night praying tarawih. He rejoiced. That’s a ceremony, a ritual that we have.

I’ve seen Muslims and non-Muslims look amazed by these long lines of iftar. Of people sitting and everybody’s holding their dates waiting for that signal, and when that event comes in and everybody eats, and you could see the smile and the happiness fill the room. It’s part of the ceremony. But celebration is more about something in the heart.

To prepare for the month and to go through the month, the concept that I am celebrating this month adds a great dimension to how we live that through the month of Ramadan. So, why should we celebrate?

The Universe Rejoices

First the skies, the universe, is celebrating and the question then is: Why am I not joining? That is the right question, because everything is celebrating. the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to tell the good tidings at the beginning of the month to his Companions. He would say: “A great month has arrived. The doors of paradise will be open.”

I can imagine how beautiful it would be, for the skies, the doors of paradise to be open. Imagine the breeze, the beauty, the fragrance of Paradise that opens to the skies and to the worlds.

And imagine the heat and the doors of hellfire, which is roaring. It is always roaring and whistling and breathing. There are angels watching over it who have never smiled since Allah created the Hellfire.

But in this month Allah orders them all to be closed. Moreover all of these demons that impact us and other creatures in ways that we don’t know much about, Allah orders the most evil of these demons to be chained. There are a lot of events that we don’t see, but they are happening.

It’s a big celebration. And generally if there is something magnificent happening in the skies then the believers should connect. A believer should connect. That is why we celebrate Laylat al Qadr. The skies celebrate it. The angels come down. And who else is coming? Jibril himself, the Ruh himself, comes down in person. Allah orders everybody to come down. They descend. It’s a big celebration, so the question is am I joining or not? Because everybody is celebrating.

The Two Friends in Paradise

There is another story. Our master Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, one of the ten Companions whom the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, promised would enter paradise. He says: I had two friends. They were from the same tribe. They were probably relatives since they were always competing for the good.

In one of the battles one of them was killed as a martyr. A year later his friend passed away, but not as a martyr. He just passed away. So Talha said, I saw in a dream that the door of Paradise was closed. Then there was some knocking and it was opened, and I saw the second friend inside. He looked around and then he found his companion and then he ordered him to come in.

In other words, the second one was in Paradise and he was inviting the person who was a martyr to come in. And then, he says, the door was closed. So the first friend, the martyr, knocked again just to make sure. And then offered his hand saying, Can you pull me in? They said, No, your time is not now.

So Talha says: “I woke up and I went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and I told him this is what I saw. Everybody was surprised that the second man who was not a martyr got into paradise before the first one. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Why are you surprised?” Did he not live to fast another Ramadan? And he prayed six thousand raka‘t. (Musnad Ahmad)

Increase in Rank and Station

Now, regardless of the theological questions that will come to your mind about why and how, we trust Allah’s wisdom and we trust Allah’s Justice. But there is a message here that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us. And that is to attend Ramadan. It is such a great bounty, such a great gift, that the more you attend Ramadan, the more likely it is that you will gain higher station in Paradise.

Every Ramadan that we pass through is a cause for joy. Rejoice in the fact that Allah has allowed us to come through it. We know friends who did not come through. All of us probably have loved ones who passed away. They are not about to witness Ramadan with us. So praise Allah for allowing us to witness Ramadan once more.

Ramadan is truly a cause for celebration.


The Three Degrees of Fasting – Imam al Ghazali

This is Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s translation of the passage on the three degrees of fasting from the Ihya of Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al Ghazali.

It should be known that there are three degrees of fasting: ordinary, special and extra-special.

Ordinary fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual satisfaction.

Extraordinary Fasting means keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands and feet – and all other organs – free from sin.

Perfect Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world.

Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.

To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true awliya, and the intimates of Allah. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than Allah, Exalted is He.

It is bound up with the significance of His words:

قُلِ اللَّـهُ ۖ ثُمَّ ذَرْهُمْ فِي خَوْضِهِمْ يَلْعَبُونَ

Say: “Allah,” then leave them to their vain play. (Sura al An‘am 6:91)

Inward Requirements

As for Special Fasting, this is the kind practiced by the righteous. It means keeping all one’s organs free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment.

See Not What Displeases Allah

A chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be Allah’s curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of Allah will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.”

Jabir relates from Anas that Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Five things break a man’s Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze.”

Speak Not What Displeases Allah

Guarding one’s tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing and controversy; making it observe silence and occupying it with remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and with recitation of Qur’an. This is the fasting of the tongue.

Said Sufyan: “Backbiting annuls the Fast.” Layth quotes Mujahid as saying: “Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.”

The Prophet, on him be peace, said: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: ‘I am Fasting, I am Fasting!’”

According to Tradition: “Two women were Fasting during the time of Allah’s Messenger, , blessings and peace be upon him. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst, that they were on the verge of collapsing.

They therefore sent a message to Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, requesting permission to break their Fast. In response, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, sent them a bowl and said: “Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten.”

One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “These two women have been Fasting from what God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God, Exalted is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!”

Hear Not What Displeases Allah

Closing one’s ears to everything reprehensible, for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why Allah, Great and Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer. In His words, Exalted is He:

سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ أَكَّالُونَ لِلسُّحْتِ

Listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain. (Sura al Ma‘ida 5:42)

Allah, Great and Glorious is He, also said:

لَوْلَا يَنْهَاهُمُ الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ عَن قَوْلِهِمُ الْإِثْمَ وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and consume unlawful profit? (Sura al Ma‘ida 5:63)

Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful. God, Exalted is He, said:

إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا مِّثْلُهُمْ

You are then just like them. (Sura al Nisa 4:140)

That is why the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “The backbiter and his listener are partners in sin.”

Guarding the Limbs

Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from questionable food at the time for breaking Fast. It is meaningless to Fast – to abstain from lawful food – only to break one’s Fast on what is unlawful.

A man who fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city. Lawful food is injurious in quantity not in quality. Fasting is to reduce the former. A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison.

The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess. The object of Fasting is to induce moderation.

Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!” This has been taken to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers to those who abstain from lawful food, but break their Fast on human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs from sin.

Avoid Overeating

Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing one’s belly. There is no receptacle more odious to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food.

Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering Allah’s enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods?

It has even become the custom to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed during that time than in the course of several other months put together. It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety.

If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.

The Secret Nature of Fasting

The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces which are Satan’s means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down one’s intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting.

No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined. Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes conscious of the weakening of one’s powers, with the consequent purification of the heart.

One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night, making it easier to perform the (tahajjud) and to recite the praises (awrad). It may then be that Satan will not hover around one’s heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven.

Laylat al Qadr

The Night of Destiny represents the night on which something of this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of God, Exalted is He:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

We surely revealed it on the Night of Power.’ (Sura al Qadr 97:1)

Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He.

That is the entire matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.

Look To God With Fear And Hope

After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one’s Fast will be accepted, so that one will find favor with God, or whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors. This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.

It is related of Al Hasan ibn abi al Hasan al Basri, that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: “Allah, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost. It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By Allah, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.”

Rather it is the one whose fast is accepted who should be in too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while one who has suffered rejection laughter should be precluded by remorse.

Of Al Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told: “You are an aged elder. Fasting would enfeeble you.” But he replied: “By this I am making ready for a long journey. Obedience to Allah, Glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.”