The Spiritual Purpose of Fasting: Closeness to Allah

In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful. May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon His Beloved Messenger, his folk, and companions

Ramadan isn’t the “Month of Fasting.” It is a month of seeking closeness to Allah. Fasting is a means. Prayer is a means. Zakat is a means. Reciting the Qur’an is a means. Taqwa is a means. Thankfulness is a means. Guidance and actions are means. The purpose is Allah, and Allah alone.

Allah Most High tells us of this powerfully, “All the actions of people are for them, except for fasting. Fasting is for Me and it is I who reward it.” [Bukhari 5927]

Spiritually, the purpose of fasting is closeness to Allah. After the verses dealing with fasting and the month of Ramadan, Allah Most High makes this purpose clear: “If My servants ask you about Me, then I am indeed near. I answer the call of those who call upon Me when they call. So let them heed My calls and let them truly believe in Me in order that they become rightly guided.” [Qur’an, 2:186]

Fasting and Spiritual Realization of Divine Oneness

In fasting, one experiences one’s neediness to Allah, which opens one’s heart to spiritual understanding. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “O people, you are the ones absolutely in need of Allah; and Allah is the One free of all need, worthy of all praise.” [Qur’an, 35.15]

This neediness (faqr) that one realizes when fasting opens one’s heart to the absolute richness (ghina) of Allah—His being absolute, and absolutely free of the need for any other. Ibn Ata’illah said, “Become realized in your neediness, and He will assist you through His richness.”

This is at the very heart of true understanding of Divine Oneness, for the Qur’anic understanding of Allah, the one alone worthy of worship, is that He is the Rich (ghani), absolutely free of need of any other, and others are absolutely in poverty and indigence before Him. He is the Independent (samad) to whom all turn in need, and who is absolutely independent and beyond need. And He is the Sustainer (qayyum) who sustains all things at every moment, in every way, and who needs none to sustain Him.

In short, Allah is “the One free of any other, whom all are absolutely in need of.” [Sanusi, Umm al-Barahin]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) expressed this beautifully at a time of intense drought when he addressed them before performing the drought prayer:

الحمد لله رب العالمين ، الرحمن الرحيم ، مالك يوم الدين ،

لا إله إلا الله يفعل ما يريد ، اللهم أنت الله ، لا إله إلا أنت الغني ونحن الفقراء

“All praise is due to Allah; the Merciful, the Compassionate; Lord of the Day of Reckoning; there is no god but Him, He does what He wills. O Allah, You are Allah, there is no god but You. You are the One free of all need, and we are the ones in absolute need.”

Then he asked for rain and prayed two rakats. [Abu Dawud]

The scholars mention that this (or similar supplication, followed by two cycles of prayer, is both a powerful expression of neediness (faqr) and a powerful means of fulfilling one’s worldly or spiritual needs.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani

Qur’an Recitation: A SeekersGuidance Reader

Qur’an recitation forms the eighth chapter of Imam Al-Ghazali’s seminal work, the Ihya, which is widely regarded as the greatest work on Islamic spirituality in the world.

Here are some of the best SeekersGuidance resources available on the subject of Qur’an recitation. We pray they help you to enliven and to savor your recitation during these blessed days and nights.

 

Ten Ways to Benefit for Menstruating Women in Ramadan

Dread your period during the blessed month of Ramadan? Feel like you’re missing out on all the worship? Nour Merza gives women ten practical ways to spiritually benefit from this blessed month.

Every Ramadan, most women will have about a week in which they are unable to join in the major religious practices of the holy month: fasting and praying. When their menstrual period begins many women find that their level of engagement with the high spiritual atmosphere of the month drops. The same goes for those whose postnatal bleeding coincides with Ramadan. For many of these women, frustration and a sense of lacking spirituality sets in. This, however, shouldn’t be the case.

Menstruation, postnatal bleeding, and other uniquely feminine concerns are all part of Allah’s creation, which He created in perfect wisdom. They are not a punishment for women wanting to draw near their Lord. They are just part of the special package of blessings, opportunities, and challenges that Allaj has given uniquely to women. To refrain from ritual prayer (the salat) and ritual fasting (the sawm) during this time is actually considered a form of worship, and, if done with the intention of obeying Allah, it earns women good deeds.

In order to take full advantage of the blessed month of Ramadan, however, menstruating women and those with postnatal bleeding can do more than refraining from ritual prayer and ritual fasting to draw near Allah. Below are ten ways that women unable to fast can boost their spirituality during this special month.

1. Increase the Remembrance of Allah

In the Hanafi school, it is recommended for menstruating women to make wudu, wear their prayer clothes, and sit on their prayer mat while doing dhikr during the time they would normally be praying. This would be especially good to do in Ramadan, a time of special focus on worship. In addition to the adhkar that are well-known sunnas – such as subhan Allah, alhamdulliLlah and Allahu akbar. If you have a litany from a shaykh and are allowed to repeat it more than once a day, try to do it twice or three times for increased blessings. Dhikr has a special way of touching the heart, and by invoking Allah’s names whenever you can during this unique month you create the space, insha Allah, for beautiful spiritual openings. See: The Effects of Various Dhikr – Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad

2. Increase Supplication 

Supplication (dua) is something we do very little of these days, but speaking directly to your Lord is one of the most intimate ways to connect with Him. The beauty of supplication is that you can make it in any place or time. Take this opportunity to ask your Lord for all that you need in your life, and to draw near Him through either repeating the beautiful supplications of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, or reaching out to Allah with your own unique words. See: Ten Powerful Duas That Will Change Your Life

3. Feed Others

Whether it be your family, neighbors, community members, or the poor, use the time you are not fasting to make meals that fill the stomachs and souls of those around you. Recite the peace and blessings  (salawat) on the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, while making the food, as this imbues the food with spiritual benefit as well. Consider sponsoring iftar at your local mosque one evening with some other women who are in your situation, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen. 

4. Gain Islamic Knowledge

Use the extra time and energy you have from not fasting and praying to increase your knowledge of the faith. Listen to scholars discussing timely issues on our SeekersGuidance podcasts, form a small circle of non-fasting women who can commit to reading a book on Islam and discuss it together, or take some time to read articles on the religion from trusted online sources, such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s blog or Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s article collection at masud.co.uk. See also: Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge.

5. Increase your Charity

We are surrounded by countless blessings, so make sure to spread those blessings in the month of Ramadan. Give money to a good cause, such as supporting Syrian refugees, helping a local poor family with school fees, or supporting students of Islamic knowledge through SeekersGuidance. In a very busy world, we may have little opportunity to give our time to help others in charity – giving money takes minimal time, but brings great benefit. See: Eligible Zakat Recipients, Giving Locally vs. Abroad, Charity to a Mosque, and Proper Handling of Donations.

6. Make Your Responsibilities a Form of Worship

Sometimes, women are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the home and young children, and cannot make time to do things like study or sponsor an iftar. In these circumstances, renew your intention regarding your role as a mother and a wife. See these demanding and time-consuming roles for what they are: responsibilities that you are fulfilling to please Allah, which makes them a type of worship. Ask Allah to accept all your work as worship, and approach all that you do in this way. This will make even the most mundane of tasks, such as changing another diaper, cleaning up another spilled cup of apple juice, or making yet another dinner a way for you to gain the pleasure of your Lord. See: Balancing Worship and Caring for a New Child.

7. Listen to the Quran

Although the Hanafi school holds that women cannot touch the mushaf or recite the Qur’an while experiencing menses or postpartum bleeding, they are able to listen to the recitation of the Qur’an. Doing so offers much benefit in a month that has such a heavy emphasis on reciting the book. You can take special time out of your day to listen to it, such as while children are napping, or you can listen to it while in the midst of cooking or cleaning the house. See also: Listening to Qur’an While Occupied With Other Tasks

8. Increase Repentance

Ramadan is an excellent time to increase repentance to Allah. Use moments when others are praying or breaking their fast to ask Allah to forgive you and your loved ones and to keep you from returning to sin. All we have is a gift from Allah, so even forgetting that for a moment is a deed worth asking forgiveness from. Know that Allah is the Forgiving, and trust that, as our scholars have said, the moment you ask for forgiveness you are truly forgiven. See also: Damaged Inner State? Imam Ghazali on Repentance

9. Babysit to Help Mothers Worship

Mothers with young children often find it difficult to go to the mosque because they worry that their kids will disturb others who are praying. Since you don’t need to be at the mosque, volunteer a night or two (or more) to babysit the children of a young mother who would love to go pray tarawih. If you have young children of your own, you can tell the mother to bring her kids to your house before the prayer. By helping this woman worship, you will gain the same good deeds she gets from going to that prayer. See: I Love Being A Woman.

10. Spread Love and Light

Use the extra time and energy you have to share the joys of Ramadan and Eid with your non-Muslim friends, peers, and neighbors. Invite a work colleague for an iftar, make a special Ramadan dish and give it to a neighbor, or take time to make special cookies or gift bags for peers at the office or in school to hand out during Eid. By sharing these happy moments with friends and colleagues in the non-Muslim community, you counter the negative narratives about Islam in the media. More than that, however, you become someone who creates bonds in an increasingly isolated world, reflecting the beauty of the Prophetic light to all those around you. See: How Can Muslims Become More Effective Community Members?

 

The Three Degrees of Fasting – Imam al Ghazali

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

It should be known that there are three degrees of fasting: ordinary, extraordinary, and perfect.

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 saints, 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 of 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. (Qur’an 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 against idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing, and controversy; making it observe silence and occupying it with the remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and with the 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. (Qur’an 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? (Qur’an 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. (Qur’an 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.

Layla 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. (Qur’an 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 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.”


Turning Difficulty into Ease: Reflections from Surah al-Balad

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

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.

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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