In These Last Days of Ramadan, Help Sustain Sacred Knowledge – Dr. Hadia Mubarak

In the current global crisis, many deserving scholars and students have been left unsupported; knowledge is critical in these testing times, and you can help to sustain it’s spread.

Dr. Hadia Mubarak talks about the Islamic Scholars Fund and the importance of supporting students of knowledge and qualified teachers around the world.

“Whatever crisis we are facing never eliminates our need for accurate and reliable religious knowledge, so it is absolutely critical that we support religious scholars across the world.”  Dr. Hadia Mubarak

Don’t Let a Faith Pandemic Happen: Support Our Islamic Scholars Fund This Ramadan.

We need your help to raise $1 million in Zakat and Charity to urgently support students of knowledge and qualified scholars in need around the world.

Knowledge is critical in these testing times, and you have an opportunity by donating your Zakat and Charity to help sustain it’s spread.

This Ramadan, help people around the world find light and guidance by supporting deserving scholars. Give your zakat and charity to support scholars who need it, when their knowledge is needed most.

Hadith: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reported to have said: “Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.”  [Related by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and others] 

Support the Spread of Sacred Knowledge through the Islamic Scholars Fund this Ramadan, by giving your Zakat and Charity to Help Us Raise $1 Million for Deserving Students and Scholars in Need Around the World. 

On behalf of everyone here at SeekersGuidance, please accept our gratitude for everything you have contributed, and we pray you have a blessed end to Ramadan.

Wasalaam,

Waseem Mahmood
Business Strategy Manager

SeekersGuidance: The Global Islamic Seminary

Why Can’t We Unite? A Brief Overview of Moon-Sighting Wars (And How To Avoid Them) – Shaykh Sohail Hanif

Shaykh Sohail Hanif makes sense of the annual moon-sighting debates.

The blessed month of Ramadan is almost upon us. It is a month of contemplation, fasting, prayer and tranquility. But just as the tranquility of Paradise is “surrounded by disliked matters,”[1] Ramadan can only be arrived at after crossing the uncomfortable terrain of moonsighting debates. In this run up to the sacred month, otherwise ordinary words can acquire great rhetorical force: “Local!” “Global!” “Sighting!” “Calculations” “Saudi!” “Pakistan!” Each word is backed up by arguments, documents and video clips. But must these exchanges be inevitable, and is there a way out of this impasse? I believe there is if we read our classical heritage with some care.

It’s All Backed By Classical Scholarship

It is true that since the earliest times, scholars of Islamic law have disagreed over the correct method of declaring the beginning of the blessed month. There is a classical precedent for local sighting, global sighting, and even astronomical calculations. Thus, the disagreements that beset us at the beginning of the blessed month do have a basis in classical scholarship. However, there is something that we are missing as we churn out these classical positions: the missing point is process.

Process, Process, Process

Classical works of Islamic law provide details on how the new moon is to be established.

  • We are told by some classical jurists that if the sky is clear, a large number of people are required to have seen the moon. This is because the sighting of only a few people on a clear night is inherently suspicious since most onlookers did not see it.[2]
  • If the sky is overcast, then some jurists stipulated two witnesses for a valid sighting,[3] treating it as akin to establishing a fact in court, whilst others accepted a single witness,[4] treating it as a religious report.

In either case, they required that the individuals be morally upright. The question here is, who is it that will determine whether a group sighting is large enough on a clear night? Who is it that will decide whether a witness is upright or not? Who will determine the number of witnesses required on an overcast night? Each of these points has its own conditions that need to be verified by one who is both suitably trained and is vested with the authority to do so. This is the Muslim judge who has been placed in a position to declare the beginning of the month. Thus, the entry of Ramadan is established through a judicial process.

Waiting For Official Judgement

The commencement of Ramadan is not a private matter for individuals to declare. Individuals are only to raise their possible sightings to the appropriate authority who will then consider whether to accept or reject the sighting, and will consider which conditions to consider to declare the beginning of the month. This is why books of Islamic law discuss the case where an individual is sure that he/she saw the new moon, but was unable to convince the judge of this; should such a person fast? The commonly stated answer is that such a person does fast. However, this only applies to the person in question; everyone else is to await the official judgement on the matter.[5]
This is why, in Muslim countries, one rarely finds households divided over when they start fasting or celebrate Eid. In these countries, there is typically a governmentally appointed council that is vested with the authority to declare the beginning of the month. The man on the street need only turn on the radio or the television to know if the appointed council has declared the beginning of Ramadan. This is the process that works of sacred law attest to. The reason for this is clear. The communal purpose of Ramadan and Eid cannot be realised if a society is divided over when it starts and finishes the month. This process prevents that from happening.

What About Muslims Living As Minorities?

So what should people do in a minority context such as Britain? The answer is clear; the community must strive to appoint a representative council to declare the entry of the blessed month, which the community must then follow. This is not a new idea; there are many chapters of the law that attest to this. The Friday prayer is one example. Classical works of law imply that towns should, ideally, have only one Friday prayer service, so that the entire town comes together for a single congregation every week. This led to the question of who was to appoint the one imam to deliver the sermon and lead the town in prayer. If left to the people, each group and sect would vie endlessly to have its own group represented.
The answer, at least according to scholars of the Hanafi legal school, was that only the ruler, or the one appointed by the ruler, could choose the imam of this congregation.[6] The public had no authority to start their own Friday prayer. They could only choose to pray behind the appointed imam, or stay at home. In the minority context, scholars of the Hanafi school stated that where there is no Muslim ruler to make such a decision, the community itself must come together and appoint the imam.[7] In this case, no one individual can choose to lead the Friday prayer, only the one appointed by the community. This is effectively what happens in Mosques all over Britain. Mosques represent communities; members from the community run these mosques as representatives of the community, and they determine who leads the Friday prayer.
Shariah courts in Britain attempt to apply the same logic. Where there is no Muslim ruler to appoint judges to annul marriages in which women are abused, the Muslim community can come together to appoint a body to represent them in performing such a function. There is precedent to all of this in the works of Islamic law. The matter of Ramadan must be treated likewise.

Avoiding Sectarianism

Now, one might hear a voice stubbornly declare, “Okay, I’ll follow this appointed body as long as they follow local sightings!” Unfortunately, this is not how the process works. If the authority is vested in a judge, or a body acting as the judge, the prerogative is theirs to decide which method to use. The insistence of only observing the “correct” Ramadan is akin to insisting that only the “correct” Muslim enters one’s mosque; it is a thought process that is sectarian in nature and destructive in consequence. Unless the appointed judicial body totally violates and steps outside of what is considered acceptable opinion, it has to be followed. So where do we find this pool of acceptable opinion?
The world of Sunni Islam, the Muslim majority, ultimately settled on limiting the pool of acceptable opinion to the four established schools of law: the Hanafi, Shafi‘i, Maliki and Hanbali. This is not to say that great scholarship cannot exist outside of these schools. However, when it came to process, it was impossible to run a society with its need for clearly identifiable rules and procedures, if there was no clear way to limit and define acceptable legal opinion.[8] And as these four schools had matured to such a degree that it became increasingly hard to be recognised as one trained in law outside of the domain of these four schools, with their clearly defined hierarchy of rules, and great tradition of legal literature to draw upon, it made sense to only accept them as representing the law of God in the society of man. This Sunni paradigm ran Muslim societies for centuries, and it is of great use to us. It relieves us of having to force our own correct answer onto others. It is enough for an answer to be acceptable, after which we must strive for the right process in order to establish the will of God on earth.

Every Method Has A Basis In Sacred Law

If we look at the large corpus of legal works authored under the aegis of these four schools of law, we will find that every method currently followed, in Britain or elsewhere, has a basis in sacred law.

  • Relying on astronomical calculations, for example, is an opinion that a number of reputable scholars across legal schools have championed, with the strongest voices belonging to the Shafi‘i school.[9]
  • Global sighting, meaning following a sighting from a faraway land, has been upheld as the strongest opinion of the Hanafi and Hanbali schools, and, according to some, the Maliki school.[10]
  • Local sighting, meaning each locality following its own sightings, has been seen as the strongest opinion of the Shafi‘i school, and, according to some, the Maliki school.[11]

In truth, if a person looks through the corpus of legal works, he/she will see that the methods that were deemed acceptable were vast. As long as the judicial council vested with the authority to declare Ramadan follows any of these, then it must be followed. It is that simple.
So what to make of the long articles defending local sighting as the correct way to declare Ramadan, or global sighting, or other methods? These should all be seen as academic papers. These would be presented to such a judicial body to advise of the best method to follow. Otherwise, they are of little practical consequence because an individual cannot declare their own month.
The issue of moonsighting illustrates the wider purpose of the central devotional acts of Islam that make up its five pillars. Each of these upholds not only the faith of individuals, but the very community of faith to which these individuals belong. The detailed rules of the ritual prayer, fasting and zakat provide much guidance and clarity onhow a community of faith is to be formed, strengthened and spiritually nourished. If the community finds itself in discord and disarray, its members can only blame themselves for not having established these pillars as they were instructed.

References
Note: Most references below are to the Kuwaiti Fiqh Encylopaedia (al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah) which is perhaps the best and most accessible comparative fiqh reference compiled in the modern era, contributed to by leading scholars across the Muslim world. Each entry in the encyclopaedia provides references to the primary legal sources from which it draws.
[1] “The Fire is surrounded by lusts; and the Garden is surrounded by disliked matters;” al-Bukhari, hadith no. 6487.
[2] This is the insight of the Hanafi legal school: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Khabar,” vol. 19, p. 16. Some Maliki texts also indicate this: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, p. 25.
[3] This is the strongest position of the Maliki school: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Khabar,” vol. 19, p. 17; and c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, p. 25.
[4] This is the strongest position of the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools, who stipulate this whether the sky is overcast or clear, and of the Hanafi school, who only stipulate this if the sky is overcast: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Khabar,” vol. 19 pp. 16-17; and c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 25-7.
[5] This is the opinion of all four schools of law, who differ only on whether such a person must expiate for consciously violating the fast, or not. Some notable scholars of the early Muslim community, however, held that such a person is not obliged to fast at all. There is greater disagreement concerning someone who sees the new moon for the month of Shawwal (the day of ‘Id al-Fitr) if the judge does not accept their testimony. Many scholars held that such a person does not fast; although, Malik and Ahmad b. Hanbal (founders of the Maliki and Hanbali legal schools) held that such a person must ignore their own sighting and fast. See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ihlal,” vol. 7, pp. 150-1.
[6] Al-Marghinani, al-Hidayah, ed. Talal Yusuf, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 2000), vol. 1, p. 82.
[7] Al-Laknawi, ‘Umdat al-ri‘ayah ‘ala Sharh al-Wiqayah, ed. Salah Abu al-Hajj, 7 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2009), vol. 1, pp. 321-3; Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-mukhtar, (Cairo: 1885), vol. 1, pp. 540-1.
[8] A good exploration of the social need for fixed rules as the reason for the dominance of the schools of law is Mohammad Fadel, “The Social Logic of Taqlīd and the Rise of the Mukhtaṣar,” Islamic Law and Society, 3, (1996): pp. 193-233.
[9] Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgement of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgement of a judge.”
[10] Al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 36-8.
[11] Al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, p. 37. The authors of the Mawsu‘ah state that local sighting is only the strongest opinion of the Shafi‘i school. However, many key Maliki texts also attest to the superiority of local sighting; see for example al-Dasuqi, Hashiyat al-Dasuqi ‘ala al-Sharh al-kabir, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d), vol. 1, p. 510.

Photo by Bernd Thaller. Republished with much gratitude to our friends at Islamicate.

Who is Looking out for Muslim Converts this Ramadan?- Imam Khalid Latif

The convert experience in Islam is one that is tough for many. Muslim communities throughout the world get excited when someone enters into their doors saying they want to accept Islam. There are hugs and laughter and a large uproar – and then everything stops and the convert has to figure out how to move forward on their own. Trying to navigate through the diversity of legal and theological opinion in Islam can be tough enough, but doing so on your own is that much tougher; as is navigating through the cultural diversity that exists in the Muslim community on your own; questioning yourself and wondering what parts of your identity you need to abandon to fit in on your own. I could keep going – but essentially the point is we don’t do a good job in taking care of our converts

That Much Harder For Muslim Converts

I bring this up because Ramadan is just days away and during Ramadan it’s that much harder for a lot of converts. Every Muslim’s family is not Muslim. Every Muslim does not have a family to eat suhoor with or have iftar with. How many iftars have you hosted or attended to which a convert was invited? Or at the end of the month extended an invitation to an Eid celebration to someone who is a convert? Our consciousness doesn’t seem to extend to this place.
I had a young woman tell me once that Ramadan is interesting for her because each year her family offers her food and she tells them she can’t eat it because she’s fasting. They respond by asking, “Oh, you’re still Muslim?” It’s not an experience that her family shares with her.
Another young woman told me her experience fasting during Ramadan was hard because her family wouldn’t accept her Islam. When it came time to eat lunch, her father would put a plate of food in front of her because he refused to acknowledge that she was a Muslim. She was quite torn in deciding what to do and not having a community, or even simply a few people who understood, to turn to made it that much harder.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

A young man mentioned to me that his family had been completely fine with his conversion, but no Muslims really included him in anything. He expected that the local mosque would welcome him in and invite him to things, but he found that if he didn’t make a point of going on his own, no one really asked him to come. No one checked in on him, asked him how he was doing, or if he ever needed anything. During past Ramadans, his mother would call him daily to wake him up for suhoor, which he proceeded to eat on his own and then waited til sunset to break his fast alone as well. He doesn’t seem to think this Ramadan will be any different.
Try to think of who might be observing the month of Ramadan alone this year, not by choice but because there isn’t any other option for them. Make a point to include them in a way that makes sense for them. That might be inviting them to a large gathering or making the time to be with them in a smaller, more intimate atmosphere. Where others have forgotten, let’s make sure we’re remembering to do our part continuously and to the best of our abilities.

Follow Imam Khalid Latif on Facebook.
Photo by Jim Pennucci.

Coronavirus Lessons From Its Butterfly Effect – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan (Cape Town)

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan advises the congregation on the lessons that can be learnt regarding the current global pandemic COVID – 19. Shaykh Sadullah provides practical measures and precautions that people can take in their daily lives in order to reduce the risk of transmission. Furthermore, he reminds us to reflect on this contemporary event and to be cognizant of the butterfly effect. Sometimes a seeming-less insignificant event can have massive ramifications. In these challenging times, we should remain optimistic and do the best that we can to avert the potential consequences of COVID-19. We should rely on Allah in all matters and take the necessary means that he has created in order to protect ourselves and others. Let us appreciate the great gifts of life and health in these testing times.

Shaykh Faraz Asks For Your Support of the Islamic Scholars Fund. There Is Still Time Before Year-End.

Please note that this article is out of date.

For an updated Islamic Scholars Fund report and more information about how this fund works please visit: https://seekersguidance.org/articles/prophetic-guidance/how-does-the-islamic-scholars-fund-isf-use-your-zakat-and-charitable-donations/

The Prophetic Paradigm of Dealing With Problems – Shaykh Amin Kholwadia

* Courtesy of Darul Qasim

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Amin Kholwadia reminds the congregation that the absence of problems in society are not a sign of communal success or well being. Human nature and society is inextricably bounded to problems and challenges. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had to deal with problems and challenges on a daily basis. Furthermore, Islamic history is replete with events and episodes of turmoil and issues. Therefore, instead of rebelling against human nature, Muslims should adopt the approach and methodology of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in dealing with problems. He (peace be upon him) showed us through his blessed life that Islam teaches us how to navigate through human complexity. It is time that we realize this and embrace the Prophetic qualities of patience, forbearance, struggle, compassion and generosity in dealing with life and others. We should do our best in providing ease and assistance to those who are suffering from the challenges of life, and try to create a peaceful society by following the Prophetic model.

* Originally published on the 21st of October 2019

Hajj, Haajar and Kashmir – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page

In this Pre – Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan discusses the historical meanings and lessons that we can derive from the sacred days of Hajj, including the great status that Haajar (may Allah be pleased with her) holds in Islam. Furthermore, Shaykh Sadullah reminds us about the legacies of illustrious Muslim female personalities that played significant roles in Islamic history. Additionally he reflects on the overt bigotry and discrimination that has become common on the global political stage, particularly in Kashmir. Shaykh Sadullah emphasizes the fact that our duties towards refugees and the oppressed need to move beyond lip service. We as Muslims need to be aware of the current wave of hatred and bigotry that has engulfed the world. It is critical that we look at Hajj as a symbol of unity, and an opportunity for each and everyone of us to sacrifice our self interests.

Have We Really Progressed? – Shaykh Sadullah Khan

* Originally published on the 19/07/2019 (Masjid al -Furqaan)

In this Pre Khutba talk delivered at at Masjid al – Furqaan in Cape Town (South Africa), Shaykh Sadullah Khan reflects on mankind’s progression and advancement in the scientific and technological domains. He asks us to ponder on the fact that the majority of human beings still live in poverty and under oppression despite the wonderful advancements that man has made. Our preoccupation with material progression has caused us to forget our moral and social responsibilities to humanity and our surroundings.

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page

 

 

Conquering Mount Sawm, by Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya

Especially motivating for those dreading the long summer fasts, the following diary entries, written by British educator Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya, should provide reassurance that keeping hunger at bay isn’t as hard as it seems.Although describing the challenge of keeping a voluntary fast, the lessons are just as relevant for Ramadan.

After reading extracts from Brad Pilon’s Eat. Stop. Eat, encouragement from my teacher and reflection upon the Sunna, I decide to embark on the ultimate challenge for a food-loving Muslim: a voluntary fast. (And since it’s British summer time, the fast lasts from 02:30 till 9PM – 19½ hours!). What encouraged me was last Ramadan’s experience; we British Muslims dreaded the long summer fast of 2012 – the longest of its kind for almost 30 years! And yet, we did it. It wasn’t that hard. Indeed, I found this extract from a hindsight entry made last year under the title ‘Miracle of Fasting’:

“I somehow fasted from 4.50am till 9.30PM, possibly my longest ever. And it wasn’t hard – despite my normally having 3 square meals and 2 tea-breaks in that time! Allah made it easy, put baraka in my suhur and gave me energy, Alhamdulillah!”

So I went to sleep last night, after a late Isha, with the intention that if Allah would get me up at Tahajjud, only then would I fast with the following intentions:

  1. To follow the exalted Sunna, which should suffice us from having any other motive (though, as with other Sunnas, modern scientific findings help us appreciate the worldly benefits)
  2. To discipline my mind and nafs (self/soul) not to think about food all the time, and therefore
  3. Have a more productive day

02:50 AM

Allah woke me at 2:05AM and I knew He wanted me to try this experiment (perhaps so I could share it with SeekersHub Global readers!). I scrambled to the kitchen to prepare an odd suhur of instant porridge, last night’s pizza & chips leftovers, tea, a date and orange juice. Suitably stuffed, and after some fervent du’a, I’m ready to face the day… after the small matter of sleep!

1:15 PM

Breakfast wasn’t an issue as I was still full from suhur. No headaches or tiredness either. Skipped my compulsory tea-break at work without fuss. This is a big deal as, normally, the first moment after finishing my lesson at 10:30  I’d be rushing to the kitchen to make a cuppa! Got some less intensive down-time for the next few hours. Over half way now: so far, so good.

From a teacher’s point of view I find the ability to fast extraordinary. The nafs is like a teenager/child. Where it knows it has options, it’ll test the boundaries and ask for more than it deserves. However when the boundaries are clear from the outset of the day and one has made the firm resolve NOT to eat until sunset, the nafs grows quiet and barely a squeak of defiance is ever heard!

4:30

Three hours later and still no pangs, Alhamdulillah. I got a slight headache after hours of study on a Seekers Guidance course,  email checking and internet research. The research was worth it though: found out about The Fast Diet which contains much of the inspiration that got me started.

Now, after a brief rest, am pretty energized whilst tutoring the first of two lessons. Only two problems I’ve encountered so far: tendency to do excessive or useless internet jobs, and a longing for Maghrib time to come!

7:00

Last lesson done. Slight headache. Will rest for 20 mins before Tai Chi class at 7:30.

10:00

OK, Tai Chi was agony on my legs for some reason (found out later that this was due to my incorrect posture in one of the positions!) But Maghrib came upon me far from passing out due to hunger.

Conquering Mount Sawm…From the Outside

So if I could climb and conquer Mount Sawm outside Ramadan, anyone can. I’ll leave you with a few top tips that helped me get there:

  1. Have a strong intention for Allah.
  2. Consume a hearty, nutritious (I did have porridge remember!) suhur
  3. Read inspiring literature about benefits of the fast: if you’re not up to date with the two world famous and highly popular diets that lead incredible scientific support to the Sunna fasting system, then do read The Fast Diet by Mosley and Eat.Stop.Eat by Pilon
  4. Keep really busy. I’m sure you noticed my day was quite packed with different activities including work, study and fitness.
  5. Ponder that if millions of other Muslims around the world can do it, so can you. Mothers do this to get over the fear of childbirth. Fasting is not nearly as painful. If you need motivation outside Ramadan, when you are struggling to fast when most people aren’t, then there are a few things to consider: a) Your worship is especially likely to be more sincere. Keep your fast secret (as is recommended with all voluntary acts) and enjoy the special connection you have with Allah, knowing that you are fasting sincerely for His pleasure alone; b) The health benefits you learn from acting upon point 3 above is enough to inspire anyone to take up fasting weekly. Non-Muslims throughout the UK are ‘fasting’ Monday and Thursday due to the proven long-term benefits to health. As Muslims we have even more motivation; c) Although, not everyone is fasting, you can be sure that the ‘ulema of Taqwa, awliya and saliheen all fast regularly. It’s certainly comforting to know you are united with them in following the Sunnah of regular voluntary fasting.
  6. Allow yourself a Sunna qaylula (afternoon nap) after Zuhr; in long summer days this means you can get through plenty of work before your nap. Many nap straight after work. When you wake, it’s just the final lap with the finish line in sight.
  7. Enjoy and take advantage of the fact that you can be so much more productive on a fast day.

The Thought is Scarier Than the Experience

As we’ve all experienced, the thought of fasting – of not having one’s regular meals, of skipping one’s normal snacks – is actually a lot more frightening than the fast itself. Ironically, this is like productivity generally: the anticipation of how difficult it will be to achieve important goals is normally much worse than the actual experience.

And so the upshot is also the same: stop worrying; just do it! Ramadan Mubarak to all reading this and I’d be so grateful if you could remember me in your duas when you break your fasts.

Fruit Photo by Michael Stern. Clock picture by Christine Callahan.

Resources for Seekers

10 Ways of 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 you could otherwise do? As Nour Merza writes, there is much to look forward to.

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. Many women, when their menstrual period begins, 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 God has given uniquely to women. To refrain from ritual prayer (the salaat) and ritual fasting (the sawm) during this time is actually considered a form of worship, and, if done with the intention of obeying God, 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 God. Below are ten ways that women unable to fast can boost their spirituality during this special month.

menstruating women in Ramadan

1. Increase dhikr

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 subhanAllah, 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 God’s names whenever you can during this unique month you create the space, inshaAllah, for beautiful spiritual openings. See: The Effects of Various Dhikr – Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad

2. Increase du’aa

Du’aa 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 du’aa 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 du’aas of the Prophet or reaching out to God with your own unique words. See: Ten Powerful Du’as 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 salawat on the Prophet (pbuh) 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.  See also: “Manifesting Mercy: Feeding Your Way to God” – Nader Khan at Brampton Islamic Centre.

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 SeekersHub 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 programs like SeekersHub’s #SpreadLight campaign. 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 God, which makes them a type of worship. Ask God 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

menstruating women in Ramadan

Although the Hanafi schools holds that women cannot cannot touch the mushaf or recite Quran while experiencing menses or postpartum bleeding, they are able to listen to the recitation of the Quran. Doing so offers much benefit in a month that has such 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 God. Use moments when others are praying or breaking their fast to ask God 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 God 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 taraweeh. 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?

Cover photo by Edward Musiak. Tasbih photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly. Quran photo by Mohmed Althani.

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