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Quran Etiquette

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Salaam Alaykum,

What is the ruling regarding reading Quran with shoes on. Must the shoes be removed if there is mud or impurity on them? Is it Sunnah to remove the shoes when reading Quran? Jazakallah Khair

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

I pray you are well.

It is permissible to recite the Qurʾan with your shoes on. What is we have reverence for the Qurʾan when reciting it.

Cultural Expressions of Respect

There are many practices which entail respect, such as not turning your back to someone distinguished, and in some places these practices were also applied to the Qurʾan. This is why many Indo-Paks, Turks, etc do not turn there backs to a copy of the Qurʾan.

All such practices are praiseworthy, because they emanate from a deep-seated reverence of the Book of Allah. They are, however, mostly cultural, and so subject to change from place to place. Removing one’s shoes before reciting could also be one of these.

Islamic Expressions of Respect

There are other practices which are rooted within the religion, such as reciting the Qurʾan with wudu – even if one is not touching a physical copy, facing the Qiba, cleaning one’s teeth with a miswak before reciting. These practices do not change from place to place.

Permission from the Sunna

Having said that, we have examples of when the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would lie in the lap of his wife ʿAʾisha during her menstrual cycle, and recite the Qurʾan. (Bukhari). This is a beautiful expression of spending quality time with one’s family and imbuing that time with the remembrance of Allah. ʿAʾisha herself would recite her daily portion of the Qurʾan whilst lying down.

Imam Nawawi, in his book al Tibyan, has mentioned the proper conduct of reciting the Qurʾan, and we should try to apply that as much as possible. However, should we see that someone is not facing the Qibla, or is reciting from memory without wudu, or whilst lying down, we should remember that we have permission from the Sunna to do such things.

I hope that helps.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. He moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time, 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 in Fiqh, Usul al Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, 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 amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil. In the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

Reading Qur’an For A Deceased

Answered by Ustadh Farid Dingle

Question: As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

A few years ago I signed up to read a juz of the Quran as part of a khatm sign up sheet for someone’s passing.. I had forgotten about that for a while and now I don’t even remember what juz number I signed up for.. I feel very worried. What should I do? Do I read the whole Quran with the intention of all of it being towards that same khatm? JazakAllah Khair.

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

The moral weight of promises

Allah Most High has said:

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. [2: 177]

And the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘The signs of a hypocrite are three, even if he fasts and prays and claims to be a Muslim: when he speaks he lies, when he gives a promise he breaks it, and when he is trusted he is treacherous.’ [Bukhari and Muslim]

We can learn from these divine teachings that fulfilling one’s promise is of the perfection of faith, and breaking one’s promise is of the signs of hypocrisy.

The believer vs. the hypocrite

That said, there is a big difference between making a genuine promise with full intent to fullfil, and just lying to someone’s face. The latter is what is meant by the hadith.

So, if one makes a promise, one must keep it, but if you unable to or you just happen to forget this is not a sin: ‘Indeed Allah has overlooked for my the mistakes of my nation does, and that which they do forgetfully or under compulsion.’ [al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Majah]

This means that if you generally meant to fulfill the promise but then forgot, you are not sinful, and the hadith of the signs of hypocrisy does not apply to you.

It is however a deficiency in one’s faith, even if it is not sin, to forget about something that you are supposed to do. May Allah forgive us all?

What to do now?

InshaAllah, you are not sinful for forgetting to recite then portion of the Quran you had promised to do, but this is a wake-up call from Allah to raise you to a higher level of trustworthiness with Him and His creation.

What you should do is, this month, when you are reciting Quran intend that the whole khatm is dedicated to whatever the original cause was and when you finish each day make a special dua to Allah to make you a trustworthy slave. Please make that dua for me too, if you remember.

I pray this helps.

[Ustadh] Farid Dingle

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to crafts lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.

ADAB 14: The Proprieties of Prioritizing in Religious Practice

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of prioritizing religious practice.

“From the marks of following whimsical desires is rushing to perform supererogatory acts of devotion, and laziness in the fulfilment of religiously obligatory duties.” Profound words from the remarkable Ahmad b. ‘Ata Illah al-Sakandari (may Allah sanctify his secret). You don’t start profiting until you’ve broken even, and a lack of religious priority and guidance can lead to loss in this life before the next. Fortunately, the scholars don’t just leave us in the dark about how to function prophetically, and with true, praiseworthy adab, but they take us by the hand to ensure that we grow, recognise, appreciate and are subsequently grown, even without our own doing.

Our Master ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr reported that a man came to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said: “I have come intending to set out in jihad with you, seeking thereby the countenance of Allah and the next abode. I have indeed come, but my parents are weeping.” He said, Allah bless him and give them peace, “Return to them and make them laugh just as you made them weep.” (Ibn Majah) It doesn’t matter about your emotions, how much you want something, how beloved it appears to be to the lawgiver, or anything else. What matters is priority, and this is not it in your life at this time. Priority is what the Lawgiver wants from you and I, and that takes time to realise, absorb, consider and do.

1. Divine Love in Priority

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said in a holy tradition (hadith qudsi), transmitting Allah’s Speech to us: “My servant draws near to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him; and My servant continues drawing nearer to Me with supererogatory works until I love him.” (Bukhari) It is not by jumping to recommended or mere charitable deeds that a believer wins unto the great, good pleasure of the Divine, but by fulfilling that which He has made obligatory upon us. 

In another tradition, our Master Jabir b. ‘Abdullah reported that a man came and said to the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “Do you think that if I pray the prescribed prayers, fast [the month of] Ramadan, deem the lawful to be lawful and the unlawful to be forbidden, and I do not add anything beyond that, I shall enter Paradise?” He, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘Yes.’ (Muslim) The religion is comprised of different duties, of course, but there is something special about the obligatory acts, a secret by which a person can attain unto ultimate bliss. 

Obligatory, missed duties also need to be made up and should be given precedence over supererogatory works, unless that which requires attention is minimal. So you should focus, for example, on the missed dawn prayers (fajr) rather than praying extra cycles (rak‘as) of the mid-morning prayer (duha). Generally, makeup prayers and fasts should be prioritised, as is the case with missed zakat payments. Mandatory duties such as missed end of Ramadan charity payments (sadaqat al-fitr), missed ritual sacrifices (udhiya/qurbani), expiations for fasting, oaths and the like, should also be given precedence to other monetary acts of devotion

2. Duties: Communal and Personal

Allah Most High says, “However, it is not necessary for the believers to march forth all at once. Only a party from each group should march forth, leaving the rest to gain religious knowledge then enlighten their people when they return to them, so that they too may beware of evil.” (Sura al-Tawba 9:122) In his exegesis, Ibn ‘Ashur explains that seeking knowledge is also a communal obligation, and that the entire community of believers (umma) would have been negligent if they had all left in jihad. Rather, there were multiple obligations to take care of, and a sufficiently large group needed fulfil each duty. Both were prioritised and of equal, communal importance. 

The communal obligation (fard kifaya) is that which is due upon every community of believers in a particular place. It is not limited to seemingly religious roles. An example would be the need to have doctors, lawyers and traders, all of whom are required to run a healthy society. This obligation is only lifted if a sufficiently large number of people fulfil it whereby the need is taken care of. Otherwise, the entire community is sinful. The personal obligation (fard ‘ayn) is that which is due from every single individual without exception. Similarly, there is a communal sunna, such as the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf), and personal sunnas, such as the emphasised cycles (rak‘as) associated with each prescribed prayer. All of these also require fulfilment as such sunnas are duties which cannot be left without a genuine, shari‘a-countenanced excuse. 

The personal obligation is of greatest importance because matters which pertain to the generality are lesser in emphasis. But some individuals have a greater responsibility to take care of duties on behalf of the entire community because of their aptitude and personal circumstances, and their reward will be commensurate with the sincerity of their service and devotion. What this also means is that each person may get the reward of fulfilling an obligatory duty by intending their permissible work as such whenever they set out in the morning or night. Each person has a place, and actions are but by their intentions. When there is a choice, prioritising entails choosing a communal duty that is not yet fully fulfilled.

3. Knowledge of Your Current Circumstances (‘ilm al-hal)

It is obligatory, of course, to know enough that you can worship Allah Most High in the situations you normally find yourself in. In this context, worship relates to three things: (a) that which relates to the mind, ‘aqida; (b) that which relates to the limbs, fiqh; and that which relates to the heart, tasawwuf. All of this is required, albeit to the extent of the need, in order to fulfil your duty to worship. 

The Ottoman scholar, and the Shaykh of the Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-haram) of his time, Yusuf al-Amasi (d. 1000 AH), writes in his brilliant treatise, Tabyin al-Maharim: “It is obligatory to know the [basic] rulings of (1) the five prescribed duties [assuming that they are due]; (2) the details of sincerity, because the soundness of actions depends upon it; (3) [basic] rulings of the lawful and the unlawful; (4) the details of showing off, because the worshipper is deprived of reward otherwise; (5) the details of envy and conceitedness, because they consume a person’s good deeds just as fire consumes wood; the details of (6) buying, selling, (7) marriage and divorce, for somebody who intends to do these things; and the (8) [basic] rulings related to foul and impermissible language.” A fair deal to work on! Note that this is just a list with respect to the obligatory. There are also mandatory (wajib) acts which require performance and severely offensive (makruh tahriman) acts which need to be avoided. 

What this means is that knowing the details of logical arguments, debates of ancient philosophers, when particular penal punishments are applicable, what Razi said about a particular verse, the names of the Companions who fought at Badr, in what situations the predicate is hidden in classical Arabic, and other non-essential issues from the various Islamic sciences may wait for another time. The sincere person is focused and clear about what he needs and he takes the requisite steps in order to attain unto it. Otherwise, one should look to their heart as to why they are studying whatever it is they are studying, and if it is at the expense of the above or not, because the scholars would state that this is following one’s desires and not acting in accordance with prophetic guidance. “Consult your heart,” said the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, even if the scholars answer you time and again.

A related issue is that a man would also need to know a sufficient amount of worldly knowledge such that he can earn a living and support his family, and accordingly, he is fulfilling an obligatory duty by learning a trade or preparing himself for that.

4. Different Priorities at Different Times

The scholars of the science of Islamic Spirituality (tasawwuf) mention that the true aspirant is a “son of his moment.” This is characterised in the words of Imam Junayd who said, “The believer’s state changes forty times daily,” pointing to the idea of prioritising whatever is required at any given time. It is clearly preferable to do certain things at certain times, and other things at other times. The key to all of this is knowledge, wisdom and sincerity. A brief example would be choosing between extensive night worship and being fresh and ready for work in the subsequent morning, even if in the month of Ramadan. Negligence in fulfilling one’s responsibilities with due care, a matter related to the rights of others, is far more serious than any reward earned for extra rak‘as or recitation of the Qur’an.
The jurists expressed this idea of priorities in the legal maxims (qawa‘id fiqhiyya) they developed to help those in the judiciary and elsewhere to understand the underlying principles which are shared between particular groups of rulings, but to also forward universals, something that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also encouraged. An example of this is the statement: “Warding off harms is given precedence over the attainment of benefits.” Similarly, “Severe harm is warded off by undertaking lesser harm.” It may well be that the circumstance calls you to behave in a manner which is contrary to that which is normally expected because there is some kind of grave harm entailed in doing otherwise.

The cases of this are too numerous to mention, but, as an example, consider the following list of scenarios which the jurists deemed to take precedence over the ritual prayer, even if it meant that the prayer time would exit: (1) a midwife who fears for the life of a baby; (2) anybody able to help a drowning or burning person, or anybody else in need of urgent, life-saving assistance; (3) a traveller who genuinely fears for his life or wealth from armed criminals. Please note that this is a technical discussion and if you face any of these scenarios regularly, it’s best to consult with a learned scholar first to ensure you fully understand the details of when such a choice is religiously acceptable and when it is not.

5. Avoiding the Unlawful versus Fulfilling the Obligatory

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “That which I have prohibited you from, shun it, and that which I have commanded you with, do it to the best of your ability.” (Bukhari) Not doing something is far easier than doing something, and this is partly the reason for the prophetic dispensation provided for the obligatory, contrary to the prohibited. One’s dedication in leaving the unlawful should be more intense than one’s performance of the obligatory, given that all it entails is not doing something, but the omission of both is obviously inexcusable. 

It is important to progress in learning with gradualness and wisdom. One should start with the obligatory (fard) and the prohibited (haram) and work to establish and remove those matters, respectively, and then move on to the mandatory (wajib) and the severely offensive (makruh tahriman) and so on. If you are jumping ahead to undertake commendable or praiseworthy (mustahab/mandub) actions, and you haven’t taken care of that which comes before, you are only kidding yourself. Fulfilling such matters is fine in moderation, even whilst you haven’t mastered the other things, but not at the expense of those which are hallmarks of sincere believers. The early righteous would say, “Works of piety are done by both the righteous and the corrupt, but nobody has the strength to leave sin except the sincerely faithful.” 

6. Public and Personal Benefit

The general principle is that benefit which accrues to other than oneself is better and more beloved to Allah Most High than personal benefit, except in some situations. An example of this latter case would be, according to Sultan al-‘Ulama al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam, the remembrances (adhkar) after the prayer wherein one recites subhana Llah, alhamdu li Llah, Allahu akbar, thirty-three, thirty-three and thirty-four times respectively.

Our Master Abu Huraira reported that the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Every person’s joints have [an associated] charity due each day in which the sun rises: to reconcile between two [disputing] people is a charity; to assist another by helping him onto his mount, or lifting his merchandise onto it for him, is a charity. A good word is a charity. Each step one takes to the prayer is a charity. And removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity.” (Bukhari)

Our religion is service at its very heart; the scholar is a servant, the doctor is a servant, everybody with a profession serves, even if only their dependents. “Whoever doesn’t serve, shall regret it,” as one of the righteous once remarked. 

Priority, then, is in recognising that some matters are more urgent than others, and for the believer, that the next life is far more important than this life. May Allah Most High grant us the vision to be farsighted enough to recognise where our eternal benefit lies, to facilitate the attainment of such goals, remove obstacles and hardships from our lives and the lives of all believers, and allow out hearts to thrive with His Pure Love. 

 

And Allah alone gives success.

 

ADAB 12: The Proprieties of Ramadan

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of Ramadan.

The fast is mine, and I shall recompense for it” (Bukhari). This is what Allah Mighty and Majestic instructed the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to inform his community (umma). The centrality of Ramadan and the fast is not lost on any of us. Allah Most High says, “Fasting is prescribed for you—as it was for those before you—so perhaps you will become mindful of Allah” (Sura al-Baqara 2:183). A month of seemingly endless mercies, blessings and spiritual joy which returns, by Divine grace, year after year to stir up the believers into performing works of everlasting consequence. The secret to a successful Ramadan is in recognizing that, whilst the blessed month comes and goes, the one who makes it come and go is the All-Generous, Ever-Present. The point of Ramadan is to reorient our lives to Allah Most High. This is what we see in the prophetic example, and this is what we aspire to. 

1. Sowing the Seeds & Preparation

Genuine and sincere longing for the blessed month entails preparation, namely, some time to sow the seeds, and then to harvest when the noble guest of Ramadan arrives. The proprieties of true preparation include repentance and seeking forgiveness for wrongs, returning any rights owed to their respective owners, reconciling relationships after having wronged people, refraining from sin, planning ahead to ensure that you will have time to reap your harvest, and making lofty intentions. 

On the evening following the twenty-ninth day, it is recommended to seek out the new crescent. If it is seen, the recommendation is to supplicate with the words, “O Allah, make it rise over us with safety and faith, and security and submission. My [Lord] and your Lord is Allah (allahumma ahillahu ‘alayna bi’l yumni wa’l iman wa’s salamati wa’l islam rabbi wa rabbuk Allah)” (Tirmidhi). If the sky is overcast, the thirtieth of Sha‘ban is termed the Day of Doubt (yawm al-shakk). Fasting a voluntary fast on this day is recommended, but not necessary, nor disliked, as long as your intention is unequivocally clear. 

2. Recommended Sunnas of the Fast

From amongst the recommended sunnas is to partake in a pre-dawn meal (sahur). The Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Partake in the pre-dawn meal, for indeed, it has blessing [in it].” (Bukhari) Of course, it isn’t necessary to actually have an entire meal, rather a sip of water or a single date also fulfils the sunna. The proper time for this extends from just after the halfway point of the islamic night right up until dawn. Delaying it until just before dawn is also recommended. 

When breaking the fast, the sunna is to hasten it. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Allah Mighty and Majestic said, ‘The most beloved of My servants to Me are those who are quickest to break their fast.’” (Tirmidhi) An excessive or undue delay would be to avoid breaking the fast until the stars become manifest in the sky, which, incidentally, is the entry of the disliked time for the sunset (maghrib) prayer. Moreover, the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, would regularly break his fast with fresh dates (rutab) or normal dates (tamr), and in their absence, water. (Abu Dawud) But failing that, anything sweet would also suffice, such as various types of fruit. Needless to say that facilitating the means for others to break their fast is also something tremendous in the sunna. 

From the greatest of times for supplication is actually any point during the fasting day, but particularly at day’s end. The Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would supplicate with the words, “The thirst is gone, the veins have been moistened and the reward is assured, if Allah wills (dhahaba al-zama’ wa ‘btallati ‘l-‘uruq wa thabata al-ajr in sha Allah).” (Abu Dawud) Lastly, and most importantly, the greatest sunna of them all is to fast spiritually by abstaining from all that is displeasing to Allah Most High. The warnings of doing otherwise are plain in the prophetic sunna, “… Allah has no need for him to leave his food and drink.” (Bukhari)

3. Generosity & Charity

Our Master ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Supreme Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was “the most generous of people,” and in the month of Ramadan, he was more generous than “an encompassing, swiftly flowing breeze.” (Muslim) Generosity can be in knowledge, service, charity, assistance or otherwise. 

From the wisdoms of the month of Ramadan is that we get to appreciate what those of somewhat lesser means experience much more regularly. With our bellies starved of nourishment, our souls weaken and are humbled before our Lord, and what better way to increase in manifest good in such a state than to pull something out of our pockets to give in the way of Allah Most High.

The lawgiver encourages us to give by stipulating a mandatory requirement of charity. Specifically, this is to pay the end of Ramadan charity (sadaqat al-fitr) whereby we strive to lend a hand on the day of ‘Eid to the poor and needy so that they can be as joyous as others. The amount due is the local monetary value of approximately two kilograms of wheat, but each believer may pay beyond that whatever he likes. In order to meet needs, it is preferable to pay it early enough so that it may reach the poor in good time. There’s also nothing wrong with pooling funds together to give a larger amount to a needy person or family. 

4. The Secret of Taqwa

The secret of benefiting from this month is in upholding the spiritual dimensions of the fast. What this means is that you protect your mouth from engaging in lying, slander and the like, your eyes from impermissible gazes, your ears from hearing the unlawful, and the rest of your limbs from succumbing to the self’s weakness in this sensitive time. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged us to be steadfast when he explained that you should say, “I’m fasting,” (Muslim) to the one provoking you to the unbecoming. He also informed us, Allah bless him and give him peace, “How many a fasting person gets nothing from his fast except hunger.” (Ibn Majah)

As well as being vigilant not to break one’s greater fast, one should strive to avoid making up for lost food in the evenings! Many scholars have expressed the harm and undoing of any spiritual gain which comes about by indulging after sunset. Being a little less nourished is sought, and acting in a manner contrary to that vitiates the very experience one is supposed to have in the blessed month. Similarly, one should be avid with time. Disengage from social media and other forms of gratificatory engagement so that you have time for Allah Most High. Keeping up one’s warm family ties (silat al-rahim) is always encouraged, but strive to decrease in unneeded commentary and entertainment. 

5. Recitation of the Qur’an

Allah Most High says, “Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard to distinguish between right and wrong.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:185) This is the month of reconnecting to the Qur’an, engrossing oneself in its recitation and meanings, and changing one’s life for the better by its blessings. The Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to mutually recite and review the Qur’an with our Master, the Archangel Jibril, may Allah give him peace, in this month, and notably, twice in the year he left this world. (Bukhari) The same, incidentally, occurred in his final spiritual retreat where he performed it for twenty days, teaching us, once again, that works of devotion should increase, as the days of our life pass by, and not decrease. 

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Recite the Qur’an in every month.” (Bukhari) The best of times you can fulfil this sunna is in this blessed month. If difficult, you can also combine your recitation of the Qur’an with listening sessions where you can focus instead on the meanings of what is being recited. Optimally, you would use the month of Ramadan to understand the actual message of the Qur’an, and how to apply it in your life. There are a handful of useful works in English which may help with this, but the best situation is being able to read a reliable work of exegesis (tafsir), ideally with a teacher. 

6. Night Prayer

The Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us that, “Whosoever stands [in prayer] in the month of Ramadan, out of faith and sincerity, his past sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari

The night prayer (qiyam al-layl) of Ramadan is tarawih. These twenty cycles (rak‘as) were originally prayed by the Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, only later to be institutionalised by the Companions (sahaba). All four canonical schools of Islamic Law hold that the tarawih prayer is twenty cycles, and that they are to be prayed after the nightfall (‘isha) prayer. Praying less doesn’t fulfil the sunna fully, but it is superior to not praying at all, particularly in the presence of a genuine excuse. Ideally, these cycles should take place at the mosque because of the special benefits found therein, but praying individually also minimally fulfils the sunna. 

The Lady ‘A’isha, may Allah be well-pleased with her, transmitted to us that Allah’s messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to pray eight cycles of night vigil (tahajjud) both inside and outside of Ramadan. (Bukhari) The takeaway is that the month of Ramadan is about struggle, increase and striving, and not simply using the expected works of devotion as replacements for existing routines of worship. But whatever you can do with sincerity is better than nothing at all, and if one does so, one can be hopeful of attaining unto an enormous windfall from an All-Generous Lord. 

7. The Spiritual Retreat (i‘tikaf)

One of the dearest of the sunnas of the month of Ramadan is the spiritual retreat (i‘tikaf). Our Master Abu Huraira, may Allah be well-pleased with him, reported that the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to perform the ten-day retreat every single year. (Bukhari) The jurists explain that it is a communally emphasised sunna (sunna mu’akkada kifaya) to perform retreat, that is to say, the duty is fulfilled if somebody in the community performs the retreat at the local mosque, yet all have committed something blameworthy if entirely omitted without excuse. 

The retreat entails spending approximately the last ten days and nights in the mosque, worshipping Allah Most High, intending to rise to angelic levels of obedience and devotion, entirely detached from the world and worldliness altogether. The one in the retreat would eat, drink and sleep in the mosque, leaving only for something essential such as to perform the ritual ablution (wudu) and to use the bathroom. Merely being in the mosque and waiting from prayer to prayer, engrossed in learning, remembrance and sincere adoration of the Divine can be a life-changing experience.  

If there is a dignified and safe space in the mosque for women, it would be permitted for them to also perform the retreat in the mosque if there is some otherwise unattainable benefit to be found therein. But the Sacred Law (shari‘a) has also permitted them to perform the retreat at home, and it is usually superior for them to do so, all else being equal, something which men are not permitted to do. 

8. The Night of Power (laylat al-qadr)

Allah Most High says, “The Night of Glory is better than a thousand months.” (Sura al-Qadr 97:3) 

There are many different narrations and positions amongst the scholars of Islam regarding when the Night of Power actually occurs. But many scholars are inclined towards the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Needless to say that this is also one of the wisdoms for being in a spiritual retreat in the last days of Ramadan! Incidentally, in the nights which may possibly be this special occasion, it is recommended to bathe, cleanse oneself and adorn oneself with perfume and good clothing. But with that, the scholars explain, outward purity is meaningless if unaccompanied with inward purity, namely, deep repentance. 

The Beloved Prophet of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would strive in Ramadan in a manner greater than other months, and in the last ten days in a manner unlike the others. (Muslim) The Lady ‘A’isha, may Allah be well-pleased with her, said that when the last ten days of Ramadan arrived, the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, “would worship in the night, awaken his family, strive and really dedicate himself to working [righteous deeds].” (Bukhari

She also reported, may Allah be well-pleased with her, that she asked the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, “If I know which night the Night of Power is, what should I supplicate in it? He said, ‘Say: O Allah, You are Pardoning and you love pardon, so pardon me (allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbu ‘l-‘afwa fa‘fu ‘anni).’” (Tirmidhi

9. Keeping up the Forward Impetus

The early Muslims (salaf) would supplicate for up to six months after the ending of Ramadan, asking Allah Most High to accept their works. A meaningful Ramadan is a month in which routines of consistent devotion are established, godfearingness (taqwa) settles in the heart and a desire to please Allah Most High covers one’s states and works. Finally, the Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whosoever fasts [the month of] Ramadan and follows it up with six [fasts] of Shawwal, it is as if he has fasted the entire year.” (Muslim)

We ask Allah Most High to grant us the ability to become people of deep faith, certitude and godfearingness, solely for His sake, increasing in each and every moment to higher states of Divine Good Pleasure. 

 

And Allah alone gives success.


 

Adab 13: The Proprieties of Clothing and Dress

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or the proprieties of clothing and dress.

 

Allah Most High says, “The garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.26) True clothing is that which leaves a spiritual imprint in our hearts whereby we recognise the Lordship of our All-Seeing Lord, and strive to work righteous deeds, remain distant from wrong and busy the heart with remembrance so that it may be moulded into something that shields us instantly from the unlawful. Taqwa, linguistically speaking, is the central focus of garments, protecting and shielding us from the weather and from unwanted gazes, and it is metaphysical taqwa that we seek to adorn ourselves with so that we may be hopeful to find Allah Most High’s Aid and Divine Care in this life before the next. 

1. Defining Nakedness and the Duty to Cover

Allah Most High says, “…Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves.” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.22) And also, “O children of Adam! We have provided for you clothing to cover your nakedness and as an adornment.” (Sura al-A‘raf 7.26) From these and other verses, the jurists derived the obligation to cover one’s nakedness. In the context of covering, what is sought is opaque clothing which actually covers the area without displaying whatever is underneath and its colour. In doing so, we intend to fulfil a religious obligation and to guard our private parts from the unlawful and sin because “Actions are but by intentions.” (Bukhari)

The nakedness (‘awra) of men is from just below the navel till the bottom of the knee. For women in front of the opposite gender, it includes their entire bodies except face, hands and feet. In front of an unmarriageable kin (mahram), it is from navel to knee, and also the stomach and back; and in front of other women, it is from the navel to knee alone. When in seclusion, however, both men and women should strive to keep their minimal nakedness — navel to knee — covered as an expression of their modesty and humility before their Lord, unless there is a need to uncover such as when using the restroom or the like. 

With respect to children, there is some detail and some of the specifics may differ depending on how big or small any particular child looks. Generally, a very young child up to the age of about three or four has no nakedness of religious consequence. Then from four to seven, their nakedness is their private parts. From seven till ten, it gradually increases from just the private parts up to the navel and down to the knee; and then at age ten, their nakedness is akin to that of an adult. Having said all of that, it is important for caregivers and parents to ensure that children remain covered, within reason, and are taught about their nakedness and that the only person who can touch or uncover them in those sensitive areas is their mother. We live in difficult times and we are duty-bound to protect our children from harm and trauma. 

 

2. The Central Sunna of Looseness and Modesty

One of the central sunnas related to clothing and dress is that of looseness which is a result of preferring modesty. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Modesty is from faith.” (Bukhari) Praiseworthy modesty is a character trait which drives one to uphold the limits of the Sacred Law (shari‘a) in one’s life. Clothing is supposed to cover one’s nakedness and when it is tight, it is effectively akin to showing whatever is beneath it. This is why we need to be careful to ensure that the clothing we choose to wear is indicative of our values, namely, that covering well and fully forms the basis of how we present ourselves before those who are not permitted to see our bodies. 

Accordingly, both men and women should avoid form-fitting tightness, or simply tightness which sufficiently defines the size or shape of a limb between the navel and knee. Ladies should additionally be careful to avoid clothing which hugs the body, particularly in the chest area, but also generally around the rest of her nakedness. As an aside, praying in form-fitting, tight clothing is considered to be valid, yet prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman) and seriously reprehensible because it is not the kind of covering that was sought in the prayer. Tightness is of degrees and the degree of blameworthiness would be in accordance with its extent.

3. General Sunnas in Dressing

There are a number of sunnas to keep in mind when dressing oneself, or even undressing! Given that clothing is a favour and blessing from Allah Most High, it only befits us that we begin to wear it from the right, as the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to “prefer the right in everything.” (Muslim) Similarly, we undress with the left first, allowing the right side to remain clothed for a lengthier period of time as doing this would be a form of honouring it. The same would apply to footwear which, incidentally, should be worn whilst seated, if required, like all clothing worn beneath the navel. There are two wisdoms in this: (1) you will generally be more covered whilst seated, and (2) you are less likely to have an undignified fall! 

Another sunna to be aware of is supplication in undressing which Imam Nawawi records from Ibn al-Sunni, “In the Name of Allah, the one who there is no deity save He (bismi Llahi ‘lladhi la ilaha illa Hu).” In the same vein, whenever the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, wore something new, he would supplicate saying: “All praise belongs to God who clothed me in this and provided me with it without any power from me nor might (alhamdu li Llahi ‘lladhi kasani hadha wa razaqanihi min ghayri hawlin minni wa la quwwa).” (Abu Dawud) Moreover, he would often choose Fridays for wearing a new garment for the first time because Friday is a blessed occasion, the ‘Eid of the week, and deserving of being honoured. 

Men are also encouraged in the sunna to wear white. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Wear white clothes.” (Tirmidhi) The reason for the prophetic preference and encouragement to wear white was due to the fact that you can easily see any dirt or the like which has affected it, it is indicative of simplicity and humility, and it is also distant from particular types of ancient, natural dyes that were deemed problematic for men to wear. Despite this, the Blessed Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would often wear other than white to indicate either permissibility or due to the absence of white. But on the two ‘Eids, the recommendation is to wear one’s best clothes, even if they are other than white, which was also the practice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. 

4. Restrictions: Jewellery and Certain Forms of Dress

Jewellery is permitted for women, yet not for men. The only exception to this is a silver ring which may be worn occasionally, unless somebody has a need for wearing one. In our times, this could be understood in the context of a wedding band which serves a strong societal purpose and is customary in many places. Otherwise, it is only considered to be a sunna for a man to wear a ring on the days of ‘Eid because they are days of dressing up much more than usual. The specific reason for this is that jewellery is considered to be from adornment and beautification (zina), something that is considered particular to women. Men may seek to be presentable or well put-together (tajammul), yet not excessively so that it becomes beautification. 

Similarly, there are some types of dress which are interdicted for men. For instance, silk is only exclusively permitted for women. Generally, a pure silk blend item of clothing may not be worn by a man unless the quantity of silk therein is less than roughly fifty percent. The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also interdicted the wearing yellow or saffron for men, either because they were deemed feminine or because of the dye and subsequent smell which omitted from them. However, given the lack of ancient methods of dyeing and a change in cultures, any item of clothing that isn’t exclusive to the opposite gender would be acceptable. Finally, clothing containing sizeable pictures of animate life is something that needs to be avoided.  

5. The Dress of Notoriety

It is reported that the Noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whoever wears a garment of fame in this life, Allah will clothe him in a garment of humiliation on the Final Day.” (Abu Dawud) The scholars point out to us that this includes many different types of impermissible clothing, such as silk for men, and clothing worn with ill intentions. Examples of the latter include wearing clothing with a desire to look down on others, to feel proud or conceited about the quality or worth of one’s clothes or even to wear that which is either very costly or too cheap, assuming that the quality indicates this. Of course, this is in relation to a particular segment of society, and not necessarily those of limited means, and it is also conditioned by social attitudes and standards. The hallmark is a believer is humility and the sign of sincerity is that one’s heart is the same before and after wearing the clothing in question. 

Another issue of note is dressing contrary to the customary clothing of the land. Many jurists extrapolated this from the aforementioned tradition (hadith) and affirmed its offensiveness (karaha) because of the shared meaning, namely, that it will be a cause for others to look and point at one and perhaps even lead them to slander. Perhaps in multicultural societies it can be less of an issue as most are used to seeing different styles of dress, but this isn’t universally applicable, especially if the dress isn’t representative of normative culture. Similarly, there are matters related to calling people to Allah (da‘wa) which need to be kept in mind as appearance can have an effect and perhaps even become a stumbling block to accepting the message; yet, undoubtedly, the opposite can also be true. So one has to exercise wisdom and act in accordance with what the other person may be drawn to. 

But it is also important not to make claims with one’s clothing, such as by wearing a large turban, especially when a person is not living up to such high standards. Otherwise it could be interpreted as a form of hypocrisy by professing love, but acting in clear contradiction to prophetic guidance. This is also perhaps the reason why previous societies had unspoken rules of dressing so that distinctions between classes of people were clear, namely, so and so can be clearly identified as a scholar, so and so is clearly from Ahl al-Bayt, and so on. Conformance in dress is praiseworthy out of an expression of love, but there are many religious duties that we may be unaware of, and correcting and giving attention to those deserves far more attention because Allah looks not to your bodies and wealth, but to “your hearts and actions.” (Muslim)

6. Imitating Disbelievers

An important issue which needs clarification is the idea of imitating the disbelievers. In a tradition reported by Imam Muslim, the Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Whosoever imitates a people is from amongst them.” (Abu Dawud) What counts as imitation? Fortunately, the jurists clarified this for us, and the entirety of the discussion may be summarised in the following points. Firstly, the matter at hand must be a distinguishing characteristic of people of another faith tradition, of the faithless, of the opposite gender, or even of morally and religiously corrupt believers. What this means is that if we take the example of a particular type of hat, wearing it would be a signifier that “I’m with them.”

Secondly, the matter at hand cannot be something of universal benefit, such as new computers, vehicles, medication or the like. Finally, the person must deliberately intend to do the thing in question because he wishes to be like the disbelievers. In fact, this is actually the crux of the matter. Just as the inward manifests on the outer body, the outer can have an impact on the inward, and when something is a manifest sign of those of other faiths and a person is doing it, there is a fear for their faith. For something to be religiously impermissible, then, based on the above, we are looking for a fulfilment of these three conditions. Otherwise, it may be blameworthy and wrong, yet not outright prohibited.

We ask Allah Most High to clothe us in godfearingness, to make us recognise the great blessings in our lives of clothing and covering, by His Generosity and Mercy, and to keep us on the path of the righteous, ever-grateful, until we breathe our last.  

And Allah alone gives success.


 

Adab 11: The Proprieties of Speech

Ustadh Tabraze Azam gives a detailed account of the adab or proprieties of speech according to the Sunna.

One day, a man was sitting with Qadi Abu Yusuf, a senior companion of Imam Abu Hanifa. After a period of extended silence, which was strange given that Qadi Abu Yusuf was the chief justice and an imam in Sacred Law (fiqh), and people wouldn’t usually remain silent around him for too long, the Qadi said to him, “Do you have a question?” The man, fearing a missed opportunity, mustered up enough courage to remark, “Of course! When does a person stop fasting?” Qadi Abu Yusuf replied, “When the sun sets,” The man paused for a moment, then said, “But what if the sun doesn’t set until half the night has passed?”

Sometimes, silence is just better. The Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, gave us a central principle with respect to speech when he said, “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him say the good or remain silent.” (Muslim) In fact, there are so many traditions (ahadith) which point out the risks of speaking without due thought, and more importantly, need, that anybody who reads them regularly would begin to fear for his hereafter. In an age of social media where everybody has a voice, it’s imperative that we take a moment to step back, recall what our Lord wants from us, and recognise that we have two ears and one tongue, namely, that our listening should be twice as much as our speech.

1. The Rulings of Speech

The first thing to remember is that speech, like all other actions, has rulings. When the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told our Master Mu‘adh to “Restrain this,” namely, the tongue, he replied, “Will we be taken to task for what we say?” The striking, vivid, prophetic answer should suffice all of us as a reminder of the danger and harm we can reap with our tongues: “Is there anything that topples people on their faces – or he said their noses – into the Hellfire other than the harvests of their tongues?” (Tirmidhi)

Thus, speech may be divided into that which is (1) obligatory, (2) recommended, (3) permissible, (4) disliked, and (5) unlawful. 

Obligatory speech is speaking up to command the good, or to correct the wrong by forbidding some vice, when the conditions have been met. Remaining silent in such cases would be impermissible, just as actually engaging in wrongful speech is impermissible. Examples of the latter include engaging in slander, talebearing, lying, and the like of which we’ll see more of shortly.  Similarly, fulfilling many of the rights of your fellow believers is mandatory, such as responding to their greeting of salam, or praying for them after they’ve sneezed, for instance. 

It is recommended to speak when the speech will be recitation of the Qur’an, other remembrances (adhkar), or supplication for oneself or another. Another praiseworthy action is bringing joy to the heart of a fellow believer, or simply saying something pleasant to him because this is a form of “charity.” (Bukhari) On the other hand, it is disliked to speak whilst (a) using the bathroom, (b) undressed, or (c) engaged in intimate relations and the like. Likewise, it is unbecoming to speak when the benefit in doing so isn’t clear, or to speak during discouraged times such as after the nightfall prayer (‘isha). 

As for permitted speech, it is that which is devoid of any resultant reward or sin. An example would be to ask somebody to bring you some tea, or to tell your child to avoid something harmful. Of course, whenever the permissible is conjoined with an intention for Allah Most High, it transitions from the merely permissible to the recommended. 

2. The Golden Rule of Silence

Some of the scholars explained that speech is of four types: (a) harmful, (b) beneficial, (c) harmful and beneficial, and (d) not harmful nor beneficial. Eternal consequences matter, and whenever something harmful and beneficial conjoins, the harm is considered to preponderate over any potential good. Accordingly, this rules out two types of speech. As for that which is not harmful nor beneficial, it is unnecessary and a waste of one’s effort and energy as one finds oneself in the loss of Sura al-‘Asr. The only thing left is beneficial speech and even that has otherworldly danger, namely, because it may lead to showing-off or pride or other blameworthy traits. 

It behooves anybody, then, to recognize that speech should only be used when there is some good in it. If you don’t have anything good to say, you should remain silent as this is the sunna. Interestingly, the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, instructed us to say the good, not the truth. Now, this isn’t permission to lie, obviously, but it gives us something of prophetic wisdom to work with. The prescriptions of the Sacred Law are always beneficial to us, whether we can see the good in them or not. Many of the early Muslims had much to offer in terms of directing believers towards silence. So twenty years from now, and when your husband asks how he looks in what used to be his wedding suit, be kind!

Imam Qushayri writes in his Risala that silence is the basis. But speaking when there is a manifest need is the manner of real men (namely, in the spiritual sense, so it applies equally to women.) He continues by stating that Abu ‘Ali al-Daqqaq, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Whosoever remains silent when truth is required is a blind devil.” Therefore, when speech is required, you must speak.

3. Excellence in Speech

We were directed to observe excellence in all of our dealings. Consequently, excellence, or ihsan, towards ourselves and others entails that we speak normally with others, without trying to put on heirs. Moderation, too, is generally the emblem of piety. When speaking, avoid being too loud or too quiet, or speaking too quickly or slowly, or speaking sternly when encouraging towards the good and with gentleness when warning against evil. However, this latter point must be contextualized and stated in the correct manner lest that it be a means of pushing people away from religion. Moreover, and as an aside, the sunna is to be attentive to the speaker whilst he is speaking as this nurtures respect and minimizes unbecoming outcomes from “hearing” things that weren’t said or other misunderstandings.

Equally, it is important to train oneself to see the good in things and speak accordingly, turning a blind eye to the ugly. Allah Most High says, “When they come across falsehood, they pass it by with dignity.” (Sura al-Furqan 25:72) It is reported that some of the disciples were walking with the Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, and they came across the carcass of a dog. One of the disciples then remarked, “What an awful stench!” The Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, said, “It would have been better if you had said: ‘How white its teeth are!’” Regardless of the soundness of the report, we can learn something about dignity from it. 

In the same vein, one of the righteous used to say “good morning” to wild pigs and stray dogs that he passed, and when asked about it, he commented that he was getting himself accustomed to saying the good! It is also reported that a group of the corrupt were paddling by in a stream besides Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi and his companions. The companions asked Ma‘ruf to pray against them as they were drinking wine and playing unlawful instruments. So they raised their hands, and Ma‘ruf said, “O Lord, make them glee with joy in the hereafter as you have made them joyful in this life.” Astonished, they asked him how he could make such a supplication given the impermissible they were engaged in. He replied, “Their rejoicing in the hereafter will come about because of their repentance in this life.” May Allah be pleased with him!

The Beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “If a person says, ‘People have gone to ruin,’ he is the most ruined of them all.” (Muslim) How so? Because of his conceitedness with respect to his state and actions, and his causing believers to despair from Allah Most High’s mercy. 

Another sunna is to be brief with one’s words so as to speak only to the extent of the need. Going beyond that can lead to situations which may comprise one’s religious comportment, or worse, make one say something which will be a source of later regret. Note, as previously explained by Imam Qushayri, speaking is the dispensation, or rukhsa, so the basis is in using it sparingly or at least with wisdom. There is nothing like safety, as Imam Nawawi, may Allah be pleased with him, noted. 

4. Self-Control in Speech

When clear benefit has been ascertained, the sunna is to engage others with excellence, holding oneself to standards of decency that befit a believer who is striving to emulate his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and especially if he claims love. As such, foul language needs to be completely shunned, not only because it is impermissible and interdicted, but because it is at odds with the manner, or adab, a strong, faithful believer is trying to uphold. The Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The believer is not given to reviling, cursing, obscenity, or vulgarity.” (Tirmidhi) If you are habituated to using such language, ask Allah Most High to free you from its shackles and grant you the ability to express joy or disappointment in a manner that is pleasing to Him. 

Modesty is from faith,” (Bukhari) said the Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. The way of the Qur’an and the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is to avoid explicit references to matters that are unbecoming, such as when referring to the nakedness (‘awra). This is why the Qur’an alludes to the publicly undignified, specifically in the context of ablution (wudu) and cleanliness, and also intimate relations, by saying, “But if you are ill, on a journey, or have relieved yourselves, or have been intimate with your wives and cannot find water, then purify yourselves with clean earth.” (Sura al-Ma’ida 5:6) The scholars explain that a proper islamic education brings about a sense of refined decorum and modesty which prevents a person from mentioning certain things inappropriately and without express need. 

When it comes to self-control, a number of matters require attention. Unsurprisingly, these are the matters whose implications are religiously quite serious, namely, oaths, vows, promises and divorce. If you find yourself making too many oaths or promises, or threatening your spouse with divorce, you need to work on your self-restraint. Neglecting promises is one of the signs of hypocrisy, and failing to uphold the contents of oaths has expiatory consequences. But neither is encouraged unless you have the full conviction to carry out what you say, and the details of both may be sought elsewhere. The Companions (sahaba) were people of their word, and this is one of the traits of true believers. 

5. Unlawful Speech 

Something that was touched upon earlier was the impermissibility of certain types of speech. Practically, this means that it is not permitted to engage in any of it without a genuine, shari‘a-countenanced reason. The honour of your fellow believer is sacred and inviolable, as our Beloved Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, informed us. (Muslim

Generally, there are two types of impermissible speech: that which relates to another, and that which relates to yourself. The former is more dangerous because it affects the rights of others, and its harm may reach you in the hereafter. The Blessed Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The bankrupt from amongst my community is the one who will come on Judgement Day with his prayers, fasts and alms, yet he swore at so and so, wrongfully accused so and so…” (Tirmidhi) The remainder of this lengthy tradition (hadith) apprises us that those wronged will come to receive their rights by taking this person’s good deeds. For anybody who believes in the reality of the hereafter and divine justice, this should make us all at least think twice or three times before reeling off a word or two by which one falls into the divine wrath. (Bukhari)

The types of speech which fall into this category are numerous, but some of the most important to keep in mind are as follows: (1) slander (ghiba), namely, to mention a fellow believer in their absence with words that they would dislike; (2) talebearing (namima), namely, saying words which worsen relations between people, or that which entails the divulging of something private; and (3) lying (kadhib), namely, to deliberately say something false. Finally, one of the cancers affecting the community of believers (umma) is anathema (takfir). This is something that must be left for the Muslim judge (qadi), or at the very least, senior jurisconsults (muftis), because ordinary people do not understand subtleties and intricate rulings. Condemning people to the Hellfire is extremely dangerous, the peril of which is palpable for everybody to see, both in our times and in recent history. 

6. Dignified Joking and Jest 

The condition for the permissibility of joking is that it is free of lying. Thereafter, it should be in moderation, like with all things, and it should certainly not turn into mockery or ridicule. Insulting one’s fellow believers is not permissible as many verses and traditions attest to. When free from the undignified, making believers laugh, bringing joy to their hearts and putting a smile on their face is a tremendous action worthy of a huge reward, particularly when coupled with an intention for Allah Most High. There are a number of traditions (ahadith) which record the humour and joking of the Beloved Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. 

We pray that the All-Merciful overlooks our many shortcomings, increases us in presence and sincere following, and grants us the clarity and capacity to make speech-judgements that are in line with our next-worldly goals and hopes. All blessing and facilitation is from Him, Most High.

And Allah alone gives success.


 

 

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.

Resources for Seekers

Ten Ways to Prepare for Ramadan From Now

With Ramadan just around the corner, many of us are looking for ways to make sure that this will be the year we change, writes Nour Merza. With this in mind, here are ten ways to prepare yourself for Ramadan.

1. Make the right intention

Beginning right now, make an intention that this Ramadan will be a time of great spiritual effort and sincerity. To help turn that intention into reality, make checklists of both daily goals for Ramadan (read a section of Quran or a beneficial lecture every day, etc.) and goals for the overall month (visit a home for the elderly, invite two non-Muslim friends for a chance to experience iftar, etc.).

See What Is the Intention” in The Complete Guide to Fasting

2. Prepare your body

Make sure you are up to par physically by adjusting the amount and quality of your food intake. Start by eliminating snacks and have smaller meals in the weeks leading up to Ramadan. Also reduce your caffeine intake so that the lack of your morning coffee or afternoon tea doesn’t debilitate you in the first few days of the holy month. Of course, if you’re fasting during the month of Sha’baan, you’re halfway there.

See: Ramadan Detox for a Healthy Ramadan – Dr. Rehan Zaidi of MysticMedicine

3. Review all medical situations before Ramadan

Make sure to get your medical business in order before Ramadan arrives. If you suffer from a particular illness, check with a doctor, preferably one who understands the importance of fasting, on whether fasting is a reasonable option for you. If you are taking medication, ask your doctor if you can take your doses during non-fasting hours instead of during the day. Also, check if there are options to take your medication via injection instead of orally, as in the Hanafi school injections do not break your fast.

See: When Does an Illness Allow One To Break The Fast?

4. Observe voluntary fasts

Voluntary (nafl) fasts are a great way to help prepare the mind, body and soul for Ramadan. If you can do it, follow the Prophetic sunna and fast the month of Shaaban, which comes just before Ramadan. If that proves too difficult, try to implement some of these other sunnas: fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, or fasting on the ‘white days’ of each Islamic month: the 13th, 14th and 15th.

See: Should I Fast on the White Days or Mondays and Thursdays?, and Merits of Sha’ban Muwasala

5. Increase Quran recitation

Many people aim to do a complete reading of the Quran at least once during Ramadan. If you don’t have a habit of reading the Quran daily, take this as an opportunity to incorporate that habit into your life. This will enable you to read longer sections of the book during Ramadan. Even if doing a complete reading of the Quran during Ramadan is too difficult, making a habit of reading one page or even a few verses a day will bring many blessings during the holy month and afterwards, as the Prophet (pbuh) said: “The most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones, even if in little amount.”

See: Our Relationship with the Quran – Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

6. Perform extra prayers

prepare for Ramadan

Credits: Ccarlstead

If you have no missed obligatory prayers to make up, start to pray voluntary sunna prayers to prepare yourself for the extra prayers that take place in Ramadan. If you do have missed obligatory prayers, use the time you would give to the sunna prayers to make some of them up. Don’t feel that you are missing out on the opportunity to do voluntary sunnas, because God says in the famous Hadith Jibreel, “My servant draws near to Me by nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory on him.”

See: Informative to Transformative: How to Upgrade Your Prayer, and Praying the Confirmed Sunnas with Make-Ups: I Feel Overwhelmed.

7. Give charity

Use the weeks leading up to Ramadan to increase your acts of charity, be that in the form of giving money to needy people or worthy causes. These could be anything from sponsoring a Syrian refugee family, to  supporting scholars and students of sacred knowledge through SeekersHub’s #SpreadLight campaign. Giving charity is a way to purify your wealth, and you can enter the month of Ramadan in a greater state of purity. It also opens doors for great good in your life, for the Prophet (pbuh) has told us, “Allah says, ‘Spend, O son of Adam, you will also be spent on.’”

See: How Much Should I Give in Charity?

8. Engage in service (khidma)

Spend some time before Ramadan to find a local charity or community service opportunity to work with, whether it be in an Islamic environment or in the wider community. If you begin well before Ramadan starts, you will adjust to the environment before you begin fasting, so that you can explain to co-workers  why you can’t join them for a coffee break or a meal.

See: The Roots of Fruitful Service and Seven Counsels for Successful Service and Activism – Advice from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

9. Focus on your character

Imam al-Ghazali discusses the inner dimensions of the fast in his Revival of the Religious Sciences , which you can observe before Ramadan arrives. He mentioned that one must learn to fast with all the limbs, from all that harms the heart. You can, for example, avoid certain television shows to keep the eyes from seeing nudity, leave particular conversations to keep the ears from hearing foul language, and control the ego to keep the tongue from argument or backbiting. The inner fast is among the most important aspects of fasting Ramadan and is often more difficult than the physical fast from food, water and sexual relations, so the earlier you begin to practice this, the better.

See: The Inner Dimensions of Fasting – Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

10. Organize your life to minimize waste, overconsumption and the ills that come with this

One of the major concerns about how Muslims practice Ramadan today is the high level of overconsumption and waste that takes place during the holy month – a reality which is completely antithetical to the Prophetic tradition. Imam Zaid Shakir and others have spoken about ‘greening’ Ramadan as practiced today in the Muslim community, while Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has suggested that Muslims use Ramadan to support ethical, fairtrade companies.

Imam Zaid’s mosque in Oakland, California offers a great model for doing this. With a little bit of extra organization and commitment, communal iftars are served on borrowed crockery and silverware (from friends, neighbors or a local Muslim restaurant) instead of their disposable variation. Washable handclothes are used instead of paper towels. The amount of trash saved by these actions – especially over the course of the month – is enormous, and embodies the Prophetic example of being, as the Quran describes, “a mercy to all the worlds.” See: Global Warming and Wasterfulness

Written by Nour Merza. Cover photo by Oliver Hegenbarth.

How Do We Know When Ramadan Starts? – Shaykh Rami Nsour

Shaykh Rami Nsour discusses how one determines when the month of Ramadan enters and the differences of opinions on the matter.

He brings up the debate concerning actual sightings versus calculation, and mentions that the discussion has a long history, but emphasizes that disagreements concerning these methods should not cause harsh words or the breaking of bonds.

Shaykh Nsour reminds us that the spirit of our faith is to accept differences of opinion in a broad range of subjects and to always seek conciliation and grace.

Our focus should be on the point of Ramadan which is to get closer to Allah through our worship.


With gratitude to Shakyh Rami Nsour and Tayba Foundation.


Husn Dhann and Social Media – Saad Razi Shaikh

How a Prophetic virtue can allow us to have a more positive internet experience.

During one of the GRE Verbal Classes, the tutor threw an interesting question at the students. “Say, you enter my living room, and see the fish bowl smashed, the goldfish not in sight, and the fat cat relaxing on the couch, happily licking its paws. Picture this scenario. What can you infer from it?” The overwhelming response was that the cat ate the fish. The tutor said no. What if actually one of my friends had come, taken the fish to a larger tank, and had thrown some cookies for the cat? Did you consider that scenario? Do we have any evidence the cat ate the fish? No. Do we have any evidence the fish is dead? No. All that we know for sure is that the fish is not in its bowl.

The tutor then gave us some sound advice. Don’t assume anything that you don’t see. Don’t add up stuff. Don’t use your imagination. Take what’s in front of you at face value.

Even for non-GRE folks, this is sound advice. Here, allow me to repeat an example Shaykh Walead Mosaad used in one of his talks. Say, you see a religious scholar walking down the street. At the local pub, he stops and walks in. He then emerges a little while later, walking funnily. Do we assume that our scholar got drunk at the pub, and consider the worst about him? Or do we count for the possibility of something else? For example, he could have walked into the pub as he wished to use a restroom. A few Islamophobic guys, seeing him in, may have attacked him. Injured and shaken, he walked out, with his bruises, although hidden from view, painful enough for him to stumble. Did we consider this possibility?

Psychology points towards an interesting observation. If the uncharitable behavior belongs to others, we tend to explain it in terms of their personality, their choices. If however, it belongs to us, we tend to explain it in terms of the situation. We look for the nuances, the missing details that will somehow excuse us. A friend with whom I discussed this denied this, saying truth is truth. I then dug out two pieces of information about him, and asked him if they were true. The first was a time during university, when he was passing by the gates of the mosque. A brother called him to prayers, he however didn’t go inside, but kept walking ahead. I asked him, was this true? He said yes. Another incident happened during university, when he walked into the girls hostel, even as the watchman tried to stop him. I asked him, if I introduced you to everyone using these two incidents, would it be okay? He protested, saying that while what I said was true, it was not complete.

He didn’t stop at the mosque because he had already prayed at another mosque where prayers were held earlier. He had walked into the girl’s hostel as a university function was happening at the common hall there, where he was appointed a volunteer, a fact the watchman didn’t know. This was the complete picture.

If this is the state of the ‘real’ world, how does the virtual one fare? Not any better, and in all probability, much worse. Non-verbal communication constitutes as much as sixty-five percent of our communication, it includes our facial expressions, our body language, our cues and gestures. In the virtual world, it is well, virtually lost. And so with little facts in hand but much clutter in our heads, it is easy to fall for the wrong picture.

It’s necessary then, that we realize that communication via the internet is even more imperfect than the one in real life. Huss Dhann allow us to remedy this. What is Husn Dhann? It is having a good opinion of others. It’s a simple command, yet one we’re most prone to overlook. Measure the chatter in your head for an entire day, and you’ll see husn dhann being traded for su dhann (ill opinion of others) all too often.

Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Munazil (Allah have mercy upon him), one of the early Muslims, said, “The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.” [Sulami, Adab al-Suhba]

Husn Dhann works at three levels. The first is having a good opinion of  ourselves, to not self-flagellate, to not have waswasa over our actions. The second works at the level of others, how we judge and measure the actions of others. The third works at the level of our relationship with Allah. Do we have a good opinion of our Creator? Do we accept the truth that we know little and worry much, and often fall into despair? Husn Dhann allows us to correct this.

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”[Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]

Here’s one way to understand this. Say, you’re given glasses you normally don’t wear. You are then asked to read what’s in front of you. You wouldn’t be able to. Does that mean the text in front of you is blurry? Or is it the case that you have put the wrong glasses on? We need to be honest and accept when the latter is the case, as it often is. As wondrous the world of the social media is, it is a makeshift reality. It is not a complete picture, and we should not assume it to be.

Much of the acrimony and bad taste can be avoided if we pepper our usage with a little husn dhann. We’re not at the other end, we don’t know what’s it like, we don’t know what place the other person is coming from. We’re not yet adept at decoding the nuances of language over the internet. Worse, the rage from the everyday is pumped into the virtual world, where it only rebounds. We need to calm ourselves, before we enter a place where the accountability is little, but the consequences real. Both as an antidote to the misinformation of our times, and as a way to follow the Prophetic character, husn dhann is a virtue we need now more than ever.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter