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What Is The Difference Between God’s Will And His Love And Mercy?

Answered by Ustadh Farid Dingle

Question: What Is The Difference Between God’s Will And His Love And Mercy?

Answer: Dear questioner,

Thank you kindly for your question, and may Allah increase you in light, knowledge and ambition.

Short answer:

Allah’s will is what we term one of Allah’s attributes [sifat], and its role is to specify how and when things come into existence. This is an attribute of His essence, and which He does not acquire by using it. He has always had a will.

His love and mercy, in technical terms, are simply a combination of His will and power when they result in something describable as loving or merciful from the slave’s point of view.

Fuller answer:

The use of theology (Ilm al Kalam)

Theology developed to clearly define exactly what we believe as Muslims, and to defend those beliefs. Because it is based on debate, it is purely academic, and puts aside much of the spiritual side of the Qur’an and its rhetoric. This is necessarily so because when things are not spelt out very pedantically, it defeats of the object of the science, which is precisely being very clear and pedantic.

This kind of approach is excellent when engaging in debate with a trinitarian, materialist, or agnostic, etc. : both sides define their terms, and work with some logical reasoning, and actually get somewhere. This is what Islamic theology does.

As such, the science of theology does not help us understand the nature of Allah’s love and mercy vis-a-vis our experience of it, because it is not the subject that it deals with.

Contextualising theology (Ilm al Kalam)

Since Islamic theology is just one among many traditional Islamic sciences, it is not necessary the only way to talk about Allah, nor it necessarily the more direct way to get to know Him in all His glory.

Reading the Quran and applying its teachings in one’s life — come weal or come woe — would probably be more helpful. (That’s not to say that there is anything un-Qur’anic about Islamic theology.) So too, losing a child, and working on one’s contentment with Allah’s will would teach things about Allah that no theologian could either put a definition to. Getting to know Allah on a spiritual level, is completely different knowing how to say certain very exacting things about Him in a technical way.

Islamic theology, like many other sciences such as grammar, hadith criticism, inheritance law, has a certain function in the preservation of the whole religion, and is not so useful outside of that function.

Dissecting the unfathomable

To make things very clear, the Muslim theologians breakdown Allah’s attributes into categories — with full knowledge that no one could ever understand His true reality.

They say that He has attributes that are eternal and that He never acquired. These describe His being. They are:

His existence
His beginninglessness
His endlessness
His oneness
His self-substistance (not needing anything, place, time, or determiner)
His utter dissimilarity to other beings
His power
His will
His knowledge
His hearing
His seeing
His speech
His life
(Jawharat al Tawhid, Laqqani)

Every other attribute or name of Allah can be categorised, technically speaking, into one or two of these attributes. So, for example, when we say and acknowledge tha Allah is forgiving: His forgiveness can be reduced to three attributes: knowledge, will, and power. He knew that the slave sinned, repented, and will enter Paradise; He willed that the slave sinned, repented, and will enter Paradise; and created the slave and his actions (the sin and the repentance) and entered him, by His omnipotent power, into Paradise.

Such attributes really describe what Allah does, and not what attributes He has. For this reason, they are called attributes of action.

So no one is claiming, or ever claimed, that Allah was not merciful or not loving, but it just served certain academic goals to reduce everything to the simplest level for our own human understanding.

Allah’s names and how He shows himself

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an, ‘And Allah’s are the most beautiful of names, so call on Him by them.’ (Qur’an, 7:180)

And the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘Verily Allah has ninety-nine names. Whoever grasps them, will enter Paradise.’ (Bukhari and Muslim) Hakim narrates the same hadith with two different chains that mention the ninety-nine names that we are all familiar with. For more detail, please see: Understanding the Most Beautiful Names: The 99 Names of Allah Explained in Detail

Contemplating upon these beautiful names, calling upon Him by them, and seeing and feeling them in one’s life, this is the really way to know Allah.

When you get you your paycheck, for example, and you thank Allah for providing you with a livelihood, He is showing you how he is al-Razzaq [the Ever-Providing]; when you see someone who does not worship Allah, He is showing you His names al-Khafid and al-Mani [the Abaser and the Withholder].

The more you recognise His names, the stronger this sense becomes, and you see that He is al-Qarib [the Close]. Even though you were not aware of Him, He was never unaware of you, and you feel the meaning of His name al-Wadud [the Loving-One].

‘Grasping’ Allah’s names has been explain by Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi his book on supplications to mean one of four things:

1. to recount the names so that one calls upon Him by each name.

2. to master them so that you ‘keep them in mind, and keep to their limits.’ meaning that one, for example calls upon Allah by His name al-Rahman [the Merciful One] bearing in mind that He is actually merciful, hoping for His mercy, and never giving up hope of his forgiveness.

3. to comprehend them and take them as a firm belief.

4. to recites the whole Qur’an thereby reading out each of Allah names. (Shan al-Dua, Khattabi)

All in all, the comprehension and internalisation of His beautiful names is not an academic process, but rather a journey of putting them into practice, and deeping one’s appreciation of who and what He is.

Allah the Loving

In his book, Khattabi explained what Allah’s name al-Wadud means. He said that is derived from al-wudd [love], and has been understood in two ways:

The first is that is that has the sense of the passive participle, in that Allah is ‘the object of love of those who are close to Him by dint of their unceasing receipt of kindness and benefits from Him.’

The second acceptation is that it has the sense of the active participle in that ‘He loves His righteous slaves, in as much as He is content with them and accepts their deeds.’ (Shan al-Dua, Khattabi)

Raghib in his work on Qur’anic vocabulary adds another side to His love: His care and nurture of them. He quotes unknown hadith qudsi in which Allah says to Musa (upon whom be peace), ‘Never am I heedless of the small just because they are small, nor am I heedless of the elderly because they are elderly: I am the Loving [al-Wadud] and the Appreciative.’ (Mufradat Alfadh al-Quran, Raghib)

Conclusion

Although we do not technically count Allah’s love and mercy as one of His attributes, both stem from His names, and He is most definitely Merciful and Loving.

Our experience and appreciation of the names grows by learning about them, and keeping to their practical and spiritual implications.

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.

Preserving the Light of Ramadan – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

How do we preserve the light of Ramadan once the month has ended?

 

One of the keys to preserving what we have attained is in the intentions we make before the month ends. We should make firm intentions to do good in Shawwal and beyond. We also need to beg Allah to preserve and increase the gifts He has given us. We need to be consistent in our attendance of gatherings and classes, consistent in our recitation of the Quran while reflecting upon its meanings and consistent in our recitation of the adhkar with presence of heart. We must also choose the best company and sit in the presence of people who have been given light.

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

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

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

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

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

Balance Service and Self

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

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

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

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

Primary Benefits of Service

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

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

The Hidden Secret of Service

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

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

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

 

Draw Near to Allah in Ramadan Through Service

 

Ramadan Seminar Q&A Session – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

* Originally posted on May 8, 2018

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

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

Hasten to Break Fast

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

قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَحَبُّ عِبَادِي إِلَيَّ أَعْجَلُهُمْ فِطْرًا

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

Be Tactful and Considerate with Others

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

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

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


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

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10 On-Demand Courses for Ramadan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Renewing Religion: Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya

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

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

4. 30 Sacred Acts to Transform the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

This essential four-part course is designed to

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

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

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

This essential four-part course is designed to:

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

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

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

This essential four-part course is designed to:

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Fasting The White Days of Sha‘ban – Muwasala

We are now approaching the “White Days” of the month of Sha‘ban. The “White Days” are the days which follow nights in which the moon is full, namely the 13th, 14th and 15th days of each lunar month.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ encouraged his Companions to fast three days in every month and to fast these days specifically.

We should attempt to fast all three days if we are able, since Sayyidah ‘A’ishah said of the Prophet ﷺ: “I did not see him fasting in any month more than Sha‘ban.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If we are unable to do so, we should attempt to fast the fifteenth, since the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said that when this night comes we should spend it in prayer and fast the following day.

Please check the moon sighting in your locality.


With gratitude to our Content Partner: Muwasala.org.


 

Seeking Allah: Finding the Divine in Your Life – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In the beautiful historical mosque called Molla Zeyrek Camii or Zeyrek Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani delivered a talk entitled, “Seeking Allah: Finding the Divine in Your Life” taking concepts pertaining to Arabic grammar and applying them to the heart in what some call, “The Higher Grammar”.  When explaining the famous grammar text al-Ajrumiyyah, Shaykh Ibn Ajibah (d. 1809 CE/1224 h) discusses the five things that are definite (ma’rifa) and mentions that the definite in knowing Allah is also manifested in five matters. 

These matters are:

  1. The pronouns
  2. Proper nouns (names of people and places)
  3. The Ambiguous (al-Mubham)
  4. Seeking to be known
  5. That which is ascribed to one the aforementioned categories

Watch the video to learn about these pertinent points.

Rajab is the Month of Allah – Habib Umar

Rajab, the seventh month of the Muslim calendar, is the month of Allah. It is singular as it is neither preceded nor followed by another holy month. For this and many other reasons Habib Umar encourages the Umma to ask for forgiveness and strength in this blessed month.

Habib Umar’s Message

Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz, may Allah protect him and benefit us by him, said:

We would love for our brethren in faith, male and female, young and old to plead with Allah during the blessed month of Rajab by reciting the following Qur’anic prayer for forgiveness which also contains a prayer for the Muslims.

ربَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَإِسْرَافَنَا فِي أَمْرِنَا وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَنَا وانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ

Rabbana ’ghfirlana dhunubana wa israfana fi amrina wa thabbit aqdamana wa ’nsurna ‘ala ’l-qawmi ’l-kafirin

Our Lord, forgive us our sins and our transgressions, make our feet firm and assist us against those who reject faith. (3:147)

We hope that we will swiftly see the results of this prayer, as Allah mentioned in the Qur’an regarding the followers of previous Prophets:

So Allah gave them both the reward of this world and the best reward of the Hereafter: “Allah loves those who act with excellence” (3:148).

We should aim to recite this verse at least 3,000 times this month. Better than this would be 5,000 or even 7,000 and the best would be 10,000 and those who do more will be given more.

May Allah accept us all.

Some Virtues of Rajab

The virtues of Rajab are many. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Rajab is the month of Allah, Sha‘ban is my month, and Ramadan is the month of my Umma.” (Suyuti)

When Rajab entered he, Allah bless him and give him peace, would say:

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا في رَجَبٍ وَ شَعْبَانَ وَ بَلِّغْنا رَمَضَانَ

Allahumma barik lana fi Rajabin wa Sha‘ban wa ballighna Ramadan

O Allah bless us in Rajab and Sha‘ban and enable us to reach Ramadan. (Ahmad, Bayhaqi, Tabarani)

May Allah bless this Umma with forgiveness and strength and deliver it to Ramadan in the best of health and faith.

Source: Muwasala.org


Resources for Seekers

The Truth Will Prevail – Saliha Nazir

Sister Saliha Nazir, a student of SeekersGuidance, was motivated and inspired by her studies to write the following poem.

The Truth Will Prevail

You peer out from within the walls
That you built standing so tall
Wondering what you are doing here
You are held back by your own fear

The vast open fields and sky
Beckon to you, reminding you that you can fly
Won’t you listen to the call
To let go and enjoy the fall

You are not what you see
Understanding that is the key
The fortress of solitude that you built
Is boxing you in through your guilt

Turn to Your Lord in repentance
He is The One whose important is acceptance
Rest all is just an illusion
Running after the world is not a solution

There is a reality you cannot see
But for that you have to forget ‘I’ and ‘me’
The treasures are yours for taking
Why for this world are you your Lord forsaking

Take heed and turn away
Remember that there will be a day
When neither wealth nor children will avail
The Truth of Our Lord will prevail.

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.

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