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Halal & Tayyib: Rethinking the Ethical by Dr. Ingrid Mattson

In this conference lecture, Dr Ingrid Mattson discusses the relevant topics of halal and tayyib.

Tayyib, translated as good, pure or wholesome, is a word sometimes used in conjunction with halal. With the rapid increase of technology, increased appetites and globalisation – the question of if the food we consume is truly tayyib, halal and ethical is in constantly revisited. As Dr. Ingrid points out, the concept of ‘ethical’ is ever-changing. It is iterative. It is achieved by research, inclusion of relevant parties, review of the process and deriving new meanings when new information is available. Ethics is deeply embedded in the Qur’an by promoting benefits, removing harm and improving processes. The Qur’an promotes viewing processes with our mind, heart and justice. And to ensure collective obligations are met by the community. The Qur’an also emphatically prohibits waste and discourages excess. This provides reassurance that the Qur’anic teachings are ever-applicable.

Achieving a tayyib food chain is a necessity in our communities. Dr. Ingrid talks in detail about her experience and research with seeking tayyib and halal meat. Among her findings is that from raising the animals to the actual slaughter itself should be dealt with in the highest of legal standards, with tight regulations and with compassionate treatment of the animals. These regulations are not limited to solely the production but also the employment of the individuals, the food waste and reducing energy & pollution. In this discussion, Dr. Ingrid discusses how the community can work towards more tayyib standards. One simple, but impactful, way that Muslims can make a small difference is by reducing food waste in your own homes – the reality of food waste is harrowing. The lecture draws upon statistics, science and of course spiritual and ethical reasons to make a change.

 

 

 

Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah: The Parameters of Respecting Differences of Opinion in Islam

What does it mean to have a difference of opinion in Islam?

In Islam we have different opinions about things and those different opinions are based on the nature of Islamic law.
We also have rules that indicate to us how we can live together, what things we need to agree upon and not differ and what things are open to different interpretations.

Community and Continuity

Two of the most important aspects of religion as a dynamic, social and political reality is community and continuity.
Community means that we are able to create a community that brings people together and continuity means that we are connected to the past, the present and the future.
Historically, Islam has always had a world community. It spread all the way to the east and all the way to the west. Islam in China looked extremely Chinese and yet it was pure Islam and Islam in West Africa looked very African and it too was pure Islam.
We have a beautiful tradition that gives us meaning and goes back to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Therefore we must be able to live this religion by working together, respecting, loving and cooperating with each other.

Enjoining right and forbidding the wrong

One of the most important aspects of our religion is to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. When we study Islam we are taught how to do that so that it becomes constructive and positive not destructive and negative.
Many times we can see trouble in our communities when we try to enjoin right and forbid wrong because the thing we are insisting upon is our own opinion, custom and we think that everyone should do it.
We must understand and respect that there are different categories of Islamic Law

  1. واجب / فرض (farḍ/wājib) – compulsory, obligatory
  2. مستحب (mustaḥabb/mandūb) – recommended
  3. مباح (mubāḥ) – neutral, not involving God’s judgment
  4. مكروه (makrūh) – disliked, reprehensible
  5. حرام (ḥarām) – forbidden

In this lecture Dr Umar outlines for us how to build communities rooted in knowledge and wisdom and service. He explains that we are not people of argumentation or controversy, rather we are people who love and respect one another.

Dr. Umar Abd-Allah is an American Muslim who embraced Islam in 1970. He studied Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Chicago, where he received his doctorate in 1978. He taught at the Universities of Windsor (Ontario), Temple, Michigan, and King Abdul-Aziz (Jeddah). During his years abroad, he was able to study with a number of traditional Islamic scholars. He returned to the United States in 2000 to work with the Nawawi Foundation (Chicago), where he remained for more than a decade. He is currently working as an independent educator under the auspices of the Oasis Initiative (Chicago). He is engaged in research, writing, lecturing, teaching, and related activities in connection with various national and international forums in the United States, Canada, Europe, West Africa, and elsewhere with a focus on Islamic theology, spirituality, law and legal theory, and history

Resources for Seekers

Zakat & Eid al Fitr – Ustadh Abdul Muhaymin

In this video, Ustadh Abdul Muhaymin  speaks about the blessings of the day of Eid, and what etiquettes we should practice on that day.

Ustadh Abdul Muhaymin encourages us to take advantage of the blessed day of Eid al-Fitr, which is a day of celebration and thanksgiving after the completion of the month of Ramadan. We should all come out to celebrate Eid with our families, and we should ensure that no one is left at home. He calls on the men to not leave female family members at home, but support them in coming out and celebrating.eid al-fitr

In addition, we should ensure that we are fulfilling all of our duties and responsibilities on this day. We should ensure that we have paid the Zakat al-Fitr, the charity that all Muslims are required to make before the day of Eid, or on that day. In addition, we should make sure that no one is left out on the day, making the effort to visit or invite the ones who might not have anyone to celebrate with. We should also try to meet new people and reconnect with old friends, and make sure we do not harbour a grudge against anyone.


 

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

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

That Much Harder For Muslim Converts

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

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

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

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

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

 

10 On-Demand Courses for Ramadan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Renewing Religion: Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya

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

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

4. 30 Sacred Acts to Transform the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

This essential four-part course is designed to

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

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

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

This essential four-part course is designed to:

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

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

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

This essential four-part course is designed to:

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

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

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

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

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

 


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A Simple Resolution: Creating Safe Spaces Within Our Communities – Saad Razi Shaikh

It is upon each one of us, to be a source of strength and mercy, to ourselves, and to our fellow believers.

Watching a kid pick up a new sport is fun. Watching an adult pick up a new sport is even more fun. I understood the latter, when I first started playing table tennis, well past my childhood. In the beginning, I struggled to place the ball, and myself around the table. But eventually the effort paid off and I found my groove.

Cut to the present, when again in a later initiation of sorts, I began to learn a new language. Was I late to the party? Surely not, but every time I struggled to find the right words, I was reminded again of the familiar sensation. Of being somewhere near to both excitement and shame.

This is not a unique situation. All of us, at different times have experienced the joy and anxiety that comes with diving into something new. There are niggling doubts to be placated in one’s own mind. Then there is the consciousness of how we would be perceived by others.

Even after a person has made up his mind to switch from place to the next, there is a zone of uncertainty in between the two. One wrong push, from the self, or from others at this point can derail the person. So even a person about to set upon the right track, can fall remiss.

This is where how we build our communities, how we respond to the journeys of others, different than ours, comes into picture. How often do we fall short in our husn al – thann for others? How often do we jump the gun, and refuse to provide second chances (https://seekersguidance.org/articles/general-artices/making-70-excuses-for-others-in-islam-a-key-duty-of-brotherhood/) to others? Are our mosques, our community centres, our hearts, are they the safe spaces we urgently need? Are our spaces inviting, as opposed to being intimidating? And to those of us in transitions, as often we are in life, are the spaces facilitative of our change for the better?

Safe zones enable meaningful transitions. We veer naturally towards them, even if we don’t realize their importance. This is where the catch is. If the congregation is not the safe space the person requires, he or she may just drift away to a place that’s more understanding. And that other place may just spell the doom of their akhirah.

A person may be battling personal traumas or just general confusion regarding the world. Community has to be the enabling space for them to set their compasses right. If not, both the individual and the community lose out. The task to remedy this is confined not just to community leaders. It is upon each one of us, to be a source of strength and mercy, to ourselves, and to our fellow believers.


Saad Razi Shaikh is an Indian journalist based in Istanbul. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives.


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

02:50 AM

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

1:15 PM

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

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

4:30

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

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

7:00

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

10:00

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

Conquering Mount Sawm…From the Outside

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

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

The Thought is Scarier Than the Experience

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

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

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

Resources for Seekers

Celebrate the Gift of Ramadan – Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi

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

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

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

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

Be Grateful for Reminders

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

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

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

How to Receive Gifts from Allah

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

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

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

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

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا

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

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

Celebrating the Gift of Ramadan

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

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

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

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

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

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

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

The Universe Rejoices

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

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

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

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

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

The Two Friends in Paradise

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

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

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

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

Increase in Rank and Station

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

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

Ramadan is truly a cause for celebration.


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.