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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

A Nursing Mother’s Ramadan Reflections, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil thought she knew what a challenging fasting day was…until she became a mother and began nursing her baby.

I thought that my hardest Ramadans were the ones I spent in Jordan, as a young student of knowledge. The days were incredibly long, and the blistering summer heat was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I missed the comfort of my mother’s cooking, and the familiar faces of my family and friends. In place of the loved ones I left behind, Allah blessed me with the warm company of new friends. May Allah reward the families who opened their homes to me, especially during Ramadan.
Almost a decade later, I find myself faced with an entirely different set of circumstances. I am married, living in Malaysia and nursing my baby daughter. She is almost one, and I am so grateful that she enjoys eating solids. Fiqh rulings about fasting while breastfeeding have taken a whole new meaning for me. Once, I would have thought it impossible. Nursing mothers like myself often experience a hunger that accompanies nursing a baby. Despite that, I’m realising how much Allah sustains my baby daughter and me, from heartbeat to heartbeat. Is it easy to fast while nursing a baby? Absolutely not. It’s humbling, it’s exhausting, it’s possible, and for now at least, I’ll keep going.

Tips for nursing mums:

1)   Drink plenty of water after iftar, alongside chia seeds soaked overnight.
2)   Have a solid suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and ask Allah to sustain you.
3)   Nap during the day when your baby naps!
4)   Express milk after suhoor or iftar, or both, if you need to.
5)   If you start getting unwell or your milk supply drops enough to impact on your baby’s nourishment, then know that it’s OK to stop fasting. Pay it back later, and look at the rules of fidyah for your school of thought. Some women can fast while nursing, while others can’t. Allah knows.

Extra Worship Is Another Matter

This Ramadan, I haven’t been able to step into a masjid, because my baby daughter doesn’t sleep through the night. Some nights, she can stay asleep for long stretches, and other nights, she wakes up continuously. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead of the luxury of hours of tarawih like in days gone by, I have precious moments of solitude as my daughter sleeps, or plays with her father and grandmother. These are the moments where I close my eyes and remember the power of intention. Every day looking after my baby is a day spent in love and service, for the sake of Allah Most High. Keeping connected to that intention is challenging, even on the best of days. What’s helped me stay present with that intention is listening to the SeekersHub Ramadan Podcasts in between putting her to sleep, feeding her, and playing with her. Mercy, forgiveness, and salvation – we are all in need.
May Allah help us make the most of the days we have left, help us be of service to others, and help us be pleased with His Decree.

Resources for seekers

Work Ethics for Muslims Fasting During Ramadan – The Islamic Workplace Blog

Work Ethics for Muslims Fasting During Ramadan – The Islamic Workplace Blog

Note from Rafik Beekun

During the blessed month of Ramadan, many Muslims (especially in Muslim countries) slack off, showing up late at work (or not showing up at all), sleeping on the job, procrastinating, doing the least possible, and asking employers for shorter working days at the same wage rate. This type of behavior is inconsistent with the very spirit of Ramadan. As Abdul Rahman Osman, deputy mufti of Pahang, Malaysia’s third largest state, stated, Islam does not advocate a special working mode for Ramadan [Islamonline.net].  Not only is this slacking against the spirit of Ramadan, but it is also expensive and damaging to employers and the national economy of these countries–with losses running in the billions of dollars.

The situation has become so bad in Saudi Arabia that  inspectors from the Control andInvestigation Board are now conducting on-the-spot inspections to ensure that employees comply with the shortened five-hour (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) Ramadan work schedule.

“Negligence in performing duties during Ramadan is not permissible and is against Ramadan teachings,” says Dr. Ali Bin Abbas Al-Hakami, a member of the Board of Senior Ulema and Higher Judicial Council. Many people have turned Ramadan into a month of eating, watching TV and staying up late, and these factors affect work in offices, which is not permissible in Islam, Dr. Al-Hakami added. [Source: Naeem Tamim Al-HakimOkaz/Saudi Gazette]

Finding God at Work

Muslims need to rethink the concept of work, especially during the month of Ramadan Many Muslims working during Ramadan tend to be worried about how to nurture their “spiritual” self while coping with a demanding work environment.  They struggle during work hours  waiting to get home or to a mosque to really ‘find God’ again.

As indicated by radicalmiddleway .co.uk, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad sees things a bit differently. God isn’t only found in ‘sacred places’. We make our lives sacred by the intentions we make and the actions we do. After all, the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him — invoked God’s Mercy on those who were involved in business transactions too. This excerpt is taken from the Shaykh’s keynote address at the launch of the “Let’s make this a Fairtrade Ramadan!” campaign. To learn more about the campaign and see more coverage from the event go to: ramadan.radicalmiddleway.co.uk

 

No slacking during Ramadan

Some quick tips for employees in Ramadan

  1. Establish when Ramadan is approaching and let your employer know that you will be fasting.
  2. Try to be disciplined about your eating and sleeping habits when you are not fasting.  Don’t stay up late at night gorging yourself and watching TV/partying (which you should not be doing anyway).  Your employer has a right on you–staying up all night and then falling asleep on the job the next day (putting yourself and others at risk in certain jobs) would violate these rights.
  3. Ask the employer if they will allow you to continue working during lunch time (or take a shorter lunch break for praying) so that you can leave earlier.  Otherwise, ask if you can use part of your lunch break to take a short power nap.
  4. Hydrate well  during the night and at suhour and after iftar so that you do not get dehydrated on the job.  Severe dehydration can lead to people passing out on the job, etc. and hurting yourself.
  5. Discuss with your employer the possibility of not having power lunches.
  6. If your employer  has a canteen, try and arrange for it [or another space] to be available for your and other  Muslims wishing to break their fast.  Invite your employer to break fast with you.
  7. Ask the employer if they can schedule very physically demanding tasks for you after Ramadan.  If they cannot, and if the work is extremely physically demanding in very dire environments, consider the fatwa about not fasting for those days when you are scheduled for such types of work, and then replacing it later.
  8. If  possible avoid committing yourself to evening functions or to travel away from home for business.
  9. If possible, don’t schedule yourself during night shifts–because of your need to perform extra prayers.
  10. Ask if you can schedule more volunteer, charitable work  for your company during Ramadan.  Many companies allow employees a certain number of paid hours during which they can volunteer to help out their community.  Schedule yours during Ramadan for extra blessings.
  11. Let your employer understand that you may take between 1-3 days holiday at the end of Ramadan, but that you will make up for it when others are away for Christmas or New Year Holidays.

Fasting for Productivity

The Working Muslim in Ramadan

Some quick tips for employers in Ramadan (modified from “The Working Muslim in Ramadan”.

  1. Establish when Ramadan is approaching.
  2. Try and avoid ‘working lunches’.  Reason: Muslims are not to be around others who are eating.
  3. Request other employees not to discuss food/drink in front of fasting employees.
  4. Make allowances for Muslims to take a break at sunset to break their fast and pray.
  5. Consider allowing Muslim staff to work a shorter lunch break in return for an earlier finish.
  6. If you cannot allow them to finish earlier, permit Muslims to take a power nap during their lunch break–since they won’t be eating during that time anyway.
  7. If you have a canteen, try and arrange for it [or another space] to be available for people wishing to break their fast with others.
  8. Do not ask Muslim staff to commit to evening functions or to travel away from home for business.
  9. If possible, don’t schedule Muslim staff during night shifts–because of their need to perform extra prayers.
  10. Be prepared for people to take between 1-3 days holiday at the end of Ramadan.

Please click here to download this excellent brochure discussing how Muslims who are fasting should behave at work during Ramadan.

Work Ethics for Ramadan

Source: http://initiatives.knowledgehorizon.com/ramadan/

Our Prophet Muhammad (s) said, narrating it from Allah: “Every deed of the son of Adam is for him except fasting; it is for me and I shall reward for it.” […]

[Thus, the] Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has urged all Muslims to perform good deeds in the month of Ramadan, as the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) addressed us on the last day of Sha “baan and said: “O people, there has come to you a great month, a blessed month, a month in which there is a night that is better than a thousand months. Allah has made its fasting obligatory and spending its nights in prayer a voluntary act. Whoever draws close (to Allah) during this month by doing a good deed will be like one who did an obligatory deed in any other month, and the one who does an obligatory deed in it will be like the one who did seventy obligatory deeds in any other month. It is the month of patience, and the reward of patience is Paradise. It is the month of helping others. It is a month in which the believers’ provision is increased. Whoever gives a fasting person food with which to break his fast will have his sins forgiven and he will be ransomed from the Fire, and he will have a reward like his without it detracting from his reward in the slightest.”


From this perspective, Muslims over the centuries and since the beginning of Islam were required to fast this month and perform all its religious duties. However, there are some Muslims who might unintentionally behave during Ramadan in a way that contradicts the philosophy of fasting and its spirit.

These negative behaviors might be seen during or outside work hours. And since the employer has rights upon the Muslim worker, it is essential that Muslims do not violate the rights of others as they try to become closer to God. Thus, the balance between the rights of God and the rights of His servants is critical. Violating the rights of others is injustice to them, Prophet (PBUH) said, narrating it from Allah: “O my slaves, I have forbidden injustice to myself, and I have made it forbidden among you, so do not wrong one another.”

And all of us know that the prayer of the oppressed is always answered whether he was a believer or not, The Prophet (PBUH) said: “fear the prayer of the oppressed, even if a non-Muslim; there is no veil between him and Allah.”

Finally, we should all remember the words of the prophet (PBUH) when he said “All rights will be restored on the Day of Resurrection, until even the hornless sheep will settle its score with the one that has horns“. And cropping on the Day of Judgment is done by taking the good deeds of the unjust and removing the sins of the people he oppressed, as is reported in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Do you know who is the bankrupt one?” They said: “Among us, the one a bankrupt is the one who has no dirhams and no goods.” He said: “Rather the one who is bankrupt amongst my ummah is the one who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayer, fasting and zakaah, but he will come having insulted this one, slandered that one, consumed the wealth of this one, shed the blood of that one and beaten this one, all of whom will be given some of his hasanaat (good deeds), and if his hasanaat run out before the scores have been settled, some of their sins will be taken and thrown onto him, then he will be cast into the Fire.” Narrated by Muslim.

A Muslim Role Model during Ramadan: Superathlete Hakeem Olajuwon and Fasting

Hakeem Olajuwon, famous for his foot speed, spinning moves, fade away jump shot and his knee and elbow pads that he almost ever wore, was the biggest Rocket of Houston.

The city of Houston embraced him like no one else and he felt so eternally blessed for that.

He’ll forever stand as one of the 5 best basketball centers we’ll ever see (Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Shaquille O’neal). The word “Olajuwon” is a Yoruban word, meaning “always being on top”.

It’s really weird, but when you think about it, it’s not so weird, that he never touched a basketball until he was 15 years old. So for those of you who started later in this game, don’t forget, there’s always a hope:) But I say, when you think about it it’s not so weird because he was already good in table tennis, soccer and handball.

That gave him the uncanny agility on the basketball court and helped him develop his unique style of playing. Plus the fact that he was extremely disciplined thanks to his Muslim beliefs.

He had tremendous work ethics and was dedicated to the game. During Ramadan, he’d get up at 5:00 a.m. and have breakfast and fast for the rest of the day. No water, no Gatorade, nothing.

It’s amazing to think just how physically ready he was and the shape he was in. And from 5:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. he was devoted to basketball, often times in the gym and that didn’t affect him a bit. [more]

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

Surviving Ramadan: How to Make the Most of Your Days & Nights

With Ramadan just a few days away, watch this recorded seminar to learn some tips and lessons on how to prepare, receive and make the most of Ramadan. This seminar will include talks from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Ustadha Shireen Ahmed, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd Allah , Habib Umar bin Hafiz , and Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf.

 

 

Seven Muslim Scholars on How to Survive Ramadan and Make The Most of It

The blessed month is upon us but are you dreading the long days without food or drink and the sleep disruption? You’re not alone. This timely seminar has loads of tips and lessons on how to prepare, receive and make the most of Ramadan.

Talks by Ustadha Shireen Ahmed, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd Allah, Habib Umar bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf and Habib Mohammed Al-Saggaf

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Habib Umar bin Hafiz

Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Dr. Umar Faruq Abd Allah

Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

Imam Zaid Shakir

Habib Mohammed Al-Saggaf

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin (Q&A)

 

Cover photo by yeowatzup.

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.


Ramadan: The Fortunate Ones, by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

Ramadan is a month of khair (blessings) and Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) chose it to be the month of the Qur’an, and He chose for it a special form of ibadah, fasting, which is one of the pillars of Islam.  As Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in Surah Al-Baqarah (183):

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may attain piety.”

In prescribing fasting, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is not only telling us the history of fasting, rather, He is giving us direction; He is telling us that the means by which we may attain a connection with Him is fasting. 

Fasting is patience.  It is the avoidance of that which we want and enjoy. Fasting is controlling your desires rather than being controlled by them.

Fasting is freedom; absolute freedom from being under the power of your desires, your nafs, and this is the freedom that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) created you with. 

Fasting is a means of escape from everything other than Him to Him!  Firr-uLLAH!  Escape towards Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)!

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) described the exalted nature of fasting in a Hadith Qudsi, narrated by Abu Hurrairah (radiallah anhu), Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) said: 

Allah (azza wa’jal) said every deed from the sons and daughters of Adam is for them, except fasting, which verily is for Me, and only I reward for this ibadah.  Fasting is a protection.  If anyone is fasting, they should show restraint and control what they say, and if anyone disturbs or perturbs them, they should say ‘Verily I am fasting.’  I swear by the soul of Muhammad, the bad smell that comes from the mouth of the one who is fasting is better than the smell of musk, and there are two moments of joy and happiness for those that fast, the first is when they break their fast, and the second is when they meet their Lord, pleased in their fasting.  [Bukhari and Muslim]

We can learn a lot from this Hadith. Firstly, the Hadith is “Qudsi”, which means that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) narrated these words from Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).  Also, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) mentioned that we should share what we do, with regards to praying and other forms ofibadah, except fasting.  Only He knows!

The Quraysh used to worship their idols using forms of ibadah that resemble those of Islam, except for fasting!  They never worshipped their idols through fasting.

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) also made it clear that it is not only the stomach that fasts, but rather, it is all of our organs. In the Hadith Qudsi, we see that excessive eating and drinking can provoke our desires, therefore Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) tells us to exercise restraint and control in dealing with others, while fasting.  In case the environment around us, or any other trigger, pulls us towards our desires and our nafs, we should declare that we are fasting.  Therefore we see that fasting is more than just not eating and drinking; fasting encompasses all things from this dunya.

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) swore by  Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) that what we see is not necessarily the absolute reality, and that which we smell may not be connected with the reality of the purpose of what we are doing and its connection, or result, in the sight of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).There are many people that we see, in the dahir (physical), that are undergoing trials and test, and we may even feel sorry for them, but it might be that by the means of those trials and tests they will achieve proximity (qurb) to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).  Similar to the smell of the mouth of the one who is fasting, the test is increasing theirmaqam (station) to that which is even closer to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)! 

So what matters is not what we see; what matters is what Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) sees!

We have to leave our obsession of thinking about how others see and, instead, focus on the absolute meaning and pleasure of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and how He see things!

In the Hadith Qudsi, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) also says fasting is for Me. What about the rest of the forms of ibadah?  They are all for Him as well, but Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has honoured fasting, in particular, by relating it to Him directly! 

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has told and described for us the reward for the various acts of ibadah, except for fasting, for which only He knows the reward!  He loves our fasting so much that He did not relate or tell anyone about our fasting other than Himself!

Also, we know that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is Self-Sufficient, so in effect those who are fasting are getting closer to Him by way of His own attributes! Imam al Qurtubi (rehmatullah alaih) says that all forms of ibadah compliment the nature of human creation, except for fasting, as fasting is self-sufficiency and is from the attributes of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)!  

Thus, those who fast are getting closer to Him by way of His own attributes

Even the Malaika (angels) are unable to record our fasting as they do with other actions!  As only He knows!

We are very fortunate to be in the month of Ramadan, and even more fortunate to be from the Ummah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) !

But who are the fortunate ones who find success in the month of Ramadan?

One:  Those who Know the Reality of this Dunya

The Fortunate Ones are those who know the reality of this life and dunya, that it is not a permanent abode, and therefore they make the most of it by using every moment as an opportunity to get closer to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).  As Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) said to Abdullah ibn Omar (radiallah anhu), “Live in this dunya as a stranger or wayfarer.”  In another Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam)  said in the evening do not wait for the morning, and in the morning do not wait for the evening, do in health before sickness, and in life before death (speaking of making the most of every moment).

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) described the life of this dunya in Surah Aal-Imran (185), when He said:  “…And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.”

Two:  Those who Choose Wisely

The Fortunate Ones are those who do not say or hear except for that which is wisdom and khair; they choose their words and their company as others choose what they eat and drink. 

Syedina Omar (radiallah anhu) used to say if it were not for two things he would not wish to live in this dunya: the first was salah; the second was to be in the company of people who choose their words as others choose the best of food!  Syedina Omar (radiallah anhu)  used to say this speaking to the Sahaba!  So what about us!  What do you think he might say if he saw us! 

In our history there have been great personalities that were described as deaf, while in actuality they were not, but it was as if they had a filter through which nothing could go through unless it was pleasing to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).  That is taqwa (constant awareness and consciousness of Allah)!

Three:  Those who Remember

The Fortunate Ones are those who remember Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) while they are standing, sitting and laying down, and they ask forgiveness for all their sins and shortcomings; they are the Ones that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) describes in Surah Ahli-Imran (191):

“Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.”

The Fortunate Ones are those that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) remembers, as He said in Surah Al-Baqarah (152): “So remember Me; I will remember you.” 

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) also told us who the Fortunate Ones are when he mentioned to the Sahaba,“Should I tell you the best of deeds,”  To which the Sahaba eagerly answered in the affirmative.  “Remembering Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)!”

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make us from among them!

Four:  Those who Account Themselves

The Fortunate Ones are those who remain busy their own introspection, and work hard in order to correct themselves, purify their hearts, and they look at their shortcomings and shameful acts with disdain, continually accounting themselves. 

The Fortunate Ones constantly look at themselves, as if they were a mirror that requires perpetual cleaning.  They look at every particle of dust on the mirror, and, therefore, do not have time to look at others. 

The constant worry, of the Fortunate Ones, is to make themselves presentable to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).  Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam)  confirmed the approach of the Fortunate Ones when he said in a Hadith that from the greatest forms of Islam is when someone leaves that which does not concern them! [Tirmidhi, ibn Majah]  

In the end, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) will never ask anyone about anything except for themselves.  Not the kufr(disbelief) of the kafr (disbeliever) or the iman (belief) of the mu’min(believer)!  They will only be asked about themselves.

As Allah (swt) said in the Qur’an, in Surah Mariam (95):  “And all of them are coming to Him on the Day of Resurrection alone,”  and He said in Surah Al-Muddathir (38):  “Every soul will be accounted for what it has done.” 

So the Fortunate Ones look at themselves and abandon everything besides looking at themselves; they stop looking at the faults of others, and thereby distance themselves from the attributes of the munafiqeen(hypocrites) who, as Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam)  mentioned, look at their own faults as minor and those of others as mountains!

Five:  Those who Follow

The Fortunate Ones are those who follow Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam), as Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in Surah Ahli-Imran (31):  “Say, if you really love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you!” 

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is making it clear to us that source of His love is Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam), and if you want Him to be pleased with you, than follow him!

If you want to achieve more than your love for Him, which is His love for you, than follow Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam)!

Most of our saliheen (righteous ones) use to say that what matters is not your love for Him, but rather, His love for you!

Imam Hasan al Basri (rad) used to say some people claim they love Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) so He tested their love by this ayah, and made following Rasulullah (saw) the measurement and standard of His love!

In this ayah it does not say to obey him, or learn from him, but He said follow him!  You can obey someone wherever you are, but following is more than that, it is physical, mental, and spiritual; it is to connect and bind yourself to him. 

Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is making it clear that following him is the manifestation of His love!  This is how the Sahaba and Saliheen were. Syedina Uthman (radiallah anhu), when he was sent to Makkah, the Quraysh saw that he was using miswak, so they asked him why he was doing so. Syedina Usman (radiallah anhu) responded that he was doing so because he saw Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) doing so.  He did not give any explanation; he was just following! 

You follow Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) as he is and as he did! Syedina Ali (alaih salam) said:  “If I were to use my logic, I would wipe the bottom of my sock (when making purifying and preparing oneself), but I saw Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) wiping the top, so I follow!”

Imam Abu Hanifah (rehmatullah alaih) had many followers, but yet he wanted to visit and learn from the grandson of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam), and hence he went and to visit Syedina Muhammad Al Baqir (alaih salam). After they had exchanged salams(greetings), Syedina Muhammad Al Baqir (alaih salam) asked who he was, to which he replied Abu Hanifah. Syedina Muhammad Al Baqir (alaih salam) had heard things regarding Imam Abu Hanifah (rehmatullah alaih) so he asked him:  “Are you the one who has corrupted the religion of my Grandfather using ra’ee (opinion) and qiyas (analogy)?”  

Imam Abu Hanifah (rehmatullah alaih) replied: “I love your Grandfather, but please hear what I have to say.  Your Grandfather’s religion says I have to give women half the mirath (inheritance) of men, but women are weaker (in society), so my logic would say to give them half, but I follow and say women take half of that of men. The religion of your Grandfather says if you urinate than you have to make wudu, but if you release seminal fluid, than you have to make ghusl (washing of the entire body).  If I were to use my logic, urine is najis (impure), and semen is not, so I was to do the opposite, but I follow your Grandfather.  The religion of your Grandfather says when women are in menstruation they repeat their fast, but are not required to repeat their salah, whereas my logic would say that salah would be easier to make up, rather than the fast, but I follow your Grandfather!”

After hearing this, Syedina Muhammad al Baqir (alaih salam) came down and kissed the forehead of Imam Abu Hanifah (rehmatullah alaih). 

Following is knowing Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) knows more than you, even if it seems that your logic or opinion make sense, seek refuge by Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and follow him, for all the khair is in doing so! 

That is why Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in Surah An-Nisa (65): 

But know, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.”

The submission that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is speaking of comes in stages: first, you turn to him for not only your major issues, but even your minor ones; then you do not keep anything in your heart; and thereafter you submit fully!

Those who submit are the Fortunate Ones and thereby revel in joy in happiness.

Six:  Those who are Optimistic

The Fortunate Ones are those who are always optimistic, because they believe that whatever has happened to them comes from Him; everything that is achieved is from Him; and everything they have not achieved, they know there is khair in not achieving it. 

It was narrated that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) taught Abdullah ibn Abbas (radiallah anhu) to be certain that if the entire ummah (not individuals, not groups, tribes nor families) were to gather and try and benefit you, they would not be able to benefit you unless Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) wrote that benefit for you, and they would never be able to harm you except in something that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) wrote for you – all the pens have been raised and the book is dry! 

In this authenticated Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) is teaching us that everything that happens to us happens from Him!  As Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) said in Surah At-Tawbah (51): 

Say, “Never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; He is our protector.” And upon Allah let the believers rely.”

This is the core of our religion and ouriman

It was narrated by Walid, the son of Syedina Ubadah ibn as-Samit (radiallah anhu) , the great Sahabi, that he went to his father when he was on his death bed and said to him: 

“Oh my father, please give me wasiyah (will), and please give everything by way of effort in telling me the best of wasiyahs.” 

His father than asked to helped to sit up, to which Walid obliged.  Ubadah (radiallah anhu) then said:

“Oh son, you will never taste the sweetness of iman and you will never achieve, understand, or get Haqqiqutul-ilm (absolute real knowledge) by Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) until you believe in qadr (decree of Allah), whether it be good or bad.” 

Walid replied:  “Oh my father, how can I know what is good and bad from qadr?”

 His father then gave him the example of an arrow being thrown; if that arrow was meant for you, it will never miss you, and if it was not meant to hit you, by the qadr of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), it will never hit you, not matter how great the archer, or the perfection of the aim! 

And Ubadah (radiallah anhu) continued and said:  “I heard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) say that the first thing created was the pen, and He said ‘write’, and it wrote everything that will happen till Yaum ul Qiyamah; and if I die without believing this, I will never enter jannah” 

We know that whatever happens is from Him, and this causes us to be optimistic because we believe He is the source of khair and absolute Rahma. 

The Saliheen used to say, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) does not write except that which is khair for us, and even the things that make us upset and sad, there is a lot of khair behind them. 

Optimism because you trust your Lord, optimism because you know that it will be khair, optimism because you know that even when the trials are extremely difficult, Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is rewarding you for that. 

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) make us from the patient ones, grant us rida(contentment) and make us from the grateful.

Seven:  Those who find Peace and Tranquillity in His Remembrance

The Fortunate Ones are those that find tranquillity and peace of the heart in remembering Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).  Their joy is His company and closeness!  When any difficulty arises, just by calling His name, their situation changes to joy and happiness, and these are the very people that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) clearly pointed out in the Qur’an when He said in Surah Ar-Raad (28):

 “Unquestionably, only by the remembrance of Allah  do hearts attain peace and tranquillity.”

In a Hadith, narrated by Abu Hurrairah (radiallah anhu), he said that they were walking with Rasulullah (saw) in the way of Makkah near the mountain of Jamadan, and as they were approaching Rasulullah (saw) said“Keep walking, this is Jamadan, and the mufarridun have reached their before you!”  The Sahaba asked Rasulullah (saw) who the mufarridun were, to which he responded “Those who remember Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) abundantly, whether they be male or female. 

Imam al Manawi (rehmatullah alaih) said in Fayd ul-Qadir, the mufarridunare those who abandon everyone, and give everything they have for ibadah, and thereby attain the closest and highest of degrees with Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)!

When the Fortunate Ones in the company of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), not only do they get the baraka of peace and tranquillity of the heart, but they also receive the baraka of Him remembering them, as He said in Surah Al-Baqarah (152):  “So remember Me; I will remember you.” 

When Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is remembered, our existence is one and continuous, our mind, soul and heart, but when we forget to remember Him, we are in actually forgetting ourselves!

We should not be like the ones Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) mentioned in Surah Al-Hashr (19):  “And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient.”

It was narrated in Tirmidhi, Imam Ahmad and by Imam Hakim (rehmatullah alaihum), that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) said to the Sahaba:  Should I tell you by the best of your deeds and that which is most beloved to your Lord and the one that will raise your maqam and that is better than spending gold and silver, better than facing your enemies, whether you kill them or they kill you?  Please tell us!  Dhikr-ULLAH!  Remembering Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).

So the Fortunate Ones are those upon whom Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) has bestowed the sweetness of His remembrance and the joy in His company!

Ya Allah!  Make us from them!

In this very blessed month, we beg Him to make us from the Fortunate Ones, to change our haal and state to a better one, and to open the doors of Marifah!

 

Shaykh Faid SaidShaykh Faid Mohammed Said was born in Asmara, Eritrea, where he studied the holy Qur’an and its sciences, Arabic grammar and fiqh under the guidance of the Grand Judge of the Islamic Court in Asmara, Shaykh Abdul Kader Hamid and also under the Grand Mufti of Eritrea. He later went to study at Madinah University, from which he graduated with a first class honours degree. In Madinah, his teachers included Shaykh Atia Salem, Shaykh Mohamed Ayub (ex-imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, peace be upon him), Professor AbdulRaheem, Professor Yaqub Turkestani, Shaykh Dr Awad Sahli, Dr Aa’edh Al Harthy and many other great scholars. Shaykh Faid has ijaza in a number of disciplines including hadith, and a British higher education teaching qualification. He is currently the scholar in residence and head of education at Harrow Central Mosque, United Kingdom.

 

 


Resources for Seekers: The Ramadan Reader: A Guide to Fasting, Prayer, Qur’an, and Spirituality in the Month of Ramadan

Join SeekersHub for Ramadan 2015 in Toronto or plug in online from wherever you are in the world. Find out more here.

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Why Muslims Fast: The Higher Aims of Fasting Explained – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Why Muslims Fast

 

Have you ever wondered why Muslims fast? What’s the point of avoiding food and drink for a month? Surely I can still reach “the heights” whilst I continue to eat and drink? Why is going hungry good for my spirituality? If you’ve thought about Ramadan before and one of these questions has arisen, this is the course for you!

 

In this six part, short course, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani takes listeners on a journey which extracts the profound meanings, merits and benefits of fasting in the month of Ramadan. Using Sultan al-‘Ulama, al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam’s brief treatise, Maqasid al-Sawm, as a basis, Shaykh Faraz expounds upon the reality of the fast, works, righteousness and spiritual transformation. In reality, the fast is one of the greatest acts of worship you can do because it is wondrously sincere, and accordingly, something that Allah Most High Himself will reward for – “Fasting is for Me, and it is I who shall recompense for it.”

 

One of the central verses of this course is the one found in Sura al-Baqara where 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. So whoever is present this month, let them fast. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then let them fast an equal number of days after Ramadan. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” (2:185)

 

The virtues of the fast are numerous, but some of those discussed here include the fact that it (1) is an expiation for your sins and wrongs, (2) is a means of breaking your impermissible desires, and (3) facilitates acts of devotion. The instructor continues to explain the reality of taqwa and its levels, namely: (a) taqwa al-iman: shielding oneself against disbelief; (b) taqwa al-islam: shielding oneself against sin and all that leads to sin; and (c) taqwa al-ihsan: shielding oneself against anything other than Allah Most High.

 

This course also briefly touches upon the important rules with respect to the fast, and also when you can fast outside of Ramadan. Further, it covers the sunnas and proper manners (adab) of fasting, as well as covering important supplications which are to be recited at the time of breaking the fast. One thing which really stands out from this course is the great number of Companion-stories which are related, as well as, importantly, the way of the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, in the blessed month of Ramadan.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Registering is easy and you’ll get immediate access to all lessons:

https://seekersguidance.org/courses/why-muslims-fast-the-higher-aims-of-fasting-explained/

Valid Make Up Fasts

Ustadh Farid Dingle clarifies the rulings on making up fasts, intentions and actions, and reward from Allah, according to the Shafi‘i madhhab.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I became Muslim during the month of Ramadan 2012. When I became Muslim I was not told to fast so out of ignorance I didn’t fast that Ramadan. As time went on and I began to learn more I realized I had to make these days up. At the time I decided to start making them up I was under the impression that I had to fast 2 consecutive months for each day missed. When I started to study (Shafi‘i) fiqh I found this to be incorrect. I had already fasted about a month consecutively before I found out the ruling and stopped, would this time I fasted count at all towards my make ups? Or is it invalid because the ruling wasn’t carried out correctly? Please advise.

Jazak Allah khayr

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assaalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

In the Shafi‘i school, that wouldn’t count because the intention was to expiate and not to make-up the fast. This is because of the hadith, ‘Actions are only by intentions.’ [Bukhari and Muslim]

That said, you would get the reward for fasting a whole month regardless, even if it didn’t technically count as the obligatory fasts. Allah Most High says, ‘So He answered them saying, ‘Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female.’ [3:195]

So, just work out exactly how many days of Ramadan 2012 you have to make them up, and just make them up before this coming Ramadan, even if not consecutively. Try to get them done soon as the days are still short, which makes it much easier.

I pray this helps.

Farid

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.