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The Passing of Mufti Umer Esmail

We are deeply saddened at the news of the passing of one of our beloved teacher’s, Mufti Mohamed Umer Esmail. A religious scholar, community leader, and loving father and husband, he is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Let us pray for Mufti Umer and his family, may God grant him the highest levels of Jannah and may God’s Mercy shower his family and may the Razzaq, the Provider, provide for his family.

“Mufti Umer Esmail was a wonderful person, of gentleness, and good akhlaq. Much beloved by all those who knew him.”

– Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Help us raise $100,000 by the end of the week to support his estate in this challenging time. The funds raised will be through our Islamic Scholars Fund initiative and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to his family.

How Can I Get My Routine of Qur’an Done Daily?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalamu alaykum

How Can I Get My Routine of Qur’an Done Daily?

Answer:  Wa’leykum Salam,

Here is a video answer by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani to this question:

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and Executive Director of SeekersHub Global After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersHub Global to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims (The Muslim500).

Why Do We Waste So Much Food in Ramadan? – Shaykh Muhammad Metwali Al-Sha’raawi

In this video, the late Egyptian luminary and scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Metwali Al-Sha’raawi (RA) urges us to reflect on our consumption of food in the month of Ramadan. He reminds us that there is no benefit in overeating or being gluttonous once the time of breaking fast sets in. Rather, we should suffice ourselves with minimal food so that we may reap the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting. By being conscious of the true meanings of Ramadan, Muslims will be able to live lives of moderation and balance.

 


Biography:

Shaykh Muhammad al-Sha’raawi was born in Egypt on the 5th of April , 1911. At the age of 11, he had completely memorized the Quran. He graduated from the Faculty of Arabic Language at the al – Azhar University in 1941. He was considered and recognized as a gifted exegete of the Quran. He was revered and respected in the Muslim world for his scholarship and piety. His regular weekly programme on Egyptian television immediately following Friday prayers was followed by millions of people around the Middle East. During his programmes, he would explain the Qur’an with humor, wisdom and the use of examples drawn from everyday life. He passed away on the 4th of June, 1998. Reportedly more than a million mourners packed Cairo’s streets in a display of grief.


 

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

Ramadan: The Doors to Ecstasy – Habib Muhammad al-Saqqaf

Habib Muhammad al Saqqaf reminds us that fasting is an act between the creator and His slave. It is an immense gift from Allah Most High.

In the name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful. Praise is to Allah lord of the Worlds and prayers and peace upon Muhammad, leigelord of the prophets and messengers, and upon his family and all of his companions.

Greetings of peace to all my brothers and sisters joining us for this blessed celebration. May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you. A greeting of love from the two blessed sanctuaries to all our brothers and sisters who have in common with us: “There is no god but Allah,” in the East and in the West. And to you especially.

A Special Relationship

From the benefits of Ramadan and fasting is a special relationship with Allah Most High, and with His Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that opens to a person doors of ecstasy and taste for the love of Allah and His Messenger , Allah bless him and give him peace.

For verily fasting as it has reached us in the Hadith Qudsi: “…except for fasting, verily it is for Me.” Therefore it is an act between the Creator and His slave, it is not seen by anyone else, it does not appear in any account and cannot be quantified.

Rather it is an ongoing gift that is not limited and cannot be counted; it is a relationship of ecstasy and experience with The Creator.

The Reason for this Creation

The realization that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the reason for this bounty. That without him we would not have known Ramadan. We would not have known the Qur’an. The Qur’an would not have been revealed. And that we would not have known fasting and that we would not have known anything of worship.

For Verily he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the means of all this good having reached us. May the best of prayers and peace be upon him. Therefore if not for him, Allah bless him and give him peace, none of this good would have reached us.

So every fast, and every night prayer, every Tarawih, every Tahajjud, and our completing of the recitation of the Qur’an should remind us of him, Allah bless him and give him peace.

And also to remind us firstly that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the reason for this good reaching us. Secondly, that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the means by which our actions are accepted. For we do not reach Allah through these actions except that we have done it in accordance with the manner in which he did them, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The Ultimate Imam in All Things

Verily he is the Imam in reality, Allah bless him and give him peace. If I pray in a congregation in a mosque behind an imam, then in my heart I must feel that, this imam is a stand-in, in the place of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. The original imam is the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. For verily the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, is without doubt the Imam upon reality in every presence.

He is the Imam in the presence of prayer, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the Imam on the day of the greater intercession, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the Imam of the night of ascension, Allah bless him and give him peace. He is the imam of the creation in paradise, Allah bless him and give him peace.

If they go unto the plain upon which they will gaze upon the divine countenance, the veil will not be lifted on the lovers except through there adherence to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.

It is at that point that Allah will remove the veils from their sight and insight, so that they may witness the divine countenance, and through that experience eternal happiness.

How then can we not love the beloved? How then can we not make him, Allah bless him and give him peace, our means and path to closeness to Allah Most High?

Strive In Imitation of Him

I am then in my fast, as he fasted, Allah bless him and give him peace. And in my night standing, standing as he stood , Allah bless him and give him peace. In my recitation, reciting as he recited, Allah bless him and give him peace. My heart, my intellect, and my presence is never separate from imitation of him, Allah bless him and give him peace. I imagine him, Allah bless him and give him peace, in my states of movement and stillness. For he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is the path to this happiness.

Therefore my dear brother and sister Muslim, if you desire increase in goodness then make present the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and imitate him. Imagining that he, Allah bless him and give him peace, is in front of you in all of your states. Thus will you realize happiness.

Through his status, and by Allah’s love of him, Allah bless him and give him peace, he accepts the slaves and lifts tribulation, and registers happiness for whom he has made happy from the people of happiness.

Whoever abandons and distances himself from this beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace, they will bite upon their own hand on the day of resurrection. And whoever follows him, Allah bless him and give him peace, will attain the greatest happiness in the worldly life and on the day of resurrection.

O Allah, make us happy with your Messenger Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace. And gather us with him, Allah bless him and give him peace, and grant us his companionship in the abode of grace. Show us his face in our sleep and when awake and in the hereafter, by way of your mercy, O Most Merciful of the Merciful.

Prayers and peace upon our leigelord Muhammad and upon his family and companions. Praise unto The Lord of the worlds.

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.


The Three Degrees of Fasting – Imam al Ghazali

This is Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s translation of the passage on the three degrees of fasting from the Ihya of Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al Ghazali.

It should be known that there are three degrees of fasting: ordinary, special and extra-special.

Ordinary fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual satisfaction.

Extraordinary Fasting means keeping one’s ears, eyes, tongue, hands and feet – and all other organs – free from sin.

Perfect Fasting means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute provision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world.

Those versed in the spiritual life of the heart have even said that a sin is recorded against one who concerns himself all day with arrangements for breaking his Fast. Such anxiety stems from lack of trust in the bounty of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and from lack of certain faith in His promised sustenance.

To this third degree belong the Prophets, the true awliya, and the intimates of Allah. It does not lend itself to detailed examination in words, as its true nature is better revealed in action. It consists in utmost dedication to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, to the neglect of everything other than Allah, Exalted is He.

It is bound up with the significance of His words:

قُلِ اللَّـهُ ۖ ثُمَّ ذَرْهُمْ فِي خَوْضِهِمْ يَلْعَبُونَ

Say: “Allah,” then leave them to their vain play. (Sura al An‘am 6:91)

Inward Requirements

As for Special Fasting, this is the kind practiced by the righteous. It means keeping all one’s organs free from sin and six things are required for its accomplishment.

See Not What Displeases Allah

A chaste regard, restrained from viewing anything that is blameworthy or reprehensible, or that distracts the heart and diverts it from the remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “The furtive glance is one of the poisoned arrows of Satan, on him be Allah’s curse. Whoever forsakes it for fear of Allah will receive from Him, Great and Glorious is He, a faith the sweetness of which he will find within his heart.”

Jabir relates from Anas that Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Five things break a man’s Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze.”

Speak Not What Displeases Allah

Guarding one’s tongue from idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing and controversy; making it observe silence and occupying it with remembrance of Allah, Great and Glorious is He, and with recitation of Qur’an. This is the fasting of the tongue.

Said Sufyan: “Backbiting annuls the Fast.” Layth quotes Mujahid as saying: “Two habits annul Fasting: backbiting and telling lies.”

The Prophet, on him be peace, said: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is Fasting he should not use foul or foolish talk. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: ‘I am Fasting, I am Fasting!’”

According to Tradition: “Two women were Fasting during the time of Allah’s Messenger, , blessings and peace be upon him. They were so fatigued towards the end of the day, from hunger and thirst, that they were on the verge of collapsing.

They therefore sent a message to Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, requesting permission to break their Fast. In response, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, sent them a bowl and said: “Tell them to vomit into it what they have eaten.”

One of them vomited and half filled the bowl with fresh blood and tender meat, while the other brought up the same so that they filled it between them. The onlookers were astonished. Then the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “These two women have been Fasting from what God made lawful to them, and have broken their Fast on what God, Exalted is He, made unlawful to them. They sat together and indulged in backbiting, and here is the flesh of the people they maligned!”

Hear Not What Displeases Allah

Closing one’s ears to everything reprehensible, for everything unlawful to utter is likewise unlawful to listen to. That is why Allah, Great and Glorious is He, equated the eavesdropper with the profiteer. In His words, Exalted is He:

سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ أَكَّالُونَ لِلسُّحْتِ

Listeners to falsehood, consumers of illicit gain. (Sura al Ma‘ida 5:42)

Allah, Great and Glorious is He, also said:

لَوْلَا يَنْهَاهُمُ الرَّبَّانِيُّونَ وَالْأَحْبَارُ عَن قَوْلِهِمُ الْإِثْمَ وَأَكْلِهِمُ السُّحْتَ ۚ لَبِئْسَ مَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

Why do their rabbis and priests not forbid them to utter sin and consume unlawful profit? (Sura al Ma‘ida 5:63)

Silence in the face of backbiting is therefore unlawful. God, Exalted is He, said:

إِنَّكُمْ إِذًا مِّثْلُهُمْ

You are then just like them. (Sura al Nisa 4:140)

That is why the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “The backbiter and his listener are partners in sin.”

Guarding the Limbs

Keeping all other limbs and organs away from sin: the hands and feet from reprehensible deeds, and the stomach from questionable food at the time for breaking Fast. It is meaningless to Fast – to abstain from lawful food – only to break one’s Fast on what is unlawful.

A man who fasts like this may be compared to one who builds a castle but demolishes a city. Lawful food is injurious in quantity not in quality. Fasting is to reduce the former. A person might well give up excessive use of medicine, from fear of ill effects, but he would be a fool to switch to taking poison.

The unlawful is a poison deadly to religion, while the lawful is a medicine, beneficial in small doses but harmful in excess. The object of Fasting is to induce moderation.

Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “How many of those who Fast get nothing from it but hunger and thirst!” This has been taken to mean those who break their Fast on unlawful food. Some say it refers to those who abstain from lawful food, but break their Fast on human flesh through backbiting, which is unlawful. Others consider it an allusion to those who do not guard their organs from sin.

Avoid Overeating

Not to over-indulge in lawful food at the time of breaking Fast, to the point of stuffing one’s belly. There is no receptacle more odious to Allah, Great and Glorious is He, than a belly stuffed full with lawful food.

Of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering Allah’s enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods?

It has even become the custom to stock up for Ramadan with all kinds of foodstuffs, so that more is consumed during that time than in the course of several other months put together. It is well known that the object of Fasting is to experience hunger and to check desire, in order to reinforce the soul in piety.

If the stomach is starved from early morning till evening, so that its appetite is aroused and its craving intensified, and it is then offered delicacies and allowed to eat its fill, its taste for pleasure is increased and its force exaggerated; passions are activated which would have lain dormant under normal conditions.

The Secret Nature of Fasting

The spirit and secret nature of Fasting is to weaken the forces which are Satan’s means of leading us back to evil. It is therefore essential to cut down one’s intake to what one would consume on a normal night, when not Fasting.

No benefit is derived from the Fast if one consumes as much as one would usually take during the day and night combined. Moreover, one of the properties consists in taking little sleep during the daytime, so that one feels the hunger and thirst and becomes conscious of the weakening of one’s powers, with the consequent purification of the heart.

One should let a certain degree of weakness carry over into the night, making it easier to perform the (tahajjud) and to recite the praises (awrad). It may then be that Satan will not hover around one’s heart, and that one will behold the Kingdom of Heaven.

Laylat al Qadr

The Night of Destiny represents the night on which something of this Kingdom is revealed. This is what is meant by the words of God, Exalted is He:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

We surely revealed it on the Night of Power.’ (Sura al Qadr 97:1)

Anyone who puts a bag of food between his heart and his breast becomes blind to this revelation. Nor is keeping the stomach empty sufficient to remove the veil, unless one also empties the mind of everything but Allah, Great and Glorious is He.

That is the entire matter, and the starting point of it all is cutting down on food.

Look To God With Fear And Hope

After the Fast has been broken, the heart should swing like a pendulum between fear and hope. For one does not know if one’s Fast will be accepted, so that one will find favor with God, or whether it will be rejected, leaving one among those He abhors. This is how one should be at the end of any act of worship one performs.

It is related of Al Hasan ibn abi al Hasan al Basri, that he once passed by a group of people who were laughing merrily. He said: “Allah, Great and Glorious is He, has made the month of Ramadan a racecourse, on which His creatures compete in His worship. Some have come in first and won, while others have lagged behind and lost. It is absolutely amazing to find anybody laughing and playing about on the day when success attends the victors, and failure the wasters. By Allah, if the veil were lifted off, the doer of good would surely be preoccupied with his good works and the evildoer with his evil deeds.”

Rather it is the one whose fast is accepted who should be in too full of joy to indulge in idle sport, while one who has suffered rejection laughter should be precluded by remorse.

Of Al Ahnaf ibn Qays it is reported that he was once told: “You are an aged elder. Fasting would enfeeble you.” But he replied: “By this I am making ready for a long journey. Obedience to Allah, Glorified is He, is easier to endure than His punishment.”


10 Ways of Benefit for Menstruating Women in Ramadan

Dread your period during the blessed month of Ramadan? Feel like you’re missing out on all the worship you could otherwise do? As Nour Merza writes, there is much to look forward to.

Every Ramadan, most women will have about a week in which they are unable to join in the major religious practices of the holy month: fasting and praying. Many women, when their menstrual period begins, find that their level of engagement with the high spiritual atmosphere of the month drops. The same goes for those whose postnatal bleeding coincides with Ramadan. For many of these women, frustration and a sense of lacking spirituality sets in.

This, however, shouldn’t be the case.

Menstruation, postnatal bleeding, and other uniquely feminine concerns are all part of Allah’s creation, which He created in perfect wisdom. They are not a punishment for women wanting to draw near their Lord. They are just part of the special package of blessings, opportunities and challenges that God has given uniquely to women. To refrain from ritual prayer (the salaat) and ritual fasting (the sawm) during this time is actually considered a form of worship, and, if done with the intention of obeying God, it earns women good deeds.

In order to take full advantage of the blessed month of Ramadan, however, menstruating women and those with postnatal bleeding can do more than refraining from ritual prayer and ritual fasting to draw near God. Below are ten ways that women unable to fast can boost their spirituality during this special month.

menstruating women in Ramadan

1. Increase dhikr

In the Hanafi school, it is recommended for menstruating women to make wudu, wear their prayer clothes, and sit on their prayer mat while doing dhikr during the time they would normally be praying. This would be especially good to do in Ramadan, a time of special focus on worship. In addition to the adhkar that are well-known sunnas – such subhanAllah, alhamdullillah and Allahu akbar – if you have a litany from a shaykh and are allowed to repeat it more than once a day, try to do it twice or three times for increased blessings. Dhikr has a special way of touching the heart, and by invoking God’s names whenever you can during this unique month you create the space, inshaAllah, for beautiful spiritual openings. See: The Effects of Various Dhikr – Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad

2. Increase du’aa

Du’aa is something we do very little of these days, but speaking directly to your Lord is one of the most intimate ways to connect with Him. The beauty of du’aa is that you can make it in any place or time. Take this opportunity to ask your Lord for all that you need in your life, and to draw near Him through either repeating the beautiful du’aas of the Prophet or reaching out to God with your own unique words. See: Ten Powerful Du’as That Will Change Your Life

3. Feed others

Whether it be your family, neighbors, community members or the poor, use the time you are not fasting to make meals that fill the stomachs and souls of those around you. Recite the salawat on the Prophet (pbuh) while making the food, as this imbues the food with spiritual benefit as well. Consider sponsoring iftar at your local mosque one evening with some other women who are in your situation, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen.  See also: “Manifesting Mercy: Feeding Your Way to God” – Nader Khan at Brampton Islamic Centre.

4. Gain Islamic knowledge

Use the extra time and energy you have from not fasting and praying to increase your knowledge of the faith. Listen to scholars discussing timely issues on our SeekersHub podcasts, form a small circle of non-fasting women who can commit to reading a book on Islam and discuss it together, or take some time to read articles on the religion from trusted online sources, such as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s blog or Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s article collection at masud.co.uk. See also: Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge.

5. Increase your charity

We are surrounded by countless blessings, so make sure to spread those blessings in the month of Ramadan. Give money to a good cause, such as supporting Syrian refugees, helping a local poor family with school fees, or supporting students of Islamic knowledge through programs like SeekersHub’s #SpreadLight campaign. In a very busy world, we may have little opportunity to give our time to help others in charity – giving money takes minimal time, but brings great benefit. See: Eligible Zakat Recipients, Giving Locally vs. Abroad, Charity to a Mosque, and Proper Handling of Donations.

6. Make your responsibilities a form of worship

Sometimes, women are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the home and young children, and cannot make time to do things like study or sponsor an iftar. In these circumstances, renew your intention regarding your role as a mother and a wife. See these demanding and time-consuming roles for what they are: responsibilities that you are fulfilling to please God, which makes them a type of worship. Ask God to accept all your work as worship, and approach all that you do in this way. This will make even the most mundane of tasks, such as changing another diaper, cleaning up  another spilled cup of apple juice, or making yet another dinner a way for you to gain the pleasure of your Lord. See: Balancing Worship and Caring for a New Child.

7. Listen to the Quran

menstruating women in Ramadan

Although the Hanafi schools holds that women cannot cannot touch the mushaf or recite Quran while experiencing menses or postpartum bleeding, they are able to listen to the recitation of the Quran. Doing so offers much benefit in a month that has such heavy emphasis on reciting the book. You can take special time out of your day to listen to it, such as while children are napping, or you can listen to it while in the midst of cooking or cleaning the house. See also: Listening to Qur’an While Occupied With Other Tasks

8. Increase Repentance

Ramadan is an excellent time to increase repentance to God. Use moments when others are praying or breaking their fast to ask God to forgive you and your loved ones and to keep you from returning to sin. All we have is a gift from Allah, so even forgetting that for a moment is a deed worth asking forgiveness from. Know that God is the Forgiving, and trust that, as our scholars have said, the moment you ask for forgiveness you are truly forgiven. See also: Damaged Inner State? Imam Ghazali on Repentance

9. Babysit to help mothers worship

Mothers with young children often find it difficult to go to the mosque because they worry that their kids will disturb others who are praying. Since you don’t need to be at the mosque, volunteer a night or two (or more!) to babysit the children of a young mother who would love to go pray taraweeh. If you have young children of your own, you can tell the mother to bring her kids to your house before the prayer. By helping this woman worship, you will gain the same good deeds she gets from going to that prayer. See: I Love Being A Woman!

10. Spread love and light

Use the extra time and energy you have to share the joys of Ramadan and Eid with your non-Muslim friends, peers and neighbors. Invite a work colleague for an iftar, make a special Ramadan dish and give it to a neighbor, or take time to make special cookies or gift bags for peers at the office or in school to hand out during Eid. By sharing these happy moments with friends and colleagues in the non-Muslim community, you counter the negative narratives about Islam in the media. More than that, however, you become someone who creates bonds in an increasingly isolated world, reflecting the beauty of the Prophetic light to all those around you. See: How Can Muslims Become More Effective Community Members?

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

Resources for Seekers

Ten Ways to Prepare for Ramadan From Now

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

1. Make the right intention

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

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

2. Prepare your body

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

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

3. Review all medical situations before Ramadan

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

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

4. Observe voluntary fasts

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

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

5. Increase Quran recitation

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

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

6. Perform extra prayers

prepare for Ramadan

Credits: Ccarlstead

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

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

7. Give charity

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

See: How Much Should I Give in Charity?

8. Engage in service (khidma)

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

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

9. Focus on your character

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

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

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

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

prepare for Ramadan

Credits: Mathew Paul Argall

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

Written by Nour Merza. Cover photo by Oliver Hegenbarth.

Rulings Related to the Quran and a Woman in the State of Menstruation.

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

I have seen the answer about it being okay to recite Qur’an with the intention of Dhikr while being in menstruation. Can you please explain it more?

In particular, I am a Hanafi and have doubts about whether it is okay to read from a computer screen out loud surah baqara for protection from the unseen.

What about reading Surah Hadid and the one afterwards for faith, courage?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

No, it is not permissible to recite verses or chapters of the Qur’an during your menstrual period which are not clearly known as those comprised of, or used as, supplication (du‘a), praise (thana’) or remembrance (dhikr), even if their recitation has other benefits.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A menstruating lady and a person requiring a ritual bath should not recite anything of the Qur’an.” (Tirmidhi)

It is acceptable, however, for a menstruating lady to read the Qur’an, without actually reciting it with her lips and tongue, to look at it, to hear its recitation, and to read its translation and exegesis (tafsir). Playing an audio of the Qur’an and listening attentively is also very meritorious and a useful alternative when you’re unable to recite yourself, particularly if it enables you to contemplate and reflect deeply over the Qur’an, its miracle, meanings and beauty.

As for recitation of verses which are comprised of remembrance (dhikr), such as the throne verse (ayat al-kursi), and doing so with the intention of remembrance, it is permitted. Another example is the verse: “Allah is sufficient for me. There is no god worthy of worship except Him. In Him I put my trust. And He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.” (Sura al-Tawba 9:129) Similarly, recitation of the Fatiha, or the last two chapters of the Qur’an (al-Falaq and al-Nas), would be permitted, whilst intending thereby supplication or protection from harm respectively, as these are clearly established in the sunna for such reasons.

The Duty to Abstain from Qur’anic Recitation and Alternatives

Nevertheless, not reciting is actually an act of worship for a menstruating lady during her menses because abstaining at this time is the command of the lawgiver, and she is duty-bound to act accordingly.

Consequently, her fulfilment of this command without objection is a means of tremendous reward with Allah Most High. This is because it is the kind of worship which is free from spiritual waywardness which can creep into other acts, such as showing off (riya’), being pleased with one’s works (‘ujb) and other detrimental sins of the heart.

Further, there are other remembrances (adhkar) and formulations of sending blessings (salawat) upon the Blessed Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) which can be used for healing and otherwise.

Please note that the same rulings would apply to a lady during her lochia (nifas). May Allah Most High protect you and your family, and all the believing men and women.

(Ibn ‘Abidin/Birgivi, Manhal al-Waridin ‘ala Dhukhr al-Muta’ahhilin (272-274); Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (1.116/195); Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah (139))

Please also see this answer and this one.

And Allah Most High knows best.

[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.