* Originally Published on 30/06/2016
* Originally Published on 30/06/2016
*Originally Published on 7/06/2018
We can begin by appreciating the gift of these blessed ten days, and learning about what Allah is offering us therein. We can receive it with gratitude and joy, and thankfulness to Allah for His gift.
We can intend to fast happily, do good works and pray tarawih in order to follow the practice of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Intend to deal with others well this Ramadan.
We know that the first part of Ramadan is mercy, the middle part of it is forgiveness, and the last part of it is freedom from the Fire. By recognizing that the last ten nights are freedom from the Fire, we can plan to strive harder in order to achieve it.
We can also keep in mind that Allah prescribed the fast to us, just as He did to others before us. It was not meant to be a pointless command to put us in difficultly, but rather to teach us valuable lessons in self-restraint and God-consciousness.
Therefore, we can rejoice in the presence of these days, by exposing ourselves to the mercy of Allah, and embodying it by showing mercy to other. This is in the spirit of the hadith, “The merciful ones will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Show mercy to the ones on Earth, and the one beyond the heavens will be merciful to you.” (Tirmidhi) We should pray for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and we should pray that people who are isolated or unaware of the religion, find a connection to it.
*Originally Published on 25/06/2016
Gatherings are taking place in which no individual is turned away. The rich, the poor, the strong, the weak, young and old, male and female, skins of all color, complexions of every shade — gatherings that server as reminders of and truly encompass the presence of the Divine. No one is left out, and everyone is welcomed in.
Men and women from all walks of life remove from themselves the shackles of the material and for a moment seek to feed only their spirits. The pursuit of the world becomes a fleeting thought and in its place is the pursuit of a tranquility and contentment that could never be satisfied by the possession of anything worldly.
Titles and ranks and social class are left at the door. You simply stand as yourself. The worth of your standing is not assessed by anything other than the heart that you bring and how willing you are to let its presence define the moment instead of the tyrannical ego you have battled with for almost a month’s time prior to this moment.
Hearts will tremble. Tears will be shed. Bodies will feel a sense of strength unlike any other as they are relenting towards a soul that they no longer control yields them not weakness, but a power unlike anything experienced before.
Indeed, in His remembrance do hearts find rest.
Our Lord, ya Allah, bless our gatherings and all those who are in them. We stand for your sake, do not turn us away.
Answer our prayers and grant us the courage, wisdom, sincerity and compassion to be the answer to the prayers of others — You Are One Who Responds, Al-Mujeeb, The All-Hearing, As-Sami’.
Free our hearts of any anxiety, anguish, or unwarranted anger, from any bitterness, jealousy, or envy. Detach them from loving anything that causes us harm or gives us simple complacency and fill them instead with a lightness strengthened through gratitude, understanding, tranquility and contentment — You are The Source of Peace, As-Salaam, The One Who Enriches, Al-Mughni.
Envelop us in your Divine Love and help us to build a love for ourselves. We are weak and imperfect, but the perfection of Your Love stems from its embracing of us despite our being imperfect — You Are The Loving One, Al-Wadud, The Compassionate, Ar-Rahman.
Free from us oppression, including oppression by our own selves, and keep us from being oppressive, including oppression against our own selves. Grant justice and ease to all those who are held down, peace and stability to those in conflict. Make us satisfied with all that You have given to us, and make us not amongst those us who unjustly take from others — You Are the Most Just, Al-‘Adl, The All-Seeing, Al-Baseer.
Make us amongst the honest, the truthful, the kind, and the conscious. Help us to honor the rights of all those around us, our families, our neighbors, and the societies in which we live. Free us from arrogance, hatred, and racism and endow us with a sense of respect for the diversity of Your creation — You Are the Creator, Al-Khaliq, the Most Generous, Al-Karim.
Give us leaders who are actually leaders, and make us followers who are deserving of great leaders. Grant us knowledge, wisdom, patience, and sensibility as well as good intention and a strong sense of passion. For organized evil will always triumph over disorganized righteousness, and it is time for us to stand better for those who need to be stood up for. Let our serving be not for our own selves but simply because it is the right thing to do. And forgive us, oh Lord, for not doing everything that we are able to — You Are The Most-Wise, Al-Hakim, the Patron and Helper, Al-Wali.
Shower upon us Your Divine Mercy and make us amongst the merciful ones who are merciful to all people, all creation, and to the earth we walk upon — You Are the Most Merciful, Ya Raheem.
Help us to be gentle with each other. Forgive us for our harshness and the mistakes we have made, and let kindness be found in all of our deeds and decisions. Give us a character that is beautiful in its nature and make us amongst who remind the world that hope, mercy, and compassion do exist. You Are Ever-Gentle, Ya Latif.
Make not the pursuit of this world our goal, but let our goals be for the best in the next world. Help us to sustain the lessons learned in this blessed month and let us not turn back to being those who we were prior to its advent.
Give us confidence that helps us to see our strength as well our weaknesses and protect us from arrogance which lets us only see weakness in the world around us.
Give us the courage to reach our potential and protect us from the fear that keeps us from doing so. Let our growth be gradual and consistent and help us to strive every day, even if it is very little and enrich our lives with a richness of our souls.
Grant us companionship that helps us to reach our best and keep us from companions who hold us back. Grant us friends who encourage us towards all that is good, and keep us from friends who take us towards that which is not. Arrange our hearts with those hearts that are gentle and tender, and make us amongst those whose presence brings benefit and relief.
Accept from us our prayers and our fasting, our bowing, our kneeling, our standing, our prostrating. Grant us and our loved ones only the best in this world and the best in the next.
Forgive all those who love us and those whom we love, all those who have wronged us and all those whom we have wronged.
Protect us from hearts that are not humble, tongues that are not wise, and eyes that have forgotten how to cry.
Make the best of our deeds the last of our deeds and let us not leave this world other than in a state that is most pleasing to You.
Originally Published on: Aug 8, 2011
As Ramadan moves along, we realize the rapidity with which the month travels. The word “month,” derived from “moon,” essentially measures one lunar cycle: the roughly 28.5 days it takes the moon to circle the earth. A lag time is involved due to the earth’s spin and its own movement around the sun. The Qur’an tells us that fasting is prescribed so we may learn to ward off evil, and then reminds us of the “limited days” (ayyaman m’adudat) before fasting comes to an end (2:183-184). The plural form used for “days” is known in Arabic morphology as a “plural of paucity,” meaning the number is not large. In other words, Ramadan is a limited time of spiritually powerful days.
During Ramadan, one can achieve spiritually what would take far longer during other times of the year. But restraining our zest for food is a prerequisite. In his book Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, Imam Shah Wali Allah al-Dahlawi explains that our faith provides special times of blessing that have enhanced spiritual power, and only a receptive soul will experience great openings during such times. To prevent the openings from blockage, he recommends, among other things, ensuring that the stomach is not sated. This advice is in the prophetic tradition. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The worst vessel the son [or daughter] of Adam ever fills is his [or her] stomach.” He also said, “It is enough for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels that will maintain his back’s uprightness. But if he must add more to his stomach, then let it be one third for food, one third for water, and one third for air.” The Persian scholar Sahl al-Tustari was asked about a man who ate once a day, and he replied, “This is the way of the prophets.” Asked about someone who eats twice a day, he said, “This is the way of the righteous.” Finally, he was asked about someone who eats three meals a day, and he replied, “Build for him a trough!” Abu Madyan al-Ghawth, who laid the foundations along with Imam al-Ghazali for the way of Shaykh Abd Allah al-Haddad of Hadhramaut, remarked that his own path was one of hunger.
Ramadan is an especially opportune time to reflect on the blessings of food and satiety. When we eat less, our stomachs shrink, and we feel full after a few bites at the end of the day. Fasting allows us to experience once a year what many throughout the world experience almost daily. Hunger, for them, is not a choice; it is simply a fact of life. Currently, Somalia and other parts of East Africa are gripped by a devastating drought, and the lives of millions of men and women — and sinless children — hang in the balance. Such tragedies make some people ask, “Where is God?” But God may very well answer with a question: “Where are you?!” After all, these catastrophes are avoidable. A recent study of global food wastage indicates that we waste millions of tons of food each year. Even a portion of that would ward off any potential famine.
***** ***** *****
Somalia has gone through great tragedies of late. We should not forget that in the not too distant past, Somalia was a wonderful pastoral society of profoundly spiritual people. The occasional clashes of clan and feuds over water were usually resolved by the elders without bloodshed. Somalis had an irenic culture largely bilingual due to their love of Arabic and immersion in a classical training in the Yemeni tradition of islam, iman, and ihsan. They were people who would wake before dawn to call on their Lord before setting out for a rural day’s work. I know this both from my own elderly Somali friends whom I cherish, and also from my time in a very similar society in West Africa. In fact, the Somali of Mauritania are descendants of Somali migrants from East Africa. Some of the most brilliant scholars I met in Mauritania are from the Somali people. In the San Francisco Bay Area, our own dear Shaykh Abdar Rahman Tahir, a brilliant scholar of Arabic from Somalia, was a student of the great master of Arabic, Muhyiddin Abdul Hamid.
Somalia’s recent history has unfortunately been one of political upheaval and the collapse of civil society and functional government. As it emerged from the weight of colonialism, it fell victim to Cold War politics and international intrigue due to its important strategic spot in the Horn of Africa. Now the persistent poverty has been compounded by drought and famine, even as internal violence makes everything far worse. Yet Africans in general are always low on the so-called world community’s list for help. Higher up on the list are the bailouts of Wall Street firms or the financial institutions of Greece or Italy or Spain because those have consequences for people in the West. But when it comes to starving Africans, one hears the refrain, “When are they going to help themselves?” That is the thinking of Iblis. The Qur’an quotes the mentality of such people; they say, “Shall we feed those whom had God could have fed if He willed?” (36:47). The Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, said, “You are aided by aiding the weak among you.”
Somalia deserves to have the aid of all of us.
***** ***** *****
It is Ramadan, a time when our own self-induced hunger should bring us a bit closer to those whose hunger is caused by circumstance, not choice. I am in the Emirates now and have seen the generosity of the government and its people here in coming to the aid of Somalia; they have sent about 900 tons of food and have begun well-drilling operations. But much more needs to be done. The Red Crescent is extremely active there, as are other charitable organizations.
Charity conquers the greed of our souls and actualizes the solidarity of humanity, as those who have reach out to those who have not with love, compassion, and faith. Let us all remember them tonight at iftar as we break our fasts and pray for them. Let each of us find it in our hearts to do something, no matter how small, to address the problem. And let us not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, whose Ramadan is filled with trials and tribulations, while most of ours are filled with relative ease and comfort.
In this blessed month of Ramadan, let us do what we are able for those in need, whose hunger and pain is likely to outlast this brief month.
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* Courtesy of Neo Marketing
Originally Published: 22/06/2016
This is a challenge that every one of us faces when it comes to our acts of worship. As humans, we have been created weak and part of this weakness are the fluctuations we experience in our states. Sometimes we feel good, excited, and spiritually high; other times we feel stale, lazy, and lacking in presence. Ramadan is no exception when it comes to this.
Before giving you specific advice, the first thing you need to recognize is that feelings are ultimately inconsequential. We worship because we believe God is worthy of worship. Whether it makes us feel good or excited is not the main focus. However, since these feelings become impediments to worship itself for most people, it is important to take some concrete steps in overcoming them when possible.
In this noble month, I would advise you to do the following to reignite the spark:
This may sound obvious but it is not so for many people. When we begin to wane in our worship and do not feel the same presence we used to, it is a good time to pause, analyze one’s intention, and turn to God in assistance. Often times, these states are sent precisely as a test to see whether we try to lift ourselves up, turn to Him, and continue striving to do our best. So, perform ablution, pray two cycles, and renew your intention to be in the worship of God to the best of your ability.
This is one of the first actions that people stop doing as Ramadan progresses. But suhur is not simply done to keep us somewhat satiated for the long day ahead. Rather, it is a spiritual act which when done the right way with the right intention fills one’s day with blessing (baraka). As the Prophet (God bless him) said, “Partake in suhur for indeed there is blessing in it.” [Bukhari, Muslim] Force yourself to wake up with some time to spare, eat a healthy breakfast, and engage in some worship – no matter how little – before Fajr. When you start your day in a blessed manner, chances are that it will continue in that manner.
If you’re at home, don’t lounge around in your nighties. This is almost asking to be lazy and unproductive. Stay fresh by taking a shower (ghusl) or at the least remaining on ablution (wudu’), keep yourself well-groomed, and dress well. Studies show that clothing can systematically influence an individual’s psychological processes and effect productivity. Additionally, taking care of one’s appearance is part of the sunna.
Often times, breaking out of a stale state requires modifications to one’s daily habits. If you are not finding presence in your supererogatory prayer (nawafil), try to replace some of it with Qur’an or dhikr. Perhaps introduce some reading of tafsir or listening to a lecture by a scholar you enjoy. If you worship mostly at home, visit the masjid for spiritual upliftment; if you do dhikr in your room, go out for a quiet walk with your misbaha (prayer beads); if you usually pray by yourself at home, start praying with other family members.
The self (nafs) is not an easy thing to tame. Sometimes, we need to approach it diplomatically. Demand worship from it but let it breath a little a bit too. If it wants to check Facebook or Twitter or relax for a bit, then do so in moderation but make sure you tell it to read some Qur’an or perform a few cycles of prayer after. As one of my teachers said, “Give your nafs what it wants from the halal and then take from it what you want from good actions and worship.” This will hopefully ensure that you don’t burn out. As the Prophet (God bless him) said, “This religion is ease and none makes it difficult except that it will overwhelm him. So, perform your deeds properly and in moderation…” [Bukhari]
There is a reason why the larger community is so stressed upon in our tradition. Believers feed off each others’ states and push each other towards something higher than themselves. They uplift each other and provide motivation to engage in the good. The mosque is an obvious place to meet others and engage in collective worship, but so is your home. Keep the Ramadan excitement going in your household by making the family have iftar together, praying together, watching your favorite lectures, going to talks/events, and visiting/inviting people over for iftar. The same can be done with your friends.
While there are a number of other points that can be mentioned, the most important thing is to keep at it. Do not give up on your worship simply because you are not feeling it anymore. Rather, try your best and recognize that worship transcends the temporal feelings that we may experience. These ups and downs are part of the test that God has laid out for us to see who among us “will excel in good deeds.” (11;7) Hopefully, by following some of the above points, the excitement of worship will be reignited. That is what we require at this point: a little spark that we can capitalize on so as to fully benefit from this month.
And God alone gives success.
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