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Finding Allah Through Fasting – Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

In this video, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah reminds us of the ultimate purpose of fasting Ramadan: to find Allah Most High. He highlights the many means to attaining consciousness of God in the month of Ramadan, including leaving sin, vice, and everything that busies away from Allah. Amongst these, he puts particular emphasis on fulfilling the obligations due upon us, the most important of which are the five daily prayer.

The Point of Worship in Ramadan – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

In this timely reminder, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani reminds us that our acts of worship in Ramadan are means to an end – seeking Allah Most High. He uses the Qur’anic verses on fasting to show us the objectives of such works of worship. Furthermore, he urges us to find our purpose in our devotional acts by seeing them as a means to seek our Lord.

*This video was recorded on  May 15, 2018.

Ramadan Rejuvenation for Kids | A Puppet Show on the Shifa – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

In this Ramadan daily series for young children, educator Ustadha Shireen Ahmed gives daily lessons from the Shifa of Qadi Iyad on the character and virtue of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). The story is told from the perspective of a student of Qadi Iyad, who explains the text to his young son Mahmud. These episodes feature unique puppets which explain the lessons in story format to make them easier for young children to follow. This series streams daily this Ramadan at 9:30am ET at https://seekersguidance.org/live/.

Click here to download the colouring page.

Click here to view the full playlist.

Ibtihaj Muhammad: How A Champ Trains In Ramadan

*Originally posted on 2016/06/17

Muslim American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad says she spends up to seven hours training on an average day. Right now, during Ramadan, that means seven hours of intense physical exercise without any food or water between sunrise and sunset.

“My faith is first and foremost to me. It’s a priority,” Muhammad told The Huffington Post. “So it was never a question of whether I would fast and train. I’ve had to fast and train for as long as I’ve been competing at this level. The only difference for me this go around is that I’m in the middle of training for the Olympics.”

Read the rest on Huffington Post. Follow Ibtihaj on twitter.

Jewels of the Quran Playlist – Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al – Azhari

Shaykh Ahmed Sa’ad Al-Azhari, explains and summarizes Imam Ghazali’s “Jewels of the Qur’an” (Jawaher al-Qur’an). Through it, he explains the different messages, themes and purposes of the Qur’an and shares keys of connecting to Allah through the Qur’an. This series was recorded in 2015.

Capturing the Spirit of Ramadan – Ramadan Playlist

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, Shaykh Adeyinka Mendes and other leading scholars provide lessons on how to embody the values and realities of the month of Ramadan. This video series was recorded during Ramadan 2016.

Ramadan Mubarak: The Prophet’s Dua When the New Moon is Sighted

RAMADAN MUBARAK

The Prophet’s dua (Allah bless him and give him peace) for when the new moon is seen:

The Prophet s dua when New Moon is Seen

 

Allahumma ahhilhu `alayna bi’l yumni wa’l imani wa’s salamati wa’l islam. Rabbi wa rabbuka’l Llah

(O Allah, bring it to us with felicity, faith, safety, and submission. [Addressing the new moon:] My Lord & Your Lord is Allah.”

 

[Related by Tirmidhi, from Talha (Allah be pleased with him); sound]

Why Can’t We Unite? A Brief Overview of Moon-Sighting Wars (And How To Avoid Them) – Shaykh Sohail Hanif

Shaykh Sohail Hanif makes sense of the annual moon-sighting debates.

The blessed month of Ramadan is almost upon us. It is a month of contemplation, fasting, prayer and tranquility. But just as the tranquility of Paradise is “surrounded by disliked matters,”[1] Ramadan can only be arrived at after crossing the uncomfortable terrain of moonsighting debates. In this run up to the sacred month, otherwise ordinary words can acquire great rhetorical force: “Local!” “Global!” “Sighting!” “Calculations” “Saudi!” “Pakistan!” Each word is backed up by arguments, documents and video clips. But must these exchanges be inevitable, and is there a way out of this impasse? I believe there is if we read our classical heritage with some care.

It’s All Backed By Classical Scholarship

It is true that since the earliest times, scholars of Islamic law have disagreed over the correct method of declaring the beginning of the blessed month. There is a classical precedent for local sighting, global sighting, and even astronomical calculations. Thus, the disagreements that beset us at the beginning of the blessed month do have a basis in classical scholarship. However, there is something that we are missing as we churn out these classical positions: the missing point is process.

Process, Process, Process

Classical works of Islamic law provide details on how the new moon is to be established.

  • We are told by some classical jurists that if the sky is clear, a large number of people are required to have seen the moon. This is because the sighting of only a few people on a clear night is inherently suspicious since most onlookers did not see it.[2]
  • If the sky is overcast, then some jurists stipulated two witnesses for a valid sighting,[3] treating it as akin to establishing a fact in court, whilst others accepted a single witness,[4] treating it as a religious report.

In either case, they required that the individuals be morally upright. The question here is, who is it that will determine whether a group sighting is large enough on a clear night? Who is it that will decide whether a witness is upright or not? Who will determine the number of witnesses required on an overcast night? Each of these points has its own conditions that need to be verified by one who is both suitably trained and is vested with the authority to do so. This is the Muslim judge who has been placed in a position to declare the beginning of the month. Thus, the entry of Ramadan is established through a judicial process.

Waiting For Official Judgement

The commencement of Ramadan is not a private matter for individuals to declare. Individuals are only to raise their possible sightings to the appropriate authority who will then consider whether to accept or reject the sighting, and will consider which conditions to consider to declare the beginning of the month. This is why books of Islamic law discuss the case where an individual is sure that he/she saw the new moon, but was unable to convince the judge of this; should such a person fast? The commonly stated answer is that such a person does fast. However, this only applies to the person in question; everyone else is to await the official judgement on the matter.[5]
This is why, in Muslim countries, one rarely finds households divided over when they start fasting or celebrate Eid. In these countries, there is typically a governmentally appointed council that is vested with the authority to declare the beginning of the month. The man on the street need only turn on the radio or the television to know if the appointed council has declared the beginning of Ramadan. This is the process that works of sacred law attest to. The reason for this is clear. The communal purpose of Ramadan and Eid cannot be realised if a society is divided over when it starts and finishes the month. This process prevents that from happening.

What About Muslims Living As Minorities?

So what should people do in a minority context such as Britain? The answer is clear; the community must strive to appoint a representative council to declare the entry of the blessed month, which the community must then follow. This is not a new idea; there are many chapters of the law that attest to this. The Friday prayer is one example. Classical works of law imply that towns should, ideally, have only one Friday prayer service, so that the entire town comes together for a single congregation every week. This led to the question of who was to appoint the one imam to deliver the sermon and lead the town in prayer. If left to the people, each group and sect would vie endlessly to have its own group represented.
The answer, at least according to scholars of the Hanafi legal school, was that only the ruler, or the one appointed by the ruler, could choose the imam of this congregation.[6] The public had no authority to start their own Friday prayer. They could only choose to pray behind the appointed imam, or stay at home. In the minority context, scholars of the Hanafi school stated that where there is no Muslim ruler to make such a decision, the community itself must come together and appoint the imam.[7] In this case, no one individual can choose to lead the Friday prayer, only the one appointed by the community. This is effectively what happens in Mosques all over Britain. Mosques represent communities; members from the community run these mosques as representatives of the community, and they determine who leads the Friday prayer.
Shariah courts in Britain attempt to apply the same logic. Where there is no Muslim ruler to appoint judges to annul marriages in which women are abused, the Muslim community can come together to appoint a body to represent them in performing such a function. There is precedent to all of this in the works of Islamic law. The matter of Ramadan must be treated likewise.

Avoiding Sectarianism

Now, one might hear a voice stubbornly declare, “Okay, I’ll follow this appointed body as long as they follow local sightings!” Unfortunately, this is not how the process works. If the authority is vested in a judge, or a body acting as the judge, the prerogative is theirs to decide which method to use. The insistence of only observing the “correct” Ramadan is akin to insisting that only the “correct” Muslim enters one’s mosque; it is a thought process that is sectarian in nature and destructive in consequence. Unless the appointed judicial body totally violates and steps outside of what is considered acceptable opinion, it has to be followed. So where do we find this pool of acceptable opinion?
The world of Sunni Islam, the Muslim majority, ultimately settled on limiting the pool of acceptable opinion to the four established schools of law: the Hanafi, Shafi‘i, Maliki and Hanbali. This is not to say that great scholarship cannot exist outside of these schools. However, when it came to process, it was impossible to run a society with its need for clearly identifiable rules and procedures, if there was no clear way to limit and define acceptable legal opinion.[8] And as these four schools had matured to such a degree that it became increasingly hard to be recognised as one trained in law outside of the domain of these four schools, with their clearly defined hierarchy of rules, and great tradition of legal literature to draw upon, it made sense to only accept them as representing the law of God in the society of man. This Sunni paradigm ran Muslim societies for centuries, and it is of great use to us. It relieves us of having to force our own correct answer onto others. It is enough for an answer to be acceptable, after which we must strive for the right process in order to establish the will of God on earth.

Every Method Has A Basis In Sacred Law

If we look at the large corpus of legal works authored under the aegis of these four schools of law, we will find that every method currently followed, in Britain or elsewhere, has a basis in sacred law.

  • Relying on astronomical calculations, for example, is an opinion that a number of reputable scholars across legal schools have championed, with the strongest voices belonging to the Shafi‘i school.[9]
  • Global sighting, meaning following a sighting from a faraway land, has been upheld as the strongest opinion of the Hanafi and Hanbali schools, and, according to some, the Maliki school.[10]
  • Local sighting, meaning each locality following its own sightings, has been seen as the strongest opinion of the Shafi‘i school, and, according to some, the Maliki school.[11]

In truth, if a person looks through the corpus of legal works, he/she will see that the methods that were deemed acceptable were vast. As long as the judicial council vested with the authority to declare Ramadan follows any of these, then it must be followed. It is that simple.
So what to make of the long articles defending local sighting as the correct way to declare Ramadan, or global sighting, or other methods? These should all be seen as academic papers. These would be presented to such a judicial body to advise of the best method to follow. Otherwise, they are of little practical consequence because an individual cannot declare their own month.
The issue of moonsighting illustrates the wider purpose of the central devotional acts of Islam that make up its five pillars. Each of these upholds not only the faith of individuals, but the very community of faith to which these individuals belong. The detailed rules of the ritual prayer, fasting and zakat provide much guidance and clarity onhow a community of faith is to be formed, strengthened and spiritually nourished. If the community finds itself in discord and disarray, its members can only blame themselves for not having established these pillars as they were instructed.

References
Note: Most references below are to the Kuwaiti Fiqh Encylopaedia (al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah) which is perhaps the best and most accessible comparative fiqh reference compiled in the modern era, contributed to by leading scholars across the Muslim world. Each entry in the encyclopaedia provides references to the primary legal sources from which it draws.
[1] “The Fire is surrounded by lusts; and the Garden is surrounded by disliked matters;” al-Bukhari, hadith no. 6487.
[2] This is the insight of the Hanafi legal school: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Khabar,” vol. 19, p. 16. Some Maliki texts also indicate this: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, p. 25.
[3] This is the strongest position of the Maliki school: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Khabar,” vol. 19, p. 17; and c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, p. 25.
[4] This is the strongest position of the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools, who stipulate this whether the sky is overcast or clear, and of the Hanafi school, who only stipulate this if the sky is overcast: al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Khabar,” vol. 19 pp. 16-17; and c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 25-7.
[5] This is the opinion of all four schools of law, who differ only on whether such a person must expiate for consciously violating the fast, or not. Some notable scholars of the early Muslim community, however, held that such a person is not obliged to fast at all. There is greater disagreement concerning someone who sees the new moon for the month of Shawwal (the day of ‘Id al-Fitr) if the judge does not accept their testimony. Many scholars held that such a person does not fast; although, Malik and Ahmad b. Hanbal (founders of the Maliki and Hanbali legal schools) held that such a person must ignore their own sighting and fast. See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ihlal,” vol. 7, pp. 150-1.
[6] Al-Marghinani, al-Hidayah, ed. Talal Yusuf, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 2000), vol. 1, p. 82.
[7] Al-Laknawi, ‘Umdat al-ri‘ayah ‘ala Sharh al-Wiqayah, ed. Salah Abu al-Hajj, 7 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2009), vol. 1, pp. 321-3; Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-mukhtar, (Cairo: 1885), vol. 1, pp. 540-1.
[8] A good exploration of the social need for fixed rules as the reason for the dominance of the schools of law is Mohammad Fadel, “The Social Logic of Taqlīd and the Rise of the Mukhtaṣar,” Islamic Law and Society, 3, (1996): pp. 193-233.
[9] Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgement of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgement of a judge.”
[10] Al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 36-8.
[11] Al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, p. 37. The authors of the Mawsu‘ah state that local sighting is only the strongest opinion of the Shafi‘i school. However, many key Maliki texts also attest to the superiority of local sighting; see for example al-Dasuqi, Hashiyat al-Dasuqi ‘ala al-Sharh al-kabir, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d), vol. 1, p. 510.

Photo by Bernd Thaller. Republished with much gratitude to our friends at Islamicate.

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

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

That Much Harder For Muslim Converts

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

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

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

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

Get Ready for Ramadan: Reflecting on the Great Opportunity – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin highlights the great opportunity for all Muslims in Ramadan to draw closer to Allah and be granted salvation. He urges everyone to reflect on that opportunity and increase in their aspirations for the good in Ramadan.