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Video : A Perspective on the Pandemic – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

* Courtesy of Cambridge Muslim College

The current pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of the world we live in. But is it unprecedented? Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Dean of Cambridge Muslim College, shares his perspective on this humbling phenomenon, one which is not unfamiliar in our Islamic tradition. He also highlights the beauty and healing of our religious practice and provides helpful suggestions on how to remain connected as Muslims.

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.

Donald Trump and the Triumph of Islam, by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s shock election, Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad urges us to consider where this dramatic shift in global politics is headed.


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Resources for seekers:

Qad Kafani Ilmu Rabbi (Scottish style), by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Listen to this unusual rendition of Qad Kafani, by Imam al-Haddad, in Scottish style, sung by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s Harmonia Alcorani. Support the Cambridge New Mosque by downloading fantastic Islamic songs from around the world here.

Translation:
My Lord’s knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
For my du’a and my agonising supplication
is a witness to my poverty.
For this secret (reason) I make supplication
in times of ease and times of difficulty
I am a slave whose pride
is in his poverty and obligation
O my Lord and my King
You know my state
And what has settled in my heart
of agonies and preoccupations
Save me with a gentleness
from You, O Lord of Lords
Oh save me, Most Generous
before I run out of patience (with myself)
My Lord’s knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
O One who is swift in sending aid
I ask for aid that will arrive to me swiftly
It will defeat all difficulty
and it will bring all that I hope for
O Near One Who answers
and All-Knowing and All-Hearing
I have attained realisation through my incapacity,
my submission and my brokenness
My Lord’s knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
I am still standing by the door, so please my Lord
have mercy on my standing
And in the valley of generosity, I am in i’tikaf (solitary retreat)
So, Allah, make my retreat here permanent
And I’m abiding by good opinion (of You)
For it is my friend and ally
And it is the one that sits by me and keeps me company
All day and night
My Lord’s knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
There is a need in my soul, O Allah
so please fulfil it, O Best of Fulfillers
And comfort my secret and my heart
from its burning and its shrapnel
In pleasure and in happiness
and as long as You are pleased with me
For joy and expansion is my state
and my motto and my cover
My Lord’s knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing

What unites Englishness and Islam? by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

How can we foster an ‘English Islam’? In this presentation given at the ‘Very English Islam’ garden party at Woking Peace Garden, September 2016, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (Dr Timothy Winter) of Cambridge University examines the shared traditions between Englishness and Islam. 

Read on the British Future website.

Rethinking Islamic Education – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Cambridge professor Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, an expert on Islamic education discusses the idea of intellect and its connection to religious thinking.

What is a good Islamic education? Is religion a series of beliefs simply memorized and passed down from generation to generation? Is it a Scripture and doctrine that is pliable and can be molded to our intellect and desires? What role does reasoning and intellect play in our religious practices? What role does practices and tradition play in our religious reasoning?

Resources for Seekers

The Power of Zakat in the 21st Century, by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad

One of Islam’s most familiar features is zakat, the obligatory charity. However, the pillar of zakat is a little different. Rather than dealing with our connection to God and our own personal self-betterment, the pillar of zakat is a form of social action, as it relates to society and other human beings, argues Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad.

On the fifth anniversary of the inception of the National Zakat Foundation, an organization which seeks to raise awareness about this important pillar and distribute it to worthy individuals, Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad talks about “junk politics,” the modern financial world, spirituality, and how zakat connects faith and finances in order to help us override the concept of corruption and capitalism in the 21st century.

Resources for Seekers

Photo by Tax Credits

Riding the Tiger of Modernity – Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad

Do the challenges of modernity make you want to run for the hills or jump on the back of the tiger, to see if you can tame it? Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad addresses this conundrum in this clip from this year’s Cambridge Muslim College retreat.

Cover photo by Thomas Hawk.

Resources on modernity for seekers

Modernity

Damaged Inner State? Imam Ghazali on Repentance

Ever felt broken inside, so badly you wondered whether you’d ever be fixed? In Sarajevo, Bosnia, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad discussed Imam Ghazali’s exposition of repentance and how a person can achieve it.

Relevance of Repentance

What is wrong action? How can we understand our damaged inner state, and repair it? Imam Ghazali explains that repentance consists of knowledge of the act, an emotion of sorrow, and a decisive inner and outward action that will erase the wrong action and help the spiritual wayfarer never to return to it. Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad discusses the Imam’s thoughts from The Sinanova Tekke, Sarajevo.

Our thanks to Travelling Light for this recording.

Cover picture by Anil Kumar.

Resources for seekers

Star Wars And The Crisis Of Modern Masculinity

That there is a crisis of modern masculinity, there is no doubt. Everyone from bloggers to The Atlantic Monthly is writing about it. Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad begins first with a synopsis of how damaging life without a father figure is and then moves on to discuss contemporary gender confusion as promoted by mass media: what exactly is a man, and what is a woman? We’ve lost count of how many brilliant points the shaykh makes in just 13 minutes!

Becoming a Man: A Comprehensive Guide to the Coming of Age in Islam is one of 30+ courses on offer at SeekersHub. Registration is easy and free.

Our gratitude to Mishkat Media for this recording.

Resources on the crisis of modern masculinity and related matters: