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The Gifts of Hajj – Habib Umar

The Meaning of Hajj

Sayyidi al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah preserve him) reminds us that the linguistic meaning of Hajj is seeking or intending. Thus the people of Allah are constantly performing Hajj because they are constantly seeking Allah. Just as their whole year is Ramadan, likewise their whole year is Hajj. Just as those performing Hajj respond to the call of Allah by saying “labbayk” they are swift to respond to the call of Allah. They take themselves to account and leave that which is disliked and dubious in all their states and actions. They reject the desires of their lower selves and they are the furthest of people from that which is prohibited. They constantly receive new blessings from their Lord so they constantly renew their ihram. Day and night they make tawaf around the House of their Lord, the One to Whom they turn themselves with absolute sincerity until nothing remains in them which is directed to other than Allah.

The bounty of Allah is available at all times of the day and night. This is why Allah swears by the morning light (duha) and by the night that He has not forsaken His Beloved (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), nor is He displeased with him.

If the Hajj has not been made possible for you, join with those making Hajj and share in their reward: by spending your wealth for the sake of Allah on your relatives, on the needy, by turning to Allah with your whole being. Make numerous your footsteps to good places, especially at the time of Fajr, and you will receive glad tidings from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace): “Give glad tidings of complete light on the Day of Judgement to those who walk constantly to the mosque in the darkness.” Those whose light is complete will no doubt be in his company (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) on the day on which Allah does not disgrace the Prophet and those who believe along with him. Their light stretches out in front of them and upon their right sides.

Ask to be present with them, and thank Allah for allowing our spirits to be with them. So many hearts in the far East or the far West receive the gifts of `Arafat and Mina because of their truthfulness with Allah.

 

Actions That Carry the Reward of Hajj

Nothing of course can equal actually performing the Hajj and worshipping Allah in those blessed places. However, since Allah knows that many people long to make Hajj every year but are unable to do so out of His generosity He made the reward for certain actions similar to the reward of a supererogatory Hajj.

1. Remembering Allah from Fajr until Ishraq. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Whoever who prays Subh (Fajr) in congregation and then sits in the place where he prayed remembering Allah until the sun rises and then prays two rakats has the reward of a complete Hajj and `Umrah.” He repeated “complete” three times.

2. Attending a gathering of knowledge. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “The one who goes out to the mosque wanting only to learn good or teach it has the reward of a complete Hajj.”

3. Going to the mosque for the congregational prayer. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Whoever performs ablution in his house and then goes out to perform the obligatory prayer in the mosque has a reward similar to the reward of a Hajj pilgrim. Whoever goes out to perform the mid-morning prayer (Duha) has a reward similar to the reward of the one performing `Umrah.”

4. Performing the Friday Prayer. Sa`id bin al-Musayyib said performing the Friday Prayer is “more beloved to me than a supererogatory Hajj.”

5. Performing the Eid Prayer. One of the Companions said: “Going out to pray Eid al-Fitr is equal to performing `Umrah and going out to pray Eid al-Adha is equal to performing Hajj.”

6. Fulfilling the needs of your brother or sister. Hasan al-Basri said: “Going to fulfil the need of your brother is better for you than performing Hajj after Hajj.”

7. Being good to your parents. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) commanded one of the Companions to be good to his mother. If you do so, he said: “You are a Hajj pilgrim, a person performing `Umrah and someone striving for the sake of Allah (mujahid).”

8. Performing obligatory actions. The slave can only draw near to Allah by performing supererogatory actions after first having performed that which is obligatory. This includes purifying one’s heart from forbidden attributes and guarding one’s tongue and limbs from committing forbidden actions. All of this is much harder on the lower self than many supererogatory acts of worship.

Finally there is no action more beloved to Allah on the Day of Eid than making a sacrifice. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) told his beloved daughter Sayyida Fatima al-Zahra that she would be forgiven for her previous wrongdoings with the first drop of blood to be shed from the sacrificed animal. She asked if this reward was specifically for the household of the Prophet and he replied: “For us and for all the Muslims.”

Post-Ramadan Renewal: 5 Lessons to Live By – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

* Originally Published on 24/06/2017

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani shares some key advice from the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on how to keep the spirit of renewal post-Ramadan.

Why Can’t I Listen to Several Spiritual Guides?

Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I have heard numerous times an injunction by my Sheikh that I understood to mean that it is improper to seek knowledge of Tasawwuf from other than one’s own Sheikh. I have struggled to understand it and am shy to ask for clarification directly. I’m sure the teachers here will be able to help insya’Allah. Does this include taking courses on spirituality with students of my sheikh, or others that are offered on SeekersHub? Or am I completely missing the mark?

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

What your Shaykh is talking about is a well-known principle among Sufi teachers. It is very hard to benefit from someone if they tell you thing and then someone else tells you something else. You just end up going in circles.

All the valid spiritual paths are good and true, but you can’t walk in two directions at once.

You should ask your shaykh exactly what he doesn’t want you to do, and who you can study what with.

Don’t be shy. The scholars say two types of people never benefit: someone who is too shy to ask an honest and well-intended question, and someone who is too proud to listen.

If you honestly want to benefit from more than one Sufi shaykh at once, you should just ask your shaykh if that is okay. He is not going to say that it is haram, but he’ll probably tell you that you that you are wasting your time. He only wants to benefit you after all.

If it becomes too much of an issue for you, just tell him that you can’t keep to his rules for the time being. It is not a matter of halal and haram, or Paradise and Hell.

Again you shouldn’t assume anything and you shouldn’t just rely on what others say. Ask him directly via phone or email and get the information directly from him. The sheikh-mureed relationship should be as direct as humanly possible.

I pray this helps.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Farid Dingle

Shaykh Farid Dingle grew up in a convert family in Herefordshire, UK. In 2007, he moved to Jordan to pursue traditional studies. Shaykh Farid continues to live in Amman, Jordan with his wife and kids. In addition to continuing his studies he teaches Arabic and several of the Islamic sciences.

Shaykh Farid began his journey in sacred knowledge with intensives in the UK and Jordan (2004) in Shafi’i fiqh and Arabic. After years of studying Arabic grammar, Shafi’i fiqh, hadith, legal methodology (usul al-fiqh) and tafsir, Sh. Farid began specializing in Arabic language and literature. Sh. Farid studied Pre-Islamic poetry, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, and Andalusian literature. He holds a BA in Arabic Language and Literature and continues exploring the language of the Islamic tradition.

In addition to his interest in the Arabic language Shaykh Farid actively researches matters related to jurisprudence (fiqh) which he studied with Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, and continues with Shaykh Amjad Rasheed. 

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.

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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

Husn Dhann and Social Media – Saad Razi Shaikh

How a Prophetic virtue can allow us to have a more positive internet experience.

During one of the GRE Verbal Classes, the tutor threw an interesting question at the students. “Say, you enter my living room, and see the fish bowl smashed, the goldfish not in sight, and the fat cat relaxing on the couch, happily licking its paws. Picture this scenario. What can you infer from it?” The overwhelming response was that the cat ate the fish. The tutor said no. What if actually one of my friends had come, taken the fish to a larger tank, and had thrown some cookies for the cat? Did you consider that scenario? Do we have any evidence the cat ate the fish? No. Do we have any evidence the fish is dead? No. All that we know for sure is that the fish is not in its bowl.

The tutor then gave us some sound advice. Don’t assume anything that you don’t see. Don’t add up stuff. Don’t use your imagination. Take what’s in front of you at face value.

Even for non-GRE folks, this is sound advice. Here, allow me to repeat an example Shaykh Walead Mosaad used in one of his talks. Say, you see a religious scholar walking down the street. At the local pub, he stops and walks in. He then emerges a little while later, walking funnily. Do we assume that our scholar got drunk at the pub, and consider the worst about him? Or do we count for the possibility of something else? For example, he could have walked into the pub as he wished to use a restroom. A few Islamophobic guys, seeing him in, may have attacked him. Injured and shaken, he walked out, with his bruises, although hidden from view, painful enough for him to stumble. Did we consider this possibility?

Psychology points towards an interesting observation. If the uncharitable behavior belongs to others, we tend to explain it in terms of their personality, their choices. If however, it belongs to us, we tend to explain it in terms of the situation. We look for the nuances, the missing details that will somehow excuse us. A friend with whom I discussed this denied this, saying truth is truth. I then dug out two pieces of information about him, and asked him if they were true. The first was a time during university, when he was passing by the gates of the mosque. A brother called him to prayers, he however didn’t go inside, but kept walking ahead. I asked him, was this true? He said yes. Another incident happened during university, when he walked into the girls hostel, even as the watchman tried to stop him. I asked him, if I introduced you to everyone using these two incidents, would it be okay? He protested, saying that while what I said was true, it was not complete.

He didn’t stop at the mosque because he had already prayed at another mosque where prayers were held earlier. He had walked into the girl’s hostel as a university function was happening at the common hall there, where he was appointed a volunteer, a fact the watchman didn’t know. This was the complete picture.

If this is the state of the ‘real’ world, how does the virtual one fare? Not any better, and in all probability, much worse. Non-verbal communication constitutes as much as sixty-five percent of our communication, it includes our facial expressions, our body language, our cues and gestures. In the virtual world, it is well, virtually lost. And so with little facts in hand but much clutter in our heads, it is easy to fall for the wrong picture.

It’s necessary then, that we realize that communication via the internet is even more imperfect than the one in real life. Huss Dhann allow us to remedy this. What is Husn Dhann? It is having a good opinion of others. It’s a simple command, yet one we’re most prone to overlook. Measure the chatter in your head for an entire day, and you’ll see husn dhann being traded for su dhann (ill opinion of others) all too often.

Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Munazil (Allah have mercy upon him), one of the early Muslims, said, “The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.” [Sulami, Adab al-Suhba]

Husn Dhann works at three levels. The first is having a good opinion of  ourselves, to not self-flagellate, to not have waswasa over our actions. The second works at the level of others, how we judge and measure the actions of others. The third works at the level of our relationship with Allah. Do we have a good opinion of our Creator? Do we accept the truth that we know little and worry much, and often fall into despair? Husn Dhann allows us to correct this.

Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.”[Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]

Here’s one way to understand this. Say, you’re given glasses you normally don’t wear. You are then asked to read what’s in front of you. You wouldn’t be able to. Does that mean the text in front of you is blurry? Or is it the case that you have put the wrong glasses on? We need to be honest and accept when the latter is the case, as it often is. As wondrous the world of the social media is, it is a makeshift reality. It is not a complete picture, and we should not assume it to be.

Much of the acrimony and bad taste can be avoided if we pepper our usage with a little husn dhann. We’re not at the other end, we don’t know what’s it like, we don’t know what place the other person is coming from. We’re not yet adept at decoding the nuances of language over the internet. Worse, the rage from the everyday is pumped into the virtual world, where it only rebounds. We need to calm ourselves, before we enter a place where the accountability is little, but the consequences real. Both as an antidote to the misinformation of our times, and as a way to follow the Prophetic character, husn dhann is a virtue we need now more than ever.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


 

Giving Life to the Night of the 15th of Shaaban and Its Virtues – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

In this talk Ustadh Amjad highlights the virtues of the night of the 15th of Shaaban, and encourages everyone to seek it out and to give life to that night.

 

Poetry and the Spiritual Journey

Fatimah Gomez reflects on her writing journey, and how poetry can cultivate spiritual growth.poetry

Sometimes, we may feel as if few truly understand the hardships that we go through in our lives. As I grew older, I realized that the struggle in our spiritual paths was something very real. I wanted to convey the importance of it to others, show that others go through hardships like any of us.

Ink written upon smooth paper brought the gravity of the spiritual journey to life for me. I knew that not everyone connected, understood and articulated words in the exact same way, but I found that the beauty of poetry was just that. It gave so many different meanings, connections and recognition of intentions for others to see, for a chance for others to take what they benefited from and leave the rest. The vast door behind poetry created a connection, a form of articulation of feelings and expressions for me. It gave me a way to convey my praise, my love, my joy, my struggles, within just a structure of words in a satisfying way for the soul.

Muslim Poets Through the Ages

Muslims poets in the past demonstrated their great yearning for their Beloved by compiling poems that spoke of sweet praise and yearning. Their words gave a way of reflecting over experiences of praise and striving for closeness to Allah. They also used poems to articulate themselves to the world, letting their thoughts and heart spill onto the paper. Even the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, had his own poets that would praise and glorify Allah through their words that were stitched with such love and sweetness. The poets who appeared in every age, created a connection spurred by words with their Beloved, enclosing them in a bonded connection that we all seek today as Muslims. Many of these poets are greatly known today, including Imam Al-Busiri, who wrote the entire Qasida Burdah, which is recited around the world. Spiritual masters such as Gawth Abu-Madyan, and Sheikh Muhammad Al-Habib, wrote poetry and songs that gave us a invitation to the experiences and deep connections they shared with their beloveds.

Words and Intentions

My goal was to let people understand the hardships of others, letting them recognize that we all struggle. I found that this understanding led to closer relationships with like-minded hearts who struggle along the same path, focusing on the same goal in their sight. However, I didn’t want to unwisely expose my own personal experiences and struggles. When I stumbled upon poetry, I realized that rhythms, rhymes and free verses were a perfect way for me to do so, while concealing my real story behind my own words.

Every word that I crafted, every verse that was written, I did so with three intentions. Firstly, I prayed that my words were a way for others to find an uplifting joy in the connection that would inspire them in beneficial ways along their own journey. Second, I had the intention of writing words to bring me closer to Allah’s pleasure. And lastly, all my poetry has the light of hope twisted into the meanings. I wanted to show others that there’s still hope to cling onto in a world of pain and destruction.

Writing to Allah and His Prophet

My poetry of praise brought me closer to loved ones, strengthened my desire to be with the Prophet, and made me yearn to learn more about him and Allah. Another beautiful thing about writing poetry is that we all articulate ourselves in our own unique manners and ways, making every word we say particularly special, ultimately discovering our true selves in the words we say, write, chant and praise.

My words held stories of struggles, pain, joy and moments nobody would ever truly know or understand except for my Lord. Writing created a wall that I could hold myself behind, a wall of words that people understood and connected to in their own unique and special ways, while behind that wall I shared a conversation with my Lord that only He knew about.

Not everyone will be attracted or encouraged to the idea of discovering the secrets behind poetry, but I would encourage others to try writing about their experiences, feelings, expressing their emotions in an intimate way with their Lord. I’ve always felt relieved and satisfied after putting together a poem that speaks my heart out, and I pray that we will all be able to find ways to re-connect, build and strengthen the delicate relationship of our Lord in such ways.

Poetry in Practice

A year ago, I stumbled upon a beautiful project called “Letters to the Beloved,” led by Sanad Collective, an organization based in Ottawa, Canada. This annual competition was aimed at a diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds, an invitation to allow others to discover their connection with the Prophet by writing a letter or a poem to him. This allowed for many to discover the power of their connection with their Beloved and express their yearning for him through the power of words. Over 300 letters and poems were submitted this year, with so many beautiful writings and articulations of love and longing. This year, I decided to submit a poem of mine, which explains where I continuously found love of the Prophet in the many journeys and roads of life.

Where Love is Found

A Poem to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم by Fatimah Gomez

Where it steeps from my heart the longer you’re near me

Where your presence is louder than the yellow sun collapsing

Where the pulse on my throat races against its own mortality

Searching for the true faith I need from you.

Where these ungrateful limbs of mine weep with endless sins

Where you give me the clearest water to cleanse my soul within

Where the clarity on this path of golden light starts to begin

I clutch your promise to my chest true.

Where ten thousand lies dance around

Where life’s lines are blurring, never ever sound

Where my ego’s long trailing cape is stripped, no longer gowned

Because humility and shame at this point are long due.

Where times become blurred with confusion and pain

Where the struggles of this world are enough to drive me insane

Where this candle of hope suddenly bursts into flames

And I imagine how you fell down hardships, too.

Where I trip and nearly devolve deep down in desperate despair

Where life leads me down traps I enter, completely unaware

Where mocking whispers enter my heart in a confused nightmare

I call out frightened, but knowing that like you, I’ll find my way out soon.

Where sweetness shrouds my body and paves my nights

Where I beg you to take my hand, not to leave from my sight

Where I press my fingers to your pulse as I’m overcome with plights

Knowing that your firm faith will eventually carry me through.

Where the chant of praise stirs within my heart, penetrates my soul

Where it forms this spirit of mine completely whole

Where this heart is purified from its cloaked state of coal

I realize that pain in this life was something I never knew.

Where the gentle rhythm of your heart revives mine from the dead

Where I place my foot ever so carefully upon the path that you tread

Where the soothing praise through my entire body begins to finally spread

And the light of your presence shines through.

Where your golden light strikes my vision suddenly blind

Where I was offered the distant mirages of this world but politely declined

Where the rope of your mercy I finally could grip and find

Suddenly, I want to see only the light emitting from you.

Where this heart of mine aches sorrowfully with painful cries

Where tears spring into these watering eyes of mine

When I wish that I were alive at that time

Just to have a brief glimpse of you.

Where your gentleness sweeps away the layers of dust off my heart

Where my tears of shameful cries are flowing from the start

Where realization strikes me that along this journey, we will never part

Because my Beloved صلى الله عليه وسلم,

I need you.


Fatimah Gomez is 15 years old, and the second eldest  of five. She’s currently in high school and has had a passion for writing since age 9. Recently, she completed her first book for Muslim youth, which she intends to publish soon. She enjoys playing and watching soccer, training for taekwondo, jdm cars, discovering the beauty in art and poetry and connecting with Allah’s creation.


 

Watching Over Oneself – Living Hearts Series

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers a critical topic; how to gain nearness to Allah through personal reformation. In this segment, he offers advice for time management and watching over oneself.

Imam Ghazali mentioned that one should establish a regular routine and stick to it watchfully. Watchfulness, or muraqaba, is key to success, as it can help you determine what’s working and what’s not working. Our religion has purpose, and we are not just here to obey Allah and save our skins. The higher purpose is mentioned in Hadith Jibreel as ihsan, or excellence. The least of it will save you, and the highest is that you’ll attain worshipping Allah as thought you see Him.

Watching over your thoughts is a higher level of spiritual discipline, because thoughts can lead to good or bad actions.  There are five levels of thoughts:

  1. Thought: a mere suggestion of the mind.
  2. Consideration: when you begin thinking deeper about the suggestion.
  3. Inclination: when your heart begins considering following through.
  4. Resolve: when you decide to follow through with the action.
  5. Determination: deciding to do the action.

The next step is watching intentions. Once you’ve decided to do something, take a moment to reflect on your intentions rather than jumping into action. Judge whether your intentions fit into your life plan. Intentions is how you direct every little thing in your life towards your purpose, giving everything meaning.

Intentions can make all the difference, so be sure to make high intentions. A person will no intention will not have much direction in life, and will have lived without purpose. Conversely, a person who lives with much intention can still have a strong sense of direction, even if things seem to be falling apart.

The third step is having watchfulness in actions. To know whether a certain action fits into your life purpose or not, requires knowledge of two things. Firstly, it requires knowledge of the deen, to measure where any actions fits into the realm of permissibly. Secondly, it requires a knowledge of the sunna, or Prophetic practice, to establish a standard for the actions.

About the Series

In this engaging and inspiring series Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers Imam Ghazali’s brilliant explanation in his Renewal of the Sciences of Religion (Ihya Ulum al-Din) of how one could become God conscious through watchfulness (muraqaba), and self-accounting (muhasaba). This series will give you keys, insights, and timeless wisdom on how to change oneself, through setting goals and conditions, watching over oneself, taking oneself into account, and spiritual striving.