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Ramadan Seminar Q&A Session – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Originally posted on May 8, 2018

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani answers questions on the fiqh of fasting, including the nullifiers of fasts, expiation for broken fasts, and the spiritual retreat.

Among the many questions and points Shakyh Faraz addresses, he mentions that if one breaks fast deliberately or by accident, the time of fasting is not over, and one is able to fast, then one refrains from everything a fasting person refrains from until fasting ends. This is a sign of contrition and remorse.

Hasten to Break Fast

The Shaykh also mentions that one should not delay breaking fast excessively out of a mistaken sense of piety or fervor. Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said:

قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَحَبُّ عِبَادِي إِلَيَّ أَعْجَلُهُمْ فِطْرًا

Allah Mighty and Majestic said: “The most beloved among my servants are those who hasten to break their fast.” (Tirmidhi)

Be Tactful and Considerate with Others

But one must also remember that when in a group of people who believe they are in the right to delay, one must be discreet about the matter and not make disagreement a point of contention or rancor. If you consider breaking it in such a situation do it tactfully.

These and many others points and rulings are covered in this session. And you should listen to it even if you know all the answers as there is no harm and abundant good in reviewing what one knows and strengthening one’s knowledge.

May Allah grant us eternal success in the blessed month of Ramadan and in all the months He has decreed for each and every one of us until we are brought before Him. Amin.


Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al Kallas, may Allah have mercy on him, as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersHub in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

Support SeekersHub Global in our effort to bring the light of Prophetic Guidance to Muslims everywhere completely free of charge.


Conquering Mount Sawm, by Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya

Especially motivating for those dreading the long summer fasts, the following diary entries, written by British educator Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya, should provide reassurance that keeping hunger at bay isn’t as hard as it seems.Although describing the challenge of keeping a voluntary fast, the lessons are just as relevant for Ramadan.

After reading extracts from Brad Pilon’s Eat. Stop. Eat, encouragement from my teacher and reflection upon the Sunna, I decide to embark on the ultimate challenge for a food-loving Muslim: a voluntary fast. (And since it’s British summer time, the fast lasts from 02:30 till 9PM – 19½ hours!). What encouraged me was last Ramadan’s experience; we British Muslims dreaded the long summer fast of 2012 – the longest of its kind for almost 30 years! And yet, we did it. It wasn’t that hard. Indeed, I found this extract from a hindsight entry made last year under the title ‘Miracle of Fasting’:

“I somehow fasted from 4.50am till 9.30PM, possibly my longest ever. And it wasn’t hard – despite my normally having 3 square meals and 2 tea-breaks in that time! Allah made it easy, put baraka in my suhur and gave me energy, Alhamdulillah!”

So I went to sleep last night, after a late Isha, with the intention that if Allah would get me up at Tahajjud, only then would I fast with the following intentions:

  1. To follow the exalted Sunna, which should suffice us from having any other motive (though, as with other Sunnas, modern scientific findings help us appreciate the worldly benefits)
  2. To discipline my mind and nafs (self/soul) not to think about food all the time, and therefore
  3. Have a more productive day

02:50 AM

Allah woke me at 2:05AM and I knew He wanted me to try this experiment (perhaps so I could share it with SeekersHub Global readers!). I scrambled to the kitchen to prepare an odd suhur of instant porridge, last night’s pizza & chips leftovers, tea, a date and orange juice. Suitably stuffed, and after some fervent du’a, I’m ready to face the day… after the small matter of sleep!

1:15 PM

Breakfast wasn’t an issue as I was still full from suhur. No headaches or tiredness either. Skipped my compulsory tea-break at work without fuss. This is a big deal as, normally, the first moment after finishing my lesson at 10:30  I’d be rushing to the kitchen to make a cuppa! Got some less intensive down-time for the next few hours. Over half way now: so far, so good.

From a teacher’s point of view I find the ability to fast extraordinary. The nafs is like a teenager/child. Where it knows it has options, it’ll test the boundaries and ask for more than it deserves. However when the boundaries are clear from the outset of the day and one has made the firm resolve NOT to eat until sunset, the nafs grows quiet and barely a squeak of defiance is ever heard!

4:30

Three hours later and still no pangs, Alhamdulillah. I got a slight headache after hours of study on a Seekers Guidance course,  email checking and internet research. The research was worth it though: found out about The Fast Diet which contains much of the inspiration that got me started.

Now, after a brief rest, am pretty energized whilst tutoring the first of two lessons. Only two problems I’ve encountered so far: tendency to do excessive or useless internet jobs, and a longing for Maghrib time to come!

7:00

Last lesson done. Slight headache. Will rest for 20 mins before Tai Chi class at 7:30.

10:00

OK, Tai Chi was agony on my legs for some reason (found out later that this was due to my incorrect posture in one of the positions!) But Maghrib came upon me far from passing out due to hunger.

Conquering Mount Sawm…From the Outside

So if I could climb and conquer Mount Sawm outside Ramadan, anyone can. I’ll leave you with a few top tips that helped me get there:

  1. Have a strong intention for Allah.
  2. Consume a hearty, nutritious (I did have porridge remember!) suhur
  3. Read inspiring literature about benefits of the fast: if you’re not up to date with the two world famous and highly popular diets that lead incredible scientific support to the Sunna fasting system, then do read The Fast Diet by Mosley and Eat.Stop.Eat by Pilon
  4. Keep really busy. I’m sure you noticed my day was quite packed with different activities including work, study and fitness.
  5. Ponder that if millions of other Muslims around the world can do it, so can you. Mothers do this to get over the fear of childbirth. Fasting is not nearly as painful. If you need motivation outside Ramadan, when you are struggling to fast when most people aren’t, then there are a few things to consider: a) Your worship is especially likely to be more sincere. Keep your fast secret (as is recommended with all voluntary acts) and enjoy the special connection you have with Allah, knowing that you are fasting sincerely for His pleasure alone; b) The health benefits you learn from acting upon point 3 above is enough to inspire anyone to take up fasting weekly. Non-Muslims throughout the UK are ‘fasting’ Monday and Thursday due to the proven long-term benefits to health. As Muslims we have even more motivation; c) Although, not everyone is fasting, you can be sure that the ‘ulema of Taqwa, awliya and saliheen all fast regularly. It’s certainly comforting to know you are united with them in following the Sunnah of regular voluntary fasting.
  6. Allow yourself a Sunna qaylula (afternoon nap) after Zuhr; in long summer days this means you can get through plenty of work before your nap. Many nap straight after work. When you wake, it’s just the final lap with the finish line in sight.
  7. Enjoy and take advantage of the fact that you can be so much more productive on a fast day.

The Thought is Scarier Than the Experience

As we’ve all experienced, the thought of fasting – of not having one’s regular meals, of skipping one’s normal snacks – is actually a lot more frightening than the fast itself. Ironically, this is like productivity generally: the anticipation of how difficult it will be to achieve important goals is normally much worse than the actual experience.

And so the upshot is also the same: stop worrying; just do it! Ramadan Mubarak to all reading this and I’d be so grateful if you could remember me in your duas when you break your fasts.

Fruit Photo by Michael Stern. Clock picture by Christine Callahan.

Resources for Seekers

Celebrate the Gift of Ramadan – Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi

Shaykh Qutaiba Albluwi gives advice on how to enter Ramadan and how to make the most of it through the idea of celebrating this blessed month.

Praise be to Allah who granted us the health and the well-being so that we can come today and attend one of the circles of knowledge and remembrance. Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds, for every bounty that He has embraced us with, whether we are aware of it or not. Once a person reflects on the bounties and gifts that Allah Most High bestows upon each one of us every day, they see that every day there is a flood of a new gifts that Allah bestows upon us.

We just need to open our hearts such that we can witness them. One of the gifts today that He has given all of us is that He allows us to establish a means towards fulfilling one of His obligations, which is fasting the month of Ramadan.

They say that someone who establishes the means hopefully they will also establish the ends. If somebody is enlightened at the beginning, most likely they will also be enlightened towards the end. So if Allah gives you the tawfiq that you make good wudu, you come early to the Masjid, you walk and do not drive – these are means towards the end – then most likely your prayer is going to be good. That is how what we think of Allah Most High.

Be Grateful for Reminders

One of the beautiful aspects of our Shari‘a, our tradition, is the concept of a reminder. Many of you have attended many sessions about how to prepare for Ramadan. And if you did not attend one of them you wish you had. The imam might have given you some advice about how to prepare for Ramadan. So it’s a challenge for each one of us when we come to such topics which we are well acquainted with, or that we think, we perceive, we are well acquainted with – not to gain benefit, but to be interested. It’s a bit difficult to be interested in these topics become like a routine.

Now looking at the concept of a reminder and our Shari‘a can help us survive a reminder.Allah Most High ordered his Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to always give reminders. A reminder is not teaching you something, but for you be reminded of it. You know it already. It is not like learning from scratch, but yet Allah ordered the prophets to continually give people reminders, because that’s our nature.

We are humans. We forget. Actually we forget much much quicker than we even think. In the morning, your parents tell you to do something. Your spouse tells you to do something or get something. And at the end of the day you forgot to bring that thing. We get lost in routine.

How to Receive Gifts from Allah

It is from Allah’s mercy that we need continuous reminders. Now people receive it in two ways. One might say, “Well, you told me the first time. Are you being pushy?” Another person might say, “I am bored.” That is one way to look at the reminders, but the interesting part is that the Qur’an says:

يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding. (Sura al Baqara 2:269)

Those who have the core of intelligence. Those who are really, really smart. These are the ones who look at the reminders and say: “I need the reminder. Without the reminder I probably cannot survive.” These reminders are from Allah. These are His words:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ لَمْ يَخِرُّوا عَلَيْهَا صُمًّا وَعُمْيَانًا

And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind. (Sura al Furqan 25:73)

This is how Allah describes the believers. Every time they are reminded of one of the gifts, one of the signs, one of the verses of Allah Most High, they don’t receive it with deaf ears and blind eyes. So we ask Allah to let us benefit from His reminders.

Celebrating the Gift of Ramadan

We should celebrate Ramadan. I started hearing this term celebrating Ramadan – Muslims celebrating Ramadan – honestly, I started hearing this more when I came to the West. In the East we don’t hear that term. The most commonly used term is a Qur‘anic term, which is “shuhud al shahr,” to witness the month. Allah says in the Qur’an:

فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ

Whoever witnesses the month, let him fast it. (Sura al Baqara 2:185)

Normally, whether it’s in the media or it’s in the writings, they use the term witness. Now, here, we started hearing the term celebrate. The term is not actually chain overriding that term witness, but it has an extra element. It’s actually a very beautiful element, which is the element of joy. There is some joy and happiness.

It’s not like month of Ramadan is coming by, I’m just passing that passage of time. Rather I am now in a ceremony. I am in a celebration. I am celebrating this month and the celebration of the month can be with the outward ceremonies. Our master Umar ibn al Khattab, Allahe be pleased with him, was passing by the masjid and he saw that it was full of people at night praying tarawih. He rejoiced. That’s a ceremony, a ritual that we have.

I’ve seen Muslims and non-Muslims look amazed by these long lines of iftar. Of people sitting and everybody’s holding their dates waiting for that signal, and when that event comes in and everybody eats, and you could see the smile and the happiness fill the room. It’s part of the ceremony. But celebration is more about something in the heart.

To prepare for the month and to go through the month, the concept that I am celebrating this month adds a great dimension to how we live that through the month of Ramadan. So, why should we celebrate?

The Universe Rejoices

First the skies, the universe, is celebrating and the question then is: Why am I not joining? That is the right question, because everything is celebrating. the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to tell the good tidings at the beginning of the month to his Companions. He would say: “A great month has arrived. The doors of paradise will be open.”

I can imagine how beautiful it would be, for the skies, the doors of paradise to be open. Imagine the breeze, the beauty, the fragrance of Paradise that opens to the skies and to the worlds.

And imagine the heat and the doors of hellfire, which is roaring. It is always roaring and whistling and breathing. There are angels watching over it who have never smiled since Allah created the Hellfire.

But in this month Allah orders them all to be closed. Moreover all of these demons that impact us and other creatures in ways that we don’t know much about, Allah orders the most evil of these demons to be chained. There are a lot of events that we don’t see, but they are happening.

It’s a big celebration. And generally if there is something magnificent happening in the skies then the believers should connect. A believer should connect. That is why we celebrate Laylat al Qadr. The skies celebrate it. The angels come down. And who else is coming? Jibril himself, the Ruh himself, comes down in person. Allah orders everybody to come down. They descend. It’s a big celebration, so the question is am I joining or not? Because everybody is celebrating.

The Two Friends in Paradise

There is another story. Our master Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, one of the ten Companions whom the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, promised would enter paradise. He says: I had two friends. They were from the same tribe. They were probably relatives since they were always competing for the good.

In one of the battles one of them was killed as a martyr. A year later his friend passed away, but not as a martyr. He just passed away. So Talha said, I saw in a dream that the door of Paradise was closed. Then there was some knocking and it was opened, and I saw the second friend inside. He looked around and then he found his companion and then he ordered him to come in.

In other words, the second one was in Paradise and he was inviting the person who was a martyr to come in. And then, he says, the door was closed. So the first friend, the martyr, knocked again just to make sure. And then offered his hand saying, Can you pull me in? They said, No, your time is not now.

So Talha says: “I woke up and I went to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and I told him this is what I saw. Everybody was surprised that the second man who was not a martyr got into paradise before the first one. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Why are you surprised?” Did he not live to fast another Ramadan? And he prayed six thousand raka‘t. (Musnad Ahmad)

Increase in Rank and Station

Now, regardless of the theological questions that will come to your mind about why and how, we trust Allah’s wisdom and we trust Allah’s Justice. But there is a message here that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is teaching us. And that is to attend Ramadan. It is such a great bounty, such a great gift, that the more you attend Ramadan, the more likely it is that you will gain higher station in Paradise.

Every Ramadan that we pass through is a cause for joy. Rejoice in the fact that Allah has allowed us to come through it. We know friends who did not come through. All of us probably have loved ones who passed away. They are not about to witness Ramadan with us. So praise Allah for allowing us to witness Ramadan once more.

Ramadan is truly a cause for celebration.


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]

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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

‪Ramadan Detox‬‏ – YouTube

Dr. Rehan Zaidi shares important strategies for a healthy Ramadan. Dr. Zaidi discusses how we can easily detoxify ourselves during Ramadan for more energy, clarity and overall health. The detox process includes tips and advice on food selections.

Learn more about Dr. Zaidi’s work at www.MysticMedicine.com . Bio: Dr. Rehan Zaidi

 

Rehan Zaidi

 

MMcom

www.MysticMedicine.com

How Should We Treat Wild Animals?

Shaykh Jamir Meah advises on how we should treat wild animals such as lions and tigers.

 

Question:

As-salaam alaikum,

We know that our prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) loved cats, and thus we as Muslims are to treat cats with kindness and respect. Does this apply to larger cats like lions and tigers? To what extent?

Thank you

 

Answer:

Wa’alaykum assalam, 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) showed mercy to all of God’s creation and encouraged others to follow example. This extended to animals, plants and trees, and the earth in general. As such, it is unlawful to abuse, hurt, or mistreat, animals, plants, other organisms, or earthly resources without a valid excuse sanctioned by the shariah.

An example of the Prophet’s concern for animals is when he (peace and blessings be upon him) saw a camel which was burdened with a huge load, and he said, ‘Fear Allah when you deal with these beasts of burden.’ [Abu Dawud]

Cats were not particularly singled out, rather they are treated with the same compassion and respect as other created beings with souls, though the companion Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) did have a personal fondness of cats.

Warmest salams,
Jamir

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


 

7 Student Testimonials to Inspire You #2

Last year alone SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary served more than 80,000 students from over 140 countries.

Here is what some of them had to say.

SeekersHub courses challenge you on the things you thought you knew

I wanted to sign up with a course from SeekersHub as I wanted to gain more knowledge on the deen, but I never knew where to start. People from various social media platforms encouraged me to be engaged with this organization as it was one of the more authentic means to gain knowledge in comparison to the variety of non-authentic things you can get on the internet.

I didn’t have any concerns when signing up because it was more of a case of I won’t lose out on anything if I signed up. You’re getting more out of signing up than you could lose. Since the classes were online, I was able to organize the time in my daily life to prioritize the gaining of knowledge. It helped me remove the unnecessary things that I do day to day and It helped me gain a wider understanding of things that I was not clear about in the beginning.

The courses challenge you on the things you thought you had an idea on. You have nothing to lose by signing up and the worst that could happen would be you would be where you started on your path, not behind it.

Joshna Yasmin Ali – London, UK

SeekersHub helped me realize the importance of prayers

I saw taking classes at SeekersHub as a tangible way of keeping my ever-turning heart more consistently in line with Allah’s grace. I also saw it as a useful way of learning for the sake of Allah. My only worries was how manageable would it be to pick and commit to a course and the background of the teachers I would be learning from.

Through these classes I realized the importance of prayers, and learning that knowledge is for Allah alone. I felt a sense of grounding in my spiritual development through this. To someone wondering on whether they should take classes here, just do it – procrastination and putting things off is either our way of masking our fears of getting things wrong, or Shaytan’s way of keeping us down and in despair of Allah’s mercy.

Have hope in what Allah is offering to you and give it a try – you’ll have lost nothing for trying. Thank you to all the teachers, and thank you for making it free and accessible.

Mobeen Salih – London, UK

SeekersHub changed my approach to knowledge from combative to gentle

I joined SeekersHub because I believe that the teachers are trustworthy and that they have a good agenda and a good intention. I wish to benefit and be a part of that. My only worries were from my end due to the fact that I have learning difficulties, and executive function difficulties.

I often wish I can be near to SeekersHub but I am very blessed to have access via the internet. Through SeekersHub I was exposed to some of the most knowledgeable and beneficial scholars of our time. I wish Seekershub can refresh Islam everywhere, because it refreshes myself.

I have changed my approach to knowledge from being very literal and harsh and debate-driven, thanks to Shaykh Faraz’s gentle example. He has taught me that intelligence can be equally deep and meaningful as a spiritual tool. I don’t know the history of SeekersHub except it may have been inspired by SunniPath some time ago.

I live in NZ but so much of the real estate of my heart is deeply affected by those who are spreading light with the aid of SeekersHub. I can only pray for Seekershub to have success in much abundance. If there is a reviver, I feel your work is a big part of this.

Thank you all so much and may Allah reward all of you with much abundant good both in this life and in the hereafter

Lydia Mills – Auckland, New Zealand

SeekersHub studies improved my relationship to Allah

I registered for Seekers courses because I felt that my knowledge about Islam was very insufficient and I wanted to improve my relationship with Allah Ta‘ala. Alhamdulillah, my family and I never hesitated to register for the courses we took on Seekers.

I’ve realized the importance of studying with a teacher and I’ve realized the importance of seeking Sacred Knowledge in this day and age. After taking a few Seekers courses, I continued to pursue my Islamic education, and I’m now taking an ‘Alimah degree, alhamdulillah.

Learning the Faraid al ‘Ayn is a must for every Muslim, and we’re here in this world to please Allah Ta‘ala in whatever we do. We must know that which pleases and displeases Him, so that we may perform those acts which please Him, and avoid those which displease Him.

Ikhlas – Auckland, New Zealand

SeekersHub offers a rich variety of important and needed Islamic courses

I joined SeekersHub to learn more about my deen. SeekersHub truly follows the Sunni way and it has benefited my family and me. SeekersHub offers a rich variety of different Islamic courses which are very important nowadays and which we are in immense need of. I pray that Allah may reward you.

Hayat S – Switzerland

SeekersHub courses have changed everything in my life in a positive way

Alhamdulillah, Allah Most High blessed me at a young age with a desire to seek sacred knowledge. But living in the West, and in a rural community, imposed many limitations. Being a woman also meant I couldn’t travel and live in a foreign country to learn (more than the fard al-‘ayn) without a mahram. So I had a look at several online courses offering traditional Islamic knowledge, but most of them were either too costly or had many prerequisites which I wasn’t yet able to fulfill.

SeekersHub seemed like the only option for me, so I enrolled. Alhamdulillah that I did! I often think, where would I be today if I hadn’t? Alhamdulillah, I had no qualms before or after signing up for my first class, or for any Seekers course since. This is because I know with certainty that the knowledge being conveyed is taught through authentic chains of transmission, and that the teachers are all qualified Islamic scholars.

I feel like these courses have changed everything in my life (in a positive way). But one thing I can say really benefited me is the absolute and apparent sincerity of the teachers. Even though I read many books on my own, learning these vast subjects with a qualified teacher enriched my understanding and truly humbled me. Through SeekersHub I’ve learnt that the benefits of seeking sacred knowledge are innumerable.

I now feel more motivated to perform supererogatory acts of worship and I have more respect for those around me, especially my parents. My aspirations are loftier now than ever. If you’re unsure about joining SeekersHub, do some research, and “ask those of remembrance if you know not.”

I probably would not have looked into SeekersHub if it hadn’t been recommended to me by a scholar I respect. But in the end, just pray istikhara and click that ‘Register’ button; you won’t regret it! I think the team at SeekersHub is taking care of a much-needed fard al kifaya. May Allah Most High preserve our scholars, and reward well those who seek knowledge of His din!

Sufi – New Zealand


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‘Aqiqa for Adults – Is It Permissible?

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat is asked if it permissible to perform ‘aqiqa for an adult, and if so, how does one go about it.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

My mother told me that she never had a ‘aqiqa done for her when she was a newborn. As such, I want to host one for her in the company of her family. My mother’s mother is currently alive and would insha Allah be present, however, her father has passed away.

Seeing as it is normally incumbent on the father to host the ‘aqiqa, is it permissible for someone else to financially host it in this circumstance? Can it be hosted by any one of her family members, including her children? Can it be a joint effort of multiple individuals or does it have to be carried out by one person only?

Given that she is an adult, does she have to be the one to carry it out for herself? We would like to host it for her as a surprise. Are there any rulings pertaining to this overall situation that we should be made aware of (that she is an adult, her father is not alive, that it is a surprise)?

Jazzakum Allah khayr for your time.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

The ʿaqiqa is a sacrifice of an animal to give thanks to Allah for a newborn child. In the Hanafi school, according to one position, the ʿaqiqa is merely permissible (mubah), and recommended as a voluntary act of worship according to another. The Shafiʿi and Hanbali schools see it as an emphasized sunna, and the Maliki school recommends it.

Based on this, it is not necessary to perform it for your mother. Doing so with the intention of sacrificing for the sake of Allah, and to show thanks for the blessing of the life your mother was given is a very virtuous act. In fact, sacrificing is part of what Allah, Most High, Himself commanded His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, to do in order to show thanks to Him.

Sacrificing and feeding people are clearly mentioned by the scholars of tafsir with regards to Sura al-Kawthar 108:2. (Biqaʿi, Nazm al-Durar) These are acts which show gratitude to the giver of the blessing, and are a means for His creation to benefit from this blessing through being fed.

Should you choose to perform an ʿaqiqa, there are no hard and fast rules on how it should be done. You may do it in whichever way in convenient for you. You can keep the meat, or distribute it raw or cooked; with he bones broken or otherwise. (Ibn ʿAbidin, Radd al-Muhtar; al-Muwsuʿa al-Kuwaitiyya).

May Allah allow us to always thank Him for His favors upon us.

Abdul-Rahim

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Mercy, the Stamp of Creation

Dr Umar Faruq Abd Allah examines the role of mercy and eternal salvation in the Islamic tradition, and its imprint on all affairs of the universe.

Although Islam is often proclaimed as the “religion of peace,” theologically, it is more accurate to refer to it as the “religion of mercy.” God has designated mercy as his primary relation to the universe and sent his greatest prophet, Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, as its emissary.

Following this, Muslims are commanded to be vanguards of mercy to the world in fostering benefit and averting harm. Islam enjoins a healthy and spiritually alive heart and teaches a law of universal reciprocity by which God shows mercy to the merciful and withholds it from the unmerciful.

The explicit link between the Arabic words Islam, literally “entering into peace,” and salam, “peace” or “perfect peace” has been frequently highlighted of late. It is mainly because of this etymological connection that many Muslims and others advance the claim that Islam is a religion of peace, just as Christianity is customarily called a religion of love. Certainly, in terms of their creed and the historical record, Muslims are no less justified in equating Islam with peace than Christians are in identifying their faith with love. From a theological perspective, however, it would be more precise to describe Islam as the religion of mercy.

Islamic revelation designates the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, as “the prophet of mercy,” and Islam’s scriptural sources stress that mercy — above other divine attributions — is God’s hallmark in creation and constitutes his primary relation to the world from its inception through eternity, in this world and the next. Islam enjoins its followers to be merciful to themselves, to others, and the whole of creation, teaching a karma-like law of universal reciprocity by which God shows mercy to the merciful and withholds it from those who hold it back from others.

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “People who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you.” (Tirmidhi) Because these words epitomize Islam’s fundamental ethos, it was called “the Tradition of Primacy” and, for generations of Classical Muslim teachers, constituted the first text that many of them handed down to their students and required them to commit to memory with a full chain of transmitters going back to the Prophet Muhammad.

God: The All-Merciful

In Arabic, God is called by many names, but his primary and most beautiful name, embracing all others, is Allah (God, the true God). Allah is a derivative of the same Semitic root as the Biblical Elohim (God) and ha-Eloh (the true God) of Moses and the Hebrew prophets or the Aramaic Alaha (God, the true God) of Jesus and John the Baptist. The formula “In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving” (bismi Allah al Rahman al Rahim), occurs one hundred and fourteen times in the Qur’an — Islam’s holy book — at the beginning of all but one chapter and twice in another. The phrase is central to Islamic ritual.

In Islam, the All-Merciful (al Rahman) and the Mercy-Giving (al Rahim) may be said to be the greatest names of God after Allah. Of all his names, they are most descriptive of his relation to the world and emphasize his will in salvation history and throughout eternity to benefit creation and ultimately bring about the triumph of supreme good over evil.The Qur’an states: “It is the All-Merciful who assumed the Throne,” (Sura Ta Ha 20:5) meaning that God designs the world and rules the universe in his aspect as the All-Merciful.

Consequently, mercy is the stamp of creation and the ontological thread that runs through everything. All that transpires — even temporal deprivation, harm, and evil – will, in due course, fall under the rubric of cosmic mercy. One Islamic luminary maintained: “If God had revealed instead that ‘the Overpowering (al Jabbar) [another of God’s ninety-nine principal names] had assumed the throne,’ creation would melt” Another verse reads: “God ordained mercy upon himself,” (Sura al An‘am 6:12) again emphasizing that mercy is a universal law (sunna), the dominant theme of the cosmos, and the fundamental purpose of the creative act.

Two prophetic Traditions reveal God as saying: “My mercy has vanquished my wrath,” and in the second: “My mercy takes precedence over my wrath.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Because we live in a universe bearing mercy’s imprint, harmony and beauty permeate all things: “Our Lord, you have embraced all things in mercy and knowledge.” (Sura al Ghafir 40:7) In the verse, mercy — technically an attribute of act— is given priority of reference over knowledge — an attribute of essence — again emphasizing mercy’s predominance in the universal plan.

The Prophet of Mercy

According to Islamic revelation, Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, was the last and greatest of God’s messengers, fulfilling the legacy of the Biblical and extra-Biblical prophets and confirming the teachings of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. As the All-Merciful’s chief emissary, he was fittingly called the “prophet of mercy” (nabi al rahma . The Qur’an says of him: “We did not send you but as a special mercy to all the worlds.” (Sura al Anbiya 21:107) The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, stated: “In certainty, I was not sent to bring down curses; I was only sent as a special mercy.” (Muslim)

As in English, “mercy” in Arabic is tied to compassion and closely linked with the act of forgiveness and pardon. Theologically, Islamic tradition defines mercy as the intent to bring good to others and cause them benefit. As such, being merciful implies the desire to avert evil and harm. When associated with acts of pardon and forgiveness, mercy is retroactive and after the fact. But as it relates to the intent to bring about good or avert evil, mercy assumes an elemental and proactive dimension and is often before the fact, evincing a forward-looking quality that seeks to set things right, make a break with the past, and foster new beginnings where goodness and benefit can thrive.

The thread of proactive mercy ran throughout the fabric of the Prophet’s life and was the key to his phenomenal, hard-earned, and lasting success, Allah bless him and give him peace. The loyalty and love of his followers and the awe and respect he evoked among his enemies were the fruits of such magnanimity. He said: “The closest of you to me on the Day of Judgment will be the best of you in character.”

Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, jested with children, showed a kindly humor toward adults, and even gave his followers friendly nicknames. He visited the sick, inquired after the welfare of neighbors, friends, followers, and even those who disbelieved in him. He was a warm egalitarian and shared everything with those around him, including their poverty. He was always willing to forgive, rarely chastising those who disobeyed him.

He did not restrict his mercy to his followers. One day in Medina, he was sitting with his Companions, who later related: “A funeral procession passed us by, and the Prophet, may God bless and keep him, stood up so we all stood up because he had. Then we said: ‘O Messenger of God, it is only the funeral procession of a Jew.’ He replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Like Moses and other Biblical prophets, Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, took part in battle. He was victorious but not a “world-conqueror.” Although he engaged in war, he waged peace, and his inclination toward amnesty and diplomatic solutions is unmistakable. Above all it was the attitude of perpetual mercy that enabled him ultimately to forge for the first time in history a pax islamica in the Arabian Peninsula.

That same attitude combined with masterly statesmanship enabled him not only to rescue the city of Medina — which had invited him for that purpose — from generations of civil war between its feuding clans but to create an island of stability in a sea of chaos and then extend that island gradually until it claimed the sea.

Those who died in the Prophet’s battles were relatively few, Allah bless him and give him peace, and, according to some estimates, numbered around two hundred on both sides. He laid down rules of engagement and parameters of war that became a central part of Islamic law, forbidding the predation of civilian populations, the wanton destruction of lands and livestock, and the use of fire, flooding, and poisons that kill indiscriminately.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, accepted people at their word and forgave them easily. He harbored no desire for vengeance and rejected the pagan custom of blood feuds and revenge. There was nothing mindless or fanatic about his piety. He was never intransigent or bent on war.

Men who had been numbered among his most relentless and unforgiving enemies — like Abu Sufyan ibn Ḥarb, ʿIkrima ibn Abi Jahl, and Safwan ibn Umayya — ultimately came not only to accept and follow the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, but, during the last years of their lives, devoted themselves heroically to his mission with a passion surpassing the enmity that had driven them before.

Even in the midst of bitter war, the Prophet inclined toward peaceful solutions. The Armistice of Hudaybiyya exemplified this spirit and his desire for the ultimate welfare of his enemies, in this case the pagans of Mecca. It was reached at a time when Muslim strength was reaching a high point and the power of the Prophet’s pagan opponents — now in irreversible decline—was vulnerable and could have been ruthlessly crushed.

Yet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, accepted without hesitation conciliatory concessions which initially appeared so humiliating that they bewildered his followers. The Qur’anic revelation proclaimed the armistice a “manifest victory,” and within weeks it was clear that it had set the stage for winning the hearts of the Prophet’s harshest enemies, Allah bless him and give him peace, and opening doors of reconciliation, which for years had been stubbornly shut.

In due course, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, “conquered” Mecca peacefully. As he approached the city with the largest army ever assembled on the Arabian Peninsula till that time, he noticed a wild dog on the roadside nursing her litter and posted one of his Companions, Juʿayl al Damari, to stand guard near her so that the entire contingent could pass without disturbing her or the pups.

After years of bitter conflict, some of the Prophet’s Companions — in keeping with the ancient Arabian code of revenge — were sure that the day they took Mecca would be the hour of vengeance. One of Medina’s tribal chieftains, Saʿd ibn ʿUbada, noticed Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, former leader of pagan Mecca, standing near the Prophet and told Abu Sufyan ominously: “This will be a day of slaughter.” Saʿd was proudly bearing his tribal banner. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, took it from him, handed it to Saʿd’s son, and declared: “What Saʿd has said is wrong. No, this will be the day that God glorifies his House (the temple of Abraham in Mecca) and decorates it with a new covering.”

By any measure, it was a day of mercy. In Mecca, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, gathered his former enemies at the House of Abraham and asked them: “What do you think I am about to do with you?” They replied: “You are a magnanimous brother, the son of a magnanimous brother.” He answered: “Go to your houses. You have been set free.” It was this merciful and forgiving nature that finally established the Prophet’s authority in Mecca after its peaceful conquest, fostered mutual understanding, and forged new bonds. In the end, it was above all this proactive mercy that spelled the death of idolatry and paganism in Mecca and throughout Arabia and prepared the way for Islam’s unparalleled triumph in the world beyond.

The Command to be Merciful

In imitation of the Prophet, Muslims are expected to be merciful, to bring good, and to seek the benefit of others — all others — not wish them harm or rejoice in the evil that befalls them. Indeed, the Tradition of Primacy promotes a doctrine of universal, all-embracing mercy. Commentators emphasize this point, clarifying that the mercy Muslims are commanded to show is not exclusively for themselves or the righteous among them.

It extends to all human beings: Jews, Christians, the believing and unbelieving, the upright and the immoral, and it goes beyond the human family to include both the animate and inanimate: birds and animals, even plants and trees. In English, “be merciful to those on earth” tends to imply human beings. Translated here as “those,” the Arabic word man is broad and inclusive. Its primary reference is to rational beings, but it includes, by secondary reference, non-rational ones also: animals, plants, and, by extension, what today would be termed the environment.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told an anecdote of a sinful man suffering from thirst one oppressively hot day who came across a well. He went down into it — (Middle Eastern wells are often open and with deep, winding staircases) — drew water, and drank. (Bukhari) When he came back up, he noticed a dog, panting from thirst and eating the clay around the well for moisture. The man said to himself: “This dog is suffering from thirst like I was.” He went down into the well a second time, filled his shoe with water, and let the dog drink. God loved the man’s humane act, showed him mercy, and forgave all his sins. When Muḥammad’s Companions heard the story, they asked: “O Messenger of God, will we be rewarded for being good to animals?” He answered: “Yes, there is reward in showing good to every living creature.” In another Tradition, the Prophet emphasized the atrociousness of merciless behavior in God’s eyes and told of a woman condemned to hell for intentionally starving a cat to death.

Mercy begins with the individual by taking care of the self physically, emotionally, and spiritually and includes exercise and diet, pursuing education, and keeping good company. It also means having a good opinion of oneself — without being arrogant or blind to one’s faults — living in constant anticipation of God’s help and mercy along with other Islamic corollaries of behavior like the categorical prohibition of suicide and despair. From the individual, concentric rings of mercy extend outward, taking in parents, spouse, children, family, neighbors, community, and the world. Part of being merciful toward others is having a good opinion of them, defending their good name, and doing whatever makes their lives better and averts harm.

The Qur’an looks upon marital life as a primary locus of mercy and, consequently, exalts the institution of marriage as one of creation’s marvels and chief proofs of God, next to the creation of the heavens and the earth and of humankind itself. Marriage is not just the basic mode of human generation, manifesting the biological continuity of divine creation, but forms the primary social nucleus of love: “Among God’s signs is his creating for you partners in marriage from yourselves so that you find happiness in them and his putting between you bonds of affection and mercy. Certainly in that there are signs for people who think.” (Sura al Rum 30:21)

The Arabic words for “affection” and “mercy” in the verse are mawadda and raḥma. Matrimonial “mercy” means that both husband and wife seek to make each other happy, desiring what is good, prosperous, and beneficial for each. It implies that each spouse treat the other honorably and that neither be content with evil or harm as the other’s lot.

Mawadda — translated above as “affection” but more frequently as “love” — precedes raḥma in the verse, implying that love is mercy’s spiritual bedrock. While Arabic has many words for love, mawadda represents a special type. One of the ninety-nine principal names of God in Arabic — Al Wadud, “the Loving” — is derived from the same linguistic root.

Mawadda does not refer to physical love but to an active, emotive love that is direct and personal, involving affectionate care and abiding attention to others’ needs. With regard to God, al Wadud (the Loving), mawadda refers to his providential care for creation and the personal bounty and protection that he grants those he loves. With regard to human interaction, both in a general and marital context — as in the above-quoted verse — mawadda refers to loving involvement in the life of another, not simply through care or concern for that person’s well-being but also by personal faithfulness, emotional support, good counsel, and a general regard for that person’s interests.

The Law of Universal Reciprocity

As discussed at the beginning of this essay and as the Traditions above concerning kindness to animals indicate, mercy — God’s signature in creation — is linked to a law of universal reciprocity: Mercy will be shown to the merciful, and it will be withdrawn from the merciless. The positive side of this universal law is reflected in the words of the Tradition of Primacy: “Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you,” a lesson often repeated in the Islamic scriptures.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, taught: “Truly, God only shows mercy to those of his servants who are themselves merciful.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Here the complementary side of the law of mercy is clarified. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said elsewhere: “Whoever shows no mercy will be shown no mercy.” (Bukhari and Muslim) In the same authoritative collections, we find: “God will show no mercy to those who show no mercy to humankind.”

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, warned his community: “Being merciful is only stripped away from the damned,” (Tirmidhi) implying that mercy is the natural condition of the human soul and is only stripped away and exchanged for mercilessness in people with callous, unnatural hearts that can no longer receive it. A heart that no longer has the capacity to feel mercy cannot be a receptacle of salvation either or a container of true faith; to become ruthless and void of compassion is to carry the mark of divine wrath and bear the brand of damnation and is the sure sign of an evil end.

Thus, the reciprocity inherent in the universal law of mercy embodies another dimension: the fact that mercy is linked with faith and opens the door of salvation, while mercilessness is linked with the rejection of God and invites damnation. Classical commentators explain that mercy springs from a healthy heart, one that is spiritually alive and suitable for sincere faith. Utter lack of mercy, on the other hand, reflects a heart that is spiritually dead. The implications are profound: Mercy and true belief do not cohabit hearts where hatred and the utter disregard for others reign.

Conclusion

The imperative to be merciful — to bring benefit to the world and avert harm — must underlie a Muslim’s understanding of reality and attitude toward society. Islam was not intended to create a chosen people, fostering exclusive claims for themselves, while looking down upon the rest of humanity like a sea of untouchables or regarding the animate and inanimate worlds around them as fields readied for wanton exploitation. Wherever Muslims find themselves, they are called upon to be actively and positively engaged as vanguards of mercy, welfare, and well-being.

Islam’s call to mercy should not render Muslims incapable of a wise and measured response to transgression, oppression, or injustice, which in some cases can only be checked by force. Islam is not a pacifist religion, although it commands its followers to incline toward merciful solutions and seek peace, while always remaining within dignified bounds and proper parameters consistent with Islam’s overarching doctrine of mercy. In a faith like Islam, which teaches that a person may be condemned to hell for starving a cat, it goes without saying that acts of ruthless barbarity must be rejected and never given the aura of religious sanctity.

The merciless heart abides in the spirit of the damned, while the healthy heart is instinctively humane and comprehends the pricelessness of mercy. It is to people who are not “damaged goods” but humanly intact and spiritually alive that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, directed his admonition: “Take an informed opinion (literally, fatwa) from your heart. What is good puts your self and your heart at rest. What is wrong is never fully acceptable to your self and wavers in your heart, even if people give you a different opinion (fatwa) and keep on giving it to you.” (Ahmad, Tabarani, and Darimi)


The above article was originally published by The Oasis Initiative. This edited version conforms to SHG Style and is printed with gratitude to the author and The Oasis Initiative.