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Ramadan’s Most Special Days: Unmatched Rewards

What is special about Ramadan’s last ten days; why are they that blessed? What do I do in these days? What are the rewards for these days?

Watch Sheikh Yusuf Estes reflecting on the Holy Month of Ramadan and its precious last ten days…

The Most Special Days

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New Muslims & Ramadan’s Last Precious Ten Days

By Amal Stapley

The last ten days of Ramadan are here. How do you find yourself, your heart and worship so far? How’s Ramadan going for you?”

It’s the perennial question on everybody’s lips at this time of Ramadan, and how are you answering it?

Insha’Allah you’re able to say that it’s going well for you and you’re achieving your targets and gaining the benefit from this blessed month. But don’t worry if you can’t say that fully yet, as the best has been saved for last!

We’re now on the final run down to `Eid, having passed through the ten days of asking for mercy and the ten days of asking for forgiveness, and now we’re into the ten days of asking for protection from the Fire. These last ten days are the most precious days of the most precious month.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) “would strive (to do acts of worship) during the last ten days of Ramadan more than he would at any other time”. (Muslim)

So this is the time to follow his beautiful example and really start to focus on your `ibadah (worship). So how can you, as a new Muslim, do that?

Be Generous in Thoughts…

“Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all people in doing good, and he was at his most generous during the month of Ramadan.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

This is the time to be generous in both your thoughts and your deeds.

It’s very easy as a new Muslim to be critical of other people, especially about other Muslim’s practice of Islam. Sometimes we get so carried away with our own striving to please Allah that we forget that Islam for others isn’t something new and exciting. It’s something they have been living with all their lives; they may not have sought knowledge as enthusiastically as you have been doing or they may be experiencing an iman dip.

So instead of criticizing other Muslims, who find it difficult to practice Islam as well as you’d like them to, try to understand them and then try to gently encourage them. The same goes for non-Muslims. Remember back to your pre-Islamic days and how you justified your behavior? Be generous in your thoughts of others and instead of criticizing, find an excuse and also ask Allah to guide them.

“…and there is no one who loves to accept an excuse more than Allah, and because of this He sent the bringers of good news and the warners…” (Al-Bukhari)

… and Deeds

Also strive to be generous in your deeds. Look out for any opportunities to do a good turn for your family, neighbors and friends. Use your initiative and show them the best face of Islam that you can. You could even invite them to join you in iftar (breaking fast) or just take some food round to them.

This is also a great time for giving extra in charity, as its reward is increased. Many people choose this time to give their zakat al-mal (obligatory charity on wealth) away to cleanse their wealth and to get the extra benefit. If you don’t personally know someone from the eight categories who is deserving of zakah, look out for charities that support people in your local area or country, and if there is no-one locally in need, seek out those in other countries in need. Many charities have special Ramadan drives to take advantage of this generous time, so choose the most reliable trustworthy ones, as far as you can.

The last ten days of Ramadan is a great time to clear out your cupboards. I make it an annual habit to go through mine and give away all my unwanted and unused items or send them to be recycled. If you have items in the back of your cupboards that you have no use for and that others might benefit from, give them away or find a local charity or charity shop to give them to. If you have clothes that you haven’t worn for a year, especially your old pre-Islamic ones, do you really need to keep them? And don’t just give away the tatty ones; give the good stuff away too:

Never will you attain the good (reward) until you spend (in the way of Allah) from that which you love. (Aal `Imran 3:92)

I`tikaf or Qiyam

One of the best ways of really focusing on your worship is to spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque; cutting out all worldly cares and just concentrating on getting closer to Allah. This can be a great opportunity to learn more about the religion from good practicing Muslims and many mosques hold extra talks and classes at this time. If you’ve been able to plan for this and make arrangements to do this, do make the most of it, and do lots of du`aa’ that the rest of us will be able to do it next year with you!

If you can’t spend all the last ten days in the mosque, try to spend some time at least, even if it’s only over the weekend or maybe at night between Maghrib and Fajr. As long as you make your intention for i`tikaf (retreat in the mosque), your reward will be in accordance with the amount of time you spend there. The same applies to sisters too. If your local mosque has provision for sisters, follow in the steps of the Prophet’s wives and spend some time in i`tikaf too.

If you really can’t get to a mosque, make sure that you increase your efforts to worship at night either at home or with other new (or not-so-new) Muslims in your area. You could maybe organize Qiyam (Night Worship) gatherings, so those who live with their non-Muslim families can come and worship in a relaxed Islamic atmosphere.

Wherever you spend your time, find a quiet place where you can bury yourself in worship of your Creator, away from the internet, TV and family worries. If you have slipped in any of your targets of reading the Qur’an in your language or in Arabic, or memorizing Qur’an or new du’a`, this is the perfect time to catch up. You can get out your du’a` list and use this time to supplicate for everything you want Allah to help you or others with; especially for Him to guide your family to Islam. And you can read inspiring books and articles and make pledges about the changes you’re going to make in your life. And just take time out to contemplate on Allah’s blessings and mercy.

Last Precious Ten Days & Laylat Al-Qadr

“Look for Laylat-Al-Qadr (The Night of Power) in the last ten nights of Ramadan, on the night when nine or seven or five nights remain out of the last ten nights of Ramadan.” (Al-Bukhari)

This is the most precious night of the precious days of the precious month. Whatever you do, make plans to spend the odd nights of the last ten (i.e. the night before the odd day, as Islamic days start from Maghrib) in deep worship, either in the mosque, with friends or at home. Set aside all other plans so you can get the reward of this night, which is worth that of a thousand months. Imagine one night’s worship being equivalent to worshipping consistently for 83 years and 4 months! How can you afford to miss it?

This is a great night to ask Allah to keep you on the path He has guided you to, to ask Him to strengthen your faith and your wisdom, and to ask Him to help you find the path by which you can best serve Him and His Ummah. And while you’re there, add this du`aa’ as well:

`A’ishah (may God be pleased with her) said: “O Messenger of Allah! What if I knew which night Laylat-Al-Qadr was, what should I say in it?”

He said

“Say: Allahumma innaka ‘affuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee (O Allah! You are the One who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me).”

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Source: onislam.net.

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The Prophet’s Tahajjud Prayer

How did Prophet Muhammad perform the Tahajjud (late night) prayer? How did he praise Allah? What du`aa’ did he say?

It is the middle of the night, or maybe a little before that time or a little thereafter. The Prophet wakes up. He sits in bed and wipes the sleep from his eyes. He picks up his tooth stick and brushes his teeth. He then turns his gaze to the heavens and avails himself of the peace and quiet at night to meditate on Allah’s greatness and how it manifests itself in the majesty of His creation. He recites a ten-verse passage from Surat Aal `Imran which begins with words:

Verily in the creation of the heavens and Earth, and in the alternation of night and day are signs for those who understand. (Aal `Imran 3:190)

He stands up and takes a water skin down from where it hangs on the wall. He opens it and pours out some water into a large cup. He uses this to perform ablution for prayer. He does not use much water for his ablution, though he completes them thoroughly.

Before he commences with the late night prayer (Tahajjud), he sometimes engages in the glorification of his Lord with the recitation of a number of remembrances. This prepares his mind for prayer. `A’ishah gives us an account of the things he says:

“When Allah’s Messenger got up at night to pray the Tahajjud, he used to extol Allah’s greatness ten times then praise him ten times. Then, he would say the words “Glory and praise be to Allah” ten times. Then, he would say “Glory be to the Holy King” ten times. Then, he would ask Allah for forgiveness ten times. Then, he would say “There is no God but Allah” ten times. He would conclude by saying:

“O Allah! I seek refuge with You from the tribulations of this worldly life and the tribulations of the Day of Resurrection.”

Then, he would commence his prayer.

He begins by offering two brief units of prayer. The prayer will become much longer. Though he prays quickly when he leads others in prayer, he is just the opposite when he prays alone. He prolongs every action in the Tahajjud prayer, form the opening recitations, to the recitation of the Qur’an, to the supplications. Tahajjud is the longest prayer he makes. He is following Allah’s specific command to him in the Qur’an:

Stand in prayer the night long, except for a little. (Al- Muzzammil 73:2)

If we consider the Prophet’s state of mind, we realize that he is totally immersed in prayer while offering Tahajjud. His every thought and feeling are engaged and his communion with his Lord is total. It is as if his spirit has ascended to heaven and is being bathed in divine light while looking upon the throne of his Lord. It is as if he is having a private audience with Allah, so he extols His praises in the most emphatic way and beseeches Him with the most perfect supplications. This is not surprising, since the Prophet really had such an experience on the night of his ascension above the seven heavens, where he was brought to a level where could hear the scraping of the pens as they wrote out the decrees.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) has greater knowledge of Allah and stronger faith than anyone else in creation. His faith is certain. He admits this to his Companions: “The most God-fearing and knowledgeable about Allah among you is none other than myself.” (Al-Bukhari)

He commences the Tahajjud prayer with a heart full of reverence, love and longing for his Lord. His words are full of invocations of awe and praise. Among the words he uses to commence his prayers are the following:

“O Allah! Lord of Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, Creator of the heavens and earth, Knower of the seen and unseen, You will judge between Your servants in what they used to differ. Guide me by Your Grace to the truth in what they differ about. Indeed, You guide whomever You please to a path that is straight.”

“O Allah! Our Lord, Yours is the praise. You are the light of the heavens and earth and all that they contain. Yours is the praise. You sustain the heavens and earth and all that they contain. You are the King of the heavens and earth and all they contain. Yours is the praise. You are the Truth. Your Promise is true. The meeting with You is true. Your Word is true. Paradise is true. Hell is true. The Prophets are true. Muhammad is true. The Final Hour is true. O Allah, to You I have submitted and in You I have believed, and upon You I rely. I repent my sins to You. For Your Sake I dispute and by Your Standards I judge, so forgive me for what I have done before and what I have left behind, for what I have committed secretly and what I have committed openly and what only You know that I have done. You are the One Who sends forth and You are the One Who delays. There is no God but You. There is no might or power except with You.”

“I turn my face to the Creator of the heavens and earth upon the pure faith, and I am not from among the polytheists. Indeed my prayer, my sacrifice, my life, and my death are for Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, Who is without partner. This is as I was commanded, and I am of those who submit. O Allah! You are the King. There is no God but You. You are my Lord and I am Your servant. I have been unjust to myself and I confess my sins, so forgive me all of my sins, for indeed no one forgives sins but You. Guide me to the best conduct. No one guides to what is best except You. Keep me away from bad conduct, for no one can do this for me except You. Here I am. I heed Your Call, happy to serve You. All good is in Your Hands and no evil belongs to You. I exist by Your Will and shall return to You. You are Blessed and Sublime. I seek Your Forgiveness and repent unto You.”

 The Qur’an & the Tahajjud

Then, the Prophet begins to recite the Qur’an. He recites in a slow and melodious voice and is attentive to every word. When he recites a verse that speaks about Allah’s Mercy, he beseeches Allah. When he recites a verse that warns of Allah’s Wrath, he seeks refuge from it. When a verse of the Qur’an speaks of Allah’s Glory, he glorifies Allah.

He stands for a long time in recitation. Ibn Mas`ud tells us: “I prayed with Allah’s Messenger one night, and he stood for so long that I almost resolved to do a very bad thing.” When asked what that bad thing was, he says: “I considered sitting down and not continuing with the Prophet in prayer.”

Sometimes the Prophet prolongs his recitation and offers a few very long units of prayer. On other nights, he stands in recitation for a shorter time and offers more units of prayer.

When he bows, he remains bowing for a long time, almost as long as the time he spends standing in recitation. He says:

“O Allah! I bow to You. In You I believe, to You I submit, and upon You I rely. You are my Lord. My hearing, my sight, my flesh, my blood, my mind, my bones, my sinew, and what my feet bear up, all of them submit in humility to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. Glory be to the Possessor of Might, Pride, and Greatness, the Glorified and Holy, the Lord of the angels and of the Holy Spirit.”

Near the end of his life, he will often say while bowing and prostrating:

“Glory and praise be to Allah, our Lord. O Allah, forgive me.”

`A’ishah asked him about this, and he said: “My Lord has told me that I will see a sign in my community, and if I see that sign I should start saying: “Glory and praise be to Allah. I seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him.” I have seen this sign (which is found in the following verses of the Qur’an):

When the help of Allah and the victory come, and you see the people entering into Islam in droves, then glorify the praises of your Lord and seek His forgiveness. Verily, He is ever ready to accept repentance. (An-Nasr 110:1-3)

The Prophet understands from this verse that the end of his life is near.

The Prophet prolongs his prostration in Tahajjud. He spends almost as much time prostrating as he in his bowing. It is here that he asks of Allah’s Grace and beseeches Him in many ways. The Prophet tells us:

“The nearest we are to our Lord is when we are in prostration, so beseech Him often at that time.”  (Muslim)

He also says while in prostration:

“O Allah, to You I prostrate myself and in You I believe. To You I have submitted. My face is prostrated to the One who created it, fashioned it, and gave it the faculties of hearing and sight. Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators. O Allah! Forgive me all my sins, great and small, the first and the last of them, those that are apparent and those that are hidden. O Allah! I seek refuge in Your Pleasure from Your Anger, and in Your Forgiveness from Your Punishment. I seek refuge with You from You. I cannot count Your Praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.”

This is how the Prophet relates to his Lord in the depths of the night, in communion filled with worship, exaltation, reverence and submission. His spirit is raised up to great heights from his devotion and longing for his Lord. It is as if the world with all its vast mountains and starry skies recedes and regards him from a distance, bearing witness to his compliance with Allah’s command:

“Remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with full devotion. (Al- Muzzammil 73:8)

The Prophet remains in worship throughout the night, reciting the Qur’an with reverence, beseeching his Lord in humility and praising Allah’s holy name, until only one-sixth of the night remains. At this time, he pauses from his Tahajjud prayers and wakes up his wife so they can offer the Witr Prayer together. He performs the Witr Prayer as three consecutive units. In the first, he recites Surat Al-A`la (87th chapter of the Qur’an). In the second, he recites Al-Kafirun (the 109th). In the last, he recites Al-Ikhlas (the 112th). Sometimes, in the final unit of prayer, he also recites Surat Al-Falaq and Al-Nas (the 113th and 114th chapters of the Qur’an).

At the end of the Witr Prayer, he says:

“O Allah! I seek refuge in Your Pleasure from Your Anger, and in Your Forgiveness from Your Punishment. I seek refuge with You from You. I cannot count Your Praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.”

After completing the Witr Prayer, he says three times: “Glory be to the Holy King.” He holds the words longer on the final repetition.

The Prophet prays Tahajjud in his small one-room house that is free from luxuries and worldly effects. Sometimes he has a mat to pray on that is just big enough to accommodate him in prostration. At other times, he only has the bedding that he shares with his wife. He prays while she lies sleeping in front of him. There are no lamps in his house, so when he wants to prostrate in prayer, he makes a gentle indication to her so she can move her feet out of his way. When he stand up again, she stretches her legs back out.

On rare occasions, he goes to the mosque to pray Tahajjud. He does so when there are extenuating circumstances, like when his wife is in extra need of rest and he wants to avoid disturbing her. On one occasion, `A’ishah realizes he is not in the house, and she reaches out of the door leading into the mosque and finds his foot. He is engaged in worship there and saying:

“O Allah! I seek refuge in Your Pleasure from Your Anger, and in Your Forgiveness from Your Punishment. I seek refuge with You from You. I cannot count Your Praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.”

On another occasion, she finds him missing and fears he may be at the home of one of his other wives. She goes out searching for him and returns to find that he is deeply involved in prayer. She says to herself: “By my father and mother, O Messenger of Allah, my mind is on one thing and yours is on something else entirely.”

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The text is written by Sheikh Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Turayri

Source: islamtoday.net

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Ramadan: Reshape Your Life with the Qur’an

The month of Ramadan is a time when we, despite the struggle, keep ourselves away from that which is otherwise permissible and a necessity in our life. For the past eleven months, at some level we have given preference to our physical self, in terms of nourishment, than our soul. We’ve done things we shouldn’t have, we’ve probably neglected some duties towards Allah (Exalted is He) that we shouldn’t have. Maybe we haven’t been reciting much of the Qur’an or maybe we’ve been neglecting some of the prayers.

This month is a time when Allah commands us to limit our physical nourishment and instead focus on the spiritual – in order to give life to our hearts and fix and improve our spiritual state. This is the time to rise up and acknowledge our deficiencies during the past months and resolve to move ahead with the aim to improve our relationship with Allah, with His Book, and with His Messenger (peace be upon him).

Ramadan, as an institution, is designed as a whole to bring our hearts back to life, thus allowing the light of taqwa (God-consciousness) to illuminate itself within us. The fasting during the day reminds us that our purpose in life isn’t merely to satisfy the desires of our self (nafs) and this reminder leads us to focus instead on feeding our soul. We are taught during the day to empty our hearts from the desires of our nafs so that at night we can fill it up instead with the light of the Qur’an.

Therefore, we find the next logical step is the Taraweeh (the night prayer offered in Ramadan) where we stand after a long day listening to the Qur’an being recited in prayer in order to give our soul its much required nourishment. As we get in tune with this during the early phases of the month and our hearts are revived and rejuvenated, the bar is raised and during the final ten nights we stand even longer and even later in prayer in the Tahajjud (late night prayer) seeking the rewards of the Laylat Al-Qadr, reciting Qur’an and engaging in `ibadah (worship) so as to fill our hearts with the sweetness of worship.

Allah says:

The month of Ramadan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion… (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

The interesting thing to note about this ayah (verse) here is that Allah at the mention of Ramadan didn’t talk about fasting first. When we think about Ramadan, what comes to our mind immediately? Usually, our first thought is fasting right? But we find that Allah instead couples Ramadan firstly with the Qur’an as if to say that Ramadan’s first and foremost role in our lives should be to increase our relationship with the Qur’an and only then does He follow it with the command to fast in the month.

The goal of fasting is taqwa, but what actually allows us to establish taqwa in our lives if not the Qur’an? So the logical step for us is that we need to try and prepare ourselves towards establishing a relationship with the Book of Allah. As mentioned earlier, fasting trains us to empty our hearts from desires and aspires towards a loftier goal and that goal can only be achieved with the soul food that the Qur’an provides.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression. (Al-Kahf 18:14)

This verse is talking about the story of the Youth of the Cave when they stood up and said to the people in their vicinity that they only worshipped Allah. They were able to do that only because Allah strengthened their hearts. However, the interesting thing to notice here is that they made the first move to get closer to Allah – Allah only strengthened their hearts when they stood up. Meaning, they had to commit to following the truth and when this commitment was proven by their action, Allah made their efforts easy for them.

Likewise, in Ramadan, we need to make sure to put in the effort to establish that bond with the Qur’an. Once we start making the effort, Allah will make it easier for us and we will start tasting the sweetness of servitude. We need to go into this month not just with the intention of improving ourselves, but with actual preparation by increasing in good so that our good actions are a reason by which Allah gives us the ability to come out of Ramadan improved and forgiven. As the Messenger told us, ”Whoever fasts Ramadan out of iman (faith) and seeking Allah’s reward then his past and future sins are forgiven.” (Ahmad)

Let’s try and set some goals for ourselves with regards to the Qur’an. If we don’t know how to read it correctly, let’s try to learn. If we don’t recite it often, let us take the time out every day to recite. If we are already reciting, then we can try and add some more or increase the frequency. If we listen to music in our iPods, in our cars and on the way to school or work, then let’s empty our hearts and devices from music and instead try and fill it up with the Qur’an for this month.

Let’s begin to reflect upon the guidance in the Qur’an and try to internalize the lessons therein. Let’s aim to set a powerful foundation for the Qur’an in our lives by which we can establish routines that will allows us to begin a functional relationship with the Qur’an in Ramadan and continue it thereafter so that once the devils are let out, we have a solid defense mechanism, taqwa, within our hearts to help us.

After all, this is the month of the Qur’an and that necessitates that we give special attention to this Book during the month. Our aim should be to build this relationship, not just for the 30 days of Ramadan but rather setting a strong, deep, unshakeable foundation for a relationship that will flourish for the next eleven months.

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Source: suhaibwebb.com.

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Ramadan: Feel the Beauties

By M. Fethullah Gulen

Like rain pouring on the earth, Ramadan comes with streams of meanings and emotions that water dried and thirsty hearts.

Like rain pouring on the earth, Ramadan comes with streams of meanings and emotions that water dried and thirsty hearts.

At this time when we experience occasions, of much sorrow and some contentment, we sense the promise in the advent of Ramadan, the month of mercy and forgiveness. In the climate of this month of light, we feel both spring and autumn at the same time in our inner worlds, seasons of lovely expectations and longing.

With their profound, spiritual breezes, every sound and breath of air in Ramadan announces in a most exalted and exhilarating style all the pleasures we would like to taste in life and the hopes of good we deeply cherish.

Coming like successive rays of light, the smiling days of Ramadan envelop us with the expectations, hopes and joys they carry from the worlds beyond, and present to us samples from Paradise.

When Ramadan begins, our inner life, its thoughts and feelings, are renewed and strengthened. Breezes of mercy, coming in different wavelengths, unite with our hopes and expectations, and penetrate our hearts. In the enchanting days and illumined nights of Ramadan, we feel as if all the obstacles blocking our way to Allah are removed and the hills on that way are leveled.

Like rain pouring on the earth, Ramadan comes with streams of meanings and emotions that water dried and thirsty hearts, making the inner worlds of people propitious for new meanings and conceptions. By means of the light of the days, hours and minutes of this blessed month, hearts attain such spiritual depth and become so purified that they never desire to leave its climate of peace.

As Ramadan approaches, we live the delight of anticipation and preparation for it. The food and drink that come into our kitchens in the days before Ramadan comes, put us in mind of it with a thrill of expectation. And then it comes at last, laden with mercy and forgiveness. As soon as it honors us, each of us finds himself in a spiral of light rising toward the heavens and advances toward the Unseen Existent One in a new spiritual mood in the night-time and in another, different spiritual mood in daytime. We open our eyes to each of its days with a different solemnity and self-possession and reach every evening in an enchanting, delightful serenity.

The pleasant nights of Ramadan receive warmest welcome from all souls. Eyes look more deeply in them and people feel deeper love for each other. Everyone desires to do good to everyone and passions and ill-feeling are subjugated to a certain extent. In Ramadan, everyone feels so much more attached to Allah and is so careful in his relations with others that it is impossible not to see this.

Believing souls taste the contentment of belief more deeply and experience the blessing of the good morals prescribed by Islam and the spiritual ease of doing well to others.

Moreover, they try to expand, to share, this contentment, blessing and ease with others. Since these souls at rest are convinced that one day will come when this life will end in an eternal happiness and whatever they suffer and sacrifice here for Allah’s sake will be returned with very great reward, they struggle against their animal appetites in a mood of doing an act of worship.

The meals they take at sunset to break the fast give them the pleasure of worship and are followed by early night prayer with the addition of the supererogatory service of worship particular to Ramadan. The meals they take before dawn to start fasting are united with supererogatory night prayer (Tahajjud) and become a dimension of their nearness to Allah.

Streets are filled with the people going to and returning from mosques, in which declarations of ‘Allah is the Greatest’ resound as in the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah. You would think that the streets are each a mosque and each mosque is Ka`bah. The people shaped by Ramadan in this way, though mortal in nature, gain a sort of eternity and each of their acts done in the consciousness of deliberate worship becomes a ceremony pertaining to the Hereafter.

Nights are experienced more deeply and in consideration of the afterlife, and days are spent as portions of time dominated by resolution and strong will-power. Those fasting for Allah’s sake feel a thrill of joy, and spend every and each day in the excitement of a new re-union. They reach every morning in an indescribable feeling as if they were called to a new testing. You can discern on their faces a sign of humility mixed with solemnity, a feeling of nothingness before Allah together with serenity and seriousness and melancholy combined with a feeling of security. Their every act reflects spiritual peace and exhilaration coming from adherence to Allah’s will and confidence in Him, and sincerity and kindness acquired by being cleansed in the cascades of the Qur’an. As if created from light and consisting in only their shadows, they are very careful to give no one any harm or trouble. Respect and courtesy are so much a part of their nature that, even after a day of thirst and hunger and resisting their carnal desires, they remain gentle and pure-hearted. They display a mood shaped by fear and reverence, discipline and contentment, solemnity and politeness. They are respectful and reverent toward the Almighty and well-mannered and sincere toward one another.

Their faces and eyes reflect different degrees and dimensions of depth of spiritual realms and are radiant with the lights of the unseen world. Though each individual may have been shaped by a different climate and different ideas, all of them, including the intelligent and pure-hearted, those used to a disciplined, careful life and those a bit untidy and careless, the nervous and the calm, those very sensitive to problems of the age and those a little unfeeling, the rich and the poor, the happy and sorrowful, the healthy and the ill, the white and black, share almost the same feelings in Ramadan.

They reach the night and morning together, listen to the call to prayers and perform the prayers together, take the meals before dawn and break their fasts together. They feel together one of the two instances of rejoicing promised for those who fast. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There are two instances of rejoicing for the person who fasts: one when he breaks his fast, the other when he will receive the reward of fasting in the Hereafter”. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

All Muslims, whatever their nationality or country of origin or temperament or social status or physical state, come together and breathe the same ‘air’ in the climate of Ramadan. In it, their souls are shaped in a way particular to that climate, and they share a sort of deeply-felt happiness which can be experienced only by spirit beings. Ramadan has a fascinating effect on Muslims that leaves its positive imprints on even the souls of the poorest and most oppressed people.

Ramadan envelops us with many beauties: the pleasure in the supererogatory prayers performed after the prescribed night service; consciousness of the blessings of Ramadan; the light that pours on us both from the heaven and from the lights that decorate the mosques.

As if planned and commanded in order to kindle such feelings and thoughts in us, each element of the public rites in Ramadan causes the ‘strings’ of our heats to resonate: the calls made from minarets and the blessings called on the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the pronouncements of Divine Unity, Grandeur and Glory which resound in our ears, all prepare our souls for worship. They awake us to spiritual and celestial truths and enable even the crudest soul to perform its duties of worship in the way those duties are meant to be performed.

The voices rising from minarets meet with the voices of the inhabitants of the heavens and resound throughout the heavens and the earth. They penetrate our souls and take us through a climate of purest meanings and poetry, a realm of sweet imagination. In this pleasant atmosphere, we feel as if it is Ramadan which pours from the heavens, which is discerned on the faces of people and scents the air and is written in the lights of the mosques. Enchanted by this calm and peaceful atmosphere, we achieve a sort of infinitude and feel as if comprehending the whole of existence. Ramadan captivates particularly those open to eternity to such an extent that they experience nothing else than it.

I remember well that during my childhood when there was as yet no electricity in cities, people walked to mosques with kerosene lamps in the darkness of night. We imagined that Ramadan was walking around in the alleys in the lights of those lamps. Under the influence of poetry, meaning and deep spirituality which Ramadan poured into our souls, we desired that it should never come to an end. Nevertheless, despite our heartfelt desire, it flew away and the festive day followed it with all its pomp.

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Source: fountainmagazine.com.

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The Friends of Allah: Who and How?

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That is what worship is all about: your purification and elevation in iman (faith) and taqwa (piety).

Good Deeds Will Get You Closer to Allah

Allah says:

But had they done what they were exhorted to (do), it would have been better for them; and would have strengthened/stabilized their (faith). (An-Nisaa’ 4:66)

Narrated Abu Hurairah that Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Allah said: ‘Whoever harms a wali (a friend or a supporter) of mine I will declare war against him. And my servant has not drawn closer to me with anything more beloved to me than what I made obligatory on him (faridah). And he continues to draw closer to me with nawafil (the preferable non-obligatory deeds) until I love him; And when I love him I become his hearing with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks, and if he asks Me, I will give him, and, if he seeks refuge in me, I will protect him and, I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer for, he hates death and, I hate to sadden him’” (Al-Bukhari)

Why We Worship God?

In fact that is what worship is all about: your purification and elevation in iman (faith) and taqwa (piety), for Allah will not benefit from your worship. In a hadith qudsi (divine hadith) Allah said:

“O my servants! I have made unlawful oppression upon myself and I have made it unlawful between you. So do not oppress each other. O my servants! All of you are astray except the ones whom I have guided, so seek my guidance and I will guide you. O my servants! All of you are naked except those of you whom I have clothed, so seek clothing from me and I will clothe you. O my servants! All of you are hungry except those of you whom I have fed, seek food from me and I will feed you. O my servants! You make errors in the night and in the day and I forgive all sins. Seek forgiveness from me and I will forgive you. O my servants!

You will never be able to harm Me and you will never be able to benefit Me. O my servants! If the first of you and the last of you and the jinn from among you and the men from among you, were to fear Allah as the best among you, that would not increase in My Majesty/Mastership any. O my servants!

If the first of you and the last of you and the jinn among you and the men among you, were to perform the worst forms of crimes, that will not decrease from My Majesty/Mastership any. O my servants! If the first of you and the last of you, the jinn of you and the men of you, were to stand on one side and ask Me, I will give each one of you what you ask and still this will not decrease from My Majesty/Mastership; as if you dip a needle into the ocean.” (Muslim)

So when fasting was prescribed for you, it was to bring you closer (i.e., closer to Allah), Allah said:

O you who believe Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain piety. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

And when you make Hajj and slaughter the sacrifice it is that you may get closer to Allah. Allah said: It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah but, it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus, have We made them subject to you that you may magnify Allah for His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings to the good doers. (Al-Hajj 22:37)

And when you give charity it is to get closer, Allah said:

Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it, and invoke Allah for them. Verily! Your invocations are a source of tranquility for them; and Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower. (At-Tawbah 9:103)

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The article is an excerpt from the paper “Acts of Worship as a Means to Strengthen the Attachment between the Servant and his Lord” by Dr. Hatem Al-Haj which was prepared for a conference in Austin, Texas, 2002. It first appeared at drhatemalhaj.com.

 

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Excellence of the Five Pillars of Islam

These are the five fundamental acts of worship Islam has been based on

Allah’s favors are countless, yet the greatest and the most important one is the divine guidance to Islam. Once a person accepts Islam, they receive the first good tiding which is the forgiveness of all their past sins. Muslims should always thank and praise Allah that He guided them to Islam because Islam’s teachings and principles give a true meaning to this life and the Hereafter.

Islam encourages its followers to start, step by step, to learn those teachings so that they can worship Allah correctly and gain the great reward specified for them. The more they learn the more reward they will get.

Among those teachings and principles are the five pillars of Islam whose correct application helps a Muslim to better perfect their faith, behavior and manners and the reward for abiding by them is so great. Now, let’s have a look at these five pillars.

1. The Shahada, the Declaration of Faith

For a person to be a Muslim, he or she has to bear witness that there is no god but Allah and to bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger and that Jesus (Isa) is a servant and messenger of Allah. Having believed and pronounced that, one is, then, a Muslim who has performed the first pillar of Islam: the Shahada (the Declaration of Faith). Moreover, these are the best and the greatest words ever pronounced.

The believers in this Declaration of Faith have taken with Allah a binding covenant that He shall admit them into the Paradise and save them from the Hellfire or bring them out of it if they were to enter it. The Shahada is also the firmest handhold. Should the Shahada be the last words pronounced before a person’s death, he or she will enter the Paradise.

All Allah’s Prophets and Messengers, including Abraham (Ibrahim), Noah (Nu’), Moses (Musa), Jesus (Isa) and Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon them all), were sent to call people to believe in the Oneness of Allah. Allah, the Sole Creator, is One Who has no father, no mother, no consort and no son. Thus, anyone who claims Jesus or any other prophet to be god or son of god is a disbeliever.

Indeed, Allah Himself, His angels, messengers, including Jesus (peace be upon him), and people with deep knowledge bear witness that there is no god but Allah. In addition, one of the purposes of sending messengers and revealing down Scriptures is warning people who say Allah has a son or associate false deities with Allah.

2. Salah, the Prayer

As well as being the second pillar of Islam, the Salah (performing prayer) is the first practical pillar. It is the most beloved act of worship by Allah. When a Muslim performs the five daily prayers, all the minor sins he or she committed in that day will be forgiven.

The Salah is the link between Allah and His servant. For the person who performs it, Salah is the proof of faith, and it brings light for them in this world, in the grave and in the Hereafter. It guards one against immorality and evil, too. When trials and tribulations afflict people, they are encouraged to resort to it.

Reciting the Gracious Qur’an in prayer reassures the hearts of the believers and reminds them of the Hereafter and meeting with Allah on the Day of Judgment. This is what gives them strength and makes the acts of worship easy to perform. During prayer, the Muslim enters into intimate dialogue with Allah through reciting the best and the greatest sura (chapter) of the Qur’an i.e. Chapter of Al-Fatihah (the Opening).

To stress the importance of the Salah in Islam we have to say that it is the bequest of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) before his death. Besides, it is the first thing people shall be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment.

It is worth mentioning that when Sarah, the wife of Abraham (Ibrahim), (peace and blessings of Allah be upon them both) was captured by an unjust ruler, Abraham performed prayer. Then, Allah protected her and she was released safely.

3. Zakat, the Obligatory Charity

Zakat is the third pillar of Islam. There are a lot of verses in the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that orders people to pay Zakat. If the wealth of a Muslim meets certain criteria, it is obligatory for them to pay a mere 2.5% of their wealth.

Zakat carries many benefits for the Muslim community for it purifies money, hearts and souls. Allah blesses the wealth of the givers. In fact, it is Allah who nurtures His creation and sustains it. Allah is the True Owner of all that is there in the earth and in the heavens.  It is right that rich people help the poor as an act of thankfulness to Allah.

Every morning, an angel invokes Allah to increase the wealth of the people who pay Zakat. Not only is it an act of worship, it is also one of the forms of humanitarian aids and social solidarity among the Muslim community. Zakat puts an end to the problems of poverty, homelessness, food and water shortage, etc.

4. Siyam, Fasting

Siyam (Fasting) is the fourth pillar of Islam. It means abstinence from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset during Ramadan, the ninth month in the lunar Islamic calendar.

The obligation of Fasting is meant to achieve certain goals. Allah does not want to torture us by obligating this kind of worship. On the contrary, He wants us to reach the highest degree of faith i.e. the degree of benevolence. This degree of faith, which is better than the two other degrees: Islam and Iman (Faith), is easily realized through fasting. What is meant by ‘benevolence’ here is the technical meaning of the term which is to worship Allah as if you see Him, but if you cannot see Him, He sees you.

Another good advantage of Siyam is to achieve piety or Allah-fearing. It nurtures patience and that is the reason why it is known as the Month of Patience.  On the other hand, Fasting helps people purify their souls and keep themselves away from indulging into or committing acts of disobedience.

The reward from Allah for performing Siyam in Ramadan is the forgiveness of all past sins. Moreover, fasting one day equals ten days whose reward is only known to Allah. Thus, we can say fasting the month of Ramadan equals ten months in reward. In general, any good deed is rewarded by ten times the like of it. On the Day of Judgment, the Paradise has a gate specified for those who fast.

If fasting causes any harm to the worshipper, they do not fast and feed an indigent person instead. In the month of Ramadan, there is the Night of Majesty on which Allah first revealed the Qur’an. The worship of Allah during this night is better than the worship during a thousand months without that night.

5. Hajj, Pilgrimage

Hajj (Pilgrimage) is the fifth pillar of Islam. Muslims from all over the world travel to Makka (mecca) to perform Hajj at the end of the lunar year. It’s obligatory for only those who can afford it and for only once in a lifetime. The reward for the accepted Pilgrimage is entering the Paradise.

Like the other pillars of Islam, the Pilgrimage is an exercise to the soul so that it can succeed in staying away from mischief, disputation, ungodliness, etc. If the pilgrim succeeds in keeping away from those bad manners, they will be back home with no sin at all.

Hajj teaches us to always remember Allah as all the rites in Hajj is mainly based on the remembrance of Allah. In Hajj, there is no difference that can be seen between a rich person and a poor one as all people dress the same.

In fact, there, here, is a lesson to be taught i.e. the unity of the Muslim nation that should be based on justice and benevolence. During Hajj, millions of Muslims can be seen worshipping Allah in one certain place where they fast at the same time, break their fast at the same time, pray to Allah at the same time and practice the other rites of Hajj at the same time.  Thus, on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the lunar year, Allah draws near the pilgrims, then praises them to the angels. This is called the Day of ‘Arafah on which Allah sets free too many of His servants from the Hellfire.

Finally, the acts of worship are so many. They include removing harm from the road, speaking to people nicely, helping the old and the weak, modesty and so on. However, the pillars of Islam are the greatest and the most important. The Declaration of faith is the most important at all.

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The Blessings behind Zakah

The Blessings behind Zakah

Paying your zakah means that what is left of your money will be more blessed and more productive for you.

Deep down, you may think of zakah (obligatory alms) as a tiresome once-a-year event that simply involves a quick online payment of 2.5% of your cash and a bunch of gold weighed on scales in your kitchen! But there is a lot more to it. Fully understanding and practicing this beautiful Pillar of Islam can lead to a more productive and successful existence at both an individual and community level. How?

Paying your zakah correctly triggers some marvelous productivity boosters that you probably have never thought of! Here’s what actually happens to you and your life when you pay your zakat:

1- Purifying the Soul

Nothing prevents us more from reaching the heights of productivity than our sins. Day and night, we disobey Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) in all sorts of ways, knowingly and unknowingly, blotting our hearts and blocking the light of Allah from entering them. One critical way of clearing out the junk from our hearts is to pay zakah.

Linguistically, zakah carries meanings of cleansing and purification, originating from the same root as the word tazkiyah. In fact, when Allah commanded the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to collect zakah, He specifically mentioned its purifying power:

Take from their wealth a charity to cleanse and purify them through it and pray for them. Indeed your prayer gives them tranquility. And indeed Allah is All Hearing, All Knowing. (At-Tawbah 9:103)

2- Blessing the Wealth

Apart from purification, zakah also carries meanings of growth and enhancement. Paying your zakah means that what is left of your money will be more blessed and more productive for you. Our Prophet emphasized this by warning against delaying the payment of zakah or not paying it at all:

“Zakah is never intermingled with any amount of wealth without destroying and rotting it.” (Al-Bukhari)

It is said that zakah represents the ‘filth’ within our wealth, i.e. an amount that we may have incurred through some form of sin or dishonesty, however small or great. For our money to remain blessed, it is vital to get rid of the ‘filth’ as soon as possible. This is akin to the dross that is filtered from a blast furnace, leaving a pure, pristine metal behind.

3- Opportunities for the Poor and Needy

One doubtless benefit of zakah is to help the poor and needy become more productive. By freeing them of the immediate stress of meeting their very basic needs, distributing zakat effectively allows those in need to pursue opportunities to help them turn their lives around.

4- Incurring the Mercy of Allah

In a powerful verse in the Qur’an, Allah says:

…I afflict with My punishment whomsoever I choose, but My mercy encompasses everything. So I will prescribe it (i.e. My mercy) for those who are God conscious, pay Zakah and believe in Our signs. (Al-Anfal 7:156)

This verse is one of just two in Qur’an where zakah is not mentioned in conjunction with the obligatory prayer. Notice how Allah mentions the fulfillment of zakah in such an amazing position: between the qualities of taqwa (God-consciousness) and iman (belief) in His signs. At the same time, He (Exalted be He) makes paying zakah a direct cause for incurring His mercy, without which being productive would be utterly impossible.

5- Endless Rewards

Just after one of the most famous verses in the Qur’an, the Verse of Light, Allah mentions a special group of people:

Men who are not diverted by business or trade from the remembrance of Allah, establishing the prayer and paying zakat, fearing the day (of judgment) in which hearts and sights are turned upside down. (An-Nur 24:37)

Here Allah extols the virtues of those who are busy, productive and successful in a worldly sense, but at the same time do not allow themselves to forget the most important aspects of their faith: remembering their Lord, establishing the prayer and paying zakah.

Allah then promises them an amazing outcome:

Allah will recompense them according to the best of what they have done and He will grant them increase out of His bounty. Allah provides for whomsoever He wills without measure. (An-Nur 24:38)

May Allah (Exalted be He) make us among those mentioned in the above verse! May He enable Muslims everywhere to understand and fulfill their obligation of zakah, thereby incurring His mercy and pleasure. Ameen.

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Source: productivemuslim.com.

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All About Zakat Al-Fitr

The Purpose of Zakat al-Fitr

Every Muslim is required to pay Zakat Al-Fitr at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan as a token of thankfulness to God for having enabled him to observe fasts. Its purpose is to purify those who fast from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and needy.

This view is based upon the hadith which reads, “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) enjoined Zakat al-Fitr on those who fast to shield them from any indecent act or speech, and for the purpose of providing food for the needy. It is accepted as Zakah for the one who pays it before the `Eid prayer, and it is sadaqah for the one who pays it after the prayer.”

Al-Qaradawi comments on this hadith by saying that there are two purposes: one is related to the individual; for completion of his fast and compensation for any shortcomings in his acts or speech.

The other is related to society; for the spreading of love and happiness among its members, particularly the poor and needy, during the day of `Eid. It also purifies one’s soul from such shortcomings as the adoration of property, and from miserliness. Furthermore, it purifies one’s property from the stain of unlawful earnings. It is also a cure for ailments. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “It would be better that you treat your patients with charity.”

In addition, it provides for the needs of the poor and the indigent and relieves them from having to ask others for charity on the day of `Eid. The Prophet (said, “Fulfil their need on this day (i.e., the day of `Eid)”

Who Must Pay Zakat al-Fitr?

Zakat al-Fitr is incumbent on every free Muslim who possesses one Sa` of dates or barley which is not needed as basic food for himself or his family for the duration of one day and night. Every free Muslim must pay Zakat al-Fitr for himself, his wife, children, and servants. This is the opinion of Imam Malik, Al-Shafi`i, and Ahmad. Imam Abu Hanifah, however, said that it is only obligatory for one who possesses a nisab (a minimum amount of property) after fulfilling the costs of his house, servant, horse, and weapon.

Al-Khattabi explained that Zakat al-Fitr was obligatory for all Muslims, not only those who possess the nisab stating that this is the view of the majority of scholars. He said, “In essence, the rationale behind it was stated to be the purification of one who fasts from any indecent act or speech.

And since every Muslim needs this, it is therefore obligatory upon every fasting Muslim, whether rich or poor, who possesses one Sa` in excess of his main staple food for the duration of one day and night. This is because so long as the essential rationale is shared by all Muslims, then they also share the same obligation.”

Al-Qaradawi also asserts the majority view when he says, “It is a virtuous wisdom of Islam that it makes this Zakah obligatory not only on the rich, but also upon nearly every Muslim, for you can hardly find a person who does not possess one Sa` of food above his main staple food for the duration of one day and night.

The wisdom behind this obligation, therefore, is to prepare the poor to practice benevolence and feel the dignity and honour of giving in charity. Allah described the believers with these words, “Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity…” (Aal `Imran 3:134)

Thus if we contemplate on this wisdom, we will not find it strange that the needy pay this Zakah, because it does not cause them to suffer any loss. He will pay only his Zakah and then receive the Zakah of various people.”

Moreover, we have to bear in mind that Zakat al-Fitr is obligatory for everyone who lives until the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan. This is the point of view of the Shafi`is, Hanbalis, and Malikis. Accordingly, whoever dies before the sun sets on the last day of Ramadan is exempted.

Likewise, a person who has a baby on the last day of Ramadan should pay Zakat al-Fitr for the baby. The majority of jurists argue that we should not pay Zakat al-Fitr for an embryo. But Imam Ahmad holds that Zakat al-Fitr is also obligatory for an embryo, because it is permissible to assign property to an embryo by means of a will.

When Zakat al-Fitr Is Due

The jurists agree that Zakat al-Fitrr is due at the end of Ramadan. They differ, however, about the exact time. Al-Thawri, Ishaq, Malik (in one of two reports), and Al-Shafi`i (in one of his two opinions), are of the opinion that it is due at the sunset of the night of breaking the fast, for this is when the fast of Ramadan ends.

However, Al-Layth, the Hanafi school, Al-Shafi`i (in his other opinion), and the second report of Malik say that Zakat al-Fitr is due at the start of Fajr (dawn) on the day of `Eid because it is an act of worship connected with `Eid, so the time of its payment should not be before `Eid just as sacrifice on the `Eid of Adha.

These two different views acquire relevance if a baby is born after sunset but before dawn on the day of `Eid; the question then is whether Zakat al-Fitr is obligatory for the baby or not. In accordance with the first view, it is not, since the birth took place after the prescribed time, while according to the second view, it is obligatory because the birth took place within the prescribed space of time.

Time of Payment

It is not permissible to delay giving Zakat Al-Fitr after the day of `Eid (i.e. one may give it up to the time of the `Eid prayer). However, there are some jurists who think that it is permissible to delay giving it even after the `Eid prayer.(14)

The founders of the four schools of Fiqh hold the first opinion, but Ibn Sirin and al-Nakha`i say that its payment can be delayed. Ahmad says: “I hope that there is no harm (in delaying the payment).” Ibn Raslan says that there is a consensus that payment cannot be delayed merely for the reason that it is a type of Zakah. Thus, any delay is a sin and is analogous to delaying one’s prayers without an acceptable excuse.

Anyway, the founders of the four accepted Islamic legal schools agree that Zakat al-Fitr is not nullified simply by failure to pay it on its due time. If it is not paid before `Eid prayer, one is not exempt from it. It becomes a debt payable even after death. The heirs must not distribute the deceased’s legacy before payment of the deceased’s unpaid Zakat al-Fitr.

Most scholars believe that it is permissible to pay Zakat al-Fitr a day or two before `Eid. Ibn `Umar reported that the Messenger (peace be upon him) ordered them to pay Zakat al-Fitr before the people went out to perform the `Eid prayer. Nafi` reported that `Umar used to pay it a day or two before the end of Ramadan.

However, scholars hold different opinions when a longer time period is involved. According to Abu Hanifah, it is permissible to pay it even before Ramadan so long as you make the intention of Zakah. Al-Shaf`i holds that it is permissible to do so at the beginning of Ramadan. Malik and Ahmad (in his well-known view) maintain that it is permissible to pay it only one or two days in advance.

Al-Qaradawi explains the reasons for these differences in opinion by saying that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to pay Zakat Al-Fitr after Fajr prayer on the day of `Eid but before the `Eid prayer for the reason that the Muslim community was still small and limited in number.

During the time of the Companions the payment was made one or two days before the `Eid. After the spread of Islam the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the Zakat Al-Fitr reached its beneficiaries on the day of `Eid, thereby avoiding the possibility that the process of distribution would delay reception of the payment after the day of `Eid.

After explaining the different views regarding the time of payment, Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr stated that these differences of opinion among the jurists justify some leniency for Muslims in regard to the time of payment, and therefore a Muslim can pay at any of these times. He also took the view that paying it at different times gives the poor and needy the opportunity to benefit from Zakat al-Fitr and fulfil their needs for longer periods.

These differences are due to taking into consideration both the needs of the poor and the opportunity of attaining the wisdom behind the obligation of Zakat Al-Fitr. Therefore, the most acceptable and practical approach is to apply whichever practice fulfils the purpose and wisdom behind Zakat Al-Fitr, that is bringing happiness to the poor on the day of `Eid and giving their children a chance to enjoy this day as others do.

What type of food can be given and permissible substitutes?

The jurists hold different views as to the types of food which must be given as Zakat al-Fitr. The Hanbali view is that the kinds of food which can be given are five: dates, raisins, wheat, barley, and dry cottage cheese. Imam Ahmad is reported to have said that any kind of staple grain or dates are also permissible, even if the above five types are available. The Malikis and Shafi`is are of the view that it is permissible to give any kind of food as long as it is the main staple in that particular region or the main food of the person. As for the Hanafis, they permit paying the value of Zakat al-Fitr in money.

Ibn Al-Qayyim highlighted these different viewpoints and concluded that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prescribed Zakat al-Fitr as one Sa` of dates, barley, raisins or dry cottage cheese. These were the main staple kinds of food in Madinah.

As for people of other territories, what they should pay is one Sa` of their staple grain, such as corn, rice, etc. But if their main staple food is other than grain, such as milk, meat, fish, etc., then they should pay one Sa` of that particular food. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars and is the preferred point of view, since it achieves the purpose of fulfilling the needs of the poor on the day of `Eid with the staple food of their region.

How Is Zakat Al-Fitr Calculated?

The amount of Zakat al-Fitr, as we referred earlier, is one Sa` of food. There is consensus on this amount among the scholars with regard to all types of food except wheat and raisins. As for these two types the Shafi`is, Malikis and Hanbalis agree that the prescribed amount is one Sa`, however the Hanafis say it is sufficient to pay half Sa` from wheat and they differed with regard to raisins.

After discussing the arguments of these two opinions al-Qaradawi reached the following conclusion: wheat was not a common food amongst them during the time of the Prophet so he did not prescribe one Sa` of it as he did with the other types of food.

As for those of the Companions of the Prophet who prescribed half Sa` of wheat instead of one Sa` of barely or dates like Mu`awiyah and other Companions, he views that they did so by analogy, since the value of wheat was more than those of other types of food which were equal.

But according to their opinion, he says, the value should be considered and taken as the criterion and this will cause instability and confusion for it changes from place to another and from time to time. He mentioned that in Pakistan the value of wheat is less than that of dates, then how should we pay of it half the amount (i.e. Sa`) that we should pay of dates? He also mentioned that nowadays raisins are more expensive than wheat and dates. The only solution for these problems, he says, is to regard Sa` as the criterion and basis.

Al-Qaradawi explains why the Prophet appointed Sa` as the measure and did not prescribe it in money saying that in his opinion there are two reasons for this: First, money was still rare among the Arabs particularly the Bedouins. They did not have their own currency. So if the Prophet had prescribed it in money, he would have caused hardship to them.

Second, the purchasing power of money changes from time to time. For instance, the purchasing power of a certain currency sometimes becomes low and other times high, so paying Zakat al-Fitr in money makes its value unstable. That is why the Prophet prescribed it with a stable measure, that is an amount of food which fulfils the needs of one family. For one Sa` provides a family with food for a whole day.

The Amount of Sa`

Sa` is a certain measure which equals 4 mudds (a mudd equals a handful of an average man). The contemporary equivalent weights of Sa` differs according to the stuff which is weighted. For example a Sa` of wheat equals 2176 grams, a Sa` of rice is 2520 grams, a Sa` of beans equals 2250 grams etc.

Therefore some scholars are of the view that the criterion should be the measure not the weight for there are kinds of food which are heavier than others. But I think this is the case if the equivalent weight of a certain kind of food is not known. If there is no available measure or weight with the person, then he should pay 4 mudds.

Nowadays, it is not that problem because ministries of religious affairs in Muslim countries and mosques and Islamic centres in Western countries announce the value of Zakat al-Fitr every year. Anyhow, this is the obligatory amount which every Muslim should pay. It is better and recommended that one pays an extra amount, particularly for those who are wealthy, for they will be rewarded for it.

Its Payment in Money

As mentioned earlier, the Hanafis permitted the payment of Zakat al-Fitr in money. This is the view of Al-Thawri, Al-Hasan al-Basri, and `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz. However, the other three schools did not permit this. Their argument is that the Prophet did not do so and hence its payment in money contradicts the Sunnah of the Prophet.

But some contemporary scholars support the Hanafi view since this is easier nowadays for the payer particularly in cities where people use only money for dealings. Among them are Sheikh Shaltut, Al-Ghazali, and Al-Qaradawi who mentioned earlier the two reasons for which the Prophet did not prescribe it in money. He also stated that the purpose of Zakat Al-Fitr is to fulfill the needs of the poor and this is achieved also by payment in money and that in most cases and most countries the payment in money is more useful to the poor. He also mentioned that when the Prophet prescribed it from food, it was easy for the payer and useful for the recipient during that time. But nowadays to pay it in food is not useful for the poor because he cannot make use, for instance, of wheat or dates unless he sells them with any price, generally low, to buy his needs with the money.

Al-Qaradawi excluded the times of famines where the payment of food is more useful for the recipients and said that the criterion is the benefit of the poor so if food proves to be more useful as in times of famines and catastrophes, then its payment in kind is better. But if money is more useful, then its payment in money is better.

Nowadays, if we consider the condition in the Muslim world in general and that of Muslims in the West in particular we will discover that the second view is more convenient with the spirit of Islamic legislation and the present condition of Muslims. As we will see later when Muslims living in the West decide to transfer their Zakah funds or some of them to needy Muslims in Muslim countries, then the payment in money is more convenient.

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Source. Onislam.net.

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